INDIAN EXPRESS 02nd March 2020

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1)EXPLAINED:- Reading US-Taliban pact

The key elements:-

TROOPS WITHDRAWAL: The US will draw down to 8,600 troops in 135 days and the NATO or coalition troop numbers will also be brought down, proportionately and simultaneously. And all troops will be out within 14 months — “all” would include “non-diplomatic civilian personnel” (could be interpreted to mean “intelligence” personnel).

TALIBAN COMMITMENT: The main counter-terrorism commitment by the Taliban is that “Taliban will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies”. While Miller said the reference to al-Qaeda is important, the pact is silent on other terrorist groups — such as anti-India groups Lashkar-e-Toiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed. Again, India, not being an US ally, is not covered under this pact.

SANCTIONS REMOVAL: UN sanctions on Taliban leaders to be removed by three months (by May 29) and US sanctions by August 27. The sanctions will be out before much progress is expected in the intra-Afghan dialogue.

PRISONER RELEASE: Miller identified it as a “possible trouble spot” because the US-Taliban agreement and the joint declaration differ, and it is not clear whether the Ashraf Ghani-led government is on board with this “pretty big up-front concession to Taliban”. The joint declaration says the US will facilitate “discussion with Taliban representatives on confidence building measures, to include determining the feasibility of releasing significant numbers of prisoners on both sides”. While there are no numbers or deadlines in the joint declaration, the US-Taliban pact says up to 5,000 imprisoned Taliban and up to 1,000 prisoners from “the other side” held by Taliban “will be released” by March 10 — which is when intra-Afghan negotiations are supposed to start, in Oslo.

CEASEFIRE: Identified as another potential “trouble spot”. The agreement states ceasefire will be simply “an item on the agenda” when intra-Afghan talks start, and indicates actual ceasefire will come with the “completion” of an Afghan political agreement.


2) Many birds on decline in India, a few species found thriving

The State of India’s Birds 2020 report, the first comprehensive assessment of range, abundance and conservation status of birds in India, has underlined concerns about some bird species and good news about a few others.

Released during CMS COP13, the international conference held recently in Gandhinagar, the report was prepared as a partnership among 10 organisations including the World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Institute of India and Nature Biodiversity Authority-India. Much of its data is based on citizen science — information provided by birdwatchers through various platforms.

Some Trends:-

Sparrow stable, Peafowl grow

While the house sparrow has been in the news due to concerns about declining populations, with many people reporting seeing fewer sparrows than before, the report cites new analysis to show that the house sparrow has been fairly stable overall during the past 25+ years.

Species on long-term decline

Small minivet; common woodshrike; short-toed snake eagle; cotton teal; large cuckooshrike; common greenshank; Rufous-tailed lark, oriental skylark, yellow-fronted pied woodpecker; Indian thick-knee; little pratincole; little stint, Sirkeer malkoha; blue rock thrush, crested treeswift, etc.



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