The pivoting of the global diplomatic agenda towards the climate crisis is visible.
Numerous conventional diplomatic issues loom on India’s horizon.
They include tackling China’s increasing assertiveness and engaging a new United States (US) administration; reinforcing bonds with our neighbours and strengthening bridges with our extended neighbourhood; bolstering relations with the European Union (EU) and reinvigorating ties with a post-Brexit United Kingdom; countering the perennial pestilence of midnight’s other child; and enhancing our burgeoning ties with developing states globally.
When climate takes centre stage of global policymaking, the economic, social and political implications of the solutions to address the transboundary concerns are likely to override all else on the diplomatic agenda.
The announcement of John Kerry’s appointment to the new post of special presidential envoy for climate is an indication that US President-elect Joe Biden’s climate agenda is global.
Calls for greater ambition to reach net carbon neutrality by 2050 have gathered steam.
The Virtual Climate Ambition Summit held on the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement on December 12 is a precursor to the efforts underway.
More than 125 states have committed to the goal of a net zero carbon future by 2050.
Others are veering towards it.
A majority of the G-20 are on board; 38 countries have declared “climate emergencies” until carbon neutrality is reached.
China has provided a goal of 2060 and sees climate diplomacy as an opportunity at resuming the G-2 playbook of the Paris Agreement.
Once the US gets on board, those accounting for 63% of global greenhouse emissions would have agreed to carbon neutrality targets.
India is one of the few overachievers in terms of meeting the Nationally Determined Contributions announced under the Paris Agreement for 2030.
Climate negotiations potentially are more far-reaching for our polity, economy and society.
Several are suggesting that our best option is a “No” to more ambitious commitments.
EU is eyeing a carbon border adjustment mechanism by 2021.
The Conference of Parties (COP) 26 in Glasgow next year will not be just another multilateral meeting.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing the Climate Ambition Summit, signaled that, “Centennial India will not only meet its own targets, but will also exceed your expectations”.
India has set up an Apex Committee for Implementation of Paris Agreement (AIPA) to ensure coordination among 14 key ministries and to engage business and other stakeholders.
We will also need to leverage bilateral ties with key players such as the US and EU; espouse common concerns in plurilateral groups such as BRICS which we currently chair; and make tactical alliances where possible.
Besides, the thrust towards climate crisis as an international peace and security issue is likely to grow.
Diplomacy will inevitably be a tool in addressing the growing importance of the phenomenon.
The world cannot solve the climate crisis without India’s active participation.
While contributing to the global effort, we will need to seek an equitable outcome based on climate justice that also provides for financing and space for our transition.
While the policies of the developed countries are the primary cause of this phenomenon, a sustainable global transition is in India’s interests too.
Say Sorry | Ind Exp
In early April, when the COVID-19 pandemic had just begun to rage in India, an international Muslim missionary group, the Tablighi Jamaat, was charged of aggravating the health emergency.
The government blacklisted over 950 foreign nationals, accusing them of contravening emergency rules by participating in a Jamaat congregation at its markaz (centre) in Delhi — the event was incriminated for being a super-spreader.
More than 900 pleaded guilty as part of a “plea bargain” — by all accounts, because they did not want to stand trial in the country.
Forty-four of the accused, however, intrepidly stood their ground.
On August 24, about three weeks after the Supreme Court ruled that the trials be conducted in a time-bound manner, a Delhi magistrate’s court found “no prima facie evidence” against eight of the accused.
Now, on Tuesday, a metropolitan court in the capital exonerated the other 36.
The acquittals are indictment enough of the government’s handling of the episode.
Even more sobering are the court’s observations: “None of them were present at the markaz on the relevant period and they had been picked up from different places so as to maliciously prosecute them upon directions from the Ministry of Home Affairs”.
The congregation took place on March 13-15.
The lockdown in India was about 10 days away but the virus had given ample evidence of its notoriously contagious character.
In August, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court criticised the “scapegoating” of Tablighis for the pandemic.
Government must apologise to those it had wrongly accused and tainted.
Maritime command | Tribune
CHINA’s aggressive posturing along the Line of Actual Control and its growing footprint in the Indian Ocean region have prompted India’s armed forces to considerably raise their level of preparedness on land, sea and in the air.
Last month, the navies of the four Quad nations — the US, India, Japan and Australia — jointly conducted the Malabar military exercise in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
The multilateral show of strength was intended to unnerve China, whose submarine fleet is three times bigger than that of India, and it did somewhat achieve its aim.
Now, India is on course to set up an integrated maritime command that will have warships, fighter jets, helicopters, submarines, aircraft carriers and special amphibious brigades of the Army.
The maritime theatre commander will be tasked with securing the sea lanes along the 7,500-km coastline.
The long-awaited move comes 19 years after India established its first unified command — the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC).
Over the years, the ANC has been plagued by inadequate development of infrastructure, with a slew of environmental and coastal regulatory clearances being a major challenge.
The unsavoury tug of war between the services is another stumbling block.
In view of the Andaman & Nicobar experience, infrastructural issues and mandatory clearances should be dealt with on priority so that the command becomes operational in a year or so, as envisaged.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Bipin Rawat, has big plans to integrate the Army, Navy and Air Force while ‘retaining the niche capabilities of each service’.
Considering the current geostrategic scenario, it’s clear that no single service can handle a conflict situation on its own.
The key is to make the integration seamless so as to multiply the country’s combat potential.
The maritime command will serve its purpose only if various forces work as a cohesive unit.
Calling Bangladesh | Pioneer
Presence of China in our region & its debt-trapping ways with our neighbours.
It is important for India to strengthen bilateral relations and invest in mutually beneficial infrastructure than depend on a historicity of ties.
While the Narendra Modi Government has been aggressively pursuing the “look East” policy, it has been aiming to make Bangladesh the arrowhead of its diplomacy.
Sheikh Hasina Government has been equally keen on Chinese investment.
New Delhi has been making efforts to further enhance transport and connectivity between India and Bangladesh and has revived the 55-year-old Haldibari-Chilahati rail link.
The neighbours had earlier decided to resurrect the six pre-1965 rail links between the sides which the war had cut off.
The other links that are set to be revived between West Bengal with Bangladesh are
Petrapole (India) - Benapole (Bangladesh)
Gede (India) - Darshana (Bangladesh)
Singhabad (India) - Rohanpur (Bangladesh)
Radhikapur (India) - Birol (Bangladesh)
Diplomatically, this eases the trade corridor with Bangladesh, boosting bilateral trade in the region.
Strategically and politically, it eases India’s mainland connectivity to the Northeastern States, particularly Assam.
The new rail link between Akhaura (Bangladesh) and Agartala, which is being funded by India, is likely to be operational by 2021 end.
Both are the fastest growing economies in South Asia, and Bangladesh is expected to graduate from the LDC status to a developing country by 2024.
The GDP per capita is also projected to rise there.
The more India strides ahead in connectivity, the more it can keep Bangladesh as a buffer against China.
China has been quick to tap into the acute shortage of power in Bangladesh and has already taken up two mega power projects, hoping to enhance its presence in the energy market there.
And while India is also a player in the power sector, it is difficult for Bangladesh to overlook China given its energy demands.
For its part, India is working on joint projects on ports and roadways.
If the Modi Government wants to make a success of its ‘Act East’ policy, we must invest meaningfully in our neighbouring nation.