Modi, Obama to meet on the sidelines of Paris conference

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Nov 25, 2015 02:43 IST
File photo of President Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (HT File Photo)

Prime minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama will be meeting on the sidelines of the Paris conference on climate change next week, the White House announced Tuesday.

The meeting with Modi is Obama’s only third bilateral scheduled so far. His first is with China’s Xi Jinping, leader of the world’s worst polluter, and his second is with host Francois Hollande.

“We have been engaging with Indian through the year in determining how they can contribute constructively to a successful outcome in Paris,” Ben Rhodes, US deputy national security adviser, told reporters.

The meeting would be a continuation of the conversation the two leaders have been having, first during Obama’s January visit, then on the sidelines of the UN general assembly and recent multilateral summits they both attended.

No new announcements are expected from this meeting and the one Obama will have with Xi. White House official in charge of climate change Paul Bodnar said the purpose of these meetings was to “make sure that the leaders are on the same page about our objectives and strategy going into these final two weeks of negotiations”.

These two countries are two of US’s most important partners in dealing with global climate change, Bodnar said, adding, the president has built an important partnership with President Xi and has “worked closely with Prime Minister Modi”.

Is this an attempt to keep the two countries in sight and in line?

China had tried to isolate the US at the climate change negations in Copenhagen in 2009 and called a secret meeting with leaders of India, then prime minister Manmohan Singh, South Africa and Brazil.

Obama and his officials had barged into the room demanding to join the negotiations, details of which were recounted by the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton in her memoir “Hard Choices”.

“Worse, we learned that (then Chinese premier Wen Jiabo) …had called a ‘secret’ meeting with the Indians, Brazilians, and South Africans to stop, or at least dilute, the kind of agreement the United States was seeking. When we couldn’t find any of the leaders of those countries, we knew something was amiss and sent out members of our team to canvass the conference centre,” she writes.

“Eventually they discovered the meeting’s location. After exchanging looks of ‘Are you thinking what I’m thinking?’ the President and I set off through the long hallways of the sprawling Nordic convention center, with a train of experts and advisors scrambling to keep up.”

Officials made no mention of that, in Clinton’s words, “footcade”, at the Tuesday briefing. But the four countries that went rogue then in Copenhagen, according to the US, found several mentions at the briefing.

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