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India assumes G20 Presidency

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In a historic moment, India formally assumed the G20 Presidency, from Indonesia, on December 01, 2022.

The G20, or Group of Twenty, is an intergovernmental forum of the world’s 20 major developed and developing economies, making it the premier forum for international economic cooperation.

On the occasion, the Indian Prime Minister penned an article outlining India’s vision for the G20 Presidency. This was carried by publications across the world. In his article, the Prime Minister said that India looks forward to a Presidency of healing, harmony and hope.

A key element of India’s G20 Presidency will be taking the G20 closer to the public and making it truly a ‘People’s G20’. To realize this, citizen engagement and large scale public participation through various Jan Bhagidari activities are planned throughout the year.

To mark the first day of India’s Presidency, numerous activities were planned. Earlier in the day, a special University Connect event was organized, which virtually brought together students from 75 universities across the country. External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar and Principal Secretary to Prime Minister, Shri P.K. Mishra were among the distinguished speakers at the event. The University Connect event aimed at engaging the youth in G20 activities. School students were also involved through special G20 sessions in various schools.

Taking people participation further, the Hornbill Festival in Kohima featured a special focus on G20. One hundred monuments, including some UNESCO World Heritage sites, were specially illuminated, and citizens were invited to join a selfie campaign on MyGov around these illuminated monuments. Sand artist Shri Sudarshan Pattnaik created sand art of India’s G20 logo on Puri beach in Odisha.

The G20 website recently launched by the PM also seamlessly migrated to the g20.org domain today and India took over the official social media handles, including the twitter handle @g20org, from the previous Presidency.

Drawing inspiration from its G20 Presidency theme of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – ‘One Earth One Family One Future’, India will host over 200 meetings in over 50 cities across 32 different workstreams and would have the opportunity to offer G20 delegates and guests a glimpse of India’s rich cultural heritage and provide them with a unique Indian experience.

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi killed in helicopter crash, official says

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister were killed in a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain and icy weather, an Iranian official said on Monday, after search teams located the wreckage in East Azerbaijan province.

“President Raisi, the foreign minister and all the passengers in the helicopter were killed in the crash,” the senior Iranian official told Reuters, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Iran’s Mehr news agency confirmed the deaths, reporting that “all passengers of the helicopter carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister were martyred”.

An Iranian official earlier told Reuters the helicopter carrying Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was completely burned in the crash on Sunday.

State TV reported that images from the site showed the aircraft slammed into a mountain peak, although there was no official word on the cause of the crash.

State news agency IRNA said Raisi was flying in a U.S.-made Bell 212 helicopter.

Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power with a final say on foreign policy and Iran’s nuclear programme, had earlier sought to reassure Iranians, saying there would be no disruption to state affairs.

Rescue teams fought blizzards and difficult terrain through the night to reach the wreckage in the early hours of Monday.

“With the discovery of the crash site, no signs of life have been detected among the helicopter’s passengers,” the head of Iran’s Red Crescent, Pirhossein Kolivand, told state TV.

Earlier, the national broadcaster had stopped all regular programming to show prayers being held for Raisi across the country.

In the early hours of Monday, it showed a rescue team, wearing bright jackets and head torches, huddled around a GPS device as they searched a pitch-black mountainside on foot in a blizzard.
Several countries expressed concern and offered assistance in any rescue.

The White House said U.S. President Joe Biden had been briefed on reports about the crash. China said it was deeply concerned. The European Union offered emergency satellite mapping technology.

The crash comes at a time of growing dissent within Iran over an array of political, social and economic crises. Iran’s clerical rulers face international pressure over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme and its deepening military ties with Russia during the war in Ukraine.

Since Iran’s ally Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, provoking Israel’s assault on Gaza, conflagrations involving Iran-aligned groups have erupted throughout the Middle East.

In Iran’s dual political system, split between the clerical establishment and the government, it is Raisi’s 85-year-old mentor Khamenei, supreme leader since 1989, who holds decision-making power on all major policies.
For years many have seen Raisi as a strong contender to succeed Khamenei, who has endorsed Raisi’s main policies.

Raisi’s victory in a closely managed election in 2021 brought all branches of power under the control of hardliners, after eight years when the presidency had been held by pragmatist Hassan Rouhani and a nuclear deal negotiated with powers including Washington.

However, Raisi’s standing may have been dented by widespread protests against clerical rule and a failure to turn around Iran’s economy, hamstrung by Western sanctions.

Raisi had been at the Azerbaijani border on Sunday to inaugurate the Qiz-Qalasi Dam, a joint project. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, who said he had bid a “friendly farewell” to Raisi earlier in the day, offered assistance in the rescue.

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(Reuters)

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8 killed and dozens injured after Mumbai billboard collapse

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A least eight people have been killed and about 60 injured after a giant billboard collapsed during a sudden storm in the Indian city of Mumbai, authorities said.

The billboard, measuring 70m by 50m according to the police, fell onto houses and a petrol station in the city’s financial district on Monday.

About 20 to 30 people are still feared to be trapped with a rescue operation under way, emergency services said.

The billboard fell after a rain and dust storm hit the city of Mumbai, ripping up trees and causing travel chaos and power outages.

Footage on local news channels shows the huge billboard swaying in the wind before giving way and crashing into the buildings near a busy road in the city’s eastern suburb of Ghatkopar.

Video posted on social media appears to show the immediate aftermath at the petrol station, with vehicles crushed under the fallen advertisement hoarding.

In photos from the scene, emergency teams can be seen working through the wreckage. dramatic video footage also shows rescue workers pulling out a victim from under the fallen billboard and using power tools to cut the metal.

In a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said “speedy winds” caused the collapse and that several agencies including police, fire and national disaster response teams were involved in the rescue operation.

Devendra Fadnavis, the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra state, said a “high-level inquiry has been ordered into the incident.”

She adde that the state government would provide financial assistance of 500,000 rupees (£4,767) to the families of those killed and wounded in the incident.

Flights were temporarily suspended at the city’s international airport during the storm with at least 15 planes diverted, local media report.

Mumbai is one of several cities in India prone to severe flooding and rain-related incidents during the monsoon season – which is usually between June and September.

(BBC News)

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Former Indian envoy to Sri Lanka, enters politics

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Former Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu has joined India’s ruling BJP and is contesting the elections. After Sri Lanka, he also served in the United States.

He is a BJP candidate from the Amritsar seat and on Friday he declared his total assets worth Rs 39.92 crore, according to his poll affidavit, the NDTV reported.

Sandhu, 61, on Friday filed his nomination papers in Amritsar for the June 1 Lok Sabha polls.

According to his affidavit, Sandhu declared moveable and immovable assets owned by him and his wife to be Rs 10.88 crore and 29.04 crore, respectively.

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