Diplomacy in difficult times
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's four-nation Europe tour that ended on June 3 couldn't have possibly been timed better. A series of global events — from deadly terrorist attacks in the UK and Afghanistan, and President Donald Trump's decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement — coinciding with the Prime Minister's diplomatic mission only strengthened his resolve seeking stronger bilateral and multilateral cooperation on security, economy, and environment protection. Almost toeing Modi's meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, last week, was Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, seeking to push China and the European Union closer.
It was in a week during which a Europe-US rift on the Paris deal and other issues, including NATO funding by members, seemed to widen. Both Modi and Li Keqiang pledged their full commitment to the Paris agreement. Nearly 200 countries agreed to the 2015 Paris deal to curb climate-changing emissions. After President Trump's announcement last week, the US joined a very rarified club outside the climate agreement with just two other members, Syria and Nicaragua.
Both Modi and Li Keqiang were committed to the reduction of carbon footprint in their respective countries to save the global environment and the future generation. This is despite the fact China is the world's biggest producer and guzzler of environment-damaging fossil fuel.
The combined raw coal production from China's designated large coal companies with annual turnover of at least 20 million yuan (about $2.9 million) stood at 3.36 billion tonnes in 2016, according to its National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). On the contrary, India, the world's third-largest coal producer, mined less than 650 million tonnes of raw coal, last year. India is going for battery operated cars in a big way to cut consumption of petroleum, its biggest item of import. The USA, the world's largest CO2 emitter accounting for almost 28 per cent of the global emission, mined around 980 million short tons of coal in 2016, down from its peak level of 1.72 billion short tons in 2008.
While Modi's climate commitment was highly appreciated by both Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, European leaders seem to remain concerned about China's hegemonic ambitions in Asia and other parts of the world — for example, building 'New Silk Road', claim over South China Sea, its massive strategic investment in south and south-east Asia and almost muted response to North Korea's aggressive ballistic missile programme. Modi's call for global cooperation on terrorism, climate control, and freedom of navigation for peace was seen as an honest effort.
It won the heart of all the European leaders he met. They also appreciated the logic put forward by the Indian Prime Minister as a win-win situation for everyone wanting to 'make in India.' European leaders took note of the fact the foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into India in 2016 jumped 18 per cent to a record $46.4 billion, at a time when global FDI inflows fell by an overall 13 per cent. Narendra Modi-Angela Merkel meet inked 18 MoUs, fast track German investments, German loan assistance of over one billion euros for India's solar projects in the next five years besides an existing assistance of over one billion Euros for India's Green Energy Corridor.
Finally, Prime Minister Modi's frank interactions with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin proved to be a great success. It took place at a time when a few misgivings seemed to brew up about Russian assistance to Pakistan. Russia's "trust-based" ties with India will not be diluted by Moscow's growing relations with Pakistan and others, asserted President Vladimir Putin. He described Russia's ties with India as something 'very special.' Putin said there is no other country in the world that Russia has "deep cooperation" in delicate areas such as missiles. No matter from where a terror threat comes, it is unacceptable, and Russia will always support India in the fight against terror, Putin said adding that Russia does not have any close military relations with Pakistan. Russia is respectful toward all Indian interests, said Putin.
The formal and informal talks between the two heads of states sought to enhance the special relationship to the next level. Modi was the guest of honour at this year's three-day Saint Petersburg Economic Forum -- Russia's answer to Davos -- where Putin explained how Russia had turned the page on a brutal recession caused by low oil prices and sanctions over Ukraine. India and Russia signed St Petersburg Declaration for enhanced ties across the board. Modi said 70 years of India-Russia relations had seen remarkable cooperation and convergence on the main issues. Modi said the 18th annual India-Russia summit was very productive, adding new vigour to India-Russia relations. On record, India and Russia signed an agreement for setting up of Units 5 and 6 of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu. At the CEOs Forum, President Putin said Russia would continue to increase investments in India.
Admittedly, it is entirely to the credit of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) that Modi's visit to Germany, France, Spain, and Russia came at such a crucial time when global diplomacy is put under severe test amidst grave concern over growing terrorism and the future of the Paris climate accord. In the end, India emerged in Europe as a trusted partner to fight the evils and strengthen the global peace and economic stability.
Sadly though, the terrible terrorist attacks in Kabul's diplomatic enclave and at Manchester musical concert took place around the time of the Prime Minister's Europe visit. However, these events further stressed the need for a more meaningful co-operation among powerful nations to fight terrorism and terrorist groups, operating out of multiple epicentres from Mindanao to Pakistan, Afghanistan and parts of middle-east. India has consistently been combating terrorism exported mostly from Jehadist groups in Pakistan. India's concern was well appreciated by the heads of four nations Modi interacted with. IPA