India’s Four Path-Breaking Initiatives: Response Of The World (Part I) – Analysis



In the past few years, under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has launched four path-breaking future-oriented initiatives: the International Solar Alliance (ISA), Global Bio-fuel Alliance (GBA), Indo-Pacific Ocean Initiative (IPOI), and Coalition for Disaster Response Initiative (CDRI). Many countries across continents and regions have responded positively and joined the initiatives and agreed to work together with India, while some are still considering and examining the merits thereof from the point of view of their national interests. This article makes an attempt to examine and analyse each of these four initiatives, with focus on the response of countries in the Asian region and analyse why some friendly countries are rather reticent about India’s initiatives, all of which are non-controversial and human-centric. Written in two parts, while Part I makes a detailed analysis of the ISA and GBA, Part II shall assess the significance of the CDRI and IPOI and offer some relevant policy recommendations.   

International Solar Alliance (ISA)

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is an initiative jointly launched by India and French President Francois Hollande on 30 November 2015 on the sidelines of United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21 or UNFCCC) in Paris. It was opened for signatures in Marrakech, Morocco in November 2016, on the sidelines of the Marrakech Climate Change Conference and was officially launched on 6 December 2017 on the entry into force of the framework agreement. It is an action-oriented, member-driven, collaborative platform for increased development of solar energy technologies. This will facilitate energy access to the signatory countries, besides ensuring energy security, and driving energy transition in its member countries. The membership to this multinational organisation is open to all the solar resource-rich states, which lie fully or partially between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn and area members of the United Nations. Its aim is to promote solar energy and sustainable development through cooperation among solar-rich countries. 

The primary objective is to collectively work for the efficient exploitation of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil-based fuels. The headquarters is set up in Gurugram in India. The members of the ISA commit to take coordinated actions through programs and activities that will aggregate the demands for solar finance, solar technologies, innovation, research and development, and capacity-building.  (1)

As many countries in the world race for economic development, demand for energy has also increased. Energy-deficient countries in particular dependent on import for their energy needs have been diversifying their sources of supplies to sustain the economic development of their countries. Related to this is the more critical climate change issue. Therefore transition to solar-based energy sources is the logical and desirable path. From this perspective, the ISA initiative is indeed path-breaking.

The ISA is guided by ‘Towards 1000’ strategy which aims to mobilise $1,000 billion of investments in solar energy solutions by 2030. The plan is to deliver energy access to 1,000 million people using clean energy solutions, resulting in installation of 1,000 GW of solar energy capacity.

Currently, the ISA has 9 comprehensive programs, each focusing on a distinct application that could help scale the deployment of solar energy solutions. The focus of the program is on 4 priority areas – Analytics and advocacy, Capacity Building, Programmatic Support, and Readiness and Enabling Activities. These priority areas are expected to create a favourable environment for solar energy investments to take root in the country.

The ISA is significant for India as it provides a global leadership role to fight against climate change. As a start, India contributed $27 million for creating building infrastructure and recurring expenditure for five years. Regrettably, the developed countries are not responding to fund liberally to the renewable energy projects in developing countries. India therefore has additional responsibility to mobilise private finances. The ISA will also have to work in tandem with other bodies such as the International Renewable Energy Agency and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership Madagascar. 

Membership Issue

On its first day itself, 15 November 2016, sixteen countries signed the Agreement: India, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, the Republic of Guinea, Mali, Nauru, Niger, Tanzania, Tuvalu, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Burkino Faso, Bangladesh and Madagascar. By 17 November, Guinea Bissau, Fiji, France also signed the agreement. Subsequently, Vanuatu and Liberia also signed the agreement. Subsequently, an additional 107 countries joined the agreement, including many major countries, such as the US, Japan, Algeria, Peru, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, India, Argentina and Australia. A conclave started from 30 November 2015 for the sunshine grouping, called the InSPA (International Agency for Solar Policy & Application).

Subsequently, many other countries also joined the alliance, raising the total membership to 106. What remained conspicuous was the absence of five members of the ASEAN grouping who are still allegedly examining the terms and conditions of the initiative. Of the 10-member group, only Thailand, Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia and Brunei have joined. Since it is an Indian initiative, China has stayed away. But what surprises one is that while two members of the bloc – Cambodia and Myanmar – with perceived pro-China stance have joined, Vietnam’s reluctance to be in the fold defies logic. 

India has strategic partnership with some of the ASEAN member countries. There are many regional initiatives such EAS, ADMM-Plus, and others in which India aligns its policies with these friendly countries. The civilizational bonding is another factor that should be factored in consensus building when it comes to larger interests of humanity. It is time that Vietnam in particular needs to retrospect why it is reticent so far and still continue to stay out of such a noble initiative. By November 2023, the total number of members had swelled to 106. Vietnam still continues to debate. That is regrettable. 

When the ISA was created, invitations were sent to all nation states lying in the Torrid Zone, between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, to join the alliance. This is because geographically these “sunshine countries” receive the highest levels of sunlight throughout the year. This can be harnessed. Since the entirety of the Southeast region lies in the Torrid Zone, it makes it ideal for the solar industry. Several of these states have made progress in solar power domain. Some such initiatives include floating solar farm in Singapore and massive rooftop solar installations in Vietnam. Indeed, India and Vietnam are ranked among the top five states in the world in terms of solar capacity.     

When India hosted the Sixth Assembly of the ISA at Bharat Mandapam, in New Delhi on 31 October 2023 presided over by the Union Minister for Power and New & Renewable Energy, R. K. Singh in his capacity as the President of the ISA Assembly and ministers from 20 countries and delegates from across 116 Member and Signatory countries participated in the Assembly, Vietnam lost a huge opportunity to miss out by not being a member. (2) Indeed, there is a persuasive argument that India and ASEAN with so much convergence of interests in a range of domain areas must be together to work for the success of the ISA so that the region pass through the crucial years of transition to renewable sources of energy. (3)  

Indeed, solar energy is already in the forefront of critical technologies. Here, as a responsible player India can play a leadership role in the area of energy transition. Since traditional backers like China and South Korea are moving towards renewable, the ASEAN’s vision should be to endorse India to play an active role in driving investment and collaborating to set up trans-border solar projects. 

Global Bio-fuel Alliance (GBA)

The second initiative is the Global Bio-fuel Alliance. This was launched by Prime Minister Modi along with the leaders of Singapore, Bangladesh, Italy, US, Brazil, Argentina, Mauritius and UAE on 9 September 2023 on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in New Delhi. The GBA had been in the works for some time and is a key initiative and priority under India’s G20 presidency.

The GBA intends to expedite the global update of bio-fuels through facilitating technology advancements, intensifying utilisation of sustainable bio-fuels, shaping robust standard setting and certification through the participation of a wide spectrum of stakeholders. The government media release stated that the alliance will act as a central repository of knowledge and an expert hub. It further stated that the alliance aims to serve as a catalytic platform, fostering global collaboration for the advancement and widespread adoption of bio-fuels. (4)

As soon as PM Modi launched the GBA, 19 countries and 12 global bodies agreed to join immediately. (5) Subsequently three more countries joined the alliance. (6) The alliance which includes top producers Brazil and the US, will help the worldwide market for trade in bio-fuels, which is obtained from biomass. This initiative shall help accelerate global efforts to meet net zero emissions targets by facilitating trade in bio-fuels derived from sources including plant and animal waste. (7)

In fact PM Modi’s push for the GBA mirrors the ISA, both of which aim to bring clean and affordable energy within the reach of all. A report by the International Energy Agency says that global sustainable bio-fuels production would need to triple by 2030 to put the world’s energy system on track towards net zero emission by 2050. (8) 

For India, the success of this initiative is very import because India is the world’s third-biggest oil importer and consumer. At present, it imports 85 per cent of its crude needs and is gradually building capacity to increase its output of bio-fuels. India has set a target to become carbon neutral by 2070 and therefore expanding use of bio-fuels in the transport sector. Its deadline for doubling nationwide ethanol blending in gasoline to 20 per cent is advanced by 5 years to 2025. India has a plan in place to build 12 bio-refineries to produce fuel from items including crop stubble, plant waste and municipal solid waste.  (9)

Surprisingly, except probably Singapore, as per available information, none of the ASEAN bloc members have joined the alliance. Like the ISA’s case, Vietnam’s stance in staying out raises question about if it has started viewing its relations with India differently.   


  1.  “International Solar Alliance”, 30 September 2023, 
  3.  Arjun Gargeyas, “Case for an India-led Southeast Asian solar alliance”, 19 August 2021,
  5.  Sukalp Sharma, “PM formally launches Global Biofuels Alliance; 19 countries, 12 global bodies agree to join”, 10 September 2023, 
  6.  “India Invites Global South to join the biofuel alliance”, 18 November 2023, 
  7.  Nidhi Verma, “India makes clean energy push at G20 with global biofuel alliance”, 9 November 2023,  
  8.  “Oil Market Report, July 202,  
  9.  Nidhi Verma, n. 7. 

Dr. Rajaram Panda

Dr. Rajaram Panda, Former Senior Fellow at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, a think tank under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, Former ICCR India Chair Professor, Reitaku University, Japan, and former Senior Fellow, IDSA, New Delhi E-mail: [email protected]

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