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Draft bill seeks ‘loyalty pact’ from foreigners entering Russia

TASS did not specify what repercussions foreigners would face if they broke the agreement…reports Asian Lite News

Russia’s Internal Affairs ministry is preparing a bill that would oblige foreigners entering the country to sign a “loyalty agreement” that would bar them from discrediting official policies, the TASS state news agency reported early on Wednesday.

The agreement would be aimed at protecting Russia’s “national interests,” TASS reported, citing the document.

A foreigner entering Russia would be prohibited from “interfering with the activities of public authorities of the Russian Federation, discrediting in any form the foreign and domestic state policy of the Russian Federation, public authorities and their officials.”

Reuters could not independently verify the draft bill. The Internal Affairs ministry did not immediately respond to requests for a comment.

Since its full-scale invasion on Ukraine in February 2022, Russia has imposed a number of restrictions on foreigners from what it calls “unfriendly countries” — meaning those that have imposed sanctions on it over its war in Ukraine.

The internal affairs draft bill provides that foreigners would be prohibited from disparaging or inciting the denial of “significant moral” values, such as marriage as a union of a man and a woman, family, as well as from disseminating propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships.

Distortion of the “historical truth” about the Soviet people’s defense of the country and its contribution to the victory over fascist Germany in World War Two would also be prohibited, TASS reported.

TASS did not specify what repercussions foreigners would face if they broke the agreement.

For the draft to become law, the document has to be introduced to the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, and go through committee review and several readings before being submitted to President Vladimir Putin for signing.

ALSO READ-‘Putin won’t make peace in Ukraine before 2024 polls’

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New UNSC membership only for developing nations, says Lavrov

According to Lavrov, all the Western sanctions that have been imposed against Russia are likely to remain after the Ukraine conflict…reports Asian Lite News

Any new United Nations Security Council (UNSC) members should come from developing countries, Russian media reported Monday, citing Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the Primakov Readings International Forum in Moscow.

“It is important to redress the historical injustices that emerged following the end of the decolonization process and since the emergence of many dozens of young sovereign states,” Lavrov said, noting that the composition of the UNSC should reflect the current reality.

“It is clear that any new members of the Security Council must only come from developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and they must have credibility in their regions and in global organizations such as the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77,” he said.

Lavrov added that Russia doesn’t need to focus on restoring relations with Europe at this moment, and must concentrate on protecting itself “in all key sectors of the economy,” and security, considering Europe’s unpredictable policies and decisions.

According to Lavrov, all the Western sanctions that have been imposed against Russia are likely to remain after the Ukraine conflict.

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French Accolades for ISRO Scientist, Indian translator

Ambassador Thierry Mathou awarded the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest civilian honor, to Lalithambika, former Director of the Human Spaceflight Programme at ISRO…reports Asian Lite News

The French government on Wednesday conferred its top awards on Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) scientist Dr V R Lalithambika and acclaimed translator and author Dr Arshia Sattar.

For her engagement in space cooperation between France and India, Ambassador Thierry Mathou honoured Lalithambika, former Director, Directorate of the Human Spaceflight Programme, ISRO, with Legion d’Honneur — the country’s top civilian award.

“I am delighted to confer the Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur on Dr V.R. Lalithambika, a distinguished scientist and a trailblazer in space technology. Her expertise, accomplishments, and tireless efforts have scripted a new ambitious chapter in the long history of the Indo-French space partnership,” Ambassador Mathou said in a statement.

A specialist in advanced launch vehicle technology, Lalithambika has worked extensively on various ISRO rockets, particularly the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

In 2018, as Director of the Human Spaceflight Programme, she coordinated closely with the French National Space Agency (Centre national d’etudes spatiales – CNES) for India’s Gaganyaan project.

Lalithambika was instrumental in the signing of the first joint agreement for cooperation between CNES and ISRO on human spaceflight, under which the two countries could exchange specialists to work on space medicine.

Receiving the award, Lalithambika said: “I sincerely hope that this honour being bestowed on me will spur more and more women to take up STEM careers and to excel in their chosen fields.”

In 2021, Lalithambika coordinated with CNES for the signing of a second agreement between France and India on the Indian astronaut programme during the visit of the former French Foreign Affairs Minister to ISRO.

Under this agreement the French space agency would train India’s flight physicians and CAPCOM mission control teams in France at the CADMOS centre for the development of microgravity applications and space operations at CNES in Toulouse and at the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany.

“Dr Lalithambika is an inspiration to the next generation of scientists not only in Toulouse but also in India, where she promoted inclusivity by enabling the recruitment of civilians, including women, to participate in the future of the Indian astronaut programme,” a French Embassy statement read.

Sattar was presented the insignia of Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) at a special ceremony at the Consulate General of France in Bengaluru.

The distinction comes in recognition of her outstanding achievements in the field of literature as a translator and a writer as well as her deep commitment to the promotion of literature as director of the literary residency, Sangam House.

“This award honours her continued commitment to cultural relationship and cooperation between diverse literary worlds,” the Embassy said in its statement.

“It is always an important moment when the arts are recognised. It is through the arts that we better understand each other and ourselves. The arts remind us of our shared humanity and in our troubled 21st century, this is perhaps the most significant touchstone – that we are more alike than we are different. I thank the French government for acknowledging that by this award,” Sattar said after receiving the award.

In her career as a translator, Sattar has engaged with the great masterpieces of Indian literature: The Ramayana, The Mahabharata, and The Tales from Kathasaritsagara.

In addition to that, she has written several books for children, including The Mahabharata for Children, which was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Prize for Children’s Literature in 2022.

In 2008, she co-founded the literary residency, Sangam House, along with David William Gibson, with the vision of creating a supportive space for writers expressing themselves in regional languages, where they can interact with contemporaries from other cultures and share their perspectives.

Sangam House was the first literary residency of its kind, which has hosted over 200 writers from across India and the world.

It is now a member of the Villa Swagatam network of residencies — an initiative launched by the French Institute in India in March 2023, which consists of 16 Indian residencies spanned across the country, hosting residents in the fields of arts and crafts, performing arts, and literature.

Some noted Indian recipients of the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in the past include actors Shahrukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Richa Chadha, photographer Raghu Rai, theatre director Ebrahim Alkazi, playwright Habib Tanveer, and author Upamanyu Chatterjee.

ALSO READ: France sending warship to provide medical aid to Gaza

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‘Putin won’t make peace in Ukraine before 2024 polls’

Zelensky has invited Trump, who has said he could end the war in 24 hours if reelected…reports Asian Lite News

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not make peace in Ukraine before he knows the results of the November 2024 US election, a senior US State Department official said on Tuesday, amid concerns that a potential victory for former President Donald Trump could upend Western support for Kyiv.

Trump, who is seeking reelection in 2024 and is the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has been sharply critical of US support for Kyiv.

A senior official briefing reporters after a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels said the alliance reiterated its support for Ukraine knowing that a peace agreement in the next year is unlikely.

“My expectation is that Putin won’t make a peace or a meaningful peace before he sees the result of our election,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the outcomes of the meeting.

Asked whether they were expressing a personal opinion or the view of the US government, the official said it was a “widely shared premise.”

“That was the context in which the allies all expressed strong support for Ukraine” in the NATO meeting on Tuesday, the official added, without mentioning Trump by name or explicitly saying how the election result would affect support for Ukraine.

President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has given massive military aid and other support to Kyiv since Russia’s February 2022 full-scale invasion, but additional funding for Ukraine is being held up by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky earlier this month invited Trump, who has said he could end the war in 24 hours if reelected, to Ukraine to see the scale of the conflict for himself.

Russia has never refused talks, says Putin

Earlier, Putin had said that Moscow has never refused peace negotiations with Kyiv and blamed Ukraine for pulling out of the negotiation process. He called military actions a tragedy for people and stressed that the world must think about how to stop this tragedy.

In his virtual address at the G20 Leaders Summit, Putin said that some of the leaders in their speeches said that they are “shocked by Russia’s ongoing aggression in Ukraine.”

Putin said, “Of course, military actions are always a tragedy for people, families, and the country as a whole. And, of course, we must think about how to stop this tragedy.”

“By the way, Russia has never refused peace negotiations with Ukraine. It is not Russia, but Ukraine, that has publicly announced that it is withdrawing from the negotiation process. And moreover, a decree was signed by the head of state prohibiting such negotiations with Russia,” he added.

Putin emphasised that the situation in the world requires collective and consensus decisions that reflect the opinions of the majority of the international community, including developed and developing nations.

He said, “Now the situation in the global economy and in the world as a whole requires collective, consensus decisions that reflect the opinions of the overwhelming majority of the international community–both developed and developing countries.”

“The world is undergoing processes of radical transformation. New powerful centres of global economic development are emerging and strengthening. A significant share of global investment, trade and consumption activity is shifting to Asian, African and Latin American regions, where the majority of the world’s population lives,” he added.

He stated that the first ships with free Russian grain had been sent to Africa. He stressed that the turbulence in the markets is increasing. Putin noted that the world economy is experiencing a “direct consequence of the ill-conceived macroeconomic policies of some states.”

“Turbulence in the markets is increasing. Chronic problems in the international financial sector, energy and food security are worsening. By the way, Russia fulfills all its obligations in this area and remains one of the largest food exporters. And today, I want to inform you that the first ships with free Russian grain have been sent to Africa, for example, to countries in need,” he said.

Putin said that “unlawful restrictions” on trade for the sake of strengthening their own competitiveness continue to have a negative impact. He also spoke about the explosion of the Nord Stream gas pipeline system.

The Russian President said, “Unlawful restrictions on trade and the biased-climate agenda of some countries for the sake of strengthening their own competitiveness continue to have a negative effect.To eliminate competitors and gain advantages, unfair methods of competition are also used.”

He further said, “I mean, in particular, not only the destruction of transport and logistics chains and international payment channels, but also acts of state terrorism. A blatant example of this is the explosion of the Nord Stream gas pipeline system, laid along the bottom of the Baltic Sea.”

ALSO READ: Sisi and Putin Push for Gaza Ceasefire in Urgent Phone Call

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Ukraine Takes Step Towards EU and NATO

A bilateral agreement on the security commitments to Ukraine by Italy will be based on the Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine adopted by the G7 in July…reports Asian Lite News

Ukraine and Italy have launched consultations on providing security guarantees for Kiev, the Ukrainian presidential press service said.

A bilateral agreement on the security commitments to Ukraine by Italy will be based on the Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine adopted by the G7 in July, it added on Tuesday as quoted by Xinhua news agency report.

The provision of the commitments will be an important step towards Ukraine’s membership in the European Union and the NATO, said Ihor Zhovkva, the deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential office.

ALSO READ-‘Russia has never refused peace negotiations with Ukraine’

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Europe’s Dilemma in Cyberspace, AI

Europe’s technological trajectory is bleak, lacking optimism for future influence. Over 15 years, R&D investments in European tech have sharply declined, with the share relative to global tech R&D diminishing steadily, writes Cristina Vanberghen

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is defining a new international order. Cyberspace is reshaping the geopolitical map and the global balance of power.  Europe, coming late to the game, is struggling to achieve strategic sovereignty in an interconnected world characterised by growing competition and conflicts between States. Do not think that cyberspace is an abstract concept. It has a very solid architecture composed of infrastructure (submarine and terrestrial cable, satellites, data centers etc), a software infrastructure (information systems and programs, languages and protocols allowing data transfer and communication between the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), and a cognitive infrastructure, which includes massive exchange of data, content, exchanges of information beyond classic “humint”.

Cyberspace is the fifth dimension: an emerging geopolitical space which complements land, sea, air and space, a dimension undergoing rapid militarization and in consequence deepening the divide between distinct ideological blocs at the international level. In this conundrum, the use and misuse of data – transparency, invisibility, manipulation, deletion – has become a new form of geopolitical power, and increasingly a weapon of war. The use of data is shifting the gravitational center of geopolitical power.

This geopolitical reordering is taking place not only between states but also between technological giants and States. The Westphalian confidence in the nation state is being eroded by the dominance of these giants which are oblivious to national borders, and which develop technology too quickly for states to understand, let alone regulate. What we are starting to experience is practically an invisible war characterized by data theft, manipulation or suppression, where the chaotic nature of cyberspace leads to a mobilization of nationalism, and where cyberweapons – now part of the military arsenal of countries such as China, Israel, Iran, South Korea, the United States and Russia – increases the unpredictability of political decision-making power. The absence of common standards means undefined risks, leading to a level of international disorder with new borders across which the free flow of information cannot be guaranteed. There is a risk of fragmentation of networks based on the same protocols as the Internet but where the information that circulates is now confined to what government or the big tech companies allow you to see.

Whither Europe in this international landscape?

The new instruments for geopolitical dominance in today’s world are AI, 5 or 6G, quantum, semiconductors, biotechnology, and green energy. Technology investment is increasingly based on the need to encounter Chinese investment. In August 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Chips and Science Act granting 280 billion US$ to the American Tech industry, with 52.7 billion US$ being devoted to semiconductors.

Europe is hardly following suit. European technological trends do not reflect a very optimistic view of its technological influence and power in the future. With regard to R&D invested specifically in Tech, the share of European countries’ investments, relative to total global R&D in Tech, has been declining rapidly for 15 years. Germany went from 8% to 2%; France from 6% to 2%. The European Union invests five times less in private R&D in Tech than the United States. Starting from ground zero 20 years ago, China has now greatly overtaken Europe and may catch up with the US.

The question we face is whether given this virtual arms race, each country will continue to develop its own AI ecosystem with its own (barely visible) borders, or whether mankind can create a globally shared AI space anchored in common rules and assumptions.  The jury is out.

In the beginning, the World Wide Web was supposed to be an open Internet. But the recent trend has been centrifugal. There are many illustrations of this point: from Russian efforts to build its own Internet network to Open AI threatening to withdraw from Europe; from Meta withdrawing its social networks from Europe due to controversies over user data, to Google building an independent technical infrastructure.

This fragmentation advances through a diversity of methods, ranging from content blocking to corporate official declarations.

But could the tide be turning? With the war in Ukraine we have seen a rapid acceleration of use of AI, along with growing competition from the private sector, and this is now triggering more calls for international regulation of AI.  And of course, any adherence to a globally accepted regulatory and technological model entails adherence to a specific set of values and interests.

Faced with this anarchic cyberspace, instead of increasing non-interoperability, it will be better to set up a basis for an Internationalized Domain Name (IDN), encompassing also the Arabic, Cyrillic, Hindi, and Chinese languages, and avoiding linguistic silos. Otherwise, we run the clear risk of undermining the globality of the Internet by a sum of national closed networks.

And how can we ensure a fair technological revolution?  If in the beginning military research was at the origin of technological revolution, we are now seeing that emerging and disruptive technologies  (EDTs), not to mention with dual-use technologies including artificial intelligence, quantum technology or biotechnology are mainly being developed by Big Tech, and sometimes by start-ups.  It is the private sector that is generating military innovation. To the point that private companies are becoming both the instruments and the targets of war.   The provision by Elon Musk of Starlink to the Ukrainian army is the most recent illustration of this situation. This makes it almost compulsory for governments to work in lockstep with the private sector, at the risk of missing the next technological revolution.

The AI war

At the center of AI war is the fight for standardization, which allows a technological ecosystem to operate according to common, interoperable standards. The government or economic operator that writes the rules of the game will automatically influence the balance of power and gain a competitive economic advantage. In a globalized world, we need however not continued fragmentation or an AI arms race but a new international Pact. Not however a Gentlemen’s Pact based on goodwill because goodwill simply does not exist in our eclectic, multipolar international (dis)order. We need a regulatory AI pact that, instead of increasing polarization in a difficult context characterized by a race for strategic autonomy, war, pandemics, climate change and other economic crises, reflects a common humanity and equal partnerships. Such an approach will lead to joint investment in green technology and biotechnologies with no need of national cyberspace borders.


Now the emergence of ChatGPT has posed a challenge for EU policymakers in defining how such advanced Artificial Intelligence should be addressed within the framework of the EU’s AI regulation.

An example of a foundation model is ChatGPT developed by OpenAI which has been widely used as a foundation for a variety of natural language processing tasks, including text completion, translation, summarization, and more. It serves as a starting point for building more specialized models tailored to specific applications. According to the EU AI Act, these foundations models must adhere to transparency obligations, providing technical documentation and respecting copyright laws related to data mining activities.  But we shall take into consideration that the regulatory choices surrounding advanced artificial intelligence, exemplified by the treatment of models like ChatGPT under the EU’s AI regulation, carry significant geopolitical implications.

The EU’s regulatory stance on this aspect will shape its position in the global race for technological leadership. A balance must be struck between fostering innovation and ensuring ethical, transparent, and accountable use of AI. It is this regulatory framework that will influence how attractive the EU becomes for AI research, development, and investment.

Stricter regulations on high-impact foundational models may impact the competitiveness of EU-based companies in the global AI market. It could either spur innovation by pushing companies to develop more responsible and secure AI technologies or potentially hinder competitiveness if the regulatory burden is perceived as too restrictive.

At international level the EU’s regulatory choices would influence the development of international standards for AI. If the EU adopts a robust and widely accepted regulatory framework, it may encourage other regions and countries to follow suit, fostering global cooperation in addressing the challenges associated with advanced AI technologies.

The treatment of AI models under the regulation can have implications for data governance and privacy standards. Regulations addressing data usage, transparency, and protection are critical not only for AI development but also for safeguarding individuals’ privacy and rights.

The EU’s AI regulations would have impact its relationships with other countries, particularly those with differing regulatory approaches. The alignment or divergence in AI regulations could become a factor in trade negotiations and geopolitical alliances.

Last but least, the regulatory decisions will reflect the EU’s pursuit of strategic technological autonomy. By establishing control over the development and deployment of advanced AI, the EU intends to reinforce its strategic autonomy and reduce dependence on non-European technologies, ensuring that its values and standards are embedded in AI systems used within its borders.

The EU AI Act can influence to the ongoing global dialogue on AI governance. It may influence discussions in international forums, where countries are working to develop shared principles for the responsible use of AI.

The EU’s regulatory choices regarding advanced AI models like ChatGPT are intertwined with broader geopolitical dynamics, influencing technological leadership, international standards, data governance, and global cooperation in the AI domain.

We have noticed that a few days before the discussion on the final format of EU AI Act, the OECD made an adjustment to its definition of AI,  in anticipation of the European Union’s AI regulation demonstrate a commitment to keeping pace with the evolving landscape of AI technologies.

The revised definition of AI by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) appears to be a significant step in aligning global perspectives on artificial intelligence. The updated definition, designed to embrace technological progress and eliminate human-centric limitations, demonstrates a dedication to staying abreast of AI’s rapid evolution.


At international level, we can notice that the  G7 also reached urgent Agreement on AI Code of Conduct!  In a significant development, the G7 member countries have unanimously approved a groundbreaking AI Code of Conduct. This marks a critical milestone as the principles laid out by the G7 pertain to advanced AI systems, encompassing foundational models and generative AI, with a central focus on enhancing the safety and trustworthiness of this transformative technology.

In my view, it is imperative to closely monitor the implementation of these principles and explore the specific measures that will be essential to their realization. The success of this Code of Conduct greatly depends on its effective implementation. These principles are established to guide behavior, ensure compliance, and safeguard against potential risks. Specifically, we require institutions with the authority and resources to enforce the rules and hold violators accountable. This may involve inspections, audits, fines, and other enforcement mechanisms but also educating about these principles, their implications, and how to comply with them is essential. It will be essential to ensure regular monitoring of compliance and reporting mechanisms that can provide insights into the effectiveness of the regulations. Data collection and analysis are crucial for making informed decisions and adjustments. Periodic reviews and updates are necessary to keep pace with developments. Effective implementation often necessitates collaboration among governments, regulatory bodies, industry stakeholders, and the public. Transparent communication about these principles is crucial to build trust and ensure that citizens understand the rules.

As the AI landscape evolves, it becomes increasingly vital for regulators and policymakers to remain attuned to the latest developments in this dynamic field. Active engagement with AI experts and a readiness to adapt regulatory frameworks are prerequisites for ensuring that AI technologies are harnessed to their full potential while effectively mitigating potential risks. An adaptable and ongoing regulatory approach is paramount in the pursuit of maximizing the benefits of AI and effectively addressing the challenges it presents.

Some brief conclusions

First, the ideological differences between countries on whether and how to regulate AI will have broader geopolitical consequences for managing AI and information technology in the years to come. Control over strategic resources, such as data, software, and hardware has become important for all nations. This is demonstrated by discussions over international data transfers, resources linked to cloud computing, the use of open-source software, and so on.

Secondly, the strategic competition for control of cyberspace and AI seems at least for now to increase fragmentation, mistrust, and geopolitical competition, and as such poses enormous challenges to the goal of establishing an agreed approach to Artificial Intelligence based on respect for human rights.

Thirdly, despite this, there is a glimmer of light emerging. To some extent values are evolving into an ideological approach that aims to ensure a human rights-centered approach to the role and use of AI. Put differently, an alliance is gingerly forming around a human rights-oriented view of socio-technical governance, embraced, and encouraged by like-minded democratic nations: Europe, the USA, Japan, India. These regions have an opportunity to set the direction through greater coordination in developing evaluation and measurement tools that contribute to credible AI regulation, risk management, and privacy-enhancing technologies. Both the EU AI Act and the US Algorithmic Accountability Act of 2022 or US Act for example, require organizations to perform impact assessments of their AI systems before and after deployment, including providing more detailed descriptions on data, algorithmic behavior, and forms of oversight. India is taking the first steps in the same direction.

The three regions are starting to understand the need to avoid the fragmentation of technological ecosystems, and that securing AI alignment at the international level is likely to be the major challenge of our century.

Fourthly, undoubtedly, AI will continue to revolutionize society in the coming decades. However, it remains uncertain whether the world’s countries can agree on how technology should be implemented for the greatest possible societal benefit or what should be the relationship between governments and Big Tech.

Finally, no matter how AI governance will be finally designed, the way in which it is done must be understandable to the average citizen, to businesses, and practising policy makers and regulators today confronted with a plethora of initiatives at all levels. Al regulations and standards need to be in line with our reality. Taking AI to the next level means increasing the digital prowess of global citizens, fixing the rules for the market power of tech giants, and understanding that transparency is part of the responsible governance of AI.

The governance of AI of tomorrow will be defined by the art of finding bridges today! If AI research and development remain unregulated, ensuring adherence to ethical standards becomes a challenging task. Relying solely on guidelines may not be sufficient, as guidelines lack enforceability. To prevent AI research from posing significant risks to safety and security, there’s a need to consider more robust measures beyond general guidance.

One potential solution is to establish a framework that combines guidelines with certain prescriptive rules. These rules could set clear boundaries and standards for the development and deployment of AI systems. They might address specific ethical considerations, safety protocols, and security measures, providing a more structured approach to ensure responsible AI practices.

However, a major obstacle lies in the potential chaos resulting from uncoordinated regulations across different countries. This lack of harmonization can create challenges for developers, impede international collaboration, and limit the overall benefits of AI research and development. To address this issue, a global entity like the United Nations could play a significant role in coordinating efforts and establishing a cohesive international framework.

A unified approach to AI regulation under the auspices of the UN could help mitigate the competition in regulation or self-regulation among different nations. Such collaboration would enable the development of common standards that respect cultural differences but provide a foundational framework for ethical and responsible AI. This approach would not only foster global cooperation but also streamline processes for developers, ensuring they can navigate regulations more seamlessly across borders.

In conclusion, a combination of guidelines, prescriptive rules, and international collaboration, potentially spearheaded by a global entity like the United Nations, could contribute to a more cohesive and effective regulatory framework for AI research and development, addressing ethical concerns, safety risks, and fostering international collaboration.

(Cristina Vanberghen is a professor at EUI Florence. She has been a senior expert at the EU commission and worked at the Stanford Center for Internet. Views expressed are personal and exclusive to India Narrative)

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Macron Pledges Support for Lebanon’s Stability

The President also underscored the urgent need to elect a new president for Lebanon to help the country emerge from its current crisis and avoid security deterioration associated with the ongoing conflict in Gaza…reports Asian Lite News

French President Emmanuel Macron has ssured that his country is keen to support and enhance Lebanon’s stability, security and independence.

“We have constantly supported these goals,” Macron was quoted as saying in a phone call with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Tuesday.

The President added that he informed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on several occasions that France is concerned about the danger of escalation and the spread of the Gaza conflict into Lebanon, referring to the Hamas militant group.

Macron warned that the spread of the conflict into Lebanon “will have serious consequences” for the country and its people, adding that “no party should use the Lebanese territory in a way that contradicts the country’s sovereign interests”.

The President also underscored the urgent need to elect a new president for Lebanon to help the country emerge from its current crisis and avoid security deterioration associated with the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

The Lebanese southern border has witnessed cautious calm over the past two days after seven weeks of confrontations between the Hezbollah and Israeli forces after the Iran-backed militant group fired dozens of rockets toward the Jewish nation on October 8 in support of the Hamas surprise attack the previous day.

ALSO READ-Xi, Macron discuss Gaza war in phone call

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‘Eurozone economy likely to stay weak through year-end’

Regarding inflation, Lagarde acknowledged that wages would continue to play a pivotal role in driving domestic inflation…reports Asian Lite News

Economic activity in the eurozone has stagnated in recent quarters, and is expected to remain weak for the rest of the year, President of the European Central Bank (ECB) Christine Lagarde told the European Parliament.

Lagarde attributed the slight contraction of the Eurozone’s real gross domestic product (GDP) in the third quarter to a combination of factors, including the “broadening impact of higher interest rates, weak foreign demand and the fading impetus from the reopening of the economy after the pandemic.”

However, she expressed optimism for the bloc’s economic resurgence in the coming years, citing a further decline in inflation, recovery in household incomes, and growing demand in the area.

Regarding inflation, Lagarde acknowledged that wages would continue to play a pivotal role in driving domestic inflation. Although she expected the weakening of inflationary pressures to continue, “the medium-term outlook for inflation remains surrounded by considerable uncertainty”, she said.

Concerning monetary policy, Lagarde confirmed that the ECB’s future policy rates would be set at “sufficiently restrictive levels for as long as necessary” to meet its target of bringing inflation down to 2 per cent.

“The appropriate level and duration of restriction will continue to be determined in a data-dependent manner, assessing the inflation outlook, the dynamics of underlying inflation and the strength of monetary policy transmission,” she said.

The ECB will ensure price stability, and support the green transition of the Eurozone’s economy, Lagarde noted.

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SPECIAL: Role of the West in Pakistan’s Struggle for Democracy

The Biden administration can stand in favour of democracy in Pakistan, the rule of law, and the supremacy of its constitution, all of which are under threat in this current crisis – and not with the United States’ usual and favoured partner in Pakistan, its military.  This means the US should explicitly speak up in favour of free, fair and on-time elections in Pakistan this year, and against violations of the rule of law and the country’s constitution … writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

The continuous erosion of democracy in Pakistan has largely been due to the machinations of the military, its political leaders and the gullible public.  However, the Western powers, who are the champions of democracy and freedom, also share some blame.

Pakistan has been bailed out repeatedly from various perils be it economy or terrorism, by the same Western powers.  A large Pakistan diaspora exists in Western countries, be it US, UK or other countries which repeatedly calls out for a functional democracy in their home country.  In spite of all these factors the Western powers failed in assisting Pakistan achieve the desired democracy as envisioned by its creators. 

Pakistan military played into the sentiments of radicalisation, internal and external threats, Afghanistan card and various other factors to its own advantage thereby completely hoodwinking the West.

The Pakistan army has ruled the state directly for 33 years and exercised influence from behind the scenes during the remaining period.  It has shown resilience in recovering from periodic setbacks, including its crushing defeat in 1971, using strong-arm tactics and intimidation to enforce its will.  The continual infringement of the Constitution has left a watermark of what should have been a robust democratic culture.  Recurrent military regimes arrested the political process and have polluted political outfits that now, more often than not, collude with unelected elements to wrest power. 

 The Pakistan military, as an institution, remains materially and economically strong and capable of exerting the kind of influence despite the criticism from both political and civilian institutions, civil society, academia and the media.  The military as an institution remains strong and the core reason for this is its material wealth.  And the fact that there is no challenge.  One of the key reasons why there have been coup like in 1999 or before or after that, is that some civilian actors tried to control power and that is what brought them into conflict with the military establishment, which resists these efforts by all means.  For example, Nawaz Sharif, the three times PM of Pakistan and the military establishment became rivals in the 1990s. The key reason was that the Nawaz Sharif government tried to impose taxes on the military’s industries and economic wealth.  This created a wedge between Nawaz Sharif and the military establishment and resultantly Nawaz Sharif’s government was overthrown by the same military establishment because of their growing differences.

A UNDP report of 2021 said that Pakistan’s various business elites, that include the military itself, received about USD 17.4 billion in subsidies and taxes concessions and exemptions from the state of Pakistan annually.

The US Role

The Biden administration can stand in favour of democracy in Pakistan, the rule of law, and the supremacy of its constitution, all of which are under threat in this current crisis – and not with the United States’ usual and favoured partner in Pakistan, its military.  This means the US should explicitly speak up in favour of free, fair and on-time elections in Pakistan this year, and against violations of the rule of law and the country’s constitution. 

Throughout much of this history, Pakistan has been led by military dictators.  In return for helping the United States and West pursue its objectives, the Pakistan military obtained sizable economic and military aid and political support.  However, the degree of Pakistan’s cooperation has been much less than claimed.

The Pakistani priorities reflect the specific institutional interests of the military and therefore cannot be fundamentally changed unless the army gradually cedes its political role to representative civilian leaders and limits itself to defending borders.  In other words, the United States and other international actors vital to Pakistan’s future must stop taking the metaphorical bribe of partial Pakistani cooperation in fighting radicalisation, terrorism etc in return for propping up an unrepresentative, military government.

Conditionality of cooperation assistance applied by a large number of countries, not simply by the United States, should be applied to Pakistan’s leadership, in particular the military leadership, and should not affect the general population.

The first step towards this would be for the West to ensure that Pakistan’s old political guard under Nawaz Sharif as also the publicly popular Imran Khan, be strengthened to pursue a legal course against their own corrupt Army Generals, who have involved themselves in political machinations and are responsible for the country’s plight.

Nawaz Sharif is now back in Pakistan.  The PML-N supremo does not seem in any mood to abandon his long-standing demand for the ‘strict accountability’ of general and judges – former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, ex-spymaster Faiz Hamid, and former chief justice Asif Khosa and Saqib Nisar – for their alleged involvement in a ‘conspiracy’ to oust him from power in 2017. 

The international community has all the right to be concerned.  Pakistan is a nuclear nation veering from its pluralistic, democratic course, its ethnic divisions, religious and political polarisation and deepening under the jackboot of shaky military rule, posing a threat to its neighbourhood as well as the capitals of its distance western allies whose hand-wringing and threat of sanctions has fooled no one, least of all Islamabad’s current powerbrokers. 

The West will be told any formulation that sees the military take the back seat in the political process has the potential for a prolonged civil war, if the current unrest, brutally suppressed by the authorities, turns into a full- blown rebellion under self-serving politicians.  After another failed attempt at political engineering, the military establishment must step back and allow the democratic process to evolve.

The political churning set off by the confrontational course adopted by the military against civil society will throw up forces that could sweep even the semblances of democracy that exists in Pakistan out of the window.  The US must be willing to take a chance that after the initial upheaval, Pakistan will find its democratic feet. The politicians must be allowed to have a say in a new caretaker administration, and arrive at a representative, if untidy democracy.

Pakistan has long paid the price for the west’s myopic dependence on the military as the solution to all ills.  This time, the West must have the courage to allow Pakistanis to winnow the democratic chaff from the military weed.  Pakistan needs a new social contract that addresses injustice and inequalities. 

The start point of this might well be instituting Constitutional amendments to bring the powerful Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) under civil leadership as is done in all democracies of the world.   

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Danish, Norwegian envoys laud celebrations in Varanasi

Svane was seen interacting with Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath as the city celebrated the festival on the occasion of ‘Kartik Purnima.’..reports Asian Lite News

On the occasion of Dev Deepawali, Varanasi brightened up in beautiful lights on Monday, where Freddy Svane, Ambassador of Denmark to India, celebrated the festival with his wife and described the experience as ‘fantastic.’

Ambassador of Denmark to India, Svane, said, “I am here with my wife in Varanasi to celebrate the Dev Deepawali. It is fantastic being here where light is bringing hope to all of us. We are enjoying it truly… Culture is a language that we all understand”

Moreover, Svane was seen interacting with Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath as the city celebrated the festival on the occasion of ‘Kartik Purnima.’

On attending Dev Deepawali’ in Varanasi, Norway’s Ambassador to India, May-Elin Stener, highlighted that she had visited here for the first time, and called her experience a “tremendous impression.”

“This is my first time in Varanasi and it is such a tremendous impression to be here for Dev Deepawali and to see all these lights, it really touches me. I have been in India for 3 months and I am learning new things about India and Indian culture…,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mauritius High Commissioner to India Haymandoyal Dillum said that it is a good thing that the government here and UP CM invited them to this event, adding, “So many people from Mauritius do come here and offer prayers. I am very happy we got this opportunity.”

Moreover, as the envoys enjoy the festival in Uttar Pradesh, Kamlesh Shashi Prakash, Fiji’s High Commissioner to India stressed that it has been proved today that Varanasi is a city of lights and spirituality.

“We felt very happy that we visited Varanasi, it is a very holy place and people of Fiji do visit Varanasi…the kind of lights we saw today, it proves that Varanasi is a city of lights and spirituality,” he said.

Furthermore, Sweden’s Ambassador to India, Jan Thesleff expressed gratitude to witness the festival in Varanasi and said, “I am honoured to be here in Varanasi today. This is a unique day and to share that with the Uttar Pradesh CM and diplomats from 70 different countries is a memory of life for me.”

Noting that this is his first visit to Varanasi, Ambassador of Belarus to India Andrei Rzheussky said, ” I am excited, this is my first trip to Varanasi and Ganga River. This is my second meeting with UP CM Yogi Adityanath.”

In a dazzling display of cultural convergence, ambassadors and diplomats from over 70 nations have gathered in the historic city of Varanasi to partake in the grand celebrations of Gurupurnima.

Organized by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), the distinguished guests witnessed the lighting of earthen lamps on the auspicious occasion of Kartik Purnima, alongside the mesmerizing Ganga Arti and Dev Deepavali festivities at Kashi.

They received a warm welcome at Varanasi’s Lal Bahadur Shastri airport.

Varanasi, a city steeped in spiritual significance, has played host to various international events, including G20 and SCO meetings during India’s presidency.

Dev Deepavali, often referred to as “the Diwali of the Gods,” unfolds on the full moon night of the Hindu month of Kartika, embellishing the riverfront ghats of the Ganges from Ravidas Ghat to Rajghat with over a million earthen lamps. (ANI)

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