Of late the Indian government has been going up against the WTO or its economically advanced members like Australia and the US, to be more exact. In this tussle against the global trading body it is now looking for support from Africa with the reason that whatever it is doing is for the cause of the poor and depressed classes and it is a genuine cause that needs to be supported.
India looks to Africa for help in battle against WTO
India has stated it is trying to actually help the poor by providing them food security. In fact, India has asked all the countries in the developing world to support it in this fight. It has stated that Africa needs to be aware of the fact that what is being seen as a fight to protect the interests of just Indians is actually much bigger than that. Rajeev Kher, the commerce secretary of India, has stated that at the centre of its struggle is the right of an independent country to provide food security for its citizens who are unable to afford food in the first place.
Thanks to the tough stand taken by India on the issue of food security, the talks at Geneva have failed to make much headway. The South Asian country has stated clearly that it will not provide its consent to the Trade Facilitation Agreement of the WTO that is being pushed by the developed countries. Its grouse with the agreement is that it lacks a proper solution to the issue of holding food stocks by the government and related bodies.
India has asked the WTO that the regulations be amended so that agricultural subsidies can be calculated for procuring foodgrains from farmers at the minimum support price and then the food can be sold at lower rates to the poor people. India has asked that the WTO should also not impose any penalty for the same.
As per the present norms in the WTO, food subsidy is fixed at 10% of the aggregate value of production of foodgrain. The calculation for the support price is, however, done by taking into account prices that are at least 20 years old. India has asked that the base year for calculating the support prices be changed from 1986-88. Kher has stated that at present 21 countries across the world – including 8 from Africa – have started food security programmes on the basis of public stockholding.
He has said that at the moment many countries have gone past their de-minimis level and added that while India may not have reached that stage it could do so in the days to come. One of the several rumors doing the round in Geneva is that India is looking to dump cheap foodgrain in Africa through food security benefits as per the WTO agriculture agreement. However, he has also stated that as per a WTO provision no country can do so with foodgrains that have been kept in the public stockholding pool and therefore such a situation may not materialize ever.
While it is heartening to see India stand up for the rights of the poor people and take on a global body of the stature of WTO it remains to be seen how this stand affects its global positioning especially with the countries that are pushing the trade facilitation agreement.
India’s envoy to Afghanistan irritates Pakistan
India, through Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has made known its opinions on the proxy war that, it feels, is being waged by Pakistan and now has decided to speak out against terrorist attacks being perpetrated in Afghanistan that are supposedly happening at the behest of Pakistan as well. While recently speaking at a television channel in Afghanistan Amar Sinha, India’s ambassador to that country stated that Pakistan was the source of all terror attacks in Afghanistan. He also stated that everyone knew that Pakistan was the hotbed of terrorism and the training ground for such operatives.
In fact, Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan, has done the same thing as Modi did a few days back over Kashmir by asking Pakistan to stop its attacks in his country. It has been learnt that security forces have been either taking under arrest or killing people from Pakistan who have been carrying out terror attacks in the country in association with the Taliban. After the US withdrew from Afghanistan the Taliban had been prepping for a battle intended to regain lost ground and in this case Pakistan has supposedly helped the extremist militants. It is now functioning in 14 provinces across the country.
The NATO forces are about to leave soon and in this context some serious questions are being asked as to the future of Afghanistan with regard to security. The Pakistani government did not raise any objection to the comments made by Modi but they have issued a protest against the statements of Sinha. The Pakistan embassy at Kabul has termed the aforementioned allegations to be baseless. It has also stated that it is against global diplomatic rules to try and use the territory of a country and speak against another thus going on to damage the relations between both the nations.
Sinha also stated in the interview that the ISI was using Taliban in order to achieve a position of strategic strength in Afghanistan. He defined proxy war as being a situation where a country or any entity on its behalf carries on fighting in another country but does not straightaway declare a war as such. He also likened the situation in Afghanistan to one where Pakistan was not doing anything itself but was using terrorists on its behalf. It needs to be remembered here that during his meeting with Sun Yuxi, the special envoy of China for Afghanistan, Karzai had stated that Afghanistan was engaging in peace talks with Pakistan and not Taliban since according to him it was Pakistan that was controlling the Taliban.
Coming back to the comments made by Sinha, perhaps the diplomat should have understood the present situation surrounding Indo-Pak relations and kept his opinions to himself. It is said that discretion is the better part of valor and not without reason. His comments have caused some serious heartburn for Pakistan and are likely to be raised in future dialogues between both the countries because of the fact that they are not well substantiated and tarnish Pakistan’s reputation. This could also damage India’s credibility in the long run if proven to be false accusations.