On my last couple of days in Cancun, while vestiges of the sense of despondency and low achievement of the initial days remain, Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh's impromptu statement on "binding commitments" and "appropriate legal form" has jerked many pundits -- especially those from the subcontinent -- up. The Indian camp, including journalists, has gone on an overdrive trying to read into the meaning, sources, implications and everything else of the statement.
I'm glad for Mr Ramesh, though. Quite apart from the merits and demerits of his statement and his intentions behind making it, this 'one-liner' of his has firmly put the floodlights back on him. Just a day ago, I was watching his 4.00 pm press briefing, and was a bit surprised by the extremely thin attendance and the desultory manner in which the entire exercise was conducted.
Speaking of press briefings and media, where has all the CoP-16 news disappeared from the international news channels? On most days, the telecasts from BBC and CNN have absolutely nothing on the conference -- for instance, Julian Assange's fate and the tuition hike protests in the UK were considered more newsworthy today. Sure says a lot about the seriousness with which the world is following the Cancun meet.
Now that the days of the conference drawing to a close, theories, rumours and surmises on an impending Mexico mandate are flying fast and thick. But what will this mandate amount to? Not much, if one may go by the pronouncements that were being made even a day back. Statements by almost all the leaders present here -- including the UN secretary general Ban ki-Moon -- began and ended with how Cancun is an "important step" (and nothing but) towards an agreement in Durban next year, and how the world shouldn't expect earth shattering developments to happen here.
What is more alarming is a gossip that some negotiators have reportedly already begun expressing their doubts about anything worthwhile happening at Durban either, and are gently exhorting that one looks towards Korea in 2012 for a deal!
There are, however, those like Soham Baba who still are gung-ho about Cancun. I met the Baba, who claims to be the head of a prominent Naga sadhu akhara, sitting in front of a computer at the foyer of the convention centre. Dressed in flowing bright yellow robes and accompanied by his equally strikingly attired disciple, the Baba and his companion looked quite incongruous alongside a row of business-suited ladies and gentlemen frantically hammering away on their keyboards.
Soham Baba, who said he was a trained neuro-surgeon, told me that he has been campaigning to save the Himalaya -- more specifically, the disappearing indigenous species of herbs and plants and water sources (springs). The danger to these resources, according to him, has become a major cause for concern for all Indian sadhus.
Will Cancun, or for that matter the CoPs that will come after, help him (and many others like him) save the things that are dearest to them? At the moment, nobody -- not even the delegates and the negotiators -- know.