NEW YORK – President Donald Trump lambasted India with unusually harsh words in a speech justifying the United States’ backing out of the Paris Climate deal. While his language was keeping in line with his aggressive, pro-America jobs stance – and he likely doesn’t care two hoots for the fact that America will be clubbed with Syria and Nicaragua as the only three countries in the world with no obligations to control green house emissions – it’s picking out India with some unfair comments that portend tougher negotiations on trade and immigration issues in the future.
“India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries,” Trump said in his 27-minute speech in the White House Rose Garden.
Trump focused on India and China’s coal production capabilities, which according to him, is not restricted by the Paris accord, unlike the US, which has been hampered, affecting jobs.
The fact remains, of course, that the US is considered by experts as the biggest green house emitter in the world. China and the US are responsible for some 40 percent of the world’s emissions; India accounts for 4.1 percent of global emissions.
India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020; China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants, Trump argued.
“Think of it: India can double their coal production. We’re supposed to get rid of ours,” Trump said. “Compliance with the terms of the Paris Accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the US could cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025. In short, the agreement doesn’t eliminate coal jobs, it just transfers those jobs out of America and ships them to foreign countries.”
Trump added: “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
Here’s the thing: in 2015, India received only around $100 million foreign aid from the US, out of $3.1 billion globally. Those numbers are going to dip further next year, when aid to India from the US will be whittled down to $34 million, according to a report in the Times of India.
India’s reaction was diplomatically astute. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India will stick to its obligations as per the Paris deal.
One can only wonder as to why Trump would single out India for unloading his angst on the Paris deal. Is it that he got miffed by Modi’s recent visit to Germany on the heels of Angela Merkel ridiculing Trump saying that the US is no longer a reliable ally of the European Union? Is it that he has long been averse to India’s position on the Paris deal? Does he want to send a signal to Modi that US will not tolerate negotiations where they don’t get a ‘good’ deal?
Whatever it may be, the fact remains that Modi is expected to meet Trump at the White House later this month. The lashing out by the US President on aid to India and coal production is bound to have greater ramifications than his past declarations on trade imbalance and immigration issues.
One thing’s for sure: Modi will have a tightrope to walk in dealing with Trump. If Trump comes out strongly against India, and he doesn’t give a fitting or strong enough reply, he may find himself in the same weak position that the beleaguered Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto found himself in, floundered in domestic ratings after Trump trashed him and Mexico on the border wall.
Also, it’s one thing for several Indian cabinet ministers to privately or publicly give interviews suggesting they have taken up the issue of H-1B visa restrictions with their counterparts in the US. It’s quite another for Modi to discuss it with Trump and find himself in the uncomfortable position of the US again attacking India on those issues in a joint press conference after their talks.
The question for Modi would be: should he talk to Trump at all about thorny issues like climate accord, immigration and trade imbalance? At what cost?
Modi retorted after Trump’s declaration to pull out of the Paris deal: “Paris or no Paris, it is our conviction that we have no right to snatch from our future generation their right to have a clean and beautiful earth.”
Well, try telling that to Trump face-to-face. It might turn out to be quite ugly.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)