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India Takes Over G-20 Presidency, Modi Calls For 'Mindset Shift'

NEW DELHI, Dec 1: As India takes over the G20 presidency, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today called for a "shift in fundamental mindset to benefit humanity as a whole."

India's year-long G20 presidency will be "inclusive, ambitious, decisive, and action-oriented", Modi said, adding that it will encourage an honest conversation on mitigating risks posed by weapons of mass destruction and enhancing global security.

India today began its G20 presidency with a focus on counter-terrorism and "unity" in tackling global challenges, such as economic slowdown and climate crisis.

The government also seeks to build consensus on debt sustainability and creating disaster and climate-resilient infrastructure. India's G20 plans also include a special focus on startups and bridging the digital divide.

India will host as many as 200 meetings across the country over the next one year, with the first one being held in Udaipur later this week. The G20 Summit will be organised in New Delhi in September 2023.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that the G20 platform seeks to forge common ground on key issues among prominent countries. "Our endeavor as the G20 chair is to make that consensus more relevant through wider consultation," he said.

Starting today, 100 monuments across the country, including UNESCO world heritage sites, will be lit up highlighting the G20 logo for a week.

Indian Prime Minister unveiled the logo and the theme for India's G20 presidency last month. The logo depicts a lotus flower and a globe, while the theme for India's G20 presidency is -"One Earth, One Family, One Future" - which highlights its commitment to 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' (world is one family).

India was handed over the presidency of the influential bloc at the closing ceremony of the previous G20 summit in Bali that was hosted by Indonesia on November 15 and 16.

The G20 or Group of 20 is an intergovernmental forum of the world's major developed and developing economies. The group comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, the US and the European Union.

The member countries represent around 85 per cent of the global GDP, over 75 per cent of the global trade, and about two-thirds of the world population.

India’s agenda during its G20 Presidency will be inclusive, ambitious, action-oriented, and decisive

By Narendra Modi

NEW DELHI, Dec 1: Today, India commences its G20 Presidency.

The previous 17 Presidencies of the G20 delivered significant results — for ensuring macro-economic stability, rationalising international taxation, relieving debt-burden on countries, among many other outcomes. We will benefit from these achievements, and build further upon them.

However, as India assumes this important mantle, I ask myself — can the G20 go further still? Can we catalyse a fundamental mindset shift, to benefit humanity as a whole?

I believe we can.

Our mindsets are shaped by our circumstances. Through all of history, humanity lived in scarcity. We fought for limited resources, because our survival depended on denying them to others. Confrontation and competition — between ideas, ideologies and identities — became the norm.

Unfortunately, we remain trapped in the same zero-sum mindset even today. We see it when countries fight over territory or resources. We see it when supplies of essential goods are weaponised. We see it when vaccines are hoarded by a few, even as billions remain vulnerable.

Some may argue that confrontation and greed are just human nature. I disagree. If humans were inherently selfish, what would explain the lasting appeal of so many spiritual traditions that advocate the fundamental one-ness of us all?

One such tradition, popular in India, sees all living beings, and even inanimate things, as composed of the same five basic elements — the panch tatva of earth, water, fire, air and space. Harmony among these elements — within us and between us — is essential for our physical, social and environmental well-being.

India’s G20 Presidency will work to promote this universal sense of one-ness. Hence our theme — “One Earth, One Family, One Future”.

This is not just a slogan. It takes into account recent changes in human circumstances, which we have collectively failed to appreciate.

Today, we have the means to produce enough to meet the basic needs of all people in the world.

Today, we do not need to fight for our survival — our era need not be one of war. Indeed, it must not be one!

Today, the greatest challenges we face — climate change, terrorism, and pandemics — can be solved not by fighting each other, but only by acting together.

Fortunately, today’s technology also gives us the means to address problems on a humanity-wide scale. The massive virtual worlds that we inhabit today demonstrate the scalability of digital technologies.

Housing one-sixth of humanity, and with its immense diversity of languages, religions, customs and beliefs, India is a microcosm of the world.

With the oldest-known traditions of collective decision-making, India contributes to the foundational DNA of democracy. As the mother of democracy, India’s national consensus is forged not by diktat, but by blending millions of free voices into one harmonious melody.

Today, India is the fastest growing large economy. Our citizen-centric governance model takes care of even our most marginalised citizens, while nurturing the creative genius of our talented youth.

We have tried to make national development not an exercise in top-down governance, but rather a citizen-led “people’s movement”.

We have leveraged technology to create digital public goods that are open, inclusive and interoperable. These have delivered revolutionary progress in fields as varied as social protection, financial inclusion, and electronic payments.

For all these reasons, India’s experiences can provide insights for possible global solutions.

During our G20 Presidency, we shall present India’s experiences, learnings and models as possible templates for others, particularly the developing world.

Our G20 priorities will be shaped in consultation with not just our G20 partners, but also our fellow-travellers in the Global South, whose voice often goes unheard.

Our priorities will focus on healing our “One Earth”, creating harmony within our “One Family” and giving hope for our “One Future”.

For healing our planet, we will encourage sustainable and environment-friendly lifestyles, based on India’s tradition of trusteeship towards nature.

For promoting harmony within the human family, we will seek to depoliticise the global supply of food, fertilisers and medical products, so that geopolitical tensions do not lead to humanitarian crises. As in our own families, those whose needs are the greatest must always be our first concern.

For imbuing hope in our future generations, we will encourage an honest conversation among the most powerful countries — on mitigating risks posed by weapons of mass destruction and enhancing global security.

India’s G20 agenda will be inclusive, ambitious, action-oriented, and decisive.

Let us join together to make India’s G20 Presidency a presidency of healing, harmony and hope.

Let us work together to shape a new paradigm — of human-centric globalisation.

@ The writer is the prime minister of India

Expect Russia to be part of all processes, says India on G20 presidency

NEW DELHI, Dec 1: India said on Thursday it expects Russia to be part of all the processes of G20 as it assumed the presidency of the grouping against the backdrop of persisting differences among its members over the Ukraine war.

“Russia is a member of the G20 and hence we would expect them to be participating in these processes,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a weekly media briefing while responding to questions about the divisions within the G20 over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Bagchi noted that the G20 works on the important principle of consensus, and India’s efforts as president of the grouping of the world’s 20 largest economies will be aimed at building consensus. This was the stance taken by India at the G20 Summit in Bali last month and this approach will continue, he said.

“I would not be able to say anything further except to say that the grouping needs to speak with one voice, particularly on important issues affecting the world. We will certainly focus on issues that are affecting the developing world, the Global South, such as food, fuel and fertilisers,” he said.

India, which began its year-long G20 presidency on Thursday, and Indonesia, the previous president, played a key role in finalising a joint communique at the Bali summit amid deep divisions between Russia and the West. German ambassador Philipp Ackermann said on Wednesday that coping with the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be one of the “most difficult issues” for India’s G20 presidency.

“The decisive moment will be September [2023] when the [G20] summit comes together. But as it stands now, I think dealing with Russia will be one of the most difficult issues in this [G20] presidency,” Ackermann told reporters.

Bagchi pointed out that the world order has changed and structures and institutions of the past need to change to tackle contemporary challenges. India’s part in the G20 reflects these changes and the world cannot work with the structures of the past to address the challenges of today, he said.

Responding to a separate question on a media report that sanctions-hit Russia has sent India a list of more than 500 products it requires, including parts for cars, aircraft and trains and raw materials, Bagchi said: “We have regular engagement with Russia on how to sustain and expand trade. This has been going on for many years. From time to time, both countries indicate areas of interest or priority that they may be looking at.”

He added, “I would urge that nothing more should be read into this.”

The Indian government has not joined the West in openly criticising Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and it has sharply increased purchases of Russian crude and fertilisers in recent months. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting in September that today’s era is “not of war”.

‘Didn’t give veto power’: Delhi stings Beijing on protest over India-US exercise

NEW DELHI, Dec 1: India on Thursday rejected China’s opposition to an India-US joint military exercise being held near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and said New Delhi does not give a veto to any third country on such matters.

China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday opposed the holding of the latest edition of the India-US exercise “Yudh Abhyas” at Auli in Uttarakhand, 100km from the LAC and said the drills violate border management agreements signed by China and India in 1993 and 1996.

“Let me emphasise that the exercises that are going on with the US in Auli have nothing to do with the 1993 and 1996 agreements,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told a weekly media briefing in response to questions on the position taken by China.

In a tacit reference to China’s actions in Ladakh sector of the LAC where Indian and Chinese troops have been locked in a standoff since May 2020, Bagchi added, “But since these [exercises] were raised and we are talking about them and it was raised by the Chinese side, let me emphasise that the Chinese side needs to reflect and think about its own breach of these agreements of 1993 and 1996.”

The Indian side has accused China’s People’s Liberation Army of violating several border management agreements and protocols by massing troops along the LAC and building infrastructure in disputed regions.

Twenty Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese troops were killed at Galwan Valley in June 2020, taking relations to their lowest point in six decades.

Though the two sides have withdrawn frontline troops from Pangong Lake, Gogra and Hot Springs, they have been unable to disengage at crucial friction points such as Demchok and Depsang despite more than two dozen rounds of diplomatic and military talks.

Bagchi declined to comment on a new Pentagon report that said China warned US officials not to interfere in Beijing’s relations with New Delhi amid the LAC standoff and reiterated that India does not give a veto to anyone on the relationship with the US.

India, Bagchi pointed out, expects the diplomatic and military talks with China to have objectives and lead to results. “What we want from our side is very clear – we have said there should be disengagement and de-escalation,” he said.

The annual Yudh Abhyas exercise, currently in its 18th edition, aims to enhance interoperability and sharing of expertise between the Indian and US armies for peacekeeping and disaster relief operations. The nearly two-week exercise began last month.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, while responding to a question from a Pakistani journalist at a media briefing in Beijing on Wednesday, said the India-US military exercise “close to the LAC at the China-India border violates the spirit of the agreements between China and India in 1993 and 1996”. Zhao added, “It does not serve the mutual trust between China and India.”

China Covid Lockdowns Shut Delivery Workers Out Of Their Homes

BEIJING, Dec 1: Overworked, underpaid and thoroughly fed up, Wang's troubles deepened even further when authorities abruptly locked down the delivery driver's Beijing apartment block earlier this month.

Officials in the Chinese capital have doubled down on the country's hallmark zero-Covid policy in recent weeks, one of an array of cities to impose sweeping shutdowns, mass testing and teleworking mandates as caseloads have hit all-time highs.

Wang is not alone in feeling frustrated.

The ruling Communist Party's uncompromising zero-Covid strategy -- now in force for about three years -- has stoked anger and resentment, with widespread and sometimes violent protests kicking off across China's major cities.

Pandemic fatigue has been on the rise for some time, as a recent lightening of virus curbs has coincided with record infection tallies, prompting a patchwork of onerous restrictions in multiple major cities.

China is the last major economy wedded to a zero-Covid strategy, but maintaining relatively low numbers of cases and deaths has constrained its economic recovery, disrupted supply chains and hammered employment.

Demand for deliveries has soared under the tightening curbs as millions of housebound urbanites have turned to an army of low-paid couriers -- mostly migrants from other provinces -- to supply takeaway lunches and grocery orders.

But this time the restrictions have crept deep into places where drivers live, shutting many inside without pay and forcing others to choose between having a place to sleep and earning enough money to survive.

Wang, who scoots back and forth across a wealthy financial district delivering food orders for internet giant Meituan, said his housing compound was cordoned off on November 7 after two Covid cases were discovered.

Desperate not to lose his income -- about 250 yuan ($34) a day -- the 20-year-old broke lockdown rules by vaulting a fence to make his shifts, sneaking back in under cover of darkness.

"I have no choice. If I don't make money, I can't pay rent," said the native of the industrial northern province of Shanxi.

"Lots of delivery guys don't have anywhere to live at the moment," he told AFP outside a deserted office block on a cold winter afternoon last week.

"I'm really dissatisfied with the Chinese government, because other countries aren't strict about Covid any more," he said.

"We're going to such great lengths... and I don't feel it's necessary, because nobody is dying from it."

The news agency withheld Wang's full name to protect him from potential repercussions for breaking lockdown and criticising the state.

When a shutdown loomed over Gu Qiang's housing compound last week, the Meituan driver chose to sleep in his car.

"Spending 30 yuan to keep the engine running all night is still cheaper than getting a hotel," the gruff northeast China native said.

"Some of my friends are living outside -- they dare not go home."

Several couriers interviewed by a news agency described heavier workloads in recent weeks as lockdowns have left their companies short of labour.

While some said they were happy to take on money-spinning extra orders, most said they had endured longer working hours, extra stress and more negative interactions with customers.

They also said they had not received any additional support from Meituan or the companies to which delivery services have been outsourced.

Authorities last year launched an investigation into food delivery platforms following claims of exploitative labour practices including algorithms that effectively forced couriers to drive dangerously to meet tight delivery times.

But the company told the state-run China Daily newspaper last week that it had paid for hotel rooms for some stranded workers and welcomed calls for help from couriers in similar situations.

Meghan Markle In Tears As Prince Harry Talks About Family In New Docuseries

NEW YORK, Dec 1: Netflix aired the long-awaited emotionally charged trailer of the docuseries, "Harry & Meghan." The six-part docuseries shed light on the couple's love story and their lives in the royal family.

The trailer was released on Netflix's Twitter account along with the caption, "Harry & Meghan. A Netflix Global Event. Coming soon, only on Netflix." The trailer has accumulated more than 1 million views on Twitter. The couple is asked in the trailer, "Why did you want to make this documentary?" followed by a series of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex photos both in public and private moments.

In the 1 minute 12 second teaser, Prince Harry is heard saying, "No one sees what's happening behind closed doors, I had to do everything I could to protect my family." Further in the video, Meghan can be heard saying, "When the stakes are this high doesn't it make more sense to hear our story from us?"

In one of the shots, Prince Harry is shown with his head tilted back as his wife appears to wipe away her tears with both hands.

Omid Scobie, a close friend and biographer of the couple, tweeted that the series would be aired on December 8, adding it will share "the other side of their love story and the challenges they faced".

The announcement coincides with Harry's elder brother William's first trip to the United States as Prince of Wales and another race row within the family back home.

William -the heir to the throne - has been forced to part ways with one of his godmothers after she used racially charged language to a black British woman at a palace reception on Tuesday.

Harry and Meghan, a mixed-race former television actress, cited racism in the royal household as one of the reasons for their acrimonious departure almost three years ago.

Royal insiders described William's visit to Boston to present his annual climate change awards to innovators on Friday as his "Superbowl moment".

But Scobie tweeted that "if tomorrow is Prince William's Super Bowl, then here's your Halftime Show" as he shared the trailer.

"With commentary from friends, family, and historians discussing the state of the British Commonwealth today (and the Royal Family's relationship with the press), the Netflix series aims to 'paint a picture of our world and how we treat each other," he added.

The family will be braced for more revelations from the docuseries and Harry's autobiography "Spare", which is due out in January.

Spanish PM, US Embassy Targeted in Wave of Letter Bombs

MADRID, Dec 1: Spanish police were investigating Thursday a series of letter bombs sent to targets including the prime minister and the US embassy, similar to one which went off at the Ukrainian embassy, hurting a staff member.

The interior ministry revealed that an envelope with "pyrotechnic material" had arrived at Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's official residence on November 24. It was destroyed in a controlled explosion.

Spain's High court meanwhile announced it had broadened an initial investigation over the Ukraine embassy letter bomb to cover the all the other incidents.

Both announcements came a day after the security officer at Ukraine's embassy in Madrid suffered a light injury to one hand while opening a letter bomb addressed to the Ukrainian ambassador, an incident that prompted Kyiv to boost security at its embassies worldwide.

That letter, like the others discovered, arrived by regular mail.

Later in the evening, a second "suspicious postal shipment" was intercepted at the headquarters of military equipment firm Instalaza in the northeastern city of Zaragoza, the interior ministry said.

Instalaza makes the grenade launchers that Spain donates to Ukraine.

Then on Thursday morning letter bombs arrived and at the defence ministry; and at an air base in Torrejon de Ardoz, just outside Madrid, from where weapons donated by Spain are sent to Ukraine.

"The characteristics of the envelopes, as well as their content, are similar in the five cases," Spain's Secretary of State of Security, Rafael Perez, told journalists.

"There are signs that indicate that the letters came from Spanish territory, but I insist we must be prudent...we are at the beginning of the investigation."

A few hours after he spoke the interior ministry said another letter "with similar characteristics as the others" had been intercepted at the US embassy in Madrid.

Ukraine's ambassador to Spain, Serhii Pohoreltsev, appeared to blame Russia for the letter bomb at its embassy.

"We are well aware of the terrorist methods of the aggressor country," he said during an interview late Wednesday with Spanish public television.

"Russia's methods and attacks require us to be ready for any kind of incident, provocation or attack," he added.

But in a statement Thursday, Russia's embassy in Spain said: "Any threat or terrorist act, especially those that target a diplomatic mission, is to be totally condemned."

The letter to the defence ministry was addressed to Defence Minister Margarita Robles. The one sent to the air base was meant for a European Union satellite centre located there.

That centre supports the bloc's foreign and security policy by gathering information from satellite imagery, according to its website.

After scanning the envelope that arrived at the air base by X-ray, security officers determined it contained "a mechanism", the ministry statement said. Police were still analysing the envelope.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba ordered the strengthening of security at all of their embassies, the country's foreign ministry spokesperson said Wednesday after the letter bomb went off at the embassy in Madrid.

Spain's interior minister said it had ordered increased security measures at all embassies and consulates in the country, as well as "other sites that require special protection".

Security had already been boosted in February after the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In addition to sending arms to help Ukraine, Spain is training Ukrainian troops as part of a European Union programme and providing humanitarian aid.

Will Speak To Russia's Putin In 'Coming Days': France's Macron

WASHINGTON, Dec 1: French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday he would speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin soon, expressing hope that negotiations over ending the war in Ukraine were "still possible."

On an official trip to Washington, Macron said he planned to talk with his Russian counterpart "in the coming days."

"I want first to have this state visit and have in-depth discussion with President Biden and our teams together," the French president told ABC's "Good Morning America" show that aired shortly before Macron was welcomed at the White House by President Joe Biden.

Macron has engaged multiple times with Putin, who has become a pariah to the West for launching an invasion of neighbor Ukraine in February that has cost thousands of lives.

"My conviction and my pragmatic approach is to say, I have to engage with the existing leaders and the one in charge of the country," Macron said.

"Because if we do believe in national sovereignty, we can not decide to say that a precondition is regime change to start negotiating."

The French president expressed optimism over Ukraine's progress in resisting Moscow but cautioned that a long and difficult war lay ahead.

"Ukraine is clearly having a very positive counteroffensive, (but) saying they are winning the war is probably too early."

He stressed a "sustainable" peace that ends the conflict could still be hammered out.

"I think it's still possible" to return to negotiations, he told ABC.

As to whether Putin could be a faithful and reliable participant in peace negotiations, Macron suggested the verdict was still out.

"If I had the answer, I would be around the negotiating table with him," he said.

But he made clear he believed "a good peace is not a peace that will be imposed on the Ukrainians by others."

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