Categories
Asia News FEATURE UK News

Britain Celebrates Intl. Yoga Day

The International Day of Yoga has been celebrated annually on 21 June since 2015, following its inception in the United Nations General Assembly in 2014

London and major cities across the United Kingdom mark International Yoga Day with several community events. The main event in London was held at the prestigious Neasden Temple. Gaitri Issar Kumar, High Commissioner of India, addressed the gathering at the temple.

The event was held in front of the iconic Mandir and included a live yoga demonstration from three-time World Yoga Champion Ishwar Sharma as well as a presentation of pranayama and meditation techniques from the Common Yoga Protocol (CYP) by Neil Patel, an author, lecturer and yoga teacher, and founder of Chi Kri Yoga.

International Yoga Day at Neasden Temple in London

Isha Foundation organised Yoga Namaskaram at Holland Park in London. Other events were held in Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and Manchester.

 “It has been a perfect start to the International Day of Yoga in London at the [BAPS] Shri Swaminarayan Mandir,” said Mrs Kumar. “Thank you so much to the management and the members of this Mandir and its community for hosting a very good yoga session with the backdrop of the Mandir. It has energised us for the rest of the celebrations today. It was wonderful being here.”

 “Today, we are so grateful to the management of the [BAPS] Swaminarayan Mandir committee for giving the High Commission a place to demonstrate yoga in action,” said Lord Rami Ranger. Drawing upon a newly-erected 27-foot image of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj – the creator of the Temple – Lord Ranger added, “The vision of Pramukh Swami Maharaj is now gracing countries all over the world.”

International Yoga Day at Neasden Temple in London

The International Day of Yoga has been celebrated annually on 21 June since 2015, following its inception in the United Nations General Assembly in 2014. As the UN explains: “Yoga emphasizes the values of mindfulness, moderation, discipline and perseverance. When applied to communities and societies, Yoga offers a path for sustainable living.”

Categories
FEATURE Health Woman

Diets that don’t work for women

Whether we want to accept it or not, biologically men and women are very different. One of the important differences is in the way men and women use and store fat. Men on average have about 3 per cent essential fat as part of their composition – women have 12 per cent…reports Asian Lite News

Essential fat is a percentage of total body fat mass that is necessary for insulation, protection of our vital organs, vitamin storage and building key cell messengers like steroids that are necessary for effective cell communication. Without this fat, the body does not function properly and our immune and neurological systems get affected.

Women have four times as much essential fat. Stored fat in women is actually beneficial to overall health. A baseline of 12 per cent of essential fat protects women from type two diabetes and even heart disease. This is important to understand because:

It helps with expectations and goal setting when you choose weight loss programmes:

Striving for 20 per cent body fat is unhealthy

There are three popular diets in the world: Keto Diet, Intermittent Fasting, and GM Diet. Unfortunately, these diets are not helpful especially for women who are thinking of significant weight loss (more than 15-20 kgs) and maintaining it permanently.

Let’s look at these diet plans in detail:

Keto Diet: The ketogenic diet is a low carb, high-fat diet. Restricting carbs and increasing fat intake can lead to ketosis, a metabolic state in which your body relies primarily on fat for energy instead of carbs. “Women’s bodies always resist losing fat as it is essential for pregnancy and lactation, and it’s essential.”

Carb intake in the keto diet is typically limited to fewer than 50 grams per day, which can cause shock to women’s bodies. When the carb quotient depletes, it switches to ketones and fat for fuel at the start of this eating pattern, women’s brain and metabolism starts resisting fat loss. It results in a complete imbalance leading to hormonal and metabolic changes. Also, Keto-type diets usually work only for a short term and can have side effects such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and constipation.

Further, most of the initial weight loss is water weight. Once the body enters ketosis, we begin to lose muscle, become extremely fatigued, and eventually enter starvation mode which actually makes it even harder to lose weight.

ALSO READ: Prolonged sitting leads to health issues

A keto diet does more harm than good to the majority of women especially if they have any underlying medical conditions like PCOS, Irregular menses or Infertility.

Intermittent Fasting: Fasting is a practice that involves completely abstaining from eating or avoiding certain foods for a fixed period. In recent years, intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular with people looking to lose weight.

During studies, it was found that although intermittent fasting produced favourable results in people who were overweight or obese, women who tried it, had the following negative effects:

Severe mood swings

Extreme hunger

Low energy/fatigue

Obsessive thoughts about food

Overeating on days without restricted calories

Depression

Anger

Most women exhibit such behaviours in the first few weeks of intermittent fasting. It is also observed that by restricting calorie intake in this manner, it may interfere with their menstrual cycles.

GM Diet: The GM diet aims to help people lose weight by focusing on a specific food or food group each day for a week. The GM diet consists of a 7-day meal plan. Each day focuses on a specific food or food group.

ALSO READ:

Although the idea of substantial weight loss within a short period may seem attractive, the GM diet does come with risks which are:

Lacks vital nutrients: Women following the GM diet may not get enough of certain important food groups, such as healthy fats and protein. This diet may also lack essential vitamins and minerals that come with eating a wide variety of healthful foods.

Short-term weight loss: The GM diet is not a sustainable long-term weight-loss strategy. A woman may regain weight once they stop following the diet. One reason for this is that the diet does not necessarily teach techniques for healthy cooking or eating which is essential for long-term weight maintenance.

Other risks which are very common and can be aggravated in women in a few weeks include dehydration, headaches, fatigue, muscle weakness and inability to concentrate, In a nutshell, balanced calorie intake – macronutrients like carbs, proteins, fats, and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals which are essential for pregnancy, lactation and overall health of the women. Hence, eating a balanced meal during weight loss is advised.

Categories
FEATURE Motoring News

Jaguar Land Rover gives second life to I-PACE batteries

Jaguar Land Rover partners with Pramac to create zero-emissions charging unit using second-life Jaguar I-PACE batteries…reports Asian Lite News

Jaguar Land Rover has partnered with Pramac, a global leader in the energy sector, to develop a portable zero-emission energy storage unit powered by second-life Jaguar I-PACE batteries.

Called the Off Grid Battery Energy Storage System (ESS), Pramac’s technology – which features lithium-ion cells from Jaguar I-PACE batteries taken from prototype and engineering test vehicles, supplies zero-emission power where access to the mains supply is limited or unavailable.

JLR_Pramac_SecondLifeBattery_I-PACE_

The partnership is the first in Jaguar Land Rover’s plans to create new circular economy business models for its vehicle batteries. As part of its commitment to net zero status by 2039, the company will be launching programmes that deliver second life and beyond uses for its electric vehicle batteries.

Post-vehicle applications exist because Jaguar Land Rover’s batteries are engineered to the highest standards and can therefore be safely deployed in multiple low-energy situations once battery health falls below the stringent requirements of an electric vehicle. Second-life battery supply for stationary applications, like renewable energy storage, could exceed 200 gigawatt-hours per year by 2030, creating a global value over $30 billion*.

JLR_Pramac_SecondLifeBattery_I-TYPE5_

The flagship system has a capacity of up to 125kWh – more than enough to fully charge Jaguar’s multi-award-winning all-electric I-PACE performance SUV, or to power a regular family home for a week**. Pramac directly reuses up to 85% of the vehicle battery supplied by Jaguar Land Rover within the storage unit, including modules and wiring. The remaining materials are recycled back into the supply chain.

Charged from solar panels, the unit is a self-contained solution that consists of a battery system linked to a bi-directional converter and the associated control management systems. Available for commercial hire, the units are fitted with Type 2 Electric Vehicle (EV) charge connections with dynamic control and rated at up to 22kW AC to allow electric vehicle charging.

To showcase its capability, the unit helped Jaguar TCS Racing prepare for the 2022 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship during testing in the UK and Spain, where it was used to run the team’s cutting-edge diagnostic equipment analysing the race cars’ track performance, and to supply auxiliary power to the Jaguar pit garage.

An Off Grid Battery ESS will also be deployed at Jaguar Land Rover Experience Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa – the world’s biggest – to help the site cope with inconsistent power delivery from the mains.

ALSO READ: Jaguar and Baracuta join for ‘The New Classic Guide’

Andrew Whitworth, Battery Manager, Circular Economy Team at Jaguar Land Rover, said: “This announcement is a great example of how we will collaborate with industry leaders to deliver our sustainable future and achieve a truly circular economy. We’re delighted to be working with Pramac to use Jaguar I-PACE second-life batteries to provide portable zero-emissions power and supporting Jaguar TCS Racing this season was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate what these units are capable of.”

JLR_Pramac_SecondLifeBattery_Unit_

François Dossa, Executive Director for Strategy & Sustainability, Jaguar Land Rover, said: “The transition to an electric future, with Jaguar becoming all-electric from 2025 and the first all-electric Land Rover model expected in 2024, is integral to our sustainability strategy through the development of a comprehensive EV ecosystem from batteries to charging. This includes our effort to enable technical and business innovations for battery reuse for second life applications. Our collaboration with Pramac is a proof point in such direction, showing how it’s possible to supply zero-emission power through the combination of renewables and second life batteries. Through their testing at Valencia, the Jaguar TCS Racing team have shown how we can inspire the whole ecosystem to continue to explore synergies and validate viable solutions for clean energy.”

Danny Jones, Director, Pramac, said: “We have been privileged to work so closely with Jaguar Land Rover who are a hugely supportive partner in our journey to successfully build a robust product and a commercially viable business case using second-life EV modules.  This brings a new element to the sustainability story as a manufacturer of energy efficient and carbon reducing technology. We look forward to continuing the journey with Jaguar Land Rover and providing innovative charging infrastructure solutions to support the electrification of their class-leading vehicles.”

Categories
FEATURE India News News

Christie’s collaborates with Good Earth India

Christie’s announces a collaboration with Founder and Creative Director of Good Earth India, Anita Lal for the upcoming Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds Including the Oriental Rugs and Carpets auction, taking place on 31 March…reports Asian Lite News

Good Earth is India’s leading luxury design house that celebrates the heritage of the Indian subcontinent and lands that lay on the ancient Silk Road, through unique design stories with a focus on sustainability and craft traditions. Anita Lal has selected her personal highlights from the upcoming sale some of which will be incorporated into three vignettes alongside selected pieces from Good Earth, as part of the view in King Street, London, open from 26 to 31 March.

Lal commented: “I am delighted to work with Christie’s on the Art of Islamic and Indian Worlds Including Oriental Rugs and Carpets auction and to have the opportunity to see these remarkable works of art which showcase the skill and craftsmanship over the centuries. The lots that I have selected have enchanted me. The opulent and sumptuous carpets and rugs; the inspirational designs and techniques and the noble provenance across the sale are a reminder of our rich cultural past. For me, the value lies only in an object’s visual and emotional appeal, and I treasure things from the smallest handmade ceramic vase to a grand sculpture or an antique carpet and I mix them all together. Islamic design vocabulary and craftsmanship has been a source of inspiration for many collections at Good Earth and we honour it by creating products rooted in this incredible artisanal heritage in a contemporary context.”

“This Kurdish rug instantly appeals as it reminds of vintage Kashmiri Kani shawls that have been passed down in my family. It is fascinating to see how ancient patterns were transmitted and reinterpreted, from shawls to carpets and even inlaid in stone. This bowl conveys beauty and strength, enhanced with fine craftsmanship that balances the overall design with the form of the bowl in perfection’. ‘Van Vaibhav means ‘splendour of the forest’ and is a leitmotif at Good Earth. Blossoming trees with birds and animals is a recurring theme in our designs interpreted so exquisitely in this carpet. There is an uplifting feeling of being one with nature with this Tabriz carpet,” says Lal.

She added: “I love the departure from tradition in this unique Millefleurs rug with its bountiful florals in pastel shades of pink, aqua, blue and leaf green. It transports me to an enchanting blossoming garden. The stylised floral butahs woven into this Agra carpet mirror the butahs carved in marble and inlayed with precious stones on the Taj Mahal in Agra and this is what makes it so unique for me. It tells the tale of precious brocades, carpets, shawls and jewellery produced in the royal Mughal workshops known as Karkhanas.

“Known for their love of extravagant luxury, the Mughals had an intrinsic sense of aesthetics and a desire for perfection, tempered with extreme refinement. The Pomegranate is an integral motif in Eastern cultures symbolizing fertility and abundance. This painting brings to mind our latest dinner collection inspired by the Bosporus and lands around it. Featuring deep ruby pomegranates in playful arrangements across bowls and plates it evokes gardens and promenades in a dreamlike world of wonder like this Qajar oil painting.

“Radha and Krishna on a terrace Pahari Hills, India, early 19th century. Painting and folio ‘The Pahari miniatures are the most lyrical and romantic Indian paintings. I love the perfect shades of golden yellows balanced with ivory of the dhurrie and of the blossoms along with hints of pale green and pink. It is a scene of harmony and quiet delight with nature at its most beautiful.”

ALSO READ: London to Shanghai: Finest dynamic art movements of 20th & 21st centuries

Behnaz Atighi Moghaddam, Specialist Islamic and Indian Art, and Head of Sale comments: “I have been enthused by Good Earth’s contemporary collections and design ethos since discovering them several years ago. I immediately recognised the strong symbiosis in their creativity along with the markers of the Indian and Islamic worlds which keeps the legacy of Indian heritage alive and present today. It also recognises the vitally important contribution that Indian and Islamic works of art over the centuries, represented in the Christie’s sale, have made to today’s artists and craftsmanship as seen at Good Earth.”

The Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds Including Oriental Rugs and Carpets comprises 211 lots in total, with striking examples of works of art across manuscripts, paintings, ceramics, metalwork and carpets dating from the 9th to 19th century, and with estimates ranging from 2,000 pounds to 2,500,000 pounds, with the sale being held on 31 March. The exhibition and view will take place at Christie’s King Street, from 26 March – 31 March.

Categories
FEATURE India News News

The unfading legacy of INS Viraat

On March 6, 2017, Indias second aircraft carrier, the mighty INS Viraat, was decommissioned after 30 years of glorious service to the nation. This article is a tribute to this unique warship, which kept Indias shores safe and citizens protected during one of the most challenging times in our nations history…writes Amruta Talawadekar & Janhvi Lokegaonkar

Thus, this article intends to rewind the clock and take a peek at those glory days through the eyes of one of its Captains who commanded INS Viraat when it was in full sail on the Indian high seas.

First, a short backgrounder. The ship was constructed by the Vickers-Armstrong shipbuilders in Great Britain and commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Hermes in 1959. She was the Royal Navy’s flagship during the Falklands War in 1982, before being decommissioned in 1985.

The ship started her second innings with the Indian Navy, when she was commissioned as INS Viraat on May 12, 1987 as India’s second aircraft carrier. Those were the heady days when India was operating two aircraft carriers — INS Vikrant and INS Viraat.

INS Viraat was different in that it was larger and operated the Sea Harrier fighter, which was a Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft. INS Viraat remained the flagship of the Western Fleet of the Indian Navy for most part of her 30-year service during which she proudly displayed the Indian naval ensign in many parts of the world, while also taking part in numerous operations which included Operation Jupiter in 1989 during the Sri Lankan Peacekeeping operation and Op Parakram in 2001-2002, post the terrorist attack on the Parliament. The ship was decommissioned on March 6, 2017 after almost 30 years of glorious service with the Indian Navy.

Vice Admiral Abhay R. Karve, PVSM AVSM (Retd), commanded the ship as its Captain from August 1, 2007 to December 27, 2008. He later went on to be the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command, from 2016 to 2018, from where he retired.

Considering his extensive sea experience and varied command tenures, we took the opportunity to seek his unique experience on his command of the mighty Viraat. Reproduced below are excerpts of that interview.

Starting with the basics, we asked for the Admiral’s views on the difference he found in commanding an aircraft carrier vis-a-vis other ships.

Karve replied, “An aircraft carrier has the largest crew complement of any ship in the Navy, which amounts to more than 1,500 personnel when all aircraft Squadrons are embarked. For a Captain, its ship handling characteristics are completely different from other ships. The aircraft carrier embarks various types of aircraft viz Sea Harrier fighters, Sea King helicopters, Chetak and even Kamovhelicopters at times. Other ships of the fleet are required to operate in coordination with the aircraft carrier. The safety and operational ability of such a large crew is the Captain’s responsibility.”

Having set the tone, we asked him about the unique characteristics of flying aircraft from sea and more so, from an aircraft carrier.

The Admiral said, “Every aircraft has its own unique role at sea. This requires specialized personnel to operate and maintain each aircraft. Moreover, the ship’s air wing and the operations team have to work like a well-oiled machine in complete coordination to maintain the tempo of operations. For me, since I had served on the ship as part of the commissioning crew, one was fairly aware of carrier operations and thus one could benefit from that experience when I commanded the ship.”

Turning from operations to the more basic necessities of food and water, we asked him how such a large force of men were fed and clothed while being fighting fit at such a large distance into the sea for months at a time.

Karve explained, “Onboard an aircraft carrier, stocking of rations and ammunition is a massive evolution requiring a few days of whole ship involvement. Fueling in harbour and at sea is also a unique exercise for the carrier which can be extremely stressful for the crew and Captain who are always alert for any emergency.”

Our final question was on the unique problems that an aircraft carrier faces while at sea. To this, the Admiral had an interesting insight to share.

“One of the unique challenges of the carrier at sea is the sea-space it requires. The ship must remain on steady course and speed for a longtime during launch recovery operations. Other vessels, including fishing boats, are required to stay clear of the carrier conducting flying operations. This may not always be possible and therefore can pose navigational challenges to the carrier, especially during night flying operations,” he said.

ALSO READ: Women Power At Its Best

“Aircraft carriers are central to the concept of Indian naval operations. The carrier is an extremely versatile platform and with its integral air power is able to exercise sea control over vast stretches of the ocean at will,” Karve added.

This reinstates the vitality of aircraft carriers. Carriers are no doubt expensive but the unique capability that they provide to the Navy is unmatched and unachievable by other ships or capability.

Currently, India has one aircraft carrier in commission, INS Vikramaditya, while the new Vikrant is undergoing sea trials and would be commissioned shortly. A follow-on third aircraft carrier is an operational necessity for the Indian Navy and is under active consideration.

Meanwhile, INS Viraat will remain a milestone in India’s maritime history. Today, we honour this mighty warrior on its decommissioning anniversary and pledge never to forget its great service to the nation.

(The writers are Senior Research Associates at the Maritime History Society)

Categories
FEATURE Lite Blogs Your Blog

SPECIAL: India’s Cultural Influence on 19th Century German Intelligentsia   

The Hindu text of Bhagavadgitaa component of (Mahabharata 3000 BCE) has become one of the most prominent and well known expression of Hindu thought and belief and the foreign land that encountered Gitawas none other than Germany, where it originally appeared in the last phase of eighteenth century when Germany was undergoing transformation of the so called the Romantic Period and thus, 19th century produced some of the greatest artists like Beethoven, Goethe, Schiller and Wagner … A special report by Dilip Roy

This was also the period when strongest influence was felt on prominent intellectuals of the time such as Paul Deussen, Herder, Holtzmann, Humboldt, Max-Muller, Novalis, Schelling, Friedrich von  Schlegel and Arthur Schopenhauer to name but a few. The two names are very crucial here.

The thought of Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) was a key influence on the development of Romanticism and German Idealism. Herder was a poet a philosopher of culture and history. He was attracted to the new discipline of Indology. For Herder India was the (cradle) of civilization of absolute unity of the basis of all things. Herder revisited Indian sources time and again to capture as a part of his wide-ranging effort to understand the world history as a whole. Among the numerous writings on India we find translations of Bhagavadgitapublished in 1792 which constitutes the first appearance of the text in German intellectual circles. In a broad sense with the concerns of his intellectual community inevitably gave India the recognition and thus the reception of  Gitaplayed a crucial role taking its place in the development of Indian sources (Indology) to the scientific study of the language (Philology) In this text, Herder presented some of the most enduring interpretations of Indian culture, and while these depictions became more distinguished in his other writings, the fame of the text meant that it would represent the most significant part of Herder’s legacy for early nineteenth century intellectuals who wished to study the great Indian civilization.  

The Romantic period of Germany also gave us Friedrich von Schlegel (1772-1829) who was a German poet, literary critic, philosopher, philologist and Indologist. In June 1802 he arrived in Paris to study Sanskrit and in 1808 he published epoch-making book, Uber die Sprache und Weisheit der Indier (On the Language and Wisdom of India). It is here he advanced his ideas about religion and importantly argued that the people originating from India were the founders of the first European civilizations. Schlegel compared Sanskrit with Latin, Greek, Persian and German languages noting many similarities in vocabulary and grammar. The assertion of the common features of these languages are now generally accepted. The essay also begins to open up the significance of the religious conception for Schlegel’s reading of Indian texts. This analysis provides the foundation for Schlegel’s interpretation and rendering of the Bhagavadgita which was appended to his famous treatise on India. Schlegel reaffirmed this myth as a part of the emerging Romantic program in an explicit attempt to establish Indian culture and religion as a source for European cultural renewal. As a part of this narrative, Schlegel continued to draw on important conception of fundamental Hindu ideology that began to emerge in Herder’s thought. However, one has the sense of this conception that has become something of a slogan in Schlegel’s text that Indian metaphysics and the language Sanskrit is superior above the rest.

Addendum: The Bhagavad Gita in twentieth century and Beyond.

Robert J. Oppenheimer (1904-1967) who is now regarded the father of Atomic Bomb was an American Scientist of German origin just like his friend world renowned scientist  Albert Einstein was also a German and both were influenced by Indian philosophy and thought.

Oppenheimer was not only a genius in his own field but he was strongly drawn to Hindu philosophy and the Hindu religion in particular, which resulted in feeling the cosmological mystery of the universe that surrounded him like a fog. He saw physics clearly, looking toward what had already been done and he turned away from the hard , crude methods of theoretical physics into the mystical realm of broad intuition. In 1933, he learned Sanskrit and met the Indologist Arthur W. Ryder at Berkeley university. He read the Bhagavadgitain the original Sanskrit, and later he cited it as one of books that most shaped his philosophy of life.

The Bhagavadgita is essentially a discourse between Prince Arjuna and God Vishnu (Lord Krishna) on the battle fields of the great MAHABHARATA war and Krishna is trying to convince Arjuna by implying that everyone in the battlefield will eventually die in time and that it his duty to fight.

In August 1945 when first Atomic Bomb was detonated on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the explosions reminded Oppenheimer of the quote from Bhagavadgita: Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of the Worlds.”

Postscript: Today at least eight countries have the destructive Nuclear weapons.

(Dilip Roy is an Indo-German cultural enthusiast and one of the greatest admirers of Nineteenth century German composer Richard Wagner. Mr. Roy’s articles on Wagner has been published by Wagner Societies of Australia, London, New Zealand and Scotland. Mr. Roy is also an elected Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland.  )

Categories
Arab News FEATURE News

Is Turkey once again veering towards a ‘zero-problems’ foreign policy?

On January 14, special envoys from Turkey and Armenia met in Moscow to discuss normalisation of diplomatic ties that were severed in 1993…writes Talimz Ahmad

The envoys agreed to continue the dialogue, while the two estranged neighbours agreed to start chartered flights between Istanbul and Yerevan.

This engagement follows the high-level meeting in Ankara in November of the Turkish President and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to patch up divisions that go back to the early days of the Arab Spring uprisings. In those upheavals across West Asia, Turkey had backed the Muslim Brotherhood, the principal political rival of the Gulf monarchies. Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has also indicated a more conciliatory approach towards Egypt and the UAE in the conflict in Libya. Again, he has announced plans to visit the UAE and possibly Saudi Arabia in February.

These developments signal an extraordinary turnaround in Turkey’s militarised and aggressive posture in the region over the last few years. Does this portend a more moderate and cooperative Turkish approach towards its neighbours?

Turkish foreign policy: three phases

Over the last two decades, during the rule of the Erdogan-led Justice and Development Party (AKP, in its Turkish acronym) from 2002, Turkey’s foreign policy has gone through three significant changes in content and approach. In the first few years, from 2002 to 2007, Turkey followed its traditional policy of prioritising relations with the European Union (EU), a period that is described by Turkish scholars as “the Golden Age of Europeanisation”.

This approach began to change under the influence of the distinguished scholar, Foreign Minister and later Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who moved Turkey’s focus from the West to the East, towards the former territories of the Ottoman Empire in West Asia and the Caucasus. Davutoglu spoke of “strategic depth” and “zero-problems” as defining Turkey’s approach to its eastern neighbours. He emphasised that the principal diplomatic instrument that Turkey would use would be its “soft power” consisting of, as a Turkish scholar put it, “multilateralism, active globalisation (and) civilisational realism” that would make Turkey “a proactive, trustworthy, and great actor in the region”.

The approach is being referred to as “neo-Ottomanism” since it would be based on the religious and cultural ties that Turkey has with the former Ottoman territories. During this period, Turkey worked actively to address major regional conflicts — such as those between Israel and Syria or issues relating to Iran’s nuclear programme. Thus, through its peace efforts rather than military action, Turkey sought to obtain a central place in regional affairs.

This phase of Turkish foreign policy entered a new phase, signalled by Davutoglu’s resignation as Prime Minister in May 2016. Now, soft power gave way to the use of hard power in pursuit of national security interests — assertive diplomacy and military force being exercised on the basis of strategic autonomy, while retaining its “neo-Ottoman” character.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Domestic factors behind the new approach

In retrospect, this change appears to have been encouraged by important domestic developments that placed serious political and economic pressures on Erdogan’s government, beginning with the Taksim Gezi Park protests in Istanbul in May-August 2013. What started as a sit-in to protest an urban development plan finally encompassed over 70 cities and brought to the streets over three million people protesting against increasing authoritarianism and the perceived dilution of the secular order in the country.

However, it was the abortive coup attempt by a section of the Turkish armed forces in July 2016 that crucially transformed Erdogan’s domestic and foreign policies. He blamed the coup attempt on Fethullah Gulen, a reclusive religious figure who lived in the US and who had a large following in several parts of Turkish society. Erdogan also contended that the CIA was behind the coup and even issued arrest warrants for two former US intelligence operatives.

Again, he felt that the US and the EU, despite being NATO allies, extended only lukewarm backing to him during the crisis, as compared to Russian President Vladimir Putin who extended support telephonically ahead of Erdogan’s NATO colleagues and then invited the Turkish President to Moscow.

In response to these developments, Erdogan put in place at home an authoritarian, Islamist and security-centric order — factors that also shaped his regional foreign policy. In both domestic and foreign affairs, Erdogan obtained the backing from his coalition partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP, in its Turkish acronym), that, as its name suggests, robustly supports his nationalist and militarist approach at home and abroad.

Besides seeking a central place for Turkey in regional and global affairs, these factors have also melded into one specific concern that animates the Turkish leader — the Kurds. After a period of mutual accommodation between the AKP and the Kurds during 2005-15, Erdogan, in response to some acts of domestic violence, began to adopt a harsh approach towards the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), that represents Kurdish aspirations for autonomy but which has been branded a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its allies.

This approach seeped into neighbouring Syria when the Syrian Kurds, taking advantage of the ongoing civil conflict, took control over large areas along the Turkey-Syria border to establish their ‘Rojava’, or western homeland. Since the Syrian Kurds are closely affiliated with the PKK, Turkey feared that the emerging Rojava would provide a sanctuary and training base for PKK militants.

Turkish military forays in the region

In August 2016 Turkey sent its troops into northern Syria to occupy parts of the border territories and break the contiguity of the nascent Kurdish ‘homeland’. This offensive was followed by three more military incursions into Syria — in May 2018, in the northeast; in October 2019, in the northwest, and in early 2020 to establish control over Idlib province.

These actions have brought 8,835-square-kilometres of Syrian territory under Turkish control, which includes over 1000 settlements and towns such as Afrin, al-Bab, Jarablus, Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn. In this area, Turkey has set up a ‘Syrian interim government’ with several local councils that are controlled by a centralised Turkish military administration.

In the province of Idlib, Turkey has sought to combine its Islamist and anti-Kurd interests. From October 2017, its military presence in the province has been used not to attack the militants who are part of the Hayat Tahreer al-Sham (HTS), the former Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat Nusra, that dominates the region, but to protect them from Syrian government and Russian attacks. Turkey hopes that over time it will be able to persuade the HTS to join the militia it has sponsored — the Syrian National Army.

Beefed up by the HTS cadres, Turkey hopes to have a formidable military force made up of Syrian rebels under its command in northern Syria to curb any aspirations the Kurds might have to build their autonomous (or independent) homeland in the region. These extravagant Turkish plans have alienated both Russia and Iran — its partners in the Astana peace process.

In Iraq, Turkey’s military efforts are also linked with curbing Kurdish aspirations. Here, Turkey has successfully implemented a divide-and-rule approach — it has built close ties with the Iraqi Kurds represented by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) that is influential in the Kurdistan regional government, and has used it against the PKK cadres that have taken refuge in the mountains in northern Iraq and regularly shell Turkish positions from across the border. In response, in addition to its major military base at Bashiqa, near Mosul, Turkey has several other bases in Iraq which it uses to strike at PKK militants as also prevent transborder cooperation between these militants and the Syrian Kurds.

Besides Syria and Iraq, Turkey has been recently involved in two other military initiatives — in Libya and the East Mediterranean and in the south Caucasus. In both theatres, Turkey has been motivated by the neo-Ottoman vision. In November 2019, Turkey entered into an agreement with the Islamist-influenced government in Tripoli to support it with militants from Syria. In return, it obtained a maritime agreement that created new Turkish claims in the East Mediterranean that encroach on the subsea energy claims of other littoral states, particularly Greece and Cyprus.

In Libya, in early 2020, the Syrian militants provided by Turkey were able to reverse the military successes of General Khalifa Haftar who represents the rival government authority in Tobruk. But this conflict has also placed Turkey in confrontation with Egypt, the UAE and Russia that are supporting the Tobruk authority.

In the South Caucasus, though not directly involved in the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict late last year, Turkey was a principal role-player in the Azeri victory, which enabled the latter to win back most of the territory it had lost to Armenia in 1993 — this was largely on account of the drones that Turkey had provided Azerbaijan that were perhaps a decisive factor in determining the outcome.

Celebrating its military triumphs and signalling its centrality in regional affairs, in November last year, Turkey presided over the summit of the ‘Organisation of Turkic States’ that brings together Azerbaijan, Hungary and the Central Asian Republics (excluding Tajikistan). This organisation is pledged to promote cooperation in the areas of the economy, culture, education, transport, customs and the diaspora through institutions responsible for culture and heritage, a parliamentary assembly of Turkic states, and Turkic chamber of commerce.

Problem areas

Turkey’s single-minded and aggressive pursuit of its interests over the last few years has over-stretched its capabilities and alienated a number of important partners.

Turkey’s claims in the East Mediterranean have encouraged both the US and France to come to Greece’s assistance through fresh military agreements. France and Greece concluded a strategic partnership agreement under which the former will boost Greece’s armed capabilities with frigates and Rafale aircraft as well as a mutual assistance clause in case of attack, a direct reference to Turkey’s possible aggressiveness.

The US conveyed its support for Greece in October last year at their bilateral strategic dialogue when, in an obvious reference to the East Mediterranean disputes, the joint statement emphasised the importance “of respecting sovereignty, sovereign rights (and) international law, including the law of the sea”. The US also affirmed its commitment to developing Greece’s military infrastructure and increasing arms supplies.

More seriously, Turkey’s assertion of strategic autonomy, which has meant balancing its ties with the US and Russia, has caused concerns in the US — the latter has not accepted Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 missile system from Russia. It has evicted Turkey from the development of the F-35 fighter aircraft, a major NATO project, and has imposed sanctions under the ‘Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act’ (CAATSA).

President Biden has also reversed Trump’s accommodativeness towards Turkey, signalling the US’ new approach in April 2021 by formally recognising the Armenian genocide by the Ottomans in 1915, despite strong Turkish opposition over several years. The message from Washington is clear — Turkey will need to fulfil all its obligations if it wishes to remain a NATO member.

However, Turkey has also alienated Russia — many of Turkey’s regional initiatives have placed it in confrontation with its partner. They are on opposite sides not just in Libya and Syria (on account of Turkey’s camaraderie with the HTS), but also in the south Caucasus where Turkey stood against Russia’s ally, Armenia.

But the matter of immediate concern for Russia is the persistent Turkish backing for Ukraine in the ongoing standoff. Turkey had rejected Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, seeing the militarisation of the peninsula in the Black Sea as a security threat. Turkey has since then enthusiastically supported the NATO membership of both Georgia and Ukraine and has supplied its Bayratkar TB2 armed drones to the latter.

Amid these tensions, Turkey has sought to mend fences with the US by seeking to purchase 40 new F-16 fighter aircraft and modernisation kits for 80 others. To appease Russia, it has offered to mediate on issues relating to the provinces in eastern Ukraine which are controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

Neither initiative has worked: in the US, Turkey’s request faces congressional opposition, while on Ukraine, Russia has firmly rejected the mediation offer by asking Turkey “to contribute to encouraging the Ukrainian authorities to abandon their belligerent plans” for the eastern provinces. Russian sources have also criticised Turkey for fanning “militarist sentiment” in Ukraine.

Even as both the US and Russia display little enthusiasm for Turkey’s brinkmanship, the limits of Turkey’s civilisational outreach in Central Asia were dramatically revealed when angry protests erupted in Kazakhstan on January 2. Now, instead of seeking help from his Turkic ally, the Kazakh President, Kassym Tokayev sought Russia’s assistance under the Russian-sponsored Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). Tokayev blamed foreign agents for the “coup attempt” — some Turkish observers believe this could have been aimed at Turkey which has been frequently criticised by Arab and Central Asian states for backing Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islamist groups.

Factors encouraging Turkey’s foreign policy review

In the background of the challenges that have emerged in response to its hardline assertions in the region, Turkey has initiated positive overtures to its neighbours in West Asia with whom it has had the most contentious of ties for many years. Four reasons could explain this fresh approach.

First, perhaps, the most important factor is the region-wide conviction that the US now has very limited interest in West Asian disputes. This US disengagement from the regional scenario after a forty-year history of robust political and military interventions has provided regional states their first opportunity to engage with each other and explore the possibility of fresh relationships.

Second, linked with this is crisis-fatigue: from 1980 onwards, West Asia has witnessed near-continuous conflicts which have caused widespread death and destruction and imparted a deep and abiding sense of instability and insecurity across the region. More recently, West Asia is experiencing wars in Syria and Yemen and the challenge posed by the transnational entity, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Though military efforts have ended the threat from ISIS, several of its cadres remain across the region and carry out sporadic, though lethal, acts of violence against vulnerable targets. The wars in Syria and Yemen, however, continue, and, despite the destruction and human misery, have not yielded a military result.

Third, these developments have been taking place amid the Covid-19 pandemic that has devastated regional economies, disrupted manufacture, and deprived millions of their employment and livelihood. This challenge calls for a region wide effort to reduce divisions and conflicts and pool resources for shared benefit.

Finally, the one factor that has helped to prepare the ground for fresh engagements among contending nations in West Asia is that divisions created by the Arab Spring uprisings a decade ago have lost much of their resonance. In the early period of the uprisings, Gulf monarchies perceived a real challenge from popular wrath and believed that the Islamists, represented by the Brotherhood, posed a palpable threat to their thrones. They were particularly mortified by the success of the Brotherhood in Egypt and worked hard, with the Egyptian armed forces, to discredit the government and bring it down through a coup d’etat in July 2013.

This had sharpened the ideological divide between Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt on one side and Turkey and Qatar on the other, and led to the blockade of Qatar by the kingdom and its allies in June 2017. This siege strengthened ties between Qatar and Turkey, when the latter moved swiftly to provide military, political and economic backing to its Gulf partner.

Much has changed since that fraught period. Saudi Arabia and its allies now believe they have successfully handled the challenge from the Arab Spring uprisings and do not see the Brotherhood — now in disarray ideologically and organisationally across the region — as posing a threat to their regimes. Reflecting this perception, Saudi Arabia led the other GCC countries in ending the Qatar blockade in January 2021, despite there being no change in the positions that Qatar holds, which had caused the blockade in the first place.

It is in this background that Turkey commenced last year the difficult process of mending ties with its Arab neighbours.

ALSO READ: UAE, Turkey sign new agreements during Erdogan’s upcoming visit

Towards a “zero-problems” foreign policy?

Since May 2021, Turkey has reached out to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Turkey and Egypt met at ministerial level in May and September 2021 and have agreed to maintain the tempo of interactions. To improve the atmosphere, Turkey has curbed the stridency of anti-Egypt broadcasts by Brotherhood exiles, while agreeing to back a new political process in Libya that would lead to a unity government in place of the divided political order in the country.

There has been some forward movement with Saudi Arabia as well. In May 2021, Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, visited Riyadh and interacted with his counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan; they agreed to “work on positive issues on the common agenda and hold regular consultations”. Later, on November 25, the Saudi Trade Minister, Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, met the Turkish Vice President, Fuat Oktay, in Ankara, signalling the shared interest of the two countries in improving ties, starting with the economic engagements.

Turkey’s interactions with the UAE have been even more robust. In August 2021, the UAE’s National Security Adviser, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, visited Ankara; this was followed by a telephonic conversation between Erdogan and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto ruler of the UAE. On November 24, the Crown Prince visited Ankara, his first visit in eleven years. The visit led to prospects of significant UAE-Turkish economic ties, starting with a $10 billion UAE investment fund for the energy, infrastructure and health sectors.

Amid this flurry of diplomatic activity, Turkey has not ignored its traditional ties with Qatar. Erdogan visited Doha on December 6-7, an interaction that highlighted the close links between the two countries — they have each invested about $32 billion in the other country, even as Turkish contractors are executing projects worth $18 billion in Qatar, mainly for the 2022 World Cup. During the visit, Erdogan affirmed the shared interest of the two countries in “peace and well-being in the entire Gulf region” and added: “All of the Gulf peoples are our true brothers.”

However, the most significant interaction that Turkey has had recently has been with Armenia. The historic animosity between the two peoples that goes back to the Ottoman ‘genocide’ of the Armenians during the First World War obtained a fresh resonance when Turkey backed Azerbaijan in the conflict with Armenia in September-November 2020. Azerbaijan then succeeded in recapturing seven areas in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, evoking fresh hostility towards Turkey in Armenia.

On December 14, under EU auspices, the Azeri and Armenian leaders met in Brussels and agreed on the demarcation of borders and restoration of railway connections. On the same day, the Turkish Foreign Minister announced that his country would pursue normalisation of relations with Armenia, while coordinating each step with Azerbaijan. Both countries then appointed special envoys to take the normalisation process forward. These envoys had their first meeting in Moscow on January 14, which they described as “positive and constructive”.

ALSO READ: Raisi vows stronger ties with Turkey

Outlook for the “zero-problems” approach

What we are witnessing now is a degree of back-paddling by Turkey after about four years of aggressive diplomacy, supported by military interventions, to obtain a central place in the regional scenario.

An objective assessment would suggest that Turkey spread its initiatives and assertions far too widely, thus placing considerable pressure on its resources. It also, in the process, generated a strong pushback from several quarters — Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt — while alienating powerful partners as well, the US and Russia.

Again, problems of inflation, currency depreciation and youth unemployment have alienated large sections of the domestic population, encouraging talk of possible setbacks for Erdogan in national elections in 2023. Turkey thus had no option but to review its approach and pursue policies of re-engagement. Since foreign affairs is Erdogan’s personal domain, drastic policy reversals have been relatively easy to initiate. However, clearly, there is far too much ground to cover and far too many corrections required — many of which could be beyond the capacity, or interest, of Turkey’s modern-day sultan.

For instance, Erdogan will not be able to distance himself entirely from political Islam or the Brotherhood — political Islam is central to his party’s ideology, it is at the heart of “neo-Ottomanism”, and it defines Erdogan’s persona. Hence, it is unlikely that he will be able to obtain the full confidence and trust of his Arab rivals. The best that is likely to emerge is lowkey working relationships, but mutual distrust and rivalries based on their ideological divide will endure.

Erdogan’s brinkmanship vis-a-vis relations with the US and Russia has persisted well past its use-by date. It endured largely because of Trump’s accommodativeness and Putin’s interest in quietly working to detach Turkey from NATO. Today, the situation is quite different — Biden does not have the tolerance of his predecessor, nor does Putin have his earlier patience. Turkey’s overt military support for Ukraine and backing for its NATO membership just when Russia is confronting Western powers on an issue it sees as of crucial importance for its national security is likely to be seen as a serious betrayal.

Beyond the immediate matter of Ukraine, Russia will not take kindly to the Turkish President encroaching into its traditional domain in the south Caucasus and Central Asia, despite the blandishments of Turkic culture that Erdogan proffers. It is not clear with what success Erdogan will be able to assert strategy autonomy in this contentious scenario.

That leaves the issue of the Kurds. On this matter, Erdogan has not offered an olive branch either at home or in the region — the use of force will remain the principal instrument to confront Kurdish aspirations.

The conclusion is unavoidable — despite the hectic diplomatic activity across the region, Turkey’s “zero-problems” policies are all froth, with no substance.

(The author, a former diplomat, holds the Ram Sathe Chair for International Studies, Symbiosis International University, Pune.)

Categories
FEATURE Lifestyle

Danube Home launches all-new kids furniture collection

Danube Home launches its all-new kids’ furniture collection that focuses on creating a Happy Space at home for infants, toddlers, tweens, and teenagers…reports Asian Lite News

Every parent wants to give the best life can offer to their kids, but growing minds also need a space of their own to hone their skills, to get a peaceful well-rested lay, while also serving their educational and play needs. Keeping this in mind, Danube Home has launched its all-new kids’ furniture collection that focuses on creating a Happy Space at home for infants, toddlers, tweens, and teenagers.

Every single item in this collection truly captures the spirit of childhood. Every child is different in the way they learn, play, and grow. Danube Home’s all-new kid’s collection embodies this thought process which is why each piece is thoughtfully crafted to seamlessly grow with the child, straight from infancy to their blooming teenage. The collection comprises everything a mom would envision in her motherhood journey, such as nursery cribs, cots, nightstands, bunk beds, study desks, tables, bean bags, and comforter sets.

The Expect the Unexpected collection revolves around a child’s journey from an infant to teenagehood, where anything and everything is uncharted territory. Their new ELIT collection features a convertible nursery range-furniture that grows with the child’s age, from newborn to toddler to kids up to 9yrs of age, nursery day bed with storage, and built-in LED nightlight inspired from the fantasy world of a child.

ALSO READ: Danube Home launches new garden theme catalogue

While the process of pregnancy and childbirth can be overwhelming, Danube Home is here to support mothers with their new range of maternity pillows that provide comfort during the pregnancy and after.

“Today’s millennial parents and children have varied demands and requirements, the ideation of a fully functional collection took birth while I was looking for furniture for my two toddlers and one infant. Our collection’s main aim is to provide a welcoming and nurturing space for children of all age groups to play, grow and learn. I’m sure our transitional furniture collection is something a growing family in the region will love to use” Quoted Adel Sajan Group Managing Director Danube Group.

SAYED HABIB, DIRECTOR, DANUBE HOME AND ECOMMERCE: ” The expectation of parents have increased in terms of what they want in their home and children these days have a mind of their own when it comes to how they want their room to look. Keeping this in mind, the EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED collection meets both these demands. Colour schemes like ivory, grey, muted coral, sky blues, and pinks are aesthetically pleasing and appeal to both parents and children. In addition, we have paid close attention to the quality and durability as we believe these pieces are an investment that will pay off for many years to come.

ALSO READ: Danube Unveils Skyz Tower

With a wide variety of sub-collections like Masal Gen C, Piedra, Retro, Elit, and Golden, Danube Home has hit a home run with this cleverly designed line. This collection also features a wide range of soft furnishing products like comforter sets, cushions, bean bags, curtains, and more in fun and quirky prints.

Danube Home has launched this collection in their flagship store in Al Barsha, but the brand aims to have this collection across all their stores and franchise outlets in no time.

Categories
FEATURE Health

Breathlessness a straight route to heart damage

The study included 66 patients without previous heart or lung disease who were hospitalised with Covid-19 between March and April 2020…reports Asian Lite News.

Covid-19 patients who continue to be short of breath during physical activity one year after recovering from the infection may have suffered heart damage, according to a small study.

There is increasing evidence of cardiovascular complications due to Covid-19 and of long-lasting symptoms such as dyspnoea, shortness of breath, known as long Covid.

The team investigated whether subclinical heart abnormalities were more common in long Covid patients with dyspnoea, thereby potentially explaining the reason for their symptoms.

“Our study shows that more than a third of Covid-19 patients with no history of heart or lung disease had persistent dyspnoea on effort a year after discharge from hospital,” said Dr. Maria-Luiza Luchian of University Hospital Brussels, Belgium.

“The findings could help to explain why some patients with long Covid still experience breathlessness one year later and indicate that it might be linked to a decrease in heart performance,” she added.

The study included 66 patients without previous heart or lung disease who were hospitalised with Covid-19 between March and April 2020.

At one-year after hospital discharge, spirometry together with chest computed tomography were used to assess lung function and possible sequela of Covid-19. Cardiac ultrasound was performed to examine heart function and included a new imaging technique called myocardial work which provides more precise information on heart function than previous methods.

The average age of participants was 50 years and 67 per cent were men. In one year, 23 patients (35 per cent) had shortness of breath during effort.

The researchers examined the association between imaging measures of heart function and shortness of breath at one year after adjusting for age and gender.

The analysis showed that abnormal heart function was independently and significantly associated with persistent dyspnoea.

Cardiac imaging revealed poorer heart performance in patients with versus without dyspnoea at one year after hospitalisation due to Covid-19.

The research was presented at the EuroEcho 2021, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

ALSO READ-India needs proper data on heart ailments

Categories
FEATURE

Fashion of love for ‘making ensembles’

As soon as her pictures started floating on Instagram, there was a storm of comments on the social media platform leaving the Internet divided.

A closer look at Alia Bhatt’s Indian wear wardrobe shows her love for statement-making ensembles. The young star was recently spotted at a wedding in Mumbai dressed in a bright yellow Manish Malhotra lehenga. However, this time, it wasn’t the silhouette or the styling that caught everyone’s attention, it was her blouse. As soon as her pictures started floating on Instagram, there was a storm of comments on the social media platform leaving the Internet divided.

Known for calling out plagiarised outfits and discussing all things fashion, anonymous account Diet Sabya also dedicated a post titled “blousegate”, featuring comments from several self-proclaimed fashion critics speaking for and against the style. While some called it refreshing and on-point, some outright dismissed it. “A risqué look for Alia Bhatt who is usually subtle with her sartorial choices. In terms of grabbing attention, it definitely did the trick,” quoted Diet Sabya.

Just a couple of days ago, Manish Malhotra shared a picture of actress Ananya Pandey dressed in a black and metallic lehenga paired with a similar blouse. For someone who likes to keep it mostly floaty and feminine, Pandey looked very comfortable in the dramatic outfit.

A couple of weeks ago, actress Radhika Madan too stepped out in a similar style blouse paired with checked trousers. The 26-year-old was brutally called out for the choice of outfit and bad fitting. To be fair, fashion is a funny thing – too many voices, too many opinions and mostly all noise.

ALSO READ-Iconic hairstyling trends of 2022