Mumbai: China and Pakistan have shown interest in becoming members of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), potentially adding heft to the first treaty-based international government organization based in India.

While 65 countries are signatories to the ISA framework agreement, 35 countries have ratified it. With India and France front-ending the attempts to set up ISA, it has become India’s calling card on climate change.

“China is a prospective member country as some parts of it is located within the tropics. As of today, given its location, Pakistan can be a partner country. And there is a proposal to amend the framework agreement. Once an amendment takes place, tropics will not be the borders for the ISA. Pakistan can be a member then," said a person aware of China’s and Pakistan’s interest in ISA’s membership requesting anonymity.

Initially, ISA envisaged 121 sunshine countries situated between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn as its members. But during the founding conference of the ISA in New Delhi in March this year, India said that membership of the body will be thrown open to all countries that want to join, with no criteria such as duration of sunlight and geographical location.

“The Chinese are interested in partnering with ISA. It is logical given that the move will benefit them due to large solar manufacturing capacities that they have developed. Many countries are interested in ISA," said the person quoted above.

Solar modules or panels account for nearly 60% of a solar power project’s cost, with China’s solar panel manufacturing capacity estimated to be around 70 gigawatts (GW) per year.

“Pakistan’s view is that since it’s not within the tropics, it can’t be a member. However, once the amendment is done, they are interested in becoming a member. They will benefit from the opportunities that ISA can provide," said the person.

Mint reported on 25 June about ISA plans for a global solar bank aimed at financing $150 billion. ISA’s mission to undertake joint efforts required to reduce the cost of finance and the cost of technology, mobilise more than $1,000 billion of investments needed by 2030 for massive deployment of solar energy, and pave the way for future technologies.

Queries emailed to spokespersons of India’s ministries of external affairs and new and renewable energy on Sunday remained unanswered. Questions emailed to the Chinese embassy and Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi also remained unanswered.

The idea of a solar alliance of countries that receive sunshine for around 300 days a year was mooted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is increasingly being viewed as a foreign policy tool with the first general assembly of ISA to be held in India in October. The general assembly is expected to coincide with the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the third annual general meeting of the board of governors of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Mumbai on Tuesday, Modi said, “We are also making collaborative efforts to mainstream solar energy in the form of an International Solar Alliance."

Other prominent intergovernmental organizations in the energy sector include the Vienna-based Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) and Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA).

Interestingly, Jin Liqun, president, AIIB on Tuesday pitched China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ (Obor) initiative aimed at connecting around 60 countries across Asia, Africa and Europe at the opening ceremony. China has a 31.02% stake in AIIB, while India, with 8.72% stake, is the second-largest stakeholder.

India has been critical of China developing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, part Obor infrastructure initiative cutting through Gilgit and Baltistan areas of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Obor, first unveiled by Chinese president Xi Jinping in 2013, aims to put billions of dollars in infrastructure projects, including railways, ports and power grids across Asia, Africa and Europe.

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