Setting the agenda: 2021 was the year when Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to town, to Glasgow anyhow, for the long built-up COP 26 climate change summit. He set out a firm position for India that was not quite what the conference organisers wanted from India. A commitment was made only to “phasing down” and not “phasing out” coal. And India committed to zero net emissions only by 2070, a generation later than the proposed 2050 date. And that too if a trillion dollars of financing were to come by 2030. None of that seems to be happening.
Not quite: It was also the year when Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not visit India. That visit was agreed upon twice. First as chief guest for the Republic Day parade, and then in May, to sign a brave new agreement that Boris Johnson wanted to show as the way for the future post-Brexit. Covid in Britain cancelled the first, Covid in India the second. The question in Britain now has changed. It is now, how long Boris Johnson will remain prime minister?
Under the weather: This was also the year when COP 26 president Alok Sharma had his great moment on the international stage. In a sense he did, the cameras at the event certainly did spotlight him. But the summit failed to deliver what was expected of it, largely due to India’s position. Alok Sharma wanted to go down in history as the one who led the pivotal moment to change the future of the planet. This was not to be. He now retains a cabinet position but without charge of much.
Naval gazing: Some attention-grabbing naval exchanges between India and Britain came in 2021. INS Tabar visited Portsmouth ahead of naval exercises, as did HMS Queen Elizabeth at the head of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group, with further joint exercises in the Indian Ocean. The exercises both ways were largely symbolic and far short of any effective naval cooperation between the two countries in the face of any real threats.
At the frontline: Concerns over Covid started the year 2021 with the spread of Delta and ended the year with the spread of the milder but faster-moving Omicron. Both times, Indians have been at the frontline of the receiving end. Delta killed a disproportionately high number of Indians, and Omicron is now hitting Indian areas harder than some others. And now, as before, Indians in the medical profession have been affected, because the National Health Service employs a very high number of Indians.