12.02.2019

The Indian papers have commented on the talks between the US and Taliban. But, they are of the view that these negotiations must be Afghan centric and outsiders should be kept out. The unfolding political saga in Thailand in the run up to elections next month has been discussed by the Indian dailies. The Indian press has cited a study that has found many people getting addicted to social network sites.

THE STATESMAN in an editorial ROAD FROM MOSCOW writes the Moscow talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s politicians cannot readily inspire optimism not the least because of the absence of President Ashraf Ghani’s representatives from the high table. Of course, the conference signified a measure of forward movement after last month’s talks between the US and Taliban negotiators in Qatar. Both sides had reached a draft framework under which the US would withdraw troops in exchange for guarantees that the country would not harbour terrorists. The major obstacle persists, however. Chief among these is the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with President Ghani’s government, which they consider to be America’s puppet. To the extent that the Moscow round of the Afghan talks was led by the former President, Hamid Karzai, there can be little doubt that the level of participation undermines its importance. Any major decision on ending the 18-year conflict must of necessity involve the incumbent administration in Kabul. Difficulties are bound to arise at the stage of implementation. While the talks are significant, peace may yet be a long way away. The comity of nations has repeatedly stressed the need for the process to be “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned”.

THE HINDU in an editorial A CURIOUS BID says the rather unusual move by a member of Thailand’s royal family to announce a bid for the office of Prime Minister has ignited greater interest in the country’s general election. Ubolratana Rajakanya, King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s sister, subsequently had her nomination withdrawn — but the fact that the prospect drew a public disapproval from the King is an indication of how closely the palace is tracking the contest.

The larger question concerning the March 24 poll is the prospect of Thailand’s credible return to civilian rule, after the 2014 military coup that deposed the government of Yingluck Shinawatra. The military general-turned-Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, is contesting as the candidate of the Palang Pracharat party, known for its pro-military and pro-palace leanings. The constitution drafted by his ruling National Council for Peace and Order, and ratified in a 2016 popular referendum, introduced a voting system that provides for a wholly nominated Upper House of Parliament and allotment of seats to army officers. King Vajiralongkorn had granted approval for its promulgation only after withholding some other controversial provisions. The March general election has been long overdue.

FINANCIAL EXPRESS in an editorial DIGITAL DETOX observes the world is more ‘connected’—strictly in the digital sense—and yet the disconnect/alienation digital devices (a proxy for staying ‘connected’) foster in the real world is impossible to ignore. While all this ‘connectedness’ , per se, may not be ‘evil’—it saves time, money, and energy—how the world has taken to digital technology, reflected in the growing screen times across countries, there has been unpleasant, indeed, damaging fallout. Research shows that social media may well be making many of us unhappy, depressed and—paradoxically—antisocial. Even Facebook gets it. A study that Facebook cited in a blog post revealed that when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information, they wind up feeling worse. Excessive users and readers of online media have also reported feeling isolated, a lack of sleep, stress, inability to focus and addiction. In India, a door-to-door survey of 2,750 people funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) revealed 5-9% in the 15-50 age group were addicted.