Climate crisis can be new area of cooperation for India, US: Antony Blinken
Antony Blinken, the nominee for US secretary of state, on Tuesday said there was a “very strong potential” for the United States and India to deepen ties by cooperating on the climate crisis, and building on the work done by previous administrations in other spheres such as civil nuclear cooperation and defence.
“One area I think that has a lot of promise, and maybe even necessity, is actually climate,” Blinken said at his confirmation hearing by the Senate foreign relations committee. “At the current rate things are going, India is poised over the next two or three decades to catch up to China in terms of the emissions that it produces.”
“At the same time, as you know, Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has been a very strong advocate for looking at renewable energy and different technologies, I think there’s a very strong potential for our countries to work together in that area,” he said.
As president, Joe Biden will sign an executive order on Wednesday on his first day in office to return the US to the Paris Agreement on climate change, reversing outgoing President Donald Trump. And that could in itself be an opportunity for the Biden administration to start working with India on the climate crisis right away.
Blinken and four other members of Biden’s incoming cabinet appeared before US Senate committees for their confirmation hearings.
The others were Lloyd Austin III, nominee for secretary f defence; Janet Yellen, nominee for treasury secretary; Avril Haines, nominee for director of national intelligence; and Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee for secretary of homeland security.
Blinken’s remarks on the climate crisis as the new area for cooperation came in response to a question from Mitt Romney, a Republican senator, on the Biden administration’s plans for India in the wake of border clashes with China.
The secretary of state-designate described India as a “bipartisan success story” over successive administrations, and went on to recount the upward trajectory in ties starting towards the end of Bill Clinton’s term, when the two countries were able to put behind the tensions following India’s nuclear tests in 1998.
Then came the civil nuclear deal under George W Bush, defence procurement and information sharing under Barack Obama, and then the concept of the Indo-Pacific under Trump, along with efforts to ensure no country, including China, could challenge its sovereignty and a shared commitment to combating terrorism.
“So, I think there are many ways in which we can deepen that cooperation to pursue the path that successive administrations have put us on,” Blinken said, offering the climate crisis as the new area of cooperation.
Blinken, notably, used the phrase “Indo-Pacific” for the region, instead of “Asia-Pacific”, which should reassure Indian commentators who have been alarmed by the use of the latter term by Biden and some members of his team as a concession to the Chinese.
Beijing dislikes the phrase “Indo-Pacific” and its official state media has openly called for the incoming US president and his team to use “Asia-Pacific”.
Indian foreign policy experts and commentators are closely watching the incoming administration’s remarks on China for clues to future policy.
China was a top issue of concern for senators at Blinken’s hearing also, along with Russia and Iran.
Biden and his team have characterised China as a competitor, and Blinken and Haines both stated at their hearings that it will be the incoming administration’s goal will be to “outcompete” China.
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