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Saying it like Jairam Ramesh

From May 7-9, on his fourth and now most controversial China visit in seven months, environment minister Jairam Ramesh left the Beijing media with more quotable quotes besides his view of India’s ‘alarmist, overly defensive, needlessly restrictive’ approach to Chinese telecom and infrastructure investment, says Reshma Patil.

world Updated: May 14, 2010 12:00 IST
Reshma Patil

“Fourteen days of crappy food (in Copenhagen)...sapped the intellectual energy. Mexico will be gastronomically superior.”

The journalists guffawed --- and quickly scribbled the Jairamism.

From May 7-9, on his fourth and now most controversial China visit in seven months, Ramesh left the Beijing media with more quotable quotes besides his view of India’s ‘alarmist, overly defensive, needlessly restrictive’ approach to Chinese telecom and infrastructure investment.

At an on-record interaction with the Foreign Correspondents Club of China last Sunday in Beijing, Ramesh frankly compared the advantage of India’s ‘superior English and cussed negotiation skills’ to China’s at the Copenhagen climate summit, where India saved China from ‘isolation’.

The stiff communist work culture of the Chinese capital usually inspires foreign leaders to be staid and cautious when they discuss the Chinese on their own turf. But 90 minutes with Ramesh gave the media more colourful material than they could accommodate.

We heard an insider’s story that Beijing would rather not tell, but Ramesh did. At Copenhagen, China’s chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua ‘thumped twice on the table and shouted at Obama.’ And if there had been no deal at Copenhagen, ‘Obama would have gone back and painted China as a devil’. On the other hand, Obama addressed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as guru ---thrice.

We also heard that the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao who likes to speak in sweeping idioms, said recently that ‘China will be a developing nation for the next 100 years.’

The Danish management of the Copenhagen summit also peppered the talk. “The entire process was badly managed by the Danes,’’ Ramesh said in response to a question, adding that another host nation might have led to a better outcome. Ahead of the next climate summit in Cancun, Mexico, Ramesh said "we've reached virtually a dead-end.'' But 'negotiations will continue, more frequent-flyer miles will accumulate, and carbon footprints of ministers will increase...'

Last summer, Beijing abruptly put off the signing of a major agreement that would have ended decades of strategic secrecy with both neighbours agreeing to cooperate on Himalayan glacier research to study the impact of global warming. The agreement was mysteriously called off hours before the signing ceremony for which the media was invited. We don’t know that inside story. The outspoken minister briefly attributed it to a ‘bureaucratic reason’ and said he's still hopeful it will be signed.