Posts Tagged ‘India’

This article was originally published in DailyO on December 3, 2016 here.

The holy city of Amritsar is all set to host the sixth Heart of Asia ministerial conference over this weekend, where representatives from over 40 countries are congregating to discuss and deliberate upon issues of peace, prosperity and progress of the nation which lies at the “heart” of Asia – Afghanistan.

Launched in 2011, the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was established as a platform to address regional issues, encouraging security, political and economic cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours.

The countries in the grouping include India, Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Turkey, and the Central Asian neighbours of Afghanistan. Those playing a supportive role in the initiative include US, Britain, France, Japan, Germany, Egypt, Australia, among others.

The previous ministerial conference was held in 2015 in Islamabad which was attended by India’s external affairs ministerSushma Swaraj. This time around, as Swaraj is not keeping well, India would be represented by finance minister Arun Jaitley, who would also be the co-chair of the conference, along with Afghan foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani.

Prime Minister Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani would inaugurate the ministerial conference on Sunday, December 4, a day after the bilateral meeting that is scheduled for Saturday.

The theme of the event, “Addressing challenges and achieving prosperity” is indicative and alludes to the kind of issues that would be at the forefront of the deliberations – terrorism and development.

The long drawn war that the Afghan forces are fighting against the Taliban needs support wherever it can come from. Emanating out of the Pakistani deep state – the military and ISI nexus – and executed on the ground by its subsidiaries such as the Taliban, terrorism continues to derail the Afghan development and rebuilding efforts.

Despite calls from neighbours to mend its ways, Pakistan is unwilling to let go of its “strategic assets” – in the form of various terrorist groups – any time soon, despite all the rhetoric that they support a stable Afghanistan. Violence continues to wreck people’s lives and Afghan blood is spilt every single day.

Terrorism has not only crippled Afghanistan and destabilised the region, but has also consistently displayed disdain for external players. The attack on German Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif last month and the American University in Kabul in August 2016 are two recent examples.

Speaking a joint press conference with the MEA on Novermber 30, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India, Shaida Mohammad Abdali, said that terrorism is the “greatest threat to this region”. He expressed hope that the Heart of Asia conference will adopt the Regional Counter Terrorism framework, drafted by Afghanistan and circulated among the members. This would be a useful step towards increasing the heat on Pakistan and hold it accountable for state-sponsored terrorism.

India must make full use of the opportunity and expose Pakistan’s terrorist designs. Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan’s de-facto minister of foreign affairs who will be attending the meet, must be delivered the message loud and clear that Pakistan’s use of terrorism as state policy will only lead to its diplomatic isolation. With the conference taking place just days after the Nagrota terror attack, it is well timed for a diplomatic offensive on Pakistan.

But terrorism is not the only way by which Pakistan is undermining Afghan interests. Economic development of Afghanistan is heavily dependent on connectivity. Here again, Pakistan has been exploiting its location and has left no stone unturned to create hurdles for its neighbour.

Pakistan refuses to allow Afghan trucks, which carry goods from Afghanistan to the Wagah border in Pakistan, to carry back products from India to Afghanistan. Even the goods that the Afghan trucks bring have to be offloaded at Wagah and reloaded again on other vehicles, to be brought into India.

By denying transit, Pakistan is severely hurting the economic interests of ordinary Afghans. Any talk about Afghanistan’s development cannot ignore this tragedy, perpetuated by the Pakistani establishment.

The Chahbahar route, facilitated by the India-Afghanistan-Iran trilateral, thankfully overcomes this land challenge. It is being called the “game-changer” of the fortunes of the region and rightly so. It establishes a permanent alternative to the land route, boosting prospects for greater trade and connectivity between Afghanistan and India.

Afghan Ambassador has further spoken of “offering” this opportunity for well-meaning countries, inviting them to come forward and connect with Afghanistan.

Connectivity, therefore, is going to be a matter of great importance as countries deliberate on economic cooperation with Afghanistan.

The location of the Heart of Asia conference couldn’t have been more pertinent. Amritsar, which has historically been a stop on the old Grand Trunk road that uninterruptedly connected Bengal to Kabul and beyond, is symbolic of the potential of connectivity that exists in this part of the world.

It actually sends out a message to Pakistan, which has been the main roadblock and deal breaker when it comes to regional integration.

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This article was originally published in The Diplomat magazine on Nov 2, 2016 here.

The recently concluded eighth BRICS summit in Goa, India on October 15-16 saw a range of unprecedented outcomes and engagements. One of the biggest highlights among them was the BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit, where the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) leaders met the heads of government of the BIMSTEC countries. In the last two years, BRICS summits have seen engagements with regional players from the host country’s neighborhood. That India chose BIMSTEC over any other regional grouping is indicative of the importance New Delhi attaches to the Bay of Bengal region. BIMSTEC indeed has huge potential to emerge as a grouping that can accelerate the process of regional integration, security cooperation, and inclusive growth in this region. For India in particular, BIMSTEC can be a pivot to the Act East Policy. Through enhanced cross-border connectivity and interlinkages, India’s northeast region can take center stage as the gateway to South East Asia.

BIMSTEC, which stands for Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, is a multilateral grouping of seven countries: India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. In June 1997, the four Bay of Bengal littoral countries of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand came together to form BIST-EC (Bangladesh-India-Sri Lanka-Thailand Economic Cooperation). In December the same year, Myanmar joined in to make it “BIMST-EC”, while Nepal received observer status in the organization the following year.

The inauguration of BIMST-EC and the years following it did not see very high profile engagements, as seen in the case of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Instead, the grouping was off to rather a more modest start, which saw only ministerial-level meetings for a long time. The group started off by laying down the principles, scope, and institutional mechanisms of the organization. In the second ministerial meeting, six sectors were identified for cooperation – trade and investment, technology, transport and communication, energy, tourism, and fisheries.

It was in 2004 that organization as we know it today took shape, with Nepal and Bhutan joining in as full members. It was renamed BIMSTEC, standing for the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, rather than initials of the names of member countries. In July 2004, the first BIMSTEC summit took place in Bangkok, attended by then-Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had just taken office after the general elections. The subsequent eighth ministerial meeting in 2005 increased the number of sectors for cooperation to eight.

Though it was decided in the Thailand meeting of 2004 to hold the BIMSTEC summit every two years, only three such summits were held prior to the recent one in Goa. The second high level summit was held in New Delhi in 2008, four years after the Thailand summit. However, ministerial meetings have been constantly held over the years, bringing together foreign ministers and commerce/industry ministers to deliberate upon issues of mutual interest. Besides, other operational bodies have interacted regularly, such as the Senior Trade Economic Officials Meetings. The BIMSTEC Working Group is the coordinating body for all of this activity and its chair rotates with the BIMSTEC Chairmanship, which is currently held by Nepal.

The third BIMSTEC summit was held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar in 2011. Here it was unanimously decided that a permanent Secretariat for BIMSTEC would be set up in Bangladesh and the first secretary general would be appointed from Sri Lanka. Consequently, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the secretariat in Dhaka’s diplomatic enclave of Gulshan in 2014 and Sumith Nakandala from Sri Lanka took charge as the secretary general.

Goa was the fourth high level summit and the first-ever joint summit of the organization with another multilateral grouping. Through the BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach summit, the BIMSTEC countries sought greater exposure to financial investments for the region. The New Development Bank established by the BRICS is of particular interest in this regard. Among the BIMSTEC countries themselves, there was renewed interest to fast track free-trade agreement negotiations to boost trade, pursue the possibilities for a blue economy, and improve connectivity and people-to-people contact.

Most notably, the BIMSTEC leaders, in the outcome document, unequivocally condemned terrorism:

“We condemn in the strongest terms the recent barbaric terror attacks in the region. We strongly believe that our fight against terrorism should not only seek to disrupt and eliminate terrorists, terror organizations and networks, but should also identify, hold accountable and take strong measures against States who encourage, support and finance terrorism, provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups, and falsely extol their virtues. There should be no glorification of terrorists as martyrs.”

After South Asian nations pulled out of the SAARC summit last month, the BIMSTEC summit marked the second time that Pakistan faced strong condemnation for its terrorist designs from leaders in South Asia. Such a condemnation is not only a diplomatic victory for India but also a pertinent stance for all BIMSTEC countries given the grave threat the entire region faces from terrorism.

The BIMSTEC leaders also identified various other areas of cooperation to move forward with concrete action – a BIMSTEC framework agreement on transit, trans-shipment and movement of vehicular traffic; having an annual exercise on disaster management; setting up a BIMSTEC center for technology transfer; initiating talks on a BIMSTEC coastal shipping agreement; information intelligence sharing and an annual meeting of national security chiefs; and so on. It was also decided to form a BIMSTEC eminent persons group to further explore and identify new avenues for collaboration. From the six sectors of cooperation in 1997, BIMSTEC cooperation today spans across 14 sectors, including agriculture, poverty alleviation, climate change, cultural cooperation, counterterrorism, and transnational crimes.

Home to over 1.5 billion people, which constitutes around 22 percent of the world’s population, with strong historical and cultural ties, and a combined GDP of $2.7 trillion, BIMSTEC has immense possibilities for the future. In the last five years, BIMSTEC member states have been able to sustain an average 6.5 percent economic growth rate despite the global financial slowdown. The BIMSTEC region has a huge amount of untapped natural, water, and human resources, from hydropower potential in the Himalayan basin to hydrocarbons in the Bay of Bengal.

There is however a long way to go in establishing satisfactory inter-regional transport connectivity, something that is foundational for several other fields of cooperation. To this end, as many as 100 projects have been identified by the BIMSTEC Transport Infrastructure and Logistics Study (BTILS), which would be funded by the Asian Development Bank. Also in the works is the Kaladan Multi-Modal Project, which would connect India to ASEAN countries, and the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway. Besides inter-regional cross-border connectivity, it is crucial that BIMSTEC countries simultaneously develop their own internal infrastructures – feeder road connectivity, which would form a major part of the supply chain – in order to fully benefit from the fruits of trade liberalization.

With the fresh lease of energy pumped into the organization, BIMSTEC today has political will backing it like never before. With Pakistan perennially playing spoilsport in SAARC, BIMSTEC can be expected to play a greater role in meeting the objectives of regional integration and cooperation in various sectors. BIMSTEC, unlike SAARC, is an “issue-free relationship” in which all countries are looking for cooperation that can help in their development process. Also unlike SAARC, BIMSTEC has no written charter and thus is more flexible. In each of the 14 priority areas of cooperation, a member country takes the lead.

With five countries that also belong to SAARC and two that belong to ASEAN, BIMSTEC can serve as the bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia. With the lifting of sanctions on Myanmar and a democratic government at its helm, the country can particularly play this bridging role. As BIMSTEC celebrates its 20th anniversary next year, Goa could mark the beginning of a new rise in its trajectory.

This article was orginally published in DailyO here.

Ever since the Indus Waters Treaty has come into the current discourse of India-Pakistan relations, some have called for abrogation of the lopsided treaty, while others have warned against it citing a range of consequences that would follow. But any evaluation of this matter must be cognisant of the fundamental fact that the treaty is grossly unfair to India.

Signed in 1960 by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the then Pakistan President Ayub Khan, the Indus Water Treaty was brokered by World Bank. It is an extraordinarily generous water-sharing treaty, and is the only pact in the world that compels the upper riparian state to defer to the interests of the downstream state.

The treaty gives Pakistan control over the three so-called “western” rivers – Indus, Jhelum and Chenab that flow from Jammu and Kashmir before entering Pakistan. On the other hand, India gets to control the three eastern rivers – Ravi, Beas and Sutlej that flow from Punjab.

This parity in the number of rivers is, however, quite misleading. The three rivers that India gets to control have an awfully low volume of waters compared to the other three. In all, Pakistan gets a whopping 5,900 tmcft volume of water every year which is a massive 80.5 per cent share of the total waters, while India gets to use only 19.5 per cent.

What’s ironic is that Pakistan gobbles up all of this water even though its actual requirement is much less. It is egregious that annually about 40 million acre feet (maf) of water flows into the Arabian Sea absolutely unutilised, according to a study by a Supreme Court advocate.

If even some of these waters were allowed to be utilised by India, the water crunch in the states of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan could probably be solved. Further, the state most affected by the treaty is Jammu and Kashmir. The people and government of J&K have time and again raised this issue.

In 2002, the state Assembly passed a unanimous resolution demanding the abrogation of the pact, when Mufti Mohammed Sayeed was the chief minister. Given the power shortages in the state, full access to Indus waters has the ability to boost self-reliance which is key to solving the state’s problems. Pakistan, however, has a vested interest in continuing the status quo because it harms the people of J&K and undermines their economic growth.

Even though under the treaty India has the right to “non-consumptive” use of the three western rivers, which is for purposes such as hydropower generation and even storage upto 3.6 million acre feet, India has hardly made any use of these waters, allowing Pakistan to benefit from the surplus.

Even for the few projects that India has undertaken, such as the Kishanganga and Ratle projects well within the treaty framework, Pakistan has unabashedly taken them to international arbitration over petty objections, in effect stalling the projects resulting in obvious implications such as cost overruns.

Meanwhile as the Indian projects are halted, Pakistan itself is busy erecting dams to make its case stronger. Ironically, China too has stealthily built a dam on the Indus at Demchok in Ladakh.

The Indus Waters Treaty came into recent spotlight when MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup on September 22 hinted at a press briefing that India may revisit it. “I am sure you are aware that there are differences between India and Pakistan on the implementation of the Indus Waters Treaty,” he said before adding that the issue is being addressed bilaterally and that all cooperative measures call for mutual trust and goodwill on both sides. “For any such treaty to work, it is important there must be mutual trust and cooperation. It can’t be a one-sided affair,” Swarup said.

Largesse be it in the case of river waters or other resources like land, marine resources, etc is not uncommon in diplomacy. India has a proven track record of making magnanimous overtures to its neighbours.

The recent land boundary agreement with Bangladesh is a fine example of how India is willing to walk the extra mile if the partner country is able to reciprocate with a sense of goodwill and positivity. But Pakistan is no Bangladesh or Bhutan.

There is neither mutual trust nor goodwill, which were the foundational basis of the Indus Waters Treaty, between India and Pakistan today. For 56 years of uninterrupted and unquestioned flow of waters from India to Pakistan, all India has got in return is the blood of its citizens.

As strategist Brahma Chellaney wrote in his recent article, “If India jettisons the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), it can fashion water into its most potent tool of leverage to mend Pakistan’s behaviour. Pakistan has consistently backed away from bilateral agreements with India – from the Simla Agreement, to the commitment not to allow its territory to be used for cross-border terrorism… It cannot selectively demand India’s compliance with one treaty while it flouts a peace pact serving as the essential basis for all peaceful cooperation, including the sharing of river waters.” Chellaney has also pointed out that Pakistan’s use of state-reared terrorist groups can be invoked by India, under Article 62 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, as constituting reasonable grounds for withdrawal from the Indus treaty.

The government has for now not decided to abrogate the treaty, but would be “maximising” the use from the western waters under the ambit of the treaty. In the high level review meeting held on Monday (September 26), Prime Minister Modi said that “blood and water cannot flow at the same time”, indicating a firm stance.

The government has also decided to suspend the meeting of Indus Water Commission until further notice, pointing out that such engagements need an atmosphere free from terror. But the government’s policy on the treaty must in no way stop here. This must only be the first step and future course of action must be contingent on whether Pakistan mends its ways – which is predictably quite unlikely.

Therefore, a step-by-step escalation would work well indicating to Pakistan that with every misadventure it undertakes, the costs will be raised. Come what may, abrogation as an option should not be ruled out because only then will India be able to make it clear that it is not going to be business as usual if Pakistan continues to bleed India.

This article was  originally published in DailyO (online opinion platform of India Today group) on September 21, 2016 here.

The recent visit of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to New Delhi, where he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saw a slew of agreements and exchanges. Some of the major ones were agreements on extradition, mutual legal assistance treaty and outer space.

Both leaders flagged the issue of terrorism and agreed that it is the single biggest threat to peace, stability and progress in the region and beyond. They reaffirmed their resolve to counter terrorism and strengthen security and defence cooperation.

PM Modi pledged that India would allocate a sum of $1 billion for Afghanistan’s capacity building in areas of education, health, agriculture, skill development, women empowerment, energy, infrastructure, and strengthening of democratic institutions.

He also proposed to supply world class and affordable medicines and cooperation in solar energy through mutually agreed instruments.

Ghani comes full circle

The visit comes after a series of engagements between the two leaders. Modi has visited Afghanistan twice, following Ghani’s maiden visit to New Delhi exactly a year ago.

Between the visits, they have had constant engagements, including the video conferencing during the joint inauguration of the restored Stor Palace last month (August). The relations between the sides have been on a constant upsurge after Ghani abandoned his Pakistan “tilt”.

Back in September 2014 when Ghani took charge as President in the National Unity government, he decided to actively engage Pakistan in the hope that it will help stabilise the security situation by bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table.

But within a year Ghani realised the hollowness and deception of Pakistani assurances. The fighting season concomitant with the talks was one of the bloodiest that Afghanistan saw in years, with the Taliban even overrunning several districts.

The reports that Mullah Omar had died in April 2013 served as the last straw in making it unequivocally clear that the “peace process” was nothing but an eyewash. It was in the name of Mullah Omar, the Amir-ul-Momineen, that the talks were being held in 2015. Such was the farce during the process that the Taliban, backed by Pakistan’s ISI, even released a letter with an Eid message in the name of the long dead Mullah Omar.

Ghani, therefore, abandoned his failed outreach towards Pakistan, much to the relief of the Afghan public that was always sceptical of trusting Pakistan. The resentment against Pakistan’s terrorist designs is widespread among the Afghan civil society who look up to India as a truly reliable friend.

A retired Indian diplomat told this writer how an Afghan once remarked to him that “they [Pakistan] send terrorists to kill our people, whereas you build roads and bridges that improve our lives”. This is the general sentiment that guides the way most Afghans look at India.

The development partnership

The development partnership of India and Afghanistan has been the defining aspect of their contemporary bilateral relations. Over the last decade and more, India has heavily invested in the reconstruction and development projects inside Afghanistan, which has created immense goodwill.

The celebration on the streets by Afghan youth over the completion of the Salma Dam is a recent testimony to this. Officially called the India-Afghanistan Friendship Dam, the Rs 1,775-crore hydroelectric and irrigation dam is located on the Hari Rud River in Chishti district of Herat, and was inaugurated by PM Modi in June this year.

It was Modi’s second visit to Afghanistan after the historic Kabul visit last December that saw him inaugurate the Parliament building whose construction was also funded by India.

A number of projects in the areas of agriculture, rural development, health, education, vocational training, etc have been approved by the Indian government under the Small Development Projects (SDP) scheme. Besides these flagship initiatives, India through its state-owned and private companies has invested in a number of sectors in Afghanistan.

A consortium of six Indian companies led by Steel Authority of India had won the concession for three iron ore mines in the Hajigak region in 2011. The state owned power equipment maker BHEL commissioned two 220/20kV substations in Doshi and Charikar in January this year.

Recently, Afghanistan also invited Indian investments in the renewable energy sector, specifically off-grid renewable energy projects.

Apart from infrastructure and industrial projects, India has also been lending assistance to Afghanistan in other areas like sports.The BCCI helped provide for a “home ground” for Afghan cricket in India at the Greater Noida cricket stadium.

Further, the Indian government approved $1 million for constructing a cricket stadium in Kandahar under the SDP scheme.

In the 12th South Asian games held in India earlier this year, India sponsored the air-travel of the 214 strong Afghan contingent, besides bearing some other expenses. The request for India’s help, reportedly made by Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, was immediately agreed to by PM Modi.

Countering terrorism emanating out of Pakistan

That the Taliban plots its attacks with Pakistan’s support is well known not just to the Afghans but to the world.

Be it infiltrating terrorists across the LoC into India, orchestrating cross-border attacks like the one in Uri this Sunday (September 18), supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan that spills Afghan blood every single day, or abusing human rights in Balochistan and PoK, Pakistan has given us umpteen reasons to call it a terrorist state.

Yet, there isn’t enough international pressure on Pakistan to rein the terrorist designs of its “deep state” – the nexus of Pak military, ISI and the various jihadi groups.

The need to diplomatically isolate Pakistan is not only in the interest of Indian or Afghan security but that of the entire South Asian region and beyond. Even Bangladesh is suffering from the nefarious designs of the Pakistani State. In December 2015, Pakistan had to recall its diplomatFarina Arshad after Bangladeshi authorities alleged her of spying and financing terrorist organisations.

The effort of globally exposing Pakistan and its terrorist activities, therefore, must be led by India together with Afghanistan and Bangladesh. When New Delhi, Kabul and Dhaka all speak in one voice, it sends across a powerful message to the international community.

One of the most laudable decisions of the Modi government’s Afghanistan policy has been its decision to donate three Mi-35 multi-role helicopters, with fourth in the pipeline. The Indian helicopters are expected to boost Afghan air power and positively impact the fight against terrorism.

The long drawn war that the Afghan forces are fighting against the Taliban needs support wherever it can come from. Towards this end, not just India but all world powers should contribute towards emboldening capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces.

Besides the developmental agenda, forums like Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process and the trilateral such as India-US-Afghanistan consultations, to be held in New York later this month, also need to heavily focus on the security situation and means to counter the Taliban.

The Strategic Partnership Agreement signed between India and Afghanistan in 2011 provides a framework for greater defence and security cooperation, as reiterated in the recent joint statement. Herein lie the opportunities to take India-Afghan relations to the next level.

As New Delhi examines the requests made by the Afghan Army chief General Qadam Shah Shahim last month, the one thing that should not be a matter of consideration is how its decisions are perceived by Islamabad.

There is absolutely no reason for India, to the extent it is economically feasible, to shy away from supporting and working towards a stable, democratic and peaceful Afghanistan.

This article was originally published in The Diplomat Magazine here on 24 July 2015 and was re-published by Gateway House here on 29 July 2015. 

As the world prepares for the crucial negotiations of COP 21 to be held in Paris this December, where an agreement is expected to replace the Kyoto Protocol with a new framework that limits the average global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius, India has been showing a renewed interest – and confidence – in leading the talks.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked his diplomats to “shed old mindsets” and said India must take the lead in countering the challenge of climate change. Some three months later, India’s Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian gave a glimpse of India’s strategy for Paris and signaled a confident approach. It is interesting, therefore, to consider what kind of role India, a key player, is likely to have during the negotiations in Paris.

With a business-friendly government, India today is looking to begin writing an economic growth story that will enable it to lift millions of its citizens out of poverty. Achieving this aspiration will require high and sustained economic growth that is buttressed by a sound strategy for energy security. Unlike China or the East Asian Tigers, though, India will have to pursue economic development alongside significant commitments toward climate change action. But herein lies an opportunity, to choose a path of development that unlike the Chinese approach doesn’t have to be environmentally painful. India can save its population from the harmful effects of the unchecked exploitation of energy resources such as coal. Moreover, as India is home to some of the most vulnerable areas and people when it comes to climate change impacts, policies need not be seen as obligations alone, but as voluntary actions that will help save its people and environment. In the summer of 2015 alone, India has seen more than 1,800 deaths linked to heatwave conditions. Neighboring Pakistan also saw over 800 deaths due to a heatwave around the Sindh region. Reports have suggested that these conditions can be largely attributed to the effects of climate change. There were also reports that climate change stalled the monsoon this year. In recent years, these extreme weather conditions have become increasingly prevalent in South Asia and will only become more so unless strong climate measures are taken urgently.

In an article published by the Indian Express in May this year, Arvind Subramanian gave a backgrounder to India’s approach in Paris. He explained that the setback to climate change action that came in the form of a large decline in international energy prices could have been dealt with in a much better way had governments taken offsetting actions to impose taxes on petroleum products. India has done well on this front: It increased taxes while advanced countries preferred to pass on the benefits of price reductions to consumers and producers. Subramanian noted that India has taken a number of positive actions to combat climate change, which include increasing the excise duty on petrol and diesel, quadrupling the coal cess from Rs.50 per ton to Rs.200 per ton, and unveiling Modi’s ambitious plan to ramp up the production of solar energy from 20 Gigawatts currently to 100 GW by 2022.

It is encouraging from the Indian point of view that U.S. President Barack Obama during his meeting with the Indian prime minister in January agreed to help finance this planned $100 billion expansion of solar power in the next seven years. With its recent actions, India seems to be pushing hard to achieve its solar power objectives. Solar power projects are being encouraged and accelerated in a big way and the country is moving on track to become one of the largest solar markets in the world. Even Indian Railways is looking to chip in, starting trials of solar powered trains last month. It is also planning to come out with a solar policy for procuring 1000 MW solar power in the next five years.

India has also been aggressively looking to ramp up its nuclear power capacity. From operationalizing the Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement to striking nuclear cooperation pacts with countries like Russia, France, Canada and Australia, New Delhi seems to be taking steps to achieve its target of 14,600 MW nuclear capacity on line by 2020. Additionally, if India manages to accede to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, it would raise the bar for the country’s nuclear power capacity even higher.

In light of these government initiatives, India is poised to take a much more confident and dominant role in the climate change negotiations in December. India has set an example of newer types of climate change action that could be employed by other countries and that could also be included in the general global framework. For a successful meet in Paris, India, as one of the most important stakeholders, will clearly need to be in accord with the world’s advanced countries. For this to happen, all sides must reach out and help each other, quite literally, to combat the common challenge of climate change. The recent acknowledgements from the developed world of India as an important partner are welcome. There is a new vigor and willingness to partner India constructively in green initiatives such as the Global Apollo Programme – a plan to find ways within the next 10 years to make green energy clean cheaper to produce than energy drawn from coal, gas or oil. Such partnerships, technology transfers, and collaborations would go a long way in increasing the confidence and trust among the developed and developing world. That in turn will make it easier to find common ground for climate change action.