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With remarkable unanimity, UNGA adopts India-backed landmark resolution on AI safeguards

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United Nations, March 22 (IANS) Setting aside their polarising differences, all 193 countries joined together to adopt a landmark resolution backed by India, aiming to keep the world safe from the excesses of artificial intelligence (AI).

The UN General Assembly’s resolution passed unanimously on Thursday stressed “the urgency of achieving global consensus on safe, secure and trustworthy artificial intelligence systems” in the face of “potential risk for accidents and compound threats from malicious actors”.

India’s Permanent Representative Ruchira Kamboj said in a post on X after its adoption, “Happy to co-sponsor the Resolution on AI.”

The resolution was proposed by the US and the State Department’s factsheet about it said it builds on several initiatives, including the Global Partnership on AI (GPAI) Summit hosted by India in December.

The resolution emphasises the role of AI in promoting global development while making sure it protects private data and human rights and is tested for vulnerabilities before deployment.

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The resolution, which calls for the development of regulations for “safe, secure and trustworthy” AI systems, also acknowledges the importance of domestic priorities and national and “subnational” policies in framing them.

The unanimity at the UN stresses the fears over AI’s potential to disrupt politics and society through deepfakes and spreading misinformation, and its more sinister capabilities in warfare, development of weapons and disrupting economies.

“In a moment in which the world is seeming to be agreeing on little, perhaps the most quietly radical aspect of this resolution is the wide consensus forged in the name of advancing progress,” US Permanent Representative Linda Thomas-Greenfield said of its significance.

She added that she worked with more than 120 countries for several months to achieve the consensus and had put the resolution’s draft through several edits.

For wider acceptance and tamping down dissidence, the resolution highlights AI’s role in helping developing nations, especially the poorest, and calls for bridging the digital divide among and within nations that AI could widen.

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An important goal of the resolution is deploying AI for “achieving sustainable development in its three dimensions — economic, social and environmental — with specific consideration of developing countries and leaving no one behind”.

The resolution calls for measures to “promote innovation for the internationally interoperable identification, classification, evaluation, testing, prevention and mitigation of vulnerabilities and risks during the design and development and prior to the deployment and use of artificial intelligence systems”.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at arul.l@ians.in and followed at @arulouis)

–IANS

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International

13 Indians successfully rescued and repatriated from Laos

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Vientiane, May 26 (IANS) The Embassy of India in Laos said on Sunday that it has successfully rescued and repatriated 13 Indians, including seven Odiya workers from a wood factory in Attapeu province and six Indian youngsters from the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in the Bokeo province of the Southeast Asian country.

“So far, the Embassy has rescued 428 Indians from Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR). We thank Lao authorities for their cooperation,” the Embassy said in a post on X.

Stating that ensuring the safety and well-being of Indians remains its top priority, the Embassy also advised Indian workers coming to Laos/Lao PDR, to not get duped by fake or illegal job offers.

Earlier this month, the Embassy had issued an advisory detailing recent instances wherein Indian nationals were lured for employment through Thailand to Laos.

“These fake jobs are for posts such as ‘Digital Sales and Marketing Executives’ or ‘Customer Support Service’ by dubious companies involved in call-centre scams and crypto-currency fraud in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in Laos. Agents in places such as Dubai, Bangkok, Singapore and India associated with these firms are recruiting Indian nationals by taking a simple interview and the typing test, and are offering high salaries, hotel bookings along with return air tickets and visa facilitation,” the advisory stated.

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It added that victims are illegally taken across the border into Laos from Thailand and held captive to work in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in Laos under harsh and restrictive conditions.

“At times, they are taken hostages by criminal syndicates indulging in illegal activities and forced to work in strenuous conditions under constant physical and mental torture. In some other cases, Indian workers have been brought to Laos to work in other regions of Laos in low-cost jobs such as mining, wood factories, etc. In most cases, their handlers exploit them and endanger them in illegal work,” the advisory mentioned.

Advising Indian nationals to not get enticed and entrapped in fraudulent or exploitative job offers, the Embassy requested them to exercise extreme caution and verify the antecedents of recruiting agents as well as any company before taking up any job offer in Laos.

“Visa on Arrival in Thailand or Laos does not permit employment and the Lao authorities do not issue work permits to Indian nationals coming to Laos on such visas. Please note that those convicted of human trafficking crimes have been sentenced up to 18 years in prison in Laos,” the advisory warned.

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–IANS

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Tribal fighter killed in bomb attack in Iraq

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Baghdad, May 26 (IANS) A paramilitary fighter from a local tribal force was killed and four others wounded in twin roadside bomb explosions in Iraq’s eastern province of Diyala, the Iraqi military said on Sunday.

The incident took place at 9:40 p.m. local time on Saturday (1840 GMT) when a roadside bomb ripped through an outpost of the tribal fighters affiliated with the Iraqi Hashd Shaabi forces near a village in the Khan Bani Saad area south of Baquba, the provincial capital of Diyala, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, according to a statement released by the Security Media Cell, a media outlet affiliated with the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, reports Xinhua news agency.

The first blast caused no casualties. Upon the arrival of security forces to investigate and pursue the perpetrators, another roadside bomb went off, killing a tribal fighter and injuring four others, according to the statement.

The security situation in Iraq has been improved after the defeat of the militants of the extremist group Islamic State across the country in 2017. However, the country continues to grapple with sporadic attacks.

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–IANS

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Zelensky appeals to Biden and Xi to join Swiss peace talks

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Kharkiv, May 26 (IANS/DPA) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday appealed to his US counterpart Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping to participate in a planned peace summit in Switzerland in June.

“We do not want the UN Charter to be burnt down just like these books, and I hope you don’t want to either,” said Zelensky against the backdrop of a printing plant destroyed by a Russian missile attack in the northeastern city of Kharkiv.

“The efforts of the global majority are the best guarantee that all commitments will be fulfilled. Please, support the peace summit with your personal leadership and participation,” Zelensky added, addressing Biden and Xi directly in English in a video posted on the social media platform Telegram.

Switzerland has invited around 160 countries to a peace summit on June 15-16 to discuss possible ways to achieve lasting peace in Ukraine. Russia, which invaded Ukraine more than two years ago, has not received an invitation.

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According to Zelensky, Moscow is currently preparing another attack in northern Ukraine after a recent offensive near the northeastern city of Kharkiv.

Military experts say another Russian offensive in the northern Sumy region is possible. Russia’s aim could be to exploit its manpower and material superiority, overstretch the Ukrainian defence lines and thus achieve the collapse of the Ukrainian front line.

Kharkiv, which lies only 30 kilometres from the Russian border, has been one of the worst-hit cities in Moscow’s bombing campaign since its invasion of Ukraine in February, 2022.

–IANS/DPA

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Israel thins out forces in Rafah, Givati brigade left

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Jerusalem, May 26 (IANS) The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) thinned out forces in eastern parts of the southernmost Gazan city of Rafah, and the Givati infantry brigade left for Israel from the area where it had been operating since the operation a few weeks ago, Israel’s Ynet news website reported on Sunday.

The move comes shortly after Israel announced that it had agreed to renew talks with Hamas on a hostage deal soon, with the mediation of Egypt, Qatar and the US, Xinhua news agency reported.

Israel launched a large-scale offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip to retaliate against a Hamas rampage through the southern Israeli border on October 7, 2023, during which about 1,200 people were killed and over 250 were taken hostage.

The Israeli attacks have so far killed more than 35,900 people in the Gaza Strip, health authorities in the Palestinian enclave said in a press statement on Saturday.

–IANS

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Nearly 1 million evacuated as Cyclone Remal approaches Bangladesh

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Dhaka, May 26 (IANS) Bangladesh has begun evacuating millions of people ahead of Cyclone Remal, which is expected to bring winds as fast as 130 kmph when it makes landfall.

The cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal is poised to cross the country’s coastlines between Sunday evening and midnight, Xinhua news agency reported.

Bangladesh Meteorological Department on Sunday warned of the danger of flooding, landslides and a storm surge.

The great danger signal No. 10 has been sounded for the country’s coastal districts and seaports, where fishing boats, trawlers and maritime vessels have been advised to remain in shelter till further notice.

At 9.00 a.m. local time Sunday, the cyclone was centred 295 km south of Bangladesh’s Mongla port in the southern Khulna region and 380 km southwest of Chattogram port in southeastern Bangladesh, said the bulletin signed by Kh Hafizur Rahman, a meteorologist at BMD.

Bangladeshi State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief, Md Mohibur Rahman, told Xinhua that at least 8,00,000 people from the ten most vulnerable districts have already been evacuated to shelters.

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He said Bangladesh’s navy, coast guard, police, voluntary organisations and political parties were supporting the ongoing massive evacuation efforts.

Television footage showed widespread flooding in the low-lying areas of coastal districts.

Due to the peripheral effect of the severe cyclone and steep pressure gradient, the low-lying areas of the coastal districts of Khulna and Chattogram are likely to be inundated by a wind-driven surge of 8-12 feet height above normal astronomical tide, reads the bulletin.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority has suspended operations of all types of river vessels on all inner routes. Authorities of Chattogram Seaport have ordered to stop unloading of cargo at the outer anchorage and asked all the vessels anchored there to go to the deep sea.

Shah Amanat International Airport in Chattogram has suspended its flight operation for eight hours from Sunday afternoon.

In 2007, Cyclone Sidr hit the country’s southwestern coastal belt, leaving more than 4,000 people dead or missing.

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–IANS

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