India Gives Cold Shoulder to U.S. on Climate Change Emission Caps

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gets frosty reception in India.

July, 19, 2009— -- Hillary Clinton has been received with feverish media attention here in India on her first visit to the country as secretary of state, but the warm welcome did not win her any of the concessions she sought from New Delhi on climate change, a perennial dispute between the two countries.

Her trip also appears to have been overshadowed by Indian skepticism over neighboring Pakistan's efforts to fight terror.

At a photo op to highlight green building technology that could reduce energy consumption, India's Environmental Minister Jairam Ramesh said his country would never agree to cap its carbon emissions. The United States wants such a move from the world's largest developing economies in order to curb global warming, but India and others argue it would stunt their economic growth.

"India's position, let me be clear, is that we are simply not in the position to take legally binding emissions targets," Ramesh said.

The announcement was a public black eye for Clinton, whose climate change envoy Todd Stern has worked hard to gain concessions from the Indians.

"No one wants to in any way stall or undermine the economic growth that is necessary to lift millions more out of poverty," Clinton said in response, arguing that a lower carbon footprint could in fact spur economic growth.

Indian Media Fervor Over Terror Trials

Indian media have also focused on popular skepticism here over the Obama administration's support for Pakistan's efforts against terrorism, rather than the renewed relationship with India that Clinton hoped to spotlight on her trip. Local reporters have hounded the top American diplomat with questions about Pakistan's efforts to convict several men accused of planning and facilitating last November's Mumbai terror from within Pakistani territory.

In an op-ed published in a major Indian newspaper before arriving here last week, Clinton urged India to stand behind Pakistan in its fight against terror. The comments, coming as the terror trials in Pakistan were set to begin, seemed to touch off a media firestorm in India. New Delhi has repeatedly said its archrival Pakistan has not done enough to bring those responsible to justice.

Even at the green building event today Clinton was asked by a local reporter whether the United States was satisfied with Pakistan's efforts to bring the attackers and their backers to justice.

"I answered that question several times yesterday in Mumbai, and I will say again today that we are certainly watching and expecting that there will be justice, and that those who launched the horrific attacks in Mumbai will meet their day of reckoning," she said, reflecting her exasperation with the seemingly nonstop questions from Indian reporters on the matter in press conferences and interviews.

Clinton is the highest-ranking Obama administration official to visit India. Tomorrow she hopes to announce the framework of a strategic relationship with India after she meets with her counterpart, Foreign Secretary SM Krishna. U.S. officials say a deal may be announced allowing U.S. companies to sell nuclear energy technology to two civil nuclear sites in India under a deal signed by the Bush administration, as well as announcing the sale of fighter planes to India.

But Washington and New Delhi have clashed on several key issues, including climate change, trade, and nonproliferation. It remains to be seen if those issues cloud progress on others as Clinton hopes to convince India that its support for Pakistan is not mutually exclusive.