Rajat Sharma

How Modi consoled the girls who narrowly missed the hockey bronze

Modi was behaving like a doting father trying to console his daughters. He told them, “Do not worry, the entire nation is with you. They support you. You have shed your sweat, you toiled very hard, even if you may have not won the medal, your toil and dedication will inspire millions of daughters.” Soon, the video went viral throughout India like a raging fire.

AKB Viewers of electronic and social media on Friday witnessed a gesture that was expected from a statesman. Such a gesture from Prime Minister Narendra Modi shows he is indeed different from the rest. The entire nation of 1.3 billion was glued to TV sets watching the Olympic hockey bronze play-off match between India and Britain and people were expecting our brave girls to win. Our team played very well till the last minute but they narrowly missed out on the medal losing 3-4. They may have lost the medal, but they have won the heart of every Indian.

The crestfallen girls sat on the turf weeping after the match was over. Soon afterwards, the Prime Minister of India was on the phone with a video call. The girls were at a loss for words. Most of them were weeping, even when Modi was praising their performance on the phone. “Why are you all disheartened? Please, everyone, stop crying. The entire country is proud of you. After so many years, hockey, which had been India’s identity in sports, has been reborn”, said the Prime Minister.

Modi was behaving like a doting father trying to console his daughters. He told them, “Do not worry, the entire nation is with you. They support you. You have shed your sweat, you toiled very hard, even if you may have not won the medal, your toil and dedication will inspire millions of daughters.” Soon, the video went viral throughout India like a raging fire.

I would like every Indian to watch this video and hear what the PM told the hockey players. I am fully confident that the sterling performance of our women hockey players at Tokyo Olympics will set an example for our future generations. Nobody expected our girls to beat a world class team like Australia in the quarter-final, but they did the unthinkable. For the first time in Olympic history, Indian women reached the semi-final. They may not have won the medal, but their efforts will inspire our youngsters in the years to come.

While speaking to the girls, Modi noticed a bruise above Navneet’s eye. He inquired about the injury in details. Nobody expected a Prime Minister to take such a minute care about the players. Modi also noted how Salima Tete sped fast with the ball during the match. He knew how much toil Vandana put in while guarding the goal post. Who, after all, speaks to players when they lose? This is a picture of a changing India, where the toil of athletes is respected, and not wins or losses. Modi has set an example. Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik also spoke to the players. Odisha government had sponsored both the men and women hockey teams and had borne the cost of food, training and accommodation of all players. All the hockey players thanked Patnaik for his help.

War in Afghanistan

At a time when our prime minister was busy speaking to our hockey players, reports were coming in from Afghanistan about fierce fighting going on between Taliban and the Afghan defence force. Taliban has occupied Zaranj, the provincial capital of Nimroz, bordering Iran. It was India’s Border Roads Organization, that built the 218 kilometre long Zaranj-Delaram highway in Afghanistan at a cost of $150 million. This highway connects to a garland highway that connects Kandahar in the south, Ghazni and Kabul in the east, Mazar-i-Sharif in the north and Herat in the west. This strategic highway is also connected to Iran’s Chabahar port, from where India had an alternative land route to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan. India had sent 75,000 tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan from Chabahar port during the Covid pandemic.

On Friday, the UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan said that the war has now entered a deadlier phase with more than 1,000 civilians killed by the Taliban during the last one month. In a high-profile assassination on Friday, the top media spokesperson of Afghan government Dawa Khan Menapal was shot by Taliban gunmen inside his car near Kabul, when he was going to a mosque to offer prayers.

On Friday, India TV defence editor Manish Prasad, along with cameraman Balram Yadav, reached Mazar-e-Sharif in an Afghan Air Force helicopter. Soon after they landed, they noticed firing going on. Mazar-e-Sharif, the fourth largest city of Afghanistan, in only 55 km away from Uzbekistan border. It is also close to the Tajikistan border. Afghan army commanders told Manish that fighting was going on at a strategic point, which, if captured by Taliban, may provide them easy access to Mazar-e-Sharif. Once Mazar-e-Sharif falls, the Taliban can easily march towards Kabul.

While Manish was reporting on camera, there were sounds of firing going on in the distance. I admire the courage of Manish and Balram, who have been sending regular updates from the war zone. I pray for their safety and I have asked them not to take unnecessary risks during reporting. The Taliban’s intentions are violent. They have killed many social media activists, photographers and reports in the past one month, and have shamelessly taken credit for these killings. Till the time Manish and Balram are there in the war zone, I will continue to show you their regular updates.

Meanwhile, fierce door-to-door fighting is also going on in Helmand province, where Taliban has captured nine out of ten districts. The Afghan army is in control of the city, and fighting is going on since last eight days. Hundreds of women with children have fled the city towards Kandahar and are hiding in villages to save themselves from Taliban attacks. More than 100 Taliban fighters have been killed in fighting that is still raging.

India, China disengagement in Gogra Heights

On Friday, a piece of good news came from Ladakh. After 12 rounds of talks between corps commanders of both armies, both India and China disengaged from Gogra Heights on August 4 and 5 quietly, and this was announced in a statement on Friday. In effect, this disengagement has led to the creation of a nearly 5 kilometre long no-patrolling buffer zone. Temporary structures on both sides have been dismantled and the troops on both sides have returned to their permanent posts. This physically verified pullback took place at patrolling point 17A, which is near India’s crucial Gogra post. This is the second disengagement of both troops since February, when they pulled back to their respective positions on the north and southern bank of Pangong lake.

The face-offs between both armies however continue at Gogra-Hot Springs and Depsang Bulge, about which talks will take place later. At present, 50 to 60 thousands troops from both sides have been deployed in Ladakh which falls in the western sector of Line of Actual Control. In Galwan Valley, which witnessed bloody conflict in May last year, only 30 soldiers from both sides have now been posted, to keep a watch. In the second layer, there are 50 soldiers each from both sides.

The disengagement at Gogra Heights is a welcome development, but we, in India, will have to keep our eyes open. The Chinese have this peculiar habit of testing the patience of both friends and enemies. If the other side is weak, they pile on the pressure, and if the other side flexes its muscles, the Chinese back out. In the border faceoff with China during the last two years, India never flinched for a moment, and promptly engaged in mirror deployment of troops, tanks and fighter planes. India developed its infrastructure in Ladakh during this period, and its vast troop and armour deployment matched the preparations made by China.

The disengagement at Gogra was the result of continuous diplomatic efforts that went on between both countries. The foreign ministers of India and China discussed Ladakh on the sidelines of SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) meeting in Dushanbe, capital of Tazikistan. The back channel discussions showed results at the corps commander talks held in Moldo, Ladakh. But, one must take note: Conflicts with China are never solved speedily or easily. China has border disputes with not only India, but several Asian countries. While dealing with China, Indian diplomats and strategists try to be very, very careful. There is an old Hindi saying, “Doodh ka jalaa, chhaach phoonk phoonk kar peeta hai” (which literally means, If you burn your lips while sipping hot milk, you blow air even while drinking curd).

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