Modi meets Macron: World needs transformational diplomacy, not transactional diplomacy

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Modi meets Macron: World needs transformational diplomacy, not transactional diplomacy

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Macron and Modi should shun transactional diplomacy that engages in multi-billion dollar agreements for military fighter jets and machinery, nuclear reactors and pharmaceutical products. Instead, they should embrace some transformational diplomacy to make the planet sustainable again.

A military parade, with participation from an Indian military contingent, will march on the wide sweep of Avenue de Champs Elysée while French and Indian fighter jets would zoom up in the French skies to celebrate France’s National Day on  14 July. It is also called Bastille Day when the fortress of Bastille was stormed to free the prisoners in 1789 during the French Revolution. 

Watching the parade on the famous avenue and flypast would be two promising leaders of the world, both bestowed with creative diplomacy- French President Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi. Though separated almost by a generation and coming from strikingly different backgrounds, the two leaders have shown surprisingly common gallant traits. Macron and  Modi are known as bold policymakers with a singular vision to prevent the impending social and economic crisis for the benefit of their people. 

In India, Modi has undertaken major economic, financial and social policy reforms, many of which have led to political opposition to civic protests. Macron dared to reform labour laws, taxation including a carbon tax, pension reforms, including retirement age, against which he faced severe protests and public anger. Political opponents demanded his resignation. Modi faced criticism as a prime minister who is ‘friend of top industrialists’  while Macron is dubbed as the “president of the rich” by political opponents. Opponents called Modi a thief, religious divider, and uneducated prime Minister who fakes university degrees. Macron was slapped in public by an irate man.  

Macron, like Modi,  is tough and strict on anti-terror law and illegal immigrants that disrupt societal peace.  Macron’s interior minister declared that  France is “in a state of war” after a stabbing instance in the south of France. Macron has got on record that numerous terror plots had been foiled by his government. Though the anti-terror law of Macron was criticised by human rights advocates, the law was finally passed that gave authorities expanded power to search homes, restrict movement, and close places of worship.  

Modi has ordered deadly military counter-attacks to destroy cross-border terrorist camps and suspected houses in Jammu and Kashmir, where he is criticized as violating the UN human rights convention. Macron faced angry crowds and mounting violent demonstrations when a young boy in Paris suburb was shot at by French police and later died. Modi is facing a violent uprise in the northeast of India. 

Recognised climate champions 

In 2018, both Modi and Marcon were recognised by the United Nations Environment Programme as  “Champion of the Earth” for their policy leadership and pioneering work in setting up the International Solar Alliance and Macron’s work on the Global Pact for the Environment. 

The G7 summit with the French presidency was held in 2019 in France just before the outbreak of COVID 19. Macron set an ambitious agenda and even tried to break the tradition of an exclusive, small group of seven leaders holding its discussions in ivory towers. He made the gathering more inclusive by inviting leaders of nine developing countries and even Iran. He sent a special invitation to PM Modi for bilateral negotiations in Paris before the summit. Significantly, Macron’s agenda at that time recognised that the climate crisis has an indelible link with inequality which in turn has a strong connection with terrorism. Though it touches every human being, climate change hits vulnerable populations even harder. 

India’s presidency of G20  under Modi’s leadership is now even more inclusive. Modi has succeeded in inviting leaders of nine more countries including the UAE, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Egypt, Oman and Nigeria AS “guest countries”.

Climate disaster looming 

Four years after 2019 which saw the end of COVID-19, the world has gone from severe climate change to a disastrous climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and air pollution, a triple crisis as the UN defines it. Earth is getting warmer every year but world leaders are getting quite cold to its consequences. Temperature rise now stands to break the limit agreed upon in Paris Climate Agreement, though world leaders continue to break their own promises on finances to be provided to the developing countries.  Wildfires that started at the beginning of the year are still raging in Canada and North America. However, leaders of the G20 are not showing signs of waging any war against climate change. Water shortages and droughts are threatening food security. Yet world leaders are more focussed on their own national security. It is not just science that tells policymakers what to do, but the evidence under their noses and disasters before their eyes are telling them to act NOW. 

Even Modi and Marcon, based on their agenda for the bilateral summit, seem to be engaged in more trade-centered transactional diplomacy rather than earth-saving carbon-neutral ‘transformational diplomacy’. 

Unprecedented impacts of climate change seen in 2023, worsened by El Nino, require nothing less than a total transformation in the way the planet does its business. While Modi is rightly informing the world of India’s progress in the field of renewable energy and its plans for Mission LiFE, what is needed, however,  is to steeply raise the targets of solar output from the International Solar Alliance, jointly established by India and France which now has 116 signatories. The targets should speak about what is needed for ‘net zero’ targets and not just the number of signatory countries. 

The Synthesis report of the 6th Assessment Report ( AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC) released in 2023, has emphasised in its finding that the rise in temperature had to be limited to 1.5 deg C to avoid the disastrous consequences to the coastal area, island countries and the global economy in general. The world had to cut its dependence on fossil fuel by 45 pc by 2030 from the 2010 levels and by 100 pc by 2050. That would need much more than just ambitious pledges by the countries and definitely more than the promises and NDCs made in the Paris Climate Agreement and revised later. The latest report from World Meteorological Organisation has stated that a temperature rise by 1.5 deg C is likely in a couple of years or even earlier.

Setting a new agenda 

The G20 meeting in India has set a multi-dimensional agenda. Macron had last month had a global consultative meeting on climate finances called ‘ The Summit for a New Global Financing Pact’ in Paris. It clearly showed that the world is in a spiral storm of poverty, debt, and inflation further aggravated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and increasing climate impacts. Nothing less than action at the level deployed at the time of COVID-19 is needed. Modi’s proven political skills and his transformational diplomacy are urgently needed along with Macron’s bold and game-changing policy agenda. If they do not avail this opportunity to identify climate as the root cause of today’s global distress and put climate agenda on top of their diplomatic agenda,  the world could witness the start of yet another revolution.

Five years back, Macron had announced the imposition of a carbon tax that triggered nationwide protests, while in the budget presented in the same year, the Modi government increased the tax on petrol and diesel and had to face severe criticism. There is however a way out to get additional climate finance by progressively abolishing subsidy on fossil fuel that runs into more than a trillion dollars annually. That would need courage and daring policy reforms by both Modi and Macron.

Macron is called the ‘Savior of Europe’ and the most transformative French president. Modi is the ‘most popular’ world leader and bold change-maker ever.  The ‘Savior’ and ‘Popular’ world leaders are coming together in Paris. Macron and Modi should shun transactional diplomacy that engages in multi-billion dollar agreements for military fighter jets and machinery, nuclear reactors and pharmaceutical products. Instead, they should embrace some transformational diplomacy to make the planet sustainable again.

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