Thursday, October 28, 2010

Indo-US Youth Dialogue by GatewayHouse Part 2

Refer to previous post

Climate change was next on the agenda. Dr Craig said that US is the 2nd largest polluter in the world, and India is the 4th. However, the per person carbon footprint of the US is much higher than that of India. US is often accused of being hypocritical in this aspect as it refuses to reduce it's own emissions but urges developing nations to reduce their carbon footprints. 

According to Russell, the public opinion in the US largely seems to be in favour of reducing carbon emissions. Obama had also tried to pass a bill that would severely restrict carbon emissions by industries. However, the bill didn't make it through the Parliament. To retain their seats, members of the Parliament are/were refusing to pass bills or take steps that would make them unpopular with corporations contributing to climate change. Instead of terming the US as hypocritical, it is important to note that Obama alone cannot do much. He took the first step by introducing the bill. The final decisions are taken by the Parliament. 

Ms. Akanksha Mohla, a panelist from India, said that in order to effectively curb carbon emissions, incentives needed to be given to corporations, not governments, since corporations cause pollution. According to her - and this view was shared by almost all the panelists - climate change cannot be countered unless immediate financial incentives are provided to corporations to reduce their carbon footprint.

On the topic of terrorism, the most pertinent question asked was, "Do India and US share the same agenda?". The overall view was, India mostly faced internal threats, whereas the US faced threats from agents outside the US territory. Although the question of huge military aid to Pakistan and subsequently endangering India's security did arise, this wasn't addressed in a satisfactory manner. US's hesitancy to share intel and information about David Coleman Headly was also brought up for discussion. The panelists felt that US had the world's best interests at heart and was doing the best it could in terms of sharing intelligence reports.

A concern raised by an Indian student in the audience was, Obama is losing popularity in the US and with the mid-term elections, the Democrats are likely to lose more seats. In such a scenario, will Obama be able to live up to the promises he makes to India? The panelists agreed that foreign policy is rarely related to domestic concerns and that the result of the mid-term elections would have possibly no effect on Indo US relations. 

US was accused of being hypocritical in the matter of human rights violations. The US government perpetrated human rights violations during war with Afghanistan and Iraq.What right did it have to ask other nations to clean up their human rights records? A member of the panel pointed out that almost every US citizen was ashamed of the human rights violations by the US government. Moreover, a distinction was made between wartime violations and violations in day to day life. American citizens (not necessarily represented by the state), raised objections to day-to-day human rights violations like domestic violence in developing countries.

An American student from the audience asked how the so-called benefits of President Obama's visit to India would trickle down to a large number of Indians living below the poverty line. Also, how will India fund it's development now that United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funding has been stopped. One of the suggestions to help India's poor was to invite the large majority of Nobel Laureates to India and encourage them to propose solutions to problems that plague the common man. Another solution was to make it easy to set up B2B solutions between medium and small level entrepreneurs in India and in the US.This would include lifting the visa restrictions imposed recently by the 2 countries. 

I will post the full text of the agenda as soon as it is available. In the meantime, I would request Mumbaikars to invite Obama with an open heart and not curse him for restricting their Diwali celebrations.

Update: Click here for the agenda.

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