G-8 Summit: China-India refuse to be taken for a ride

By Kalyani Shankar

Are the two Asian giants, India and China, coming closer? Has expediency brought them together in their fight against the industrialised countries?

The G 8 watchers at Heiligendamm summit could not miss the new alliance forged by the two to oppose the efforts of developed countries to limit their green house gas emissions. The deepening cooperation between the two was obvious.

India, China, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico called the Group of 5 were invited as outreach countries, and they spoke with one voice and chalked out a joint strategy to prove unity is strength. In fact the population of these five put together represent 42 per cent of the global population. China and India, as the world’s fastest-growing major economies, compete for foreign investment, access to oil and gas, and diplomatic clout.

Reporting the G 8 summit, the China Daily’s’ screaming headline was “China, India agree to work more closely”. It pointed out that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao’s views were similar on climate change. Singh also stressed the growing convergence of views on many issues, in his press conference on his way back from Berlin.

Why are eyebrows raised at closer ties between the two? The Chine aggression had changed the earlier “Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai” culture. But tensions have eased with the growing dynamic ties in the past two decades. Contentious issues like the border dispute have been separated even as trade and economic ties grew.

At the Heiligendamm Summit, both rejected attempts made by the United States to make its environmental targets and climate change goals dependent on countries like India and China. Both Beijing and New Delhi argued that they must use more energy to lift their people from poverty, and that emissions per person are a fraction of those in rich states. Also both leaders told the rich club comprising the world’s 8 richest countries that the responsibility for tackling the greenhouse gas emissions lay with the developed world although the developing countries also had responsibilities.

In line with the G 8 and G 5 summit declaration released on June 8, Hu said Beijing believed both the developed world and developing or engaging economies had to play different roles in tackling climate change. He said, “Developing countries still have a long way to go before achieving industrialisation, urbanisation and modernisation and they face an arduous task of improving people’s life”.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set the tone on climate change when he used similar language. He said while the developing countries realised the urgency for cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions, they have equal but different responsibilities depending upon their capabilities. He also said while they could discuss these issues in various forums, the central role must be that of the United Nations.

Interestingly, by 2009, China is predicted to overtake the United States as the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. China’s three decades of industrial blitzkrieg have extracted a heavy price. Seventy per cent of its rivers are contaminated. In the southern Himalayas, ancient glaciers are melting. Further north, encroaching deserts threaten the livelihoods of 400 million people. Beijing announced its national environmental plan last week.

India, which is only half as rich as China, has also suffered. The frequency of catastrophic events such as flash floods is increasing. Clouds of brown soot cover the skies above the Indian Ocean for months each year. Agricultural scientists in the subcontinent note rising temperatures caused wheat yields to drop by a 10th last year. India has recently become the fourth biggest polluter. But if it does not check the rising emissions, it may move to the third position within a few years. New Delhi, too, chalked out its national policy on environment last year.

What were the signals emanating from the bilateral meeting between Singh and Hu on the sidelines of the summit in Berlin? Their body language showed that their comfort level was high. Singh said, “China is our greatest neighbour”. He was candid when he said: “Our government and I speak for all people regardless of their political affiliation. We want the strongest relationship with China. China is our greatest neighbour, and it has been the constant endeavour of my government to do everything in our power to cement this relationship”. Hu, on his part, showered lavish praises on Singh complimenting him for his vision, insight and positive attitude that had contributed to better understanding between New Delhi and Beijing.

They had much to be satisfied with the progress of the ties. Trade has grown by 56.8 per cent in the first four months of this year and crossed $11.5 billion. The target of doubling the trade to $ 40 billion by 2010 is well within reach. Strategic relations were also improving with the two countries agreeing on joint exercises and high-level visits. Singh is likely to visit Beijing in December this year. Even on the border issue, the two leaders have ironed out differences by asking their two Special Representatives to work harder.

It would benefit both if they continued this attitude. An accelerating trend is that technical and managerial skills in both China and India are becoming more important than cheap assembly labour. China’s dominance is in mass manufacturing, its multibillion-dollar electronics and heavy industrial plants. India is a rising power in software, design, services, and precision industry.
- IPA (June 13, 2007)

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