People in India view America quite differently than, say, the Europe. Despite the long bitter history and confrontations on a diplomatic level, the general public always had an overall positive opinion of the US. India is one of those few countries which both the Republicans as well as the Democrats seem to favour. From George W Bush’s pioneering Civil Nuclear Agreement to Obama’s constant push towards getting India on board with many of its policies and partnerships, we have witnessed more or less a constant progress. But, after Donald Trump came to power, this steadily growing but still frail relationship was put into uncharted waters. Today, after US’ historic decision to pull out of the Paris agreement, we will try to look into this from India’s perspective and have a guess at the larger picture overall about what it means to the relationship between the two largest Democracies.
What exactly is the Paris Climate Agreement?
A decade ago perhaps, you would have found it difficult to accept the fact that any such agreement could be passed through. While scientifically proven, global climate change had not made a great impact on the political front. Times changed, for the better this time. Effects of Global warming became more and more visible and it became clear that if we don’t do something about it, our future will be bleak. That is how the Paris Climate Agreement came into the scene in 2015. In simple words, it brings together almost all nations on Earth to acknowledge and fight global climate change, as you can see in the image above. Officially, “The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”
Obama’s efforts and Trump’s undermining
The US is second only to China when it comes to polluting the environment. There was no dispute over this (until now, in the mind of the Trump administration). But there was more to this than what meets the eye. The US, along with the rest of the developed world, has arrived at where it is today after massively polluting the environment during the age of industrialisation. Even today, US’ per capita emission is 10 times that of India. On the back of this argument, the developing countries demanded concessions as are yet to reach the kind of prosperity that countries like US enjoy and have many economic challenges to overcome. So as you can see, Obama administration’s role in getting reluctant countries like India on board and help create an agreement fair to all was instrumental. Unfortunately, just less than two years after the historic agreement, we saw a huge turnout by the US when Trump, who once Tweeted that Global Warming is a hoax created by China, pulled US out of this agreement, sending shockwaves around the world. He also singled out China and India in his argument, creating a shadow over the respective bilateral relations.
Rant against India
President Trump, in his argument, said that India’s participation in the agreement was contingent on getting “billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid”. While India’s participation is indeed partially linked on financial assistance, as of now, with no substantial assistance, it is set to exceed the target by over 50% three years before the self-imposed deadline. He also mentioned that India was allowed to double its coal production while US had been forced to reduce it, conveniently ignoring the fact that the US and India were at different stages of development. India was a just a scapegoat in his larger argument of how the world has been cruel to his poor and innocent country. In the run-up to the elections, Trump kept flip-flopping on his stance on India but wasn’t overly critical. This is perhaps the first time that he has done so and like always, without supporting his rant with cold-hard facts. This is bound to have some repercussions.
India’s stance after Trump’s pull out
India, cautious as always when it comes to foreign policy, did not react immediately. Afterwards, India’s Power Minister reiterated India’s commitment to the goals that it has set towards fighting climate change. Shortly after that, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in Russia as part of his four-nation tour, said, “Paris or no Paris, our commitment to preserving the climate is for the sake of future generations,” in response to a question on India’s commitment after the US’ exit. India is becoming increasingly environment-conscious and regardless of the ideological divisions, is largely united when it comes to climate change. Today, in India, the solar prices are in a freefall and it is becoming increasingly costly to set up and maintain coal plants. So it’s unlikely that US exiting the agreement will have a significant impact on India’s role.
Effect on Indo-US bilateral relations
Now this one is a little tricky. For the past about 15 years, US and India have seen an overall positive growth in bilateral relations. But this new administration is nothing that the world has ever seen. Trump’s recent criticism will not be taken lightly by New Delhi. In these early days of the new administration, everyone is trying to work out what the Trump administration wants and how to deal with them. So using India as a shield to promote his faulty argument of preservation of jobs and save US from “wealth redistribution” is bound to hurt the US-India bilateral relations. Modi is set to meet Trump in July this year and the meet will be crucial but will have a shadow of Trump’s Paris agreement argument. Today and in the future, the US needs India just as much as India needs the US and this blame-game and dragging India through the mud for his own gain won’t benefit Trump at any level.
Title image: Abcnews