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Is India’s ‘neighbourhood first policy’ unable to win regional allies?




In an online webinar hosted by a Danish think tank, experts highlighted how the rise of China across South Asia has left an unpleasant impact on India’s relations with its smaller neighbours.


India’s ‘neighbourhood first policy’ was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s signature foreign policy initiative that sought to develop better relations with the country’s neighbours.

But experts, who last week spoke at an online conference organised by the Nordic Institute of Stability Studies (NISS), a Copenhagen-based think-tank, believe that the policy has failed to take a meaningful direction as Modi’s aggressive posture and growing Chinese pressure has prevented the country from winning allies in the region.

The conference’s title was “Failure of India’s Neighborhood First Policy under BJP Government: Implications for Regional Cooperation”.

Speaking at the conference, Scott Lucas, a professor emeritus of political science and international studies at the University of Birmingham, said that “Modi’s confrontational rather than collective approach in the region” has hurt India’s political prospects across South Asia.

The Modi government’s “focus on military measures rather than social elements” has also helped increase tensions across the region, increasing anti-India sentiment, according to Lucas.

Many experts in the conference echoed a common view that China appears to have benefited from increasing anti-India sentiment in the region, helping Beijing solidify its connections with other South Asian nations.

In the first few years of Modi’s rule, regional organisations like SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) were given utmost importance, but the ‘neighbourhood first policy’ failed to produce any positive outcome and instead, the country found itself competing with a far more belligerent China.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s domestic policies, which many criticise for being exclusionary against non-Hindu minorities, and attacks on press freedom have also made matters worse and further alienated India from its neighbouring countries, the experts said.

Muhammad Athar Javed, director-general of the NISS, who moderated the conference, also viewed that due to India’s patronising attitude towards smaller neighbours such as Nepal, Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, New Delhi is “now grappling with multilayered diplomatic challenges with SAARC member states.” The SAARC, which was established in 1985, includes states of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Muhammad Athar Javed, director general of the Nordic Studies of Stability Studies (NISS), moderated the international webinar titled “Failure of India’s Neighborhood First Policy under BJP Government: Implications for Regional Cooperation”. (Credit: Muhammad Athar Javed / TRTWorld)

Long enmity

Lucas also drew attention to the fact that when it comes to Pakistan, India’s regional policy sees a sudden shift “due to the factors such as Kashmir or Afghanistan”, making New Delhi’s foreign policy confrontational in nature.

The erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir has been a disputed region between India and Pakistan since 1947. India has always accused Pakistan of supporting an armed guerrilla movement that either seeks independence from both India and Pakistan or wants the complete merger of the disputed territory with Pakistan.

Another conflict that pits India against its neighbour Pakistan is Afghanistan. Islamabad has long been one of the patrons of the Taliban, a group which has recently come to power in Kabul after a long insurgency against the US-backed Afghan government. Pakistan has also raised concerns over growing hate crimes against India’s Muslim minority.

“India-Pakistan Economic relationship will be damaged if they don’t come to understand Afghanistan and they don’t make some good favorable decisions,” said Samuel Ramani, a tutor of politics and international relations at the University of Oxford, during the conference.

Both countries need to work together for projects like the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, which is also known as Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, Ramani said. The TAPI project aims to transport natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and finally to India.

Projects like TAPI will test Modi’s mood on whether he is ready for such projects, which will empower India’s neighbourhood first policy, or “it’s just in papers”, Ramani said.

India-Nepal tensions

Ramani found similarities between the post-Arab Spring political environment in the Middle East and current South Asia. Relations among neighbouring countries in South Asia have not improved or gotten worse to some extent and it’s parallel could be found in deteriorating ties between the Middle Eastern states following the Arab Spring uprisings, according to Ramani.

While India’s ‘neighbourhood first policy’ is something New Delhi was keen on pursuing in the beginning, it now appears to be going nowhere, Ramani observed.

“India is interfering in the domestic affairs of neighbouring countries especially in Nepal in the violation of their sovereignty. India is also creating hurdles in free transit and free trade within and beyond Nepal and keeps suppressing its people and government,” the academic said.

A lot of things are “going wrong” in India’s foreign policy, Ramani added.

Anil Sigdel, founder of Nepal Matters for America, a Washington DC-based think-tank agreed with Ramani’s conclusions on India’s foreign policy. Sigdel also thinks that India urgently needs to address various demarcations across Nepal-India borders, which has particularly made Nepali citizens suffer.

As the Eminent Persons Group, comprising high level politicians and experts from both sides for a joint comprehensive review of the bilateral ties, sat down and finalised a list of recommendations, “Modi’s leadership was showing some promise,” Sigdel said, during the conference.

The poster of the international webinar on India’s Neighbourhood First Policy. (Credit: Muhammad Athar Javed / TRTWorld)

“But that goodwill quickly evaporated as there was no response from the Modi government or not even willingness to receive the joint group’s report,” the Nepali activist said.

According to Sigdel, Ajit Doval, India’s National Security Adviser, “opined that Nepal has benefited from the existing arrangements; therefore Modi does not want to move forward with the report recommendations. And that was it”.

There are also various remaining problems between the two countries such as the water management along the border, especially regarding high structures being built on the Indian side to manage flooding that exposes Nepali villages to danger in monsoon season, according to Sigdel.

During the monsoon season in South Asia, heavy rainfall is recorded between June and September every year.

On top of all these issues, Indian authorities wanted to show their disregard toward Nepal by organising a road inauguration ceremony in Kalapani, a disputed region between Nepal and India, according to Sigdel. But that triggered “an unprecedented defiance” by Nepal as the country’s parliament unanimously passed an upgraded map that included Kalapani as a Nepali territory, “giving a massive setback to the Modi government”.

Is Bangladesh a bright spot for India? 

Among others, India- Bangladesh relationship is “a sign of promise”, Ramani said, during the conference. But even in that relationship, things are not bright on the ground as many ordinary Bangladeshis find the political leadership of India under Modi as Islamophobic or anti-Islam, Ramani said. They think that the BJP is “pushing Hindus against the Muslims that create violence,” he viewed.

Nazmul Islam, an assistant professor of political science at Ankara Yildirim Beyazit University, also thinks that “India’s domestic policies are creating problems” in Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority country, showing India’s neighbourhood first policy faces serious challenges even in friendly territories like Bangladesh.

Modi’s recent visit to Dhaka sparked deadly protests. The protesters in the capital city Dhaka chanted anti-Modi slogans to draw attention to his controversial policies that many find to be discriminating against Indian minorities, especially the Muslims.

While Bangladesh maintains good relations with India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pro-Hindu policies do not help improve ties between the two countries. Protestors clash with security officers during a protest against the visit of Modi in Dhaka, Bangladesh, March 25, 2021. (Mahmud Hossain Opu / AP Archive)

Across India-Bangladesh borders, things are not looking good either with occasional skirmishes continuing to take place as “smuggling is at its peak”, according to Ramani.

In December 2020, India and Bangladesh held a virtual summit, where the countries discussed topics like boosting trade, investment and transportation links, but avoided the thorny issue of sharing the water of the Teesta River, which flows into Bangladesh from the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal, Islam said.

“Bangladesh, like most nations, will sign up for something for its economic benefit”, the academic said.

While India has disagreements with Bangladesh on several issues, “it’s wrong to assume that economic deals with China will make Bangladesh move away from India but India doesn’t like Chinese interest and its investment in Bangladesh”, Islam added.

“Bangladesh’s foreign policy sides with China and Pakistan over India in a few cases, and that Dhaka should be careful regarding its foreign policy and strategic choices as Indian interference in the region and in Afghanistan to gain its power will affect its relationship with Bangladesh in the future”.

Sri Lanka-India ties

One of India’s clashing points with China across South Asia happens in Sri Lanka for different reasons.

“India draws closer to the West, particularly through the Quad and other multilateral and mini-lateral initiatives”, said Shakthi De Silva, an assistant lecturer of international relations at University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, during the conference. Quad refers to a strategic dialogue between the US, India, Japan and Australia as a response to China’s assertive presence in the Pacific region.

But Sri Lanka’s connections with the West are not moving in a good direction as the country’s Rajapakse government faces increasing criticism from Western capitals on human rights issues and freedoms, according to Silva. As a result, Sri Lanka has begun moving toward China, increasing the possibility that Indo-Sri Lankan ties might deteriorate at some point, he said.

“Sri Lanka’s tilt towards China was not an inevitable outcome. Rectifying the situation requires India and the West to adopt a more nuanced posture on the issue of human rights and accountability,” Silva viewed.

But Silva still thinks that “Sri Lanka has, and will, continue to maintain warm ties with India, giving deference to Indian security interests and welcoming high level Indian visits,” Silva added. But the country has also increasingly inclined towards China owing to the latter’s FDI inflows, investment volume and Beijing’s ability to grant Sri Lanka much needed loans as the island tries to extricate itself from its economic crisis.

“Although Sri Lanka curtails its own behaviour to appease India’s security interest, it is increasingly relying on China and will continue to interact with China in the future.”

Source: TRT World



A Glorious Journey to Great Rejuvenation: the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Communist Party of China over the Past Century





By H.E. Wang Lixin, Chinese Ambassador to Maldives


This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. Recently, the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China successfully convened its sixth plenary session. This Plenary Session is of great historical significance as it was held at the time when the Communist Party of China has, through uniting and leading the Chinese people, fulfilled the First Centenary Goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects on schedule and is embarking on the new journey to accomplish the Second Centenary Goal of building a great modern socialist country.

The plenum highlighted that the Party has established Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position in the Party Central Committee and in the Party as a whole, and defined the guiding role of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. This reflects the common will of the Party, the armed forces, and Chinese people of all ethnic groups, and is of decisive significance for advancing the cause of the Party and the country in the new era and for driving forward the historic process of national rejuvenation.

The most important outcome of the plenum is that it has deliberated and adopted the Resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on the Major Achievements and Historical Experience of the Party over the Past Century. Looking back on the Party’s endeavors over the past century, we can see why we were successful in the past and how we can continue to succeed in the future. The Resolution is a glorious Marxist programmatic document, a political declaration for Chinese Communists in the new era to keep in mind our original mission, uphold and develop socialism with Chinese characteristics, and a guide to action for taking history as a mirror, creating the future, and realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

The Major Achievements of the CPC

Since its founding in 1921, the Communist Party of China has remained true to its original aspiration and mission of seeking happiness for the Chinese people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation. Staying committed to communist ideals and socialist convictions, it has united and led the Chinese people of all ethnic groups in working tirelessly to achieve national independence and liberation, and then to make the country prosperous and strong, and pursue a better life for the Chinese people. The past century has been a glorious journey. The centenary struggle of the Party and the people has written the most magnificent epic in the millennia-long history of the Chinese nation.

In the period of the new-democratic revolution, the Party led the Chinese people in fighting bloody battles with unyielding determination, achieving great success in the new-democratic revolution, establishing the People’s Republic of China and realizing the independence of the Chinese nation and the liberation of the Chinese people. This marked the country’s great transformation from a millennia-old feudal autocracy to a people’s democracy and the beginning of a new epoch in China’s development. This also reshaped the world political landscape and offered enormous inspiration for oppressed nations and peoples struggling for liberation around the world. The Party and the Chinese people showed the world that the Chinese people had stood up.

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Party led the Chinese people in carrying out socialist revolution, promoting socialist construction, and establishing an independent and relatively complete industrial system and national economic framework, achieving great success in socialist revolution and construction, bringing about the most extensive and profound social change in the history of the Chinese nation and a great transformation from a poor and backward Eastern country with a large population to a socialist country.

From the late 1970’s on, the Party led the people in achieving great success in reform and opening up and socialist modernization, achieving the historic transformations from a highly centralized planned economy into a socialist market economy brimming with vitality, and from a country that was largely isolated into one that is open to the outside world across the board, and the historic transformation from a country with relatively backward productive forces to the world’s second largest economy, and making the historic strides of raising the living standards of its people from bare subsistence to moderate prosperity in general and then toward moderate prosperity in all respects. All these achievements marked the tremendous advance of the Chinese nation from standing up to growing prosperous.

Following the Party’s 18th National Congress, socialism with Chinese characteristics entered a new era. Guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the Party led the Chinese people in fulfilling the First Centenary Goal, starting to embark on the new journey to achieve the Second Centenary Goal and continuing to strive toward the great goal of national rejuvenation. With this, it has brought about great success for socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, prompted historic achievements and historic shifts in the cause of the Party and the country. The Chinese nation has achieved the tremendous transformation from standing up and growing prosperous to becoming strong.

The Party’s endeavors over the past century have fundamentally transformed the future of the Chinese people, have opened up the right path for achieving rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, have demonstrated the strong vitality of Marxism, have produced a profound influence on the course of world history, have expanded the channels for developing countries to achieve modernization, and have made the the Party a forerunner of the times.

The past century witnesses profound changes. All those changes that have taken place in China and all the achievements of the Chinese nation have strongly proved that without the Communist Party of China, there would be no new China and no great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The Party was chosen to lead by history and the Chinese people. Its leadership is the very foundation and lifeblood of the Party and the country, and it is the crux upon which the interests and well-being of all Chinese people depend.

The Historical Experience of the CPC

Over the past 100 years, the Party has led the Chinese people in great endeavors and has continuously moved from victory to new victory, we have accumulated valuable historical experience, which can be summarized in ten aspects: upholding the Party’s leadership, putting the people first, advancing theoretical innovation, staying independent, following the Chinese path, maintaining a global vision, breaking new ground, standing up for ourselves, promoting the united front, and remaining committed to self-reform. These ten points represent valuable practical experience gained over long term and intellectual treasures created through the joint efforts of the Party and the people. They are also the secrets of why the Party has been so successful. The following stories will help you better understand the successful experience of the Party.

President Xi Jinping has repeatedly stated that “we must ensure that the power given by the people is always used for the well-being of the people”; “The country’s most fundamental interest is the happiness of the people, and the people’s desire for a better life is our goal”; “I am determined to devote myself to serving the Chinese people and the development of China wholeheartedly.” All these words illustrate the deep love for the people of the great leader of a century-old party, and also embody the Party’s aspiration and mission of seeking happiness for the Chinese people and rejuvenation for the Chinese nation.

On July 1, 2021, President Xi Jinping solemnly proclaimed “we have fulfilled the First Centenary Goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, bringing about a historic resolution to the problem of absolute poverty”. 98.99 million rural residents below the current poverty line had been lifted out of poverty. The Chinese people had been lifted out of absolute poverty, with a per capita gross national income of more than 10,000 USD, leading an increasingly prosperous life and moving towards the goal of common prosperity. President Xi Jinping has visited poor mountainous areas for several times to conduct field survey and offer guidance for the work of poverty eradication, leading all people to common prosperity. He once said, “common prosperity is a long goal, it requires a process and can not be achieved overnight. This long-term, difficult and complex task should be fully estimated, and should be done without rest nor rush.”

In face of Covid-19, the Party has always put “people first” and “life first”. Immediately after the outbreak of the pandemic, the Party quickly launched patient treatment, city-wide testing and even lockdown of Wuhan City. It did not miss a single infected person nor gave up any patient. In this way, the Party has safeguarded the people’s life and health “at all costs”. President Xi Jinping said: “More than 3,000 senior patients over 80 years old were rescued from Covid-19 in Hubei Province alone, among whom an 87-year-old man was carefully treated by more than 10 medical workers for dozens of days. Their recoveries demonstrate the essence of ‘people first’. Taking care of a single patient with dozens of medical workers, this well illustrates the true meaning of ‘at all costs’.”

Maintaining a Global Vision is one of the Party’s characteristics. Since the start of COVID-19, China has provided the international community with over 350 billion masks, over 4 billion protective suits, over 6 billion testing kits, and over 1.7 billion doses of vaccines. China will endeavor to provide 2 billion doses of vaccines to the world throughout the year, and donate 100 million doses of vaccines to developing countries for free this year on top of the 100 million USD donation to COVAX. China has proposed the Global Vaccine Cooperation Action Initiative, also sponsored by Maldives, aiming to provide 3 billion USD over the next three years to support developing countries in fighting against Covid-19 and reviving economic and social development. All of these show China’s great contributions as a responsible major country.

In terms of climate change, China advocates the harmonious coexistence between man and nature, accelerates transition to green and low-carbon development, tackles climate change proactively, fosters a community of life for man and nature. At the General Debate of the 76th Session of the UNGA, President Xi Jinping announced that China would strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, would step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy, and would not build new coal-fired power projects abroad. At the COP26 Summit, President Xi Jinping presented China’s major propositions on the next step of global climate governance, demonstrating China’s determination and sincerity to effectively implement the Paris Agreement and support global green and low-carbon development, contributing to the adoption of the Glasgow Climate Pact.

Not long ago, President Xi Jinping proposed a Global Development Initiative at the General Debate of the 76th Session of the UNGA, calling on accelerating of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving more robust, greener and more balanced global development, so as to build a global community of development with a shared future. China has hosted International Import Expo for four consecutive years, demonstrating that we will not change our resolve to open wider at a high standard; we will not change our determination to share development opportunities with the rest of the world; and we will not change our commitment to an economic globalization that is more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial for all.

Over the past hundred years, while pursuing happiness for the Chinese people and rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, the Party has also contributed to human progress and world harmony and has been cogitating on the future of humanity with a global vision. It has been and will continue to be builder of world peace, contributor to global development, and defender of the international order. Ready to work together with political parties in various countries including Maldives to exchange governance experiences, the Party will stay true to its original aspiration of pursuing happiness for the people and of building a community of shared future for mankind.

Looking forward, to accomplish the Party’s mission, we must never forget why we started. The Party remains focused on achieving lasting greatness for the Chinese nation, and a hundred years on from its founding, the Party is still in its prime. Over the past century, the Party has secured extraordinary historical achievements. Today, it is rallying and leading the Chinese people on a new journey for the Second Centenary Goal. We are convinced that the Party and the Chinese people will build upon the great glories and victories of the past hundred years with even greater glories and victories on the new journey in the new era.

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“Indian” Foreign Minister Shahid and his interests





By: Akram Mufeed.


After the UN General Assembly meeting, President Solih invited PGA Shahid to visit the Maldives, and he was conferred the Order of Distinguished Rule of Izzudheen, “Nishan Izzuddeen Izzathuge Verikan”. But the Maldivians do not seem to recognize Shahid’s merits, nor do they think his election is beneficial to Maldives. Those familiar with Shahid’s political career know that he is handpicked by India and, like Former President Nasheed, has Indian government at his back.

Shahid – a true friend of India

During the political crisis in Maldives in February 2018, Shahid openly supported Speaker Nasheed’s request for India to send troops to intervene in Maldives’s political upheavals. He also appeared on Indian live television with former Indian diplomat K.C. Singh to express his concern that the Indian military had not arrived on Maldivian soil 48 hours after the declaration of the state of emergency. In that same interview, Singh admitted to having advised the GMR Group to station Indian military personnel, disguised as its employees, at Hulhule. This is the prime evidence that Shahid is an agent of India.

Most noteworthy, India highly recommended Shahid for the presidency of the UNGA in order to gain more benefits from him. India was the first country to endorse Shahid’s candidacy. As early as last November, India’s foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla publicly expressed India’s commitment to support his candidature. Meanwhile, India’s External Affairs Minister Jaishankar was also among the first international dignitaries to congratulate Shahid on his election as president of the 76th UN General Assembly. When Shahid formally assumes the UNGA President’s mantle and chairs the first session, he is busy selecting his team. In return, a senior second-line Indian diplomat already at the office of the nation’s Permanent Representative at the UN, is to be the favorite as President Shahid’s Chef de Cabinet. India is also the first country that Shahid visited in his official capacity as PGA-Elect since his election. During this visit, India assured the grant of $4.5 million to carry out high-impact projects in Maldives through local councils. Shahid tweeted that the high impact community development projects are “immensely impactful”, adding that he paved the way for more projects to be funded.

Shahid and his advocacy for India’s interests in the Maldives.

Shahid has met India’s external affairs minister Jaishankar nine times since the Solih government took office in November 2018. It can be said that Shahid plays a key role in India taking full control of Maldives. Shaid repeatedly mentions that India and Maldives have stepped into a “new era of enhanced cooperation”, and effectively facilitates the Maldives’ acceptance of a number of so-called grant projects of India. In August 2020, Indian External Affairs Minister Jaishankar held a virtual meeting with Shahid, during which Shahid promoted the signing of the Greater Male connectivity project and accepted India’s financial support of $250 million. In January 2020, Shahid expressed his support for the US Indo-Pacific strategy. He called India a special friend and was willing to strengthen cooperation to ensure India’s centrality in the Indian Ocean. This actually drags Maldives into superpower games. If Maldives becomes the pawn of India, our policy of diplomatic neutrality and balance will be an empty talk, which is detrimental for this small island country.

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Unite for Action To Protect the Planet, Our Shared Home





Written Statement by H.E. Xi Jinping

President of the People’s Republic of China

At the World Leaders Summit

1 November 2021

Honourable Prime Minister Boris Johnson,


It gives me great pleasure to attend the World Leaders Summit and discuss ways to address the climate challenge. As we speak, the adverse impacts of climate change have become increasingly evident, presenting a growing urgency for global action. How to respond to climate change and revive the world economy are challenges of our times that we must meet.

 First, we need to uphold multilateral consensus. When it comes to global challenges such as climate change, multilateralism is the right prescription. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Paris Agreement provide the fundamental legal basis for international cooperation on climate. Parties need to build on existing consensus, increase mutual trust, step up cooperation and work together to deliver a successful COP26 in Glasgow.

 Second, we need to focus on concrete actions. Visions will come true only when we act on them. Parties need to honour their commitments, set realistic targets and visions, and do their best according to national conditions to deliver their climate action measures. Developed countries should not only do more themselves, but should also provide support to help developing countries do better.

 Third, we need to accelerate the green transition. It is important to harness innovations in science and technology to transform and upgrade our energy and resources sectors as well as the industrial structure and consumption pattern, promote a greener economy and society, and explore a new pathway forward that coordinates development with conservation.


Guided by the vision of a community of life for man and Nature, China will continue to prioritize ecological conservation and pursue a green and low-carbon path to development. We will foster a green, low-carbon and circular economic system at a faster pace, press ahead with industrial structure adjustment, and rein in the irrational development of energy-intensive and high-emissions projects. We will speed up the transition to green and low-carbon energy, vigorously develop renewable energy, and plan and build large wind and photovoltaic power stations. Recently, China released two directives: Working Guidance for Carbon Dioxide Peaking and Carbon Neutrality in Full and Faithful Implementation of the New Development Philosophy, and the Action Plan for Carbon Dioxide Peaking Before 2030. Specific implementation plans for key areas such as energy, industry, construction and transport, and for key sectors such as coal, electricity, iron and steel, and cement will be rolled out, coupled with supporting measures in terms of science and technology, carbon sink, fiscal and taxation, and financial incentives. Taken together, these measures will form a “1+N” policy framework for delivering carbon peak and carbon neutrality, with clearly-defined timetable, roadmap and blueprint.

Ancient Chinese believe that “successful governance relies on solid action”. I hope all parties will take stronger actions to jointly tackle the climate challenge and protect the planet, the shared home for us all.

Thank you.

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