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(Photo: Mint)
(Photo: Mint)

Geo-economics of Basmati rice to play inevitable role in India, Pak relations, claims book

The geo-economics of Basmati rice will determine a number of new agendas in both sides of borders in relation to security and peace, says the book 'Basmati Rice: The Natural History Geographical Indication'

New Delhi: The geo-economics of Basmati rice is going to play an "inevitable" role in Indo-Pak relations in the future, according to a new book.

Citing a likely decrease in the flow of Indus waters from India to Pakistan, the book titled "Basmati Rice: The Natural History Geographical Indication" noted that Pakistan will push for aggressive posturing in future as more than 80 per cent of its crops (including Basmati paddy) depend on this water for irrigation.

"The geo-economics of Basmati rice is going to play an inevitable role in determining a number of new agendas in both sides of borders in relation to security and peace," the book penned by S. Chandrasekaran said.

According to the book, over 80 per cent of water under the Indus Water Treaty (that was signed between the two countries in 1960) is utilised by Punjab and Sindh provinces of Pakistan.

"The Indus river is extremely sensitive to factors of climate change. An estimated 70 to 80 per cent of its flow derives from glaciers, the highest proportion of any river in Asia. For this reason, the Indus river is expected to see high flow in the first half of the century as glaciers melt down, then receding flow later in the century, then no flow at all," it said.

The Indus covers a distance of around 1,800 miles from source to sea. Apart from flooding in 2010, it has mostly run dry for its last few hundred miles to the sea, the book said.

Chandrasekaran also noted that the Basmati rice could become an "economic tool" for India.

"India has not approached the subject of Basmati rice in such larger economic interest, even though it could provide additional economic benefits to millions of farmers in India if appropriate measures were taken. The current geo-economic trends explicitly indicate that Basmati rice could become an economic tool for 'Bharat'," the book said.

The legal and historical facts provide ability to register Basmati rice as an exclusive Geographical Indication (GI) of India, it said.

"Such exclusive ownership position of India has ability to claim penalty or royalty on infringement of use of word 'Basmati rice' by Pakistan in international court or WTO, which could run several billion dollars of compensation to India," the author wrote.

Chandrasekaran, who hails from Tamil Nadu, has spent substantial period of his career working upon Geograhical Indication and Basmati rice’s evolution, trade and on its future aspects.

Prior awareness and knowledge about "Indications of Origin" for British and British-India policy makers, and non-inclusion of Basmati rice in the list of "other than physical assets" (Partition Proceedings: Volume II –Assets and Liabilities (Expert Committee No II), Annexure I) emphasise the fact that the implicit right of Geographical Indication of Basmati rice is exclusively vested with India, the book said.

Chandrasekaran suggested that India may need to reshape her trade diplomacy on Basmati rice in the context of "New Trade Agreements" and Pakistan policy.

"It could be firmly concluded that the labelling of rice grown in Pakistan, as Basmati is infringement based on historical reputation of West Punjab, particularly because agriculture never existed in that region," he wrote.

If any trading partner of India recognises and imports rice grown from Pakistan as Basmati rice, India may need to impose compensatory import tariff or such measures, on such value of imports of the trading partner destining to India, to recoup the export loss in order to protect and exercise the rights accrued through appropriate historical reputation under global trade agreements, the book claimed.

Grown in North West of India, especially in Indo-Gangetic Plain and Sivalik Hills, the Indian domestic market of Basmati rice is estimated over 10,000 crore for packaged and organised sector as per published data. The price band of various Basmati rice brand varies from 100 to 225 per kilogram.

"The increase in disposable income and branding has significantly increased the consumption of Basmati rice. No other Indian Geographical Indication (GI) has grown to such size of volume and value like Basmati rice," the book said.

"In our constitution, a new section could be introduced under fundamental rights ensuring – 'Right to Nature'," it suggested.

Geographical Indication is a public right combination of quality-linked geography with reputation in common parlance.

"Geography is nothing but nature. The Basmati rice provides livelihood for millions of farmers and this heritage is to be protected as public rights with larger 'public policy instrument'.

Such combination of livelihood and heritage forms culture of India since immemorial time not only in Basmati rice but also in a number of products," it said.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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