Copenhagen gains

No deal is a good deal, but the real deal is geopolitical

Back in October 2007, this blog had argued that because “it requires unprecedented international co-operation at a time of geopolitical flux…we can’t expect meaningful international co-operation on tacking climate change”. Instead “the immediate ray of hope is unilateral domestic action: states may be compelled to adopt sustainable environmental policies driven by a largely domestic cost-benefit analysis.”

This in the end, is what happened at the Copenhagen summit (see Saubhik Chakrabarti’s op-ed). That’s just as well, because it is not in India’s interests at this stage to be straitjacketed by an international treaty binding it not merely to carbon emission targets, but also to accept measurement and verification systems that would allow some unaccountable UN body to sit in judgement over India’s policies.

But the real gains were geopolitical—neither the United States nor China could have their way without India’s support. This fact was neither lost on the United States nor on China. The European Union is likely to realise it as soon as it recovers from its shock and sulk. Copenhagen, more than the G-20 summit earlier this year, provides an indication on how geopolitical decisions of the first half of the twenty-first century are likely to be made. If the UN system can accomodate the shift in geopolitical power, then those decisions are more likely to be made under the UN framework. If it cannot, the UN system will have to contend with faits accompli, much like the one in Copenhagen.

It would be dangerous for India to take this shift for granted—but despite the immensity of its national challenges, it must understand the strength of its own position in the international system and play its cards accordingly. Given the pace of the geopolitical shifts, it is imperative for India to strengthen and reform its diplomatic corps. In his interview with Pragati, Shashi Tharoor suggested that the government has approved an expansion of the foreign service and the implementation is in the hands of the civil service. Well, it had better hurry.

Preparing for global warming wars

The Indian National Interest community launches its first policy brief

Climate Change and National Security: Preparing India for New Conflict Scenarios

Policy Brief No 1 - CoverThe global debate on whether there is indeed a process of anthropogenic climate change in progress has been for the most part settled by the international scientific consensus surrounding the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The trajectory of global warming is expected to have a major impact on human society as a whole: calling for a co-ordinated international response towards mitigation and adaptation to a warmer planet.

This policy brief analyses how climate change will affect regional security in the Indian subcontinent and implications for India’s national security. It argues that glacial melt, rising sea levels and extreme weather will exacerbate ongoing conflicts and will require India to develop military capabilities to address a range of new strategic scenarios: from supporting international co-operation, to managing a ‘hot peace’, to outright military conflict.

Get the document from the INI Policy Briefs section.