Sometimes I find myself questioning: why is it so that our country finds itself in a same position in which it had once being earlier? Why in every global negotiation we love to play the second fiddle? Why every time we let others take initiative on our behalf? Why all time in the scope of multilateral and bilateral negotiations we loved to see our asses being kicked and then complaint about ‘discrimination by the developed countries’.
It had had happened earlier. It had happened earlier. It has happened earlier. And it is happening now; in the field of Doha Trade Talks and Copenhagen Climate negotiations. I was not thinking to write something on Multilateral Negotiations until I stumbled upon this article written by Mr. Anil Padmanabhan, Deputy Managing Editor of Mint.
The article argues and I quote:
“The big question is, what is Plan A and what is Plan B for India. If a united stand of emerging economies is India’s Plan A, then it is going to once again fall into a familiar trap; trusting China or any other country in such a crucial negotiation, where self-interest is paramount, would be naïve, to say the least. If its voluntary actions are Plan A, then it begs the question as to why India had to wait to make its proclamation well after the US-which till a month ago held the dubious distinction of being the worst polluter and also a non-signatory to the previous deal on climate change- and China made their claims.
….A debate in parliament-it would have also underlined our democratic credentials-could have helped the UPA generate political consensus on an issue which will be critical to current and future generations of Indians. What was the UPA thinking? More importantly, will we ever learn?”
These two paragraphs summarize our position. We always chose to ride on a rudderless ship while pawning our sovereignty to other countries. Last week it was China, after visit of the US President Barack Obama, voluntarily decided (not binding) to cut the emissions. This gave a huge jolt, why, because we weren’t prepared. We thought just like any other time talks will be stalled. But our leaders failed to comprehend what will be India’s position in the global arena if it keeps playing this stalling game, either willingly or unwillingly.
I won’t like to get into the specifics, either of Doha Trade Round or of Copenhagen Climate Summit. But yet focus on the mistakes that we are committing in the myriad field of international negotiation. A Diplomat once has remarked “I love to debate with my Indian counterparts they remind me of my college days. But the Koreans and Chinese bring me a deal”. This clearly indicates what type of negotiations we do, instead of being a proactive voice, raising concern for one-sixth of humanity; we try to become a Trade Unionist for the so called emerging economy. Instead of focusing on our own requirement and our own plus points, we tend to behave like a herd, and at the climax the herd leaves us. Stuff like that happened in WTO talks few years ago when Global Media painted India as a stumbling block.
I was not born at that time, but have read that while writing the Constitution of India views of the common citizen was sought. A similar approach is required while drafting any policy for multilateral negotiations. Self interest is paramount when it concerns the world stage; Hindu philosophy of ‘Vasudeva Kutumbha’ doesn’t exist there. It is each country of itself. It is not the ideology but the practicality of the situation with our own position in this regard that matters. It is all about how much we take in without giving out much. And even if it is giving out much, that should be for ‘our’ own benefit. Our position must be clear and within the country must be backed up by a strong consensus. This is where the role of the Parliament comes in.
Parliament is not only a place where laws are made, it is also a placed where issues regarding national interests are discussed, debated and formulated. However, for the last few years what we have seen is that policies regarding national importance are being drafted at the Prime Minister’s Office, or at Party office of the ruling coalition (days of single party majority are over) or at the offices of the minister concerned. And the when the policy is placed before the parliament, either the opposition walks out for any non-issue or government, with its brutal majority and power of whip, speedily passes the bill. The net result, the input which could have being made to the bill, the discrepancies which could have being bought out, and eligible leader which could be found through the debates are left out of the main policy. We are always termed as an imperfect democracy, and this is one of the reasons.
To conclude, it would be essential for us to fight it out for ourselves. Instead of piggybacking others, our policies should reflect our need and must be clearly enunciated, without waiting what others are offering. If we keep playing second fiddle, then we must forgo the greatness which we use casually to describe our country.
© Tarun Mitra