India In, India OutOctober 22, 2009
Friend, colleague, philosopher, and co-conspirator Andrew Light posts this hopeful report over at the Center for American Progress. Friend, colleague, policy scientist, and co-conspirator Roger Pielke Jr. disagrees.
Light and authors are hopeful that “India may be the country that provides the necessary breakthrough in international negotiations to help developed and developing countries reach an agreement.” Roger and Pielke are more pessimistic, given these obstructionist comments from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh: “No way.”
(Singh didn’t actually say that. I paraphrase. But, as we’ve seen, quotes can be a barrel of fun. Singh actually said this: “”Developing countries cannot and will not compromise on development.”)
Who to believe? What to do? Shall I intervene?
The truth clearly lies somewhere in the middle: that international agreement options for developing nations at Copenhagen are not off the table, even though Singh implies they are; and that all of the options for developing nations are not on the table, even though Ramesh implies that they are. The idea, I take it, is that India will play, but maybe not play casually (whatever that means). My impression is that apparently mixed messages work like this in politics.
This can be chalked up to the quick movement of statements, as well as the context in which the statements are uttered. I often challenge my students not to gravitate immediately toward apparent contradictions in statements — though this is an important skill too — but rather to engage in a bit of low-impact mental contortionism. I urge them to try to reconcile apparently contradictory statements. It’s a wee bit more difficult when you have multiple speakers, like Ramesh and Singh, as individual speakers often genuinely disagree, but when you’re talking about the utterances and whispers of an administration, I think we can nevertheless make sense of these claims.
Singh is signalling the dedication of his developing nation to development, implying that this means no agreement in Copenhagen. Ramesh, by leaking the memo, is signalling the dedication of his department to smart development, implying that this means yes agreement in Copenhagen. There’s no reason these two positions can’t be reconciled. Both positions can support development; the question is, rather, over what kind of development.
Policy positions change. Singh wants to lay down the law. Ramesh is trying to get Singh to change his tune, to free his mind and allow his ass to follow, as any person in an advisory position might do. There are clearly pressures pushing both ways internal to the Indian government, just as there are pressures pushing both ways among my friends and colleagues. Nothing so crazy about that.
Beer summit, anyone?