Gulf blockade: Qatar hugs and makes up with its warring neighbours – but will it last? wonders Mustafa Menshawy, Lancaster University, elaborating on a situation at one end of the MENA that lasted hardly more than three years, whereas the similar one at the other end of the region continues unabated for the last forty years. It is that of the ongoing North African situation, but that is another story. In the meantime, let us read Mustafa’s.
Shortly after four Arab countries – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt – imposed an embargo on Qatar in 2017, I flew into the country’s capital Doha. Hamad airport – usually buzzing with visitors from the Gulf countries (one of every four visitors to Qatar in 2015 came from Saudi Arabia) – was eerily quiet.
The four countries severed ties with Qatar in June 2017 after they accused Doha of supporting terrorism. They demanded the shutdown of Qatari news network Al Jazeera as well as calling on the country to downgrade its relations with Iran. Doha defiantly rejected the accusations and agreed to mediation from Kuwait and the US to end the standoff.
Qatar has estimated its losses from the blockade in the billions of dollars – citing factors such as “industrial-scale theft of content from its sports broadcaster BeIN by rival Saudi network BeoutQ and the manipulation of its currency by the four countries. So, when they agreed on January 5 to lift the embargo and restore diplomatic relations with Qatar, all sides were keenly anticipating any economic benefits the restored detente might bring.
Qatar may be the smallest of the Gulf states – but it’s the richest. So when, hours after the agreement, foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani talked about the possibility of the country’s sovereign wealth fund investing in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, his hint would have been well received in Riyadh.
Dangling the carrot of investment is a good way of appeasing Saudi Arabia, which is keen to attract foreign investment to back Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s grandiose modernisation projects as well as respond to the country’s long-term need to secure new export markets and diversify its oil-dependent economy.
But the biggest sign of the new detente has so far been in the tone of Qatar’s news media. Top of the list of the 13 demands placed on Qatar by the four countries was shutting down Al Jazeera.
Qatar didn’t shut the network down – but watching the network in the days after the blockade ended, one could feel the difference. Bulletins no longer include regular news on “violations” by the Saudi regime. The channel even rebranded the Saudi Crown Prince, who it had vociferously attacked just a few weeks ago for “tarnishing the image of the Saudi state”. Now Bin Salman is represented as a rising peacemaker engaged in relations of “fraternity”. This was symbolically reflected in the way he hugged Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani when the Qatari emir arrived in Riyadh for their meeting on the sidelines of the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Saudi Arabia on January 5.
Coverage of Qatar by Saudi network Al Arabiya has also softened considerably, something picked up on by the BBC, which even hosted analysts to comment of the repeatedly screened scene of the hugging between the two leaders. “It was a hot hugging”, commented one analyst, of the enthusiastic way the two leaders embraced when meeting at the airport in Riyadh.
The reconciliation has brought a sense of relief in all four countries. Ordinary people paid a deep humanitarian price – many are linked by close tribal ties and there are thousands of cases of cross-border intermarriage (to give you an idea of how close the Saudi Arabia and Qatar are, consider that it takes just an hour to drive from Doha to Saudi territory).
In Qatar, I heard many stories of families split apart when Qatari nationals were ordered to leave their three Gulf neighbours within 14 days. More than 12,000 residents in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE were also ordered to leave Qatar. Social media is now full of videos of families jubilantly crossing “Abu Samra”, the land border between Saudi Arabia and Qatar within hours of the agreement.
This may all sound like a return to normality, but sceptics pointed to the fact that, while the two feuding leaders talked of “brotherly unity” and desires for “Gulf unity”, neither mentioned an agreement on any of the issues that caused the crisis. On the one hand, everyone’s a winner – but, on the other, we don’t know how or why. The situation has been described as a “detente borne more of exhaustion than compromise”.
The 13 demands made by the other Gulf states of Qatar remain unmet. For example, the Qatari foreign minister has already scotched a demand for Qatar to reduce its ties with Iran by shutting down diplomatic posts in Iran or expelling members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, saying a couple of days after the agreement that his country would not alter relations with Tehran.
So this dispute is far from ended and there is a lot of tension brewing under the surface. Saudi Arabia, for its part, sees Iran as an “existential threat” and is unlikely to take no change as a negative answer.
Others believe that for Bin Salman, temporarily easing the tension with Qatar is “low-hanging fruit” – something achieved with relative ease ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th US president. Biden is known for his critical attitude towards Riyadh’s approach to human rights.
There is no sign that Qatar is also heeding the other demands, including closing Turkey’s military base outside Doha. Turkey is popular among Qataris. You’ll see cars with number plate stickers featuring the Turkish flag – or even with the image of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
With so few issues apparently actually resolved, it’s little wonder that it took just days for new signs of tension to reappear after the agreement. The UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said following the GCC summit that Doha still has questions to answer, including: “How is Qatar going to deal vis-à-vis interfering in our affairs through support of political Islam? Is Turkey’s presence in the Gulf going to be permanent?”
These are the same questions asked of Qatar long before the four countries issued their ultimatum in 2017. It’s tension that is likely to outlive the warmth engendered by those televised hugs.
Forests and other ecosystems have been neglected in efforts to fight global warming, say officials and activists, calling for a joined-up approach to tackling biodiversity and climate crises.
BARCELONA, Dec 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Five years ago, when the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change was adopted, storing planet-warming carbon in ecosystems such as tropical forests, wetlands and coastal mangroves was not seen as a major part of the solution.
Now officials and environmentalists say goals to limit global temperature rise cannot be met without nature’s help.
Ahead of a U.N. “Climate Ambition Summit” to mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris accord on Saturday, held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they said threats to plants, wildlife, human health and the climate should be confronted together.
“It is time for nature to have a more prominent role in climate discussions and solutions,” said Brian O’Donnell, director of the Campaign for Nature, which works with scientists, indigenous people and conservation groups.
“Global leaders can no longer deal with the climate and biodiversity crises in isolation if we are to be successful in addressing either of them,” he added in a statement.
It noted scientific estimates that protecting the planet’s ecosystems could provide at least a third of the reductions in emissions needed by 2030 to meet the aims of the Paris pact.
Under that deal, nearly 200 countries agreed to limit the average rise in global temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and ideally to 1.5C above preindustrial times.
But the Earth has already heated up by about 1.2C and is on track to warm by more than 3C by the end of the century, the United Nations said this week.
Understanding has accelerated in recent years about the crucial role ecosystems on land and sea play in absorbing carbon emitted by human activities – mainly from burning fossil fuels – and curbing potentially catastrophic planetary heating.
In 2019, a U.N. climate science report said the way the world manages land, and how food is produced and consumed, had to change to curb global warming – or food security, health and biodiversity would be at risk.
Zac Goldsmith, Britain’s minister for the international environment and climate, said nature had been “left behind” and life on the planet was being exhausted at a “terrifying speed”, as forests were cut down and seas polluted.
“We are denuding the world at a rate that would have seemed impossible to humans a century ago,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
As host of the next major U.N. climate negotiations in November 2021, in Glasgow, the British government has vowed to put protection for forests and natural systems firmly on the political agenda.
Goldsmith said the COP26 team was aiming to build a global coalition of governments and businesses committed to preventing deforestation in supply chains.
That follows a proposed new UK law requiring large companies to ensure the commodities they use – such as cocoa, rubber, soy and palm oil – are not linked to illegal forest clearing.
Britain also will push for countries to phase out close to $700 billion in annual subsidies worldwide for land use that harms the environment and degrades carbon-storing soils, such as intensive farming, he added.
That money could be redirected into efforts to safeguard ecosystems – something sorely needed as less than 3% of international climate finance from donor governments and development banks is spent on that purpose, Goldsmith said.
Financial markets, meanwhile, have yet to recognise the value of nature or the true cost of destroying it.
U.N. officials working on a new large-scale effort to channel payments to tropical countries and smaller jurisdictions that lock up carbon in rainforests hope to start turning that problem around by COP26.
Last month, they launched a “Green Gigaton Challenge” that aims to catalyse funding for 1 billion tonnes of high-quality emissions reductions a year by 2025 from forests in regions including the Amazon and Congo Basin.
Doing so would cut emissions by the equivalent of taking 80% of cars off American roads, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Tim Christophersen, head of nature for climate at UNEP, said the initiative was spurred by surging business interest in forest protection as a growing number of large firms commit to cutting their emissions to net zero by mid-century or earlier.
That means companies such as Microsoft, Salesforce and Disney need to offset emissions they cannot eliminate themselves by paying to reduce them elsewhere, through projects such as restoring degraded forests.
Under the gigaton challenge, donor governments will invest public money to put a floor under the price per tonne of carbon stored – which could be about $10-$15 – aimed at rewarding successful nature protection efforts that companies will eventually pay even more to back.
Countries including Costa Rica and Chile have shown interest in participating, but deals have yet to be brokered between forest-nation governments and the private sector.
Over the past decade, U.N. agencies have worked to develop the basis for a robust market in forest carbon offsets – but without firm international rules, carbon prices have not risen high enough to provide an incentive to keep trees standing.
“There is a need for countries to see some sort of reward for results” at a price that makes protecting forests financially viable, said Gabriel Labbate, UNEP’s team leader for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).
The United Nations and others are still waiting for governments to iron out differences over a system to use carbon credits to meet emissions reduction targets under the Paris pact.
Christophersen warned that companies – especially in the oil and gas industry – should not see supporting forest protection as an alternative to slashing their own emissions.
“Nature is not a substitute for emissions reductions in other areas, and in particular for getting off fossil fuels,” he said.
(Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)
Hard work in completing scientific research and reaching creative solutions using the Young Scientists Center’s latest technologies resulted in Qatar University bags six prizes at global innovation contest. It is told in The Peninsula of 7 December 2020.
The Qatari pride was expressly reconfirmed in the country’s continuous support to all leaders of development and pioneers of the knowledge-based economy to fulfil Qatar National Vision 2030.
Doha: Four distinguished scientific projects of Qatar University’s (QU) Young Scientists Center (YSC) won six international prizes at the International Invention, Innovation & Technology Exhibition in Malaysia (ITEX).
The event was organised in cooperation with the International Federation of Inventors’ Associations and the Institute of Engineering and Technology. This achievement, which represents the State of Qatar and QU, was achieved in a strong competition that included 250 entries.
ITEX is an international competition held online this year, which targets school students and university students. This competition has several rules and guidelines that determine the type of projects that are qualified and the categories in which they can participate and compete. The exhibition provides a unique opportunity for all participating inventors to gain recognition for their inventions and showcase their innovative projects, and compete globally through the platform that it provides to them. Four groups of students affiliated with the centre’s programmes participated in projects developed at Qatar University laboratories using the latest equipment and research methods.
Sarah Al Obaidly, a student at the College of Engineering, and Maryam Al Kuwari, a student in the College of Arts and Sciences at Qatar University, affiliated with the ‘I am a Researcher’ programme, won the gold medal and an award in the “Top Three of Excellence” category, for a project titled “Functionalized polymer membrane for wastewater treatment, whose importance lies in purifying water from impurities.”
High school students Tamim Al Rashed and Youssef Al Mahmoud from Qatar Banking Studies and Business Administration school won the gold medal for a hydrogel sensor for agricultural applications that aims to improve soil properties and fertility.
Abdullah Al Janahi and Abdullah Al Nasr, Qatar Science and Technology school students, won the gold medal for a project entitled Intelligent and Robust Composite Nanofibers for the Autonomy of Electronic Devices.
As for the preparatory stage, Ahmed Majed and Ahmed Salama from Al Kaaban preparatory school for boys won a bronze medal and an award in the “Top Three of Excellence” category for a project titled ‘COVID-19 pandemic inspired at home innovation: Through an unconventional remote educational model executed by the Qatar University Young Scientists Center’. This project demonstrates the novel and effective educational methods applied by the centre to face the challenges of distance learning and to ensure students learn in a way that stimulates creativity and innovation.
The students’ outstanding success was pleasing to the sponsoring programme of the centre, “Ras Laffan Industrial City Community Outreach Program”. Their pride was expressed in the outcomes of hard work in completing scientific research and reaching creative solutions using the Young Scientists Center’s latest technologies at Qatar University. The programme affirmed its continuous support to all students to become the leaders of development in the country and pioneers of the knowledge-based economy to fulfil Qatar National Vision 2030.
HortiDaily‘s story on Jordanian women trained on modern agricultural technology published on 29 October 2020 is about empowering young women with leadership skillsets in the agricultural sector. This should not come as a surprise whereas elsewhere in the MENA region, Arab women are thriving in science and math education.
Sahara Forest Project and Al Hussein Technical University (HTU) completed the first phase of the Technical Training Program in Agricultural Technology, where 15 female trainees from seven different universities took part in a field tour of the Sahara Forest Project site in Aqaba.
This program comes to support and empower young women to obtain employment opportunities and the skills required to take leadership positions in the agricultural sector and support the applications of modern agricultural technology in Jordan.
Director of Sahara Forest Project in Jordan, Frank Utsola, expressed his pride in participating in bettering the opportunities of a group of young Jordanian women and widen their horizons to change the future of the agricultural sector in Jordan. “The young women were excited. During the tour, they asked about everything, every tiny detail, which gave me confidence in this group and their ability to find new ideas and applications in the agricultural sector and supports their visions for the future of agriculture in Jordan.”
Ms. Zein Habjoka, Program Manager at HTU was also positive, saying: “Today we launch a new path for the active female workforce in the agricultural sector. Today we offer students the opportunities, skills, and knowledge required to enable them to assume leadership positions and highly skilled jobs in the agricultural sector.”
Yasmine, one of the participants in the program, added: “Participating in this program and interacting with the project managers helped me a lot to understand what I want and how I can achieve it. Here I learned that there are many applications of agricultural technology that may help Jordan make use of its resources better and overcome the food security challenges that it faces.”
The female training program is supported by the Norwegian government and Costa Crociere Foundation. The importance of the program stems from the fact that food and water security is one of the most important objectives on the national agenda in Jordan, as it has become imperative to empower the younger generation to support small and large projects that work on the principle of sustainability in energy, water and food.
The training program was designed to utilize partnerships between the academic and industrial sectors, whereby expert Ruba Al-Zoubi and Zeina Fakhreddin guided the trainees throughout the course of the training, in addition to cooperating with the Mira Association to develop irrigation and agricultural methods.
The project harnesses renewable resources such as seawater and solar energy (panels seen on the roof of the building in the picture above) to produce desalinated water and cool greenhouses, which allows the cultivation of all types of crops throughout the year and makes the use of arid lands possible.
Sahara Forest Project was inaugurated in Jordan in 2017 under the patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon of Norway.
The current demonstration facility is located 12 kilometres outside the city centre of Aqaba. It uses saltwater, sunlight and desert areas to produce vegetables, freshwater, biomass and clean energy. The ambition of the project is to rapidly scale up- It is the understanding of the parties that the new land will have an area of 200,000 SQM allocated to develop the project, and another 300,000 SQM for further roll-out.
International cooperation to combat trafficking and terrorism, factors in destabilizing the MENA region by University professor, international expert Dr Abderrahmane MEBTOUL is given on the occasion of U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s Maghreb tour in Tunis, Algiers and Rabat.
This visit is officially aimed at strengthening ties with these three North African countries to combat terrorist threats. This visit to Algiers follows that of the head of the US Africa Command (Africom) Army General Stephen Townsend. It is not an insignificant visit because the United States of America considers Algeria, through the actions of its armed forces and its various security services, as a critical player in the stability of the Mediterranean and African region.This is because the stakes in the MENA region foreshadow significant geopolitical and geoeconomic reconfigurations. This region has become a sensitive area with significant rivalries between Russia, China and Europe.
With recent geostrategic tensions, traffic has increased in particular with the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Mali, Niger and Libya. Transnational crime refers to organized criminal networks and consequently to terrorism that benefits from the sale of illegal goods. These international illicit markets, anonymous and more complex than ever, generate billions of dollars each year. This threat is worrying, not only for Algeria but also for the world and especially Europe. In the Sahel, armed groups have increased their capacity for nuisance, diversified into terrorists, insurgents, criminals and militias with a convergence that unites these groups. The most troubling aspect of the connection seems to be how the illegal drug trade undermines efforts to pursue the political reforms and development needed to stem the radicalization and rise of terrorist groups in several already fragile African countries. There is a deep vulnerability of states in the region characterized by poor governance and strong population growth. Only the Sahel, which will see its population double in 25 years, and has more than 100 million inhabitants by 2020. This growth affects human security, especially food security in the region as a whole. This is compounded by inequalities that promote radicalization, due to a combination of factors related to the individual, his relationships, his community and his relationship to society. Nevertheless, there are economic issues, where the Sahel is a space with critical departmental resources. Hence the foreign interference that manipulates different actors in order to position themselves within this strategic corridor and to take control of wealth are numerous. Libya, a wealthy country with a population of no more than 7 million, is an example where different foreign actors clash in interposed groups. The Sahelian arc is rich in resources: after salt and gold, oil and gas, iron, phosphate, copper, tin and uranium are all riches feeding the lusts of powers wishing to ensure control. The drug trade, for example, has the potential to provide terrorist groups with recruits and sympathizers among impoverished, neglected and isolated farmers who can not only cultivate on behalf of traffickers but also popularize and strengthen anti-government movements. More recently, with the impact of the coronavirus epidemic, this situation of vulnerability is likely to increase. The world of tomorrow will never be the same again because of the geostrategic implications in the political, social, security and economic fields at the level of North Africa and Black Africa. In an interview given to the American Herald Tribune of 23 April 2020, the author said: “We Have Witnessed a Veritable Planetary Hecatomb and the World Will Never Be the Same Again.”
In the face of these complex geostrategic situations at the regional level, international coordination is needed, including Maghreb integration, a bridge between Europe and Africa thus contributing to shared prosperity for the Mediterranean and African region to reduce migration flows. (see two important works coordinated by Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul and Dr Camille Sari (from the Sorbonne) were published between 2014/2015 at Paris Edition Harmattan “The Maghreb facing geostrategic issues” – volume 1-dealing of institutions and governance (480 pages) and Volume 2 of the economic strands in different aspects (500 pages) bringing together for the first time -36 international experts, military-political scientists, economists, lawyers, sociologists, historians, Algerian-Moroccan- Tunisian- Mauritanian and Libyan- European).
Faced with these new geostrategic challenges that are upsetting the planet, international terrorism takes advantage of the dysfunctions of state regulation and has at least five characteristics in common. First, on networks often established in large geographic areas where people, goods and money circulate. Second, command control and communication. Third, is their need to process large amounts of money, launder them and transfer them across countries and continents. Fourth, criminals and terrorists tend to have private armies, hence the need for training, camps and military equipment. Fifth, terrorists and criminals in the Sahel region share common characteristics: frequent clandestine operations seeking legitimacy in supporting populations with the use of durable guerrillas to control territory and populations; sixth, contempt for international norms, the rule of law, or the notion of human rights, and a desire to kill those who oppose them; seventh, these guerrillas also create specialized cells specializing in the use of the media and the Internet to disseminate their propaganda and their demands. Thus, we have different forms of transnational organized crime that is an ever-changing industry, adapts to markets and creates new forms of illicit trade that transcend cultural, social, linguistic and geographical boundaries, and knows no limits or rules.
The combination of these various elements in too complex patterns induces a climate of increasing insecurity conducive to the destabilization of the states of the region with different forms of trafficking numbering eight interdependent. First, the traffic of goods amplified for some countries that subsidize necessities such as Algeria, accentuated by distortions in exchange rates. Secondly, the “black” market for weapons and their ammunition, necessarily derived from the “white” market since each weapon is manufactured in a legal factory, is a theme that allows us to understand the wills of power of various geopolitical actors around the world. Arms trafficking is regulated by states that profit from it and the advantage of arms trafficking for terrorists is that they can both use it and make a profit. The best prevention remains a sales control, a contractual framework, i.e. define beforehand the use of weapons and the establishment of international conventions on the sale of automatic or non-automatic firearms. Thirdly, the rise of drug trafficking at the regional level has implications for all of North Africa and Europe where we can identify actors with geostrategic implications where drug traffickers create new national and regional markets to transport their products. In order to secure the transit of their goods, drug traffickers resort to the protection that terrorist groups and various dissents can provide, by their perfect knowledge of the terrain, thus contributing to their financing.
Moreover, according to some intelligence sources, if drug traffickers were a country, their GDP would rank them 20th in the world. Fourth, human trafficking is an international criminal activity in which men, women and children are subjected to sexual exploitation or exploitation through labour. Fifth,as we are currently seeing in the Mediterranean through migrant trafficking, which is an organized activity in which people are displaced around the world using criminal networks, many smugglers do not care whether migrants drown at sea, die of dehydration in a desert or suffocate in a container. Each year, this trade is valued at billions of dollars. Sixth, the trafficking of natural resources which includes the smuggling of raw materials such as diamonds and rare metals (often from conflict zones) and the sale of fraudulent drugs that are potentially lethal to consumers. Seventh, cybercrime, which is linked to the revolution in information systems, can destabilize an entire country militarily, security and economically, encompassing several areas, including increasingly exploiting the Internet to take private data, access bank accounts and sometimes fraudulently obtain strategic data for the country. Digital technology has transformed just about every aspect of our lives, including the notion of risk and crime, so that criminal activity is more effective, less risky, more cost-effective and more accessible than ever. Eighth, money laundering is a process in which money earned by a crime or an illegal act is washed away. It is a matter of hiding the origin of the money to use it after legally (investment, purchases). The multiple tax-havens, clearing companies (also Off Shore) allow hiding the origin of the money.
This different traffic linked to the importance of the informal sphere produces malfunctions of the state apparatuses, in fact, governance, the weight of bureaucracy that maintains diffuse relations with this sphere and exchange rate distortions, representing in Africa according to the latest ILO-2020 report – more than 75/80% of employment and more than 20 50% of gross domestic product(GDP) (Study of Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul – French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) Paris December 2013- The informal sphere in Maghreb countries and its geostrategic impacts). The main determinants of informality can be summarized as follows. First, the weakness of formal employment is obvious. This is a factor that explains the evolution of the informal sector in both developed and developing countries. As a result, the supply of formal jobs in the labour market can no longer absorb all the demand as the labour force; particularly the unskilled labour force is growing at an accelerated rate. Second, when taxes are numerous and too high, businesses are encouraged to hide some of their income. Third, the weight of regulation or the complexity of the business environment discourages business registration. Where the institutional framework is not conducive to the creation of businesses in a formal way, entrepreneurs prefer to operate in the informal sector and avoid the burden of regulation. Fourth, the quality of public services provided by the government is an important determinant of the informal sector because it influences the choice of individuals. Individuals active in the informal sector cannot benefit from public services (protection from theft and crime, access to financing, protection of property rights). That is one of the drawbacks of this sector. Fifth, as a result of economic policy, the primacy of bureaucratic administrative management is required when transparent economic mechanisms refer to governance are required.
In short,Algeria’s security is at its borders; with Mali, 1376 km; with Libya 982 km; with Niger 956 km; with Tunisia 965 km as can be imagined not an easy task. It is because the reading of the threats and challenges facing the world and the region is based on the need to jointly develop a collective and effective response in a strategy on international terrorism, human trafficking and organized crime through drugs and money laundering. All safe for security has limitations that exist dialectical links between development and security. Also, the fight against terrorism implies, first of all, an internal development, linked to new governance of Africa, of regional sub-integrations where inter-African trade according to the UN only exceeds 16/17% in 2019, and to put an end to this inequality where a minority takes over a growing fraction of the national income giving birth to misery and therefore terrorism, referring to the morality of those running the email@example.com
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