India reaffirms commitment to climate change agreement

United Nations, Oct 2 (IANS) Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, India has reaffirmed its commitment to reaching a comprehensive and equitable agreement on climate change at the Paris conference.

Speaking at the General Assembly on Thursday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said “India has always been and is a willing partner in global efforts towards the goal of limiting greenhouse gases”.

“We will play our due role in reaching a meaningful, equitable and effective agreement in Paris,” she added.

India is expected to release on Friday its much anticipated commitments on combating climate change known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). The document was due on Thursday, but India got an extension so it can be released on Gandhi Jayanti, that falls on October 2.

“Our future must rest on building a sustainable planet for our children and our children’s children,” she said.

“As we prepare to meet in two months time in Paris, the world expects us to deliver an ambitious and credible agreement on climate change. We have a duty for common action but in doing so we must keep in mind the larger historical contribution of some and the differentiated responsibility of others.”

Stressing India’s emphasis on equity in climate change negotiations, she said: “If today Mahatma Gandhi was among us, he would ask if we have used the resources of the planet for our needs or for our greed?

“Also, if adapting our lifestyle choices and reducing extravagant consumption would help us correct the course. For this reason, the agreement in Paris needs to be comprehensive and equitable, while delivering concrete action.”

She said developed nations should provide developing countries finance, technology transfer and capacity building support for dealing with climate change.

“India’s reverence for the environment is based on our traditions that have always held nature as sacred,” she said.

“The health of the planet is tied to our own well-being and it is this holistic approach that guided us in our call for the First International Day of Yoga, celebrated with much fervour in 192 countries of the world — indeed in this very hallowed institution.”

Dressed in a white sari with gold floral pattern in the border and blouse with a matching vest, and wearing a pear necklace, Swaraj spoke in Hindi.

For global development Swaraj invoked girl power: “As a woman and an elected Member of Parliament, it has been my firm conviction that there is a shortcut to real social change – empowering the girl child.”

“Our Government’s policy of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ (Educate the Girl Child, Empower Her) was conceived with this vision,” she said.

These are some of the other points from Swaraj’s speech:

As a nuclear weapon state, India is aware of its responsibility and its support for global, non-discriminatory and verifiable nuclear disarmament has not diminished.

India remains committed to continue supporting the UN Peacekeeping Operations and enhance contributions, as announced by Modi at the Peace Keeping Operations Summit. India calls for the Security Council to formulate its peacekeeping mandates in consultation with troop-providing countries.

Since Prime Minister Modi’s election, India has undergone a renewal that has enabled it to “play its rightful role in international affairs while also becoming the fastest growing major economy in the world”.¿

The world has eradicated small pox and, nearly, polio. HIV/AIDS has been controlled and more recently, Ebola. “We are proud that India played its due part in these efforts. But we must … redouble our efforts at eradicating other health crises, whether it be tuberculosis or malaria.”

India has quickly responded to humanitarian crises in its neighborhood. “Whether it was (earthquake in) Nepal or (civil war in) Yemen, India has emerged as a net security provider, assisting not only our nationals but those of other countries that sought our help.

India has reached out to its extended neighbourhood as well. The Act East policy has replaced the Look East one, “with more vigorous and proactive engagement with an economically vibrant region”. Recently, India held a Summit with 14 Pacific Island nations. This complements the Link West engagement.

India is committed to the Middle East Peace Process “which is the key to prevent further radicalisation of the region”.

Later this month, India will host the 3rd India Africa Forum Summit, the first time that the leaders of all 54 countries of the continent have been invited.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at arul.l@ians.in)

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