Friday, 31 December 2021

It’s all about tilting!


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It’s all about tilting!

(This is a humorous piece, just to bring some cheer towards the end of this difficult year and welcome the New Year with a new hope and new spirit. This story is for mere fun and to bring smiles, without hurting the sentiments of anyone. Read and enjoy.)

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You must have heard about the tilted axis of the earth, the tilted coconut tree, the tilted tower of Pisa, tilted building, but have you heard of the tilted rocket. This jugaad was made possible by the two popular Indian characters – Santa and Banta, famous for their sense of humour and funny wisdom! Many jokes are attributed to them. In these hard times of Covid pandemic they bring some cheer and a smile. Here is one such incident where their wisdom helps NASA to correct the misfiring rocket during launch and take off in full glory thereby saving the embarrassment of a failed launch.

Santa and Banta seem to be very popular in India and their reputation has spread around the world where ever Indians have settled down. After hearing a lot about Santa and Banta's innovative ideas and sense of humor, they were invited to the US. They were warmly welcomed by the Indian diaspora and the locals, and many visits were planned for them. And one of them, being the visit to NASA launch centre to witness the launch of Apollo rocket at NASA. They were guests of honour. And both of them were looking forward to witness the launch of the giant rocket.

After a couple of days of parties, celebrations and gatherings, they reached the launch pad at the appointed hour and were briefed about NASA, the Apollo rocket and the launch formalities. At the launch time there was pin drop silence. Countdown started, 10,9,8....1. The rocket didn't fire. The silence was deafening. There was confusion, the experts checked and pronounced, ready for launch. The countdown started again. Again the rocket didn't fire. The experts were wondering what could be the reason. After going through all checks, green signal was given. Countdown started, but the rocket refused to fire. The experts were a dejected lot after having spent months to ready the rocket for launch.

It was a very awkward moment for the experts. They were planning to abandon the launch till further notice instead of the embarrassment of a failed launched. One of the experts suggested since Santa and Banta are present here, they could check with them the possible reason for misfiring. They could have some answer. Couple of NASA experts approached Santa and Banta and told him of the failed launch.

Santa and Banta talked to each other in Punjabi and told the experts. Can you tilt the rocket to 45 degree a couple of times. The experts consulting with each other, responded, it is difficult but can be done. Santa and Banta told them - tilt the rocket three times and start countdown immediately without further delay. 99.9 per cent it should work.

The experts ordered the huge rocket to be tilted three times to 45 degrees. Once done, ordered countdown again, 10,9,8....1 fire. And the rocket fired and took off in full glory. The experts were relieved. There was rejoicing, clapping and celebration all around. The experts rushed towards Santa and Banta, thanking them profusely for saving their day, and further asked, how did it you figure out the problem and come out with the unique solution.

Santa and Banta looked at each other and smiled. They said, we're experienced in such problems. Indians are known for juggad, that's innovative ideas. In Delhi, especially during winter whenever our scooter wouldn't start, we would tilt it to 45 degrees and then kick, it would fire and start. We applied the same principal here, and it worked. All had a hearty laugh. Santa and Banta were hailed and the media covered the news,  and praised them for avoiding embarrassment to the NASA team of experts. Santa and Banta were true heroes!

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NewYear celebration 

Every year end, people around the world rejoice and celebrate the arrival of the New Year with great hope and renewed spirit. Every country celebrates the New Year in their unique way with people gathering at prominent structures, public places for singing, cheering, light shows and fireworks. It's followed dance and music and grand parties till early morning. But do you know how the New Year celebration started?

The first recorded New Year's celebration dates back 4,000 years to Babylon, when the first moon after the spring equinox marked a new year. In 46 BC, Julius Caesar created a calendar with January 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honour Janus, the month's namesake. Since then 1 January is celebrated as the New Year day.

A Happy New Year to all my readers!

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Saturday, 25 December 2021

Suez Crisis & Arab-Israeli war


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Suez Crisis & Arab-Israeli war

On the same day that the canal was nationalized Nasser also closed the Straits of Tiran to all Israeli ships. This led to the Suez Crisis in which the UK, France, and Israel invaded Egypt. According to the pre-agreed war plans under the Protocol of Sèvres, Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula on 29 October, forcing Egypt to engage them militarily, and allowing the Anglo-French partnership to declare the resultant fighting a threat to stability in the Middle East and enter the war - officially to separate the two forces but in reality to regain the Canal and bring down the Nasser government......

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Most of you must have heard about Suez Canal during the middle-east conflict between Egypt and Israel. It’s more than over 150 years since the inauguration of the Suez Canal. The Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez and dividing Africa and Asia. The canal is part of the Silk Road that connects Europe with Asia. But soon it got embroiled in an international crisis of major proportion affecting the world shipping. The combined forces of British, Israel and France launched an attack on Egypt.

After conquering Egypt in 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte considered building the canal. His experts incorrectly concluded that it would result in disastrous flooding, leading him to abandon the project. In 1859, Ferdinand de Lesseps formed the Suez Canal Co and materialized an almost century-long dream. Suez Canal took 10 years to build. The water passage is 193km long and 24 meters deep. Nearly 60,000 workers had to be employed to remove 74 million cubic meters of earth. The canal was completed at a cost of 433 million Francs thus making it quicker and cheaper for ships around the globe. Thereby help saving considerable time and fuel.

Egyptian overtures towards the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States withdrew their pledge to support the construction of the Aswan Dam. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser responded by nationalizing the canal on 26 July 1956 and transferring it to the Suez Canal Authority, intending to finance the dam project using revenue from the canal. On the same day that the canal was nationalized Nasser also closed the Straits of Tiran to all Israeli ships. This led to the Suez Crisis in which the UK, France, and Israel invaded Egypt. According to the pre-agreed war plans under the Protocol of Sèvres, Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula on 29 October, forcing Egypt to engage them militarily, and allowing the Anglo-French partnership to declare the resultant fighting a threat to stability in the Middle East and enter the war - officially to separate the two forces but in reality to regain the Canal and bring down the Nasser government. However, they had to withdraw after the nuclear threat from the then Soviet Union. The conflict actually was a result of Britain’s military occupation of the canal-zone, even after Egypt gained independence and Britain wanted to control the important waterway.

To save the British from what he thought was a disastrous action and to stop the war from a possible escalation, Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs Lester B. Pearson proposed the creation of the first United Nations peacekeeping force to ensure access to the canal for all and an Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula. On 4 November 1956, a majority at the United Nations voted for Pearson's peacekeeping resolution, which mandated the UN peacekeepers to stay in Sinai unless both Egypt and Israel agreed to their withdrawal. The United States backed this proposal by putting pressure on the British government through the selling of sterling, which would cause it to depreciate. Britain then called a ceasefire, and later agreed to withdraw its troops by the end of the year. Pearson was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As a result of damage and ships sunk under orders from Nasser the canal was closed until April 1957, when it was cleared with UN assistance. A UN force (UNEF) was established to maintain the free navigability of the canal, and peace in the Sinai Peninsula.

Arab–Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973

In May 1967, Nasser ordered the UN peacekeeping forces out of Sinai, including the Suez Canal area. Israel objected to the closing of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. The canal had been closed to Israeli shipping since 1949, except for a short period in 1951–1952.

After the 1967 Six-Day War, Israeli forces occupied the Sinai Peninsula, including the entire east bank of the Suez Canal. Unwilling to allow the Israelis to use the canal, Egypt immediately imposed a blockade which closed the canal to all shipping. Fifteen cargo ships, known as the Yellow Fleet, were trapped in the canal, and would remain there until 1975.

In 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, the canal was the scene of a major crossing by the Egyptian army into Israeli-occupied Sinai and a counter-crossing by the Israeli army to Egypt. Much wreckage from this conflict remains visible along the canal's edges.

Mine clearing operations (1974–75) - After the Yom Kippur War the United States initiated Operation Nimbus Moon. The amphibious assault ship USS Inchon (LPH-12) was sent to the Canal, carrying 12 RH-53D minesweeping helicopters of HM-12. These partly cleared the canal between May and December 1974. She was relieved by the LST USS Barnstable County (LST1197). The British Royal Navy initiated Operation Rheostat and Task Group 65.2 provided for Operation Rheostat One (six months in 1974), the mine hunters HMS Maxton, HMS Bossington, and HMS Wilton, the Fleet Clearance Diving Team (FCDT) and HMS Abdiel, a practice minelayer/MCMV support ship; and for Operation Rheostat Two (six months in 1975) the minehunters HMS Hubberston and HMS Sheraton, and HMS Abdiel. When the Canal Clearance Operations were completed, the canal and its lakes were considered 99% clear of mines. The canal was then reopened by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat aboard on an Egyptian destroyer, which led the first convoy northbound to Port Said in 1975. At his side stood the Iranian Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, delegated to represent his father, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. The cruiser USS Little Rock was the only American naval ship in the convoy.

The UNEF mandate expired in 1979. Despite the efforts of the United States, Israel, Egypt, and others to obtain an extension of the UN role in observing the peace between Israel and Egypt, as called for under the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty of 1979, the mandate could not be extended because of the veto by the Soviet Union in the UN Security Council, at the request of Syria. Accordingly, negotiations for a new observer force in the Sinai produced the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), stationed in Sinai in 1981 in coordination with a phased Israeli withdrawal. It is there under agreements between the United States, Israel, Egypt, and other nations.

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 Story of the Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty in New York almost ended up in Egypt. Towards the completion of the Suez Canal Sculptor Auguste Bartholdi tried to convince Ferdinand de Lesseps to let him build a sculpture called ‘Egypt Bringing Light to Asia’ at its Mediterranean entrance. He wanted to commemorate the opening of the all important waterway with this huge and impressive statue. However it did not materialize.

Bartholdi originally envisioned the statue as a woman clothed in Egyptian peasant robes, holding a massive torch, but the project was rejected by Lesseps. And America was the beneficiary of this landmark statue.

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Thursday, 9 December 2021

Blunders made by Pakistan during the Kargil war


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Blunders made by Pakistan during the Kargil war

It was a smart but crazy plan by the Pakistanis without even seriously considering the Indian response. They expected India to make some noise followed by cease fire due to world pressure and they would hold on to the posts. Their plan was to occupy around 15-20 peaks. Having crossed over into unoccupied areas, the excited young Pakistani soldiers expanded their presence. They ended up with the occupation of 120 peaks. They were now in such a logistical stretch, making themselves vulnerable to Indian military attacks. And the unexpected happened. India retaliated strongly pounding on the Pakistanis. They were easy target for the Indians though it was a tough and difficult terrain. The Pakistanis took a large number of casualties and the rest ran for their lives. It was the result of wrong planning by the Pakistani generals.

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Nawaz Sharif who was the prime minister of Pakistan during the 1999 India Pakistani war said, ‘People who were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of your soldiers in Kargil; it was a call by few generals....we were thrown into war. The cause of the war was the infiltration of Pakistani troops— disguised as Kashmiri militants—into positions on the Indian side of the LoC, which serves as the de facto border between the two states in Kashmir.

This particular operation was given the codename Operation Safed Sagar. The cause of the war was the infiltration of Pakistani troops - disguised as Kashmiri militants - into positions on the Indian side of the LoC, which serves as the de facto border between the two states in Kashmir. The 60-day-long Kargil War, from May 3 to July 26, 1999, took place after Pakistani troops were detected on top of the Kargil ridges. Pakistan had started planning the attack in 1998 itself.

During the Kargil War, the gallant soldiers of the Indian Army triumphed over the Pakistani invaders with undaunted courage and determination, tweeted @adgpi.  The Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Army worked in close coordination, and airpower inflicted heavy damage on the intruders and also reduced casualties on the ground.


Capturing Indian peaks in Kargil sector was a master plan. Pakistan could have exchanged Kargil with Siachen. But there was a flaw in the plan - Pakistan failed to anticipate Indian response. Pakistan underestimated the Indian response. Pakistan has thought that now they are a nuclear power and India would not dare to start a limited or full war. But India (under a caretaker Government) decided to re-capture those posts irrespective of costs as India felt it was deceived by Pakistan.

Pakistani military kept its political leadership in dark till very end. This proved to be fatal. When things went wrong civilian leadership was able to convince the world that they were not involved in the planning. But this was a secret plan of some Pakistani generals without taking the country into confidence. Pakistan found hardly any support from international community because Pakistani friends were not taken into confidence. Even China didn’t openly support Pakistani action. Indian side claimed the moral high ground in the conflict. Americans later forced Pakistan to withdraw from the remaining posts.

The official position of Pakistan till the very end was that Pakistan was not involved in the operation and it was the work for Kashmiri freedom fighters. Thus, Pakistan was unable to support its troops when these soldiers were facing full might of Indian Army. Even Pakistan didn’t take back the body of its fallen soldiers who had sacrificed their life for Pakistan. The much maligned Bofors gun played a major role in India’s driving out the Pakistanis.

This is what actually happened in Pakistan. Over twenty years ago in May 1999, the ongoing Pakistan-India dialogue, was subverted by Operation Koh-i-Paima (KP), popularly known as the Kargil Operation. In Pakistan, a clique in the military high command had autonomously engaged on a divergent track.

The Kargil clique, comprising four generals — including Pakistan’s army chief, General Pervez Musharraf; the Chief of General Staff (CGS) Lt. General Aziz Khan, Corp commander of X corps, Lt General Mahmud, and the commander, Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA), Major General Javed Hasan - planned Operation KP in complete secrecy. The operational command, covering the geographical area of operation as well as the command and control of troops and heavy artillery, was with the Kargil clique. And, hence, they could move troops and ammunition without involving others and sure of success.

The operation was initiated at the end of November 1998, before the Lahore summit. In August-September, Pakistan-India talks on Siachen had ended in deadlock. In October, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed Musharraf as the army chief. Having served in areas along the Line of Control (LoC), the clique was familiar with the terrain. They all believed negotiations alone would not settle Kashmir issue. A plan, almost similar to one presented by Musharraf to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was agreed upon by the clique; Pakistani troops would interdict and block NH-1, the lifeline of Indian troops based in Leh. A panicked India would then turn to the international community. Given the nuclearised South Asia, the international community would advise India to engage with Pakistan. This would lead to negotiations on Kashmir, or at least to India vacating the Siachen glacier it had occupied in 1984.

The clique’s planning was dictated by naïve assumptions that were rooted in delusional reading of the Indian and the international response. Equally, they believed India would not be able to militarily get the Kargil heights vacated. For interdiction, the plan was to occupy around 15-20 peaks. Having crossed over into unmanned areas, the excited young soldiers expanded their presence. They ended up in occupation of 120 peaks. They were now in a logistical stretch, making themselves vulnerable to Indian military attacks. That’s exactly what happened. They were hit by the Indian army with full power and literally pounded.

PM Sharif was first briefed on Operation KP months after it had been initiated. On May 17, armed with complicated maps, the army chief and his key commanders briefed Sharif. The CGS, General Khan, told Sharif he would go down in history as the liberator of Kashmir. When his foreign minister, Sartaj Aziz, reminded Sharif of the Lahore summit and the ongoing negotiations with India, Sharif did not agree. After all, conferences and paperwork would not lead to Kashmir’s liberation. Sharif was on board.

Subsequently, as the days passed, the Operation unfolded to India’s advantage. By mid-June, having sized up the military and diplomatic situation, India was fully in command. Having initially suffered huge casualties, India’s unceasing ground and air attacks inflicted heavy casualties on the Pakistani troops, and disrupted their logistics and supply lines. Faced with artillery pounding, especially of the heavy Bofors guns, Pakistan’s soldiers could only fight on but to no avail. Delhi made winning diplomatic manoeuvres. PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s message was clear - my army will fight to get the infiltrators out, but will not cross the LoC, or open other fronts, provided the international community put pressure on Pakistan to pull back its troops.

With Pakistan’s weakened position, mounting casualties, disrupted supply lines, and no deployment of air power, its diplomats were on the back foot as Pakistan was seen as the aggressor. By end-June, there was panic among the Kargil clique. Sharif was indirectly asked to step in to save the situation. When ill-planned back-channels with Delhi proved useless, the PM flew to Washington asking US to intervene and to basically declare withdrawal. The curtains on Operation KP came with the elected PM’s ouster by the cabal of four who had led the country into a difficult strategic space.

Meanwhile over 20 years later, nothing much has changed. Even if there is no known formal review of Operation KP, the word in the barracks and beyond is that it was a blunder. With the Imran Khan government fully backed by the army command looking for a dialogue opening, nothing has worked in his favour. The days for another Kargil or engaging India with talks are now gone. India has made its stand clear with the abrogation of article 370.

Pakistan wants dialogue as it believes genuine peace between the two countries won’t be possible without resolving Kashmir. But India is in no mood for talks and India’s position is clear that Pakistan will have to vacate POK and Northern areas and merge those areas with Jammu & Kashmir.

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Hornbill Festival: 

Hornbill festival is held in Nagaland during December. The festival is packed with plenty of folk performances and rock shows by local artistes. It's also dubbed as the Festival of Festivals. It's a ten days event where various tribes of Nagaland come together to celebrate their colourful and rich culture. If you're a music lover, then the Hornbill International Rock Contest hosted every year featuring up-and-coming bands across the country. It also showcases the rich traditions of Nagaland across various local tribes.

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