India committed to Paris Climate Change accord, says PM Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi addresses the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St Petersburg, Russia, Friday. Photo: PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wrapping up his Russia visit on a high, today reaffirmed India’s commitment to reducing carbon emission under the Paris Climate Change accord, as he invited global businesses to invest in the world’s fastest growing economy, saying “sky is the limit” for them.

In a speech at an economic forum, and in a subsequent question-and-answer session, Modi made his case forcefully to frequent applause, as he touched on subjects as diverse as relations with China, terrorism, Donald Trump, the Vedas and the power of youth.

He cleverly ducked a question from the moderator, U.S. TV network NBC anchor Megyn Kelly on whether he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that Russia was not involved in influencing U.S. Election results through hacking.

“You have been talking at length about leaders like President Trump, Hillary Clinton, Chancellor Merkel and President Putin. Among such big leaders, I don’t think, you need a lawyer like me,” Modi said, to laughter and applause from an audience of several hundred at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that included the Russian president sitting next to him.

The annual event was held at the sprawling conference center on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, Russia’s second- largest city and Putin’s hometown. Yesterday, Modi and Putin held a summit, and signed several agreements including a critical one to build two more reactors of a nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu with Russia’s help.

Modi’s reply on hacking was the only moment that approached light-heartedness in his otherwise intense pitch for investment that was matched by terse replies by Putin on a range of prickly subjects such as Syria, his relationship with Trump, his support for Syrian leader Bashar Assad, U.S. sanctions against Russia and growing income inequity in Russia.

Modi also sidestepped a question on which side he stood after Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change accord. In his reply, he quoted the Vedas to say that harming the environment is a crime, and milking nature is the right of the humans.

“I have in simple ways stated a dream of new India. I have quoted from 5000-year-old Vedas to say that humans have a right to milk nature but have no right to exploit nature,” he said, speaking in Hindi interspersed with English phrases.

Modi said he was asked a similar question in Germany earlier this week, before the US decision was made public. At the time, Modi said, he had replied “Paris or no Paris, it is our conviction that we have no right to snatch from our future generation their right to have a clean and beautiful earth.”A

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