While we all know what the world leaders are saying about Narendra Modi, we hardly know its context.
It was reported in the Indian media that President Obama described Modi as ‘a man of action’. What this report does not tell us that Obama’s appreciation was in context to his talks with Modi on the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). Obviously, the United States of America, as all other developed nations, wants us to sign the trade protocol. We should realize that in commending the “personal leadership” role provided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘in finding a path forward on TFA reached between the two countries’, President Barack Obama was simply pushing forward his own agenda.
The objective of the TFA is to speed up movement of goods among various countries by cutting down the bureaucratic obligations. So far so good, but the problem with it runs in a clause that limits subsidies to less than ten per cent of the value of agricultural production; and if this is breached by any signatory nation, other members can challenge it and also initiate trade sanctions on that country. Now, Obama wants our ‘man of action’ to sign the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement .
Remarkably, India’s Food Security Act obligates the government to provide very cheap food to the most vulnerable part of the population at very low prices. Apart from providing subsidies to the consumers, through the PDS, the government also provides subsidies to the producers of food grains. While it buys food grains from farmers at a minimum support price, it also subsidises inputs like electricity and fertiliser. Interestingly, even the BJP ruled states follow the same practice.
In case India signs the TFA, it will also have to open up its stockpiling to international monitoring. Thus, it will not be possible to add protein heavy grains like lentils, if it wants to, due to riders in the peace clause. With these in view India had made its stance clear that it will not give in to pressures from the Western world over trade protocols of the WTO, as was discussed during the talks in Bali in December 2013. At that point of time, it was obviously the Man Mohan Singh government at the centre.
Notably, the British Prime Minister David Cameron too has joined Obama in showering praise on Modi as he tweeted – ‘Yours is a very inspiring vision, U.K. wants to partner in any way we can’. These days no one praises anyone without selfish motives. We should not be blinded by the lavish praise and appreciation by Obama or Cameron, for it could be a bait to lure Modi into signing the TFA. We must not forget that agreeing to the trade protocol could compromise our own food security. If this happens, it would spell doom for our farmers and other poor.
More recently, a dinner was hosted by the Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe for Modi in Brisbane. Though it may not be a cause for concern, but should we ever forget that Thomas Roe had come to the Mughul Durbar in 1615 with hoards of gifts for Jahangir, and successfully paved way for the British Empire in India. It is time for us to think about the motive behind such lavish praise and dinner diplomacy.