Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Video of the day

Chandrayaan 2 finally rocketed off into space yesterday without any delays or disruptions. Here's the video clip of the lift-off. Next stop: the moon’s south pole where the lander nicknamed Vikram and rover named Pragyan will land on September 7. But before that, Chandrayaan will have to perform at least 15 tricky manoeuvres. Indian Express has the timeline.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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Trump’s diplomatic bombshell on Kashmir

The US president claims that PM Modi has asked him to act as a mediator to resolve the India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir. That’s the diplomatic equivalent of throwing a lit grenade right in New Delhi’s face.

What happened here? Trump held a press conference alongside Pakistani PM Imran Khan who is in the US on a state visit. There were the inevitable questions about Kashmir, and Khan jumped on the opportunity to super-boost Trump’s ego to achieve a desired effect: “He is… It is the most powerful country in the world, the United States. It can play the most important role in bringing peace in the subcontinent... And I feel the most powerful state, headed by President Trump, can bring the two countries together.”

The desired effect: Trump immediately followed up with this: “I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago. We talked about this subject, and he actually said would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator? I said: Where? He said: Kashmir. Because this has been going on for many many years.“ He then repeated the claim: “It should be resolved. He asked me the same thing. So, I think there is something. So, maybe we will speak to him, or I will speak to him and we will see if we can do something…” (see clip here)

Wait, Modi really said that? Umm, that’s very, very, very unlikely. And here’s a rough historical timeline that explains why:

  • In 1947, the princely states were asked to choose between India and Pakistan, and the Maharaja of Kashmir kept stalling—when Pakistani tribesmen invaded Kashmir. The Maharaja turned to India for help, and India in turn placed one condition: He must sign the Instrument of Accession making Kashmir part of India. Cue the first India-Pakistan war. 

  • In the midst of hostilities, PM Nehru turned to the United Nations and asked it to intercede. The Security Council rewarded him by passing Resolution 47 in 1948 which called for a) the demilitarization of Kashmir and b) a plebiscite—and made no reference to the accession. Needless to say, that didn’t go down well with India. Eventually there was a ceasefire, and Pakistan kept its bit of Kashmir. 

  • Pakistan has since continued to plead for external intervention to “resolve” the Kashmir dispute—since it went so well the first time around. India has firmly stuck to its position that all such matters should be settled in bilateral talks without third-party intervention. In fact, this was one of the key provisions of the 1972 Simla Agreement signed on the heels of the Bangladesh War between a triumphant Indira Gandhi and the newly anointed PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Never mind that it has been blithely ignored by Islamabad.

So, no, PM Modi definitely did not ask the United States to act as a mediator on Kashmir.

What did Modi say? He hasn’t weighed in, but the Ministry of External Affairs promptly tweeted, “We have seen @POTUS's remarks to the press that he is ready to mediate, if requested by India & Pakistan, on Kashmir issue. No such request has been made by PM @narendramodi to US President. It has been India's consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally.”

Ok, so he lied: Yes, but New Delhi isn’t saying that though TV channels have been less shy about stating the obvious.

Why is this a big deal? At one level, this is just Trump being Trump—i.e. happily making shit up at a whim without a clue about diplomacy or history. And it isn’t likely to make a whit of difference to Kashmir or the dispute over it. But, but, but… Trump said two other things that are bigger red flags for New Delhi:

  • The US is currently trying to broker a deal with the Taliban in order to withdraw from Afghanistan—and India has been entirely sidelined. On Monday, Trump instead emphasized the role of Islamabad, saying “I think Pakistan is going to help us out to extricate ourselves,” and later reiterated, I think Pakistan will save millions of lives in Afghanistan. As of this moment, they are working very hard.”

  • Trump had cut off $1.3 billion in aid to Pakistan as punishment for harboring terrorists. But now he says that the US is willing to restore the aid if Islamabad plays ball on Afghanistan. 

The bottomline: India has recently given in to a number of US demands (on cutting off oil imports from Iran, for example). And it has been reluctant to escalate the roiling trade war ignited by Trump—who insists that India slash all tariffs on US imports. But that amicable approach doesn’t seem to be paying any real dividends beyond the photo-ops


Learn more: Times of India has the details. And here’s the must-see clip of his comments on Kashmir. But if you prefer to watch him threaten to obliterate 10 million Afghans, that clip is here. New York Times reports on the pivot in Trump’s Pakistan policy. Broadsheet broke down India’s response to the United States’ long list of demands. These older Wire analyses revisit the Simla Agreement and the original Instrument of Accession—while BBC explains the controversy over its legality.

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making resolutions to never buy Bisleri bottles

Video clips of the Sonbhadra killings: Ten were killed and 28 injured when upper-caste villagers attacked tribals in Uttar Pradesh last week. There are now video clips of the chaos and its bloody aftermath. TBH: you can’t see all that much of the killings, but the second clip is heartbreaking. (The Quint)


Is Pragya Thakur forgiven? Sure, she is totally off the hook for the crime of dissing Gandhi-ji and praising his killer, Nathuram Godse. This despite PM Modi insisting, “These kinds of statements made about Gandhiji are condemnable and cannot be allowed in civilised society. She may have apologised, but I shall never forgive her." But she has now committed a whole new boo-boo, declaring, “Hum naali saaf karwaaneke liye nahi bane hain. Hum apka shouchalaya saaf karwane ke liye bilkul nahi banaye gaye hain. Hum jis kaam ke liye banaaye gaye hai, woh hum imaandari se karenge” (I have not been elected to clean drains. I have definitely not been elected to clean your toilets. I will honestly do the work for which I have been elected). Thakur has since been called to the principal’s office—i.e. BJP headquarters—and sternly rebuked for her remarks. However, inquiring minds want to know: What work exactly has Thakur been elected to perform? Other than praising Godse, of course. (Indian Express)


Will well-diggers save Bangalore? In the midst of the doom and gloom over severe water shortages, this is a must-read story about the Million Recharge Wells project which is training traditional well-diggers to capture up to 50% of the city’s total rainfall in “recharge wells.” As some guy once said, ‘Yes, we can!” We just have to want to. (Forbes)


Will your Bisleri water bottle save you from extreme heat? Don’t count on it. Experts say that plastic bottles may leach unsafe chemicals when exposed to high temperatures—which are becoming a norm with each passing summer. According to a leading scientist, “The bottom line is that glass is better than plastic, wherever possible… Otherwise, the message should be to keep the water bottle in a bag or covered when not in use (not exposed to bright sunlight for long periods of time) and not to leave plastic bottles in a hot car as temperatures rise fast...” Or you could file that under one more reason to give up single-use plastic bottles. (National Geographic)


Oh look, body shaming served on your plate! And it looks like this


Oh look, fluffy little dogs playing ‘scary’ pranks: It looks adorably like this


Berkeley’s manhole ban: Yes, the city of Berkeley has banned manholes. No, not the actual kind but just what its residents call it. As per the new rules: “Manhole will be replaced with maintenance hole. Sisters and brothers will be replaced with siblings. And he or she will be banished in favour of they, even if referring to one person.” That’s one giant leap (of logic) for Berkeley, one small step… actually, scratch that. (New York Times)


To neuter or not to neuter? Maybe not—that’s the answer of vets who are increasingly worried that the unintended health consequences may outweigh the benefits of an offspring-free pooch. (The Atlantic)


Anna Wintour on Melania Trump: How do you diss someone you really, really don’t like without actually dissing them? Anna shows you the way. (The Economist)

Naomi Campbell is all ready for takeoff: We all have our inflight routines, but Naomi takes it to a whole new level. These may be the most exhausting two minutes of our lives.

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The 'Time to Cook' Edition

Some of us are avid chefs, others would rather walk on hot coals than beat an egg. But most of us don’t have a choice but to head to the kitchen to feed ourselves. Here are some easy but unique recipes and hacks to make our lives easier and yummier.

Easy pasta recipes that are not arrabiata

Forget the usual suspects—alfredo, arrabbiata, aglio e olio or lasagna. Here are some new and hearty ways to whip up a bowl of your favourite carbs without breaking a sweat. Coz how else will you pack on those pounds? (Bonus read: trusted and simple tips from an Italian chef on how to cook authentic Italian pasta at home.)

Check out: 10 Genius Pasta Recipes That Honestly Couldn’t Be Easier | Food52

Sex, Love etc 2

Bored with boiled andaas and masala omelettes

There are the standard ways to cook an egg. Here are some not-so-standard ways… as in bagged, separated, bruleed or cured. Our favourite tip: how to get the perfect sunny-side up eggs without all the fuss.

Read: Weird Ways to Cook Eggs You Haven’t Thought of Yet l Food Network

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