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Turning Ataturk's Turkey upside down, Erdogan to visit Delhi
When Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives in New Delhi on April 30, he will find in his host, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, something of a kindred spirit. Both aspire for absolute power. The April 16 referendum has removed constraints Erdogan was uncomfortable with. He will now be an executive President, a position from where he can manipulate whatever checks and balances may still be theoretically in place. What Erdogan has achieved is unparalleled in Turkish history. He is well on the way to completely overhauling what the founder of the Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, had dilig ... read more

Stem cells and the art of giving
Our health scenario has undergone drastic changes over the past few decades. Is it not fair to say that given today's lifestyles, finding someone who is completely fit and healthy is quite rare? In an attempt to take precautions, people are doing their best such as exercising, controlling their diet, taking health supplements, undergoing periodic health check-ups and what not. However, these are only precautionary or preventive measures. How can you protect yourself or your family in the worst case of being diagnosed by a disorder that could take you by surprise? The good news is that while ... read more

India's soft power enhances its salience in Egypt
At Khan el Khalili, Cairo's main souk in the crowded Islamic district, shopowners seek out Indian tourists with friendly hails of Amitabh Bachchan! Shah Rukh Khan! Welcome!! These two actors are by far the most popular Indians in Egypt, a testament to the enormous soft power of Bollywood. When Bachchan came to Cairo in April 2015 for the Indian Culture Festival, he was mobbed like a rockstar wherever he went. And when he met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, he reportedly remarked in jest that he was so overwhelmed by his fan following in the country he might even think of contesting ... read more

Make preventive healthcare a priority to lead a wholesome life
Health plays a crucial role in building your self-confidence, living a longer life, having more energy, being less stressed and feeling emotionally happier. People should adopt preventive healthcare measures at an early age in order to keep rising lifestyle disorders at bay. However, the Wellness in India Survey 2017 conducted by drug company Himalaya and market research firm IMRB revealed that 68 per cent of urban citizens do not practice preventive healthcare measures. The survey involving 896 urban and semi-urban people belonging to the age group of 20-55 years assessed awareness of well ... read more

Parrikar: Butter chicken, fish curry and foot in the mouth
When pacing the cold, stone-lined corridors of South Block, former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar famously confessed to fantasising about Goan fish curry over butter chicken, the national capital's ubiquitous calorific treat. Back in Goa as Chief Minister, however, Parrikar's all-too-brief reminiscence on Friday, about his pressure-packed stint in Delhi and his reference to Kashmir, appears to have stirred the political pot in Goa and in Delhi. During Babasaheb Ambedkar's 126th birth anniversary celebrations in Panaji, Parrikar, in his inimitable style, reeled off on his tough times in De ... read more

Climate change impacting the faculties of citizens, global leaders?
The rift has accelerated since end of the last year, reported all the major news agencies in North America and elsewhere. It may get close to a full break, never seen before in the history, they added. This breaking news is about Antarctica's fourth-largest ice shelf, Larsen C, measuring 48,600 sq km, five times the area of Israel, irreversibly breaking away, several kilometres at a time, from its mother continent due to exceptionally high temperatures. NASA and British Antarctic Survey scientists have in the last three decades observed a dramatic collapsing of smaller parts, Larsen A and B, ... read more

US fireworks: Awaiting details from Afghanistan, a look at Syrian outrage
President Donald Trump has furnished proof that the leader of the Free World, which dropped the first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, remains true to form: it has dropped an even bigger Mother Of All Bombs - on Nangahar province in east Afghanistan on what are being described as IS tunnels. Since details are not known, let us first sort out the Syrian outrage. The alleged Sarin gas attack on Khan Shaykhun, a small town in Idlib province where the Jabhat al Nusra's militant offshoots are now fighting with their backs to the wall, invited a massive US retaliation: 59 cruise missiles were fired on t ... read more

Dalai Lama episode: A not-so-subtle signal to China
India has to do no more than let the Dalai Lama be the Dalai Lama in order to rile China from time to time. As diplomatic provocation goes, the Dalai Lama's just-concluded visit to Arunachal Pradesh was quite like the six previous ones, the last one being in 2009. Yet, Beijing has chosen to respond to this visit with an outrage that feels discernibly sharper than in the past. Perhaps what has accentuated the Chinese anger was an accompaniment in the form of Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju. Beijing, which treats the Dalai Lama purely as a political animal even at the best of t ... read more

Purposeful philanthropy preferable to charity
In February 2017, I went to India from the United State of America to dedicate the Frank and Debbie Islam Management Complex at my Aligarh Muslim University - alma mater. At the dedication of that complex, I said: While the bricks and mortar are important, far more important is what will go on in this setting. It will be a place for sharing of information and imparting and development of knowledge. It will be a place where faculty and students can collaborate on innovative projects. It will be an educational empowerment zone. In those dedication remarks, I was sharing my perspective on what ... read more

Malaysian PM's India visit: A deeper meaning behind the MoUs
On March 30, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak arrived in Chennai for an official visit following an invitation from his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi. This was Razak's third official visit as Prime Minister, and an important one at that, given the number of agreements that were signed. On a six-day visit, Razak reached New Delhi on March 31, and proceeded to Jaipur on April 2 following an invitation by Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia. The Malaysian delegation's six-day official visit to India focused on the close political and economic ties between the two nation ... read more

Kishori Amonkar soared despite media neglect of classical music
As soon as I read that Kishori Amonkar was no more, I called up Raghu Rai, the pioneering photographer. Raghu had, with me in tow, done a remarkable photo feature on Kishori. Here was an occasion to republish the photographs of our greatest classical singer. Connoisseurs would place Ustad Amir Khan on the same pedestal, but I have my own very subjective preferences. Raghu's response was something of a shock: Where is there any space for the arts in the Indian media? I had momentarily deluded myself that a singer of such brilliance would, in her passing away, generate fierce competition betw ... read more

Bangladesh PM's visit: Needed a Hasina-Modi visit for sub-regional cooperation
Bangladesh is Indias most vital and empathetic neighbor and this is symbolized in the decision by Dhaka to posthumously honor 1,661 Indian soldiers for their contribution and sacrifice in the blood-soaked birth of its nation in December 1971. This rare honor by a visiting leader will be conferred by the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during her visit to New Delhi from April 8-10. I would make the case that this summit level visit is the most critical for Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a number of reasons that have a historical resonance as Delhi prepares for the 70th ... read more

Which Donald Trump will Xi Jinping meet at Mar-a-Lago?
Chinese President Xi Jinping may have a hard time understanding which President Donald Trump he will encounter when the two meet in Mar-a-Lago in Florida on April 6 and 7. Would it be the Trump who has accused China of raping our country and being a currency manipulator, or the more transactional and ideology-free businessman with next-to-nothing grasp of complex diplomacy? There are apprehensions that while Xi will come fully prepared to the meeting, as is his wont, Trump will improvise as he goes along. One will bring deep deliberateness to the exchange even as the other will choose to win ... read more

Why did Mandela's closest Comrade end up as tour guide?
In Ahmed Kathrada's death in Johannesburg at age 87, students of South African history have lost a precious resource person with a unique perspective on one of the world's great national liberation movements -- how it peaked, then lost its fizz. On February 11, 1990, I was among the willing throng of the world's journalists, waiting outside Victor Verster prison near Cape Town, waiting for history's most iconic political prisoner to walk free after 27 years in the Apartheid regime's captivity. It is difficult to communicate the heady excitement of the moment. It might interest anti-meat enth ... read more

Why good home-care health system is needed in rural areas
Last month, my mother, who is 92, fell in the bathroom and broke her pelvic bone. I live in the rural town of Phaltan in western Maharashtra and to get a simple X-ray done was a nightmare. We called the local orthopaedics hospital and they sent a ramshackle ambulance. How an old Maruti Omni van got permission to ply as an ambulance is anybody's guess. Even a healthy passenger would feel sick and his/her bones would be rattled in that ambulance while going over the potholed roads of Phaltan. Some of the worst roads in the country are in Maharashtra, especially in rural Maharashtra. The driver ... read more

Combating prejudice against Africans: India has a lot to lose
India has a great deal to lose by mistreating and beating up Africans who come to study or live in the country. The latest attacks on March 27, 2017 on Nigerian students living in Greater Noida bordering New Delhi and part of the National Capital Region have made breaking news on all TV news channels and front-page headlines in leading newspapers. While playing up ad nauseum the sensational news story is supposed to increase the viewership of TV channels and boost dwindling newspaper readership, it inflicts massive harm to India-Africa bilateral relations, Indian investment in Africa, and In ... read more

Triple Talaq: Muslim Personal Law Board's stand is un-Islamic
The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board - has told the Supreme Court that Triple Talaq in a single sitting is not just Islamic but it has been sanctioned by the Quran and Hadith. While serious discussions have been held on the issue around the world and these are well-documented, the AIMPLB is not ready to take a cue from developments, including in the Arab world. The Board, whose stand on many issues seems arbitrary and illogical, has failed to realise that its opaque reading of Islamic jurisprudence will be counter-productive and give ammunition to anti-Islamic forces to target Islam and M ... read more

Sheikh Hasina needs a gift, not a package, from India
India and Bangladesh, two South Asian democracies, are also neighbours with the longest common border of over 4,000 km. They are also partners in progress and development and have, over the last seven years, been able to sketch out an increasingly deepening engagement trajectory. The governments on both sides would want to showcase their bilateral partnership in the region. Political leaders appear invested with each other and have gradually, especially since 2010, been able to widen the bilateral scope to even include defence cooperation in recent times. The development of large and small i ... read more

Sticks, carrots, toxic carrots: Clearing the air in China and India
Common problems potentially require common solutions, and the need for a dialogue. This is true in the case of China and India when it comes to their challenge of tackling air pollution and switching to clean energy. Poor air quality has become a major political concern in both the countries. It was a headline topic at the opening of the National People's Congress on March 5, 2017, with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang reaffirming the government's commitment to clearing the skies through increased investment in clean energy and implementing tougher sanctions for polluters. In India, indepen ... read more

Of kebabs, slaughterhouses and crocodile meat
These are trying times. Even some friends are turning. They probably see their interest better protected by keeping their options open for adjustments, should excesses increase. And even if they show their residual spunk by digging in their heels in favour of Lucknow's iconic Tunday Kababi, how will it help matters? Tunday has already made his compromise; he will now sell chicken and mutton kebab. All those anchors and headline writers reflecting wistfully on the passing away of the galawati as distinct from Shaami may need to know a thing or two. Shaami derives from Shaam, the old name for ... read more

Portrait of a Muslim home in shadow of rising BJP colossus
It was a spectacular celebration. The beating of drums, sprinkling of colours, group songs, dancing continued well after dusk. As I watched from my window, a thought crossed my mind: Why had we not been invited? Ours is the only Muslim home in the colony, but a pride of place has always been accorded to us in all celebrations, including Holi. We have inherited this knack of integration from our elders. The Mahant of Shiv Sharan Das temple in Lucknow always made special bhang-free thandai for my father on Holi. I called up the President of the Residents Welfare Association - to register my pr ... read more

Myth of Modi-RSS rift: They remain very much on same page
The emphatic victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party - in the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand assembly polls has brought the partys relationship with its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh -, back in focus. One key question for which an answer has been sought ever since Narendra Modi led the BJP to power in 2014 is whether it is Modi who dominates the RSS or vice-versa? Some political observers have been predicting that Modi will now dominate the RSS. Others feel that with the Prime Minister and his protégé Amit Shah being in full command of the BJP and leading it to one victo ... read more

Protests, ink attacks and trolls have become lethal weapons against writers, intellectuals
New Delhi, March 15 - A day after the BJPs thumping victory in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday, a little-known progressive Kannada writer became the victim of an ink attack in Davangere town by a group of suspected right-wing activists. In gross defiance of the law and freedom of expression, his face was smeared with black ink in broad daylight. An isolated incident or the new order? Yogesh Master, who is said to have hurt the sentiments of Hindus by depicting Lord Ganesha in poor light in his novel Dhundi, is only the latest addition to a long list of writers -- Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasrin, Ta ... read more

Giving girls their due: A sarpanch shows the way
It was during one of my recent visits to a village in East Delhi that I realised how a Sarpanch can help bring about changes in the mindset of the residents -- even with regard to the deep-seated bias against girl children in India. My work in a medical camp took me to the village. As serene as the hamlet was, the market place was buzzing with activity. A make-shift arrangement was done for the public to assemble for their medical check-up. And I saw a beeline of women standing in the queue waiting for their turn. Diagonally opposite to our camp was a water tank where I sighted several wome ... read more

Don't give rooftop solar units the short shrift
Riding on the wave of the record low solar tariff, of Rs 2.97/kWh, in the 750 MW Rewa Solar Park project in Madhya Pradesh, the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs approved increasing the number of such parks to 50 -, which will take the installed capacity from 20 GW to 40 GW by 2020. An additional Rs 8,100 crore - has been earmarked for this. It is perfectly logical for the government to hand large, ground-based solar parks a boost considering that the Madhya Pradesh bids showed that solar can compete financially with fossil fuels. However, the possibility of the government reducing the r ... read more

Carnage at Qalandar: The Shia, Sunni, Sufi triangle
Audiences in their hundreds of thousands across the subcontinent will remember Reshma with her flashing eyes and haunting, gypsy voice singing Dama dum mast qalandar. Well, that's the Dhamaal signature tune. It was the punchline of this song which had become controversial when President Zia ul Haq set Pakistani Islam on a course of Arabisation in the 1980s in order to wrench it away from the syncretic Islam which hundreds of Sufi schools had established in India since the 13th century. If Iran imbibes Indian culture, it will still remain Iran, but if Pakistan retains Indian traditions, it wi ... read more

Preventing many diseases via olive oil
People in India these days want greater control over the food they consume. There is also increased attention to choosing the ingredients. Preferred are food items with enriching and nourishing features and properties which prevent diseases and empower the body to gain immunity. There are a few food items which Indians consume on a daily basis like salt, sugar, milk and oil. Oil is the first element and base for almost all Indian recipes. It is the major component which contributes to the body's fat requirements. So, the oil we choose decides the fats we consume. Described as liquid gold by ... read more

Construction industry needs to do its bit to cut pollution
It is estimated that nearly 70 per cent of the buildings that will exist in Indian cities by 2030 are yet to be built. Which means that India is unlikely to lose its infamous badge of country with the deadliest polluted air any time soon -- unless it takes some quick counter-measures. The challenge lies in maintaining the construction momentum while following time-tested practices. Surely, construction projects like the Metro, roads and residential homes need to be undertaken on high priority. For this, sand, gravel, stones, bricks and more will inevitably travel in open trucks criss-crossin ... read more

Why are most participants at Gandhi seminars anti-technology?
I was recently invited to attend a seminar entitled Gandhi Returns -- Back to Basics at Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad. Gujarat Vidyapith was founded by Mahatma Gandhi in the 1920s and mostly deals with Gandhian subjects. Three themes were discussed and deliberated upon in the seminar: Education, Non-violence and Constructive Sustainable Development. About 200 participants took part in the conclave for two days. I took part mostly in the session on Value-based decentralised production systems and constructive work, though for a short time also sat on the education panel. However, in both these ... read more

Message from MP: Solar power is here to stay
The solar revolution in India marches on, with renewed momentum, if the recently concluded reverse bidding auction for a 750 MW Solar Park in Madhya Pradesh is any indication. While the rest of the world watched in disbelief, Mahindra Renewables Pvt. Ltd., Acme Solar Holdings Pvt. Ltd. and Sweden's Solenergi Power Pvt. Ltd. successfully bid Rs 2.979/kWh, Rs 2.97/kWh and Rs 2.974/kWh to build 250MW plants each. These bids are the lowest in the history of solar tariffs in India. The previous lowest bid was Rs 4.34/ kWh for a 70 MW unit in Rajasthan. A variety of reasons led to this unprecedent ... read more

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