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Indo-US Agricultural Cooperation From “Green” to “Evergreen” Revolution?

  • Uma Purushothaman

    India and the US are poised to expand agricultural cooperation with the hope of bringing about a "Second Green Revolution" in India. Cooperation in this area would, however, need to take into account the interests of Indian farmers as well as issues related to bio-diversity and the environment.


   2011 Observer Research Foundation. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission in writing from ORF

In the last two decades, India and the US have come closer to each other as never before since Independence. Though commentators have contributed this new amity in ties to strategic reasons, such as dealing with the rise of China and facing perceived common threats, trade has played no less a role in bringing the world’s two greatest democracies together. Trade between India and the US has grown exponentially since India adopted economic reforms in the 1990/91 period. There still remains a huge potential for increasing the bilateral trade. Defence-related trade, high-tech trade, agriculture, investment in infrastructure and insurance, seem to be the foci of the US in India. India’s burgeoning consumer-driven middle class and the market prospects they offer to US businesses is another motive that has driven US investment in India. India has one of the highest rates of GDP growth in the world and was not affected much by the global financial crisis, making it an important market for US goods and services. Indeed, India too has benefited from US businesses. The outsourcing, IT (Information Technology) and ITES (Information Technology Enabled Services) industries, which have provided jobs to many young Indians, largely owes itself to US businesses. Thus, India-US economic relations have moved into a new phase of “intensive interaction” since 2000 in areas as diverse as nuclear trade to defence-related trade to cooperation in trade and agriculture. Improving agricultural productivity is vital for India; while twothirds of its population is engaged in agriculture, the country is burdened with the largest number of malnourished people in the world. Agriculture will always play the key role in India’s prosperity and growth. Moreover, as a recent World Bank report says, increased agricultural growth and productivity is the best way to reduce poverty.

While trade in nuclear technology and material may take some time to fructify, agriculture is already high on the agenda of Indo-US cooperation. Former President George Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took the first step towards expanding agricultural cooperation in July 2005 when they announced the US-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture. Furthermore, in their March 2006 joint statement, they agreed to expand agricultural cooperation by:

1. Launching the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (KIA) with a three-year financial commitment to link India’s universities, technical institutions and businesses to support agriculture education, joint research, and capacity building projects including in the area of biotechnology;

2. Endorsing an agreed work plan to promote bilateral trade in agriculture through agreements that would lay out a path to open the US market to Indian mangoes, and to recognize India’s authority to certify that shipments of Indian products meet USDA organic standards, as also to provide for discussions on current regulations affecting trade in fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry and dairy items and almonds.

Following this announcement, Washington and New Delhi launched a three-year programme on agriculture (2006–2008), with both committing about US $ 24 million each to the project. However, much of the US money came within the ambit of the existing USAID agricultural programmes.

Clearly, both the countries attach the highest importance to further agricultural cooperation between them. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during a visit to the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in 2009, said that agriculture would be the “strongest and most important pillar of cooperation” between the United States and India . Hunger and food security is a signature issue in the Obama Administration’s foreign policy. President Obama has launched a ‘Feed the Future Initiative’ and his statements as well as those of other top officials clearly show that the US sees a key role for India in this. India, in fact, is one of the ‘strategic partnership countries’ in the initiative along with Brazil and South Africa, countries that can provide South-South technical advice and act as regional growth hubs.

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Uma Purushothaman

Uma Purushothaman

Dr Uma Purushothaman teaches International Relations at the Central University of Kerala. She was earlier associated with Observer Research Foundation. Her areas of interest include ...

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Uma Purushothaman

Uma Purushothaman