Month: January 2015

Obama Discusses Cybersecurity with India

Collaboration Has Potential to Improve Bilateral Ties

By Varun Haran, January 26, 2015
Original link is here 
Obama Discusses Cybersecurity with India

Cybersecurity was among the topics discussed by President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the U.S. president’s visit to India. Obama is in India as the chief guest at the Indian Republic Day parade, which was held on Jan. 26.

“It was identified as an area where there can be increased cooperation,” U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said during a press briefing in New Delhi on Jan. 26. “The cyber discussion came up specifically in that context with the need to protect intellectual property

Obama picked up on that theme at a dinner hosted by the U.S.-India Business Council. “In knowledge-based economies, entrepreneurs and innovators need to feel confident that their hard work and, in particular, their intellectual property will be protected,” the president said.

In a joint U.S.-India statement, both leaders noted their growing cooperation on battling cybercrime and its “serious risks to national and economic security from malicious cyber-activity and agreed to cooperate on enhancing operational sharing of cyberthreat information, examining how international law applies in cyberspace and working together to build agreement on norms of responsible state behavior.”

Meaningful Dialogue on Cybersecurity

Such cooperation may be inevitable, considering that the two democracies share common values and face similar cybersecurity challenges, especially in the face of China’s potential emergence as a cyber superpower. Meanwhile, India is poised to take up a leadership role in cyberspace and become one of the largest digital economies in the world, fueled by its potential user base and its proven expertise in services and software technology. Obama’s visit may be a good place to start a meaningful bilateral dialogue on cybersecurity (see A Boost for Indo-U.S. Cyber Cooperation).

Dr. Cherian Samuel, associate fellow at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses in New Delhi, notes that earlier attempts at cybersecurity cooperation foundered on the twin rocks of distrust and neglect. “If anything, global mistrust on cybersecurity cooperation has only increased with the Snowden revelations,” he says.

Security experts, however, say that given most major Internet and technology companies are American, and much of the Internet infrastructure is located in the U.S., there are still many areas where meaningful cooperation is possible – particularly in law enforcement, technology and information sharing.

“Collaboration in cybersecurity has the potential to enhance the bilateral partnership, while addressing an issue of strategic importance to both states,” says Jennifer McArdle, research associate at the Arlington, Va.-based Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

Basis for Cyber Cooperation

The benefits of collaboration are mutual. While the U.S. can benefit from India’s dynamic human enterprise and scientific talent pool, India can benefit from U.S. cutting-edge science in cybersecurity, potential lessons learned from the development of a central cyber command, and established processes and norms, particularly with regard to hardware and supply chain security.

The ability to ensure “trust” in the microelectronics that underlie critical infrastructure and military systems is of utmost importance, experts say. Samir Saran, senior fellow and vice president at the Observer Research Foundation, a Delhi-based think-tank, says India’s hardware and supply chain depend on “dubious” sources, which may carry engineered backdoors and weaknesses, will continue in order to fulfill increasing demand in the digital age.

“The U.S. needs to help India build capacity through technology transfer in fabrication, semi-conductors, etc., or U.S. interests may be at risk as well, given its close ties to India’s digital economy – soon to be one of the largest in the world,” Saran says.

Dr. Ashwini Sharma, managing director of the National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology, the HRD arm of the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, says that with the present government’s emphasis on “Digital India” and “Make in India,” it is imperative that India enlist U.S. help in better understanding the challenges faced, “especiallycapacity building of citizens, financial institutions and technical institutions in cybersecurity.”

Existing Indo-U.S. Arrangements

At first glance, it may seem that India and the U.S. have the beginnings of a robust cyber engagement. In June 2013, during the 4th Indo-U.S. strategic dialogue between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and India’s former Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid, both parties emphasized the need to develop stronger cybersecurity partnerships through the next iteration of consultations, cyber policy dialogue and joint working groups.

India and the U.S. had signed a memorandum of understanding on cybersecurity in July 2011 as a part of the Homeland Security Dialogue. The memorandum established best practices for the exchange of critical cybersecurity information and expertise among the respective governments, CERTs, broader cybersecurity communities and their counterparts on a range of technical and operational cyber issues.

An Indo-U.S. Cyber Security Forum was set up as early as 2002. The motivation on the U.S. side was to safeguard the interests of U.S. companies outsourcing to India. On the Indian side, the emphasis was on capacity building, research and development, Samuel says. “Five working groups were established under the aegis of the Forum,” he says. “Since then, cooperation has been spotty and episodic.”

CERT-In and U.S.-CERT currently have monthly operational meetings to address cyber issues, andperiodic meetings are held between collaborative groups such as the ICT and other joint working groups. More recently, Christopher Painter, U.S. Coordinator for Cyber Issues,traveled to New Delhi in October 2014 to meet with officials from the National Security Council and other ministries.

PIPS’ McArdle says that despite these and other measures, the Indo-U.S. cyber engagement lacks substantive progress. “There is a need to build trust, develop capacity and better align interests in the two capitals.”

Potential Action Items

Many lessons can be learned from studying U.S. cybersecurity programs, experts say. The scope of cybersecurity today entails broader issues, such as access, jurisdiction, e-commerce, entrepreneurship, information sharing, capacity building and enforcement. “There is scope for cooperation in each of these areas, but the devil is in the details,” Samuel says.

ORF’s Saran agrees there is a need for a much wider conversation than just between the information security institutions of the two countries. “Indo-U.S. cooperation in cybersecurity must entail addressing issues around Internet governance framework and the safeguarding of national strategic interests in cyberspace,” he says.

India’s interests need to be taken into account at engagements of multilateral, multistakeholder organizations, such as the GGE, ICANN, ITU and similar forums. Indo-U.S. cooperation at each of these forums must be enhanced, and joint working groups and other touch-points need to be strengthened.

The weaponization of cyberspace is another important concern, Saran says.

“With nation-states resorting to strategic cyberweapons without attribution, to further national interests, friendly countries like the U.S. and India need to formulate norms around the usage of these weapons,” he says.

Saran warns against the danger of digital/cyber non-proliferation agreements developing between key players, such as China and the U.S., similar to the arms control arrangements between U.S. and USSR in the 20th century. India may be left as a bystander if it does not get involved.

A cybersecurity program that focuses on scientific and technical engagement could reap enormous benefits for both India and the U.S.

“Designing a program that transcends rigidly delineated government-to-government programs, and builds public-private cybersecurity cooperative initiatives with academia, labs and industry could help build trust,” says PIPS’ McArdle. While India has wanted deeper scientific and technical cooperation in cybersecurity, no such program currently exists.

The current mechanisms for sourcing information are archaic and out-of-sync with the requirements of law enforcement agencies today, Samuel says. Bilateral mechanisms to enable information sharing for law enforcement purposes should be pushed from an Indian perspective.

“While the mantra of an open, global and secure cyberspace is still repeated ad infinitum, it seems like these are all mutually exclusive goals,” he says. Insecurity abounds, with a plethora of actors engaging in unchecked malicious activity. The big picture should be to work on bilateral norms to secure a borderless cyberspace, he says.

An ‘India exception’ for climate talks

By Samir Saran and Bruce Jones, The Hindu, January 23, 2015

Original link is here 

SOLAR POWER: “Narendra Modi’s victory has created the opportunity for India to benefit from the renewable energy-friendly policies he pursued as Chief Minister of Gujarat.” Picture shows him during the inauguration of India’s first 1MW canal-top solar power plant at Chandrasan village, Mehsana district, Gujarat.

SOLAR POWER: “Narendra Modi’s victory has created the opportunity for India to benefit from the renewable energy-friendly policies he pursued as Chief Minister of Gujarat.” Picture shows him during the inauguration of India’s first 1MW canal-top solar power plant at Chandrasan village, Mehsana district, Gujarat.


If the U.S. partners with India for more efficient industrialisation, it could be the kind of investment that cements ties between the two countries

As India and the U.S. build closer ties, they should pursue a win-win agreement on climate. It is in the U.S.’s strategic interest that India grows into a regional power, which can only be accomplished if India is given sufficient development space to grow its economy and eliminate poverty. It is in India’s interest to diversify its energy portfolio — a prospect that can be strengthened with the U.S.’s assistance. The way to achieve these objectives is to forge an “India exception” at the global climate talks in Paris; doing so is the only realistic pathway to a global climate deal and will cement the growing ties between the two critical actors in an evolving international order.

A unique dilemma

India faces a predicament which previous countries that used energy to grow their economies did not face. It stands on the cusp of industrialisation just as the world may finally be willing to take multilateral action to reduce carbon emissions. As it possesses vulnerable coastlines and is reliant on the monsoon and glacial melt, India is as susceptible as any other country to the consequences of collective action failure on climate. But for India, the tradeoffs between environment and growth (and poverty elimination) are harsher than perhaps anywhere else. India’s overall size of both population and emissions makes it the most critical low-income country at the Paris climate talks.

Despite India’s importance to the climate debate, it continues to pollute below its weight. Though India’s emission intensity would be expected to rise in the coming decades, it has committed to reducing emission intensity by 20 to 25 per cent by 2020 (from 2007 levels). Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s victory has created the opportunity for all of India to benefit from the renewable energy-friendly policies he pursued as Chief Minister of Gujarat and has opened up the possibility for it to become a leader in cost-competitive renewables. India is already the world’s largest biomass, third largest solar and fourth largest wind energy producer.

“If India chooses to grow through the traditional carbon-intensive pathway, there will be no credible prospect for global carbon reduction”

There is a strong strategic imperative for the U.S. in supporting India’s role in Asia. A successful India can play a major role in stabilising Asia during an otherwise turbulent transition, and can be a vital partner to the U.S. India could act on climate change on its own by reprioritising spending away from its planned naval expansion or other defence expenditures, but as China’s defence budget soars, nations around the region are becoming more invested in a balance of power that includes India. It is profoundly in the U.S.’s interest that there be a strong India — an India that is prosperous and contributing to a stable Asia and Indian Ocean.

The U.S. could reapportion part of its international development budget towards India’s green modernisation, create a way for U.S. cities that have successfully used clean building techniques to work with Indian cities, and invest in Indian efforts on energy-efficient urbanisation. It can help ensure that the Green Climate Fund and the World Bank support and crowd in private sector and other investments towards this end.

There would have to be a generational partnership between the U.S. and India. Challenges in aligning the private incentives of U.S. financiers with public incentives in India can be solved by a high-level agreement between President Obama and Prime Minister Modi on public monies through bilateral or multilateral tools.

India as an exception

India’s unique circumstances necessitate specific exceptions. Any climate agreement must exclude India from obligations that do not befit a country in an earlier stage of development. It must be allowed lifeline energy at affordable prices. India cannot agree to a peaking date; Indian poverty cannot be frozen by a dateline. A global peaking date will depend on other nations taking on mitigation commitments to account for India’s exceptional challenge. However, certain pathways could be pursued that would allow a U.S.-India partnership to contribute to the global effort. These could include: continuing and supporting India’s voluntary emission intensity reduction goals that move its economy from a ‘business as usual’ trajectory; focussing the spending of the Green Carbon Fund and similar instruments, including technology transfer, on Indian energy options; following common but differentiated responsibility within India, requiring rich states and cities to develop further mitigation methods; initiating a universal agreement on corporate emissions mitigation that would involve large Indian companies on equal footing with developed country corporations and mandating sectoral efficiency goals for these large corporations; and a decadal review of India’s development status, as no exception should outlive its rationale.

Such a deal is the only way to maintain climate progress. If India chooses to grow through the traditional carbon-intensive pathway, there will be no credible prospect for global carbon reduction and India will soon add another European Union to the world’s carbon emissions budget. India has a veto on a global climate agreement — both in the room, and more importantly in how any deal is implemented. India has walked away from global deals like the World Trade Organization, when they are perceived to be counter to its core interests.

If the U.S. partners with India for more efficient industrialisation and supports an “India exception” in global climate talks — using bilateral ties and the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate to help build a clean energy ladder for India — it could be the kind of investment that cements ties between these two countries. From the perspective of a stable international order, it would be a big deal; from the perspective of global climate talks, it is the only realistic path forward.

(Samir Saran is a senior fellow and vice president at the Observer Research Foundation and Bruce Jones is deputy director of the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. This is an adaptation of an article published by the authors for Brookings and ORF earlier this month.)

CONTRA VIEW: Financial inclusion is the key

|

Original link is here

For the last two decades India has not only accepted but actually revelled in being labelled an “emerging market”. India felt pleased and privileged by this tag, which seemed to signify that it had somehow ‘arrived’.

Strangely enough, the country’s sense of pride came not from being an industrial powerhouse, financial centre, or innovation capital. It was perversely derived from being seen as a ‘market’.

The problem is that markets fluctuate and can be a haven for merely temporary investments. As just a ‘market’, India was consigned to remain the chosen destination for everything the rest of the world produced in excess. Therein lay a deep disconnect — consumption can only go hand in hand with production. Surely India could not have hoped to emerge as a global power on the back of being a mere market, one that ran a trade deficit with over 100 countries!

PM’s ‘Make in India’ initiative will transform the nation

Aspirations 

Clearly, India’s self-image needed a re-boot. This rebooting of India’s 1.3 billion aspirations was conducted by the Prime Minister on the 15th of August last year. He did it with characteristic simplicity, by a simple call for “Make in India”. A call he hoped, would catalyse a seismic shift in India’s image of itself.

The world has changed since the Financial Crisis. Economic growth cannot be taken for granted. According to the IMF, global growth will continue to be under four per cent for some years. Even this nominal growth will not come without innovation to increase productivity, enhance quality and cut costs. And importantly, the race to be at the forefront of global innovation has intensified. India’s economy and enterprises must be prepared to face increasing global competition. “Make in India” must therefore attempt pushing Indian industry through global competition into a tsunami of innovation. It must not be misappropriated for primitive protectionism or misunderstood to imply insular industrialisation.

The “Make in India” initiative is at its core a ‘call to arms’ so that we as a country invest in our most precious resource- our demography. In a few years India will have the world’s largest workforce. It perhaps already is the world’s youngest workforce. Why must our youth be productive and innovative in Silicon Valley alone or help create financial instruments in only London and New York? To rectify this, we must build the eco-systems and conditions that can create the most productive, the most innovative army assembled in human memory; a peaceful army of wealth creators for the society and country.

Skill 

“Make in India” is therefore a rallying cry for “Made by India”. Its purpose is to arm close to quarter of a billion youth, between 15-24 years of age, with the tools to be productive. The rallying cry is also immediate. It is to skill around 500 million workers to innovate, create and add value to the global economy. We have in a limited way shown this can indeed be done. We have shown it in the automotive sector, which has rapidly become the seventh largest in the world. We have shown it in refining and petro chemicals where we use the worst quality raw materials and transform them into top-end products intended for the most discerning markets. We have shown it in telecom, where we are constantly innovating to empower millions through technology — a transformation which will soon touch the lives of a billion telephone subscribers in ways not imagined elsewhere.

But in all these areas we have shown it as an exception—an exception that only proves the rule. What has been the rule for India? The rule for India so far has been Jugaad. “Make in India” is not Jugaad. Moving beyond frugal innovation, it means delivering value to the consumer at the bottom of the pyramid, the 800 million or so who live at less than two dollars a day. The bottom of the pyramid also needs value, and it increasingly demands value—not just in manufactured products but in services, in transportation and in financial services. They demand the same value that high net worth consumers of the Atlantic countries demand of their manufacturers and service providers. “Make in India” is a proposition to “Make for this India.” And what is made for this India is relevant to many communities in Africa, Asia and elsewhere too.

Simultaneously, the “Digital India” initiative offers unforeseen opportunities to small producers, farmers, artisans and solution providers. It has the potential to ensure that we find an Indian fingerprint in every mosaic, a little bit of India in everything produced and consumed globally. It offers India the opportunity to leapfrog generations of industrial evolution and become part of global value chains. It offers the chance to make the informal sector—employing more than 90 per cent of the workforce—as productive as the formal sector. There is an unprecedented opportunity to integrate with the global market place, virtually. The “Digital India” initiative can transform “Make in India” to “Make with India.”

Initiative 

The “Digital India” initiative is complemented by the Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana, which has far greater power than any similar initiative to transform the lives of the excluded. Fifteen million bank accounts were opened in one day, and potential remains immense. Jan Dhan Yojana can be a basis for providing access to rural credit, crop insurance, loans to scale MSMEs, and for families and individuals to respond to special events and calamities. Financial inclusion is the building block for unleashing the creative capabilities of this country.

When these three initiatives can be synchronised and skilling the workforce made central to each of them, the prospect for India becomes truly transformational. It becomes a promise that it is now “Time to Make India.”

The writer is vice presdent, Observer Research Foundation. His Twitter handle is @samirsaran

An ‘India Exception’ and India-U.S. Partnership on Climate Change

|

Original link is here

A Unique Dilemma 

yamuna_river001_16x9

Climate change has become the major global challenge of this young century. For years, the search for solutions has run up against a sharp North-South divide over the historical emissions of developed countries and the parameters of what is termed, in the climate world, “common but differentiated responsibility” for developing nations. A common appreciation of climate and economic equity between disparate countries and regions remains both critical and challenging for the global climate negotiations process if it is to culminate in a major deal in Paris in 2015, and for implementation beyond that date. The authors believe that the only way to remove this roadblock is to forge an “India exception” in global climate talks; doing so is the only realistic pathway to a global climate deal, and could be a key tool in cementing stronger ties between India and the United States, two critical actors in the evolving international order.

The Lima Conference of Parties (COP) in some ways breached the North-South firewall as it sought details of climate action from a larger set of stakeholders, but at another level it reinforced the historic differences between nations on the question of “equity” and “responsibility.” Perhaps more important, the 2014 U.S.-China bilateral agreement on carbon emissions constitutes an important breakthrough in the North-South dynamic—as well as showing that great power agreements on climate change can be forged. In the November 2014 agreement reached between Presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama, three important things happened:

  1. China accepted that there was a specific timeline wherein its emissions had to peak.
  2. Both countries accepted that they had greater responsibility than other countries for an effective global climate arrangement, given their outsized contributions to global emissions.
  3. The United States accepted that China has the right to energy-intensive industrialisation, as every major developed nation has had before it.

China is in a very specific place. Its growth over the past two decades means that while it is still treated as a developing country in climate negotiations, its economic position and influence far surpass that of any other developing country; for example, its emissions and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita remain four times that of India, the only other relatively significant developing economy. To get from a U.S.-China deal to a global one, the next challenge is to find the critical path for other major developing states. Of these, India by far remains the largest, although it is at a far earlier stage on its trajectory of industrial development.

In the spectrum of common but differentiated responsibility, India finds itself uniquely situated between nations that industrialized long ago and can now afford expensive renewable energy production and climate adaptation, and those who largely gain their livelihoods from traditional subsistence practices that continue to follow preindustrial low-carbon practices. India is confronted with the dilemma of being between an identity as an emerging power and as one of the least developed countries. It exhibits the economic weight of an emerging power while still containing many hallmarks of a least developed country in its villages and communities.

Furthermore, the sheer size of its population means that India’s choices about development and climate/energy carry global consequences to a degree that is far greater than any other developing country.

After two decades of economic development that have begun to lift sections of its population out of poverty, India cannot and will not let its development wait for the eventuality of commercially deployable and cost-competitive renewable energy. More than 300 million Indians still have little or no access to modern energy sources―India’s dilemma is that several generations of Indians are on the cusp of prosperity if growth is powered by cheaper energy.

The most accessible option is often carbon-polluting coal. In this, India is similar to all previous industrializing nations, from Britain, Germany and the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries to China in the recent past; all powered their industrialization, rural-urban transition and rise in per capita incomes with fossil fuels.

But India faces a predicament all previous countries that used energy to reduce poverty did not. It stands on the verge of industrialization just as the world may finally be willing to take multilateral action to reduce carbon emissions. Possessing vulnerable coastlines and reliant on the monsoon and glacial melt, India is as vulnerable as any to the consequences of collective action failure on climate. But for India, the tradeoffs between environment and growth are harsher than perhaps anywhere else. India’s overall size in both population and emissions accords it unique attention for a low-income country in the global climate debate; yet its relative poverty and low per-capita energy use compared to every other large emitter creates what Indians view as a justified overriding imperative for poverty elimination.

Figure 1: Climate Inequity

Country/bloc GDP per capita (US$, 2013)  Carbon emissions (metric tons per capita, 2010-2013) Carbon Intensity (kg per kg of oil equivalent energy use, 2010-2013) 
European Union  $34,290  7.4  2.2
United States  $53,143  17.6  2.5
China  $6,807  6.2  3.3
India  $1,499  1.7  2.8

Source: World Bank

Polluting Below Its Weight

How can India thread the needle between climate disaster and premature economic stagnation? Though the challenge is great, India will be an important enough partner at the upcoming climate talks to articulate a set of red and green lines—what it can and cannot do. India will find it difficult to accede to any deal that will make its ongoing industrialization the first industrial revolution in history to be nipped in the bud by international restrictions. From the Indian perspective, the Chinese must not be the last ones allowed to become a middle-income nation. Given the uncertain prospect of maintaining a steady double digit growth rate in a post-Lehman Brothers world, Indian poverty cannot be frozen by a dateline. At the same time, India needs action from already-industrialized and wealthier nations—including China, which has leveraged 50 percent of the world’s coal consumption to catapult itself to prosperity—to prevent scientists’ dire predictions on a ‘business as usual’ approach to carbon emissions.[1] This would negatively affect India’s poorest along with its economic growth.

India also has a set of green lines outlining its contributions to the climate change fight. Even though under the logic of industrialization India’s emission intensity would be expected to rise in the coming decades (see Figure 1), in the last decade the United Progressive Alliance government committed to reducing emission intensity by 20 to 25 percent by 2020 (from 2007 levels). As India moves from a service- and agriculture-based economy towards greater reliance on manufacturing, rapid urbanization, more intensive infrastructure development and growth of the transportation sector, meeting this carbon intensity target will be a de facto climate mitigation measure and a mark of India’s commitment to climate action. The recent election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has created the opportunity for all of India to benefit from the renewable energy-friendly policies he pursued as chief minister of Gujarat and has opened up the possibility that India become a leader in cost-competitive renewable energy. India is already the world’s largest biomass, third-largest solar and fourth-largest wind energy producer. India would be open to reducing its relative dependence on coal if a climate framework created meaningful funding and technology transfer to accelerate such efforts.

Figure 2: India’s Climate Actions

Economy-wide pledges and targets Submitted to UNFCCC: Pledge to reduce emissions intensity by 20 percent to 25 percent by 2020 submitted to the UNFCCC.
Outside UNFCCC: Eight national missions have been introduced under the National Action Plan on Climate Change in 2008 and include mitigation measures focused on promoting solar energy, improving the forest cover of the country and market based mechanisms such as Performance-Achieve-Trade (PAT), which are focused on improving cost effectiveness and energy efficiency in large, energy-intensive industries.
Sectoral/programmatic mitigation actions Submitted to UNFCCC: Agriculture would not be a part of the 20 percent to 25 percent reduction target.
Outside UNFCCC: Sectoral actions include emission reductions and low-carbon strategies across important sectors such as power, energy and construction. Strategies include policy instruments/measures such as coal tax, feed-in tariffs and energy codes for commercial buildings.
Project-level mitigation actions Submitted to UNFCCC: Clean Development Mechanisms (CDMs) that allow developed countries to promote climate mitigation projects in developing countries. India hosts a total of 2,295 CDM projects.

Sources: Fifth IPCC Report; India’s National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA) Profile

India’s growth dichotomy is particularly acute. On the one hand, the price competitiveness of coal makes it the preferred choice given India’s imperative to eliminate poverty and deliver energy to all. Yet at the same time, India’s adoption of renewable energy and low-carbon technology positions it among the global leaders in sustainable growth. Even more significantly, India has a structural frugality to its energy consumption. India’s peaking per-capita emissions are unlikely to ever cross the threshold of five to six tons per capita that still marks the climate action aspirations of developed carbon-intensive economies. In contrast, China is projected to peak at 12 tons per capita.[2]  Even without this continued Chinese emissions growth, India would need four times China’s population—and 10 times that of the United States—to achieve total emissions comparable to either country. Therefore, Indian industrialization, even with its coal component, will be greener than many that have come before.

Given the vagaries of growth, its inescapable linkage to poverty reduction and the compelling need to grow to provide jobs for a youthful demography, India will have difficulty accommodating international demands for a national emissions peaking date. As a pluralistic democracy in the midst of vast anti-poverty and electrification efforts often uncoordinated between states, the Centre and the private sector, a peak date cannot be imposed on a decentralized governance structure by a fiat emanating from a competitively elected and therefore precariously changeable authority of the Centre.

India as an Exception

India’s combination of dilemmas and promise on climate change demonstrates the folly of expecting comparable mitigation from India as from China, or from emerging economies as a vaguely defined category. India is the country that most uniquely combines large size, low starting point and high potential over the next few decades. China has moved on and is likely to be a developed country by 2030. Many other countries embody one or even two of these factors, but none combine all three—thus making India the most important prospect for mass poverty elimination in the coming decades, and the defining challenge and opportunity for sustainable development.

This unique position is borne out in the data. When compared to the other largest emitters—China, the United States and the European Union (EU)—India has vastly lower per-capita GDP and per-capita emissions; even on emission intensity it is closer to the United States than China (see Figure 1). But there are many less developed countries in a similar category; what makes India’s position different? First, the sheer size of population and scale of the poverty eradication challenge. More profoundly, India’s claim to uniqueness comes from the fact that its growth and concomitant industrial revolution is happening now. It is expected to grow more rapidly than any other region of the world in the next few decades to 2040 (see Figure 3). This growth, thus far largely powered by fossil fuels, is the best opportunity to continue the mass upliftment of citizens from poverty that began in China—and an important tool to maintain Asia’s regional security balance. India’s robust economic growth is itself a compelling contribution to the future, and the world must work together to lift one-sixth of its people out of poverty while also maintaining their environment. India may be one of the countries that is most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but it is also the country most in danger of losing out on mass poverty elimination and great power status because of a forced transition from fossil fuels.

Figure 3: Relative Economic Growth, 2010-2040

Country/region  Project Real GDP Growth Rates (average annual percent change)
India 6.1%
China 5.7%
Africa 4.6%
Non-OECD Europe/Eurasia 4.4%
Other Asia 4.3%
Mexico/Chile 3.7%
Brazil 3.4%
South Korea 3.3%
Other Central/South America 3.2%
Russia 2.8%
United States 2.5%
Middle East 2.2%
Australia/New Zealand 2.2%
Canada 2.2%
OECD Europe 1.8%
Japan 0.6%

Source: US EIA International Energy Outlook 2013 With Projections to 2040, pp. 17-18

In short, there are two conflicting imperatives here. On the one hand, if India chooses to grow through the same carbon-intensive pathway that has characterized every other major country’s growth, there will be no credible prospect for maintaining progress on global carbon reductions. On ‘business as usual’ projections, India would add another EU to the world’s carbon emissions budget within a few decades. On the other hand, denying India the right to grow and confining hundreds of millions to continued poverty is an untenable proposition.

Within any global climate framework, therefore, the authors believe that India should be accorded exceptional status in light of its mass poverty challenge and imminent growth opportunity. Such an exception should be predicated on a rational and pragmatic framework. The first principle must be to support and sustain the poverty elimination efforts of the country, and in this direction, the goal must be that lifeline energy is available to all at affordable prices. This would necessarily imply ensuring development space (and corresponding carbon space) to India and accepting that a peaking date may not be forthcoming anytime soon. The second principle must be for India’s affluent to participate in mitigation efforts globally. And finally, there must be support from countries and communities to equitably share the burden of climate change, based on their current capabilities within and across borders.

Such an exception would have five elements:

  • Continuing and supporting India’s voluntary emission intensity reduction goals that moves its economy from a ‘business as usual’ trajectory;
  • Focusing the spending of the Green Carbon Fund and similar instruments, including technology transfer, on Indian energy options;
  • Following collective but differentiated responsibility within India, requiring rich states and cities to develop innovative mitigation methods, including through “Green Building” Initiatives, improvement in public transport infrastructure and adoption of energy efficiency schemes by the affluent, each of which is already at various stages of implementation at the central and state level;
  • Initiating a universal agreement on corporate emissions mitigation that would involve large Indian companies on equal footing with developed country corporations and mandating sectoral efficiency goals for these large corporations; and
  • A decadal review of India’s development status, as no exception should outlive its rationale.

Any agreement must ensure India’s rich do not hide behind its poor, while also excluding India from Chinese-level obligations that do not befit a country in an earlier stage of its development trajectory. Given India’s place in its, and the world’s, history, a global peaking date will depend on other nations taking on mitigation to account for India’s exceptional challenge.

An economically invigorated India in several decades can be imagined, one that is powered by broad-based prosperity and a changing energy mix, leading global efforts in environmental adaptation and low-cost renewable energy. But such leadership is only affordable if India’s industrial revolution is made possible. India’s experience in the years ahead could be a valuable pathway to share with other developing countries as they start grappling with a similar dilemma.

The Washington Angle

India can carry its own water in global climate negotiations, and it can drive its own industrialization. However, the likelihood of squaring the circle between an effective global climate regime and India’s need to develop will increase if the United States plays an active role in helping to forge these arrangements.

There will be predictable opposition. For those motivated primarily by climate change itself, the idea of granting an exceptional status to the world’s most populous country will seem injurious to the prospects of mitigating the more disastrous climate scenarios. The rebuttal is to simply point to the reality that for all intents and purposes, India has a veto on a global climate agreement—both in the room, and more importantly in how any deal is implemented. India has already shown that it is willing to walk away from global negotiations if these threaten its core economic interests. And when it comes to implementation, there is no prospect of any deal that holds out meaningful and enforceable costs for “cheating”. The only source of pressure for compliance will be information flows about behavior and mutual pressure between the top powers. That will be outweighed, in India’s case, by the imperative of poverty elimination.

Moreover, there is a strong strategic imperative for the United States here, which has to do with India’s role in Asia. An India confronted by internationally-imposed restrictions on growth will face serious internal political and democratic challenges. A successful India, in contrast, can play a critical role in stabilizing Asia during an otherwise turbulent transition, and can be a critical partner to the United States.

With the U.S.-China deal, and its $3 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund, the United States has begun to stake out what it gave away in the late 1990s—namely a leadership position on global climate issues. It has also adopted a realistic stance, recognizing that when it comes to climate, the most practical thing is to pursue a back-to-basics approach, which combines a focus on natural gas (which emits carbon at roughly half the intensity of oil), efficiency and joint investment in renewables. In diplomatic terms, it has adopted a “concentric circles” approach to making progress. Here, the concentric circles start with the United States and China, where these two largest emitters will lead the way by reducing carbon emissions. The next obvious focus is India. Helping India navigate a pathway to a more efficient industrialization is a win-win in terms of climate, international order and U.S. foreign policy.

The United States could also make a critical difference in terms of financing more efficient technologies. The math is simple and compelling. India has, as noted, 800 million poor people, out of which 300 million have no access to modern energy―and India’s population is set to keep rising.[3]  Politicians in India thus feel that they have no choice but to continue to pursue every source of energy, clean or not. India will simply continue trying to grow, and that inevitably means greater energy use in the near-term. If India succeeds in doing what China did before, and pulls 300 million people out of poverty, it means adding a population the size of Europe to the overall carbon emissions mix. They are certainly justified in doing this—what possible ethical or moral precepts could justify the OECD countries and some others continuing to emit carbon while 800 million Indians languish in poverty? But this approach will crater any credible efforts to stabilize the climate.

India is, of course, fully open to adopting a more energy-efficient form of industrialization and urbanization if the developed countries provide meaningful financing and access to technologies. A rough estimate of what would be needed for India to adopt more efficient energy pathways during its industrialization is investment of between $50 billion and $100 billion over the next 10 years—in natural gas infrastructure, renewables and clean building technologies. Even this sum does not capture the scale of resources necessary when considering what needs to be done at more local levels. As India’s rural poor increasingly move to cities, its cities will require new infrastructure; 70 percent of its buildings of 2050 have yet to be built. If these are built with existing building technologies, massive carbon emissions will be built in. The new buildings can be constructed with green technology, but India by itself does not have the resources—financial or technological—to do so.

Granted, India could reprioritize its spending and cut down drastically on its planned naval expansion or other defense spending, but the United States and the world may not want it to. As long as China increases its defense budget, the United States wants India to do so too. As long as China is investing in its blue-water navy, the United States wants India to do so too. It is profoundly in U.S. interests that there be a strong and growing India, an India that is domestically stable and contributing to a stable Asia and Indian Ocean.

The United States can make a critical difference. It could reapportion part of its international development budget toward India’s effort and push for greater allocations by the World Bank and other international institutions. It could create a way for U.S. cities that have successfully used clean building techniques to work with Indian cities. It could invest in Indian education in urban development that is informed by the latest science. As mentioned before, the United States recently pledged $3 billion for the Green Climate Fund—it could work within that Fund, and within the World Bank, to ensure that a large proportion of that funding goes to India (the most critical case), and use that financing to leverage private sector and city-based contributions.

Of course, there has already been some U.S. investment in renewable technologies in India. The results have been mixed. U.S. investors complain that the returns are inadequate and that Indian policies are not ready for investment at scale. This is in part because of India’s decentralized decision-making and uncertainty about the ways in which a global climate framework will limit specific pathways. For Prime Minister Modi, this represents a significant challenge. However, if backed by a U.S.-India deal, and against the backdrop of a global climate framework that accepts an exception for India, the timing would be ideal to intensify efforts at policy implementation and to launch a new phase of what would have to be understood as a generational partnership between the United States and India on efficient urbanization. There are challenges to aligning private incentives of U.S. financiers with public incentives in India, but if this effort is initiated by high-level agreement between Obama and Modi, and public monies are available either through bilateral or multilateral tools, the path can be discovered.

An obvious place to start is clean building technologies, something that President Obama has pinpointed as a central goal for U.S. efficiency efforts. The United States and India could form the key building blocks of a global goal on clean buildings and efficient urbanization, which would be critical for locking in energy-efficient development for India.

If the United States partners with India in navigating towards more efficient industrialization and supports an “India exception” in global climate talks—not using climate negotiations to pull up the carbon ladder behind it, but using bilateral ties and the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate Change to offer to help build a clean energy ladder for India—it could be the kind of investment that cements ties between these two countries. From the perspective of a stable international order, it would be a big deal; from the perspective of global climate talks, it is the only realistic pathway forward.


[1] Fifth IPCC Report.

[2] Global Carbon Project.

[3] According to latest National Sample Survey data, around 800 million Indians subsist on less than $2 a day, and around 300 million lack access to electricity.


About the Authors

Samir Saran is a senior fellow and vice president at the Observer Research Foundation, India. He is currently working on a research project that maps the impact of various Indian identities on its position at international negotiations on climate change.

Bruce Jones is deputy director of the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. He recently published the book The Risk Pivot: Great powers, International Security and the Energy Revolution co-authored with David Steven.