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Gotabaya Rajapaksa sworn in as 7th President of Sri Lanka

Gotabaya Rajapaksa
Gotabaya Rajapaksa
Former Defence Minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa was on Monday sworn in as the seventh Executive President of Sri Lanka after winning the crucial election held on November 16.
 
Rajapaksa, who contested the presidential election from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party, was declared as the President on Sunday upon his victory, the Daily Mirror reported.
 
The swearing-in ceremony took place in Ruwanwelisaya located in the ancient Buddhist city of Anuradhapura.
 
SLPP and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, party Chairman G. L. Peiris, National Organiser Basil Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and other political leaders attended the ceremony.
 
Gotabaya won the majority Sinahala votes of 6,924,255, or 52.25 per cent, from a total valid 13,252,499 ballots cast in the November 16 election.
 
The former Defence Secretary in the government of his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, oversaw victory in the 26-year-long war against rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the North and East in 2009.
 
Out of 25 administrative districts, Gotabaya won 16: Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Monaragala, Ratnapura, Badulla, Kurunegala, Puttalam, Gampaha, Kandy, Matale, Polonnaruwa, Colombo, Kegalle and Anuradhapura.
 
However, he was heavily defeated in Tamil and Muslim-majority Northern and Eastern Provinces. The Tamils in all five administrative districts in the Northern province -- Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mulaitivu, Vavuniya, Mannar, and the majority Muslims in three districts in the Eastern Province -- Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara -- voted against Rajapaksa with lead of 80 percent in most districts.
 
The November 16 election was the third since the end of the civil war and the first after the April 21 Easter Sunday bombings which killed over 250 people this year.
 
IANS
 

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4 killed in mass California shooting

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At least four people were killed and six others injured in a mass shooting by "unknown suspects" who remain at large in California's Fresno city, police said.
 
Fresno police said that 10 people were shot on Sunday night in the backyard of a house on the 5300 block of East Lamona Avenue near Caesar Avenue, reports The Fresno Bee.
 
Fresno Police Lieutenant Bill Dooley said it was a "mass casualty incident".
 
"Officers arrived on scene... What we found were several individuals deceased in the backyard." he said.
 
Dooley said that "unknown suspects" "snuck" into the backyard and opened fire and then fled the scene.
 
"What we do know is that this was a gathering, a family and friend gathering in the backyard," he said. "Everyone was watching football when unknown suspects approached the residence, snuck into the backyard and opened fire."
 
This was at least the second fatal gun attack on Sunday in Fresno. A man in his 20s was shot dead earlier in the day at a home.
 
The police has not said if the two shooting incidents were related.
 
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Bangladesh gas line explosion kills at least 7

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At least seven people were killed and 10 injured in a gas line explosion near a port in southern Chittagong city of Bangladesh, police said.
 
The incident occurred in the Pathorghata area of the city, police deputy commissioner Mehedi Hasan told EFE on Sunday.
 
"At least 17 people were injured in the incident. Seven of them were declared dead in a hospital. There could be some pedestrians among the victims," he said.
 
Mehedi said a part of a five-storied building also collapsed after the explosion.
 
"We are suspecting that the explosion occurred due to a leak in the gas line," he said.
 
Alahuddin Mia, a sub-inspector at the police camp of Chittagong Medical College Hospital, said some of the injured were taken to the hospital in critical condition.
 
Gas line explosion is not uncommon in Bangladesh, where poor maintenance is often blamed for such accidents.
 
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Gotabaya Rajapaksa elected as Sri Lanka's new President

Gotabaya Rajapaksa
Gotabaya Rajapaksa
Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a former Defence Minister and also the brother of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, on Sunday won Sri Lanka's presidential election but lost in almost all of the minority Tamil and Muslim provinces of the island nation.
 
Gotabaya Rajapaksa won in most of the Sinhala majority southern districts, according to the results announced by 12 noon.
 
However, he lost the Tamil-majority civil war-affected Northern Province and the Muslim-dominated Eastern Province with a vote percentage of 65 to 70 per cent.
 
Rajapaksa was defeated in all of the Northern Province's five districts -- Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mulaitivu, Vavuniya, Mannar -- and three districts in the Eastern Province -- Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Ampara -- almost all affected by the three decade long war.
 
The Eastern Province was also the hometown of key ringleaders of the April 21 Easter Sunday suicide bombings which claimed the lives of over 250 persons and injured more than 400 others.
 
Rajapakasa received 51.41 per cent vote with 4,940,849 ballots, while his nearest rival, the New Democratic Front (NDF) and UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa received 42.72 per cent of 4,106,293 voted.
 
According to the country's law, the President contender must receive 50 per cent or over to win the election.
 
While congratulating Rajapaksa on his victory, Premadasa in a statement said he would step down as Deputy Leader of the ruling United National Party with immediate effect.
 
"At the conclusion of a hard-fought and spirited election campaign, it is my privilege to honour the decision of the people and congratulate Gotabaya Rajapaksa on his election as the seventh President of Sri Lanka," Premadasa said.
 
"I express my heartfelt gratitude to all of our citizens who voted for me, in all corners of the island. I am humbled that you placed your faith in me. Your support has been a fountain of strength throughout my 26-year-long political career."
 
In the Tamil-majority Northern Province, the polling percentage was recorded around 70 per cent with 66 per cent voter turnout in Jaffna district. Former war-affected districts Kilinochchi polled 73 per cent, Mullaitivu 76 per cent, Vavuniya 75 and Mannar 71 per cent.
 
The percentage was a little less than the 2015 Presidential election when average voting percentage was 81.52 per cent out of which incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena won with 51.28 per cent with 6,217,162 votes while Mahinda Rajapaksa garnered 47.58 per cent with 5,768,090 votes.
 
Sirisena won in 12 districts while Rajapaksa won 10 districts.
 
Around 80 per cent of the nearly 16 million eligible Sri Lankans voted on Saturday to elect the country's next President.
 
The final results were expected by Sunday 6 p.m. and it is expected that the new President would take oath later in the day.
 
A record 35 candidates contested for the Presidency, but the main fight was between the two front-runners.
 
Gotabaya is a retired soldier who took over Sri Lanka's defence portfolio during the period when his older brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa was President (2005-2015) and also when Sri Lanka ended its war in 2009 with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
 
On the other hand, Sajith Premadasa, the son of Ranasinghe Premadasa who served as the President from 1989 until he was assassinated in May 1993 by the LTTE, had pledged to fight for the Muslim and Tamil minorities.
 
IANS
 

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80% voter turnout recorded in Sri Lanka presidential polls

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena casts his ballot at a polling station in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka, November 16, 2019.(Photo by Ajith Perera/Xinhua/IANS)
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena casts his ballot at a polling station in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka, November 16, 2019.(Photo by Ajith Perera/Xinhua/IANS)
About 80 per cent voter turnout was recorded in Saturday's presidential election in Sri Lanka, which is still reeling from the wounds of the nearly three-decade-long civil war and also the brutal Easter Sunday terror attack that took place just seven months ago.
 
Meanwhile, ballot boxes were transported to counting centres after polling ended at 5 p.m., The Sunday Times reported.
 
The voting, which began at 7 a.m., took place across 12,845 voting centres.
 
Saturday's contest was focussed on the two front-runners -- Sajith Premadasa (52) from the ruling New Democratic Front (NDF) alliance and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna's (SLPP) Gotabaya Rajapaksa (70) -- in a crowded field of a record 35 candidates.
 
This is the highest number of contenders since the first presidential election in 1982. In 2015, only 18 had contested.
 
Gotabaya (70) is a retired soldier who took over Sri Lanka's defence portfolio during the period when his older brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa was President (2005-2015) and also when Sri Lanka ended its war in 2009 with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
 
While the family's political future appeared to be fading after Mahinda's defeat in 2015, the April 21 Easter bombings that killed 269 people, lent wings to Gotabaya's candidacy.
 
While campaigning, he presented himself as a nationalist and champion of the Sinhalese Buddhist majority, while also promising strong national security in the wake of the April attacks.
 
On the other hand, Sajith Premadasa, the son of Ranasinghe Premadasa who served as the President from 1989 until he was assassinated in May 1993 by the LTTE, has pledged to fight for the Muslim and Tamil minorities.
 
The votes from the minority community had also played a major role in Sirisena's 2015 victory.
 
Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the leader of the Marxist party, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which led to youth insurrections in 1971 and 1987-1988, has emerged as the third popular candidate, followed by former Army Commander Lt. General Mahesh Senanayake, who formed the National People's Party (NPP) after he left the army last August.
 
If Premadasa wins the election, the incumbent cabinet and government would continue until the next general election to elect lawmakers. But if Gotabaya Rajapaksa is elected and proves 113 majority power in Parliament, there is a possibility of a change of government.
 
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Sri Lanka votes in eighth presidential election

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Voting was underway across Sri Lanka on Saturday to elect the eighth President of the island nation which is yet to recover from the wounds of the nearly three-decade-long civil war and also the brutal Easter Sunday terror attack that took place just seven months ago.
 
Voting which started at 7 a.m. at 12,845 polling centres island-wide, will end at 5 p.m., reported the Daily Mirror newspaper.
 
A total of 15,992,096 Sri Lankans are eligible to cast their ballots in a contest that will witness a battle between a record 35 candidates.
 
This is the highest number of contenders since the first presidential election which was held in 1982, and up from 18 candidates who contested the last one in 2015.
 
An Election Commission (EC) official said that the results were expected by Saturday night.
 
"We cannot tell the exact time. But, it will be midnight. It all depends on the efficiency of officials on election duty and counting," the Daily Mirror quoted the official as saying.
 
Although there are 35 candidates in the fray, it appears that only Sajith Premadasa (52) from the ruling New Democratic Front (NDF) alliance and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna's (SLPP) Gotabaya Rajapaksa (70) are the main contenders for the country's highest office, Efe news reported.
 
Gotabaya is a retired soldier who took over Sri Lanka's defence portfolio during the period when his older brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa was President (2005-2015) and also when Sri Lanka ended its war in 2009 with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
 
While the family's political future appeared to be fading after Mahinda's defeat in the 2015 presidential election, the April 21 Easter bombings on churches and luxury hotels - in which 269 people lost their lives - lent wings to Gotabaya's candidacy.
 
He has presented himself during the presidential campaign as a nationalist and champion of the Sinhalese Buddhist majority, while promising strong national security in the wake of the April attacks.
 
On the other hand, questions about whether he gave up his US citizenship before filing his nomination have sparked controversy over the legality of his candidature.
 
Meanwhile, Sajith Premadasa is the son of Ranasinghe Premadasa, who served as the President from 1989 until he was assassinated in May 1993 in Colombo in a suicide bombing by the LTTE.
 
The Minister of Housing and Construction is seen as the most likely contender to defeat Gotabaya, and has pledged to fight for the Muslim and Tamil minorities, who believe him coming to power could help safeguard their rights.
 
The votes from minority Tamils and Muslims had also played a major role in the election of incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena in January 2015.
 
The other main candidates are Anura Kumara Dissanayake leader of the Marxist party, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which led to youth insurrections in 1971 and 1987-1988.
 
The fourth popular contender is former Army Commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake who formed the National People's Party (NPP) after he left the army last August. He led the army in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks in flushing out radicals.
 
If Premadasa wins the election, the present cabinet and government would continue until the next general election to elect lawmakers.
 
And if Gotabaya Rajapaksa manages to win and proves 113 majority power in Parliament, there is a possibility of a change of government.
 
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Modi calls for boosting intra-BRICS trade to $500 billion

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at the Leaders' Dialogue with the BRICS Business Council and New Development Bank, in Brasilia, Brazil on November 14, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at the Leaders' Dialogue with the BRICS Business Council and New Development Bank, in Brasilia, Brazil on November 14, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday pushed for boosting intra-BRICS trade and investment and urged that a roadmap be readied for increasing the trade to $500 billion by the next summit.
 
Addressing the Leaders' Dialogue with BRICS Business Council, Modi said the partnership agreement inked between New Development Bank and BRICS Business Council will be beneficial to both sides.
 
He also urged that the BRICS nations -- comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- and the NDB join the Coalition for Disaster Resistant Infrastructure.
 
"Till the next summit a roadmap for achieving $500 billion intra-BRICS trade target should be drawn up by the BRICS Business Council," the Prime Minister said. He said that intra-BRCS trade stands at just 15 per cent of global trade, in comparison to their combined population which was over 40 percent of that of the world.
 
He appealed that the process for setting up a regional office in India of the NDB be completed at the earliest, which would help implement the projects in priority areas.
 
Modi said that strengthening the BRICS business links could be achieved with the full cooperation of the NDB and the BRICS Business Council.
 
He also called for enhanced focus on agriculture, health, SMEs, credit and rating agencies.
 
The Prime Minister later tweeted: "At the interaction with BRICS Business Council and NDB I made the following suggestions:
 
Charting a roadmap for Intra-BRICS trade to the tune of $500 billion.
 
Harnessing the agro-tech start-up network for people's betterment.
 
Hackathon in India on Apps working in healthcare.
 
"I also suggested:
 
A working group to share best practices from our respective small and medium enterprises.
 
Strengthening the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure so that we can have even more effective systems in place to help our people."
 
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Modi invites Brazilian President Bolsonaro to be chief guest at R-Day parade

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Brasilian President Jair Bolsonaro, on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit, at Brasilia in Brazil on November 13, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Brasilian President Jair Bolsonaro, on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit, at Brasilia in Brazil on November 13, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday invited Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to be the chief guest at the Republic Day 2020, which he has accepted.
 
Meeting on the margins of the 11th BRICS Summit here, the two leaders agreed that "on this occasion the two countries can comprehensively enhance our strategic partnership".
 
"PM Modi said that he looked forward to discussing matters relating to trade. He also outlined areas for potential investment from Brazil , including in areas of agricultural equipment, animal husbandry, post-harvest technologies and biofuels," said a MEA statement.
 
The President of Brazil expressed his readiness and informed Modi that a large business delegation will accompany him to India.
 
They also discussed other areas of cooperation including space and defence sectors. Modi welcomed the decision of the Brazilian President to grant visa free travel to Indian citizens.
 
Modi tweeted: "Met President @jairbolsonaro on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Brazil. Grateful to him and the people of Brazil for hosting the Summit.
 
"During our talks today, we discussed furthering cooperation in areas pertaining to the economy, connectivity and people-to-people ties."
 
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Modi, Xi meet in Brasilia, agree to maintain close dialogue on trade, investment

Holding bilateral talks nearly a month after the Mahabalipuram informal summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on the importance of maintaining close dialogue on matters relating to trade and investment.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Chinese President  Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit, at Brasilia in Brazil on November 13, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit, at Brasilia in Brazil on November 13, 2019.
Holding bilateral talks nearly a month after the Mahabalipuram informal summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on the importance of maintaining close dialogue on matters relating to trade and investment.
 
Prime Minister Modi, who met the Chinese President on the sidelines of the BRICS summit here, tweeted: "Held talks with President Xi Jinping. Several subjects pertaining to deepening bilateral cooperation were discussed.
 
"Today's discussions will add new vigour to India-China relations."
 
During the talks, the Chinese president conveyed his deep appreciation to Modi for hosting him at the 2nd Informal Summit in Mahabalipuram and said he would not forget the welcome given to him by the Prime Minister and the people of India, said an MEA statement.
 
He invited Modi for the Third informal summit in China in 2020, the date and venue for which will be determined through diplomatic channels.
 
Xi thanked Modi for India's substantial participation in the just concluded China Import Export Expo in Shanghai.
 
The two agreed that the new High Level Mechanism on Trade and Economy, decided at the Mahabalipuram summit, should meet at an early date.
 
Both reviewed preparations for celebrating the 70th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries next year and agreed that this will enhance people-to-people relations.
 
The leaders noted that the Special Representatives will hold another meeting on matters relating to the Boundary Question and reiterated the importance of maintaining peace and security in the border areas.
 
The leaders also exchanged views on multilateral issues including WTO, BRICS and RCEP.
 
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Modi, Putin hold "excellent" talks, strengthen bilateral ties

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi had an "excellent" meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the BRICS summit here, during which the two leaders reviewed the full range of bilateral ties.
 
Modi tweeted on Wednesday: "Had an excellent meeting with President Putin. During our talks, we reviewed the full range of India-Russia relations. India and Russia are cooperating extensively in areas such as trade, security and culture. The people of our nations will benefit due to close bilateral ties."
 
The PMO handle tweeted, with a photo of the two leaders meeting, "Adding strength to India-Russia ties."
 
During the meeting, their fourth this year, President Putin reiterated his invitation to Modi to visit Moscow to participate in the Victory Day celebrations next year, which the Prime Minister accepted.
 
Putin also highlighted the potential of the Arctic region in natural gas and invited India to invest in the region.
 
Both the leaders reviewed the progress made in the bilateral relationship since Modi's visit to Vladivostok in September. Modi specifically mentioned the successful visits of Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh and Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan to Russia, a statement from India's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) statement said.
 
The two leaders noted with satisfaction that the $25 billion target of bilateral trade by 2025 has already been achieved. They decided that the 1st Bilateral Regional Forum at the level of Russian Provinces and Indian States would be held next year to dismantle the barriers of trade at the regional level.
 
The two leaders noted the stability and progress made in imports of oil and natural gas and reviewed the progress in the field of Infrastructure, particularly railways, in context of raising the speed of the Nagpur-Secunderabad sector railway line.
 
The leaders also noted with satisfaction the cooperation in the defence sector and in the field of civil nuclear energy and also welcomed the prospects of cooperation in civil nuclear energy in third countries.
 
The two also noted that both sides shared common position on international issues and agreed to continue close consultations in the future.
 
IANS

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Modi arrives in Brasilia for BRICS summit, to meet Putin, Xi

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday arrived in the Brazilian capital for the 11th BRICS summit.
 
On Wednesday, he is scheduled to hold talks with the presidents of Russia, Brazil and China - Vladimir Putin, Jair Messias Bolsonaro, and Xi Jinping, respectively.
 
He will also attend the BRICS Business Forum Closing Ceremony, attend a cultural presentation and a welcome dinner hosted by the Brazilian president.
 
The theme of the 11th BRICS summit is "Economic Growth for an Innovative Future".
 
The BRICS comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
 
A large business delegation from India is also attending the BRICS business forum here.
 
On November 14, the leaders would attend a restricted session, which would be a closed door session.
 
Later, Modi would attend the BRICS plenary where the leaders will discuss intra-BRICS cooperation for economic development of their societies, he added.
 
MoUs would be signed between the trade and investment agencies, after which a BRICS joint declaration would also be issued.
 
The five major emerging economies comprise 42 percent of the world's population, having 23 percent of the global GDP and 17 percent of world trade.
 
"I would be taking part in this year's BRICS Summit being held in Brazil on November 13 and 14. The Summit's theme is 'Economic growth for an innovative future.' I look forward to holding discussions with BRICS leaders on greater cooperation in a wide range of areas," Modi said on Tuesday ahead of his departure.
 
He said on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit, he would be addressing the BRICS Business Forum and interacting with BRICS Business Council as well as the New Development Bank. "Improving economic linkages augurs well for the BRICS nations," he said.
 
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16 die, 58 hurt in Bangladesh train accident

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At least 16 people were killed and 58 injured on Tuesday after a collision between two passenger trains in Bangladesh's Brahmanbaria district.
 
The accident occurred at around 3 a.m. when a train bound for Dhaka was travelling on the same railway track as another going to the port city of Chittagong, about 100 km from Dhaka, Police Chief Anisur Rahman told Efe news.
 
"(The) Dhaka-bound Turna Nishita train hit Chittagong-bound Udayan Express on the back damaging four to five wagons," said Rahman.
 
According to Masudu Alam, the administrative chief of Kasba area where the accident occurred, 16 bodies were recovered during rescue efforts, although the number could increase.
 
The police chief reported that 58 people had been found injured so far -- several of them in a serious condition -- and they were transferred to hospitals in Bhramanbaria.
 
Most of the passengers were asleep when the collision occurred.
 
The authorities were yet to reveal the causes of the accident or explain how two trains ended up on the same track.
 
Although train accidents are not uncommon in Bangladesh, this has been one of the worst recorded in recent years.
 
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15 killed after 2 trains collide in Bangladesh

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At least 15 people were killed on Tuesday after a head-on collision between two passenger trains in Bangladesh's Brahmanbaria district, officials said.
 
The Chattogram-bound Udayan Express from Sylhet and Dhaka-bound Turna Nishita from Chattogram collided at Mondobhag Railway Station at around 2.15 a.m. on Tuesday, bdnews24 reported citing Shyamal Kanti Das, chief of Akhaura Railway Police, as saying.
 
Nine people died on the spot, while six others died in different hospitals, according to Deputy Commissioner Hayat-ud-Daula Khan.
 
The accident snapped Dhaka's rail links with Chattogram and Sylhet.
 
The district's police chief Mohammad Anisur Rahman said that the toll was likely to rise as several of the 28 injured persons were in critical condition, adding that a rescue operation was underway.
 
The cause of the accident is being investigated.
 
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Cyclone Bulbul kills 13 in Bangladesh

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At least 13 people have been killed due to falling trees, collapsed houses and illness after cyclone Bulbul ripped through southern Bangladesh, authorities said on Monday.
 
The health directorate's Health Emergency Operation Centre and Control Room, local administrations and police confirmed the toll on Sunday, bdnews24 reported.
 
The storm caused two deaths each in Khulna, Barguna and Gopalganj districts, and one each in Patuakhali, Bhola, Shariatpur, Pirojpur, Madaripur, Barishal and Bagerhat.
 
In Barguna and Bhola, 28 fishermen went missing as a boat was still unaccounted for after it ventured into the sea despite storm warning and another boat sank.
 
The cyclone, which later became a deep depression on Sunday, ravaged about 5,000 homes in the country's south-western coastal districts, according to State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Enamur Rahman.
 
But the extent of the damage is not very high, he said, adding: "We have been able to move the highest number of people to safety."
 
As many as 5,787 safety shelters harboured over 2.1 million people during the cyclone, said Enamur. The evacuees returned to their homes on Sunday.
 
The storm made landfall near Sagar Islands in West Bengal's South 24 Parganas district with its status downgraded to "severe" from "very severe" at about 9 p.m. on Saturday as the gale wind speed dropped to about 115-125 km per hour.
 
It took about three more hours for the entire storm system to move across the shorelines.
 
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Brazil's ex-president Lula released from prison

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
Brazil's former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been released from prison in Curitiba, southern Brazil.
 
The former President was serving his sentence in the Federal Police headquarters in Curitiba. As he left the building on Friday, he was received by a crowd of supporters and fellow politicians from the Workers' Party (PT), Xinhua reported.
 
Lula's release followed a ruling of the Brazil's Supreme Federal Court (STF), made on Thursday evening, which determined that defendants in Brazil will only be arrested after the last appeal of their processes.
 
In Brazil, a case can be appealed three times -- to the local court, the Superior Court of Justice (STJ) and the STF.
 
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Air pollution affects children's brain development: UNICEF

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UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore has warned that air pollution toxicity can affect children's brain development and called for urgent action to deal with the crisis gripping India and South Asia.
 
"I saw first-hand how children continue to suffer from the dire consequences of air pollution," Fore, who recently visited India, said on Wednesday.
 
"The air quality was at a crisis level. You could smell the toxic fog even from behind an air filtration mask," she added.
 
Air pollution affects children most severely and its effects continue all their lives because they have smaller lungs, breathe twice as fast as adults and lack immunities, Fore said.
 
She added that it "damages brain tissue and undermines cognitive development in babies and young children, leading to lifelong consequences that can affect their learning outcomes and future potential. There is evidence to suggest that adolescents exposed to higher levels of air pollution are more likely to experience mental health problems".
 
"UNICEF is calling for urgent action to address this air quality crisis," affecting 620 million children in South Asia.
 
Schools were closed in Delhi till Tuesday because of the severe environmental situation caused by post-harvest burning of stubble in neighbouring states.
 
The Air Quality Index (AQI) on Sunday touched 625, considered "severe plus" level.
 
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5.9-magnitude earthquake in Iran kills 5

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At least five people were killed and over 120 others injured on Friday after an earthquake measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale jolted Iran's East Azerbaijan province.
 
The quake had a depth of 8 km and struck near the city of Tark, around 120 km from the provincial capital Tabriz, at 2.17 a.m., Press TV reported.
 
The tremor caused many people to leave their houses and run to the streets in a state of panic.
 
According to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center (EMSC), some 20 million people felt the quake across Iran and possibly in neighbouring Turkey.
 
The earthquakes' shallow depth amplified the shaking.
 
Aftershocks ranging between 4.1 to 4.8 in magnitude were reported in neighbouring cities.
 
Press TV quoted Mohammad Baqer Honar, head of East Azerbaijan's crisis management centre, as saying that at least eight rescue teams were sent to the affected areas.
 
Initial reports confirmed major damage to houses and buildings in at least three villages in the city of Miyaneh.
 
Iran experiences frequent seismic activity as it sits where two major tectonic plates meet.
 
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Russia assures support for enhancing India’s defence capabilities under ‘Make in India’

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Russia assured full support in enhancing India’s defence capabilities under ‘Make in India’ initiative at the IRIGC-M&MTC meeting co-chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Russian counterpart Gen Sergei Shoigu here on Wednesday.
 
Both sides agreed to constitute specific working groups for after-sales support of key defence platforms.
 
Earlier, Rajnath Singh inspected a  guard of honour at the Russian Defence Ministry in Central Moscow. Welcoming him on his maiden visit to Russia as Defence Minister, Gen Shoigu termed India as an exclusive strategic defence partner.
 
Rajnath Singh emphasised that the special and privileged strategic partnership between the two countries was further strengthened following the Vladivostok Summit in September.
 
He highlighted the importance of the Inter-Governmental Agreement on the manufacturing of spares, components and aggregates in India through joint ventures that would reduce cost, timelines of supply and result in progressive indigenisation. This agreement is expected to provide a major boost to the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
 
Responding to his invitation, Gen Shoigu assured him of robust Russian participation in DefExpo 2020, to be held in Lucknow from February 5-8, 2020. Both the Ministers also welcomed the outcome of the India-Russia Defence Industry Conference held in Moscow on November 5.
 
The Russian side affirmed its readiness to operationalise the joint venture lndo-Russia Rifles Private Limited for the manufacture of world-class Kalashnikov AK 203 rifles in India at the earliest.
 
Rajnath Singh held an in-depth discussion on a range of international issues of common concern. Gen Shoigu briefed him on Russian operations in Syria. The Russian side reaffirmed its strong support to India in the field of counter-terrorism and stated that it accords priority to New Delhi’s security interests in the region.
 
The Russian Defence Minister underlined Moscow’s commitment to extend all possible support in enhancing India’s defence capabilities, including cooperation in advance and cutting-edge technology. Rajnath Singh appreciated Russia’s steadfast support.
 
The ministers reviewed the progress of the two working groups on Military and Military-Technical Cooperation. It was agreed that the coming Tri­Service Indra Exercises will be a major milestone in Military Cooperation between the two countries.
 
The Russian side affirmed its readiness to further deepen exchanges between the respective Military Training Institutions and informed that they would be deputing an officer for the prestigious National Defence College (NDC) course in New Delhi commencing in 2020.
 
Both sides expressed satisfaction on the progress in implementing ongoing contracts concluded in the recent past. Gen Shoigu agreed to his request to constitute specific working groups for after-sales support of key defence platforms. They agreed to intensify efforts to finalise cooperation programme for 2021-2030 period. The ministers directed the respective teams to work closely for early conclusion of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Agreement on Reciprocal Logistics Support.
 
As a special gesture, Gn Shoigu requested Rajnath Singh for the participation of an Indian Military Contingent in the Army Parade on the occasion of 75th Anniversary of the victory in the Second World War.
 
Russian President Vladimir Putin had already extended an invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the celebrations. Rajnath Singh assured him that an Indian contingent would be participating in the parade.
 
As a mark of the long-standing friendship between the Armed Forces of India and Russia, he presented General Shoigu a bowl mounted on a triangular base with three Indian Army soldiers’ statuettes in ceremonial regalia and rifle.
 
A Protocol was signed by the two ministers during the meeting.
 
Rajnath Singh will be visiting St Petersburg later today on the final day of his visit to Russia. His engagements include wreath-laying at the Piskarevsky Memorial Cemetery.
 
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14 killed in southern Thailand attacks

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At least 14 people were killed and several wounded Tuesday night in coordinated attacks attributed to Southern Thailand's Muslim insurgency, according to the military's political arm.
 
Insurgents stormed three security posts in Yala province with firearms, an official from the Internal Security Operations Command told Efe news on Wednesday, adding that the incidents were under investigation. The number of wounded could not be confirmed as of press time.
 
The attacks are yet to be claimed by any of the rebel groups, as is usually the case in the region, reports Efe news.
 
Attacks and killings are common in the southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat despite the deployment of 40,000 security forces members and the impositions of states of emergency and martial law.
 
More than 7,000 people have been killed in the area since the Muslim separatist movement resumed its armed struggle in 2004 after a decade of relative calm, according to estimates of monitoring organization Deep South Watch.
 
Ethnic Muslim Malay Insurgents -- the majority in the region -- denounce discrimination suffered under the Buddhist government, demand more autonomy and even the creation of an independent state that integrates the three provinces. They formerly formed the Pattani Sultanate that Thailand annexed in 1909.
 
IANS

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India decides against joining RCEP mega trade deal

India on Monday decided against joining the 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) mega-trade agreement, saying the present form of the deal "does not address satisfactorily India's outstanding issues and concerns".
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with other world leaders at the 3rd RCEP Summit in Bangkok, Thailand on November 4, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with other world leaders at the 3rd RCEP Summit in Bangkok, Thailand on November 4, 2019.
India on Monday decided against joining the 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) mega-trade agreement, saying the present form of the deal "does not address satisfactorily India's outstanding issues and concerns".
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing the RCEP summit here, outlined India's concerns and said, "It is not possible for India to join the RCEP Agreement".
 
He said India stands for greater regional integration as well as for freer trade and adherence to a rule-based international order. He pointed out that India has been proactively, constructively and meaningfully engaged in the RCEP negotiations since inception. India has worked for the cherished objective of striking balance, in the spirit of give and take."
 
However, in the seven years since the negotiations over RCEP were began, "many things, including the global economic and trade scenarios have changed. We cannot overlook these changes. The present form of the RCEP Agreement does not fully reflect the basic spirit and the agreed guiding principles of RCEP. It also does not address satisfactorily India's outstanding issues and concerns."
 
Modi said Indian farmers, traders, professionals and industries have stakes in such decisions. Equally important are the workers and consumers, who make India a huge market and the third biggest economy in terms of purchasing power parity.
 
"When I measure the RCEP Agreement with respect to the interests of all Indians, I do not get a positive answer. Therefore, neither the Talisman of Gandhiji nor my own conscience permits me to loin RCEP."
 
The other 15 nations in a statement said they have concluded text-based negotiations for all the 20 chapters and all their market access issues. They have been tasked to do the legal scrubbing so that the deal can be signed in 2020.
 
"India has significant issues, which remain unresolved. All RCEP participating countries will work together to resolve these outstanding issues in a mutually satisfactory way. India's final decision will depend on satisfactory resolution of these issues," the RCEP statement said.
 
According to sources, India was not shying away from opening up to global competition across sectors but had made a strong case for an outcome which is favourable to all countries and all sectors.
 
India has also rejected the suggestion that it is making "last minute demands" at RCEP. India's position on this issue has been consistent and clear from the very beginning, sources said.
 
The sources said that India's decision not to join the China-led deal will greatly help India's farmers, MSMEs and the dairy sector.
 
They said that India's stand is a mixture of pragmatism, the urge to safeguard the interests of the poor and the effort to give an advantage to India's services sector.
 
Some issues on which India made its stance clear included the threat of circumvention of Rules of Origin due to Tariff Differential. India pushed for a fair agreement which addressed the issues of trade deficits and opening of services. India also asked for safeguard mechanisms to prevent against import surges and safeguard the interests of domestic industry.
 
India also raised the unviability of Most Favoured Nation obligations where India would be forced to give similar benefits to RCEP countries that it gave to others. There was also no credible assurance for India on market access and non-tariff barriers. India also had very valid concerns on keeping 2014 as the base year for tariff reductions.
 
India played on the front foot, stressing the need to address its concerns over trade deficits and the need for other countries to open their markets to Indian services and investments, the sources added.
 
RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) among the 10-member states of the ASEAN -- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam -- and its six FTA partners China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
 
RCEP member-states account for 3.4 billion people with a total Gross Domestic Product of $49.5 trillion, approximately 39 percent of the world's GDP, with the combined GDPs of China and India making up more than half that amount.
 
IANS
 

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McDonald's fires CEO over relationship with employee

McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook has been fired for violating company policy by having a relationship with an unidentified employee, the company said.
 
The US fast-food giant on Sunday said Steve Easterbrook "demonstrated poor judgment", since the company prohibits senior management from having relationships with other workers, whether they are under their direct supervision or not, Efe news reported.
 
According to MarketWatch, Easterbrook sent an e-mail with a memo to employees acknowledging the relationship and said it was a mistake.
 
"Given the values of the company, I agree with the board that it is time for me to move on," he said in the letter.
 
McDonald's said it voted to approve Easterbrook's departure last Friday after conducting a thorough analysis of the situation, while the compensation's payment details will be known on Monday after the submission of documents to federal authorities.
 
After Easterbrook's dismissal, McDonald's board appointed Chris Kempczinski, who until now headed McDonald's USA and will take up his new position immediately as the new president and CEO.
 
Kempczinski was one of the key figures in the development of McDonald's strategic plan and has overseen the most comprehensive transformation of the company in the US in the history of the fast-food chain, the company's chairman, Enrique Hernandez, said in a statement.
 
"Steve brought me into McDonald's and he was a patient and helpful mentor," the new CEO said about Easterbrook.
 
The 52-year-old former CEO had led McDonald's since March 2015. During his tenure, the company's shares nearly doubled in value but traffic to US restaurants has continued to stagnate.
 
McDonald's is reckoning with challenges reverberating throughout the food industry from meat producers to supermarkets as consumers switch to products that they view as more healthful and big companies sacrifice profit for technological upgrades and delivery.
 
McDonald's has invested in updating its sandwiches and renovating its restaurants to keep up with those changes, but paid a price in profits. And US franchisees have balked at mandated investments in digital-ordering kiosks and new menu items like fresh-beef burgers. Franchisees started an independent association last year to push back against some of Easterbrook's changes.
 
Easterbrook said earlier this year that he and other top executives, including Kempczinski, had been talking to franchisees in light of their concerns and had pushed back the timeline for owners making some capital investments as a result.
 
"Wouldn't life be great if everyone was happy? Of course," Easterbrook told investors. "Am I fundamentally concerned that it will derail us from the shared vision that we have? No, not at all."
 
Easterbrook also rolled back offerings including premium burgers and parts of an all-day breakfast menu after they slowed down restaurant operations. Wait-times at McDonald's drive-thrus have climbed in recent years as the company's menu became increasingly complex.
 
Kempczinski, who helped implement many of the recent changes as head of US operations, said he would maintain Easterbrook's focus on technology as CEO and believes the company's investments will pay off.
 
"There isn't going to be some radical, strategic shift. The plan is working," Kempczinski said in an interview on Sunday.
 
Kempczinski said investors should feel confident in the succession and that he intends to listen to consumers. He also said he looked forward to continuing to discuss concerns with franchisees. "It's something we need to solve together," said Kempczinski, who will also join McDonald's board.
 
McDonald's said Joe Erlinger, most recently president of international operated markets, is succeeding Kempczinski to oversee McDonald's roughly 14,000 domestic restaurants.
 
McDonald's shares, up 9 percent this year, have trailed the broader S&P index tracking restaurants in that period, including other fast-food peers such as Wendy's and Restaurant Brands International.
 
McDonald's faces more challenges at the US restaurants that drives its sales. Labor organisers and some lawmakers have called on the company to address workplace harassment issues and raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour.
 
This year, McDonald's strengthened workplace training and protocol for reporting potential employee misconduct. Kempczinski said the company had a responsibility to address workplace well-being. The company said this year that it would stop lobbying against federal minimum wage increases, and that it recognizes the rights of its employees to join labor organisations.
 
The company said details of Kempczinski's and Easterbrook's pay would be disclosed in a filing by Tuesday.
 
Easterbrook, who is divorced, had a long career at McDonald's. Before becoming CEO, he worked as head of the company's United Kingdom business, which he helped return to growth by modernizing its restaurants, revamping the menu and portraying McDonald's as environmentally friendly e tactics he later employed at the company more broadly.
 
Easterbrook, who was born in Watford, England, was the second non-American to lead the company, after the late Charlie Bell of Australia.
 
Easterbrook left McDonald's in 2011 to become CEO of Britain's PizzaExpress and then Japanese-style noodle bar chain Wagamama. Two years later he returned, eventually becoming McDonald's global chief brand officer.
 
Within months of becoming CEO, he enacted several changes, including committing to switch to cage-free eggs, antibiotic-free chicken and hormone-free milk; raising workers' pay above minimum wage and giving different geographic markets more control over the menu.
 
His pay as CEO rose with McDonald's share price, which closed Friday at $194. His compensation peaked in 2017 at a total of $21.8 million including $9.1 million in incentive-based pay. He received $15.9 million in total compensation last year. He also sits on the board of Walmart.
 
IANS

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ASEAN integral part of India's Act East Policy: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the leaders of ASEAN countries, at the 16th ASEAN-India Summit, in Bangkok, Thailand on November 3, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the leaders of ASEAN countries, at the 16th ASEAN-India Summit, in Bangkok, Thailand on November 3, 2019.
Terming the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region as an integral part of India's Act East Policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said India is keen to strengthen partnership in the fields of maritime security, blue economy and humanitarian aid and proposed $1 billion Line of Credit (LoC) for boosting physical and digital connectivity with the economically rising Southeast Asian region.
 
Addressing the India-ASEAN Summit, Modi said the Association of South East Asian Nations is an "integral part of our Act East Policy and will always remain. An integrated, united and progressive ASEAN is in the interest of India."
 
He also welcomed the Indo-Pacific outlook between India and the ASEAN and said that India's Act East Policy is a key part of the Indo-Pacific vision.
 
He said India is keen to increase surface, maritime, air connectivity and digital links with the ASEAN.
 
"For physical and digital links $1 billion LoC is available. Our intent is to boost innovation, research, tourism, trade and people-to-people links between the two sides," Modi said.
 
"And to achieve this objective, India is ready to increase its partnership with ASEAN countries," he added.
 
He said by implementing the decisions taken at the India-ASEAN Commemorative summit and the informal summit in Singapore, has helped bring more depth to the relations.
 
He proposed increasing cooperation in the fields of agriculture, ICT, science, research, and engineering. He also said the ASEAN-India FTA had helped increase the ties and make the trade more balanced.
 
Modi is in Bangkok to attend ASEAN-related summits.
 
ASEAN comprises Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. The grouping is the seventh largest economy in the world and is expected to become the fourth largest by 2030.
 
The ASEAN-India FTA signed in 2009 has trebled trade between the two sides, taking it to $81 billion in 2018. ASEAN members are India's fourth largest trading partner.
 
The two sides have set a $200 billion trade target by 2022.
 
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India-Thailand agree to explore cooperation in defence industries

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting the Prime Minister of Thailand, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, on the sidelines of the 16th India-ASEAN Summit, in Bangkok, Thailand on November 3, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting the Prime Minister of Thailand, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, on the sidelines of the 16th India-ASEAN Summit, in Bangkok, Thailand on November 3, 2019.
Welcoming a 20 per cent growth in bilateral trade in 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Thai counterpart Prayut Chan-o-Cha on Sunday decided to task their trade officials to discuss ways to enhance trade and investment and agreed to explore opportunities for cooperation in defence industries sector.
 
The two leaders, who met on the sidelines of 35th ASEAN Summit here, reviewed the progress made in bilateral relations and noted that frequent high-level meetings and exchanges at all levels have created positive momentum in the relationship.
 
Noting the enhanced engagement in defence and security fields, both sides agreed to explore opportunities for cooperation in defence industries sector, a statement issued by the External Affairs Ministry said.
 
The Prime Ministers also discussed ways to enhance connectivity between the two countries.
 
Both leaders welcomed the growing air connectivity between the two countries and start of a direct flight between Bangkok and Guwahati and also finalisation of agreements for cooperation between Ranong Port, Thailand and Indian ports in Kolkata, Chennai and Vishakapatnam.
 
They also exchanged views on regional and multi-lateral issues of mutual interest, said the statement, adding that Modi thanked his Thai counterpart for the invitation extended to him to attend the ASEAN related meetings, and also congratulated him on his leadership as Chair of ASEAN.
 
Prime Minister Modi "positively" assessed the contribution of Thailand as the Country Coordinator for India-ASEAN Strategic Partnership for further strengthening this relationship.
 
"India and Thailand are close maritime neighbours having historical and cultural linkages. In the contemporary context, India's 'Act East' policy is complimented by Thailand's 'Look West' policy which has made the relationship deep, robust and multifaceted," the statement added.
 
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Modi invites Thai entrepreneurs to invest in India

Stating that this is the best time to be in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday invited Thai businessmen to invest in India and outlined for them some of the positive changes happening in the country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at the golden jubilee celebrations of Aditya Birla Group, in Bangkok, Thailand on November 3, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at the golden jubilee celebrations of Aditya Birla Group, in Bangkok, Thailand on November 3, 2019.
Stating that this is the best time to be in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today invited Thai businessmen to invest in India and outlined for them some of the positive changes happening in the country.
 
"I say this with full confidence- this is the best time to be in India!" he said at an event to mark the golden jubilee of the Aditya Birla Group in Thailand.
 
"Given that our economies are capable and complement each other, Given the commonality in our cultures, Given the natural goodwill for each other, I have no doubt that we can enhance our business partnership for a win-win situation. 
 
"For investment and easy business, come to India. To innovate and starting up, come to India. To experience some of the best tourist sites and warm hospitality of people, come to India. India awaits you with open arms," he said.
 
Pointing out that India and Thailand have strong cultural linkages and noting that a leading Indian industrial house had completed 50 years in this country, he said he believed that commerce and culture had inherent powers to unite.
 
"In today’s India, many things are rising and many are falling. ‘Ease of Doing Business’ is rising and so is ‘Ease of Living.’ FDI is rising. Our Forest Cover is rising. The number of patents and trademarks are rising. Productivity and efficiency are rising. The pace of infrastructure creation is rising. The number of people getting top-quality healthcare is rising. At the same time, Number of taxes are falling. Tax rates are falling. Red-tapism is falling. Cronyism is falling. Corruption is falling. The corrupt are running for cover. Middlemen in the corridors of power are history," he said.
 
Modi said the  reason for the many success stories in the last five years in various sectors in India was that the country had "stopped working in a routine, bureaucratic manner".
 
"Transformative changes are arising due to ambitious missions undertaken. When these ambitious missions are energised by the partnership of people, they become vibrant mass movements. And, these mass movements achieve miracles. Things that were supposed to be previously impossible have now become possible. Coverage for basic necessities of life has reached almost a hundred per cent. Good examples for this are - Jan Dhan Yojana that has ensured near-total financial inclusion. And, Swachh Bharat Mission, where sanitation coverage has reached nearly all households," he said.
 
"In India, we faced a big problem when it came to service delivery- leakage. The poor suffered most due to this. You would be shocked to know that for years, money was spent on the poor which did not really reach the poor. Our Government ended this culture thanks to DBT. DBT stands for direct benefit transfer. DBT has ended the culture of middlemen and inefficiency. It has left little scope for error. DBT has saved over 20 billion dollars  so far. You would have seen LED lights in homes. You know that they are more efficient and energy conserving. But do you know its impact in India? We have distributed more than 360 million LED bulbs in the last few years. We have changed 10 million streetlights to LED lights. Through this, we have saved about 3.5 billion dollars. Carbon emissions have reduced as well. I firmly believe -- money saved is money earned. Energy saved is energy generated. This money is now being used to empower millions through other equally effective programmes," he said.
 
The Prime Minister said India was one of the most people-friendly tax regimes and the government was committed to improving it further.
 
"In the last five years, we have lowered the tax burden on the middle class considerably. We are now starting a faceless tax assessment so that there is no scope for discretion or harassment. You would already have heard of India's decision to cut the corporate tax rates. Our GST has fulfilled the dream of the economic integration of India. We want to work towards making it even more people-friendly. All of what I have said just now makes India one of the world's most attractive economies for investment," he said.
 
Modi said India received $ 286 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the last 20  years, with 90 per cent of it coming through automatic approvals.
 
"And 40% of this is greenfield investment. This shows that investors are taking a long term call on India. India’s growth trajectory is reflected in several ratings. We are among the top 10 FDI destinations as per UNCTAD. Moved up 24 places on the Global Innovation Index of WIPO in five years. But, there are two of them I want to talk about especially. India has jumped 79 places in the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ rankings in five years. From 142 in 2014 we are 63 in 2019. This is a massive achievement. For the third year in a row, we are among the top ten reformers. The variables for doing business in India are many. We are a large and diverse nation. There are the Central, State and local governments. In such a context, a directional shift shows our commitment to reforms. The people and government came together to make the business environment better," he said.
 
"The other is India’s improved ranking in the World Economic Forum's Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index. From 65 in 2013 we are ranked 34 in 2019. This jump is among the biggest. The number of foreign tourist arrivals has also gone up by 50%. All of you know very well that a tourist will not go to a place until he or she finds comfort, convenience and safety. Thus, if we are getting substantially more tourists, it means that our efforts on the ground are bearing fruit. The fact that India has better roads, better air connectivity, better cleanliness and better law and order is bringing the world to India," he said.
 
"These rankings come after looking at the impact of the transformation. These rankings are not a forecast. They are a manifestation of what has already happened on the ground," he said.
 
The Prime Minister said India was now pursuing another dream -- to become a $ 5 trillion economy.
 
"When my Government took over in 2014, India’s GDP was about 2 trillion dollars. In 65 years, 2 trillion. But in just 5 years, we increased it to nearly 3 trillion dollars. This convinces me that the dream of a 5 trillion dollar economy will soon become a reality. We are going to invest 1.5 trillion dollars for next-generation infrastructure," he said.
 
Modi also spoke about India's talented and skilled human capital. "No wonder India is among the world’s largest start-up eco-systems. India is one of the largest and fastest-growing markets for digital consumers. There are a billion smartphone users and more than half a billion internet subscribers. We are keeping pace with Industry 4.0 and working actively to adapt technology for fulfilling development and governance needs. With all these advantages, we aspire to emerge as a global manufacturing hub," he said.
 
The Prime Minister noted that "Thailand 4.0" focuses on transforming Thailand into a value-based economy, built on science, technology, innovation and creativity. 
 
"It is also compatible with and complementary to India’s priorities. India’s initiatives such as Digital India, Skill India, Ganga Rejuvenation Project, Swachh Bharat Mission, Smart Cities and Jal Jeevan Mission offer good opportunities for partnership," he said.
 
"When India prospers, the world prospers. Our vision for India’s development is such that it also leads to a better planet. When we are looking at giving top quality and affordable healthcare to 500 million Indians through Ayushman Bharat, it will naturally lead to a healthier planet. When we decide to eliminate TB in 2025, five long years before the global target of 2030, it will surely strengthen the global fight against TB. At the same time, we are sharing our accomplishments and best practices with the world too. Our South Asia Satellite is helping so many people in our region. Especially students and fishermen," he said.
 
"In the spirit of our Act East Policy, we are paying special attention to enhance connectivity with this region. Direct connectivity between ports on Thailand’s west coast and ports on India’s east coast– such as Chennai, Visakhapatnam and Kolkata will enhance our economic partnership. We must take advantage of all these favourable factors. We must take advantage of our geographical proximity, like our forefathers did," he added.
 
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India remains committed to comprehensive, balanced outcome on RCEP, says Modi

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said India remains committed to a comprehensive and balanced outcome from the ongoing Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations with ASEAN member countries.
 
Modi, in an interview to the Bangkok Post, was replying to a question about India being perceived as reluctant to join the RCEP trade deal.
 
“India remains committed to a comprehensive and balanced outcome from the ongoing RCEP negotiations. Their successful conclusion is in the interest of everyone involved. Hence, India seeks balance across goods, services and investments, and also within each pillar,” he said.
 
“We recognise the high ambitions of our partners on goods. We too would like a win-win outcome. We believe that for this, addressing our concerns over unsustainable trade deficits is important. It needs to be recognised that opening the vast Indian market must be matched by openings in some areas where our businesses can also benefit.
 
“We have put forward reasonable proposals in a clear manner and are engaged in negotiations with sincerity. We would like to see commensurate levels of ambition on services from many of our partners, even as we are ready to address their sensitivities,” he said.
 
“Overall, we are clear that a mutually beneficial RCEP, in which all sides gain reasonably, is in interests of India and of all partners in the negotiation,” he added.
 
The Prime Minister said India today was one of the most open places in the world to do business. This is reflected in the jumps that we have made in the World Bank's "Ease of Doing Business" index from 142 to 63 in the last four to five years. We believe in the power of global trade to integrate economies and uplift the poor.
 
The interview comes ahead of the 35th Asean Summit and Related Summits, including tomorrow's 16th Asean-India Summit and Monday's 3rd RCEP Summit.
 
Asked if he thought that India has become a global power under his leadership, Modi said, “It is well-known that India's is an ancient civilisation with enormous richness and diversity. Till a few hundred years ago, India contributed a major chunk of global growth. It has contributed to the development of science, literature, philosophy, art and architecture.
 
“In doing all this, it did not seek to dominate others but built lasting ties across seas and oceans. In the last few years, we have been actively increasing our contribution in the world, be it in the economic sphere or in the fight against climate change, in the field of space or the fight against terror.
 
“Today, India is one of the largest contributors to global economic growth and development. The people of India have amply demonstrated that they are second to none, if they get the right environment policies that enable them to realise their true potential,” he added.
 
Modi said the government was running the world's largest campaign to improve the "Ease of Living" for the people of India and to improve their productive potential via better infrastructure, better services and better technology.
 
“This has been made possible because we have electrified every village; brought over 350 million of our citizens into the banking system; reduced leakage of money in social schemes; built 150 million toilets in rural and urban areas; improved governance by digitising services, made rapid strides to become one of the fastest growing markets for fintech products and have put the Indian economy in a fast-growth trajectory.
 
“We have moved up about 80 places in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business index. And we have done this within a democratic framework and while preserving the best of our heritage.
 
“There is a large aspirational middle class emerging in India, which has access to all the basic necessities and is looking to move up the ladder in life.
 
“Our mantra is 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas', which means development for all and with the cooperation and trust of everyone. And by everyone, we mean not only our own citizens, but the whole of mankind.
 
“Hence, we are actively working to promote development partnerships with all our friendly neighbours. And we are seeking to build international partnerships to combat global and trans-boundary challenges. These include the International Solar Alliance and an initiative to build a Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure,” he added.
 
India remains a strong advocate of strengthening and reforming multilateralism amid contemporary realities. In times of global uncertainties, a rapidly growing, democratic and strong India continues to be a beacon of stability, prosperity and peace.
 
It is said that the 21st century will be Asia's century. India is prepared to contribute to this transformation in Asia and the world, he added.
 
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