Under criticism for a new proposal that suggests a shift in India’s climate change policy, Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State (independent charge), Environment and Forests said a recent communication of his to the Prime Minister had been totally distorted.

“India’s interests alone should drive the negotiations, and legally binding emission cuts and international verification [of India] are non-negotiable. [But] there is no harm in having discussions on other issues,” he told The Hindu on Monday in response to a news report that quoted Mr. Ramesh’s letter to the Prime Minister as suggesting India should walk out of the Kyoto Protocol and the G-77 group of developing countries with which it has so far been allied.

In his letter, in fact, Mr. Ramesh had suggested India “not stick to G-77 alone” since it was now embedded in G-20. “India’s interests and India’s interests alone should drive our negotiations. India must be seen as pragmatic and constructive, not argumentative and polemical.”

On Kyoto, the Minister’s letter says India should take the position that it “welcomes any initiative to bring the U.S. into the mainstream if need be through a special mechanism but without diluting the basic Annex-1/non-Annex-1 distinction of Kyoto Protocol.” It adds that if the Australian proposal of a schedule “maintains this basic distinction and the nature of differential obligations is made clear, we should have no great theological objections to it.”

The Australian proposal involves developing nations committing to their own binding schedule of measures to reduce carbon emissions -- something not envisaged by Kyoto -- though they would not be locked into internationally determined targets.

During the Bangkok climate change negotiations last month, India attacked the Australian proposal for diluting Kyoto and for sidestepping the idea embodied in the UNFCCC that developed nations have greater historical responsibilities.

Mr. Ramesh’s letter also calls for cooperation between India and China in climate change, including an MoU to be signed on October 21, saying this would send “powerful international signals.” It also says bilateral engagement is needed with the U.S., Japan, Australia, Brazil and South Africa.

Another important suggestion made by Mr. Ramesh is that India must listen more and speak less in negotiations, or else be treated with disfavour and derision by developing countries.

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