Haryana: Days after Nuh, Gurugram violence, victims count losses

Nuh violence ground report
Image caption,Several vehicles, shops and shanties were torched in the violence

By Arunoday Mukharji

BBC News, Haryana

Policemen in riot gear, burnt cars and piles of debris.

Three days after violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims killed six people, parts of the northern Indian state of Haryana remain tense.

In Nuh, where the violence began on Monday afternoon, the streets are empty and shards of glass lie scattered everywhere. Remnants of burnt cars and shops – vandalised and looted by rioting mobs – are chilling reminders of the clashes.

Those killed include two “home guards”, who assist the police in controlling riots and public disturbances. Several policemen were injured.

Authorities imposed a curfew, suspended internet services and deployed thousands of paramilitary personnel after the clashes also spread to Gurugram, a city just outside India’s capital Delhi.

There, a mosque was set on fire and a Muslim cleric was killed in the violence, which continued through Tuesday. Several shops and small restaurants were vandalised or torched.

The state’s government – led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is also in power nationally – has been conducting meetings with leaders of both communities and no major instances of violence have been reported since Tuesday night. Haryana’s Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has announced financial compensation to the victims and said that the guilty will be punished.

But many locals fear that even a small spark could trigger a fresh wave of violence.

Nuh violence ground report
Image caption,Security has been tightened in Haryana state

In Nuh, Satyaprakash Garg, 55, sat forlornly outside his sweet shop which he says was looted by a mob of Muslim men on Monday evening.

“I have lost everything,” he says as he gestures at the food strewn across the floor and pieces of shattered glass.

He still shudders when he remembers the fear he felt during the violence.

“I am not angry with those who did this, I am angry at the authorities who allowed this to happen,” he says.

Others sitting with him said that Hindus and Muslims have lived in harmony in Nuh for decades and accused “outsiders” of stoking violence in their city for political gains.

In India, voting on religious lines is common and experts say that communal incidents like these can be politicised in the run-up to elections, which are due in both Haryana and India next year.

The BJP has called the clashes the result of a pre-planned conspiracy. But several opposition parties have accused the party of inaction and said it failed to prevent or stop the violence.

Nuh violence ground report
Image caption,Satyaprakash Garg says that his shop was looted by a mob

The violence in Nuh began when Hindu and Muslim groups clashed with each other during a religious procession taken out by members of a hardline Hindu organisation.

While details are still emerging, some have alleged that the clash was triggered by a video posted by Monu Manesar – a member of the right-wing Hindu group Bajrang Dal – who is wanted by police in connection with the murder of two Muslim men in February. Mr Manesar, who has been absconding since then, is a well-known cow vigilante in Haryana.

According to reports, he shared a video claiming that he would participate in the procession, which angered local Muslims who have been demanding his arrest.

Misinformation further fuelled tensions. Some reports initially suggested that thousands of Hindu devotees who participated in the procession were stranded in a temple complex, which was surrounded by a violent mob.

However, the head priest later denied this and said that the temple was not harmed during the clashes.

Vehicles damaged in Nuh clash parked at Nuh bus stand, at least 50 vehicles were torched after a massive communal violence in Nuh on August 1, 2023 in Nuh, India. Five people were killed and over 50 people including policemen were injured in Haryana after clashes broke out in Nuh district Monday. The violence began after a mob of miscreants pelted stones and set cars on fire during a religious procession on Monday evening.
Image caption,Several vehicles were torched after religious clashes broke out in Nuh on Monday

By the time authorities managed to bring the situation in Nuh under control, the news had spread to other parts of Haryana.

Less than 50km (31 miles) away, in Gurugram, a 22-year-old Muslim cleric Saad Ameen was killed and a mosque set on fire.

People who were present say a mob of 150 people broke into the mosque and attacked the cleric and a few others who were inside.

“Kill them, kill them, they kept saying, while shouting religious slogans,” says Sahabuddin, who was sleeping in the mosque at the time of the attack.

He and his friend, Mahmudul Miyan, hid in another part of the mosque and came out only after the mob dispersed. “I could hear gun shots. They broke into the mosque and attacked the imam. Then they poured petrol and set fire to the office,” Mr Miyan alleges.

Riyazuddin – one of the managers of the mosque who had left the premises a few hours before the attack – says he feels lucky to be alive.

“Saad was so young. Why did they have to do this to him?” Mr Riyazuddin breaks down. He says he has been unable to return to the mosque, which is now barricaded and guarded by police.

Nuh violence ground report
Image caption,Riyazuddin says he feels lucky to be alive

The mosque, built in 2005, stood in the middle of a busy street with towering residential apartments, and a stone’s throw away from the offices of some of the world’s biggest companies.

Mr Riyazuddin says the structure had always been a source of tension, with some local Hindus opposing its construction. After several legal battles, there was a ruling in favour of it being built, which he says didn’t go down well with some people.

“This was years of bottled-up http://brewokkiri.com/ anger that came out on Monday,” says Riyazuddin. “The rioters used the violence in Nuh as an excuse to burn the mosque down and vent their frustration.”

US firm sued by man fired ‘for speaking in Hindi’

Gavel representative photo
Image caption,The lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of Alabama

An Indian-American engineer has sued a US defence company, alleging it fired him after a colleague heard him speaking in Hindi in the office.

In a lawsuit filed in an Alabama court, Anil Varshney has accused Parsons Corporation of “unlawful discriminatory actions”.

He says he was speaking to a dying relative in India when the co-worker falsely reported him for violating “security regulations”.

Parsons has denied the allegations.

“Mr Varshney was terminated after several security violations, including using Facetime on his personal phone in a government-controlled worksite among other previous security violations where such actions are prohibited and pose risks to national security,” it said in a statement shared with the BBC.

The company added that the “series of documented improper conduct” violated both company and government policies.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the Northern District of Alabama, also names US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin as the legal representative for the country’s Missile Defence Agency (MDA).

According to the lawsuit, Mr Varshney, 78, worked at Parsons from July 2011 to October 2022.

It says that in September this year, he was in an empty cubicle in the office, speaking to his dying brother-in-law “for approximately two minutes” when a co-worker saw him and reported him to company officials.

Before taking the call, Mr Varshney says he made sure there were no “classified materials or anything else pertaining to the MDA or Parsons’ work anywhere near him”.

But he alleges that despite there being no policy prohibiting the call, and without any investigation, the company accused him of committing “a serious security violation” and fired him in October.

“Worse, they blackballed him from future http://roketgubuk.com/ [MDA] work, effectively ending his career and life of service to MDA and the United States government,” it adds.

Monu Manesar: The wanted Indian cow vigilante who’s at large online

Monu Manesar
Image caption,Police say Monu Manesar has been absconding for months, but he’s been giving interviews to the media

By Geeta Pandey

BBC News, Delhi

A 28-year-old man is accused of being at the centre of the deadly religious violence that broke out in the northern Indian state of Haryana earlier this week.

Parts of Gurugram (formerly Gurgaon), a posh city on the borders of the capital, Delhi, and a few other districts saw pitched battles on the streets as shops and cars were set on fire.

At least six people, including a Muslim cleric, were killed and dozens of others, including several policemen, were injured as mobs of Hindu and Muslim men clashed.

Police said violence broke out on Monday afternoon in Nuh district after a religious procession by Hindu nationalist groups Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) was pelted with stones.

But the Indian press reports accusations putting Mohit Yadav, popularly known as Monu Manesar, at the centre of the Hindu-Muslim conflagration.

Residents of Nuh and several Muslim politicians say it was a video by Manesar, released just two days before the procession, that lit the fuse.

“If the video hadn’t come, Nuh wouldn’t have burned,” many Muslim residents of the area told Indian media.

Vehicles damaged in Nuh clash parked at Nuh bus stand, at least 50 vehicles were torched after a massive communal violence in Nuh on August 1, 2023 in Nuh, India. Five people were killed and over 50 people including policemen were injured in Haryana after clashes broke out in Nuh district Monday. The violence began after a mob of miscreants pelted stones and set cars on fire during a religious procession on Monday evening.
Image caption,Several vehicles were torched after religious clashes broke out in Nuh on Monday

Manesar’s video shows him appealing to Hindus to “participate in large numbers” in Monday’s procession. “I will also be there, along with my supporters and team,” he said.

On the face of it, what Manesar says in the video seems pretty innocuous. So why is he being blamed?

The son of a bus and truck driver, Manesar makes a living by renting out a few small properties he owns to labourers. But it’s his political work that has often seen him hit the headlines.

He joined the hardline Hindu group Bajrang Dal a decade ago and has risen through the ranks over the years. On his social media feed, he’s posted pictures carrying firearms, including machine guns. There are also selfies with powerful government ministers, including Home Minister Amit Shah, and senior police officials.

A member of the Haryana government’s Cow Protection Task Force and the head of the Cow Protection Unit of Bajrang Dal in Nuh, Manesar says his “true calling is to protect Hinduism and cows” – an animal that many Hindus consider sacred.

Cow slaughter is banned in a number of Indian states, including Rajasthan and Haryana, and over the past few years, many Muslims have been lynched on suspicion of killing or transporting cows.

Among his supporters, Manesar enjoys huge popularity and has several fan pages dedicated to him on social media. They say more than 50 cows have been saved because of the efforts of him and his team.

But for the Muslim residents of Nuh, Manesar and his followers are “cow vigilantes” who use allegations of cow smuggling as a ruse to attack and assault Muslims without any evidence.

Manesar always insists that he and his team work with the administration and within the ambit of law. “It is our duty to protect cows and Hinduism, but we always work with the administration. Whenever we catch cow smugglers, we hand them over to the police,” he’s said.

But that’s a claim that’s being contested, all the more so because over the past few years his supporters – and Manesar himself – have routinely posted photographs and videos depicting alleged cow smugglers being heckled; and trucks – which he claims are carrying beef or cattle for slaughter – being chased and fired upon.

In several of them, he’s seen posing with battered Muslim men, with swollen, bloodied faces. He’s also shared videos where men are being forced to chant slogans praising the Hindu god Ram and “mother cow”.

And in February, Manesar was named as an accused in the murder of two Muslim men, Junaid and Nasir, and faces charges of kidnapping, assault and murder. He denies all the charges against him.

Monu Manesar
Image caption,Monu Manesar says his “true calling is to protect Hinduism and cows” – an animal many Hindus consider sacred

According to court documents in the neighbouring state of Rajasthan, the Muslim men were abducted in Nuh on 15 February by the Bajrang Dal’s cow protection unit on allegations of being cattle traders. They were brutally assaulted and a day later, their charred bodies were found in a burnt car in Haryana.

Since the crime, Haryana police say Manasar has been absconding and that they don’t know where he is. At the time, Rajasthan police had visited Haryana to arrest him, but said they couldn’t find him.

But new videos of Manesar continue to pop up regularly on social media – shared on his accounts and those of his supporters and fans.

And since Monday’s violence, Manesar has also given several interviews to Indian TV channels where he denied any role in the violence and said that he did not attend the event on advice from VHP leaders. He blamed the violence on some local Muslim leaders, and insisted that “Hindus would not tolerate any attack on their religion or cows”. He also used the opportunity to address the murder allegations – telling reporters that he was not present at the scene at the time of the crime.

This has led many to ask if the Indian media can find him and speak to him, why can’t the police from the two states? The BBC has contacted the police in Rajasthan and Haryana, but they have not yet responded.

But as the local press continued to keep the pressure on, http://merujaksore.com/ calling for his arrest, Manesar told a Hindi news channel on Wednesday night that he would “101% give himself up to the police in Haryana and Rajasthan soon” to clear his name.

On Thursday morning, Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar said Manesar was not a wanted man in his state and that his government would help Rajasthan police look for him.

But Mr Khattar’s claim has been contradicted by Manesar himself – he told a news channel that he has been named in a surfeit of cases by the Haryana police. “Even if a rat dies, I am blamed,” he said.

Police say he’s also named in other complaints of rioting and violence, including an incident from 6 February, in which four people were injured. A police official then told the Indian Express that “Monu is one of the accused in the attempt to murder case” as he was allegedly “seen in a video firing a gun near the spot”.

Rahul Gandhi: India Supreme Court suspends opposition leader’s conviction

Rahul Gandhi criminal defamation case
Image caption,Rahul Gandhi lost his seat in parliament a day after his conviction on 23 March

India’s Supreme Court has suspended opposition leader Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in a criminal defamation case.

The Congress leader was sentenced to two years in jail in March for his 2019 comments about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surname at an election rally.

Mr Gandhi was disqualified as an MP following his sentencing.

Friday’s court ruling paves the way for him to return to parliament and contest general elections next year.

The office of the lower house of parliament will need to revoke Mr Gandhi’s disqualification for him to become an MP again.

“This will have to be done immediately,” PDT Achary, former secretary general of the lower house, told the BBC. He added that Mr Gandhi can start attending the ongoing parliament session from Monday.

“If the matter pertaining to his conviction is not settled, he would still be eligible to contest the next general elections,” he said.

The Supreme Court noted that the reasons given by the trial judge for giving the maximum punishment of two years to Mr Gandhi “are without sufficient reasons and grounds”.

The court also cautioned Mr Gandhi that he should have been more careful while making the alleged remarks.

The defamation case against Mr Gandhi, brought by BJP lawmaker Purnesh Modi, revolved around comments the Congress leader made in Karnataka state in 2019 during an election rally.

“Why do all these thieves have Modi as their surname? Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Narendra Modi,” he said.

Nirav Modi is a fugitive Indian diamond tycoon while Lalit Modi is a former chief of the Indian Premier League (IPL) who has been banned for life by the country’s cricket board.

In his complaint, Purnesh Modi alleged that the comments had defamed the entire Modi community. However, Mr Gandhi said that he made the comment to highlight corruption and it was not directed against any community.

A lower court had granted Mr Gandhi http://katasungokong.com/ bail to appeal against his conviction but in July, the Gujarat high court dismissed his appeal seeking a stay on his conviction.

Ireland v India: Delany and Hand return for T20 series at Malahide

Ireland batter Gareth Delany
Gareth Delany made his senior international debut against Zimbabwe in 2019

Gareth Delany and Fionn Hand are back in the Ireland squad to face world number one T20 side India in a three-game series at Malahide this month.

Delany returns after breaking his wrist in June and fellow all-rounder Hand is also recalled to the 15-player panel.

Ireland are returning to action after qualifying for next year’s T20 World Cup in West Indies and USA.

“The Indian side arriving in Ireland is an exciting one for the supporters,” said Ireland selector Andrew White.

India are returning to Malahide after securing a 2-0 win in a thrilling T20 series last summer.

White added: “We currently have around 15 T20 Internationals scheduled between now and the World Cup, so it is important that we use each of these to continue to build on areas that the coaching team have identified.

“We only have a limited time between now and the end of the 2023 domestic season, so it’s also crucial that we use what opportunities we have to provide exposure and experience to a pool of players who we believe are in contention for making that World Cup squad.

“Giving opportunities to players also filters down the series themselves, so I would expect that all of the 15 players named in the India series squad will feature at some point.

“We showed last year we have the talent and confidence to match India on the field of play and we have high hopes for another fiercely contested series.”

The games will be played at the Co Dublin venue on 18, 20 and 23 August.

Ireland: Paul Stirling (capt), https://elementlagu.com Andrew Balbirnie, Mark Adair, Ross Adair, Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Fionn Hand, Josh Little, Barry McCarthy, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Theo van Woerkom, Ben White, Craig Young.

Chandrayaan-3: Historic India mission enters Moon orbit, aiming for south pole

Chandrayaan-3, India’s latest Moon mission, has entered the lunar orbit, the country’s space agency has said.

The spacecraft with an orbiter, lander and a rover lifted off on 14 July. It will try to set the lander and rover on the lunar surface on 23 or 24 August.

If successful, India will be the first country to land near the Moon’s little-explored south pole.

It will be only the fourth to achieve a soft landing on the Moon, after the US, the former Soviet Union and China.

After the spacecraft orbited the Earth for more than a week, it was sent into the translunar orbit on Tuesday through a slingshot manoeuvre.

The third in India’s programme of lunar exploration, Chandrayaan-3 is expected to build on the success of its earlier Moon missions.

It comes 15 years after the country’s first Moon mission in 2008, which discovered the presence of water molecules on the parched lunar surface and established that the Moon has an atmosphere during daytime.

Chandrayaan-2 – which also comprised an orbiter, a lander and a rover – was launched in July 2019 but it was only partially successful. Its orbiter continues to circle and study the Moon even today, but the lander-rover failed to make a soft landing and crashed during touchdown.

Graphic showing how the Chandrayaan-3 will get to the Moon, from take off, to orbiting the Earth in phases until it reaches the Moon's orbit, when the lander will separate from the propulsion module before landing near the Moon's south pole

Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) chief Sreedhara Panicker Somanath has said they have carefully studied the data from its crash and carried out simulation exercises to fix the glitches in Chandrayaan-3, which weighs 3,900kg and cost 6.1bn rupees ($75m; £58m).

The lander (called Vikram, after the founder of Isro) weighs about 1,500kg and carries within its belly the 26kg rover which is named Pragyaan, the Sanskrit word for wisdom.

On Tuesday, Isro tweeted that the spacecraft had completed its orbits around the Earth and was headed towards the Moon.

“A successful perigee-firing performed at Isro has injected the spacecraft into the translunar orbit. Next stop: the Moon,” it said. A perigee is the point in the orbit closest to the Earth.

Now that the craft has entered the Moon’s orbit, scientists will begin reducing the rocket’s speed gradually to bring it to a point which will allow a soft landing for Vikram.

Once it lands, the six-wheeled rover will eject and roam around the rocks and craters on Moon’s surface, gathering crucial data and images to be sent back to Earth for analysis.

“The rover is carrying five instruments which will focus on finding out about the physical characteristics of the surface of the Moon, the atmosphere close to the surface and the tectonic activity to study what goes on below the surface. I’m hoping we’ll find something new,” Mr Somanath has said.

The south pole of the Moon is still largely unexplored – the surface area that remains in shadow there is much larger than that of the Moon’s north pole, and scientists say it means there is a possibility of water in areas that are permanently shadowed.

India is not the only country with an eye on the https://tawkapinew.com Moon – there’s a growing global interest in it. And scientists say there is still much to understand about the Moon that’s often described as a gateway to deep space.

Graphic showing the LVM3 launch rocket, with three engine phases, and where the Chandrayaan-3 will be while it it carried into orbit

Cheetahs in Kuno: Is India’s effort to reintroduce the big cat facing a crisis?

Cheetah in Kuno
Image caption,A cheetah in the sprawling Kuno national park in India’s Madhya Pradesh state

Is India’s ambitious project to reintroduce cheetahs, more than 70 years after they were declared extinct, facing a crisis?

Consider this. Twenty cheetahs were relocated from South Africa and Namibia to the 74,200-hectare Kuno national park in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh in September last year and February. Since March, six of those cheetahs and three cubs born in the park have died. (The ninth cat died on Wednesday.)

To be sure, cheetah experts say that losing half of the founder population in the initial year of relocation in unfenced parks is a common occurrence. There could be more deaths in the second year, they say.

Based on previous reintroduction experiences in Africa, the founder population of 20 cheetahs in India “will further decline” to five or seven cats “before population recovery is initiated”, according to a report by South African experts, led by Vincent van der Merwe, a cheetah conservationist involved in the mission.

They also expect the first litters with “realistic prospects of survival to adulthood” will likely be born in 2024 – wild cheetah populations are sustained by a small number of fit and fertile females, also called ‘supermums’, and experts reckon only one of the seven wild females relocated to India is likely to be one.

Yet, things don’t seem to be going entirely well in India. South African and Namibian experts involved with the project have expressed “serious concerns” in the way it was being managed. In letters to the Supreme Court of India, which is monitoring the project, they believe the deaths of the cheetahs could have been prevented by “better monitoring of animals and more appropriate and timeous veterinary care”.

Kuno national park
Image caption,Officials say the Kuno national park has abundant prey

In its letter to the court in July, the Namibia-based Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), which has been involved with the project since its inception, said that the first eight cheetah deaths – the post mortem report of the ninth cat has not yet been released – were “avoidable if there were adequate supervision, monitoring and veterinary intervention”.

One of the cheetahs possibly died because of “lack of food for an extended period”, the CCF report says. The letter to the court by the University of Pretoria, representing the South African experts, talks about another casualty – a male cheetah – being attributed by park authorities to an attack by a female cheetah “while sustaining no visible injuries herself”.

“While male cheetahs quite often injure females, we have never observed a case in which a female caused any significant injuries upon a male,” the experts note.

Pictures of the post-mortem sent to the experts the next day showed “inflammation of the skin over the neck and the back of the animal or the very large number of maggots that were clearly visible”.

Three days later, another male cheetah was found dead. A video clip showing the neck and back of the cat made it clear that the animal had a severe infection around its tracking collar.

The South African experts say that the unusually heavy rains in the Kuno park in June and July – 321mm of rainfall was recorded during the period, against an average of 160mm – and the extreme humidity may have caused this, with the collars fitted around their necks potentially causing more problems. Had they been shown the pictures or description of the wounds of the first animal earlier, it would have facilitated an early diagnosis and alerted the authorities more effectively, according to their letter.

Cheetahs in Kuno
Image caption,The cheetahs have been hunting prey in Kuno national park

“The implications of this diagnosis were clear – all the other cheetahs in Kuno were at risk of suffering the same fate,” the experts warned.

Also, three cubs died 10 days after leaving their nest. Their deaths were attributed to a heat stroke – they died on a day when temperatures reached 47C. The CCF believes “monitoring and information sharing” might have prevented the deaths.

A senior official of India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), which is leading the project, told the BBC that it was “difficult to say that the mortalities were avoidable”. SP Yadav said: “It is a challenging project and the early indications are encouraging.”

He said the African cheetahs in the Kuno park had encountered a “winter coat issue”, developing a thick coat in anticipation of a South African winter in India’s wet and hot monsoon conditions. (The Kuno park is in the northern hemisphere and the seasons are the opposite of what Southern African cheetahs are used to.)

“The moisture and heat in the thicker winter coats, combined with external parasite loads, resulted in localised skin infections. This was followed by flies, and the cheetahs eventually succumbed to bacterial infection,” Mr Yadav said.

The foreign experts also talk about inadequate record-keeping in the parks. The CCF said it did not “see any daily records of the location, behaviour, body conditions and dietary changes of cheetahs at Kuno”. The foreign experts say the management at the park had “little or no scientific training” and the vets were “too inexperienced to manage a project of this calibre”.

On 16 July – after the first five deaths were reported – the NTCA had said in a statement that all the cheetah deaths in the park were “due to natural causes” and media reports attributing them to other reasons, including their radio collars, “were not based on any scientific evidence but are speculation and hearsay”.

The statement said a team of officials were working in “close coordination” at the Kuno national park. They were looking at “real time field data” to decide upon the “health and related interventions” for the cheetahs. More than 30 monitoring teams comprising nearly 100 members and three vets are permanently based at the site for emergency treatment of cheetahs, according to a report by South African experts.

A South African cheetah headed for India

The foreign experts have recommended the cheetahs at Kuno need to be urgently assessed by the vets, their collars checked, findings shared in real time, and communication channels kept open. Also they said more prey species should be moved to Kuno – as “prey numbers in the park are significantly less than when Kuno was originally selected as the first release site”, according to the CCF.

“Detailed and close monitoring is the key to the success of this project. And very close communications to plan for all challenges faced during the reintroduction,” Laurie Marker, executive director of CCF, told me. She said that “closer and faster communication could really assist the success of the project” and that “these are all measures being taken now”.

Not everything is amiss with the project, say the experts. The South African report says the cheetahs have been hunting Indian prey – spotted deer, nilgai, sambar deer, cattle and boars – without trouble. They believe the neighbouring farming communities have responded well to the presence of cheetahs outside of the Kuno park. The presence of nearly 90 leopards in the park has not impacted the introduction – the cheetah is a ‘fragile’ animal and is often targeted by hyenas, leopards and lions.

“Most of the cheetahs are adapting well to the https://beritaberitaterbaru.com Indian conditions,” says Mr Yadav. “Also so far no cheetah has died due to poaching, hunting, snaring or poisoning because of huge community support from local villages.”

Experts say cheetah reintroductions are painful and arduous – nine of the first 10 attempts at cheetah introduction in South Africa failed and more than 200 cheetahs were lost in the country during that time. But clearly, India has to do better.

Antony Blinken: On the US mission to stop Gaza igniting wider war

Antony Blinken meets President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Image caption,Antony Blinken meeting Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the UAE in Abu Dhabi on Monday

Of all the priorities for US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on his fourth visit to the Middle East in three months, there is one message above all others that he wants to deliver.

His main mission on this trip is to ensure the Israel-Gaza war does not spread into a regional conflict.

As he flies between destinations in southwest Asia – a packed schedule that includes stops in Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel – there is ample evidence, however, that the cauldron of tensions in the region is on the verge of boiling over.

Houthi rebels in Yemen have launched repeated missile and drone attacks on civilian shipping in the Red Sea, bringing traffic through that key international waterway to a near halt.

The US has warned that it will defend its interests. If the rebels persist, and the disruption to global commerce continues, an American military response may be inevitable – a development that would unnerve some key American Arab allies.

“We never see a military action as a resolution,” said the Qatari prime minister in a joint press conference with Mr Blinken in Doha on Sunday. Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said his biggest worry was that such action would “keep us in a loop that will never end and will create a real tension in the entire region”.

On Saturday, Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon fired a barrage of rocket attacks on northern Israel in reprisal for what appeared to be an Israeli-planned bomb attack that killed a key Hamas leader in Beirut. Israel responded with air strikes targeting Hezbollah forces in Lebanon.

An escalation there, Mr Blinken said later that day, was a “real concern”. He called on regional powers with influence over Hezbollah – in other words Iran and, to a lesser extent, Turkey – to use their influence to “try to keep things in check”.

That may be difficult. As the Washington Post reported, American officials are concerned that Israel may be considering a more expansive offensive against Hezbollah.

Anti-Israel and US protest in Yemen
Image caption,Anti-Israel and US protest in Yemen

“We prefer the path of an agreed-upon diplomatic settlement, but we are getting close to the point where the hourglass will turn over,” Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said on Friday.

Meanwhile, US military installations have been hit by rocket and drone attacks from militants in Iraq and Syria, where more than 3,000 American soldiers are stationed. In late October, a drone breached US defences and struck a barracks but did not detonate, according to a Reuters report, narrowly avoiding what might have been significant American casualties.

The US has responded with military action, including an air strike in Baghdad last week that killed Mushtaq Taleb al-Saidi, an Iran-backed militia leader.

Each of these episodes, taken individually, presents a threat to regional stability. When viewed as a whole, it suggests a Middle East teetering on the brink of wider war.

In Qatar on Sunday, Mr Blinken said the US has a plan to address the growing instability – and it hinges on winding down the Israeli military campaign in Gaza and working with Arab nations and the Israelis to establish a “durable” peace for the Palestinians.

“The United States has a vision for how to get there, a regional approach that delivers lasting security for Israel and a state for the Palestinian people,” he said. “And my takeaway from the discussions so far … is that our partners are willing to have these difficult conversations and to make hard decisions.”

Therein lies the rub. After meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday, Mr Blinken said he’s seen a willingness to help stabilise and revitalise a post-war Gaza among all the leaders he’s spoken with so far. But the US has to get Israel on board.

Iraqi paramilitaries carry a coffin after US air strike on Baghdad
Image caption,Iraqi paramilitaries carry a coffin after US air strike on Baghdad

The timing of Mr Blinken’s latest Middle East trip may give hints of the American strategy in this latest round of shuttle diplomacy. His early visits to Turkey and Arab nations before two days in Israel have allowed the secretary to take the temperature of regional players before sitting down with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli War Cabinet.

Then the ball, as Americans like to say, is in the Israeli court.

“I’ll have an opportunity to share with Israeli leaders everything I’ve heard thus far on this trip,” he said on Monday. “I’m convinced that there is a future path that can actually bring lasting peace and security for Israel.”

Behind all this is an American gamble – that resolving, or at least winding down, the Gaza War will cool tensions throughout the region. It is a bet that the various mini-crises – in the Red Sea, in Lebanon, and in Iraq and Syria – have not taken on a momentum of their own.

There is no peace in the region without a legitimate, peaceful solution to the Palestinian conflict, the Qatari prime minister said on Sunday. The question is, will there be peace with such a resolution?

During his November trip to the Middle East, Mr Blinken told reporters gathered on the tarmac in Ankara, Turkey, that countries across the region do not want war – and are working to prevent the conflict from spreading.

“Sometimes the absence of something bad happening may not be the most obvious evidence of progress, but it is,” the US secretary said.

Since then, there has been ample evidence that https://documentsemua.com while a wider war may not be wanted, the prospects for one has increased – despite the stated intentions and efforts of Mr Blinken and the Americans.

Gabriel Attal: Macron’s pick for PM is France’s youngest at 34

France's outgoing Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne applauds newly appointed Prime Minister Gabriel Attal during the handover ceremony at the Hotel Matignon in Paris, France, on January 9, 2024
Image caption,Gabriel Attal succeeded Élisabeth Borne on Tuesday during an official ceremony at the prime minister’s residence

Gabriel Attal has been named France’s next prime minister, as Emmanuel Macron aims to revive his presidency with a new government.

At 34, he is the youngest PM in modern French history, outranking even Socialist Laurent Fabius who was 37 when he was appointed by François Mitterrand in 1984.

Mr Attal replaces Élisabeth Borne, who resigned after 20 months in office.

Throughout that time she struggled with a lack of a majority in parliament.

Gabriel Attal, who is currently education minister, certainly makes an eye-catching appointment.

He will now have the task of leading the French government into important European Parliament elections in June.

His rise has been rapid. Ten years ago he was an obscure adviser in the health ministry, and a card-carrying member of the Socialists.

He will also be the first openly gay occupant of Hôtel Matignon. He has a civil partnership with another Macron whizz-kid, the MEP Stéphane Sejourné.

Welcoming him to his new role, President Macron wrote on social media: “I know I can count on your energy and your commitment to implement the project of revitalisation and regeneration that I announced.”

French Education and Youth Minister Gabriel Attal (L) looks at France's President Emmanuel Macron (R) addressing the audience at the 'lycée professionnel de l'Argensol' or Argensol vocational school during his visit of the school in Orange, Southeastern France on September 1, 2023
Image caption,Gabriel Attal (L) has the task of leading the government into European Parliament elections in June

“France will never rhyme with decline, France rhymes with transformation, France rhymes with audacity,” Mr Attal declared outside his new residence.

But given the difficulties of the president’s second term – and the growing challenge from the nationalist right – is “eye-catching” alone going to cut it?

Handsome, youthful, charming, popular, cogent, Mr Attal certainly comes to office trailing clouds of glory – much, let it be said, like his mentor and role-model the president himself.

But like many go-getters of his generation, he was inspired by Emmanuel Macron’s idea of breaking apart the old left-right divide and re-writing the codes of French politics.

In the wake of Macron’s 2017 election, Mr Attal became a member of parliament, and it was there that his brilliance as a debater – easily the best of the neophyte Macronite intake – brought him to the president’s attention.

At 29, he became the youngest ever minister in the Fifth Republic with a junior post at education; from 2020 he was government spokesman and his face began to register with the voters; after President Macron’s re-election, he was briefly budget minister and then took over at education last July.

It was in this post that Mr Attal confirmed to the president that he has what it takes, acting with no-nonsense determination to end September’s row over Muslim abaya robes by simply banning them in schools.

He led a campaign against bullying – he himself was a victim, he says – at the elite École alsacienne in Paris, and took on the education establishment with his proposal to experiment with school uniform.

Marine Le Pen (R) smiles flanked by Jordan Bardella on January 13, 2019
Image caption,President Macron’s party faces a strong challenge from National Rally and its young leader Jordan Bardella – as well as Marine Le Pen

And, all the while, he managed to buck the normal trends by actually becoming popular among the public.

Polls show that he is by far the most admired member of the Macron government – competing at the same level as the president’s main enemy, the nationalist Marine Le Pen and her youthful colleague Jordan Bardella.

And there, of course, is the heart of it.

By drawing Gabriel Attal from his pack of ministers, Mr Macron is using an ace to outplay the queen and her jack. But will it work?

The drawn-out process of naming him – everyone knew a reshuffle was coming but it took forever – shows that if President Macron is well aware of the weakness of his current position, he has also been in deep uncertainty over how to address it.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne attends the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, France, November 22, 2023
Image caption,Mr Attal replaces Élisabeth Borne but is likely to face the same problems she had without a majority in the National Assembly

More than one commentator has made the obvious point that what the public wants above all now is not so much a rearrangement of faces at the top, but a new sense of purpose to the Macron presidency.

But as things stand, Mr Attal will face exactly the same problems as did his long-suffering predecessor Élisabeth Borne.

These are: a hard-right opposition that is surging in popularity and looks set to win easily in June’s European elections; a National Assembly with no in-built majority for the government, making every new law a struggle; and a president who seems unable to define what he wants his second term to achieve.

On top of which, the new prime minister will have a problem all of his own – which is establishing his authority over such heavyweights as Gérald Darmanin and Bruno Le Maire.

And what is the plan, some are also asking, if as seems likely Mr Macron’s party loses heavily in the European elections?

Normally that would be the occasion for a prime ministerial replacement, to give a new élan for the second half of the mandate. But, as things stand, that card has already been played, and in the event of a defeat in June Gabriel Attal risks drifting on as a discredited loser.

Even opposition figures recognise that he is a class act. He is respected and liked in the National Assembly.

But there are also questions about https://itusiapalagi.com what he actually stands for. The suspicion for many is that he is all smiles and verbiage, much like the man to whom he owes his career.

As the president’s nominee, he is the wunderkind’s wunderkind. But if he is only Macron’s mini-me, the marvel could prove a mirage.