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Croatia in World Cup: The Story Of Its Origin



Croatia in World Cup: The Story Of Its Origin

~By Saeed Naqvi

Croatia’s prominence in the football World Cup freshened memories of its origin in the war which expanded after German Foreign Minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher recognized Croatian and Slovenian independence, ahead of other EU countries which were palpitating because German reunification in 1989 had already added to their anxieties.

As the Persian expression goes “Ek na shud, do shud”. Before one source of anxiety could subside, another surfaced. Cardinal Franjo Kuharic headquartered in Zagreb’s magnificent Cathedral, marched off to the Vatican to seek the Pope’s and Italy’s support. This was promptly given. Some EU member countries began to have nightmares of the “Axis” being revived.

I was in the Cardinal’s office in the Cathedral which dominates Zagreb square, when the door of the ante room flung open and Father Juraj Jezerinac of the Topusko Parish walked in. I had been introduced to him at the earliest stages of the conflict in one of the livelier cafes in Zagreb square. He was full of stories. One night his orthodox Serb counterpart from the neighbouring Church compound came to him, looking very conspiratorial.

He had received word from the Orthodox headquarters in Belgrade that Orthodox Priests must lead all Serb populations out of Western Croatia in the Topusko area because the Serb army was preparing to attack the area and annex it as part of Greater Serbia. This was a scoop.

Was further proof required to confirm coordination between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches? They would put aside their intra Church conflicts and join hands against the Bosnian Muslims. The cruel irony was that Sarajevo, the centre of art, music, theatre, literature in former Yugoslavia was primarily a Bosnian Muslim city. Like Lucknow, Sarajevo went down, nursing art and culture, unable to cope with the assault of Philistinism.

At the outset when, some EU members suspected German and Italian encroachments, Britain and France came covertly on the side of Serbia which had been with them during World War II. Gen. Michael Rose, leading the UN Peacekeeping mission in Bosnia became a regular feature on global TV giving briefs on the Bosnian dead on a daily basis.

Nothing could have exceeded Serbian brutality than the four year long siege of Sarajevo. Graphic accounts of this siege, beamed mornings, afternoons, evenings to global audiences on a daily basis, decisively altered the political landscape in Turkey, a development of which the West remained totally oblivious.

Sarajevo derives from Caravan Sarai, pointing to the city’s Ottoman past. The effect of the Bosnian tragedy on the Turkish electorate brought to power Necmettin Erbakan of Refah party, akin to the Muslim Brotherhood. This was anathema to the upholders of Turkey’s secular Kemalist constitution. The Erbakan government was dismissed.

That is when two of Erbakan’s protégé, Tayyip Erdogan and Abdullah Gul reinvented themselves as the (AKP) justice and Development Party. The rest is recent history.

The siege of Sarajevo was graphically chronicled by a daily newspaper, Oslobodenje, which won global awards for its bravery. The paper’s office itself was an astounding sight. The offices and the press were in a huge basement, beneath the debris of a multistoreyed building brought down during the war. The editor, Kemal Kurspahic whom I had met at the last non aligned summit attended by Rajiv Gandhi in Belgrade, looked none the worse for his travails. But he had, nevertheless, developed a mark on his forehead. This happens when the forehead hits the ground for Namaz five times a day over months and years.

“Have you become a devout Muslim?” I asked.

“There is no alternative but God when the world abandons you.” There was conviction in his voice.

“Who helped you publish the paper in these circumstances?”

His reply stunned me.

“George Soros.”

Throughout the four year conflict Europe maintained a hands-off policy to avoid internal divisions within EU. Observers like Salman Rushdie described European restraint as hypocritical.

“You reverse the religious affiliations of the protagonists on the ground and not just NATO but even European forces would have entered the theatre immediately to end the bloodbath.” They refrained from intervention because Muslims were the victim.

Those of us involved in covering the conflict, knew that Rushdie, and others like him, were speaking the truth. But the mainstream narrative was fudged even on such crimes as the Srebrenica massacres in which 8,000 young Bosnian men were separated from their families and shot dead by Serb militias. Why did the Dutch Peace Keeping Forces move away from the site of the massacre?

The 78 day US bombing of Serbia during the Kosovo war was designed to oust the Serbian dictator, Slobodan Milosevic. Russians had been outmaneuvered by the western alliance in a theatre Moscow considered its pan Slavic sphere of influence. Therefore when the responsibility of various part of Kosovo was being distributed between countries of Europe, Russian armoured carriers barged into the area around Pristine airport uninvited. They are still in occupation of that airport. Britain, Germany, France control other segments of Kosovo, a tiny country dotted with exquisite monasteries. The great monastery of Decan in the care of the Italians where priests produce the world’s finest wines and schnapps.

Just as the sun sets, a young priest runs around the building carrying on his shoulder a giant rattle called the tallantone, alerting the inmates just in case the “Turk invader” has eyes on the “House of God”. This hostile mythology is sustained in many countries on the periphery of what was once the Ottoman Empire.

Considering that this World Cup has been a celebration of multiculturalism, how do I explain my being distracted into Balkan tribalism? How swiftly a nation of 4.5 million has made its mark, wrenching itself away from a recent and messy past. Supposing Sefik Ibrahimovic had not migrated from Bosnia to Sweden in 1977 where the great soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic was born? Well, Zlatan could have claimed a slot in the Croatian team with considerable justification. His mother, Jurka Gravic, is after all a Croat. Remember, there was multiculturism in the Balkans too before sectarian tribalism was let loose.

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Bizarre: Man travels across 203 countries in 3,512 days without taking a single flight

Thor travelled via a total of 351 buses, 158 trains, 43 tuk-tuks, 37 container ships, 33 boats, 9 trucks, 3 sailboats, 2 cruise ships, 1 police car, 1 yacht, and a horse-drawn carriage.  He made particular to spend a minimum of 24 hours in each nation during his incredible journey.



Thor Pedersen

Danish citizen Thor Pedersen has travelled to every country in the world. He got there by all means of travel possible — by foot, by car, by bus, by train, by boat, and a container ship. It took the 44-year-old man 10 years to finish this challenging task. Pedersen began his trip in October 2013, reports said.

He claimed to have travelled through every nation in the world without using a plane in 3,512 days, according to reports. Even though there are 195 countries on the United Nation’s official list, Pedersen claims to have visited 203 countries since he included disputed territories.

Pedersen travelled on a total 351 buses, 158 trains, 43 tuk-tuks (autos), 37 container ships, 33 boats, 9 trucks, 3 sailboats, 2 cruise ships, a police car, a yacht, and a horse-drawn carriage.  He made it particular to spend a minimum 24 hours in each country during his journey.

He also travelled to India in the latter half of 2018 and the beginning of 2019. After a remarkable 3,512-day journey, he arrived in the Maldives, his 203rd and last nation, via container ship. Pedersen is now among the 150 people in the world with the most travels thanks to this incredible accomplishment.

On his incredible journey, he said, it was challenging for him to plan for everything that would come his way because this had never been done before. He said he was proud that he never gave up throughout all of this. He was pleased that he was able to bring out the strength which was required.

Pedersen faced enormous challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which left him stranded in Hong Kong for two years. He thought of giving up the project because of the virus’s unknown characteristics and the growing danger. However, he received support from Le, his long-time girlfriend, during the break in his preparations. Interestingly, the pair chose to get married, and Le visited him 26 times during that period.

Thor Pedersen financed his trip with personal savings, business sponsorships, and crowdfunding with a daily expenditure of just $20 (around Rs 1500). Many people followed his incredible journey on social media along the way, joining him there.

He has been working nonstop to record his adventures, and he intends to make a feature-length documentary that highlights his journey. Pedersen will soon release a book, to enable his admirers to find out more about his adventures.

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White House hails India’s democracy, calls it vibrant ahead of Prime Minister Modi’s US tour later this month

A National Security Council official at the White House, John Kirby, while addressing a press conference said the strength and health of democratic institutions will be part of the discussion with PM Modi during his visit to the state.



White House hails India's democracy, calls it vibrant ahead of Prime Minister Modi's US tour later this month

The White House on Monday said India is a vibrant democracy and anybody can witness that on visiting New Delhi dismissing concerns about the health of democracy in India as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit the US later this month.

A National Security Council official at the White House, John Kirby, while addressing a press conference said the strength and health of democratic institutions will be part of the discussion with PM Modi during his visit to the state.

Kirby said the US hopes to have a deeper partnership with India which would strengthen their relations. He further added that India is a strong partner with the US on many levels.

Kirby said there would be additional Defence cooperation between the two nations. He also stated that the economic activities between the two countries were at an all-time high and India, as a Pacific Quad member, is a key partner to the Indo-Pacific security.

He further added America’s relationship with India is multi-dimensional that took place at many levels. Kirby said US President Joe Biden is awaiting Prime Minister Modi’s visit to discuss all the issues and deepen the bond of friendship and partnership between US-India.

Kirby’s comments help in establishing the commitment of the Biden administration to work with the Modi–led government, which has reportedly come under criticism from some political quarters in the US and its media for the alleged depletion of India’s democratic institutions.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, in his recent visit to the US, made remarks on press freedom, institutions, and democracy in India.

While the official visit is on June 22, PM Modi will lead the International Yoga Day celebrations on July 21 at the United Nations in New York. He is likely to meet political and business leaders during his visit. The leaders are expected to discuss China’s actions in Asia and beyond, which are feared to be against their shared interests.        

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Indiana Ophthalmics: Gujarat based company supplies poor quality eye drops in Sri Lanka

On Thursday, Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council (Phermexcil), India’s Centre agency looking after the promotion of pharmaceutical exports from India has sent a notice to the Gujarat company asking an explanation and an internal investigation report on the quality of the Methylprednisolone eye drops.



Indianna Opthalmics - Gujarat based company supplies poor quality eye drops in Sri Lanka

A Gujarat based top pharmaceutical manufacturing firm Indiana Ophthalmics has been accused of supplying poor quality eye drops to Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan government has complained to the Indian government stating that the eye drops supplied by the company has has caused eye infection to 30 people.

On Thursday, Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Council (Phermexcil), India’s Centre agency looking after the promotion of pharmaceutical exports from India has sent a notice to the Gujarat company asking an explanation and an internal investigation report on the quality of the Methylprednisolone eye drops.

Phermexcil Director General Udaya Bhaskar in a letter to Indiana Ophthalmics has stated that the alleged supply of the contaminated eye-drops by the company has dented the reputation of the Indian pharma industry and will have to face trust issues by the international agencies on the export of pharmaceuticals from the country.

A probe has also been started by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation on Thursday, to investigate into the questions of quality concerns being raised on the eye drops being manufactured by Indiana Ophthalmics. The drops were recalled by Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health in April this year saying the patients had reported complications after using them.

The Sri Lankan government claimed to have found bacteria Burkholderia cepacia in the eye drop. The Lankan government has asked the Indian government to compensate the affected patients and has demanded to investigate into the matter. Reports claimed, the firm has been told to stop production of eye drops immediately.

As per reports, the state drug officials had tested the drops and are waiting for results. Reports also said, these drugs require sterility testing hence, the test results will take another 15 days. Once the test results are out, they will be sent to the Sri Lankan government immediately.

A similar case was reported in February 2023, when questions were raised against Tamil Nadu based Global Pharma Healthcare, a firm whose product was allegedly linked with contamination causing blindness and one death in the US.

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