Afghanistan needs a political settlement’

But relying on Pakistan to broker peace with the Taliban may not work, say experts.

A political settlement with Taliban is the only way to bring about an end to the conflict in Afghanistan, a group of experts who focus on the region said, hours after a blast killed at least 90 people, bringing the war to the doorstep of the tottering U.S.-supported government in Kabul. But relying on Pakistan to broker peace with the Taliban — as the U.S. has been doing for years — may not yield the desired result, and military pressure must compel the insurgents to come to the negotiating table, these experts said.

The U.S. approach to resolving the Afghanistan situation must be narrowly focussed on the conflict and leave out other regional questions, said Ashley J. Tellis, the Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

‘U.S. Policy in Afghanistan: Changing Strategies, Preserving Gains”, a report he co-authored with another expert Jeff Eggers, argues that “regional options — resolving the India-Pakistan conflict, creating a neutral Afghanistan, or squeezing Pakistan — are too difficult to rely on alone.”

Policy review

“Since a counterterrorism-only solution is unlikely to be efficacious, the U.S. should prioritise reaching a political settlement with the Taliban while continuing to bolster the Afghan state and its security forces,” the authors argued.

The Trump administration is reviewing the U.S.’s Afghanistan policy and is likely to announce a new approach in the next few days. The U.S. commander in Afghanistan has asked for a moderate increase in troops levels and the administration is likely to approve an additional 3,000 to 5,000 troops to the existing 84,00. A U.S. military spokesperson in Kabul told the National Public Radio on Wednesday that the additional numbers are required to fill in some gaps in the training and support missions that the U.S. undertake in Afghanistan.

No timeline

Husain Haqqani, Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute, said the U.S. must stop announcing timelines for leaving Afghanistan. “The only way to escape from Afghanistan is to say that we have no intention of leaving. Whatever else you do, don’t put a timeline,” Mr. Haqqani said, recalling a statement by a Taliban leader who said, “we have the time and Americans have the watches”.

“All wars end in a political settlement. But Taliban is not any other group. For them, time is not important and worldly goods are not important,” said Mr. Haqqani.

He said Pakistan’s argument that India was fighting a proxy war against it in Afghanistan was misplaced and exaggerated.

“Stop fantasising that Pakistan would help broker peace with Taliban. Try to talk directly to the Taliban,” he said.

Champions Trophy 2017: All set for an engrossing fortnight of heady action

Champion India has a balanced side with bowlers for all conditions and surfaces

As M.S. Dhoni and his men rejoiced in their white jackets on the damp Edgbaston turf four years ago, the world was meant to have seen the last of the ICC Champions Trophy, a curiously unloved tournament, a quasi-World Cup its promoters had no time for.

Months later, though, the ICC changed stance, reviving the competition and instead putting the proposed World Test Championship into cold storage.

“It proved impossible to come up with a format for a four-team finals event in Test cricket that fits the culture of Test cricket and preserves the integrity of the format,” an ICC press release in February 2014 announced. “The most recent ICC Champions Trophy event proved to be very popular with supporters around the world and the future events will build on this success.”

And so the Champions Trophy is back for an eighth edition, its elite status seemingly entrenched, its arrival at the start of the English summer greeted with cheer.

Much is expected of the home side, transformed after an uninspiring World Cup performance two years ago. Eoin Morgan’s men have won 27 of their 44 ODIs since, the best win-loss ratio among the Full Member sides, thumping their way to scores over 300 on 21 occasions, more than anyone else has managed.

England’s batting might

This has much to do with the surfaces it has played on, but there’s no denying the might of England’s batting group. Ben Stokes, without doubt the finest all-rounder in the world, stands poised to explode, although there exist concerns over an injured knee.

Morgan, who averages 55 over the last 10 months, now has the opportunity to deliver his nation a first major ODI trophy. Monday’s embarrassment at South Africa’s hands will temper expectations, but that game will be seen as an aberration.

For all the boldness of its new approach, England will have to demonstrate that it can overcome self-doubt and handle the white-knuckle tension of a tough knock-out fixture.

There are no such fears about India. Nine of the 11 that triumphed in the final in 2013 are part of this squad, older and wiser. This is a balanced side, with bowlers for all conditions and surfaces.

Virat Kohli leads India for the first time at a global tournament, the campaign set to begin against Pakistan here on Sunday. No pressure then.

Much has been said of Australia’s pace quartet but the batting — which has not covered itself in glory in English conditions in the recent past — would appear over-reliant on Steve Smith, who has spent a demanding but fruitful three months in India.

South Africa, which enters the event as the world’s top-ranked ODI side, continues to chase a first major title since the inaugural ICC Knockout in 1998.

While it remains A.B. de Villiers’ greatest unfulfilled ambition to win a World Cup, the 33-year-old will cherish any sort of trophy with his national team at this stage.

Sri Lanka, which welcomes Lasith Malinga back to the ODI setup; Bangladesh, which enters the event ranked sixth in the world; New Zealand, which possesses bowlers who could flourish in these conditions; and Pakistan, which has managed to send a player home already, do not perhaps strike anyone as favourites.

However, the eight-team format means nobody has much room for manoeuvre in the group stages. It also means we don’t have to wait a full month for the knock-outs.

Bilateral one-day cricket often struggles for context but a tournament such as this, with multiple contenders, evokes genuine interest.

If the scores in the recently-concluded Royal London One-Day Cup, the ECB’s domestic 50-over tournament, are anything to go by there will be some mountainous totals at all three venues. It should make for an absorbing fortnight.

NASA to fly Solar Probe Plus right into sun’s atmosphere in 2018

The purpose is to study the sun’s outer atmosphere and better understand how stars like ours work.

A NASA spacecraft will aim straight for the sun next year.

The space agency announced the red-hot mission on May 31, 2017 at the University of Chicago. Scheduled to launch in summer 2018, the Solar Probe Plus will fly within 6.4 million km of the sun’s surface right into the solar atmosphere. It will be subjected to brutal heat and radiation like no other man-made structure before.

The purpose is to study the sun’s outer atmosphere and better understand how stars like ours work.

No midday meal without Aadhaar in UP schools

The present rate of Aadhaar enrolment of students in primary schools in the State is extremely low

Students of government-run primary schools in Uttar Pradesh, who do not have an Aadhaar card, will not be able to get midday meal after June 30.

List of students

The direction from the State government comes three months after the Union Human Resource Development Ministry made Aadhaar cards mandatory for midday meals and asked UP schools to make a list of students who possess the cards.

“The government has directed the basic education officers in all the districts to ensure that every beneficiary of the midday meal has an Aadhaar card so that the scheme doesn’t get affected. If Aadhaar cards for all beneficiaries of the midday meal scheme are not made and their numbers not submitted to the State government, then the students without such cards will not be able to benefit from the different schemes of the government. And you will be held responsible for that,” warned a letter written by Director, Basic Education, Sarvendra Vikram Bahadur Singh, addressed to primary education officers.

The present rate of Aadhaar enrolment of students of primary schools in the State is extremely low.

In Meerut for instance, of a total of 1.73 lakh students in 1,561 schools, only about 29,000 students have Aadhaar cards, which comes to less than 17 %.

Schools puzzled

The direction has left the school authorities puzzled as schools have closed for vacation and will reopen only on July 1.

The letter by Mr. Singh has asked all the primary education officers to submit a list of students who possess Aadhaar cards to the State government by May 30. Mr. Singh has sent a reminder to the primary education officers of Meerut, Hapur, Moradabad, Sambhal, Kannauj, Farrukhabad and Kanpur (rural) as they have not yet sent the list to the government.

Officials helpless

Most officials who handle the midday meal scheme have expressed their helpless in the face of the ultimatum. A coordinator for the midday meal scheme in Meerut said with primary schools closed for vacations, it would be almost impossible to follow the direction.

‘Students out of town’

“Schools have closed for vacations and most children have gone out of town. Teachers can be asked to help the students get their Aadhaar cards made, but the challenge is how to make cards for students who are out of town,” he said.

India is no longer the fastest-growing economy

Slowdown brings GDP down to 6.1% in fourth quarter

India lost its fastest-growing major economy tag in the fourth quarter of 2016-17, with GDP growth coming in at 6.1% compared with China’s 6.9% in the same period.

Data from the Ministry of Statistics on Wednesday showed GDP grew 7.1% in the financial year 2016-17, slower than the 8% registered in 2015-16. The GDP numbers were based on the new 2011-12 base year recently adopted for data including the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) and Wholesale Price Index (WPI). Gross value added (GVA) growth was 6.6% for 2016-17 and 5.6% in the fourth quarter, compared with 7.9% in 2015-16 and 8.7% in Q4 of that year.

The “numbers show a clear slowdown in GVA,” DK Srivastava, Chief Economic Adviser at EY India, said.

“That is, post-demonetisation there has been a slowdown,” he said. “The GDP growth rate is slightly higher (than GVA growth) because of a more than proportionate increase in indirect tax net of subsidies. But the GDP also shows a reduction in Q3 and Q4 numbers compared with the beginning of the year. So demonetisation has clearly had a tangible and adverse impact.”

The Centre, however, maintained that it was happy with the growth rate, with Chief Statistician T.C.A. Anant saying that the economy was growing “reasonably well.”

“If you look at the current and time series estimates, it is clear the economy is growing reasonably well,” Mr. Anant said, while briefing the press about the GDP numbers.

“However, if you look at it from the perspective of what sort of growth rates do we desire over a period of time, then from that perspective there is more to be achieved.”

“We can take some measure of satisfaction, but the numbers do reveal there are areas that still could improve,” Mr. Anant added. “One of the areas is capital formation. It continues to be relatively soft, with growth still below 30%. We would like to see these rates well above 30%.”

Looking deeper, GVA growth slowed in almost every sector in Q4 of 2016-17 compared to the growth witnessed in the corresponding period of the previous year.

बेटी को रेप से बचाने के लिए ‘राष्ट्रीय बेटी’?

राजस्थान हाई कोर्ट के एक जज ने गाय को राष्ट्रीय पशु घोषित करने की सिफारिश कर इससे जुड़े विवादों को और हवा दी है.

जस्टिस महेश चंद्र शर्मा जिस दिन रिटायर होने वाले थे उसी दिन उन्होंने यह सिफारिश की.

जस्टिस शर्मा की सिफारिश को लेकर सोशल मीडिया पर चर्चा गर्म है. आम आदमी पार्टी की विधायक अलका लांबा ने इसे लेकर कटाक्ष करते हुए ट्वीट किया है.

लांबा ने पूछा कि गाय को हत्या से बचाने के लिए राष्ट्रीय पशु घोषित करोगे और बेटी अगर कोख में बच जाए तो उसे बलात्कार से बचाने के लिए क्या करोगे?

जिस जस्टिस शर्मा को गाय पसंद है

ट्विटर

अलका लांबा के इस ट्वीट का कई लोगों ने समर्थन किया है तो कई लोगों ने उन पर ही हमला भी बोला है.

वरिष्ठ पत्रकार मृणाल पांडे ने लिखा है, ”माता को जानवर कहोगी तो माता राणी का शाप लगेगा. सुना नहीं इब तो मोर भी ब्रह्मचारी बटुक सै.”

ट्विटर

लांबा के ट्वीट पर कई लोगों ने तीखी प्रतिक्रिया दी है. कई लोगों ने उन्हीं की बात को आगे बढ़ाया है.

मनीष खंडेलवाल ने लिखा है, ”फिर तो राष्ट्रमाता ही घोषित कर दिया जाना चाहिए.” ज्ञानचंद गांगुली नाम के एक शख़्स ने अलका के ट्वीट पर टिप्पणी की है, ”तो लड़कियों को राष्ट्रीय बहन घोषित कर दो.”

ट्विटर

वहीं बिक्रम सिंह नाम के एक व्यक्ति ने इस ट्वीट पर अपनी टिप्पणी में लिखा है, ”ये भाजपा वालों के दिखाने के दांत और हैं और खाने के और हैं. दिखाने के लिए बनते हैं देशभक्त, पर हैं देशद्रोही.