After escalating tensions over border disputes rooted in the past 50 years, the world’s most populous nations finally agreed to jointly address the biggest challenge of the next 50: global warming.
India and China on Wednesday signed a wide-ranging agreement to stand together against the developed world in December’s crucial climate change negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark.
As the new bonhomie unfolded in New Delhi, officials in Beijing rushed to arrange a meeting between Premier Wen Jiabao and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Thailand later this week.
A Chinese foreign ministry official said the meeting would take place between October 23 and 25 (Reuters said Saturday). He indicated the Chinese expected the talks to help smoothen presently rocky bilateral ties.
“Prime Minister Singh is now in his second term. There has been good progress in our bilateral relationship and we hope this momentum can sustain,’’ assistant foreign minister Hu Zhengyue told mediapersons.
While Beijing stressed the meeting would be “important”, for which “both sides are in close touch”, Delhi evaded a direct reply. Asked if Singh would meet Wen during the Association of South East Asian Nations summit in Thailand, secretary (east) of the foreign ministry, N. Ravi, said: “Some bilateral meetings with leaders of participating countries are possible.” He didn’t name China.
With China the world’s worst polluter (US is second, Russia third) and India fourth, the developed world will pressure both countries to agree to emission cuts, a move both see as harmful to their economic interests.
“Trust me, only India and China can make Copenhagen succeed,” said China’s vice-chairman of National Development and Reform Commission, Xie Zhenhua.
Half the world’s 6.7 billion people live in India and China.
Zhenhua nodded in agreement when India’s environment minister Jairam Ramesh said: “There is no difference between Indian and Chinese negotiating positions and we are discussing further what the two should be doing for a successful outcome at Copenhagen.”
This is the first climate change agreement for India and China, with any country outside the purview of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which provides for funds and the transfer of clean technologies to the developing world from the developed.
Wednesday’s agreement marks the re-emergence of common ground that India and China found at the 1996 Montreal Protocol, when they first pressured rich countries to pay up to phase out chemicals that depleted the ozone layer.
India will sign similar agreements with the European Union, Norway, United States, Brazil and South Africa.