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Indian Prime Minister Modi Inaugurates first Hindu Temple in UAE

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has marked a historic moment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by inaugurating the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi during his two-day visit to the country. The temple, built on a 27-acre plot donated by the UAE government, stands as a symbol of the strong ties between India and the UAE.

The construction of the temple was announced during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the UAE in 2018, and its completion underscores the growing relationship between the two nations. Analysts suggest that the inauguration of the temple may also serve to bolster the Hindu nationalist agenda ahead of the upcoming general elections in India.

The BAPS Hindu Mandir, run by the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, is constructed using traditional techniques and materials, including pink sandstone from Rajasthan and white Italian marble. With dimensions of 108ft in height, 262ft in length, and 180ft in width, the temple stands as a majestic symbol of Hindu spirituality and cultural heritage.

The temple inauguration comes on the heels of Prime Minister Modi’s recent dedication of a grand temple to Hindu god Ram in Ayodhya, India. This move has drawn attention to the government’s efforts to promote Hindu values and sentiments.

India and the UAE share a close relationship, with $85bn in bilateral trade and significant investments between the two countries. The signing of a bilateral investment treaty and a comprehensive economic partnership agreement during Modi’s visit further solidifies this partnership, focusing on areas such as energy security, trade, and digital infrastructure development.

During his visit, Prime Minister Modi also addressed the Indian community in Abu Dhabi, expressing gratitude to the UAE president for the land allotment for the temple. The temple inauguration not only strengthens cultural ties but also underscores the significance of the Indian diaspora in the UAE.

Prime Minister Modi’s participation in the World Government Summit further highlights India’s commitment to global cooperation and diplomacy. As the temple doors open to devotees in Abu Dhabi, it signifies a new chapter in the relationship between India and the UAE, rooted in shared values and mutual respect.

68,000 children affected by Nepal earthquake still need urgent assistance- UNICEF

KATHMANDU, Nepal – 100 days after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck western Nepal on 3 November 2023, UNICEF is calling for continued support for 68,000 children and their families in the affected areas and appealing for US$14.7 million in funding to help rebuild the lives of the affected children.  

The earthquake, with its epicentre in Jajarkot District of Karnali Province, killed 154 people and injured 366. Half the dead, 81, were children. The earthquake also damaged homes, schools, health facilities and water supply infrastructure, which disrupted critical services for children.  Around 200,000 people, including 68,000 children, many of whom spent a cold winter in temporary shelters, still need humanitarian assistance to rebuild their lives. 

“Three months on, following a harsh winter, thousands of children affected by the destructive earthquake in western Nepal continue to face daily hardships. They are still dealing with the trauma of losing loved ones. Their development is at risk as they lost their belongings, homes and schools, among others” said Alice Akunga, UNICEF Representative to Nepal. “Even as temperatures rise, the needs are still high as children require nutritious food, clean water, education and shelter. One of the best ways to rebuild children’s lives and restore a sense of normalcy is to get them back to school and learning, so that they can play with their friends, learn and heal.”

Immediately after the earthquake, UNICEF was on the ground with the government and partners to provide children and their families with life-saving supplies such as tarpaulins, blankets, medical tents, recreational and educational kits, and hygiene materials.

The earthquake damaged 898 school buildings (294 fully damaged, 604 partially damaged), impacting education of around 134,000 school-aged children. Out of these, over 17,000 children have gone back to school, thanks to 223 temporary learning centres set up by UNICEF with support of the development partners. In addition, transitional learning centres, which can withstand extreme weather conditions, are being set up so that children can continue their education until school buildings are fully repaired.

Furthermore, UNICEF, working with local governments and partners, also helped to repair 565 damaged toilets and construct 251 temporary toilets. Support was also provided for the Government’s campaign to vaccinate children against deadly diseases such as measles, rubella and typhoid.     

But much more needs to be done to support children and their families. So far only 7 per cent of UNICEF’s US$15.7 million appeal has been funded, a large proportion of which includes financing from the UNICEF Global Humanitarian Thematic Fund, the most flexible form of funding allowing for rapid and strategic responses by UNICEF to humanitarian crises, as well as support from UNICEF National Committees. UNICEF is calling for US$14.7 million in additional funding to continue providing life-saving support to children.

“UNICEF thanks all our donors and supporters who have provided the much-needed resources. However, additional efforts are required to help restore lives and give children hope for the future,” added Akunga. “UNICEF is committed to working with the Government of Nepal, partners and donors to help children and young people in desperate need of support. We are calling for investment from donors and partners so that we can continue to provide life-saving supplies and services to help children survive and thrive.”    

UK Expresses Concern Over Pakistan Elections, Calls for Upholding Human Rights and Fairness

London — The United Kingdom has voiced concerns over the recent elections in Pakistan, emphasizing the importance of upholding fundamental human rights and ensuring fairness in the electoral process. The UK, acknowledging the historic and close ties between the two nations, commended the participation of voters but highlighted serious issues regarding the inclusivity and fairness of the elections.

In a statement released following the elections, the UK expressed regret over the restrictions placed on certain political parties, preventing them from contesting, and the use of legal maneuvers to hinder the participation of some political leaders. Additionally, concerns were raised over the limitations imposed on internet access during polling, significant delays in result reporting, and allegations of irregularities in the counting process.

The UK urged Pakistani authorities to uphold fundamental human rights, including free access to information and the rule of law. Emphasis was placed on ensuring the right to a fair trial, adherence to due process, and maintaining an independent and transparent judicial system, free from interference.

Highlighting the significance of a civilian government elected with a mandate for crucial reforms, the UK stressed the importance of accountability to the people and representing the interests of all citizens and communities with equity and justice. The UK expressed readiness to collaborate with Pakistan’s next government across shared interests and to support efforts towards achieving these goals.

As Pakistan navigates its political landscape, international scrutiny continues to underscore the importance of upholding democratic principles and ensuring fair and transparent electoral processes.

Close Race Emerges in Pakistan’s General Election: Sharif vs. Khan Parties Neck and Neck

Islamabad — The Election Commission of Pakistan has unveiled a tight contest between the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N), led by Nawaz Sharif, and the independents aligned with the incarcerated former prime minister Imran Khan’s party.

With 51 seats counted so far, PML-N has clinched 17, while independents backed by Khan’s party have secured 14, according to the official tally. Additionally, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), under Bilawal Bhutto’s leadership, has grabbed 12 seats. The remaining seats have been distributed among smaller parties and independents not affiliated with Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

Yesterday’s general election was marred by the suspension of mobile phone services and violent unrest, prompting concerns about its credibility. Analysts have criticized it as one of Pakistan’s least credible elections, with results being slower to emerge compared to previous votes.

Despite the participation of 44 parties in the National Assembly race, the focus remains on two major contenders: Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan. Sharif, once considered an adversary to Pakistan’s powerful military, has now garnered their support, marking a significant shift in his political fortunes.

Imran Khan, ousted from power and imprisoned on multiple convictions, remains a potent force in Pakistani politics. Despite his disqualification from standing, many independent candidates from his PTI party have contested the elections, reflecting his enduring popularity.

Furthermore, the emergence of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of former leader Benazir Bhutto, as a first-time candidate adds another dimension to the electoral landscape.

As the vote count continues, Pakistan awaits the final outcome of what promises to be a closely fought battle between Sharif and Khan’s political factions, with implications for the country’s future trajectory.

Tragedy Strikes: Fire Engulfs Firecracker Factory in India, Claims 11 Lives

Harda, Madhya Pradesh: A devastating fire erupted in a firecracker factory located in Bairagarh village, Harda, resulting in a tragic loss of at least 11 lives and leaving over 200 individuals injured. The incident, which occurred approximately 150 km from Bhopal on Tuesday morning, also caused extensive damage to over five dozen nearby houses.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) swiftly mobilized a rescue operation to assist those affected by the blaze. Chief Minister Mohan Yadav expressed profound sorrow over the catastrophe and promptly dispatched ambulances to transport the injured to nearby hospitals. Additionally, medical teams from Bhopal, Indore, and Hoshangabad were placed on standby, ensuring prompt medical assistance for the victims.

President Droupadi Murmu conveyed her heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased and wished for the swift recovery of the injured, acknowledging the severity of the tragedy.

The firecracker unit, owned by Rajesh Agrawal, Pradeep Agrawal, and Somesh Agrawal, had previously faced two mishaps and was sealed last year. Allegations suggest that nearby houses were utilized for storing gunpowder, exacerbating the impact of the fire. Reports indicate that the factory employed approximately 400 to 500 workers, who were housed in rented premises adjacent to the factory for production purposes.

As rescue efforts continue, authorities fear that the casualty count may rise further. A precautionary evacuation of around 100 nearby houses has been carried out by local authorities.

In response to the incident, a three-member committee has been formed by the state home department to conduct a thorough investigation. Tensildar Laveena Ghagre of Harda confirmed nine fatalities and 174 injuries officially, with 24 individuals referred to hospitals in Bhopal and Indore for further treatment.

Despite efforts to control the fire, rescue teams remain engaged in clearing debris and locating any individuals trapped beneath the rubble. The factory, spanning four acres of land, presents significant challenges to the ongoing rescue operation as authorities work tirelessly to mitigate the aftermath of this tragic event.

Road safety awareness: Man gifts helmets to guests at daughter’s wedding

New Delhi — In a heartwarming display of commitment to road safety, Sed Yadav, a resident of Korba district in Chhattisgarh, utilized his daughter’s wedding as a platform to advocate for safer driving practices. Amidst the traditional festivities, guests were surprised to receive helmets as return gifts, a gesture aimed at promoting road safety awareness.

The wedding, which took place in the Mudapar area of Korba city, saw not only celebrations but also a meaningful message conveyed by Yadav and his family. Sporting helmets, family members danced joyfully, showcasing their support for safer roads.

Speaking to reporters, Sed Yadav emphasized the importance of valuing life and urged guests to refrain from drinking and driving, highlighting the significant role alcohol plays in many road accidents. He seized the opportunity of his daughter’s special day to advocate for responsible driving habits, recognizing the wedding as an ideal occasion to spread awareness.

This unconventional approach garnered praise from attendees, who appreciated the thoughtful gesture and recognized the importance of promoting road safety within communities. Through his actions, Sed Yadav demonstrated that meaningful change can be initiated even in the midst of joyous occasions, emphasizing the need for collective efforts to create safer roads for all.

Nepal Proposes Tariff for Historic Electricity Export Deal with Bangladesh

Nepal has taken a significant stride towards an unprecedented electricity trade agreement with Bangladesh, as it submits a tariff proposal for the export of power. The proposal marks a crucial step forward in bilateral negotiations between the two nations, aiming to facilitate the first-ever exchange of electricity.

Following an initial agreement for the export of 40MW of electricity from Nepal to Bangladesh, both countries have embarked on discussions to formalize the terms of the landmark energy trade deal. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s visit to India last year further solidified commitments, with India pledging support to facilitate the energy exchange between Nepal and Bangladesh.

Pradeep Kumar Thike, Deputy Managing Director overseeing power trade at the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), revealed that a tariff proposal has been sent to the Bangladeshi side in a sealed envelope. While specific details of the proposed tariff remain undisclosed, it is anticipated to mirror rates charged to India under existing agreements.

Based on previous power purchase agreements, the tariff could potentially fall below Rs10 per unit, indicating favorable terms for both parties involved. Moreover, Nepal has incorporated provisions for early payment incentives and penalties for delayed payments, aiming to streamline the financial aspects of the trade.

The proposed export route involves leveraging Indian territory, necessitating coordination with India in the energy trade. The delivery point is designated to be a 400kV substation at Muzaffarpur in India, with Bangladesh assuming responsibility for transmission charges associated with Indian infrastructure.

NEA officials underscored the potential for future expansion in power exports to Bangladesh, contingent upon agreements and enhanced transmission infrastructure capacity. Bangladesh, expressing keen interest in bolstering its energy supply, views Nepal as a vital partner in meeting its growing electricity demands.

Bangladeshi Ambassador to Nepal, Salahuddin Noman Chowdhury, emphasized the urgency of addressing Bangladesh’s power deficit, stating that Nepal’s supply could significantly alleviate the shortfall. With Bangladesh’s current electricity generation falling short of demand, Nepal’s proposed export of 3,000–4,000MW presents a promising solution to meet Bangladesh’s burgeoning energy needs.

As Nepal awaits Bangladesh’s response to the proposed tariff, anticipation mounts for the signing of a tripartite agreement involving Nepal, Bangladesh, and India, signaling a new era of regional energy cooperation and synergy

Four trends you’ll see in online election campaigns this year

Katharine Dommett, University of Sheffield
Over the past decade, social media has become an essential component of election campaigns. But in 2024, the options seem endless. With a record number of elections taking place around the world, how will digital campaigning look different this year? 

1. TikTok is drawing a crowd

In 2024, campaigners have access to more digital channels than ever. Facebook and X (formally Twitter) remain a mainstay, but campaigns will also be looking to exploit newer platforms to reach the electorate.

TikTok is the obvious choice, after it was so successfully used by New Zealand prime minister Chris Luxon and Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party. UK campaigners will be tempted to follow suit in the 2024 campaign. Many Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem MPs already have their own accounts, and more aspiring politicians are joining by the day.

While Reform UK and the Green Party have official party accounts, the major parties have yet to join TikTok – probably because they’re focusing efforts on reaching older voters considering switching from Tory to Labour, who are not TikTok’s natural demographic. However, we’re sure to see more new accounts springing up as the election approaches.

2. Advertising beyond Facebook is more important than you think

Since January, we’ve seen a lot of focus on Facebook advertising, with Labour and the Tories already spending tens of thousands on these ads. What has been less commented on is expenditure on other digital advertising channels.

Parties are now also using Google, YouTube and optimised programmatic advertising – where automation is used to place ads on websites aligned with a campaign’s desired target audience – to communicate with audiences online.

This means that large sums are already being quietly spent on things like unskippable YouTube pre-roll videos, Google search ads, and web ads on local newspaper sites, websites and message boards. These tools are highly effective at reaching particular groups of voters, with research showing that unskippable pre-rolls are more likely to be noticed by the intended audience. 

For campaigns trying to connect with and grab the attention of particular audiences, these tools will be very powerful – perhaps the defining feature of the next election campaign.

The reason you’ve probably not heard about this is because these practices are much harder to monitor than other kinds of campaigning, because of a lack of transparency. It’s therefore going to be almost impossible to monitor how these services are using during the 2024 campaign.

3. Micro-targeting no, Mumsnet yes

There has been much concern in recent years about the use of microtargeted electoral messaging. This is where people receive personalised (and potentially contradictory) messages based on their personal data. However, there is little evidence that fears about this practice have been realised. Indeed, recent studies – including my own recent book – have shown that data collection and analysis is often unsophisticated, and targeting is often focused on broad groups rather than individual people.

Rather than seeing campaigns in 2024 develop more individualised and bespoke campaign messaging than ever before, we’ll instead see them use different platforms to connect with the types of voter their data shows to be electorally significant.

If they’re trying to win support from 18- to 34-year-old men, they’ll be tempted to campaign on Twitch – a gaming platform which US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used to engage that demographic group. Alternatively, if they’re looking to connect with 30- to 40-year-old women, then websites like MumsNet will be a better venue for advertising and web chats.

Of course, advertising on Meta platforms such as Facebook will also be used to reach particular demographics – but alongside this tactic, we’ll see campaigners meeting voters wherever they are online. So, party campaigns will need to manage and generate content for multiple platforms.

4. The playing field will not be level

Digital technology is often seen as levelling the political playing field. The idea is that anyone on any budget can make a success of campaigning online if they play the game well. But the reality is that, just like offline campaigning, there are significant inequalities in campaigners’ ability to benefit from digital tools.

Within campaign HQs, there are vastly different numbers of digital staff and huge disparities in expertise around digital tools. Labour and the Conservatives often have large digital teams for elections (a point evidenced by the number of jobs currently being advertised by Labour), but parties like the Greens often have a minimal central staff. This limits their capacity to create and manage content.

Even at a grassroots level, we see parties having different capacities. Labour, for example, has many more party members than others, giving them an advantage. It’s notable that Labour has been making a concerted effort to upskill its activist base, hiring large numbers of digital trainees and hosting training sessions on “creating good digital content” and developing “your digital strategy”.

The use of Labour’s grassroots activists in digital campaigns could be particularly useful for creating locally relevant content. Other parties haven’t rolled out such schemes at scale, leading them to rely on local pockets of expertise.

Of course, parties can buy external expertise to compensate for a lack of digitally savvy activists – something the Conservatives may attempt to do, especially given the recent uplift in campaign spending limits which make it possible for parties to spend more than ever before. The Tories have the capacity to make such outlays, but other parties such as the Liberal Democrats, Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru don’t have that financial clout.

The digital campaign will evolve throughout 2024, but it’ll by no means be uniform across the different parties. In fact, we’re likely to see greater inequality in digital campaign activity than ever before.( From : The Conversation)

British monarch diagnosed with a form of cancer, palace says

London — In a recent development, King Charles has initiated out-patient cancer treatment following a diagnosis made during his recent hospitalization for a benign enlarged prostate. Spending the night at home, the monarch’s health status has garnered significant attention both nationally and internationally.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak conveyed his reassurance, stating that he remains in “regular contact” with the King and expressed gratitude for the early detection of the illness. This revelation comes after Buckingham Palace disclosed the discovery of cancer during the King’s hospital stay.

While specifics about the type of cancer remain undisclosed by the Palace, King Charles has decided to defer public engagements temporarily. Nevertheless, he remains committed to fulfilling state duties and will continue his weekly meetings with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

In a gesture of familial support, Prince Harry, currently residing in the US, has communicated with his father and is expected to journey to the UK in the forthcoming days, indicating solidarity with the royal family during this challenging period.

South Asian countries face heightened Climate Change risks, experts warn

LONDON: Climate change experts and researchers have said that South Asian countries face heightened risks due to climate change.

Taking part in a webinar entitled ‘Climate Change and South Asia: Regional Challenges in a Global Crisis’ organised to mark the 5th anniversary of South Asia Time news portal on Saturday, they called upon the South Asian governments to work closely to combat the impacts of climate change.

Dr. Maheshwar Dhakal, Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Forests and Environment, highlighted Nepal’s longstanding commitment to protect environment and reduce carbon emissions. He stressed on the need for a more strategic approach to deal with the global challenge.

“The accelerated pace of production, consumption, market, and economic development in India and China directly impacts Nepal’s survival. Nepal must be proactive and vocal to highlight the risks it is facing,” he added.

Climate researcher, Dr. Shobha Poudel, said that there was need to implement the decisions of various Conference of Parties (COP) gatherings. “There is a need to reduce risks to people’s livelihoods and farming through carbon emission reduction and climate-smart investment,”said Dr. Poudel, who is currently working as Marie Curie research fellow at the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei in Italy.  She called upon South Asian governments to invest more in research and development and encourage farmers towards the climate-friendly cultivation.

BBC World Service’s Global Environment Correspondent, Navin Singh Khadka, said that none of the G20 countries are reducing emissions at a pace consistent with their net-zero targets. “Greenhouse gas emissions across the G20 increased by 1.2 per cent in 2022,” said Khadka. Development is becoming costlier and low-income countries are not able to keep up with the impact of climate change. There were policy gaps in countries’ adaptation plans. India’s Chamoli disaster showed local disaster management bodies did not factor in climate risks, he added.

Ambassador of Nepal to the UK, Gyan Chandra Acharya, said that regional cooperation was key to deal with sectors like energy, disaster management and policy framework, among others.

“South Asia is the second most vulnerable region from the impacts of climate change. There is no national border for climate change. Hence, we should pressure at the international level for finance, technology and ambition,” he added.  Saying that climate change is not only  impacting Himalyan ecology, it is also having significant impact on food security,livelihood and public health, Ambassador Acharya said how to decarbonise industries and protecting forest should be a priority.

“COP28 in Dubai has made good progress by renewing its commitment to 1.5 degree Celsius and operationalise the loss ad damange fund, among other,” said Acharya. “Now, we must emphasise on implementing the decisions taken on the basis of multistakeholder approach.”

Kul Acharya, the former president of NRNA, said there was the need to study the relationship between climate change and migration.

Chief Editor of Asia Time, Bhagirath Yogi, welcomed participants and shed light on the significance of the webinar while Director and Editor of www.southasiatime.com Dr Jagan Karki delivered the vote of thanks.

Nepal Ranks 108th in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index with Slight Improvement

Kathmandu — In the recently released Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by Transparency International (TI), Nepal has secured the 108th position, signaling a modest improvement from its 2022 ranking at 110th. The report assessed 180 countries worldwide, showcasing Denmark as the least corrupt nation with a score of 90, followed by Finland, New Zealand, Norway, and Singapore.

Nepal’s score rose slightly in comparison to 2022, but it still reflects the challenges the country faces in curbing corruption. The TI report emphasizes that over two-thirds of countries scored below 50 out of 100, indicating serious corruption issues globally.

Nepal’s neighbors, India and China, secured the 93rd and 76th positions, respectively, highlighting the need for concerted efforts to address corruption in the South Asian region. Similarly other neighbors scores are Bangladesh 149, Pakistan 133, Afghanistan 162, Bhutan 24, Maldives 93.

The CPI report draws data from various sources, including the World Bank and World Economic Forum, and emphasizes the importance of strengthening justice systems to ensure accountability of public officials, thereby reducing corruption.

In the broader context of Asia, the report notes a lack of meaningful progress in curbing corruption. Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan are recognized as jurisdictions with the cleanest governments in the region. However, the overall average score for Asia has stagnated at 45 out of 100 for the fifth consecutive year.

The report underscores concerns about authoritarian regimes and their correlation with low scores in the corruption index. Countries like Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela, with authoritarian links, are positioned at the lower end of the list.

China’s aggressive anti-corruption measures, involving punishment for over 3.7 million officials in the past decade, have been highlighted in the report. However, TI raises doubts about the long-term effectiveness of such measures, emphasizing the need for institutional checks on power.

The findings indicate a global challenge in addressing corruption, with many countries opting for short-term punitive measures rather than investing in long-term structural reforms. As Nepal aims for progress, the report serves as a reminder of the importance of sustained efforts to strengthen anti-corruption mechanisms and promote transparency in governance.

UK General Patrick Sanders Engages in Bilateral Talks During Nepal Visit

Kathmandu — In a significant diplomatic development, the Chief of the General Staff of the United Kingdom, General Patrick Sanders, paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Purna Bahadur Khadka in Kathmandu today.

According to the official Twitter account of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO Nepal), discussions during the visit encompassed areas of mutual interest and cooperation between Nepal and the UK. The British Army Chief, General Sir Patrick Sanders, also met with Deputy Prime Minister Khadka, who expressed confidence that the visit would strengthen ties between the two nations.

During the meeting, Minister Khadka emphasized the long-standing bilateral ties between Nepal and the UK, extending to a people-to-people level. Both countries, he noted, share common values in democracy, human rights, rule of law, and independence. Reflecting on the centenary celebration of the Treaty of Friendship last year, Minister Khadka remarked that it laid the groundwork for robust bilateral ties for the next century.

Acknowledging the UK as a significant development partner, Minister Khadka expressed gratitude for their support to Nepal during challenging periods. He also raised the concerns of Gurkha soldiers retired before 1997, urging a positive response and a more liberal approach from the British government.

Highlighting the importance of military exchanges between Nepal and the UK, Minister Khadka commended the contributions of the British Gurkhas and emphasized the positive collaboration between the two nations in international peace efforts. General Sanders, in response, expressed the UK’s willingness to collaborate further with Nepal, acknowledging Nepal’s significant role as the second-largest contributor to the United Nations peacekeeping mission.

The Chief of the British Armed Forces assured continued cooperation despite economic challenges, emphasizing the need for joint efforts in establishing international peace amid a complex security climate. The meeting was attended by top officials from both countries, including Defence Ministry Secretary Kiran Raj Sharma and the British Ambassador.

In parallel, Chief of the Army Staff Prabhu Ram Sharma and British Army Chief Sanders held discussions at the Army Headquarters, focusing on centuries-old mutual ties and matters of mutual interest. The visit is part of General Patrick Sanders’ six-day trip to Nepal, reinforcing diplomatic and military relations between the two nations.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan Sentenced to 10 Years in Jail for Leaking State Secrets Ahead of Elections

Islamabad— In a significant development, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has been handed a 10-year jail term in a case accusing him of leaking state secrets. The conviction comes as Khan is already serving a three-year sentence for corruption charges, and he maintains that all accusations against him are politically motivated.

The verdict, delivered by a special court within Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, also sentenced former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is the vice-chairman of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, to 10 years in prison.

The case, referred to as the “cipher case,” revolves around the alleged leaking of secret diplomatic correspondence during Khan’s tenure as prime minister. The documents, claimed to reveal a foreign conspiracy against him, were displayed by Khan at a rally in March 2022, a month before he was ousted through a parliamentary vote of no confidence.

The charges include leaking a classified document and damaging diplomatic relations, with potential severe consequences, including life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Imran Khan, currently held in Adiala jail, has been facing numerous legal battles, with his legal team expressing dissatisfaction over the lack of opportunities to represent him or cross-examine witnesses.

The sentencing comes just a week before the general elections, where Imran Khan is barred from standing. The PTI alleges a lack of fair campaigning opportunities and challenges the court ruling, denouncing it as illegal.

The upcoming elections on 8th February have raised concerns about their credibility, given the extensive sidelining of Imran Khan and his party. Many point to the return of three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as a leading contender, suggesting a shift in establishment preferences.

Indians Brave Risks for Jobs in Israel Amid Ongoing Conflict

Lucknow, India : Amid the prolonged conflict between Israel and Hamas, hundreds of Indians are braving the risks to secure job opportunities in Israel. Recruiters are actively seeking to address a labor shortage exacerbated by months of fighting against Palestinian militants. Despite India being the world’s fifth-largest economy, job creation challenges persist, prompting individuals to pursue employment abroad. In Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, men, almost exclusively, are queuing for a chance at skilled construction jobs in Israel, offering wages up to 18 times higher than those at home. Despite awareness of the dangers, many are driven by the prospect of providing for their families. The recruitment drive, supported by both nations’ authorities, aims to send 10,000 skilled construction workers to Israel, addressing both the labor shortage and the economic needs of families. India’s foreign ministry highlighted longstanding employment agreements between the countries, emphasizing regulated migration. As these individuals seek opportunities, the conflict in Gaza continues to escalate, with casualties reported and ongoing urban combat, underscoring the challenges faced by those pursuing employment in the region.

People in the world’s ‘blue zones’ live longer – their diet could hold the key to why

 Justin Roberts, Joseph Lillis, Mark Cortnage, Anglia Ruskin University
Ageing is an inevitable part of life, which may explain our strong fascination with the quest for longevity. The allure of eternal youth drives a multi-billion pound industry ranging from anti-ageing products, supplements and diets for those hoping to extend their lifespan.

If you look back to the turn of the 20th century, average life expectancy in the UK was around 46 years. Today, it’s closer to 82 years. We are in fact living longer than ever before, possibly due to medical advancements and improved living and working conditions.

But living longer has also come at a price. We’re now seeing higher rates of chronic and degenerative diseases – with heart disease consistently topping the list. So while we’re fascinated by what may help us live longer, maybe we should be more interested in being healthier for longer. Improving our “healthy life expectancy” remains a global challenge.

Interestingly, certain locations around the world have been discovered where there are a high proportion of centenarians who display remarkable physical and mental health. The AKEA study of Sardinia, Italy, as example, identified a “blue zone” (named because it was marked with blue pen), where there was a higher number of locals living in the central-eastern mountainous areas who had reached their 100th birthday compared with the wider Sardinian community.

This longevity hotspot has since been expanded, and now includes several other areas around the world which also have greater numbers of longer-living, healthy people. Alongside Sardinia, these blue zones are now popularly recognised as: Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California.

Other than their long lifespans, people living in these zones also appear to share certain other commonalities, which centre around being part of a community, having a life purpose, eating nutritious, healthy foods, keeping stress levels low and undertaking purposeful daily exercise or physical tasks.

Their longevity could also relate to their environment, being mostly rural (or less polluted), or because of specific longevity genes.

However, studies indicate genetics may only account for around 20-25% of longevity – meaning a person’s lifespan is a complex interaction between lifestyle and genetic factors, which contribute to a long and healthy life.

Is the secret in our diet?

When it comes to diet, each blue zone has its own approach – so one specific food or nutrient does not explain the remarkable longevity observed. But interestingly, a diet rich in plant foods (such as locally-grown vegetables, fruits and legumes) does appear to be reasonably consistent across these zones.

For instance, the Seventh-day Adventists of Loma Linda are predominately vegetarian. For centenarians in Okinawa, high intakes of flavonoids (a chemical compound typically found in plants) from purple sweet potatoes, soy and vegetables, have been linked with better cardiovascular health – including lower cholesterol levels and lower incidences of stroke and heart disease.

In Nicoya, consumption of locally produced rice and beans has been associated with longer telomere length. Telomeres are the structural part at the end of our chromosomes which protect our genetic material. Our telomeres get shorter each time a cell divides – so get progressively shorter as we age.

Certain lifestyle factors (such as smoking and poor diet) can also shorten telomere length. It’s thought that telomere length acts as a biomarker of ageing – so having longer telomeres could, in part, be linked with longevity.

But a plant-based diet isn’t the only secret. In Sardinia, for example, meat and fish is consumed in moderation in addition to locally grown vegetables and traditional foods such as acorn breads, pane carasau (a sourdough flatbread), honey and soft cheeses.
Also observed in several blue zone areas is the inclusion of olive oil, wine (in moderation – around 1-2 glasses a day), as well as tea. All of these contain powerful antioxidants which may help protect our cells from damage as we age.

Perhaps then, it’s a combination of the protective effects of various nutrients in the diets of these centenarians, which explains their exceptional longevity.

Another striking observation from these longevity hot spots is that meals are typically freshly prepared at home. Traditional blue zone diets also don’t appear to contain ultra-processed foods, fast foods or sugary drinks which may accelerate ageing. So maybe it’s just as important to consider what these longer-living populations are not doing, as much as what they are doing.

There also appears to be a pattern of eating until 80% full (in other words partial caloric reduction. This could be important in also supporting how our cells deal with damage as we age, which could mean a longer life.

Many of the factors making up these blue zone diets – primarily plant-based and natural whole foods – are associated with lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Not only could such diets contribute to a longer, healthier life, but could support a more diverse gut microbiome, which is also associated with healthy ageing.

Perhaps then we can learn something from these remarkable centenarians. While diet is only one part of the bigger picture when it comes to longevity, it’s an area we can do something about. In fact, it might just be at the heart of improving not only the quality of our health, but the quality of how we age. ( From : The Conversation)

India, UK relationship ‘force for good’: UK home secretary James Cleverly

London — British Home Secretary James Cleverly praised the intellectual prowess of India, emphasizing its potential in various sectors during the India Global Forum’s 6th annual UK-India Parliamentary Lunch. Cleverly called the UK-India relationship a “force for good,” suggesting collaboration in addressing global challenges. Meanwhile, concerns were raised over up to 100,000 Indian nationals in the UK without legal status. Cleverly highlighted the significance of India’s Defence Minister’s visit, underscoring the need for strong partnerships in maintaining global peace. India’s Deputy High Commissioner, Sujit Ghosh, highlighted India’s economic strides, urging the UK to recognize and benefit from India’s rise. The event, co-hosted by the Indian High Commission and Lord Jitesh Gadhia, brought together political, business, and finance leaders to celebrate the growing ties between the two democracies. The discussions emphasized the importance of democracies working together amid global challenges. Lord Gadhia noted that while political leaders handle bilateral agendas, people-to-people interactions and collaboration define the dynamic UK-India relationship.