India stood firm Sunday against Western demands to accept binding limits on carbon emissions even as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed optimism about an eventual climate change deal to India's benefit.
"There is simply no case for the pressure that we -- who have among the lowest emissions per capita -- face to actually reduce emissions," India's minister of environment and forests, Jairam Ramesh, told Clinton and her visiting delegation in a meeting.
"And as if this pressure was not enough, we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours," he added.
U.S. officials had expected the discussions to focus more on cooperation in related areas of energy efficiency, green buildings and clean-burning fuels.
The minister distributed copies of his remarks to reporters in a gesture aimed at underlining India's tough stance. The comments showed the political sensitivity in India of one of the Obama administration's foreign policy priorities.
Clinton said Ramesh presented a "fair argument." But she said India's case "loses force" because the fast-growing country's absolute level of carbon emissions -- as opposed to the per capita amount -- is "going up and dramatically."
Later, at an agricultural research site in a farm field outside the capital, Clinton told reporters she is optimistic about getting a climate change deal that will satisfy India.
"This is part of a negotiation," she said. "It's part of a give-and-take and it's multilateral, which makes it even more complex. But until proven otherwise, I'm going to continue to speak out in favor of every country doing its part to deal with the challenge of global climate change."