Non-Traditional Security, Politics / Globalisation

Samir chaired the ORF event ‘How should India meet the Maoist challenge?’, 2010

May 15, 2010
New Delhi   

There is an urgent need to re-examine the current strategies of the government towards the Maoist challenge. This was noted during a roundtable discussion on “Meeting the Maoist Challenge: A Re-look at Current Strategy” on Friday, 14 May, 2010 organized by ORF. Focusing the discussion on how to tackle the Maoist challenge, it was noted that bad governance, misplaced development models, incorrect security measures, and perceptions of justice have all played a significant role in the growth of Maoism in India’s heartland.    

Two issues came out prominently during the discussion. First, the current discourse on the Maoist challenge has been dominated by one view – the “paranoid view.” A consequence of this has been the complete absence of alternative views in the current strategies of the government. Second, contrary to the popular understanding and strategies, the discussion noted that the issue was not development but the sense of being denied justice and/or access to justice. Again, in contrast to the popular notion that the Maoist-Naxal problem was a law and order problem, it was noted that the issue is rather a problem of the obliteration of the politico-social structures of the tribal people.

Assessing the current strategies adopted by the Centre and various affected State Governments to counter the spread of the left wing extremist in more than 200 districts of India, a participant pointed out that the Salva Judum strategy of the government has been one of the main causes of the growth of Naxalism. It was pointed out that no rehabilitation and compensation has been made by the government of Chattisgarh to the people who had lost everything.

A participant pointed out that there is a general contempt among people towards the tribals which also was one of the reasons for the current state of affairs in the tribal areas. Another participant noted that there is a difference between cause and phenomenon. Commenting on the role of media, a participant noted that both print and electronic media have become indifferent to the Maoist issue. Further, the media has been fed by only one side – the police view – and reports often lacked balance.

The discussion questioned the “elitist development model” in tribal areas. It was noted that the current development model measured only by GDP growth and encourages corporate interests has destroyed the livelihood of the tribal people as most of their land were taken away for mining and other industrial projects. Both government and corporate had gone and uproot the tribals in their own land without showing any respect for the tribal people, their culture, their traditional knowledge, their civilisational strengths and their land.

The discussion suggested a multi-pronged strategy for the government. An admixture social, judicial, economic, political and security approaches have been suggested. Though the discussion also got trapped in the debate on what come first – security or development, it brought in other elements that go beyond the mere debate on security vs development.

It was noted that there was a need to broaden the medium of discussion on the Maoist challenge. It was felt that to develop a proper approach to tackle the issue, alternative voices need to be included while formulating strategies and policies. It was also noted that IB or police view alone is not enough but also one sided and that there was a need to include rights-based perspectives in government’s policies. It was noted that the issue was not pure economics but one of delivering rights.

On the political front, it was suggested that there was a need to re-look at the current governmental structures at the district and block levels. A participant suggested that the first priority of the government has to be to restore civil administration in the affected states and districts. A participant noted that change in government structures at the block level could be an effective way to ensure better representation of local people who are better placed to understand local issues and problems. Also, such as gesture could also give a sense of justice to the people. It was also suggested some autonomous areas could be created for the tribal people through that a sense of local control over its own people and resources could be ensured.

It was noted that there an urgent need for the government agencies to address the basic needs of the people. Education has been stressed in the tribal areas. It was suggested that the “elitist development model” in tribal areas need to be re-assessed. This mode of development has not created wealth but transferred wealth an there was a need for an alternative model of development where the local benefit.

The discussion has urged the government to deliver rights to the people. A participant has suggested that a judicial commission needs to be set up to address the issue of injustice that has been meted out on the people.

A participant noted that there was a need to re-look at the Salva Judum policy. Another participant pointed out that the traditional police force cannot deal with the Maoist challenge and there was a need for special training. A participant felt that there was a need for appropriate security force to deal with the Maoist problem to minimize collateral damage. Most of the participants felt the army should not be used also against the Maoists.

The discussion, presided by former Special Secretary Ministry of Home Affairs Mahendra Kumawat, ended with the note that development and security approaches need to include right-based approach in dealing with the Maoist challenge.

Participants included Mr. D.M. Mitra, Mr. Mohan Guruswamy, Dr. Nandini Sundar, Mr. Dilip Kumar, Mr. Arvind Kaul, Mr. Ashol Rastogi, Mr. K Subramaniam, Mr. Rajiv Sharma, Mr Saibal Dutta, Dr. Satish Misra, Mr. Samir Saran, Dr. Niranjan Sahoo and others.

In the News, Politics / Globalisation

ORF and ZEIT-Stiftung launch the Asian Forum on Global Governance, October 2011, New Delhi

The Asian Forum on Global Governance is an annual workshop jointly organized by the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius, and the Observer Research Foundation.

The inaugural forum is scheduled to take place from October 16 – 25, 2011 in New Delhi, India. Dr. Shashi Tharoor is the Dean of this policy school for young leaders.

The Asian Forum on Global Governance will take a close look at the Asian region and at the challenges facing the global community. The primary objective of this forum is to provide an instructional and networking platform for young professional leaders to discuss, debate and challenge conventional interpretations of the existing complex realities confronting communities and leaders. The program provides a unique opportunity for them to confer with high-ranking figures from the political, business and academic communities from around the globe, and especially from Asia.

Though the emphasis is on Asia, there will be a fair mix of young leaders from Europe, Americas, Africa, Asia and Australia. The participants will be drawn from diverse sectors and streams of study. Each of these participants will, at the outset, be nominated by senior figures – Heads of Governments, Ministries and Government Departments, the CEO’s of major National and Multinational Companies, Heads of Universities and of Non-Profit Organizations – and thereafter carefully selected by an eminent jury of experts.

The participants will be between 28 and 35 years of age. They would have acquired significant professional experience and would already exhibit promise at work.

For more information please visit the official website

In the News, Water / Climate

Human Security Report Project features ORF report on ‘Water Security in South Asia’

May 20, 2011
Linkto original websiteThis brief is largely based on several discussions organised at Observer Research Foundation over a period of time. These discussions were enriched by the presence of some of the well-known experts on water issues in the country, like former Union Minister for Water Resources, Dr. Suresh Prabhu, current High Commissioner of Bangladesh, Tariq Ahmad Karim, Mr. Sunjoy Joshi, Director, Observer Research Foundation, Ms. Clare Shakya, Senior Regional Climate Change and Water Adviser, DFID*, India, Mr. Samir Saran, Vice President, ORF and Dr. Dinesh Kumar, Executive Director, Institute for Resource Analysis and Policy, Hyderabad.

It is estimated that by 2030, only 60 per cent of the world’s population will have access to fresh water 1 supplies . This would mean that about 40 per cent of the world population or about 3 billion-people would be without a reliable source of water and most of them would live in impoverished, conflictprone and water-stressed areas like South Asia.

Water is already an extremely contentious, and volatile, issue in South Asia. There are more people in the region than ever before and their dependence on water for various needs continues to multiply by leaps and bounds. The quantum of water available, for the present as well as future, has reduced dramatically, particularly in the last half-acentury. This is due to water-fertiliser intensive farming, overexploitation of groundwater for drinking, industrial and agricultural purposes, large scale contamination of water sources, total inertia in controlling and channelising waste water, indifferent approach to water conservation programmes and populist policies on water consumption. SOURCE: Observer Research Foundation

BRICS, In the News, Politics / Globalisation

Samir speaks at the China-South Asia Dialogues on ‘Shaping India’s Foreign Policy: Domestic Drivers in Policy and Practice’

March 23, 2011
Bejing, China
Link to original website

India is often described as an emerging economy, yet rarely are adequate linkages made between the domestic and foreign drivers of its growth. In the fifth installment of its “China-South Asia Dialogues” series, the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy invited Samir Saran, vice president and senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in New Delhi, to discuss the domestic forces that shape India’s foreign policy. He was joined by ORF distinguished fellow, Ambassador H.H.S. Viswanathan, who offered a targeted analysis of these policies in practice, discussing India’s engagement of African countries. Carnegie’s Lora Saalman moderated.

India’s Economic Transformation

After twenty years of economic reform, nearly half of India’s Gross Domestic Product is linked to the global economy. Yet, while India is an important and sizeable market, it is still not a large economy in terms of per-capita income and the depth and range of its economic activity, Saran said. With the bottom 80 percent of the population contributing over 60 percent of Indian consumption, India remains sensitive to the rise and fall of prices for both goods and infrastructure. Saran suggested that India’s designation as an “emerged economy” needs to be re-assessed.

    • Wealth Disparity: Saran spoke of the vast wealth disparity in India between the extremely wealthy—including approximately 600 millionaires and billionaires—and the 800 million people who subsist on less than $2 per day. India possesses nearly half of the world’s poor, which strains its ability to deal with issues such as healthcare, education, energy, and water supplies.
    • Population Bulge: With the growing number of teenagers set to enter the domestic job market, India also faces some daunting challenges in creating adequate employment. One of the Chinese participants asked whether India’s youthful population was a source of instability for the country. Saran agreed that the country’s large young population exacerbates some of the threats that India already faces, such as left wing religious and political extremism, Islamic radicalism and an unstable neighborhood that at times leaks its impulses and intentions across its border.
  • IT Not a Panacea: Saran argued that while India is known for its booming information technology industry, this sector has only been able to provide 15 million jobs in the past decade-and-a-half, in a country with a population exceeding 1.1 billion. He estimated that India will need to add 10-15 million new jobs each year to fully employ to its youth. Saalman asked whether in the wake of China’s shift from a labor-intensive to a capital-intensive economic base, India might be able to absorb some of China’s manufacturing jobs. Saran doubted that this would occur on a large scale given the inability of India to devote the tracts of land necessary for major industry to thrive.

India and the Global Community

    • Diaspora and Outsourced Governance: One Chinese participant asked about the role of the Indian Diaspora in meeting India’s development goals. Saran noted that, with the exception of the United States and parts of the European Union, much of India’s Diaspora in other parts of the world remains at the lower rungs of the local society, such as those working in the Middle East. This group often exerts an indirect rather than direct political influence.
  • The China Dream: Saran explained that Chinese corporations are now entering Indian economic sectors like power, telecom, and infrastructure, sometimes replacing Western countries in key projects. They have even started offering commercial loans and finance. While India does not want to be overly dependent on China, the price sensitivity of the Indian market and the reality of the global economy may compel greater Sino-Indian cooperation. Yet, China offers India a more realistic goal than the “American Dream,” Saran contended. While India will have to stand up to a more demanding China in a geo-political context, he argued a segment of Indian industry already views China as an economic opportunity.

India’s Transformation in Practice in Africa

The international perception of Africa is changing, with the traditional view of its colonial past and lack of strong institutions giving way to economic revitalization, impressive growth rates, increased consumption levels, and expanded resource extraction and exports. The political resurgence in Africa has made African leaders more responsive to good governance, argued Viswanathan. As part of this process, India and China are engaging the newly resurgent Africa and creating new paradigms.

    • Beijing and Delhi Consensus:  India, much like China, has taken a much more business-oriented and less politically driven approach to Africa, Viswanathan said. Both countries anticipate a shift in global institutions, where the traditional Western dominated power structure will be faced with alternatives from the developing world.
    • China and India Into Africa: Viswanathan spoke of the need for India to make greater investments in agriculture, infrastructure, health, and human resource development, alongside cooperative measures in combating terrorism, drug smuggling, and human trafficking within Africa. Noting the Western media’s strong focus on China’s role in Africa and India’s lengthy history on the continent, Saalman asked for a comparison of the role the two countries can play in the continent’s economic renaissance. Viswanathan answered that while China has had a varied level of engagement with Africa since the 1950s, India has maintained a consistent presence and strong level of integration in Africa. Many Indians immigrated to Africa and often hold citizenship in African nations, placing India in an advantageous position to boost Africa’s growth from within the continent.
    • Dispelling the Colonial Mindset: China and India are not out to dominate or control Africa, asserted Viswanathan. While both countries are engaged in the extraction of resources from Africa, they have also made strides toward helping Africa develop its infrastructure and human resources. For example, India has also brought some of its telecommunication savvy to bear in Africa, through business ventures to provide lower cost connectivity to Africa.
  • Between Hard and Soft Power: Viswanathan emphasized that much of India’s military aid has been non-lethal, such as providing uniforms and supplies. There had been some small arms trade with some countries but the greater concentration has been on defense training and the sharing of military personnel. Ultimately, Viswanathan argued that for both India and China, the soft power element of having their citizens on the ground and establishing cultural institutions like the Confucius Institutes has been more effective at penetrating Africa than hard power mechanisms.
In the News, Politics / Globalisation

Samir featured in NDTV blog on ‘Voters ignore the bait’, 2009

by Mayur Shekhar Jha 
April 23, 2009
Link to original website

We want development, not hollow promises, says a sleepy town in Jharkhand. The promise of a steel plant is not good enough. People’s will or steel – that is how I can sum up the mood of Godda, in Jharkhand, which borders the state of Bihar. The promise of development seems to be the bone of contention between the Congress and BJP.

In my previous report, ‘In the name of Development’, I had found that in the tribal dominated areas around Ranchi, the capital of the newly formed state of Jharkhand, voters are apprehensive that they will lose land and other means of livelihood in the garb of development. Resistance to industrialisation, I found, was more than evident. On the other hand, in the areas around Godda, north of Ranchi, and other bordering districts of Bihar, it is the development promise that is the core poll plank. Both the main candidates in Godda, Nishikant Dubey of BJP and Furqan Ansari of Congress, have promised a world of development to voters in the area.

The Godda parliamentary constituency has ample coal and iron ore mining, the key raw materials for steel production. In fact, Lalmatia Collieries, situated in Godda, is the country’s second largest coal hub, next only to the mines in Dhanbad, another district in Jharkhand. BJP’s candidate Dubey has a known affiliation with Essar Steel.

Some top leaders who are part of Dubey’s campaign management say that a large number of young voters in the constituency have been attracted to him, with the promise that if he wins, he will strive to set up a huge steel facility in the constituency. And here comes the bait – the promise to generate employment for more than 10,000 youngsters in the area. Dubey was not available for comment, as he was busy campaigning ahead of the voting on April 23.

On the other hand, his Congress rival Ansari is also focussing on a development based communication. “It will be a Congress-led government at the centre. Why only one steel factory, I will strive for all round economic prosperity in the area. At the same time, I will ensure that no one gets displaced from his roots. Our focus is, and will always remain on inclusive growth,” Ansari told me, hoping that voters will give him the mandate for a second term. At the same time, Ansari is taking a dig at the prospects Godda might meet, in the eventuality of electing a ‘corporate person.’

“He is more interested in representing interests of his company, and not that of people of Godda. He wants to win, he can facilitate his company to make use of the rich coal reserves of Godda,” he said. For once, it appeared to me as I drive through the constituency, there were enough believers for his charge.

Poll watchers say that issues in Godda are bound to be different from those in areas around Ranchi. “Godda does not have much arrable land, and mining is the main source of the economy. Promise of industrial development is bound to attract more youth in Godda,” says Samir Saran, vice-president, Observer Research Foundation. Saran is working on a study on urbanisation in Bihar and Jharkhand.

The socio-economic profile of Godda is also significantly different from that of areas such as neighbouring Torpa and Khunti, on the outskirts of Ranchi. While tribals constitute majority population in these areas, Godda has a substantial chunk of Brahmin and Muslim voters. Of a total of about 12.5  lakh voters in the constituency, there are about 3.25 lakh Brahmins and about 2.8 lakh Muslims. There are also large number of Thakurs and OBCs. Tribal population in the constituency is estimated at just about 1 lakh.

(Mayur Shekhar Jha was travelling in Jharkhand last week, ahead of the day of voting on April 23)

In the News, Water / Climate

Cambridge Networks on: Cambridge climate change event attracts world-leading experts

June 2011
Link to original website

Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute (GSI) is co-hosting the prestigious Renewable Energy and International Law (REIL) roundtable in Cambridge from 20-21 June.

REIL is an informal network of international climate change and clean-energy experts.  Its members include policymakers, private investors, technology developers and academics, all working to increase the use of cleaner and more efficient energy solutions.

Delegates taking part in the roundtable include Bob Simon, Chief of Staff of the United States Senate Energy Committee; Brad Gentry, Director of the Yale Centre for Business and the Environment; Melinda Kimble, Senior Vice President of the United Nations Foundation; Samir Saran, Vice President of the Observer Research Foundation in India; Richard Kauffman, Chairman of Levi Strauss & Co; and Eomon Ryan, Leader of the Green Party in Ireland.

Dr Aled Jones, Director of Anglia Ruskin’s GSI (pictured), said: “With long-term international political processes finding it difficult to come to agreements, it is ever more important to be thinking creatively about solutions to climate change and access to energy.

“REIL brings together key influencers from across the climate change policy and finance world.  In particular it offers a unique opportunity for public and private sector delegates from the UK and US to share innovative thinking and approaches to tackling issues within the energy sphere.

“The group of people meeting in Cambridge for this workshop will examine some of the key challenges that we face and demonstrate that a solution is possible and can be found.”

The event, which is being held at the University of Cambridge’s Moller Centre, will focus on strategies to address climate change and the development of the low carbon economy. Topics for discussion include financing clean technology; the convergence of food, water, and energy issues; and sustainable energy access.

REIL members convene regularly, with an annual roundtable held at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. This year, REIL are holding their first ever roundtable at Cambridge University in partnership with the Cambridge Centre on Science and Policy (CSaP) and Anglia Ruskin University’s GSI.

The synergy between REIL, CSaP and GSI is strong, with CSaP acting as a networking organisation dedicated to building relationships between policy makers and experts in the fields of science and engineering.

The GSI is a research institute based at Anglia Ruskin that encompasses a broad portfolio of areas and interests including environment, built environment, technology, tourism, business practice, education and health.



For more press information please contact:

Jon Green on t: 0845 196 4717, e:

Andrea Hilliard on t: 0845 196 4727, e:


In the News, Non-Traditional Security

‘Pakistans Defence’ on ORF’s Radical Islam report

by Vladimir Radyuhin
October 2010
Link to original website

The West is using radical Islam as a tool in geopolitical games for dominance, Indian and Russian scholars have said in a unique collaborative project presented in Moscow this week. The project, “Radical Islam”, a 480-page collection of papers prepared by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi, and the Experimental Creative Centre (ECC), Moscow, was unveiled at a press conference in Moscow.

Edited by Sergei Kurginyan, ECC president, and Vikram Sood, vice-president, ORF, Centre for International Studies, it offers a fresh perspective on radicalisation of Islam, placing it in a wider geopolitical and philosophical framework. It examines the roots, the contexts and manifestations of radicalism in Islam, as well as activities of Islamists in South Asia, Central Asia, Iran, the Middle East, Europe and the former Soviet Union. Presenting their joint study, Indian and Russian scholars noted the West’s role in playing the card of radical Islam.

‘A factor since Partition’

“The West has been using religion and religious violence to promote separatism since the partition of India,” said Ambassador M. Rasgotra, President, ORF, Centre for International Relations. “The British were the first to do it in India, then the Americans learnt the trick. They incited jihad in Afghanistan, stirred separatism to break-up the Soviet Union and tried to tear Chechnya from post-Soviet Russia.” Dr. Kurginyan said that Russia still faced the danger of the West trying to re-enact the “Afghan scenario,” when radical Islam was used to provoke instability. He recalled that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had cultivated and financed Islamic radicals in Afghanistan to drag the Soviet Union militarily into civil strife in that country in 1979.

One of the Russian contributions in the book analyses the U.S.’ “deepening alliance with Islamism” along the vast southern “arc of instability” stretching from Northern Africa to the Chinese border. This strategy included the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, the arming of the Afghan Mujahideen, the support of Muslim radicals in former Yugoslavia, cultivation of “moderate” Islamists in the Middle East, and finally, “the new alliance with Pakistan” to reintegrate the Taliban into the political mainstream in Afghanistan. The scholars noted the special importance of the Indian and Russian perspectives on Islam as it differed greatly from the Western perspective. “The West tends to look at Islam in black-and-white, while Indian and Russian researchers look at it in [a] multiplicity of identities, discourses and ideas,” Mr. Sanjoy Joshi, ORF said.

“Islam has been [a] part of life both in India and Russia for centuries, whereas the West in those same centuries was the oppressor of Islam,” Mr. Rasgotra said, adding that India and Russia had much to gain from sharing their experiences in handling the problem of radical Islam. “The nature of the problem is the same, even as its manifestations may be different. Your experience is relevant to us and our experience is relevant to you,” he stressed.

Dr. Kurginyan hailed the project on as a “revival of scholarly cooperation” between the two countries. “I’ve never seen such a meeting of minds between researchers from different countries as in this Indo-Russian project.”

“Radical Islam” has been brought out in Russian and its English edition is to be published in India. The editors said the ORF and ECC, planned to undertake further studies of Islam and other issues of mutual interest.

Water / Climate

Samir writes for the Asian Energy Institute (AEI) newsletter on ‘Climate change and human security: building a framework for action’

January 2011
Download the entire newsletter here (pdf)

Climate change and human security: building a framework for action

‘Climate and security’ is a narrative with multiple layers and irresolvable complexities. At the very core, it continues to remain a western narrative on a looming and enduring eastern reality.This very comprehension of climate and security lends to discussions an externality that both hemispheres find hard to reconcile. But before we discuss this inherent paradox within ‘climate security’—a term used to broadly describe situations, discussions, and elements that constitute security within and resulting from climate discourse and global climate action (modest at best), it may be useful to shape the boundaries of what be the core tendencies, trends, and impulses that define it.

The use of the terms ‘climate’ and ‘security’ in popular literature conjures up images of apocalyptic storms, landslides, extreme weather conditions, deluge, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, droughts, floods, cyclones, and similar weather phenomena that will ravage countrysides, inflict loss of life and property on an unimaginable scale, and result in mass exodus of populations. Be it the Hadley Centre Report that feeds this imagery through a more scientific and nuanced approach (Department of Energy and Climate Change) or the Stern Review that deploys this description to urge action by the developed and developing worlds (Stern 2007), the correlation between climate and such threats is unmistakable. This continues to be the defining imagination of security within the climate debate—hotly contested in terms of scale, size, and timelines. Images of death and destruction remain the central argument in the arsenal of a section of the political class, both in the West and East, who are vociferously urging action, incentives, and commitments around green technology, carbon trade, and innovation.

The success of the approach of linking climate action to impending apocalypse is debatable. Also at doubt is its ability to elicit appropriate response from policy- makers and institutions. Deploying images of death and destruction within the climate debate, some argue, is ‘climate pornography.’ It is forcefully stating the obvious, and as some would argue, also the inevitable (Ereaut, Gill, and Segnit 2006).The semantics of this argument are clearly built on the ‘fear for life’ and ‘fear of the future’, and seek to compel political action on this basis by gaining support in the larger public sphere. This approach seemed to have helped create a surge in the constituency of those seeking climate action, particularly in the Western countries. This has also resonated among a specific constituency in the emerging nations, prior to the Conference of Parties at Copenhagen last year. However, it has been unable to stem the disenchantment of the larger public from matters of climate, and ‘climate fatigue’ is setting in. As per a 26-country survey conducted by GlobeScan, concern for climate change is dwindling both in Europe and North America (GlobeScan 2010). According to the survey, support to climate efforts in the UK fell from 59% to 43%, and in Germany from 61% to 47%.This narrative was also unsuccessful in appealing to large constituencies in emerging countries and the developing world. This was a result of poor communication, hypocrisy, and inherent dichotomy in the construction of the debate.This predominantly western narrative on climate security describes the outcomes (floods, cyclones, and so on) through a matrix of predictive dates and probabilistic scenarios.This was an instance of science attempting to steer policy that, as some argue, failed. Science is comfortable with probability and percentages, but people are not. Communications on the matter often sounded weak and convoluted and the messages lacked clarity.They also lacked a central appeal, but more importantly, they failed to offer a response to the challenge. This was perhaps the biggest failure in the communication of the imminent dangers of global inaction.The articulation lacked considered and feasible global responses without which communications were read as scare mongering or where there were indications of certain action (read technology as the saviour) it was read as lobbying by vested interests. Global inattentiveness to ‘climate and security’, in some sense, is as much about a failure to communicate, as it is about political differences and high economic stakes.

However, the hypocrisy within the narrative surfaces when this debate seeks placing the occurrence of extreme climate events and disasters into the future and when action is urged for the benefit of future generations (such as the US President Barack Obama’s exhortation to act on climate change or risk ‘… consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe’). If, as climate science suggests, man-made emissions are able to subvert some of earth’s natural systems, then why are the current extreme events also not a result of the last two centuries of industrialization and rampant mercantile capitalist production? To many, the answer is simple yet hypocritical.The rich would have to foot the bill today for having squatted and ravaged the limited carbon space available as a common resource for global citizenry. The impact and solemnity of the climate and security argument would have far greater weight if developed nations were obligated to make good the costs of life and property that are lost in the poorer regions today due

to floods, cyclones, hurricanes.Yet while we hear a call for action on pricing carbon (which allows the rich to usurp more carbon space), incentives for technology and securing intellectual property rights, a determined and unequivocal call for damages of past action is missing. Ensuring that the countries with the means to respond to the suffering caused by such climate-related disruptions in poor and emerging countries, are allowed to absolve themselves of any responsibility, adds to skepticism, and weakens the most important argument—that of security—for global action.

Calls for global action sound hollow for another reason—the quantum of commitment made by the affluent nations.While the rhetoric of preserving the planet and human life is pitched high, what we see in terms of response is tokenism.To save the planet, the mightiest nations in the world got together at Copenhagen last year and then at Cancun recently, and committed to a paltry $100 billion each year by the year 2020.2 Let us now place this pledged amount against another recent response by the world community. It is estimated that over $3 trillion was committed by the US, China, EU, and other countries to help the world economy or as some suggest, to ‘save a few banks and large corporations’ (Barbier 2010). Three trillion to save the financial system and a 100 billion to save the planet—a fact that will undermine any security discourse within the climate narrative.

The other extremity of the climate-security narrative is less popular, but fast shaping as a significant line of thought. It focuses on elements of human security outside of the ‘life and property’ paradigm.This debate places the human right to develop, grow, and aspire for a better life as a primary objective of climate action (Saran 2010). Here, too, the western narrative seeks to focus the discourse on poverty reduction within the objectives of climate action, thereby reducing the aspirations of billions in the emerging world to that of survival and poverty-line existence.The fact that the industrial economies of the OECD and their high income populations were assisted and subsidized by carbon-intensive fossil fuels is cast aside as an act of ignorance, and the importance of the use of coal and gas in determining the pace at which India and other emerging countries develop is undermined by real but superficial arguments on ethics and shared responsibility. Poverty and growing aspirations are the two imperatives for any political system in emerging economies, and there would be political unrest if the leadership in these nations were to compromise on these.

However, the climate narrative is beginning to exert itself in the development processes of poor countries. Last year, we saw the US EXIM Bank deny a loan to a coal project in South Africa, and dither on a similar proposal for India citing potential emissions as the reason. If climate positions were to become barriers to trade and finance flows, we could perhaps be discussing the most significant and impending security paradigm for the emerging world.The impact of climate negotiations, and green capitalism that is rearing its head, are some elements that will define climate and security for India and other developing countries.

Let me conclude by posing some queries that policymakers in India and other developing countries will need to respond to. Can we ignore the real threat to life and property from extreme climate events? Can the actions of India reduce this threat? How can we compel the West to vacate carbon space, and cap and reduce lifestyle emissions? How will we be able to allow billions in India and the developing world to aspire and, seek homes, cars, holidays and infrastructure? Should we? Why should the first-time users of electricity in India (nearly 500 million) have to make do with token solar lamps that work for only a few hours? Why should the poorer 80% of the world’s population be made to bear responsibility for expensive climate action going forward? How do we ensure continued access to critical finance and technology required to develop infrastructure, and afford prosperity to millions? How do we carve out a global regime that removes carbon squatters and makes them pay for their historical retention of carbon space? Why should the emerging world support or incubate new technologies, when all major economies seek to place green technologies at the centre of their plans of re-industrialization and manufacturing competitiveness? Lastly, can we ignore the ‘green economy,’ and does it really provide India an opportunity to take a position of leadership in this new world? These are some of the competing dynamics of the ‘climate security’ narrative that we will need to navigate if we are to develop a robust framework that realizes the gravity of the climate and security narrative, and articulates the differentiated needs of the diversely developed regions of the world.


  • Barbier E B. 2010. A Global Green New Deal: Rethinking the Economic Recovery. Cambridge University Press. 171 pp.
  • Ereaut, Gill, and Segnit. 2006. War m Words: How are we telling the climate story and can we tell it better? London: Institute for Public Policy Research.
  • Department of Energy and Climate. Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change. Met Office, Hadley Centre. Available at http://www.metoffice.
  • GlobeScan. 2010. ‘Climate Concerns Decline since Copenhagen Summit: Global Summit.’ [Press Release 2 December 2010]. Available at: Cancun_climate_release.pdf.
  • Saran S. 2010. The Globalisation and Climate Change Paradox: Implications for South Asian Security. In South and Southeast Asia: Responding to Changing Geo-Political and Security Challenges, edited by K V Kesavan and D Singh. New Delhi: ORF-Knowledge World. 141–161 pp.
  • Stern N. 2007. The Economics of Climate Change:The Stern Review. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Columns/Op-Eds, Politics / Globalisation

Samir writes on NetIndian: G-20 was promising, but short on substance

India, 2009
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US President Barack Obama came to London with a mission. His primary goal was to ensure the participation of other countries in the US effort to pump money into the globaleconomy. His intentions were announced beforehand during his frequent media interactions. There had also been protests from the EU, led by France and Germany, who had rightly asserted that the institution of robust regulations in the global financial system must precede any further efforts to sustain the old world financial order by injecting funds through bailouts and stimuli. However, in the end Obama had his way, aided to a large extent by the emerging economies led by the Asian giants. While India eagerly supported the Americanline, the Chinese clearly lacked original voice, enmeshed as they are in the ‘Made in America’ mire.

The pre-summit dinner witnessed ‘Obamaspeak’ that was followed by the complementary and supportive remarks of the Indian Prime Minister, a noted economist and a credible voice of the Third World. These initial views seemed omnipresent in the final communiqué that was circulated at the conclusion of the summit. While Dr Manmohan Singh’s suggestions on protectionism, regulation and surveillance, IMF reforms and credit flows were a part of the final G-20 declaration, even he would be the first to admit (as he did at a press conference later), these key aspects formed part of the Rhetoric or future promise, even as the US endeavour to ensure global participation in the bail out efforts and recapitalization of institutions formed the substance of the agreement.

The Committee of 20 has agreed to infuse capital into the IMF without any immediate reform in its constitution and operations. The current $250 billion at the disposal of IMF would be increased by $500 billion. Japan and EU have agreed to provide $100 billion of additional funds while China will contribute $40 billion. The IMF will also increase the amount available to each country by way of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) by $250 billion. This allows distressed economies to literally print additional currency and convert it to tradable notes in extreme circumstances. There is also a suggestion that IMF would deploy more effective surveillance; hopefully implying it will watch the West as closely as it does the developing world. However, in the absence of regulations and regulatory authority it remains to be seen if this surveillance would amount to much. The world was expecting a reform of the IMF to be initiated and an urgent change in its governance; these measures have been relegated to the list of future efforts and promises.

The other major disappointment was the lack of progress in instituting a global financial regulator. As a consolation the G-20 agreed to strengthen the Financial Stability Forum and enlarge its membership to include India, China and Brazil (and have rechristened it as the Financial Stability Board). Though it aspires to serve as a watchdog and advise national regulators on activities of individual companies/organizations, the lack of defined powers will clearly undermine its ability to serve the role of a global regulator that is so urgently needed.

President Obama had unequivocally sought the participation of EU, India and China (read funding from) on the rescue efforts through government bailouts. His intention to get commitments from these countries was thwarted by the French and German governments. British Premier, Gordon Brown, though stitched together a compromise that restated the $ 5 trillion stimulus already announced by countries along with the possibility of further bail-outs in future if needed. Though this aspect was meant to be at the core of any G-20 resolution, it remains unresolved primarily due to the ‘Regulation Versus Stimulus’ divide between the US and continental Europe.

The Indian position has also supported the need for regulation though the conviction of its position will be tested in the days ahead. India needs to integrate with the global financial systems in order to access capital that it urgently needs. It is important that India argue for the early establishment of a supra-regulator so that the global risks to its banks and institutions are minimized.

India and other countries have also agreed to participate in recapitalizing financial institutions on the belief and with the stated intention of reviving global credit flows and have also agreed to jointly agree to the treatment of ‘toxic assets’. In fact  treatment of ‘toxic asset’ in the declaration does not cut any new ground and the responsibility for the same still rests with local governments though a commonality in the mechanics is proposed. One of the great impediments for bank credit is the presence of these bad loans. Unless these bad loans are purged from the balance sheets it remains to be seen if banks could resume regular lending again and this important challenge still remains unaddressed.

President Obama made it clear at a post-summit press conference that his primary mandate is to servethe American citizens and this was evident in the discussion on protectionism and its articulation in the summit agreement. While the wordings have asked countries to desist from protectionist tendencies (trade barriers) till 2010 (12 months), there is skepticism as 17 nations have already breached trade practices since November last, when a similar agreement had been endorsed. The suggestion of this 12 month time-frame itself is suspect. Why should any time-frame be mentioned and why should not all trade at all time respect the WTO arrangements? Wouldn’t this special emphasis on a time period actually encourage countries such as the US to operate outside of the WTO claiming special circumstances? This summit will also strengthen Obama’s hand as he defends his position on the issue of executive salaries and bonuses at home. New rules and best practices agreed to by the G-20 crack down on the multi-million dollar cash bonuses doled out as reward for risky investment and trading calls.

In conclusion it would seem that the while the current crisis may see the end of the ‘Washington Consensus’, the overwhelming dominance of President Obama at the summit underscores that Washington would firmly remain the architect and the driver of the new world order through, and on the other side of, this crisis. The outcome of this summit can be summed up as ‘No Stimulus and No Regulation’ declaration, though with plenty of promises on both fronts.

The author is Vice-President-Development and Outreach at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in New Delhi. His area of expertise is Regulation/Policy, Corporate Communications and Media Studies. An electrical engineer by training, Mr Saran is a Masters in Media Studies from the London School of Economics. Frpm 1994 onwards he has had a rich and diverse experience in the Indian private sector and was actively engaged with regulators and policy-makers during the 1990s as India undertook economic reforms. Since October 2008, Mr Saran is developing and implementing the outreach and development programmes at ORF. His current projects are in the domain of “globalisation” and include studies on Islam, Radicalisation, Climate Change and the Global Financial Crisis. He continues to contribute in various fora on regulatory aspects and on the political economy. The views expressed in this article are his own.