This weekend, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will fly out to the town of Toyako in north Japan to attend the annual meeting of the Group of Eight (G-8) nations, a club of rich countries. India — and four other emerging economies — are also invited as guests.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
One issue has hogged the limelight in India: What will the PM tell global leaders attending the meeting about the civilian nuclear technology deal between India and the US? It is unfortunate that his role in the G-8 meeting has been reduced to this single contentious question, albeit a very important one. There are at least three other major issues to be discussed by the G-8 where India needs a strategy.
First, climate change. The G-8 had agreed at its 2007 meeting in Germany that it would “seriously consider” halving emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. Even George Bush — a climate change sceptic — fell in line. The rich countries insist that India and China should also sign off on a global deal to cut emissions since they are now major polluters. But that is on a gross national basis; per capita emissions in India and China (especially India) are very low.
A premature agreement to cut emissions would harm economic growth in a country with massive poverty. Notice that the national climate change plan unveiled last week does not mention any target for emission reductions. Manmohan Singh will have to show his commitment to a climate change deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol, but at the same time convince the others that India needs more time.
The second big issue is Africa, a perennial G-8 favourite. India is in direct competition with China there because of the race for natural resources. The West sees Africa — and especially places such as Darfur and Zimbabwe — as a humanitarian challenge. China has fewer qualms than India in befriending regimes that have blood on their hands. While India should offer the democratic African regimes a preferential trade deal (as we have argued earlier as well), the PM should remind the G-8 that our Africa policy is close to the Western one.
Finally, the rise in food prices has pushed an estimated 100 million people back into poverty. It is likely that the G-8 will seek to rustle up some understanding on how this problem is to be tackled. Food protectionism of the sort promoted by the Indian government will likely be frowned on. The PM should be ready for pressure on this issue.
What should India tell the G-8? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org