Does the Paris Pact Hint a Sell-Out of India’s National Interest?

The Paris Climate Deal doesn’t seem to be in India’s national interest, writes former Union Minister, Manish Tewari.

6 min read
Does the Paris Pact Hint a Sell-Out of India’s National Interest?

“An early positive decision by the NSG would have allowed us to move forward on the Paris Agreement.” Thus, spake the NDA/BJP government in an official statement put out by the External Affairs Ministry on 24 June 2016 as India’s bid for a place on the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group high table was thwarted by an obstinate and pugnacious China along with nine other countries.

Also Read: India Ratifies Landmark Paris Climate Change Agreement at UN


Government Speaking in Two Voices

On 2 October 2016, the Union Environment Minister stated, “While taking the decision to ratify (the Paris deal), this subject (NSG membership) was not there. There is no connection (between them),” Referring to earlier statements by the External Affairs Ministry and Niti Aayog’s Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya that linked the ratification of the Paris deal with the country’s membership to the NSG, Dave said the leaders spoke “in their own capacity”.

The subject of ratification is looked after by the Prime Minister and the Environment Ministry. And whatever happened, it is there in front of everybody.
Anil Madhav Dave, Environment Minister

The question that confounds and compounds the absurdity of the statement is — Does the External Affairs Ministry not speak for the government of India and only in its own capacity? Does it have an artificial, natural or legal personality independent of the Government of India?

What made the government climb down from its high horse of angst and do a complete volte-face? Before coming to that issue, let us evaluate the Paris Deal on merits from an Indian perspective.

Also Read: Pakistan Will Retaliate at a Time and Place of Their Choosing


Is Coercive Diplomacy Behind the Paris Pact?

The Paris pact would put additional burden on India to reduce the carbon emissions, although it was exempt from the same under the Kyoto Protocol. Thus, the principles of common but differentiated responsibility, recognition of the historic burden of greenhouse gas emissions, applicability of the universally acknowledged principle of ‘polluter pays’ and the growth-related imperatives of developing countries have all been consigned to the graveyard of the climate change negotiations.

A reference to these first principles in the Paris deal is merely for cosmetic purposes and represents the vilest form of tokenism.

Also Read: Surgical Strikes Are Not the Answer to Terrorism, Diplomacy Is

Most emerging economies have been given so-called voluntary targets that would be reviewed and upgraded subsequently. It does not take long for coercive diplomacy to turn voluntary into statutory, given that India is being short-changed into signing a deal that is not in its best interest.
A man walks past a polluted canal littered with plastic bags in Mumbai, 2 October, 2016. India accounts for about 4.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. (Photo:AP)

India’s Right to Development Sacrificed

All the developed countries have taken targets from their peak emission year. Has India taken this fundamental fact into consideration before signing the Paris Pact? The answer is no. Studies show that the date of peaking has not been as yet finalised by the experts.

Has the NDA/BJP government taken into consideration that more than 400 million people in India do not have access to electricity and 800 million people still use biomass and cow dung for meeting their cooking needs. 80 percent of the commercial energy is being used only by 20 percent of population?

Can our electric grid take more than 15 percent of solar energy that is available for only 6 hours a day? Given the present low GDP growth rate, can we meet our proposed carbon intensity targets?

In the Paris climate deal, estimation of carbon emissions is based on the production methodology, instead of consumption-based methodology. Hence, developed countries can import as much carbon intensive products for their industrial, commercial and domestic use that will not be included in their emission inventory. It has been estimated that the carbon emission based on consumption is double than that declared by the European Union countries — the most sanctimonious Ayatollahs of Climate theology.

Thus, they have been given the licence to maintain their intensive energy-based life style without any penalty. Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) can further exempt them from taking any concrete measure to upgrade their processes and technologies.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) with French President Francois Hollande (R) at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, 10 April 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

Developed World to Benefit from the Climate Deal

The Paris deal aims to keep the global temperature rise below 2 Degrees Celsius with an effort for 1.5 Degrees Celsius. Studies show expected temperature rise as per present Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) targets will be between 2.7 -3.5 degrees Celsius. This is because the developed world has refused to step up to the plate.

The United States of America has been the main beneficiary as it has moved its baseline to 2005 from 1990 and will gain a benefit of emitting 1 gigaton carbon. That is why they are forcing other countries to ratify the covenant as quickly as possible. It makes perfect sense from their point of view as it does from the perspective of other rich western nations but why is India signing this iniquitous agreement that will cap its developmental trajectory well below both its potential and the needs of its people.

Also Read: If Pakistan Wants Proof of Surgical Strikes, India Should Oblige


Why Paris Deal Raises Eyebrows?

  • NDA govt’s U-turn on Paris deal evident as the External Affairs Ministry had said in June that India won’t sign the pact till it is granted NSG membership.
  • One hopes India has not signed the pact under pressure with coercive diplomacy being at play.
  • The government signed the pact without ensuring availability and access to alternative sources of energy for the people.
  • 400 million people in India don’t have access to electricity, another 800 million are dependent on biomass and cow dung for their cooking needs.
  • While there is no harm in reaching out to the US, a perception that India is its junior strategic partner doesn’t bode well for us.

The American Influence

That is where the geo-politics and the skew in this government’s priority kick in. Over the past twenty-eight months, the Prime Minister has slowly but surely moved into the orbit of American influence.

While there is no harm in developing the closest relationship with the US, an intricate balance was maintained to not allow a perception to gain ascendance that India was a junior strategic partner or client state of the US. This was the case whether the prime minister was AB Vajpayee or Dr Manmohan Singh. However, this is exactly what the current Prime Minister has ended up doing purposefully or inadvertently.

Also Read: Warlike Situation Could Prevail in Kashmir for Several Months


Change in Global Dynamics

China’s intransigence in the case of NSG membership stands in sharp relief to their more ambidextrous stance when the same body gave India a clean waiver on 7 September 2008.

Russia has started military exercises with Pakistan, a country that it never gave a second glance since 1947, all the way upto 2016. For all the talk about Pakistan’s isolation post-the Uri attack, even Shia Iran is talking about a linkage between the Chabahar and Gwadar Ports to vault on to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor bandwagon.

Also Read: PM Modi’s Pakistan Policy, A Victim of His High-Pitched Rhetoric

The White House abruptly archived an online petition that was getting tremendous traction to declare Pakistan as a terrorist state. (Photo: Reuters)

US’ Refusal to Declare Pakistan ‘Terror Sponsor’

The United States, as has been the case, believes in running with the hare and hunting with the hound when it comes to Pakistan. Only few days ago, the White House abruptly archived an online petition that was getting tremendous traction to declare Pakistan as a terrorist state.

All this, despite India appending its signature to the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA). Most of the mainline US journalistic outfits also have been rather lukewarm in buying into the Indian narrative on “surgical strikes along the Line of Control”.

It therefore, begs the question: What is the deal Mr Prime Minister? Why have we punched below our weight and taken on commitments that would have long-term implications for India? Why does it seem that there has been a sell-out of the national interest in Paris? The nation wants to know!


(The writer is a lawyer and a former Union Minister in the government of India. Views are personal. He can be reached at @ManishTewari. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

Also Read: Not Just Balochistan, India Should Rake up Bangladesh as Well

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from voices and opinion

Topics:  COP21 Meet   LEMOA   Uri Terror Attack 

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Quint Insider

or more


3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Insider Benefits
Read More
Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!
More News