India has chosen China over transparency in governance.
As far as the proposed global agreement to replace Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2015 is concerned, India has cast its lot with China in opposing the binding principle — which calls for nations to “adopt transparency, public participation and justice” in their growth parameters.
The proposed agreement would be discussed at the Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro this June, forming a framework for around 200 countries to develop in a sustainable manner over the next 15 years.Indian negotiators seemed inclined to declare that the policy framework be transparent and participatory, but they did not approve of installing a mechanism to make the principle mandatory for each country in the draft agreement — also called the outcome document.
The mechanism is prescribed under clause 58, which China wants deleted from the outcome document. The European Union got the clause included in the outcome document because it believed that transparency and access to justice would be key to monitoring the proposed SDGs. Though Indian negotiators have not opposed the provision in open forums, they have apparently sided with the Chinese view on the mechanism.
Curiously, India does seem supportive of transparency in the government — having enacted laws such as the Right To Information (which allows citizens to obtain information from the government) and the Forest Right Act (which makes gaining the consent of forest dwellers mandatory for projects).
Matters had taken an unexpected turn at a recent meeting of the G-77 plus China — a group of 130 developing countries — in New York. India backed the Chinese proposal to delete clause 58, demanding that the principle on transparency should be mentioned only once — clause 17 — in the outcome document.
Access Initiative, a group of 450 Indian NGOs, said in an email to negotiators that unlike China, India has nothing to lose by agreeing to clause 58 because its domestic laws comply with the stated principles of the outcome document.