Editorials - 24-06-2021

The Government’s J&K moves may be part of a more complex regional game involving India’s security interests

Two years after its dramatic decision to reorganise Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the Government appears to be rethinking some of the objectives it announced then as Prime Minister Narendra Modi engages the erstwhile State’s former leadership to discuss the future of the political process there. Mr. Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah had spoken of three specific objectives in the move to amend Article 370 on August 5, 2019, apart from ending terrorism and violence in J&K: flooding the region with development initiatives and investment from other parts of the country; reclaiming those parts of the territory now occupied by Pakistan and China (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, or PoK, and Aksai Chin), and ending the rule of political “dynasties” in J&K — that they claimed had held the progress of the State hostage — in favour of a “Naya Kashmir” polity. Above all, the Government underlined, as External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar undertook a series of visits abroad to explain its nuances, the decision was purely an “internal” one, and did not affect India’s ties with any other country.

Objectives and reality

While two years may not be long enough to truly judge the success of its intentions, particularly given the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic, it is certainly fair to say the Government has failed to make headway with most of those objectives. Incidents of terrorism and violence have no doubt decreased since 2019, but that has come at the cost of massive privations to the people in the name of security. More than 5,000 people were arrested, the longest Internet shutdown in any democracy was instituted for 213 days, and the deployment of troops still remains at peacetime highs. The plight of the ordinary Kashmiri, battling daily intimidations from security forces, the closure of schools and online education for their children, and diminishing sources of income, can only be imagined. Attempts to convince investors that this is a lasting peace have floundered thus far, and while the Government claims it has more than 400 memorandaof understanding from businesses nationwide promising to invest in the Union Territory, this can only be tested once the money actually comes in, given the state of the national economy, even prior to the pandemic.

Border situation

Mr. Shah’s claim in Parliament that his government was willing to “sacrifice lives” to ensure the return of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Aksai Chin, appears a much more difficult proposition in the face of the Chinese aggression at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) since April 2020. Chinese actions, and the failure of military and diplomatic talks to ensure the restoration ofstatus quo antehave been coupled with the growing threat perception, articulated by the Indian Army Chief, that any future conflict at the LAC would need to account for a two-front “situation” with Pakistan at the Line of Control as well, and vice versa. Even the United States is unlikely to countenance any military manoeuvre involving PoK now, given its proximity to the Afghanistan theatre, and the U.S.’s pullout and the increasing strength of the Taliban will add to the risk calculus in Delhi against such actions.

Finally, the outreach to 14 leaders from J&K, many of whom were arrested for months, indicates that the Government’s plan for a “Naya Kashmir” polity is not drastically different from the previous polity — that the Home Minister referred to derisively as the “Gupkar Gang” — despite intervening attempts at building a new party (Apni Party), sidelining the main parties during consultations and even promoting “District Development Councillors” as the new Kashmiri leadership during meetings with foreign diplomats.

Hardly an ‘internal’ issue

The Government’s repeated assertion that its August 5 decision on J&K was an “internal one” has also been put to a rigorous test. Despite considerable exertions by the Ministry of External Affairs and its missions worldwide, J&K has now been discussed in more capitals, including the U.S. Congress, Parliaments in the United Kingdom, the European Union (EU) and the Nordic countries, than ever before, while several delegations of EU parliamentarians, Ambassadors and United Nations diplomats have been escorted to the valley to elicit their approval for the situation there. It is ironic that countries which were openly supportive of the Modi government’s military action in PoK in 2016 after the Uri attack, and of the Balakot strikes by the Indian Air Force in Pakistan after the Pulwama attack in 2019, have even so, chosen to be so critical of a political and internal move. In addition, the J&K dispute has been discussed at least three times at the UN Security Council, which had not touched the issue since 1971.

Dialogue with Pakistan

What is more galling is the notion that the decision to engage the previous leadership, to discuss the restart of a political process and the reversal of the August 5 decision to downgrade the State to a Union Territory, comes not from domestic considerations alone. In the past few months, it has been made clear that a backchannel dialogue between India and Pakistan is discussing assurances on J&K that would enable a broader bilateral dialogue. Pakistan too has climbed down considerably from its previous demands of plebiscite and UN resolutions, to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s more recent statements that he would be willing to talk if there was a reversal in some of the August 5 steps, or if the Modi government proffers a “roadmap” on J&K. Even Pakistan’s insistence on the restoration of Article 370 was a turnaround from the days when it rejected the Article’s validity. Both the downturn in Pakistan-backed violence in Jammu-Kashmir as well the softening of rhetoric suggest a flexibility borne out of international pressure as well as the sustained threat of a (Pakistan) blacklisting by the Financial Action Task Force.

Such compromises by hawkish establishments in Delhi and Islamabad (and Rawalpindi) do not come from an internal rethink by themselves, and it would seem obvious that external prompting from the U.S., keen to complete its Afghanistan pullout and its negotiations with the Taliban, as well as nudges from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, of the kind publicly referred to by the UAE envoy as “mediation”,have been at work as well. The recent disclosure by the Qatari special envoy that Indian officials have engaged the Taliban leadership in Doha is also part of that matrix. The Government’s decision to shut down operations at two of its Afghanistan consulates, in Jalalabad and Herat, which was earlier described as a temporary move due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, is clearly linked to safety concerns in the phase after the U.S. pullout.

The U.S. factor

In the broader geopolitical context, as the drumbeats to a U.S.-China confrontation grow louder, India’s global strategies will be further put to test. The U.S.’s expectations of cooperation from India to its East, on China and the Indo-Pacific, have clearly not been commensurate with New Delhi’s expectations that America would reduce India’s threats to its west, from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Instead, it would seem, the Government’s attempts to sever the Gordian knot in Jammu and Kashmir with its moves two years ago, are being drawn into a more complex game of regional dominoes, where India’s security interests are increasingly in play.


There needs to be a feminist approach to technology to solve the social impacts of the South Asian COVID-19 crisis

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has swept South Asia in recent months, existing inequalities have come to light. One aspect stands out: access to technology has never been so crucial to ensuring public health and safety.

Around the world, information and access to health care have largely moved online, and those left behind face grave disadvantages.

Limited or no access

According to Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) estimates, over 390 million women in low- and middle-income countries do not have Internet access. South Asia has more than half of these women with only 65% owning a mobile phone.

In India, only 14.9% of women were reported to be using the Internet. This divide is deepened by earlier mandates to register online to get a vaccination appointment. Recent local data revealed that nearly 17% more men than women have been vaccinated. While improving awareness of how to access vaccination and help are crucial to protecting women, the mindset around digital technology and device ownership must also change.

For example, when families share a digital device, it is more likely that the father or sons will be allowed to use it exclusively. In part, this is due to deeply held cultural beliefs: it is often believed that women’s access to technology will motivate them to challenge patriarchal societies. There is also a belief that women need to be protected, and that online content can be dangerous for women/expose them to risks. As a consequence, girls and women who ask for phones face suspicion and opposition.

These gaps prevent women and LGBTQIA+ people from accessing critical services. In India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, for example, fewer women than men received the necessary information to survive COVID-19. Vaccine registration usually requires a smartphone or laptop. Men and boys are thus more likely to get timely information and register than women and girls.

The concept of feminism goes beyond the rights of women. It is about a way of life. In simple terms, it means being inclusive, democratic, transparent, egalitarian, and offering opportunities for all. We can call it equality through innovation.

Feminist technology (sometimes called “femtech”) is an approach to technology and innovation that is inclusive, informed and responsive to the entire community with all its diversity.

Steps to an equitable future

At UN Women, we are encouraging companies to sign up and agree to principles that will lead to a more equitable future for all. As part of the Generation Equality Forum (https://bit.ly/35MSxNa), the goal is to double the number of women and girls working in technology and innovation. By 2026, the aim is to reduce the gender digital divide and ensure universal digital literacy, while investing in feminist technology and innovation to support women’s leadership as innovators.

Through digital empowerment programmes and partnerships such as EQUALS (https://bit.ly/2SQ78oj) and International Girls in ICT Day celebration (https://bit.ly/2SQ6WW7) across the region led by UN Women and the International Telecommunication Union, we hope that more girls will choose STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) as their academic focus, enter digital technology careers, and aspire to be the next leaders in digital technology.

What would the world look like if technology were truly inclusive and reflected our society’s needs? How would the world be different if feminist technology were embraced?

Hardly a neutral world

What we see today is that most technologies that are available to the layperson are created by men, for men, and do not necessarily meet everyone’s requirements. The supposedly neutral world of technology is full of examples of this: from video games to virtual assistants to the increasingly large dimensions of “handheld” smartphones, technology is not always made with everyone in mind.

Policy cannot solve this on its own, but the private sector can. Companies should not look at gender-equal technology solely from an altruistic perspective, but from a pragmatic one.

According to GSMA, closing the gender gap in mobile Internet usage in low- and middle-income countries would increase GDP by U.S.$700 billion over the next five years. Women and girls are the largest consumer groups left out of technology and could be major profit drivers.

In the App Store, there are about two million apps, most of which cater to young men. Why not design apps geared specifically towards mothers or apps for women to access telemedicine consultation? Or digital networks to connect women to informal job opportunities so they can still earn while balancing caring for their families? Other than apps, built-in features on mobile phones such as an emergency button connecting women to law enforcement if they face unwanted street harassment should also be considered.

Women and girls do not have the same access to these technologies as men and boys, nor are they available at the same price. That is not acceptable.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel. In the 1950s, dishwashers and washing machines were promoted as a method of emancipating women. Household goods producers, for example, target most of their advertising at women because they often control the household budget. Digital technology could be approached similarly.

We now have the opportunity to shape our future in a way that is more equal, diverse, and sustainable in the world of technology in the aftermath of the medical and socioeconomic devastation in the past year.

Now is the time to act. The right thing to do is also the smart thing to do. Bringing an end to the gender technology gap will save lives and make livelihoods more secure. As a result, the next pandemic, once it arrives, may not be nearly as destructive. It can only lead to a better community and a better world for us all.

Mohammad Naciri is Regional Head of UN Women Asia and the Pacific.

Atsuko Okuda is Regional Director of the International Telecommunication Union Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

The term ‘Centre’ is absent in the Constitution as the Constituent Assembly did not want to centralise power

The Tamil Nadu government’s decision to shun the usage of the term ‘Central government’ in its official communications and replace it with ‘Union government’ is a major step towards regaining the consciousness of our Constitution. Seventy-one years since we adopted the Constitution, it is time we regained the original intent of our founding fathers beautifully etched in the parchment as Article 1: “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States”. If a student of Indian polity attempts to trace the origin of the term ‘Central government’, the Constitution will disappoint him, for the Constituent Assembly did not use the term ‘Centre’ or ‘Central government’ in all of its 395 Articles in 22 Parts and eight Schedules in the original Constitution. What we have are the ‘Union’ and the ‘States’ with the executive powers of the Union wielded by the President acting on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister. Then, why did the courts, the media and even the States refer to the Union government as the ‘Centre’?

Even though we have no reference to the ‘Central government’ in the Constitution, the General Clauses Act, 1897 gives a definition for it. The ‘Central government’ for all practical purposes is the President after the commencement of the Constitution. Therefore, the real question is whether such definition for ‘Central government’ is constitutional as the Constitution itself does not approve of centralising power.

Intent of Constituent Assembly

On December 13, 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru introduced the aims and objects of the Assembly by resolving that India shall be a Union of territories willing to join the “Independent Sovereign Republic”. The emphasis was on the consolidation and confluence of various provinces and territories to form a strong united country.

Many members of the Constituent Assembly were of the opinion that the principles of the British Cabinet Mission Plan (1946) be adopted, which contemplated a Central government with very limited powers whereas the provinces had substantial autonomy. The Partition and the violence of 1947 in Kashmir forced the Constituent Assembly to revise its approach and it resolved in favour of a strong Centre. The possibility of the secession of States from the Union weighed on the minds of the drafters of the Constitution and ensured that the Indian Union is “indestructible”. In the Constituent Assembly, B.R Ambedkar, the Chairman of the Drafting Committee, observed that the word ‘Union’ was advisedly used in order to negative the right of secession of States by emphasising, after all, that “India shall be a Union of States”. Ambedkar justified the usage of ‘Union of States’ saying that the Drafting Committee wanted to make it clear that though India was to be a federation, it was not the result of an agreement and that therefore, no State has the right to secede from it. “The federation is a Union because it is indestructible,” Ambedkar said.

The usage of ‘Union of States’ by Ambedkar was not approved by all and faced criticisms from Maulana Hasrat Mohani who argued that Ambedkar was changing the very nature of the Constitution. Mohani made a fiery speech in the Assembly on September 18, 1949 where he vehemently contended that the usage of the words ‘Union of States’ would obscure the word ‘Republic’. Mohani went to the extent of saying that Ambedkar wanted the ‘Union’ to be “something like the Union proposed by Prince Bismarck in Germany, and after him adopted by Kaiser William and after him by Adolf Hitler”. Mohani continued, “He (Ambedkar) wants all the States to come under one rule and that is what we call Notification of the Constitution. I think Dr. Ambedkar is also of that view, and he wants to have that kind of Union. He wants to bring all the units, the provinces and the groups of States, everything under the thumb of the Centre.” However, Ambedkar clarified that “the Union is not a league of States, united in a loose relationship; nor are the States the agencies of the Union, deriving powers from it. Both the Union and the States are created by the Constitution, both derive their respective authority from the Constitution. The one is not subordinate to the other in its own field... the authority of one is coordinate with that of the other”.

The sharing of powers between the Union and the States is not restricted to the executive organ of the government. The judiciary is designed in the Constitution to ensure that the Supreme Court, the tallest court in the country, has no superintendence over the High Courts. Though the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction — not only over High Courts but also over other courts and tribunals — they are not declared to be subordinate to it. In fact, the High Courts have wider powers to issue prerogative writs despite having the power of superintendence over the district and subordinate courts. Parliament and Assemblies identify their boundaries and are circumspect to not cross their boundaries when it comes to the subject matter on which laws are made. However, the Union Parliament will prevail if there is a conflict.

Word play

The members of the Constituent Assembly were very cautious of not using the word ‘Centre’ or ‘Central government’ in the Constitution as they intended to keep away the tendency of centralising of powers in one unit. The ‘Union government’ or the ‘Government of India’ has a unifying effect as the message sought to be given is that the government is of all. Even though the federal nature of the Constitution is its basic feature and cannot be altered, what remains to be seen is whether the actors wielding power intend to protect the federal feature of our Constitution. As Nani Palkhivala famously said, “The only satisfactory and lasting solution of the vexed problem is to be found not in the statute-book but in the conscience of men in power”.

Mukund P. Unny is an advocate practising in the Supreme Court of India

The government and industry should collaborate to develop a sustainable restart strategy

After months of closing their borders, regions that have contained the spread of COVID-19 are trying to find ways of reopening their borders. However, there are many apprehensions in doing this. It is not easy for governments to reopen their borders, allow traffic and still keep the virus away.

Airlines have been battling uncertainty since March 2020. In April 2020, two thirds of the global fleet of aircraft was grounded, but essential operations were not halted. By raising private capital, receiving government support, cutting costs to the bone, and flying more to transport goods, etc., many airlines have managed to prevent bankruptcy.

Restarting operations

It is challenging for airlines to figure out how they are going to restart operations when customer demand returns to pre-COVID-19 levels. As the vaccination programme unfolds in different parts of the world, it is critical to restart air travel with an internationally reliable, acceptable and harmonious approach. The government and industry should collaborate to develop a sustainable ‘restart strategy’. Such a strategy should use a science-based approach and specify how nations must deal with vaccinated and non-vaccinated passengers, how quarantine and testing measures will be adjusted, and how appropriate electronic capture of health data to facilitate international travel can be ensured. It is possible to have a flexible policy. Tools can be developed to continually monitor the risk profiles of different regions.

For India, the large domestic aviation market is a saviour. Collaboration among the States will be critical to ensure the effective restart of the aviation industry. Different testing and quarantine requirements have already created a lot of confusion. As done in natural calamity protocols, a framework establishing clear rules, processes and standards needs to be in place according to the situation. Local actions need to be taken whenever risks are identified, and a consistent policy should be followed. In recent times, micro-containment zones have been helpful over blanket lockdowns in containing infections.

It is time to focus on substituting blanket restrictions with testing, vaccination and limited quarantine measures. Tests and vaccines will jointly play a key role in the industry’s recovery. Vaccination can be a requirement to travel but should co-exist with testing regimes. It should be considered as a progressive step towards safe travel. Imposing compulsory vaccination as a pre-requisite for air travel will only further impact the sector. It is going to take some time to fully vaccinate everyone who wants to be vaccinated. In the meantime, until the population worldwide is significantly vaccinated, it is important to have robust and stable testing protocols, along with interoperable digital solutions. Implementing widespread COVID-19 antigen testing before departure is key to restarting air travel. The Indian Council of Medical Research approved self-testing COVID-19 kits called CoviSelf, which could come in handy.

Vaccine passports

Digital travel passes and vaccine passports may be another solution. But in order to work, these will require standardisation across borders. Internationally, there is concern that governments may not cooperate or establish shared principles for opening their borders. The concept of vaccine passports is illogical if the same vaccines are not recognised in all the countries. For example, the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, which are generally recognised as examples of vaccines that will be used as a pre-requirement for vaccine passports, are only accessible in 72 and 74 countries, respectively.

Uneven travel restrictions and passenger demand are driving the need for flexibility and speed in decision-making processes. This is seen across multiple serviceable areas, including long-term fleet planning, network planning, and revenue management. In the present scenario, a network plan needs to be rethought and reworked, as there may be the possibility of different segments in different parts of the network opening and closing depending on the uncertainty of the pandemic and the demand.

The next few years will be challenging for the aviation industry. The actions taken by governments and industry will determine how long it takes for the industry to recover. If the aviation industry has to recover, governments need to come up with consistent policies based on evidence, and industry should do whatever it can to reinstate passenger confidence, embrace new ways of making revenue, and new operational demands. This is the call of the hour even if this means moving outside the comfort zone.

Usha Padhee is Joint Secretary and Aditya Tiwari is a former Young Professional in the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India. Views are personal

Educators wish to embrace the UGC’s new proposal but the ground reality is different

A recent circular by the University Grants Commission (UGC) proposes that all higher educational institutions (HEI) teach 40% of any course online and the rest 60% offline. The concept note circulated by the UGC argues that this “blended mode of teaching” and learning paves the way for increased student engagement in learning, enhanced student-teacher interactions, improved student learning outcomes and more flexible teaching and learning environments, among other things. The note also enlists a few other key benefits such as increased opportunity for institutional collaborations at a distance and enhanced self-learning accruing from blended learning (BL).

Another claim is that BL benefits the teachers as well. It shifts the role of the teacher from being a “knowledge provider to a coach and mentor”. The note says this will enable teachers to have a greater influence and effect on students’ learning. Further, as against traditional classroom instruction which is “teacher-directed, top-down, and one-size-fits-all”, BL is “student-driven, bottom-up, and customized”. The note adds that BL introduces flexibility in assessment and evaluation patterns as well. Educators wish to embrace the forward-looking proposal but the ground reality is different.


The latest All India Survey on Higher Education (2019-20) report shows that 60.56% of the 42,343 colleges in India are located in rural areas and 78.6% are privately managed. Can these colleges successfully implement BL? And what would be the cost of such education?

Only big corporates are better placed to invest in technology and provide such learning. Second, according to datareportal statistics, Internet penetration in India is only 45% as of January 2021. This policy will only exacerbate the existing geographical and digital divide resulting in the exclusion of a large number of rural students. Third, BL leaves little room for all-round formation of the student that includes the development of their intelligent quotient, emotional quotient, social quotient, physical quotient and spiritual quotient. What is the guarantee that BL will enhance interactions between students and teachers that lead to personality development, character building and career formation? The listening part and subsequent interactions with the teacher may get minimised. Also, the concept note assumes that all students who enter the arena of higher education have similar learning styles and have a certain amount of digital literacy to cope with the suggested learning strategies of BL. This is far from true. Education in India is driven by a teacher-centred approach. Expecting these students to switch over quickly to collaborative and technology-enabled learning will be stressful for them and may accentuate the existing dropout rate in higher education.


Given these challenges, it is worth considering a few recommendations. The government should ensure equity in access to technology and bandwidth for all HEIs across the country free of cost. Massive digital training programmes must be arranged for teachers. Even the teacher-student ratio needs to be readjusted to implement BL effectively. This may require the appointment of a greater number of teachers. The design of the curriculum should be decentralised and based on a bottom-up approach. More power in such education-related policymaking should be vested with the State governments. Switching over from a teacher-centric mode of learning at schools to the BL mode at the tertiary level will be difficult for learners. Hence, the government must think of overhauling the curriculum at the school level as well. Finally, periodical discussions, feedback mechanisms and support services at all levels would revitalise the implementation of the learning programme of the National Education Policy 2020, BL, and lead to the actualisation of the three cardinal principles of education policy: access, equity and quality.

A. Thomas is Principal, Loyola College, and K.S. Antonysamy is Associate Professor, Loyola College

An amalgam of disparate elements willnot be a viable national alternative to the BJP

Talk of any political realignment is unseasonal, considering the fact that the next general election is due only in 2024 and the BJP is entrenched in the government. A gathering of political leaders, activists and scholars convened by Trinamool Congress leader Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday, however, was preceded by a lot of speculation about the emergence of a ‘third’ front, opposed to the BJP and sidelining the Congress. The Rashtra Manch is not intended to be a third front according to its organisers, but that does not mean the end of an exploratory politics ahead of 2024. In fact, most parties have reasons to think and act towards a new alternative to the BJP. For one, serial governance failures and missteps have made the current moment the most vulnerable for the BJP since 2014. The Congress does challenge the BJP at an ideational level, but the electoral victories over it in recent months were by regional parties such as the TMC, the DMK and the Left. While Rahul Gandhi has a principled position against the BJP, his vacillating role within the party and reluctance to play the power politics make the Congress an uninspiring leader for other anti-BJP parties. The role being played by Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar makes the current attempt for a new platform vigorous. He has the dexterity, heft and the network to lead it.

That said, there is not an easy path for this nascent platform, assuming that it has ambitions beyond being a debating society. At 80, age is not on Mr. Pawar’s side. Without an active role for the Congress, no political formation can be viable against the BJP. That role, and the terms of engagement between the Congress and other smaller parties remain open questions. Even among the parties that participated in the meeting — SP, NCP, AAP, CPI(M), CPI, National Conference, Trinamool Congress — enthusiasm is muted, though they sent representatives. Mr. Pawar himself is conscious of the pitfalls. Several of these parties are adversaries of one another in States. All non-BJP parties are not opening up to the idea, at least for now. The TRS, YSRCP and BJD, in power in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, respectively, have a guarded approach towards national politics. All these factors make the emergence of a robust opposition to the BJP onerous. Politics is often shaped by circumstances. The BJP’s unchallenged power in the last seven years has built tensions that need to be resolved through democratic processes. The recent Assembly election outcomes were a reminder that parties staunchly opposed to the BJP remain popular in States. Harnessing a national politics from such disparate trends is a challenge before the opponents of the BJP.

Blocking of Iran-linked websites does little for efforts to revive n-deal and reverse sanctions

The U.S.’s decision to block dozens of Iran-linked websites at a time when both countries are trying to revive the nuclear deal is unnecessary provocation. The U.S. has accused the sites, including Iran’s state-owned Press TV, of spreading disinformation. In the past, the U.S. had cracked down on Chinese and Iranian media over similar allegations. The move comes days after Iran elected Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline cleric, as President. The election of Mr. Raisi, who has been sanctioned by the U.S. for his alleged role in the execution of political prisoners and other rights violations, has already escalated tensions between the two countries. Iran’s sharp response to the move on the websites, has been that the U.S. was trying to “muzzle free speech”. Even if one ignores Iran’s rhetoric, the U.S.’s move hardly serves its declared purpose of fighting disinformation. When America seized the website of the semi-official Iranian news agency, Fars, in 2018, it switched to an Iranian domain and was back online. The U.S. should not act like despotic regimes that take knee-jerk actions towards media platforms with critical coverage. The way to fight disinformation campaigns is to promote information and strengthen independent journalism. Besides aiding the Iranian narrative that America remains hostile, the U.S. decision could also create hitches in the diplomatic process under way.

The Biden administration had hoped for reaching an agreement with Tehran on reviving the nuclear deal before the June 18 Iran presidential election. After multiple rounds of indirect talks in Vienna, along with other world powers, a final agreement has not been reached, but all parties have expressed faith in talks. The Biden administration had shown a willingness to reverse Donald Trump’s maximum pressure policy and revive the deal that would cut off Iran’s path towards the bomb in return for lifting sanctions. Iran, embattled by sanctions, economic woes and protests, has responded positively to the U.S.’s overtures. But there have been bottlenecks. One, when the Trump administration pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions, Iran started rebuilding its nuclear programme with higher-level fuel enrichment and production of centrifuges. Now, the U.S. wants Iran to return to the terms of the original agreement, while the Iranians want the sanctions lifted first. Two, the Biden administration also wants to discuss Iran’s ballistic missile programme and its regional activities. Mr. Raisi has rejected such demands outright. Known for his hardline domestic and foreign policy views, he would take over the presidency in early August. Mr. Biden’s best chance to revive the nuclear deal is to do it before then. Both sides should focus on the diplomatic path, aimed at achieving a pragmatic agreement first that addresses the most critical issues — Iran’s expanding nuclear programme and America’s sprawling sanctions regime.

Patna, June 23: Pamphlets and leaflets in Chinese script airdropped in balloons in many North Bihar villages between June 14 and 18, deciphered subsequently, urge people living in Communist China to “respond to President Chiang Kai-Shek’s call to attack Mao and carry out your determination to come back to Taiwan.” Booklets, reported to be Chinese calendars used in Taiwan, say “how happy are people in Taiwan. They are united in their resolve to recapture the Chinese mainland held by Mao. Carry out your determination to come away to Taiwan.” It is reported that on June 19, 1969 also balloons containing stimilar K.M.T. propaganda literature were dropped in Giridih, Palamau, Santhal Parganas, Monghyr, Shahabad, Saharsa, Purnea and Gaya districts of Bihar. This time balloons containing leaflets and other articles of daily use were dropped in villages of Ranchi, Palamau, Santhal Parganas, Bhagalpur, Monghyr, Hazaribagh and Purnea districts.