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Indian High Commissioner Vikram Doraiswami Speaks to The Times on PM Modi’s Blog on Human Centric Globalisation

The Times: Is it sort of failure from the West to put their money where their mouths are to help other countries decarbonize.

Vikram Doraiswami: I did look at the report that you had in the Times this morning, and I think that’s a somewhat sharp conclusion to draw from what the Prime Minister has actually written.

What he’s actually trying to say is what we need is a mind-shift change, and he said that earlier in writing, at the beginning of our G20 presidency. He talked about democratisation of action and policies, and he talked about using collective wisdom. What he’s basically getting at is that, there is an opportunity that all of us recognize. There is a criticality that all of us recognize.

The world is in crisis when it comes to climate. All he’s trying to say is that, you can’t have one-size-fits-all solutions for everybody without there being attention to everybody’s needs. Developing countries have significant needs that are still unmet in developmental terms and the capacities that exist in terms of technology or financing that are otherwise not being made available equitably. I think this is critical.

If you see what he’s saying, his exact words are, that we need to move away from purely restrictive attitudes, or what should not be done, to a more constructive attitude. So, he’s asking for constructive change, rather than saying, do this and don’t do this.

The Times: I understand that, and that’s a very nuanced point. But I guess what it boils down to is, in order to achieve decarbonisation, in order to protect the planet, countries are going to have to stop doing things. We might not like the term restrictive, we might not say that, but that does mean not doing some things that are polluting. And I guess the question is; is it incumbent on developing countries who are having their industrial revolution, now, rather than 200 years ago, to stop doing things? Or is that unfair for countries who polluted for the last 200 years, like, say, Britain, to ask them to do it?

Vikram Doraiswami: You know, the problem is, you’re again asking for a binary answer on it. What I’m trying to suggest is that there are Yes and Answers. So yes, we do need to find solutions that reduce the carbon footprint of everybody, including developing countries and developed countries.

There are technologies that are today available plus there are traditional wisdom, traditional food sources, and traditional means of agriculture that could perhaps be adopted by more of us to mitigate some of the climate issues and adverse impacts on the climate. Which is why he’s referred to less thirsty grains, for instance, like millets, which traditionally a lot of us eat, all of us in developed and developing countries. But we moved towards more monocultural products like rice and wheat, more or less, exclusively across the world.

So, what I’m trying to say is- Yes, it is important that all of us try and find solutions that reduce the impact on the climate. But there is also a way forward where we can find solutions where technology can be the force multiplier. That has to be made available to developing countries a little more equitably. This, frankly, is the view of a large number of other developing countries too, not just India.

The Times: Is India even a developing country Vikram? You’ve just put a robot on the south side of the moon. You’ve got a space program. I guess the question is, you’re the third biggest carbon out putter in the world. Are you a developing country that needs support, or actually a rich country that needs to fulfil its obligations to the rest of the world more keenly?

Vikram Doraiswami: But we already are (ding that), both through the deployment of technology, by making technologies available to people, and by reducing our own carbon footprint. 40% of our energy today comes from green sources, and we met this commitment seven years ahead of schedule.

The point is, however, when you say we’re the third largest out putter for 1. 4 billion people, look at the per capita consumption. I venture to suggest that the per capita consumption of carbon equivalent in India is a fraction of what it is in most developed countries.

So, if we talk about equity and democracy, which is a principle that we all share as democracies, you and us, wouldn’t you say that there is a democratic point there? I could equally argue that we should be allowed to actually increase to a per capita point where, where everybody else is.

Which is of course a ridiculous argument because that way we will all die!

The Times: Yeah, it’s a very fair point. I want to ask you briefly about the trade deal that might be forthcoming. Rishi Sunak is heading off to India today. Is it important to India to see higher numbers of visas for Indian migrants as part of a trade agreement? And why is that the case? Because we presume, you’d want to keep all your talented Indians in India. Why does it matter to you to have visas to come to this country?

Vikram Doraiswami: Yes, yes, but who actually said that? That’s been in your press, not in ours. We never said that the visas are a part of our ask.

What we’ve been asking for is, simplification of the process by which intercompany transfers happen. That is, your companies that have invested in India and our companies, of which I might point out there are a somewhat larger number, that have invested here- 950 of them, find it easier to move Indian and British nationals between each other’s countries as part of a free trade deal for services. We are not asking for migrants to be able to come here. In fact, we are a net recipient of migration rather than a net sender of migrants.

The Times: Do you think it’s been blown up over here? Do you think that’s been done to malign political reasons? Do you think that’s sort of the notion?

Vikram Doraiswami: I’m not going to make that conclusion. I leave that to you to make that conclusion. But I certainly don’t want people, your listeners, to believe that we’re asking for more visas.

We’re asking for a good free trade agreement between India and the UK which covers a number of areas of mutual interest, which is services for both of us, which is a simplification of the ease of specialists on both sides for the investing companies to be able to move people. Yes, we do want our students who are here in large numbers and paying, I might add, significant money towards the UK education system to be able to get work experience, which is permissible to other nationalities when they come here- after they finished studying, not during their studies.

Of course, we would very much like to see that when Indians come here and work for three or four years for whichever company, Indian, British or international, their contributions to their pension pots, et cetera are portable in some way back to India. Otherwise, they have to leave it behind and go away to India or wherever else they’re going.

The Times: Very illuminating talking to you about all of these issues. Thank you for taking the time to speak to us.

Vikram Doraiswami: May I make one last point?

The Times: Of course

Vikram Doraiswami: I do want to point out something, something that is particularly unusual about our G20 presidency that the PM has brought out. I think it is interesting to see that we are trying to expand the framework because there are stuff about startups that we’ve done for the first time in the G20.

There’s stuff about millets, there’s stuff about cyber security, there’s stuff about women-led development, which I think is such an important point rather than saying development of women. 50+% of the population in most countries need separately to be developed rather than having development led by women.

And finally, technology. There is a point that the Prime Minister makes about India’s UPI, which is Universal Payment Interface. And to show that this is a spectacular thing with 10. 8 billion transactions taking place on these platforms just last month, one month alone, in India.A thousand G20 delegates will get a UPI wallet with pre-loaded Indian money when they’re in India, just to spend and get a sense of how easy it is.

The Times: Oh, that’s it. Well, we’ll see as the thing progresses how people respond to that. Thank you for taking the time to speak to us, Vikram.

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