Books / Papers

Chapter in ORF publication: “The Global Economic Meltdown”

Samir wrote one chapter in the new ORF publication “The Global Economic Meltdown”. Book Cover
Please find here the original link

Please find here the full document (PDF version): Deconstructing India’s Inclusive Development Agenda

The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008 is widely recognized across the globe as the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression. The prolonged global economic slowdown has stymied the US economy, brought the Eurozone to the precipice, and continues to retard growth momentum throughout the world. Even developing economies that were previously thought to be crisis-averse are now experiencing the rough waters after an economic tsunami.

The writers in this compendium address the many complexities of the GFC and present a holistic overview of its background, how it unfolded and how many nations sought to respond to it. This publication is unique in its approach of the crisis from a global perspective, with pieces focusing on India, Europe and the United States. Furthermore, the book provides a thorough examination of the economic, political, environmental and social implications of the crisis and offers glimpses of the road ahead, replete with policy recommendations for a more stable and prosperous future.

Leaving the Hotel – The West has to get over its fruitless search for common values and instead negotiate global governance in a realist world

by Dr. John C. Hulsman and Samir Saran
3rd of December 2012
Please find hereFour-Seasons-Hotel the link to the original article

Though in theory they come from many places (particularly in the heretofore ruling West), the vast majority of the international foreign policy elite and its corresponding commentariat really only come from one place: Hegelian Land. Make no mistake about it; they form one quite homogenous group, with an unsurprisingly homogenous worldview. Spending weekends attending endless meetings in five-star hotels across the world (The Four Seasons is an especial favorite), their common views are so ingrained in discussions that they are rarely directly commented upon, let alone debated.

In fact, NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) Man has no need of self-reflection, since everyone they know shares their values, having attended the same prestigious universities, married into the same families, worked in the same think tanks, and spent their jet-set weekends together, talking about such weighty matters as ‘the centrality of the global commons,’ ‘the rise of the south,’ ‘the end of the nationstate’, ‘the multilateral global elite,’ and ‘the advance of the developing world toward universal norms,’ amongst other such self-aggrandizing pipedreams. Their basic analytical mistake (and it is seminal) is that as everyone they know shares these parochial Wilsonian values, such a point of view must be all that matters or really exists. Truly, they all hail from one indivisible Hegelian world. But as Woody Allen put it in Annie Hall, ‘Intellectuals have proven to the world that you can have all this brilliance and still have absolutely no idea of what’s going on.’ Like the possibly apocryphal story (later fiercely denied) about the New York Times film critic Pauline Kael, who was said to be sincerely baffled as to how President Nixon won re-election in 1972 (he carried 49 states) when everyone she knew had voted for the hapless George McGovern, there are distinct intellectual dangers to being so entirely cocooned in a comfortable, if wholly unrepresentative, bubble. Advanced-stage otherworldliness and an ingrained intellectual arrogance make true analysis almost an impossibility.

Sure, NGO Man (and Woman) would placidly reply, there are Neanderthal outliers (such as the two of us who were not properly vetted before being allowed in the inner sanctum) who still believe in the nation state, but the very transnational nature of today’s problems will soon make them appear to all to be the reactionaries that they are (never mind that the rising powers in today’s world such as the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) share little in terms of common values except for a strongly nationalistic distrust of the West and the governance frameworks that have been designed for an Atlantic world). The fact that these rising powers are self-evidently nation-states–proving to all not basking in delusion that the new multipolar era demonstrates that the Westphalian state system is above all, alive and well-would never be brought up at The Four Seasons.

However, it is their last, common, wholly wrongheaded assumption that all states inherently share overwhelmingly binding universal values and norms, which is their self-evident truth that is most out of step with reality. Paradoxically, by believing the unbelievable (if the real multipolar world outside the hotel is to be finally taken into account), NGO Man dooms true initiatives at global governance to sure failure, making efforts to endeavor to make the planet a genuinely better place come to naught. Obliviousness in the end isn’t just about harmless self-delusion; intellectually NGO Man gets in the way of solving the very problems he spends so much time purporting to ‘care’ about.

The Common Values Chimera

Especially in Europe (though America is far from immune), one tired conversation dominates most European institutions and forums, threatening to become a fatal liability, distancing the EU from the new capitals that influence global decision making in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is Europe’s obsession with “Common Values” and the Don Quixote-like quest for “Common Humanity.” Wasting time and intellectual capital looking for this faux Holy Grail is doing nothing less than preventing the global community discovering vital common ground on the key issues that the emerging multipolar world is confronted with. Be the issue of climate change, political intervention in unstable nations, or over broader geopolitical stability, spending time trying to find the fool’s gold of universal values gets in the way of cutting the interest-based deals that will actually make the new multipolar world work.

This European obsession also leads to an analytical failure at the geopolitical level, blurring Western understanding of the new ‘clubs’ such as the BRICS and explains their comforting dismissal of the reality that much has changed, due to the fact that the BRICS themselves seemingly share little in terms of ‘Common Values.’ From Brussels’ point of view how can such an organization (let alone its constituent members) matter if it doesn’t adhere to the Gospel of Monnet? But the BRICS do share common interests, with three among them being the most important. First, all BRICS countries stress there must be a stable external environment that cannot and must not be jeopardized by partisan interventions in Iran and other parts of the Middle East and Africa; in other words, contrary to NGO Man, state sovereignty still matters and non-intervention is also a viable political choice.

The Iranian nuclear crisis is a case in point. The usual, half-cocked Western intervention–in this case an ineffective bombing strike by either Israel or the US that would have to be repeated–would amount to a geostrategic calamity (immeasurably strengthening the mullahs, quite possibly destabilizing broadly pro-Western governments in places like Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and setting back any hopes of stability in the region for a generation). Average Iranians and the Arab street may well hate and distrust the current leadership in Tehran; this does not mean that their distaste translates into obvious support for the West to bomb Iran into a recognition of its errors in ignoring the universal Hegelian virtue of negotiating in good faith.

Instead a realist response-which allows that interests and not values must be paramount if effective agreements are to be arrived at in this new era-impels a different way forward. If states themselves (such as Iran) are threatening the regional balance of power, closer ties between threatened countries within a region as well as between its major players and offshore balancing allies (such as the U.S.) are the chess move needed, rather than violating the offending country’s sovereignty due its less than dogmatic devotion to universal values or its inability to join the conversation in a language that it just does not recognize. Rather, extended deterrence based above all on the truly universal interest of physical survival) is the way forward, an approach seemingly and inexplicably abandoned by the Obama administration.

The second common BRIC interest is that an accountable and stable global financial regime must evolve-with a far greater say for the rising economic powers– the promises for which remain unfulfilled since 2008/09. The unambiguous and ambitious Delhi Declaration by the BRICS Heads of State served as a timely reminder to the Atlantic powers of the strength of the impulses that have brought the BRICS member nations together in the first place.

The message that went out was that the BRICS members will gradually begin to institutionalise an alternative path in terms of financial and economic governance. Be it the BRICS Development Bank initiative, the trade settlement processes, or teaming up on resisting the ‘carbon tax’ unilaterally announced by the EU, these countries are beginning to realize the importance of reframing the rules and perhaps changing the game itself.

In parallel, as this possible transition occurs, they will continue to demand progressive reforms in the existing structures of global financial governance. Their meeting on the sidelines of each G-20 meeting may not have resulted in their putting up a common candidate for the IMF as of yet, but these interactions (this new pattern of standardised consultation) will continue to strength their common ambition to push for reforms of outmoded Bretton Woods Institutions which have failed to even uphold the fundamental tenants of equity and inclusiveness on which they were built (or achieve the still more lofty goal of absolute poverty reduction).

At the recent and much written about Delhi Summit, while Western media and critics were dismissing these interactions as insignificant and unsustainable, the BRICS nations were drawing up a blueprint for a common development bank for the LDCs (Less Developed Countries), local lines of credit for trade, and an alliance of national BRICS stock exchanges. While such developments may not necessarily lead to long-term cooperation on other issues of significance, they will certainly fortify and greatly extend common interests in the areas of trade and finance. Representing nearly half of the global population, and a similar proportion of global growth, BRICS economies are no longer willing to be rule-takers on issues which are inherently crucial to their development trajectories. For the wise, this can be read as a sign of the coming outright rejection of the Washington consensus. That the Atlantic powers will have to accommodate this paradigm shift is certain; how they will respond remains a seminal mystery of the new age.

Finally, the BRICS all agree on a far greater global emphasis (if not commitments) on the development and poverty reduction efforts in Asia, Africa and Latin America and the fact that “green capitalism” or “green values” are new hurdles that BRICS must stand up against. No developing power is likely to commit economic suicide to make over-privileged Western Greens happy. In many ways, the recently concluded Rio+20 Summit seemed to mark the end of climate multilateralism, with countries failing to agree on anything substantial, despite the hype and hoopla preceding it. In an increasingly uncommon world, it is irrational to expect global binding commitments on issues as complicated and contested as climate change or sustainable development. In fact-far from being a shared value–the definition of the term “Sustainable” is contested itself. What implies inclusive growth and poverty alleviation for one, means stifling ‘Green Capitalism’ for the other.

However, this basic schism has been obscured over the many rounds of negotiations and many conferences convened and attended by NGO Man. It should be understood that the emergence of the BRICS on the global economic and political stage does not necessarily signal a default willingness to shoulder responsibility for historical emissions. Moral arguments may get you fair round of applause at The Four Seasons, but if you want a deal, then Atlantic countries need to vacate carbon real estate or pay the rent for squatting on it to accommodate for their ‘lifestyle emissions’.

With the average per capita consumption of primary energy of the BRICS members is still only a fraction of OECD averages, the notion of universal responsibility for the fate of the planet is redundant from the outset. No nation-state can be pinned down by narratives of universal moral accountability and culpability, given the real context. A man barely surviving on a dollar or two a day has no obligation, motivation or reason to preserve this planet the way it is for the next generation. And yes, he disagrees with the President of the United States of America and the Green Evangelists of the EU on this; they simply sit in different structural positions. Giving him a better tomorrow may over time see us strike the deal that the annual climate circuses around the world have failed to achieve.

Acquainting NGO Man With the Realities of our Times

It is well past time for Europe and the West as a whole to wake up to the world they actually live in and now move towards the more workable paradigm of “Shared Interests and Shared Prosperity”, terms that flow from the vocabulary of the “realist” camp, acknowledging that beneath every façade, nations and societies share only one common value, that of self-preservation based on self-interest. Sure, some of these interests do become normative and can be classified as values, but that they remain ‘interests’ above all must be recognized and in an indulgent and modest moment, negotiated as well. ‘Values’ lead to deadlocks and rigidities, ‘interests’ are often tradable, and when primary interests clash, well, at least one knows the score. This approach offers a far greater global potential for great powers old and new to collaborate and cooperate than the parochial, annoyingly moralitic, valuesbased approach that is viewed by most outside of the EU as a not-so-subtle attempt to impose European interests by the back door, despite objectively lacking the power to do so. A man in the gutter and a man in a mansion will share only one common value – self-interest and self-preservation. While the former will seek ways to reach the mansion, the latter will undoubtedly discover rules to remain there. But this fetish with values and the lack of agreement on their universal existence and definition is not the only intellectual challenge that efficient global governance is confronted with today. The concept of sovereignty–and the very different individual experiences of nation-states that compel them to define this critical notion differently–is another potential stumbling block.

For example, the US certainly does not share the diluted notion of sovereignty so common within the EU; as former Defense Secretary Robert Gates made abundantly clear, if Europe continues to free ride on American defense spending in NATO soon it will not be seriously consulted on the strategic issues of the day, common values or no. For America, NATO has always been a means to an end, not Valhalla in itself, as Europeans complacently believe. Rather, the perilous state of the American economy and its increasingly fraught domestic politics are already altering its role as a global policeman and as things get ever harder, a more inward-looking America is inevitable, based on its overriding economic interest to right its fiscal ship.

Similarly, the BRICS and other emerging power centers view this transition period of their relative rise as precisely the time to consolidate their sense of nationhood and to reclaim sovereignty from the formerly Western-dominated world. Again, Europe is the global intellectual outlier. Global governance in the new world we actually live in must be founded on the notion that sovereignty actually matters far more than those in many European capitals so fatuously think. If the BRICS are to be made stakeholders in the new era, alongside the older, western powers, this is the first negotiation and accommodation that must take place.

The third reality of our times is that large economies in the Indo-Pacific region (India, China and some others) with low-income populations will now be the fulcrum for governing the most important regions of the world; if they succeed the new primary engine of global growth will be safeguarded, if not, we will live in a far more hostile planet. Due to their own troubles and relative economic decline, the US and EU will increasingly need to carve out partnerships with India, China and the ASEAN countries to secure the sea lanes, manage the rules of trade, secure property and property rights and ensure peace and stability at this hinge point of multipolarity. This dependence on large emerging economies–which for a long while will remain relatively poor–will change the very ethos of global governance.

Due to this sea change, global priorities are bound to change as well. Growth and not human rights will dictate the agenda. Industrialization will trump environmentalism and poverty alleviation will define sustainable development. The implementation of governance will alter dramatically. Due to the core difference in the understanding of sovereignty, partnerships between the Atlantic countries and countries of the Indo-Pacific will be tested. On the other hand, partnerships could strengthen when instead of patronizing sermons, efforts are made to accommodate the views, interests and needs of all based on the fruitful search for shared interests. So how to make sense of this confusing new world? The primary rule of the road must be the unbreakable link between burden sharing and power (or responsibility) sharing. This basic principle (while easily applied in terms of the voting weights controversy in the IMF and World Bank) must become nothing less than the new mantra for the multipolar age. For it is the only hope for future global governance efforts, based as it is on the only durable political factor in the world….actual power realities.

Of course, this fundamental global change takes place on a continuum; it will take several decades for the transition from a Western-dominated world to a world with many powers (with the BRICS leading the economic way) to be completed. But as the global financial crisis made clear, change may be occurring far more rapidly than anyone could have imagined. Along the way, a fading west and a ‘not-yet-up-toit’ rest could well drop the ball over vital global governance issues, resulting in what Ian Bremmer (somewhat apocalyptically) has referred to as a G-0 world, where nothing much gets done.

It is time for Europe to get over it. Nations will not have common values, because nations themselves are a collection of diverse historical experiences and ambitions. However, there is no need to throw in the towel over global governance, for nations can have a vision for shared prosperity with different approaches to get there. To make all this work, there must be some common macro rules for the road for achieving this shared prosperity (the greatest common interest of all) and these must be negotiated on the realist terms of common interests and not through the fruitless semantics of ethics and morality. It’s time for NGO Man to leave the hotel and xperience the new world that has sprung up while he was inside; the multipolar era needs realism to work.

(Dr. John C. Hulsman is President and Co-Founder of John C. Hulsman Enterprises (, an international relations consulting fir, and a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also the author of all or part of 10 books, including Amazon bestsellers Ethical Realism, The Godfather Doctrine, and most recently an acclaimed intellectual biography of Lawrence of Arabia, To Begin the World Over Again. Samir Saran is Vice President at the Observer Research Foundation and Chairman and CEO of ‘g_trade’, the creators of the 3rd dynamic green index, ‘BSE Greenex’ at the Bombay Stock Exchange. He is author/co-author and editor of a number of publications including Re-imagining the Indus, Navigating the Near, Radical Islam and BRIC in the New World Order. This expanded essay flows from an earlier op-ed written for the Times of India, May 11, 2012.)

Identity and Energy Access in India – Setting contexts for Rio+20

by Samir Saran and Vivan Sharan

Please find here the original article as pdf file (starting from page 14): TERI Energy Security Insights.

In the two decades following the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, India has changed dramatically. It has transformed from a closed economy with empty coffers to one that is now far more integrated with the world and is widely viewed as one of the most important ’emerging economies’ that are shaping the 21st century. This year in June, stakeholders from across the globe will convene in Rio once again to discuss what is destined to be amongst the most important contemporary theme-sustainable development. The Rio+20 Summit, otherwise known as the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), will serve as an introspective pause, a chance to review development trajectories, and to realign priorities with reality and ambitions. India will find itself in the uncomfortable position of demanding greater development space and equity as a nation from the developed world, while having to reconcile stark domestic inequities amongst different social groups and income classes.
India’s views on the priorities outlined by the UNCSD were communicated in an official submission sent to the UNCSD Secretariat on 28th October, 2011. According to the document, India views universal access to modern energy1 as “essential for improving the quality of life of the poor”. Yet the nation’s achievements in building capacities to generate or distribute energy in its various forms have been far from remarkable, and indeed far from what is needed to ensure universal access.

India produced around 811 billion units of electricity in 2010-2011,2 with about 300 million people with no access to electricity3 and many more with only notional access. The per capita energy consumption in the country remained around 500 kilograms of oil equivalent, compared with a global average of 1800 (MoEF 2007).

India’s National Electricity Policy, which was notified in 2005, outlined the objective of ensuring “power for all” by 2012, an ambition which still remains far from fulfilled. The fact that only about half of the planned 78,577 megawatts of capacity additions took place over the course of the 11th Five Year Plan,4 exemplified an abject failure in implementation of transformational energy sector projects.

Such failures in implementing capacity-addition programmes, alongside attracting sufficient domestic and foreign private sector investments in the energy sector, are indicative of a larger political failure. The policy deadlocks that result in the lack of progressive reforms on land use and acquisition, foreign capital flows, and environmental norms have created an uncertainty that adversely affects investment decisions. This uncertainty, coupled with bureaucratic hurdles and the threat of disruptive regulatory and tariff policies, has managed to keep both local and international investors away from large scale, capitalintensive energy projects. This economic environment is also keeping away investments into smaller, off-grid solutions, which already suffer from an inherent lack of scalability and from the weak absorptive capacities within local communities.

This capability gap (in execution), due to a variety of reasons, is also why India is unable to commit to timelines and sought development space (read ‘time’) at the most recent international forum. The virtual deadlock at the Durban Climate Change Conference5 is, in part, a result of the inability of India to commit (or even envision) timelines to peak energy emissions, even for achieving global energy poverty thresholds.6 This is the real and hidden story of ‘Emerging India’. Perhaps it is time that this is placed on the table at Rio+20 and beyond, and that Indian positions on mitigation and capping of emissions are understood in this light.

The emphasis on universal access to ‘modern energy’ is an important aspect of the Rio+20 agenda, and it may be useful to understand the Indian landscape. According to 2009-10 Indian National Sample Survey (NSS) data from households, 75 per cent of rural India still relies on traditional energy, such as firewood, for cooking fuel; while over 33 per cent in the same category rely on kerosene for lighting (as a substitute for electricity).7

Over the period 2004-05 to 2009-10, as a result of focused rural electrification programmes such as the Rajiv Gandhi Vidyutikaran Yojna, access to electricity in rural areas did increase by over 10 per cent; and over the same period, access to LPG (for cooking) in urban areas has also shown significant improvement.8

While such numbers indicate that efforts to transform the energy demography have not completely stalled, the dependence on traditional and inefficient forms of fuels has not shown substantial decline. A case in point is the minimal 1.85 per cent decrease in dependence on firewood for cooking across India over the five-year period as shown in Table 1.

Yet these numbers only convey a macro position on energy access. Even cursory examinations of some of the surveys and reports suggest that there are deep and complex socio-economic issues at play that must be addressed and resolved by the policymaking apparatus in order to achieve real progress.

Identity and Access

India is a diverse country, with multiple identities gleaned through the prisms of religion, social groups, regions, language, ethnicity, economic capability, and many more. For the purpose of this paper, it is our intention to examine the state of energy access across social groups and economic classes: the two most prominent identities of modern India.

Even as India aspires to work within a more balanced and stable multilateral framework, and seeks the enhancement of local institutional capacities and capabilities, these alone are unlikely to address the fundamental causes of lack of energy access, and will require substantial levels of organic social transformation through local and national programs. These would need to focus on means of delinking energy access from income class so as to offer a modest quantum of modern energy as a universal right alongside food and education. This may allow certain transformations in the causal relationship that exists today between social groups and income classes (Table 2) and could potentially assist in bridging the socio-economic wedge between marginalized groups and the rest.

On studying the patterns of energy access in Table 3, it is quite apparent that Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Other Ba ckward Classes (OBCs)10 in rural areas are more reliant on firewood-a traditional cooking fuel, than ‘other’ social groups who increasingly use modern fuels such as LPG. Firewood has low cooking efficiency, and its use has detrimental effects on health (due to the proximate smoke that is generated) and environment (owing to deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions). The average dependency on firewood is between 76 and 88 per cent across the aforementioned disadvantaged groups, compared to close to 66 per cent for all ‘other’ groups11 in rural areas. The data shows (Table 3) that the dependency on firewood has only increased over time12 (between 2004-05 and 2009-10) in rural areas amongst the disadvantaged groups, while it has simultaneously shown a marginal decrease for ‘other’ groups.

Alongside the divergences amongst social groups, the difference in energy access across income groups also becomes instructive. The lowest income class is as reliant on firewood in urban areas as it is in rural areas. The startling fact is that the inequity in the urban areas has become more pronounced over the five-year period for the lowest income group shown in Table 4, with reliance on firewood increasing from around 69 per cent to around 76 per cent, and access to LPG decreasing from 5.8 to 1.83 per cent. Although absolute numbers in the lowest income groups have decreased significantly,13 affordability is still a key challenge.

Asymmetric patterns of access to electricity are also prevalent in the country. The percentage of households still using kerosene for lighting in rural areas averages between 30 to 40 per cent for disadvantaged groups-a striking figure considering that typical kerosene lamps deliver between 1 and 6 lumens per square meter (lux) of useful light, as opposed to typical western standards of 300 lux for basic tasks such as reading (Mills 2003).

A pronounced inequity of access among social groups is also observable across rural-urban areas in Table

5. While approximately 60 per cent of STs have access to electricity in rural areas (lower than the rural average as given in Table 1), around 87 per cent within the same social group have access to electricity in urban areas. The electricity access divide between the SCs, which are a significant social group in terms of urban population (Table 2), and the ‘others’ is around 9 per cent.

It is interesting to note that the level of access to electricity for SCs in urban areas is roughly equivalent to level of access for urban citizens in the MPCE bracket of INR 675 – INR 790 per month (Table 6), which is representative of a level much below even the conservative World Bank extreme poverty threshold (defined at US$ 1.25 a day).

In terms of energy access, the statistics suggest that SCs are pegged at a level of access for income classes below the average income of this social group. The share of kerosene for lighting has reduced significantly amongst the lowest income classes in rural areas over 2004-05 to 2009-10 (Table 6).

Meanwhile this trend is not witnessed in urban areas, where the inequity is starker over the same period with an increase in dependency on this fuel by 16.32 percentage points. Access to electricity for the lowest income class in urban areas has decreased from 62.1 to 44.56 per cent. This mirrors the trends in cooking fuels and is indicative of inherent inequities in the provision of access to modern energy in urban areas, alongside the implications of price rise and inflation.

While rural areas tend to suffer from an overall lack of access to modern energy, poor inhabitants in urban areas experience discriminatory barriers usually based on economic capacity. Such trends would challenge policies in the context of a sustainable development agenda, as India is likely to witness sustained and rapid urbanization in this current decade and beyond.

According to the provisional numbers released by the Census of India last year, 90,986,070 people were added to the urban population of the country,14 more than the number added to the rural population. The pace of movement to cities in India is unprecedented, and is on a scale that, outside of China, is unparalleled; with over 30 per cent of the total population already living in urban agglomerations. Our estimates suggest that around 44.5 per cent of the total decadal increase in urban population was a result of migration.15

Urban centres in India are veritable microcosms of the entire country-with a diverse mix of communities, cultures, and income classes ranging from the marginalized, disadvantaged classes to the expanding middle class-which is the primary driver of consumption and economic growth. Table 7 suggests that the share of OBCs in the overall urban population mix has increased substantially over the previous decade, while the proportions of the rest of the disadvantaged groups has almost remained the same, and ‘others’ have shown a marked decrease.16 The way that the various sections of society interact with each other, and perceive each other’s spaces and priorities would be an essential ingredient in India’s growth story going forward.


The trends highlighted in this paper demonstrate that existing inequities in access to modern energy amongst the lowest income classes and the disadvantaged groups tend to reinforce each other. The causal relationship between income classes and social groups acts as a self-fulfilling spiral, breeding inter-generational infirmities. Our analysis suggests that this is particularly true in urban areas. Given the fact that India will add over 200 million urban citizens over the next twenty years,17 increased policy emphasis must be given to urban areas by creating new ways to allow access to energy, especially for those who cannot afford it. The Rio Earth Summit of 1992 coincided with the beginning of India’s increased engagements with the international community. This current decade is likely to determine whether or not the country will succeed in narrowing income gaps, overcoming socio-economic inequities, and reducing poverty through decisive domestic actions. An economy and country which uses a majority of its scarce resources and limited infrastructure to serve only a minority of its people will find it increasingly hard to deflect arguments which suggest that its elite hide behind its poverty. India’s macro position on equity at international fora such as Rio +20 must be reflected in its domestic resolve to offer energy equitably to its diverse population. The imperatives of creating a ‘green economy’ must only follow and complement such efforts.


MoEF (2007) India: addressing energy security and climate change. Available at


IEA (2010) World Energy Outlook, Paris: International Energy Agency. Mills E (2003) Technical and Economic Performance Analysis of Kerosene Lamps and Alternative Approaches to Illumination in Developing Countries, California: Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory.

(Samir Saran is a Vice President and Vivan Sharan an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation)

Courtesy: Energy Security Insights, TERI (January-March 2012)

1 The International Energy Agency describes modern energy access as “a household having reliable and affordable access to clean cooking facilities, a first connection to electricity and then an increasing level of electricity consumption over time to reach the regional average”. The initial threshold level of electricity for rural households is assumed to be 250 kWh, while urban households are assumed to use 500 kWh per year on average. For more information, see

2 According to the Central Electricity Authority:

3 The latest figure for the number of people without access to electricity is 272 million. This is calculated from the 66th round of the National Sample Survey.

4 34,462 megawatts were added by the end of FY 2011.

5 The 17th Conference of Parties held in November, 2011, in Durban, South Africa.

6 The 2010 edition of the “World Energy Outlook” published by the International Energy Agency assesses two primary indicators of energy poverty at the household level-the lack of access to electricity and the reliance on the traditional use of biomass for cooking. As is highlighted in this report, India fares badly across both the indicators.

7 Data obtained from ‘India Data Labs’ at the Observer Research Foundation.

8 Throughout the paper we make the assumption that electrification is the closest available proxy for access to electricity and we acknowledge that access to the grid may not necessarily imply access to energy. In this context, we make conservative estimates of the overall lack of access to electricity.

9 The Government of India uses MPCE as proxy for income for households to identify the poor (who tend to have minimal savings).The proxy works well given that expenditure= income – savings. Similarly, we use MPCE throughout this paper to define income classes.

10 To be referred to as “disadvantaged groups” henceforth.

11 2010 Data obtained from ‘India Data Labs’ at the Observer Research Foundation

12 Given that LPG use has increased in rural and urban areas, the simultaneous increase in the use of firewood can also be attributed to the substitution of other low efficiency cooking fuels such as dung cake. It is instructive to note that according to NSS data, the use of dung cake for cooking (all India) has decreased significantly over the discussed five year period amongst SCs and OBCs showing a 3.1 per cent and 5.51 per cent decline in each of the respective social groups.

13 According to NSS data

14 Provisional Population Tools, Census of India

15 According to Census 2011, total decadal growth rate of population is 17.64 per cent. Using this conservative benchmark (urban decadal growth rate is 31.8 per cent); the total population increase in urban areas should have equalled 50,471,513, whereas the figure stands at 90,986,071.

16 It is important to note the caveat that the NSS relies on self-reporting of people about their Other Backward Classes (OBC).

17 According to the United Nation’s World Urbanization Prospects, 2009.

ORF Report “Re-imagining the Indus”

Please find here the link to our comprehensive report on the “Indus”, the associated treaty, the emergent rhetoric and the reality of people whose lives are inseparable from the river and their traditional and contemporary water management practices.

It is perhaps the most comprehensive effort that captures essential narratives and historical evidence from both sides of the border, that is unable to divide the organic and indivisible river basin.

Co-produced with the LUMS, Lahore with the support of the DFID, this research led by ORF scholar Lydia Powell is certain to offer a pragmatic insight on the debate and the way ahead for the two countries and more importantly for the one people of the river Indus.

I had the pleasure of writing one section of this report.

Carbon markets and low-carbon investment in emerging economies: A synthesis of parallel workshops in Brazil and India


While policy experiments targeted at energy and innovation transitions have not been deployed consistently across all countries, market mechanisms such as carbon pricing have been tested over the past decade in disparate development contexts, and therefore provide some opportunities for analysis. This brief communication reports on two parallel workshops recently held in Sao Paulo, Brazil and New Delhi, India to address questions of how well these carbon pricing policies have worked in affecting corporate decisions to invest in low-carbon technology. Convening practitioners and scholars from multiple countries, the workshops elicited participants’ perspectives on business investment decisions under international carbon markets in emerging economies across multiple energy-intensive sectors. We review the resulting perspectives on low-carbon policies and present guidance on a research agenda that could clarify how international and national policies could help encourage both energy transitions and energy innovations in emerging economies.

Read the entire article here: Full article (PDF-version).

REIL roundtable demands worldwide low-carbon policy framework.

This article was first published in the Global Energy Review online news, 12th July 2011

Download the PDF-File here: Global Energy Reil-12-6-11.

Participants at the first Renewable Energy and International Law (REIL) roundtable in Cambridge argued that the UN must provide a worldwide common policy framework for low-carbon energy to get the renewables sector off the ground. Aled Jones, director of the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University, and Samir Saran, vice president of India’s Observer Research Foundation, present the rountable’s key findings Renewable energy remains a policy challenge for many political leaders around the world. It is a topic many probably wish was not there.

Climate change and energy security create a complex political challenge that must not only be considered in the context of well-entrenched existing energy markets and their incumbents, but also with a host of other issues such as international security, international trade, financial stability, inequity, debt, health care, pensions and poverty (in all its guises). It is not helped by increasing divisions within countries, which means passing any sort of national legislation is incredibly difficult, if not impossible – never mind signing up to bold international treaties.

However, it is interesting to note that the world can look for insights from another industry that represents a significant percentage of global GDP, which did not really exist 20 years ago – namely telecoms and IT. The telecoms industry grew up with no real oversight and no drive from policymakers. The need to selfregulate by creating common standards became very clear early on, otherwise global growth would have always been limited by competing technology platforms failing to integrate and support each other. The standards and protocols that were developed allowed the industry to grow exponentially. It is quite likely that if the early entrepreneurs had had to deal with those issues when they set out on their quest for innovation, or were faced by demands from policymakers early on, we would not have the industry that we do today.

In addition, this entrepreneurial approach allowed the industry to meet market demand at a price the market could bear. For example, in India the telecoms industry was able to tap into the billion customers at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ by offering a price they could afford. There are of course several current issues within the telecoms and IT sector – not least privacy laws and differences in freedom of expression and freedom of information around the world. However, the industry can now tackle these issues from a strong base.

While regulation and policy in the renewable energy area exists, it is often uncoordinated, is marked by uncertainty, delivers unintended consequences and is subject to change. So is the absence of coordinated, long-term, well thought out regulation and coordinated action a good thing for the renewable energy sector? While it may be a good thing in the short term, allowing some early entrepreneurs to build substantial enterprises, it is unlikely to achieve anywhere near the same transformation that was seen in the telecoms and IT sector – especially when the cost of renewable energy must compete with more traditional sources of power that do not incorporate a cost for carbon.

Two key reasons why renewable energy is unlikely to have the same impact as the telecoms and IT sector: land and the fact that we can see it coming. Energy, in particular renewable energy, needs a lot of land (or a lot of ocean). This land is always owned by someone and is usually being used for something else, or is difficult to aggregate up to large-scale generation capacity in the case of rooftop installations on individual homes.

Within telecoms, the footprint of a mast is tiny and you only need one person in a large district to agree to have something installed on their land to open up a large customer base. For energy, you need to unlock a large portion of land ownership to get to a scale that attracts investment and allows significant generation capacity to be installed.

Aggregation of land needs rules usually framed by governments, overseen by authorities or regulators and adjudicated by courts in case of disputes. All of which creates regulatory and policy uncertainty, which could be a challenge for first-time innovators and could lead the sector to be dominated more by those able to manage the policy rubric rather than those with solutions and technologies.

When the telecoms industry started to grow no one knew what we would use this new technology for and there were many predictions about the global market for computers being small, the global market for mobile handsets being niche – and who would ever want to send a short message to someone when you can phone them? If the post office, pager companies or print photography industry had seen the impact that email, messaging and electronic photographs on mobiles could have on them, they may have put up a little bit of a fight, but there wasn’t really an industry that was being displaced by the new enterprises being set up.

However, in energy there are many vested interests and a range of assets that are potentially redundant if the renewable energy industry meets its full potential. How to transition across from a carbon-driven economy to a ‘green’ economy in a smooth and orderly way is the biggest challenge. And this challenge is only made greater because we can see it coming.

Those vested interests and owners of assets need a much greater level of confidence in this transition before it can happen. This applies not just to the large energy companies but also the employees of those companies, the governments that rely on the taxes from their employment and resource use, the pension funds that rely on their steady return and the consumers that rely on the cheap energy that they produce. Convincing all of these stakeholders to support the move to a ‘green’ economy is no small task.

While there is some scope for the deployment of exciting technologies over the short term, sometimes supported by government policies such as feed-in-tariffs in countries such as China and Germany, to achieve the scale of deployment envisaged under international political negotiations such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), requires much more political backing and legislative support.

In addition, domestic subsidies and other types of support programmes for renewable energy are increasingly being referred to the World Trade Organization (WTO). For example, the US’s complaint against China’s subsidies for wind turbines, which appeared to favour domestic manufacturing, has resulted in China revoking those subsidies. WTO GATT Article XX(g) refers to environmentally related trade measures and could be used to allow subsidies of this nature if domestic and international solutions are subject to the same restrictions. A price on carbon, delivered through a cap-and-trade scheme or a new tax, is often seen as the basis from which other policies can be built. For a business, being able to have a globally consistent price on a commodity makes strategy development much easier.

Achieving a price on carbon has, however, proved challenging in many national jurisdictions and the international process under the UNFCCC is unlikely to be able to agree on an international framework that gets to the level of detail that sets a price on carbon in the next few years. A price on carbon delivered through schemes such as cap-and-trade needs to support other policies that may be introduced such as renewable energy obligations, rather than be undermined by them. Even when implemented a price on carbon is not always a panacea. If an international agreement is achieved then it should set the basis for future partnerships around the world to tackle some of the biggest problems associated with climate change.

The UNFCCC process will not be able to set a mandate for national governments to push through energy bills and policies that they have not been able to agree within their own legislature. In addition, the legality of international environmental law, or at least its enforcement, also causes uncertainty. If a country fails to meet an international pledge to achieve an emissions reduction target, then what is the outcome?

Even if there is some legal framework to measure and report, policing this will be very difficult. A truly robust UNFCCC agreement should be able to provide a framework that allows countries to develop national policies that are at least consistent, allowing global solutions to get to scale quickly. In addition, a UNFCCC agreement can create international markets where they are needed to do particular jobs – for example, reducing deforestation – as well as providing a mechanism or common standards around the use of public sector finance to underpin the development of green economies in emerging and developing economies.

For example, the Indian approach to the UNFCCC is led by the national government, but many of the energy policies, and in particular land policies, are developed at state level. So while the Indian national government could sign up to an international framework and commit India to a ‘green’ pathway, to actually implement this requires internal buy-in and implementation, which is not guaranteed and is rarely driven from the federal level.

So the real challenge now is how to move renewable energy and the interrelated challenges into the ‘action’ pile within national, state and local governments. This is a bold challenge and it needs bold leadership to tackle it. It is about risk management and economic growth, however it does need a wholesale change in the economic supply chain, which unfortunately is very difficult to achieve piece-meal. This is why the UNFCCC process needs to agree a framework for common approaches to policy development as soon as possible. This process will be supported by domestic action – but domestic action is not a substitute for it, even with the recent change in attitudes towards nuclear power in key markets such as Japan and Germany possibly resulting in significant investments into renewable energy and major growth for the sector if their low carbon targets are to be met.

Kick-starting a new industrial revolution is no small task, but neither is spreading democracy across the Middle East – and access to information and visionary leaders created the ‘Arab Spring’. Maybe we need a ‘Green Winter’ to galvanise action to tackle climate change. With the Arctic ice melting at unprecedented rates we may achieve a ‘Green Winter’ sooner than we think.


The REIL network is an initiative of the non-profit Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Partnership, which aims to develop markets for renewable energy. Members of the network usually meet once a year at Yale University. The Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University hosted the first Cambridge Roundtable of the REIL network on 20 and 21 June.

In addition to Jones and Saran, participants included Bob Simon, chief of staff of the US Senate Energy news Committee; Brad Gentry, director of the Yale Centre for Business and the Environment; Melinda Kimble, senior vice president of the United Nations Foundation; Eomon Ryan, leader of the Green Party in Ireland; Mark Fulton, managing director and global head of climate change investment research & strategy at Deutsche Bank and Martijn Wilder, head of Baker & McKenzie’s global climate change and environmental markets practice.

Re-imagining the Indus: Mapping Media Reportage in India and Pakistan

Published 2012, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi

Water shortage has become a subject of intense public debate in the present political narrative on resource management and riparian rights. In an attempt to discern the divergence on core issues and mainstream media reporting, Re-imagining the Indus is a methodological study based on Media Content Analysis of the reporting on water issues related to the Indus, in the leading dailies of both India and Pakistan. This monograph seeks to capture the existing discourse and stimulate policy dialogue on the subject.

In Detail
What is the general discourse on water scarcity and related crises in the Indian and Pakistani media? The study conducted by Samir Saran (ORF) and Hans Rasmussen Theting, scrutinised the media coverage on water on three specific themes – the political discourse, water governance and people, practice and environment.

Titled ‘Reimagining the INDUS: Mapping media reportage in India and Pakistan’, the study found that the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) does not dominate the reportage in Pakistan, indicating a low level of discontentment or critique.

It also found that it is only in the months of winter, when the water flow is low, that inter-country dispute between India and Pakistan, and significant negative sentiment against India, gets attention in Pakistan. But in the Indian media, Pakistan only appears during spring months.

The study, now published in the form of a book, found that agricultural concerns and inter-provincial disputes dominate media reportage in Pakistan while in India media lays greater emphasis on urban water concerns and interventions, including ground water and domestic consumption.

The study also showed that media reports in both the countries, Pakistan more than India, recognise the need for the two countries to cooperate on water issues. From the study, it was also clear that in both India and Pakistan, there is equal emphasis on the aspects of water governance and infrastructure.

ORF Issue Brief: India and the economic meltdown – challenges and possible responses

by Samir Saran and Siba Prasad Tripathy
April 2009

The financial crisis across the globe and the ensuing responses by nations and non-state actors has dominated both public consciousness and political debate in the recent past. The discussion on suitable stimulus packages, the causes for the financial disorder and future restructuring of the financial systems has often been dominated by the rhetoric of specific constituencies serving individual interests even as it loses sight of the substantive argument. In India too, the eagerness to commend our regulatory practices has tended to brush the larger debate on the actual economic fallout of the crisis under the carpet.

Please find the entire paper here.

Navigating the Near: Non-traditional Security Threats to India, 2022

Sunjoy Joshi, Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, Wilson John, Lydia Powell and Samir Saran
19 April 2011

National Security is most often thought of in terms of political and military threats to the State-either from other States or geo-strategic alliances. Given such a framework, both the challenges as well as the responses have for long been viewed in terms of military force or coercive ability of the adversary.
Events unfolding in today’s highly networked and globalised economies show the futility, and danger, of relying on such a simplistic template. Threats to national security are today multi-dimensional and call for a deeper study and understanding of a wide variety of factors to create a credible and deterrent response mechanism.Navigating the Near seeks to bridge this paradigm shift by studying non-traditional threats facing contemporary India. The study, with its sight on the next decade, evaluates how traditional threats confronting India are likely to be influenced in large measure by a range of factors and trends, both external and internal, that have, till now, remained on the fringes of security studies.

Link to Observer Research Foundation website.