Archive | March, 2012

Olympics: Crisis will not affect Greek leg of torch relay

Posted on 28 March 2012 by admin

THE effects of the Greek economic cri-sis will not spoil the country’s leg of the 2012 Olympic Torch relay with officials announcing on Mon-day that it will be funded mainly by sponsors. The Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) unveiled a route which will pass through 43 towns and travel 2,900 kilometers from May 10 to 17 before the flame is flown to the United Kingdom for a tour before the London Games start on July 27. It will travel throughout most of the Greek mainland and the island of Crete after being lit in the traditional ceremony at Ancient Olympia in southern Greece on May 10. Although the HOC did not give details of how much the Greek leg of the torch relay would cost, HOC president Spyros Kapralos told a news conference: “In these difficult economic circum-stances that we are going through, it is essential to mention that the cost of the budget will not be borne by the public at all. “The costs will be covered by sponsorships, the participation of local com-munities and individuals.” Spyros Zanias, the head of the torch relay in Greece, said: “Although the country has huge financial difficulties, as well as the HOC, we will not scale down on what we are going to do on Greek soil regarding the torch relay. “We felt it was much more important to use the funds which have been pro-vided to us so generously by various sponsors in bringing the flame all around the country in an effort to remind all our fellow compatriots of the importance of the torch, the importance of the Olympic Games, that every-thing started from here.”

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Miss India Worldwide Contestant Gives the Lowdown on Pageant Life

Posted on 28 March 2012 by admin

By: Gagan Batra


We have all been exposed in one way or another to the glamorous fashion world by means of the media. Despite all of the attention people give to models and their lives, one can never really know all of the steps they must go through before being seen by the public.

After speaking with twenty-year-old Shreyaa Chawla, a recent contestant in the Miss India Worldwide pageant, I have developed a better understanding of what goes on in the modeling world and how intense it can really be. Chawla revealed to me some of the tensionsthat come with modeling and competing for titles and prestige on the basis of one’s beauty. Chawla explains that while she had a difficult few weeks, the memories and satisfaction she gained from her experiences made all of her hard work worth it. Excerpts from our conversation:

What are the official titles you have earned from the Miss India Worldwide pageant?

I won the title of Miss India Worldwide- Canada, which was a national pageant in which girls from all over Canada competed. The winner from the pageant held in Canada automatically goes on to the international pageant that was held in Suriname this year. There I won the title of Miss Beautiful Smile and I made it to the top ten out of 35 girls. My name was also announced in Suriname for being one of the top five talents in the talent portion of the pageant.

How would you describe your experiences with the Miss India Worldwide pageant?

Let me just start by saying that the experience was very different from what I had expected. I was flown to a country which I had never been to before, it was both exciting and terribly nerve-wracking. I met 34 wonderful girls from all over the world who I was supposed to compete against. It was a lot to take in at first, with all the new people I was meeting and all of the attention we were being given, but it didn’t take me too long to get used to it. Of course, like any contest, it was very competitive. All of the girls were so beautiful and talented, which made it so much more difficult. However, the girls surprised me. I’ve always heard stories where pageants brought out the worst in people. I honestly thought that the girls were going to sabotage each other. Nothing of the sort actually happened; all of the girls were more like a family. We all helped and supported one another because we understood what the others were going through. The pageant taught me a lot about the difficulties in life, it especially taught me about the nature of competition and the importance of unity.

What sort of experience did you have leading to the Miss India Worldwide pageant?

I have been in a number of different fashion shows before the pageant, which gave me some experience before the event. I was in the fashion show for Rhythm Creations and Bombay Trends. Besides my experience with fashion shows, I was in a couple of music videos, including those of singers Gippy Grewal and Shukhjit Grewal. I also appeared in background roles in the movies Love Guru and Kismat Konnection.I have a lot of experience with dancing, which is what I did for the talent portion of the Miss India Worldwide pageant. I danced in the Bollywood show “Heartthrob” in 2001 and have taken dancing and acting workshops.

What do you do outside of modeling?

Modeling is just something I enjoy doing in my free time. Besides modeling, I spend most of my time studying and working. I’ve almost completed my second year of university, and I’m hoping to graduate and someday have my own business. I also just got my realtors license, so I will be starting work as a realtor very soon. I’ve always wanted to do real estate so I’m very excited at the prospect.

Are you planning on competing in the Miss India Worldwide pageant again next year?

Well, this was the first time I’ve ever done anything like this…It was a great experience for sure, but I think that next year I’d want to do something more localized, maybe just within Canada. Pageants are a lot more demanding than they may seem. A lot of the girls I had competed against had taken time off school and had been preparing for the pageant for years. Preparation needs to be made to ensure a perfect walk down the runway, a great talent performance and flawless speech when speaking with anyone associated with the pageant. Right now, I’d like to focus more on my education and career. Maybe some time I’d like to compete internationally again, but for now I want to stay a little more low-key and within Ontario or Canada. More than modeling, I’m interested in acting and competing in pageants, though.

What about acting and pageantry stimulates your interests?

I want to create a distinct name and title for myself in society. I feel like having a title and a sort of image set for myself would help me in my other goals. It is my dream to someday make a change in the world. I want to do something useful, like create a non-profit organization to help orphans or people in need. If I had a title, I feel like I’d have more of an influence. Look at celebrities, people look up to them and when they make humanitarian efforts, they get noticed on a larger scale and more people are encouraged to help out. I don’t necessarily want a title for the prestige; I just want it because I think that the potential influence that comes with it can create great opportunity to make a difference.

What role did your family and friends play in your competing in the Miss India Worldwide pageant?

My dad has always taught me a lot about the value of hard work, he’s always been my role model and set the platform for me to achieve. The struggle that my dad went through when he came to Canada from India has always been an inspiration for me; it pushes me to pursue my dreams as I know that anything is possible. My mom is my backbone. She has always helped and supported me in everything I’ve done. I’m very lucky. I have always had a very solid support system within my family. My friends are great, too. I know my friends will do anything and everything in their power to ensure that I succeed in all of my endeavors and just knowing that encourages me to try my hardest.

Do you have any advice you’d like to give to others who are hoping to enter the world of modeling and pageantry?

I’m sure they already know this, but it is very competitive. In order to be successful in this world, you need to put a lot of your time and your whole heart into it. As glamorous as this world may seem, it is a lot of hard work and modeling is an art in itself. I want to stress the importance of finishing your education before entering this world. Education is something that you can fall back on and it is something that will benefit you and be your own forever.

Leaving off on an inspirational note, Chawla explained the pressures and struggles, as well as the satisfaction gained from her experiences in the Miss India Worldwide pageant. While modeling is portrayed by the media as a major aspect of life, Chawla shows that there is much more beyond it.

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An Hour for Planet Earth

Posted on 21 March 2012 by admin

Climate change-these two words have been weighing heavily on the human conscience for some years now. Even as international summits are held and protocols designed to contain the abuse of planet earth, there are evident symptoms of the climate changing around us. The cost of this isn’t just going to be in terms of environmental damage, which is obvious, but unfavorable effects in our day to day lives. Ontarians must have been surprised by the warm winter weather that greeted them this season. While some may welcome this because of the hazards and practical difficulties that come with snow and ice, this unusual weather upsets many an existing scenario Canadians tend to take for granted. Businesses such as tow truck operators, driving schools, insurance, heating and cooling firms are hit hard by a warm winter. Moreover, it could lead to new health issues as disease-causing bacteria need to be killed through many days of sub-zero temperatures. Experts also feel that the outdoor sport of ice-hockey may soon become an indoor-only sport. Given this situation, it becomes more imperative for every one of us to become conscious about how our daily actions impact the environment. While it still lies with governments to make major policy changes to protect planet earth, ordinary citizens can take small steps to make the world a greener place. One such initiative is Earth Hour-a phenomenon that started in 2007, with people of Sidney switching off their lights for one hour. In the succeeding years, other countries and cities joined in, with businesses and governments lending their support to the cause. As we head towards this year’s Earth Hour, scheduled on March 31, young people reflect on the initiative (read their views in this week’s issue), its positive impact as well as drawbacks. Youth will be a key player in deciding the environmental future that awaits us. Thus, their voice in the matter is of paramount importance. Whether or not we participate in Earth Hour by turning off our lights for an hour, the event should at least make us pause and reflect on what we can do to reduce our carbon footprint and leave the world cleaner and greener for the future generations.

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Orange Crush Alive and Well at Toronto-Danforth

Posted on 21 March 2012 by admin

With nearly 60 per cent votes, NDP has won the riding of former NDP leader Jack Layton. NDP’s Craig Scott now represents the riding of Toronto Danforth at the House of Commons. The riding does not only have a large Greek and Chinese population but is also the home of many South Asians. Gerrard Street India Bazar is the hub of South Asian businesses as well as the community.
NDP’s Craig Scott receives 59.4% of the vote, Liberal’s Grant Gordon in second with 28.5% and Conservative candidate Andrew Keyes 5.4%. The voter turnout in the by election was less than 44 per cent. Almost 75,000 people were eligible to cast ballots in the by election. The riding saw a 65 per cent turnout during the 2011 general election, slightly more than the national average.
In his victory speech, Mr. Scott, the law professor, said “My friends, it looks like the orange crush is here to stay. It’s not going anywhere.”
He further said “A good friend of ours would say we’ve chosen love, we’ve chosen hope and we’ve chosen optimism,” he said.
“The people of Toronto-Danforth have put their trust in one of the strongest opposition parties in Canadian history.”
NDP leadership hopefuls Paul Dewar, Brian Topp, Peggy Nash and Thomas Mulcair were also present at the event. Jack Layton’s widow MP Olivia Chow was also present at the occasion. Interim leader NycoleTurmel introduced the party’s newest MP.

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ICCC to lead tourism delegation to Arunachal Pradesh

Posted on 21 March 2012 by admin

Chief Minister of India’s northeastern state Arunachal Pradesh, Hon. Nabam Tuki, and his team had a roundtable discussion on promoting tourism. The meeting was held at Skylink Inc in Toronto. Surjit Babra, Chairman & CEO, Skylink group, and other travel and tourism industry representatives participated in the roundtable.

“Arunachal Pradesh is one of the most exotic tourist destinations in India,” Chief Minister Tuki said during the discussion and invited Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) to lead a delegation to Arunachal Pradesh.

Satish Thakkar, President, ICCC, said the Chamber would help the Indian state promote its tourism sector in Canada. “Many of the Chamber’s members who are small and medium business owners are active in the tour-promotion sector, and would definitely be interested in Arunachal Pradesh.”

The team from Arunachal Pradesh, which was accompanied by Prit Paul and Pradeep Kumar of the Consulate General of India in Toronto, made a presentation on the state’s tourism potential. Tucked away in the north eastern tip of India, the state is a veritable treasure house of nature. It has picturesque hills and vales encircled on three sides by Bhutan, China, and Myanmar. It has a salubrious climate and simple and hospitable people.

Tourists have five distinct fields of interest to choose from – culture, adventure, nature, heritage and art and craft. The state has innumerable colorful festivals that reflect the ancient faith of several tribes who have been harmoniously living in the cradle of nature since time immemorial; it also has several places of worship and pilgrimage such as Parasuram Kund, and the 400-year-old Buddhist Monastery at Tawang. The state also has angling, boating, rafting, trekking options, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.

A part of the eastern Himalaya range and situated in the north eastern tip of India bounded by Myanmar on its east, Bhutan on the west, and China on the north and north east, Arunachal Pradesh is the largest state in the north east India. Twenty-six major tribes and a number of sub-tribes inhabit it, and it has the thinnest population density with only 13 persons per sq. km. It is home to more than 500 varieties of orchids.

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Pakistani-Canadian woman wins Oscar for documentary

Posted on 21 March 2012 by admin

By Mehdi Rizvi
“All the women in Pakistan working for change, don’t give up on your dreams,” said SharmeenObaid-Chinoy. “This is for you,” she said, as she and her co-director Daniel Junge accepted the Oscar for best documentary in the short-film category. Saving Face, about acid attacks on women’s faces became the first Oscar won by a Pakistani (a Canadian-Pakistani), in that country’s sixty-four year history.
Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, SharmeenObaid went on to earn two Masters Degrees from Stanford University. She came to Canada in 2004, and now divides her time between Karachi and Toronto. Her films focus on the hybridization of cultures, changing moral parameters and evolving social values across continents.
News from Pakistan usually involves landmine blasts, terrorist attacks, or sectarian killings. Chinoy’s Oscar win caused a wave of happiness and pride through Pakistani communities at home and abroad. Her award, and particularly her acceptance speech at the awards ceremony, has raised the volume on the cries of suppressed women around the world.
Every year, Pakistani police deal with more than 100 women and girls who are disfigured in acid attacks. Many more cases go unreported. Men throw acid in women’s faces for reasons like turning down a marriage proposal, or as a way to settle family feuds and property disputes.
Based on the life of a Pakistani woman whose husband burned her face in an acid attack, Saving Face showcases social activists working to overturn this revolting custom. Viewers meet Pakistani-British plastic surgeon Dr. Mohammad Jawad, who returned to his homeland and donated his time to heal victims of acid burns, the courageous Pakistani female lawyer who fought the burned woman’s case, and the determined female Parliamentarians, who got the Acid Crime Bill, passed through Parliament, under which the victim’s husband was sentenced to life imprisonment.
As one victim said, “It took one second to destroy my life.” Permanent disfigurement is a high price to pay for somebody else’s personal grudge. But the issue was buried or ignored for generations, until female parliamentarians stood up against the tyranny in Federal Parliament.
“The women who decided to be a part of the documentary did so because they wanted to make their voices heard and wanted to bring attention to this form of assault,” Obaid told GEO TV (Pakistan), in an interview conducted before she won the Oscar.
A 13-year-old girl in the documentary describes how she was burned after rejecting the advances of her teacher. Another woman featured in the film is 25-year-old Rukhsana, whose husband threw acid on her face. Then her sister-in-law doused her in gasoline, and her mother-in-law lit a match and set her on fire.
“It is a story of hope with a powerful message for the Pakistani audience. I felt this would be a great way to show how Pakistanis can help other Pakistanis overcome their problems,” Obaid said.
“The main attraction is that the film is based on true stories, it’s not a written script,” said Javed Jabbar, a veteran Pakistani filmmaker.
Obaid’s films have won international acclaim. She has made over a dozen multi-award winning films in more than 10 countries, and is the first non-American to receive a Livingston Award for international reporting. In 2004, she won a Banff TV Rockie Award at the Banff TV festival, for her film Reinventing the Taliban.
Her documentary, Pakistan’s Taliban Generation? won an International Emmy Award in 2010. In addition, her films have won The Overseas Press Club Award, The American Women in Radio and TV Award, The Cine Eagle golden Award and the Banff Rockie Award.
Sherman Obaid-Chinoy closely observed the cultural and ideological intrusion in Pakistan and was inspired by her natural talent to write, direct and produce films based on the great tragedy of cultural evils and religious fanaticism. Socially sensitive and painful issues feature prominently in her work, bringing them to open discussion, drawing the world’s attention to the miserable state of the suppressed segments of society. She tries to find respectable solutions to the tragedies faced by the victims of social injustice, military adventures and religious madness.
Like many educated and skilled immigrants, Obaid came to Canada, not to earn money, but to learn and polish the skills she had already attained. Her contributions are not limited to any particular culture or country but are for a universal noble cause.
About Pakistani society she says, “With self-respect and cooperation we can resolve all issues. I have always worked on issues nobody notices. I want to highlight those issues, and we can’t make progress unless we discuss our challenges and resolve them.”
As she told the BBC in an interview, “I want to build an academy for the new generation as a teacher and as a guide to them. I moved from print media to film making in an attempt to make my voice more vocal and visual — to let the world know we [Pakistanis] are a civilized and cultured nation, and know how to move forward in a competitive world.”

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Earth Hour: Turning on the Lights of Action

Posted on 21 March 2012 by admin

Puninda Singh

What started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, has grown to become the largest environmental event in history. In 2011, more than 5,200 cities and 135 countries switched off their lights for Earth Hour, and since 2008, the City of Toronto has been an active participant. Earth Hour was initiated to raise awareness about the pertinent issue of climate change; however, I feel that somewhere down the line, the motive has been lost in translation. Some people feel a societal pressure to turn off their lights for the hour. Some people think that participating in the Earth Hour absolves them of all the environmental sins they have accumulated over the year, as if somehow in the darkness their conscience will be cleared.
If we could reverse climate change by merely uniting and switching off the lights for an hour once a year, we would be on our way to conquering the issue. Earth Hour is meant to be a symbolic event to remind and encourage us as a society to take substantial action against climate change. I like to look at it as a time for reflection and evaluation, of how we can personally reduce our ecological footprint. Earth hour is an action that requires a very minimal effort from our end, but does not really have a measurable impact to tackle the climate change problem.
Those individuals who revert to their previous electrical usage routine thinking they have done their part to save the planet undermine the intended message of Earth Hour. That sentiment may have to do in part with the false sense of accomplishment the participation in such an event may cause people to feel.
Earth Hour is an optimistic reminder for us to take bigger steps in our households. Simple actions like buying energy-efficient appliances, heating and cooling the home smartly, composting, recycling, making use of public transportation when possible, not keeping equipment on standby when not in use, can all together make a difference. A change in behavior, a shift from consumerist attitude to conservationist one is required in human psychology. It should serve as a call for governments to reinstitute and implement comprehensive ecological initiatives, especially in the context of present national environmental issues like the Keystone XL Pipeline.
For the past six years, the phenomenon of Earth Hour has allowed the issue of climate change to be realized on a global scale, even trickling down to the smallest communities. The hypocrisy of Earth Hour comes into question when words don’t translate to action. Participating in the event is an initial step; however, unless further steps or actions are undertaken, the entire message of the initiative is lost.


2004 – WWF Australia begins to look at new ways to take climate change mainstream after being confronted with serious scientific data

2005 – A campaign based on hope not fear, and the idea that everyone can take personal responsibility for the future of the planet we live on, is envisioned

2006 -Leo Burnett is tasked with the challenge of coming up with a campaign name that represents more than simply flicking off lights –Earth Hour is born.
Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth movie is released bringing worldwide attention to the issue of climate change
31 March 2007
The inaugural Earth Hour is held in Sydney Australia 7.30pm – 8.30pm, 2.2 million Sydneysiders and 2,100 businesses participate
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases a report highlighting the risks of rising temperatures, further highlighting the need for urgent solutions
April 2007
Plans are developed to make Earth Hour a national event in Australia, but international interest is high and cities began signing up to the next Earth Hour campaign
29 March 2008
Earth Hour is held in 371 cities and towns in more than 35 countries globally at 8pm-9pm. A highly conservative estimate concludes that 50 million people participate. This number could have been as high as 100 million people
28 March 2009
Earth Hour held on Saturday March 28 at 8.30pm-9.30pm. Hundreds of millions of people in more than 4,000 cities and towns across 88 countries switched off their lights for one hour, creating a visual mandate for action on climate change effectively kick-starting the world’s first global vote.
July 2009
Earth Hour’s Vote Earth campaign releases the Vote Earth symbol calling on citizens of the world to show their vote for Earth over Global Warming.
December 2009
Global awareness of climate change soars to unprecedented levels during an historic meeting of 192 nations at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Vote Earth campaign culminates on 16th December with Earth Hour Copenhagen. The People’s Orb, is entrusted to UN Chef de Cabinet, Vijay Nambiar to be presented to world leaders. The People’s Orb takes centre stage in the plenary on the final day of the conference alongside UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, in front of President of the United States, Barack Obama, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, COP President and Climate Minister Connie Hedegaard and over 100 heads of state.
27 March 2010
Earth Hour is held on Saturday March 27 at 8.30pm-9.30pm and succeeds in being a global call to action to stand up, to take responsibility, and lead the global journey to a sustainable future. A record 128 countries and territories take part and iconic buildings and landmarks from Asia Pacific to Europe and Africa to the Americas stand in darkness.
26 March 2011
Earth Hour is held on Saturday March 26 at 8.30pm-9.30pm and continues to break records for participation with 135 countries taking part. Earth Hour 2011 is the first Earth Hour to go beyond the hour, by asking supporters to think about what else they can do to make a difference. is launched to give supporters a place to share stories and pledge to do more.
31 March 2012
Earth Hour 2012 will be held on Saturday March 31 at 8.30pm-9.30pm wherever you are in the world. So save the date and keep coming back to to find out what’s in store.

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Earth Hour: A Success or a Bandwagoner’s Event

Posted on 21 March 2012 by admin

Nayha Rizvi

Saturday, March 31, 2012, will be the sixth annual Earth Hour, where from 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm, the entire world turns off the lights, and all appliances using electricity, to help our troubled environment.
With all the campaigning and the large numbers, it’s hard not to wonder whether the popularity of Earth Hour is general care from the people or just the need for adolescents to conform to their friends. Many teens agree that the success of Earth Hour is just an hour-long fanfare. Rida Jaffery, 17, when it comes to the effectiveness of Earth Hour, she “personally, (doesn’t) think Earth Hour works, because the thing is everyone gets hyped and stuff, just for like one day… and after that they go back to their normal habits.” The brutal honesty of Beza Abebe, 17, sums up the feelings of the majority of young Canadians. For her, “…It’s hard… to believe it’s going to happen in (our) lifetime…As bad as it sounds, (she doesn’t) feel the urgency.” Like Jaffery, she believes Earth Hour is all about the hype and not about the long-term change it’s supposed to instill. She said,“…I don’t think it’s a major part of our culture, as Canadians at least…” Neena Raj, 18, on the other hand, looks at the campaign more positively. An environmentalist at heart, she said, “I think it does raise awareness…and I think it’s a great opportunity for people who don’t normally bother doing anything for the environment to do something.” She firmly believes that despite not every single person being involved, those who are make a huge difference. The mixed responses from different teens indicate that the success of Earth Hour is driven by some passionate people, but the numbers are achieved by the band wagoners (those who hopped aboard because everyone else was participating).
Despite their opinions, most people are playing a part in helping out the environment, from using reusable grocery bags, to turning off the shower between shampooing and rinsing. Rida Jaffery, in particular, makes sure she does her part in helping the Earth by using as little energy around the house as possible, and printing her school work double sided to save paper, for, which she admits she gets mocked. “I think it’s important for us at least, and for the future generations (to help out the Earth) because we’ve wasted a lot so far, might as well start conserving it now to help us later. Anything I can do… I do it.”, she affirms. Earth Hour, it would seem, has achieved its objective, with so many people changing small aspects of their lives to add to the bigger cause. However, the message is still only restricted to a small population.
The problem lies not with the scale of the project, but the lack of activities and events to go with the plan. Those who are enthusiastic about Earth Hour plan small events to raise greater awareness. However, the events do not have widespread public access, which limits the ability for this grand and amazing campaign to reach the masses and actually make a difference. There also needs to be more media attention leading up to the day of Earth Hour. Many people do not know that Earth Hour is on March 31.

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Posted on 21 March 2012 by admin

Dr. HasanAskari
The problems of the United States have increased in Afghanistan because of two recent developments of the Quran related incident and the killing of 16 Afghans by an American soldier. The U.S. has regretted both incidents.
However, the U.S. will have to deal with the political fall-out of these two incidents, especially because the Afghan government has also taken a serious notice of these incidents. The Afghan government is already under pressure from domestic political circles to seek a revision of the framework of Afghanistan-U.S. relations. Given the internal pressures President Hamid Karzai is playing tough with the U.S. His wants the U.S. to provide a categorical commitment to avoid such incidents in the future. This needs to be coupled with an earlier issue regarding night time American raids in civilian populated areas. The Afghan government wants the U.S./NATO to stop such operations in Afghanistan.
The current U.S. policy in Afghanistan has four major features:
1 The U.S. and NATO military forces will be withdrawn by the end of 2014.
2. The combat role of U.S. troops would end by mid-2013 and the troops would be confined to selected areas and would not perform security operation unless asked by the Kabul government.
3. The training of Afghan National Army (ANA) and police will be accelerated so that Afghanistan has enough troops to assume security responsibility from the U.S. This training program will continue even after the withdrawal of American/NATO troops.
4. The U.S. wants to strengthen the representative character of the Karzai government by negotiating peace deals with some Taliban groups or bring in some more Pakhtun elements in the Afghan state system. The exact formula for power sharing is not available because the U.S wants to evolve this through negotiations. This will be around the present Afghan Constitution. Americans are also encouraging the Kabul government to directly talk to the Taliban.
Now, after the two latest incidents, as mentioned earlier, there is a debate in the U.S. and elsewhere on the withdrawal schedule. One argument talks of extending the deadline for the final withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. The underlying assumption is that the security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating and the U.S. cannot simply withdraw and let the Taliban and its allies to displace the Kabul government. The other argument insists on a quicker withdrawal because the extension of the stay does not assure a success for Americans. They want the U.S. to train Afghan troops at a faster rate so that they take up the security responsibility as early as possible.
There is an additional issue. The Afghanistan government and the U.S. are currently negotiating a security partnership agreement for some American military presence in Afghanistan. It appears that the U.S. would like to retain at least one military base out of three constructed in the recent years. Both governments want to settle the broad framework of mutual security arrangements before the major international conference on Afghanistan in Chicago in May this year.
Another proposal for securing the future of Afghanistan is to promote the cooperation of the neighboring states like Central Asian states, Iran, Pakistan, and India. If China and Russia come on board the regional arrangement would get much weight. These states need not complete with each other for building influence in post-2014 Afghanistan. These should pool their resources for Afghanistan’s reconstruction and its stabilization.
Some efforts have been made by Turkey to promote greater understanding and cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Another exercise for a regional approach is being pursued by Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. The latest meeting of heads of state of these countries was held in Islamabad in February this year.
Pakistan has strong interest in Afghanistan’s stability. If civil strife erupts in Afghanistan or the Taliban assume power in Pakistan, its negative spill over will be on the tribal areas of Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban are an ally of the Afghan Taliban and the former would support the latter in their bid to take over Afghanistan. This means that civil strife in Afghanistan will engulf Pakistan’s tribal areas whose negative impact will adversely affect Pakistan’s mainland.
Pakistan’s other concern is the expanding role of India in Afghanistan. Pakistan is not opposed to India’s role in Afghanistan’s economic reconstruction. Pakistan is perturbed by the fear of India using its presence in Afghanistan to provide material support to Baloch dissident groups.
Any regional arrangement on Afghanistan must take into account the concern of the regional states in return for their support to the Kabul government and overall stability in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s role in regional will depend on resolving the current problems in Pakistan’s relations with the U.S. since the U.S./NATO attack on Pakistani check posts on the Afghan border on November 26, 2011. The reopening of transit route for American goods to Afghanistan through Pakistan will help to improve their bilateral relations.
Afghanistan and the U.S. want Pakistan to help the negotiation process by encouraging Pakistan based Afghan Taliban to open negotiations with the Kabul government. Pakistan has agreed to help the Kabul government in this respect.
For any agreement for power sharing with some Afghan Taliban groups, there is a need on the part of the Kabul government to be willing to restructure itself for accommodating the Taliban and the Pashtuns. This will require reduction of Tajik and Uzbek domination of the Kabul government.
Further, Afghanistan must overcome opposition to peace with the Afghan Taliban from some Tajik and Uzbek elements in the Afghan government. The leaders of these ethnic groups do not want to lose their primacy in the Afghan government. They are opposed to negotiations with the Taliban. However, without winning over some Taliban groups the Kabul government cannot survive after American leave.
Some new ideas are being explored for stabilizing Afghanistan in the future. However, the details of the future shape of things have not so far been evolved. We may get some detail after the Chicago Conference on Afghanistan in May 2012.

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“Environmental and human issues are inextricably linked” : Anjali Appadurai

Posted on 21 March 2012 by admin

By Samuel Getachew

At the end of a major United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa late last year, one particular youth delegate made the greatest impression. Addressing distinguished delegates and government representatives from around the world, Anjali Appadurai called for the need for deep emissions cut in the immediate future. “There is real ambition in this room but it’s been dismissed as radical, deemed not politically possible,” the British Columbian warned.

The twenty-something young East Indian native, who is a currently attending the College of the Atlantic in Maine, quoted the words of the great Nelson Mandela about how every deed always seems impossible until it’s done. “Long-term thinking is not radical. What’s radical is to completely alter the planet’s climate, to betray the future of my generation and to condemn millions to death by climate change,” she continued. “What’s radical is to write off the fact that change is within our reach.”

Generation Next caught up with the passionate environmentalist as she reflected on the powerful legacy she left at the United Nations environmental conference in South Africa, her role as an environmental activist as well as the advice she has for young South Asian Canadians who may want to emulate such a powerful journey.

GN: You gave such an empowering speech at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. What was that experience like?

AA: The experience of giving the speech was extremely intense. During the time I was on-stage, I barely felt the passing of time. It went by very quickly. I was a little nervous about the microphone check at the end, since I didn’t know how many youth were in the room, but other than that, I felt no anxiousness or stage fright; I was fully indignant about the state of affairs and I knew that many people were counting on me to deliver the statement properly.

GN: Why are you so passionate about the environment and in particular climate change?

AA: To me, climate change, and indeed most “environmental” issues, is inherently a human issue. Climate change affects millions of people’s lives and livelihoods; it is a global problem that requires cooperative action. I choose to engage in the UN forum because the nature of climate change is international. Youth have an important role to play in this forum, as we are tomorrow’ recipients of today’s problems.

GN: In your speech you told the delegates how “you’ve failed to meet pledges, you’ve missed targets, and you’ve broken promise” – Explain

AA: The speech was accusing politicians of negotiating in circles and failing to come to meaningful agreements for the last twenty years. Since the establishment of the UN Convention on Climate Change in 1992, negotiations around the issue of climate change have lacked ambition and commitment on the behalf of politicians. Targets for greenhouse gas emissions were not met, nor were financial pledges for adaptation projects for vulnerable countries.

Developing countries tend to be more vulnerable to the effects of climate change and therefore need to undertake projects to adapt to these effects. These projects need to be funded by the more capable developed countries. There is also a lack of transfer of clean technologies from developed to developing countries. These technologies would be crucial to the mitigation of harmful emissions. The speech was highlighting the failure of negotiators in each of these areas.

GN: Why is it still important to hear from the youth in such important international gatherings?

AA: The youth are one of the major groups representing “civil society” at the UN. The voice of civil society as a whole is extremely important and must be heard at international gatherings, as a way of reminding politicians that they are negotiating on behalf of civil society and must act in the best interests of the people. Without the presence of civil society in the political process, there would be very little accountability or transparency from the negotiating rooms to the rest of the world.

Youth have an especially important role to play as the ones who will feel the effects of the decisions made by the negotiators. It is up to us to put pressure on the decision-makers, making it clear that a lack of political ambition today will have disastrous effects tomorrow.

GN: Do you think that since youth are more interested in environmental concerns, their voices are kind of muffled as it’s not a very influential group in terms of the distribution of resources?

AA: In the world of global politics, it is true that the youth are not a highly influential group. We do not hold much political sway over the outcome of negotiations. This is due to many factors, one being that civil society as a whole does not have much influence in the international political arena. More powerful influences such as corporate lobbyists and private finance are present to put pressure on politicians. However, I strongly feel that the tide is turning in terms of youth participation in global decision-making.

The events of 2011 showed the world that civil society can and will have a say in the political process. Youth participation has been increasing, and the pressure we are able to put on our governments is getting stronger. My hope is that this trend will continue to strengthen.

GN: Tell me about the group – Earth in Brackets?

AA: Earth in Brackets is a project started at my university, College of the Atlantic. It is an online space consisting of a website and blog, and it is a physical body represented by COA students participating in environmental politics, primarily at the international level. There has been Earth in Brackets delegations from COA to UN conferences since 2004. Our positions are influenced by the educational program at COA – human ecology – which is an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the relationships humans have with each other and their environments.
Earth in Brackets is committed to climate justice and to having an increased, strong, radical youth voice in the UN. We also work extensively with international youth movements.

GN: Many environmental studies at various universities are partly tainted by receiving financing from big companies such as big oil. Can research be, then, trusted?

AA: I cannot comment on this, since I have not heard of corporate money influencing university research. However, I would not be surprised if it were true. I believe that no one source can be trusted. True knowledge can be gained only from a balanced variety of sources. Understanding the importance of information dissemination, Earth in Brackets strives to analyse politics in a whole and complete way, offering a liberal, slightly radical analysis of politics. Our blog contains pieces from most of the conferences we have attended:

GN: Do you find the South Asian community to be interested in environmental issues?

AA: A country like India has many pressing problems, almost all of which are humanrelated. Human development and poverty alleviation are the topmost priorities for the government, while environmental issues seem to come later. The South Asian community living abroad reflects this set of priorities; we tend to focus more on “human” issues than “environmental” ones.

The major misconception, however, is that these are two separate things. The truth is that environmental and human issues are inextricably linked. What affects the environment will also inevitably affect humans. Climate change especially does not belong exclusively in either of these camps. Climate change affects people in many countries all over the world, causing devastation to people’s livelihoods, causing poverty, creating refugees and destroying heritage.

I think that these issues are close to home for much of the South Asian community abroad, and therefore something to pay attention and lend support to.

GN: What advice would you have for young South Asians in Canada who may want to emulate such an activist journey for worthy causes?

AA: Knowledge is the greatest activist tool, in my opinion. Staying informed through a variety of balanced sources is key to being able to use your gifts, resources and abilities to aid your cause. There are many ways to get involved through local organizations, or even through larger organizations such as the Red Cross and Oxfam.

GN: What are your future plans?

AA: I see myself potentially heading in several different directions. I have considered UN work, grassroots work, advocacy, and development consulting. I will continue to explore the world of international development and global environmental/humanitarian politics while following the opportunities that come my way.

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