India in international climate governance: Through soft power from REDD to REDD+ policy in favor of relative gains

Swati Negi, Lukas Giessen


This paper seeks to examine India’s role in the politics of a specific climate change mitigation policy called “Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and enhancing forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD+)”. It explores India’s strategic behaviour towards the development of REDD policy. The paper argues that India had pushed for the remodelling of the global REDD negotiations by expanding its scope to conservation activities, which entails more direct benefits for India. This is largely due to differences in India’s rates of forest cover and deforestation as compared to high forest - high deforestation countries such as Brazil and Indonesia. To substantiate its argument, the paper uses the main underpinnings of relative gains theory in international relations and applies them toward interpreting India’s behaviour in negotiating REDD+ at global level. Further, the paper analyses the Indian strategies used to remodel the REDD mechanism using insights from soft power theory and its more recent amendments. Thematic analysis of the REDD-relevant documents as well as exploratory expert interviews have been employed for showing India’s proactive role in the politics of REDD+. It is concluded that India indeed played a central role in critical past decisions, which lead to re-shaping REDD due to relative gains concerns and mainly by means of soft power strategies.


REDD+; India; international governance; relative gains; soft power; forest cover change; forest management; forest policy; deforestation rates; forest carbon stocks

Full Text:



Alden, C. and Vieira, M.A. (2005). The new Diplomacy of the South: South Africa, Brazil, India and Trilaterlism. Third World Quarterly, 26(7): 1077-1095.

Atteridge, A., M.K. Shrivastava, N. Pahuja, and H. Upadhyay. (2012). Climate Policy in India: What Shapes International, National and State Policy? Ambio, 41(1): 68-77.

Attride – Stirling, J. (2001). Thematic networks: an analytic tool for qualitative research. Qualitative Research, 1(3): 385-405.

Barua, M. (2017). India’s Environmental Strategy in the Global Climate negotiations. International Studies, 51(1-4): 195-211.

Basu, A and Nayak, N.C. (2011). Underlying causes of forest cover change in Odisha. Forest Policy and Economics, 13(7): 563-569.

Behera, B and Engel, S. (2006). Institutional analysis of evolution of joint forest management in India: A new institutional economics approach. Forest Policy and Economics, 8(4): 350-362.

Bowen, G.A. (2009). Document Analysis as a Qualitative Research Method. Qualitative Research Journal, 9 (2): 27-40.

Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3:77-101.

Breslin, S. (2011). The soft notion of China’s ‘Soft Power’. Asia Programme Paper: ASP PP 2011/03. London: Chatham House.

Bulkeley, H. and Newell, P. (2010). Governing Climate Change. London: Routledge.

Chong, A . (2007). The Foreign Policy Potential of ''Small State Soft Power'' Information Strategies . Singapore: National University of Singapore.

Da Fonseca G.A.B, Rodriguez, C.M. Midgley, G. Busch, J. Hannah, L. Mittermeier, R.A. (2007). No Forest Left Behind. PLoS Biol, 5(8): e216.

Dahl, R.A. (1969). The Concept of Power. In Political Power: A Reader in Theory and Research, edited by Roderick Bell, David V . Edwards, and R. Harrison Wagner, 79– 93. New York: Free Press.

Das, A.K. (2013). Soft and Hard Power in India's Strategy Toward Southeast Asia. India Review, 12(3): 165-185.

Dröge, S., and Wagner. C. (2015). India’s position in international climate negotiations: No shift under Modi (SWP Comments). Berlin: Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik.

Elliott, L. (1998). The global politics of the environment. New York: New York University Press.

Fereday, J., and Muir-Cochrane, E. (2006). Demonstrating rigor using thematic analysis: A hybrid approach of inductive and deductive coding and theme development. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 5(1): 1-11.

Giessen, L, Sahide, M.A.K. (2017): Blocking, attracting, imposing, and aligning: The utility of ASEAN forest and environmental regime policies for strong member states. In: Land Use Policy, 67, 13-26.

Giessen, L. Sarker, P. K., Rahman, Md. S. (2016): International and Domestic Sustainable Forest Management Policies: Distributive effects on power among state agencies in Bangladesh. In: Sustainability, 8 (335), 1-28.

Giessen, L., Krott, M., Möllmann, T. (2014): Increasing representation of states by utilitarian as compared to environmental bureaucracies in international forest and forest-environmental policy negotiations. In: Forest Policy and Economics, 38 (2014), 97–104,

Giessen, L. (2013): Reviewing the main characteristics of the international forest regime complex and partial explanations for its fragmentation. In: International Forestry Review, 15 (1), 60-70.

Giessen, L. (forthcoming): Forests and the two faces of international governance: Customizing international regimes through domestic politics. Edward Elgar, Series on New Horizons in Environmental Politics (accepted).

Grieco, J.M. (1988). Anarchy and the limits of cooperation: A realist critique of the newest liberal Institutionalism. International Organization, 4(2): 485-507.

Gundimeda, H. (2004). How ‘sustainable’ is the ‘sustainable development objective’ of CDM in developing countries like India? Forest Policy and Economics, 6(3-4): 329-343.

Haas, P. (1992). Introduction: Epistemic communities and international policy coordination. International Organisation, 46(1), 1–35.

Hasenclever , A., P. Mayer and V. Rittberger. (1996). Interests, Power, Knowledge : The Study of International Regimes. Mershon International Studies Review, 40(2): 177–228.

Holloway, V. and E. Giandomenico. (2009). Carbon Planet White Paper: The History of REDD Carbon Policy, Adelaide: Carbon Planet Ltd.

Humphreys, D. (2006). Logjam – Deforestation and the crisis of global governance. Earthscan: London.

Humphreys, D. (2008).The politics of ‘avoided deforestation’: historical context and contemporary issues. International Forestry Review, 10 (3): 433-442.

Ike, V.C.O. (2016). Are Countries in Environmental Cooperation Concerned About Relative Gains? Master's Theses.192. The University of Southern Mississippi, USA.

Jakobsen, S. (1999). International relations theory and the environment: A study of Brazilian and Indian policy-making on climate change. Copenhagen: University of Copenhagen, Institute of Political Science.

Jang J., McSparren J., Rashchupkina Y. (2016). Global governance: present and future.

Palgrave Communications, 2: 1-5. DOI: 10.1057/palcomms.2015.45

Kamminga, M, R. (2010). Is Neorealism Obsolete? Etzioni’s Communitarian Confirmation of Neorealist Theory. Crossroads, 9(1): 5-39.

Karsenty, A., & Ongolo, S. (2012). Can “fragile states” decide to reduce their deforestation? The inappropriate use of the theory of incentives with respect to the REDD mechanism. Forest policy and economics, 18, 38-45.

Keohane, R.O. (1998). International institutions: can interdependence work? Foreign Policy, 110: 82-96.

Kishwan, J. (2007). Reducing emission from deforestation in developing countries: Indian proposal. Paper presented at 2nd UNFCCC Workshop on REDD, Cairns, Australia, 7–9 March 2007. accessed on March 2011

Kishwan, J., Pandey, R., & Dadhwal, V. K. (2009). India’s Forest and Tree Cover: Contribution as a Carbon Sink (Technical Paper no. 130). Dehradun, India: Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education.

Krott, M., Bader, A., Schusser, C., Devkota, R., Maryudi, A., Giessen, L., & Aurenhammer, H. (2014). Actor-centred power: The driving force in decentralised community based forest governance. Forest Policy and Economics, 49, 34-42.

Lee, G. (2009). A theory of soft power and Korea's soft power strategy. Korean Journal of Defense Analysis, 21(2): 205 – 218.

Lee, J. (2010). Unrealised Potential: India’s ‘Soft Power’ Ambition in Asia. Foreign policy analysis, 4: 1-18.

Litfin, K. (1994). Ozone discourses: Science and politics in global environmental cooperation. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lövbrand, E. (2009). Revisiting the politics of expertise in light of the Kyoto negotiations on land use change and forestry. Forest Policy and Economics, 11 (5-6): 404-412.

Logmani J., Krott M., Lecyk M., Giessen L (2017): Customizing elements of the International Forest Regime Complex in Poland? Non-implementation of a National Forest Programme and redefined transposition of NATURA 2000 in Bialowieza Forest. In: Forest Policy and Economics, 74, 81-90, .

Luttwak, E. N. (1990). From Geopolitics to Geo-Economics. The National Interest, 20:17-24.

Maryudi, A., & Sahide, M. A. (2017). Research trend: power analyses in polycentric and multi-level forest governance. Forest Policy and Economics, 81, 65-68.

Mastanduno, M. (1991). Do relative gains matter? America's response to Japanese industrial policy. International Security, 16(1): 73-113.

Michaelowa, K and Michaelowa, A. (2011). India in the international climate negotiations: from traditional nay-sayer to dynamic broker. CIS working paper No. 70, Center for Comparative and International Studies (ETH Zurich and University of Zurich).

Misra, D and Kant, S. (2004). Production analysis of collaborative forest management using an example of joint forest management from Gujarat. Forest Policy and Economics, 6 (3–4): 301-320.

Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). (2009). Climate Change negotiations: India’s submission to the United Nations framework Convention on Climate change. Government of India, August 2009.

Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) (2010). Statement by Vijai Sharma, Secretary of the in Oslo Climate and Forest Conference, 27th May 2010. Accessed September, 2010 information/OSLO_Conference.pdf

Motaal, D, A. (2010). The Shift from ‘Low Politics’ to ‘High Politics’- Climate Change. Environmental Policy and Law, 40 (2/3): 98-108.

Morgenthau, H.J. (1956). Politics Among Nations, New York: Alfred A. Knopf

Mosher, J.S .(2003). Relative Gains Concerns When the Number of States in the International System Increases. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 47(5): 642-668.

Nijnik, M and L. Bizikova. (2008). Responding to the Kyoto Protocol through forestry: A comparison of opportunities for several countries in Europe . Forest Policy and Economics, 10(4): 257-269

Nye, J.S. (1990). Soft Power. Foreign Policy, 80: 153–171.

Nye, J.S. (2004a). Soft power: The means to success in world politics, New York: Public Affairs

Nye, J.S. (2004b). The decline of America’s soft power. Foreign Affairs, 83(3): 16-20

Olivier, J. G. J., Janssens-Maenhout, G. Muntean, M. and Peters, J. A. H. W. (2016). Trends in global CO2 emissions: 2016 report. The Hague: PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency; Ispra: European Commission, Joint Research Centre.

Pant, P. (2009). Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation: An Assessment of Opportunities and Challenges in Indian Context. (Unpublished M.Sc Diss., TERI University, New Delhi).

Parker, C., Mitchell, A., Trivedi, M., & Mardas, N. (2008). The Little REDD+ Book: A guide to governmental and non-governmental proposals from reducing deforestation and forest degradation. Oxford: Global canopy Programme.

Paterson, M. (2006). Theoretical perspectives on international environmental politics. In M. Betsill, K. Hochstetler, & D. Stevis (Eds.), Palgrave advances in international environmental politics (pp. 54–81). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Paul, S and Chakrabarti, S. (2011). Socio-economic issues in forest management in India. Forest Policy and Economics, 13(1): 55-60.

Pistorius, T., H. Schaich, G. Winkel, T. Plieninger, C. Bieling, W. Konold, K.R. Volz. (2012). Lessons for REDD+: A comparative analysis of the German discourse on forest functions and the global ecosystem services debate. Forest Policy and Economics, 18: 4-12.

Potvin, C and Bovarnick, A. (2008). Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries: Key Actors, Negotiations and Actions. The Carbon & Climate Law Review, 2, (3): 264-272.

Powell, R. (1991). Absolute and Relative Gains in International Relations Theory. The American Political Science Review, 85(4): 1303-1320.

Prabowo, D., Maryudi, A., & Imron, M. A. (2016). Enhancing the application of Krott et al.'s (2014) Actor-Centred Power (ACP): The importance of understanding the effect of changes in polity for the measurement of power dynamics over time. Forest Policy and Economics, 62, 184-186.

Prabowo, D., Maryudi, A., & Imron, M. A. (2017). Conversion of forests into oil palm plantations in West Kalimantan, Indonesia: Insights from actors' power and its dynamics. Forest Policy and Economics, 78, 32-39.

Purdon, M. (2014) .Neo-classical Realism and International Climate Change Politics: Moral Imperative and Political Constraint in International Climate Finance. Journal of International Relations and Development, 17(3): 301–338

Purushothaman, U. (2010). Shifting Perceptions of Power: Soft Power and India’s Foreign Policy. Journal of Peace Studies, 17 ( 2&3): 1-16.

Rahman Md S, Sarker P K , Sadath Md N, Giessen, L. (2018): Policy changes resulting in power changes? Quantitative evidence from 25 years of forest policy development in Bangladesh. In: Land Use Policy, 70, 419-431.

Rahman, Md. S., Sarker, P. K., Giessen, L. (2016): Power players in biodiversity policy: Insights from international and domestic forest biodiversity initiatives in Bangladesh from 1992–2013. In: Land Use Policy, 59, 386-401, .

Rahman, Md. S., Giessen, L. (2016): The power of public bureaucracies: Forest-related climate change policies in Bangladesh. In: Climate Policy, 17 (7), 915-935.

Rajan, M. G. (1997). Global environmental politics: India and the North–South politics of global environmental issues. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Rice, P., and Ezzy, D. (1999). Qualitative research methods: A health focus. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Rastogi, N, M. (2011). Winds of Change: India's Emerging Climate Strategy The International Spectator. Italian Journal of International Affairs, 46(2): 127 -141.

Sarker, P., Rahman, S., Giessen, L. (2017): Empowering state agencies through national and international community forestry policies in Bangladesh. In: International Forestry Review, 19 (1), 79-101.

Singer, B, Giessen, L (2017): Towards a donut regime? Domestic actors, climatization, and the hollowing-out of the international forests regime in the Anthropocene. In: Forest Policy and Economics, 79, 69-79,

Sahide, M.A., Nurrochmat, D.R., Giessen, L. (2015): The regime complex for tropical rainforest transformation: Analysing the relevance of multiple global and regional land use regimes in Indonesia. In: Land Use Policy, 47 (2015), 408-425.

Schoene, D.H.F. and Bernier, P.Y (2011). Adapting forestry and forests to climate change: A challenge to change the paradigm. Forest Policy and Economics, 24:12-19. doi:10.1016/j.forpol.2011.04.007

Sengupta, S. (2012). International climate negotiations and India’s role. In N. K. Dubash (Ed.), Handbook of climate change and India: Development, politics and governance (pp. 101–117). New York, NY: Earthscan.

Skak, M. (2011). The BRIC Powers as Actors in World Affairs: Soft Balancing or … ? Paper presented at the IPSA-ECPR Joint Conference, Sao Paulo, February 16 to 19, 2011.

Snidal, D, (1991a). Relative Gains and the Pattern of International Cooperation. American Political Science Review, 85: 701-26.

Snidal, D, (1991b). International Cooperation among Relative Gains Maximizers. International Studies Quarterly, 35: 387-402.

Stripple, J. (2006). Rules for the environment: Reconsidering authority in global environmental governance. European Environment, 16(5), 259–264.

Stuenkel, O. (2010). The Case for Stronger Brazil-India Relations. Indian Foreign Affairs Journal, 5(3): 290-304.

Sud, R., Sharma, J.V., Bansal, A.K., (2012). International REDD+ architecture and its relevance for India. New Delhi: Ministry of Environment and Forests and TERI.

Tan. C. (2014). Global governance and the rise of the South. Retrieved from

Thomann, E. (2015). Customizing Europe: transposition as bottom-up implementation. Journal of European Public Policy, 22(10), 1368-1387.

Vihma, A. (2011). India and the global climate governance: between principles and pragmatism. Journal of Environment & Development, 20(10): 1-26.

Volger, J and H. R. Stephan. 2009. The embeddedness of the Earth system Governance in the international political system: Towards a Geopolitics of Climate Change. Paper presented at the Amsterdam Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2-4 December, 2009.

Vibert, F. (2008). Soft Power and International Rule-Making. Friedrich Neumann Stiftung Liberales Institut, Occasional Paper 43, 2008, accessed on 15 March 2012 uploads/document/OC43_Vibert.pdf

Wagner, C. (2010). India’s Soft Power: Prospects and Limitations. India Quarterly: A Journal of International Affairs, 66(4): 333-342.

Wagner, C. (2005). From Hard Power to Soft Power? Ideas, Interaction, Institutions, and Images in India’s South Asia Policy. 26, South Asia Institute, University of Heidelburg, March 2005, accessed March,

Wibowo, A, Giessen, L (2015): Absolute and relative power gains among state agencies in forest-related land use politics: The Ministry of Forestry and its competitors in the REDD+ Programme and the One Map Policy in Indonesia. Land Use Policy, 49, 131-141.

Willetts, P. (2001). Transnational Actors and International Organizations in Global Politics. In Baylis, J. B. and Smith, S. (eds.) (2001) The Globalisation of World Politics. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, second edition. pp. 356-383.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Forest and Society is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

View My Stats

Forest and Society has been indexed/registered/mentioned in : 


View full indexing services