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India’s external relations face a multitude of diverse and often conflicting forces that demand deft footwork from our leadership. On one hand, the country is an active member of the Quad, a security arrangement between India, the US, Japan and Australia for the Indo-Pacific. New Delhi is also pursuing trade deals with the EU and UK, having wrapped up talks with Australia. But, in all this, India’s neutral stance in the Russia-Ukraine conflict sits uncomfortably, disappointing allies across the globe. India has been criticized in the past for striking its own path, as is evident from past ministerial meetings of the World Trade Organization, or even at the recent CoP-26 summit on climate in Glasgow where the final text had to be changed on China’s and India’s insistence. The sum-total of our diplomacy, however, is finally bearing fruit as rich nations look for levers to keep our neutrality from slipping further out of their sphere of influence. The latest effort comes from the G-7 club of rich nations, which is looking at ways to help us decarbonize our economy over the years ahead.

Upon taking over the G-7 presidency for 2022, host Germany had promised to build on Glasgow’s momentum. The German approach includes building not just climate partnerships, but “climate and development" alliances beyond the G-7, though largely focused on G-20 members. This is significant because it takes into account the societal and economic development of each partner and will not try to force-feed partners a cookie-cutter solution. The likely template will be the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) that France, Germany, the UK and US, along with the EU, signed with South Africa at last year’s CoP-26. That partnership—with special emphasis on the words “just" and “transition"—is about helping fund South Africa’s decarbonization by replacing coal usage with clean energy. The agreement also recognizes that a departure from coal cannot happen overnight and a big move away from carbon emissions would require options for the vast number of people employed by coal-based power plants. At its core, the idea is to assist green transitions by making finance available from developed countries, multilateral institutions and groups of green investors.

The US and Germany have now proposed a G-7 partnership with India to support and fund the makeover of our energy mix from fossil fuels to carbon-neutral sources. Such a deal is likely to be announced later this month at the G-7 summit in Schloss Elmau, Germany, should New Delhi and the seven agree to the JETP on the table. India is a special invitee to this year’s summit, along with Indonesia, South Africa, Senegal and Argentina. If reports of the offer are true, a critical portion of the pact will ask for reducing the number of coal-burning power plants under development as well as a gradual closure of our coal mines. This could be a sticking point; it would also, in the interest of fairness, turn the arc lights on some G-7 members that have made negligible efforts to reduce domestic demand for fossil fuels (such as the US). The JETP project can be seen as an effort to belatedly make good the Paris Agreement’s promise of $100 billion in annual funding for countries like India that had gone unfulfilled. It is incumbent upon rich nations to help the rest do what we all must. But such funding should not become a crowbar to push only some economies to decarbonize.

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