Fall Colours in Asia

Fall colours have been associated mostly with the Americas and Europe. Almost all countries celebrate a spring festival or blossom festival when flowers bloom all at once at the advent of spring or autumn. However, some countries in Asia do exhibit fall colours as magnificently as the fall colours of the USA, Canada, UK or Germany. Local cultures have their own festival regarding the advent of winter. So, do check them out if you plan a visit this autumn.

Autumn Colours in Lahaul, India

1)India :
The fall colours of India are absent in most parts of the country except the northern Himalayas. But during autumn, the vast gardens of the Kashmir valley, filled with fallen brown leaves from the chinar trees, present an enchanting view for travellers. Ladakh and Lahaul-Spiti area gets dotted with golden yellow blossoms of Himalayan poplars, marking the advent of a 6-month-long harsh winter. Elsewhere, India’s biggest festival Diwali, the festival of lights, marks the time when fallen leaves are burnt to light bonfires.

Autumn Colours in Hunza, Pakistan

2)Pakistan :
Pakistan exhibits a wide range of sudden bursts of colours during autumn in its northern areas. Skardu, Khaplu, Shigar, Ghizer, Gilgit are all covered in a mix of golden, red, yellow, brown, with a little number of green colours. Hunza and Nagar valleys in the lap of the Karakoram are some of the most spectacular places on earth in the fall season.

Autumn Colours in Kyoto, Japan

3)Japan :
Like its cherry flower viewing festival, sakura, Japan also has a maple hunting festival, called momijigari. After the US, Japan is one of the most sought-after countries in the world for fall colours. Temples, lakes, parks, and valleys are adorned with a variety of red, orange, yellow colours from falling leaves from maple, beech and ginkgo trees. The temple town of Kyoto adorns a bright red hue attracting tourists from all over the world.

Autumn Colours in Seoul, South Korea

4)South Korea :
Most parts of South Korea exhibit fall colours at the peak of autumn. The most famous places are in Seoraksan mountains and Odaesan mountains in the north-west corner of the country, though fall colours from ginkgo and maple trees. Seoul and Nami Island also exhibit parks where fall foliage can be seen. North Korea too has its own share of autumn colours, though it is forbidden for visitors.

Autumn Colours in Great Wall of China, China

5)China :
China, being a very large country, has a wide variety of landscapes. Viewing fall colours is most common in and around Beijing, especially around the Great Wall of China. Other places where nature is at its best during autumn are Jiuzhaigou nature reserve in northern Sichuan, around Kanas Lake in Xinjiang, and the red leaves valley in Shandong provinces. This is also the time for the Mid-Autumn festival in Chinese traditions.

Have you visited any of these places in autumn? Do let us know in the comment section below.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Fall of Kabul, 2021

While the US prepared their exit by 9th September 2021, the Taliban rose to become the dominant political and military power in Afghanistan. After capturing Herat in the extreme west, the Taliban proceeded rapidly towards the east, where the bigger cities like Kabul and Kandahar are located.

This is not the first time the Taliban has risen to power following an unstable Government in power in Kabul. In 1995, a civil war started in Afghanistan, following which the Taliban rose to power. After a failed attempt, the Taliban established their base at Herat on the western part of the country, and again launched an offensive to Kabul. Kabul fell in 1996 and Afghanistan passed into the hands of the Taliban. The siege was only for 5 years, but it resulted in Afghanistan’s economy rolling back at least 25 years.

Mass destruction, killing and raping of women, and blowing up of archaeological monuments are features of the Taliban regime. US troops gradually repealed the Taliban from 2001 onwards and took up Kabul. However, they could not completely wipe out Taliban leadership and ideology and it soon gained momentum in remote parts of the country. Though the Taliban were a nightmare for the women, Taliban support still built up on a large scale across the remote regions. The US alleged that Pakistan sponsored the Taliban providing them shelter in Quetta.

Several countries like India, Afghanistan Government, the US, Russia alleged that Pakistan is a safe haven for terrorist organizations. The allegations were proved right when Osama-bin-Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 US bombardment attacks was found and killed in Pakistan. For a brief period, the progress of Al-Qaeda and Taliban were overshadowed by the rapid progress of ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and their suicidal attacks in other parts of the world. Heavy bombardment by the US, Russia and other world superpowers ensured that ISIS didn’t last long. While the world helped Syria and Iraq wipe out ISIS, the US was making peace talks with the Taliban to ensure peace in Afghanistan. After the fall of ISIS, the Taliban still held their ground with military and finance aid from neighbouring countries that allegedly include Pakistan.

Things took a decisive turn as US President Joe Biden ordered the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by 11th September, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The US made a peace deal with the Taliban, where mutual peace and unity between Afghanistan Government controlled areas and Taliban controlled areas were signed. However, as soon as the withdrawal of US troops started, the Taliban started capturing one city after another in bitter street fighting. Within 3-4 weeks, the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, the southern city of Kandahar, the western city of Herat was captured by Taliban forces.

The Afghan military provided almost zero resistance to the Taliban attacks, most of them switched sides taking the opportunity of lack of nationalism and leadership from the Government. Despite Joe Biden assuring that Afghanistan is self-sufficient in military power to combat any Taliban uprising, the reality shows a completely different picture. Covering almost the entire Afghanistan, the Taliban now attacked Kabul from all sides. The Afghanistan President, Ashraf Ghani fled Kabul on the night of siege and took refuge in either Tajikistan or Uzbekistan. Street fighting started in Kabul but there was hardly anyone loyal to the Afghanistan Government and most has switched sides. Kabul passed into the hands of the Taliban, who now proclaimed their country as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The fall of Kabul in August 2021, marked the beginning of a new era of Taliban rule over Afghanistan. Parts of the city, around the airport, where most of the foreign residents living in the country are escaping were spared from damage. As soon as all foreign countries finish their evacuation of citizens, entire Afghanistan will pass into the hands of the Taliban. Many Afghans want to leave the country to find shelter in other developed countries but are unprepared given how quickly the Taliban captured one city after another. While Taliban rule is a nightmare for women and minorities, they have no option other than hope that the new rule of Taliban will not be doing mass raping or ethnic cleansing and treat everyone with respect and give importance to education and growth of the economy of the war-torn country.

Written by – Himadri Paul

75 Years of Freedom

The 75th Independence Day of India is going to be celebrated today, 15th August 2021. 75 years ago, India was one of the first countries in Asia to become independent. A lot has been talked about India’s freedom struggle against British rule. Now, let us focus on the history of independent India, which stood up from the burnt ashes of conflict and fostered a sense of peace and unity.

After World War II, two world’s superpowers, the USA and USSR, started dominating the politics of smaller countries under their influence. The former centred around the idea of democracy and capitalism, while the latter was keener to protect Communism and Communist influence across the globe. Indirect civil wars started in China, Korea, Vietnam, Germany, Afghanistan, and many more nations around the globe. However, India chose to side with neither of the two superpowers and promote ideas of peace and co-operation through Jawaharlal Nehru’s Non-Aligned Movement.

India emerged as the leader of the third world, a cluster of small, backward countries mostly across Asia and Africa. Non-Aligned Movement policy gained ground in Indonesia, Ghana, Yugoslavia, and Egypt. The NAM policy guaranteed the countries full independence and helped them develop and co-exist peacefully with other sovereign states. The NAM policy today has been ratified by 120 countries around the world after having its first summit at Belgrade, Yugoslavia on 1st September 1961.

However, the dreams of India coexisting peacefully was mired with disturbances from its neighbours. India and Pakistan bitterly fought 3 wars in 1947, 1965, and 1971, while China attacked India in 1962. Despite emerging victorious both as a military power and through diplomacy, these wars, together with problems of partition, slowed down the development of India as a superpower. The Indo-Pak wars centred more on the western border of India, with the main hostility around the fate of Jammu and Kashmir, an independent princely state joining India. The conflicts with China are mainly in the eastern and northern sectors, where unclear border demarcations between British India and China resulted in a strained relationship between India and China.

India was instrumental in helping Bangladesh gain independence in 1971 from Pakistan. India also fought the Siachen and Kargil war with Pakistan. India gave refuge to thousands of Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama when Tibet was annexed by the expanding China. Bloody insurgencies in Punjab up to the 1980s, and in Kashmir since then did not help in India’s economic growth. The biggest fight of India throughout its history, and even after independence was poverty. A mass influx of refugees from Pakistan and emigration to Pakistan continued along the Indian border. Also, the pre-partition train and bus communications were severed between the two countries owing to decorating diplomatic ties.

However, India has stood strong with time. It has an active foreign policy, good diplomatic ties with most other countries, and it has also conceived to address its internal problems. Perhaps the biggest achievement of India was the introduction of democracy by Jawaharlal Nehru, which ensured multi-parties, other than the Indian National Congress, can participate to take India forward. India has undergone many ups and downs since its independence. But as long as India remains a democratic country, a secular country for all religions, and maintains close ties with countries around the world, India will rise as the world’s next leading superpower.

Exactly 75 years ago, the father of the nation, Jawaharlal Nehru said on the midnight of 14th August 1947

At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.

At 75, India is ready to take on challenges and be the developed country our nation’s founders dreamt to see. Come, let us take it forward to our future generations.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Twitter Shows the Wrong Map of India

There has been a lot of debate on whether Twitter should be banned as it had failed to fully comply with the Central Government rules. To date, it has not been banned and it has been asked to make certain changes to comply with the current IT rules. However, Twitter’s uploading of wrong maps of India is triggering a massive backlash not only from the Government but also from the users.

This is not the first time that Twitter has shown the wrong map of India. In October 2020, Twitter had uploaded a map showing Leh as part of China, which is quite ridiculous. Leh has always been a part of India even before the British rule. It is also argued that despite similarities in religion and customs with Tibet, Ladakh was neither a part of Tibet nor have Chinese claimed Leh, though it claims parts of Arunachal Pradesh. Ajay Sawhney, Ministry of Electronics and IT secretary, said,

“Any attempt by Twitter to disrespect the sovereignty and integrity of India, which is also reflected by the maps, is totally unacceptable. The same is also unlawful.”

After a stern letter was given to the CEO of Twitter, Twitter removed the wrong map from their site.

Twitter has erupted once again due to the uploading of another inappropriate map of India as late as June 2021. This time it showed Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as separate countries, not a part of India. This is very disturbing since almost the entire world, except Pakistan, considers Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as a part of India. It is true that there are parts of Jammu and Kashmir, occupied by Pakistan, and parts of Ladakh, occupied by China. However, those parts are shown to be part of the respective countries, Pok part of Pakistan and Aksai Chin part of China. The rest of the state, which is no doubt a part of India, has been demarcated as a separate country. This has irked the Indian politicians and locals living in those areas, many of whom have raised their voices.

Under public pressure, Twitter was again forced to remove the wrong map and upload a correct map showing Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as part of India. However, this has drawn ire from netizens not only from India but also outside. Many users have lost trust in Twitter and have stopped using it. Twitter will lose a major chunk of users if it continues to post inappropriate maps like this. It is high time, Twitter should respect India’s sovereignty, and verify the contents it is circulating among the users.

Written by – Himadri Paul