– Writing in The World Today, General Tim Cross and Brigadier Nigel Hall examine the prospects of the UK’s Strategic Defence and Security Review, suggesting that any reforms it ushers in “must give operational reality to the new concept of comprehensive security”. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, Defence Secretary Liam Fox suggests that “[w]e don’t have the money as a country to protect ourselves against every potential future threat”, with fiscal constraints necessitating Armed Forces tailored to those threats that are “realistic”.
– Yevgeny Bazhanov explores the “triangle” of geopolitical relations between Washington, Beijing, and Moscow, while over at Global Europe Shada Islam suggests that the EU must redoubled efforts to improve engagement with Asia.
– In the first of a new column on international affairs, Shashi Tharoor, former Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, explores the importance of internationalism in foreign policy and why it “has always been a vital part of [the Indian] national DNA”. The economist Jagdish Bhagwati, meanwhile, assesses US-Indian tensions at the heart of the Doha Round and the prospects of reinvigorating the trade talks.
– Elsewhere, in The Walrus John Schram has an in-depth account of Ghana’s post-colonial transition and how its democratic experience provides an example to other African countries.
– Finally, Keith Simpson, William Hague’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, presents his annual offering of summer reading in foreign affairs. Iain Dale has the full list here.
One of the most significant developments at Copenhagen was the emergence of the BASIC coalition – Brazil, South Africa, India and China – which negotiated the final details of the Copenhagen Accord with the United States.
My understanding is that BASIC was formed at China’s instigation. China agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with India in October 2009, committing the two countries to working closely together at Copenhagen. It then invited Brazil and South Africa to join the party, at a meeting in Beijing a week before Copenhagen started. Sudan was also invited to represent the G77.
According to Jairam Ramesh, India’s environment minister, the four countries decided that they’d walk out of Copenhagen together if necessary:
We will not exit in isolation. We will co-ordinate our exit if any of our non-negotiable terms is violated. Our entry and exit will be collective.
During Copenhagen, China worked extremely closely with India, with the two delegations meeting up to six times a day. It also engaged intensively with the other members of BASIC. In the final meeting with the Americans, China agreed to accept a limited international monitoring of its targets (India claims to have pushed China on this point).
The decision was also taken to drop language, setting a deadline for turning the Copenhagen Accord into a legally binding agreement. South Africa and Brazil both appear to have been unhappy with this decision.
Since Copenhagen, the BASIC countries have met once and have agreed to continue to get together on a regular basis. They want the Copenhagen Accord to set the stage for a ‘twin track’ agreement – with tough and binding targets for developed countries through Kyoto #2 and voluntary commitments for themselves under a new agreement.
No-one really knows how the US would fit into this picture. It is also increasingly clear that they and the US left Copenhagen with quite different impressions of what will happen next. The US believes that large emerging economies now have “very explicit activities and obligations”. I don’t think they believe they are committed to anything significant, beyond what they agreed at Bali or put on the table on a voluntary basis before Copenhagen started. (more…)
On climate, campaigners are unbelievably craven when it comes to the big emerging economies. China, in particular, gets treated with kid gloves. Within NGO circles, it is now more or less obligatory to kowtow to Beijing’s domestic track record on clean energy. Which is all very well – but I see absolutely no signs of Chinese leadership internationally (although its track record in the G20 shows how quickly it can pull out its finger when hard economic issues are at stake).
Weakness on China is especially egregious now that the country is above average global per capita emissions. Campaigners should be demanding that China ties itself to a date when its emissions will peak and then to commits to deep cuts by mid-century. (Armed with such a commitment, of course, China itself could then begin to turn the heat up on America – rather than allowing the US congress to bleat about US competitiveness.)
A failure to ask hard questions of China is bad for lower income countries. Not only will they suffer worst as the climate changes, they are going to wake up in ten years’ time to find that most of the global carbon budget for 2 degrees has been spent. Their interests are being sacrificed on the altar of G77 solidarity, with the global NGO community helping sharpen the knife.
The problem is similar, if less extreme, for the world’s other rising powers. Their per capita emissions may be lower than China’s and NGOs less terrified of offending them. But still, a country like India has 17% of the world’s population – which gives it quite a stake in our collective future. It is also massively vulnerable to a changing climate (especially as a lack of water disrupts food production).
But yet India is notoriously rubbish at international climate talks. So all the more credit to Malini Mehra, from the Center for Social Markets, for her persistent (and unusual) attempts to shine a light on India’s failings.
“In recent months, India has sought to challenge its image overseas, and in growing quarters at home, as recalcitrant and obstructionist on climate change,” she writes in her latest critique.
“[But] in a showdown this week with the old guard, the reformist environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, had to tone down his climate advice to India’s Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh. Political correctness won, but the loser was India’s climate security.”
Here’s the rest of her analysis: (more…)
– With the upcoming anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Timothy Garton Ash surveys the current debate about the causes behind those dramatic events twenty years ago. Commenting on the role of the superpowers, he suggests: “They made history by what they did not do… both giants stood back partly because they underestimated the significance of things being done by little people in little countries.” Adam Roberts, meanwhile, explores how civil resistance has fared around the world since 1989. When confronted with the reality of power politics, he suggests, choosing the right time for action from the bottom-up is critical.
– Looking to Copenhagen, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita propounds the predictive capacity of game theory and rational choice theory to explore what the climate negotiations might hold. Der Spiegel, meanwhile, has a report about the Danish island of Samso – at the forefront of the country’s green revolution.
– Elsewhere, Robert Skidelsky assesses the current debate raging between New Keynesian and New Classical economists over the financial crisis. Fully grasping the “implications of irreducible uncertainty for economic theory”, he suggests, would lead to a better understanding.
– Finally, Mihir Bose explores the contemporary state of Anglo-Indian relations, suggesting that fragility, rooted in history, is still very apparent. And with Indian and Chinese officials set to meet, Kapil Komireddi argues that rivalry between the two rising superpowers will come increasingly to define the 21st century.
– Writing in the New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell explains how “the roots of Wall Street’s crisis were not structural or cognitive so much as they were psychological”. Overconfidence among bankers, he suggests, in addition to the more familiar arguments about poor regulation and simple incompetence, played a significant role in the financial crisis.
– The Prospect blog, meanwhile, discusses how “the Indian Ocean is emerging as a focus for Chinese logistical and naval expansion” – something being felt acutely in Washington and New Delhi. Staying with the US and India, WPR takes an interesting look at Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to South Asia.
– Elsewhere, the Channel 4 News blog has more details about the UK’s upcoming Iraq War Inquiry – suggesting that it is due to hear “mountains of evidence” and, given the expansive nature of its remit, is unlikely to have lawyers present.
– Finally, Adam Roberts has an interesting piece in The World Today assessing the current state of the Geneva Conventions. Sixty years later, he ponders, are the laws of war still relevant to the changing nature of conflict?