IN INDIA, the determination and articulation of the country's stands on international issues have been the exclusive mandate of diplomats and bureaucrats. No matter how critical an issue, the people have had little say in influencing the government's position.
In the '80s, and more so during the '90s, when some non-governmental organisations and citizens' groups insisted on transparent public participation before the government put its seal on international agreements, the official reaction was too frequently sheer outrage. Fortunately, now, some of the official obduracy has been chipped away by the power of the popular mallet and more people are veering around to the conviction that the government -- given its limitations and the vested interests that dominate it -- cannot be left alone to safeguard and promote their interests.
In this context, the emergence of REGMA (Refrigerant Gas Manufacturers' Association) is significant. Worried about a government that cannot enunciate its interests and vulnerable to manipulation by developed countries, REGMA plans to pore over the voluminous documents related to Montreal Protocol on phasing out ozone-damaging refrigerants and advise the government machinery on its posture.
Unlike in the developed world, where governments work closely and unashamedly in hand with business and industry, the Indian government has done little to showcase its business interests abroad, especially in matters of international environmental policy.
In major trade or environmental negotiations, the agendas of major Western businesses are successfully bulldozed through by their governments, creating new markets and protecting old ones. Not only do Western governments come to the negotiating table with their homework done, but often they bring their industrialists in tow.
Western industrialists earn kudos for their green credentials. They have also successfully lobbied their own governments to ensure amendments to the Montreal Protocol to allow them to continue the production of CFCs to meet the needs of the developing countries at a higher level of production than previously allowed. And, more recently, at their behest, the developed country governments influenced the Ozone Secretariat, an agency set up under the Montreal Protocol to facilitate its implementation, to include a clause that will ensure that negotiations between Third World CFC producers and developing country CFC buyers will become more difficult.
This, Indian industrialists fear, will protect the Third World markets of the large multinational producers and deprive Indian producers, who now have the capacity to meet the demands of other developing countries, from access to their markets.
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