The G8 recently discussed energy, with the stage set by the German Green agenda. In taking these tortuous paths, it is useful to form a phalanx with peer groups, which is what the Indian Prime Minister did through solidarity with the Bricsam: Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa and Mexico. But water and energy are at the core of Indian development, and we have to develop strategies to cogitate, surround, push, strategise and lead the world. Together with China, we are the core of the global problem, and given the traditions of our freedom movement, always thinking out-of-the-box, have to be at the heart of the solutions. The Nehruvian mindset is correct in its understanding that in such matters, India is important. First, it has to be understood that the invitation of China and India to the G8 emerged from some of the smaller G8 countries underlining the fact that global problems cannot be negotiated without China and India at the table. In fact, it was at the instance of the Canadian John Kirton, whose work on the G8 showed that in purchasing power parity terms China and India were the second and fourth largest economies of the world and solutions to global economic and resource problems are not possible without them. The Canadians then got Jim Basilie, the inventor and promoter of the Blackberry, to fund a thinktank ( CIGI) which studied and lobbied for the idea. Canada's government took it up, and finally at the G8 summit meeting in 2004, former sceptics Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Vladimir Putin announced that China and India would be permanently invited.
The agenda of the larger group was to be energy, water, global health and development financing. The WTO was put in because of pressure from persons like me, with a piece published in Leadership From the Top, but the G8 did not have their heart in it. It was much too intractable, and as Kamal Nath showed, and people like me argued, the tide of ideas was with the developing world. Initiatives on AIDS and self-help financing were to follow in later meetings. This time, it was energy and the post-Kyoto architecture on tackling climate change. For reasons that I never understood, India simply does not pull its weight in energy. At Kyoto, our minister made a token appearance. At Johannesburg and Rio Plus 10, the only major Indian contribution was an Indian 2020 study by Kirit Parikh and me for the United Nations University on Large Developing Countries: China, India and Indonesia. Officially, we also ran.
The argument that emissions have to be counted in per-capita terms is something that I, like all true blood Indians and Chinese, swear by. Let's be clear: it was we who started it, back in Rio in 1992. It's there in the Sustainable from Concept to Action document, brought out by the UNDP and signed by us. In fact, Nitin Desai carried it into Rio from his work in the Brundtland Commission, and you can flog an idea only so much. It's not that we don't know what is happening.
A part of the problem is the somewhat ambiguous thinking at home on the Indian energy future. The last Planning Commission's energy future was envisaged as an oil companies' paradise. Kirit Parikh's latest report at least states the problems clearly, but somewhere in trying to get different groups together, he does not carry his strategies on to action even as much as he did in his earlier work as an expert.
But our own RK Pachauri is the chairperson of the current Climate Commission. The first thing to note is that apart from the fringe, there is global recognition that size matters in energy futures. Given our links with the US now and our historical links with Russia, there was scope for creative ideas. China would have to be taken along. The whole question of nuclear energy and its role in energy futures, and of technology (remember Rajiv Gandhi and the global tax for sustainable technology at Belgrade) of energy generation and use, apart from issues of trade in energy, lifestyle changes and the entire strategic approach to development policy are up for grabs-and we are not there.
The US initiative in energy is going to matter, clearly, for there is fatigue with the Kyoto numbers. The per-capita gambit can always be a faithful backdrop, but size gives us elbow space to restate our agenda and protect our space if the old ideas become tiresome. We should forge links with these newer initiatives. Canadian groups, for example, are now talking of Canada as an energy superpower and Louise Freschette, until recently the number two man in the UN, is putting together a strategic group on the nuclear question at CIGI, and we must be with her. It is high time we got out of our cosy cocoon and started making a genuine mark in the world of ideas, in fields that are important to India's future.