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MANAGING THE CHALLENGES OF WTO PARTICIPATION: CASE STUDY 15

Decision-Making Processes in India: The Case of the Agriculture Negotiations

Shishir Priyadarshi*

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 Disclaimer:
Opinions expressed in the case studies and any errors or omissions therein are the responsibility of their authors and not of the editors of this volume or of the institutions with which they are affiliated. The authors of the case studies wish to disassociate the institutions with which they are associated from opinions expressed in the case studies and from any errors or omission therein.

Case Studies main page
Introduction

   

ON THIS PAGE: 
I. The problem in context
II. The local and external players and their roles
The federal government
The state governments
Industry 
Academic institutions and think tanks
Civil society
> III. Challenges faced and the outcome
Identification of key issues
Consultations with industry
Inter-ministerial consultations
State-level consultations
Finalization of the proposal by the Cabinet
The perception of the WTO’s role in the process
> IV. Lessons for others (the players’ views)


I. The problem in context    back to top

India submitted a very detailed and comprehensive proposal(1) as part of the ongoing negotiations on agriculture in the WTO in January 2001. It covered all aspects of the negotiations and remains one of the longest proposals ever submitted by any member. This study examines the manner in which this negotiating proposal was finalized, the consultations that were undertaken and the actual decision-making process that led to the submission of the proposal. It attempts to identify the main protagonists and the key stakeholders, the role that each one played in the process and the extent to which, in their view, they succeeded in getting their concerns reflected in the proposal. Finally, the study also tries to ascertain from the stakeholders their perception of the WTO as an organization, including in the context of the WTO’s perceived influence on the process and final outcome.

Agriculture has been, and perhaps will remain for some time, a key issue in the WTO, with the power to influence negotiations, packages and the outcomes of Ministerial Conferences. It is equally sensitive, if not even more so, in the Indian context. To understand these sensitivities fully, including India’s emphasis on self-sufficiency, it is important to keep in mind the extreme shortage of food grain that the country faced in the 1950s and 1960s. It was only the success of the ‘Green Revolution’ that helped India overcome its dependence on food aid. The criticality and sensitivity of the Indian agriculture sector can be further gauged by the following factors:

  • the share of agriculture in the national GDP is a huge 24%;
     
  • a little over 700 million people, that is about 69% of the population, are dependent on the rural economy for their livelihood;
     
  • a very large majority of this rural population survives on an annual per capita income of US$175 as compared with the current national per capita income of US$480;
     
  • nearly 70% of cultivable land, that is about 100 million hectares out of 142 million hectares, continues to be vulnerable to the vagaries of the monsoon; and
     
  • even though India is the second-largest agricultural producer in the world, its yields are still very low when compared with some of the other producers.

This would show why agriculture is such a key issue for India in the WTO, and the constraints that were probably factored in while finalizing the Indian proposal. Additionally, the rural population in India, which is largely agro-based, has a political mind of its own, and has the power (and often the inclination) to prove the political ‘pundits’ wrong. This was amply demonstrated in the recently held elections in which the ruling, and favoured, National Democratic Alliance was voted out of power, largely because the rural population felt neglected, and in fact somewhat bypassed, by the much touted process of economic liberalization. This power which the rural population wields makes the decision-making process in agriculture even more sensitive and consequently subject to even greater political scrutiny.

 
 

II. The local and external players and their roles    back to top

The federal government

The main protagonists in the context of the agriculture negotiations at the federal level in India are the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI), the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

The MOCI is mandated with the primary responsibility for all WTO-related issues. The government of India orders regarding the allocation of business state that it is the MOCI which handles all issues related to ‘International trade and commercial policy, including tariff and non-tariff barriers’.(2) Within the MOCI, the Trade Policy Division (TPD) is responsible for the work relating to the WTO. It is headed by a Special Secretary, who is assisted by two senior joint secretaries and a team of nearly twenty middle-management-level officers. The Permanent Secretary of the MOCI is kept in the loop but for most issues the final decision and the negotiating positions are largely formulated in the TPD itself.

On the other hand, the MOA is the nodal ministry for all issues relating to agriculture, including the work relating to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). However, the situation is somewhat ambiguous when it comes to agriculture issues within the WTO. International trade negotiations no doubt come within the ambit of the MOCI, but the MOA feels that when it comes to trade negotiations in agriculture then it should be the lead protagonist. In fact, as a former official of the Agriculture Ministry pointed out, ‘the first step taken by the government, which set the ball rolling on the agriculture negotiations, was taken by the MOA and not by the MOCI, in the form of a seminar organized in conjunction with the FAO in June 1999’. This ambiguity is compounded because the consultative process between the two ministries is not institutionalized and, in the past, largely depended on personal relationships between the officials heading these divisions. Nonetheless, it is clear from the feedback provided by various officials that on issues related to agriculture the MOCI has been careful to avoid finalizing positions before obtaining the explicit approval of the MOA.

The role of the MEA as a stakeholder, especially in the context of the agriculture negotiations, is less clear. Its expertise in the negotiating process is not in doubt, since it has negotiated most international agreements; what the MOCI does doubt, however, is the MEA’s expertise in the substance of the negotiation — and especially so in the case of agriculture. This perhaps explains why the MEA does not appear to have been involved in the consultative process to any significant extent.(3)

 

The state governments    back to top

The state governments were not regarded as significant stakeholders during the Uruguay Round (UR) and their involvement was minimal during the pre-UR consultations. This is surprising, not only because are some of the Indian states larger than many WTO members, but also because agriculture is a state subject.(4) In fact, some state governments had, soon after the conclusion of the UR, filed a case in India’s Supreme Court on the grounds that the government of India had no authority to accept obligations arising out of the Agreement on Agriculture (AOA) because of agriculture’s status as a state subject. The government of West Bengal reiterated these concerns in May 2001, saying that ‘agriculture is a state subject, therefore all agreements, legislations etc., are within the exclusive domain of the state governments’, and that it was unacceptable that ‘the government of India had signed the AOA…. without first arriving at a consensus among the state governments’.(5) It is clear that a number of state governments have significant sensitivities regarding agriculture; these appear to have been taken into account during the consultative process. At the same time, it is also true that awareness of WTO-related issues is very superficial in the states, including amongst the state bureaucracy, and the positions taken by them are largely political rather than being based on the likely implications of the proposals. T. S. R. Subramanian said that ‘in most states, the WTO and its rules are regarded as a distant entity without any immediate consequences for the state government, and perceived as a largely esoteric subject’.(6)

 

Industry    back to top

There are two main industry associations in India. The first, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) was established as a non-government, industry-led and industry-managed organization. It has been playing an increasingly active role in putting forth the views and concerns of industry to the government. Its membership extends to over 4, 800 companies from the private as well as public sectors. According to N. Srinivasan, Director-General of the CII, it ‘provides a platform for sectoral consensus-building and networking’.(7) He categorized the CII as fulfilling two functions, namely ‘creating an awareness amongst its members on key WTO issues and providing inputs to government, based on the feedback received from industry’. The second industry association, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), was established in 1927, and according to Manab Majumdar, the association’s Project Leader (WTO), FICCI has been at the forefront of ‘analyzing the impact of events through a multi-disciplinary approach involving representatives of business, academia, policy-makers and foreign experts, and evolving problem-solving responses’.(8)

These organizations do not seem to have been consulted during the Uruguay Round. Srinivasan put it very aptly when he said that ‘for a long time the relationship between the government and industry was based on a “we-they” syndrome; the UR reflected the tenuousness of the relationship, with the government taking most decisions on its own’. Today, the situation has changed dramatically and these associations are not only consulted regularly, but also provide critical inputs to government on trade issues. Srinivasan felt that ‘the turning point of this relationship was the Seattle Ministerial Conference when, for the first time, representatives from industry were formally a part of the Indian delegation’.

 

Academic institutions and think tanks    back to top

During the UR, academic institutions and think tanks did not feature in the consultative process at all. Since the UR they have become much more involved, even though this participation is still somewhat marginal because most of them do not have the resources needed to conduct a meaningful analysis. At times, they also lack the sectoral expertise that the modern multilateral process requires, something which is not uncommon amongst academic institutions around the world. However, a number of institutions and think tanks were consulted during the drafting of the agriculture proposal. These included the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) and the Research and Information System for the Non-Aligned and other Developing Countries (RIS). Dr Anil Sharma, a senior economist in NCAER, said that ‘our inputs were sought so that MOCI could take informed positions on various issues and use the analytical data that we provided to convince domestic lobbies about the appropriateness of these positions’.(9) Biswajit Dhar of the IIFT said that ‘even though the terms of reference of the prescribed work were very broad, the actual inputs sought by the ministry were invariably needs-based’.(10) A former official of the MOA stated that these institutions ‘provided valuable inputs, especially in analyzing the micro-level impact of liberalization in agriculture, both that had already been undertaken and that which was being proposed’.

 

Civil society    back to top

Civil society in India, in the same way, perhaps, as in any other country, is extremely heterogeneous. It is not difficult to find groups actively defending or opposing any point of view in relation to a particular issue. This is not to belittle their contribution to the overall debate, a fact which seems to be well accepted. There is an increasing recognition in most government circles that consultations with civil society are very important. However, there is still a big question mark as to which non-governmental organization (NGO) to invite to the consultative process, as there are a very large number of active NGOs to choose from. As Amrita Narlikar said, ‘the process of involving NGOs seems to be a self-affirming process with the more critical ones being often excluded from the inter-ministerial consultations; the checks and balances, so necessary in such a process of consultation, seem to be missing’. Officials appeared to have somewhat preconceived notions of the views of civil society. A former official of the MOA said that ‘the views expressed by the civil society representatives are always protectionist in nature. According to them, Indian agriculture is simply not trade-driven; their only objective is, therefore, to ensure that the livelihood of the subsistence farmers is protected.’

 
 

III. Challenges faced and the outcome    back to top

Perhaps the most significant challenge that was faced in arriving at an outcome (that is the final negotiating proposal) was to put in place a process that would take into account the very diverse views and positions of the various stakeholders, while ensuring that a cohesive proposal could be prepared. The process went through a number of different phases: the initial identification of the key issues; consultations with the non-governmental stakeholders, including industry associations; the initial drafting of the proposal; holding regional and inter-ministerial consultations; and the final approval by the Cabinet.

 

Identification of key issues    back to top

As a first step towards identifying the main issues that would need to be addressed in the agriculture negotiations, the MOCI and MOA asked the NCAER and IIFT to analyze the experience of implementing the AOA and to make appropriate recommendations on the critical issues facing Indian agriculture. Interestingly, the basic approach to Indian agriculture does not seem to be the same as far as these institutions are concerned. For example, Dr Anil Sharma of the NCAER feels that ‘Indian agriculture is quite competitive and India should adopt a more aggressive stand in the negotiations’. On the other hand, IIFT had a more conservative approach and was more closely aligned to the MOA’s position on the need to protect the agriculture sector. A former official of the TPD said that ‘though their inputs were very useful, they did not often factor in the political sensitivities of the issues that they were analyzing’. Giving one such example, the official said that according to the econometric analysis carried out by NCAER a somewhat lower bound rate was proposed as being sufficient to take care of probable import surges for a particular food security-sensitive commodity, but since such a low bound rate was not politically acceptable, it was modified while finalizing the proposal.

The ministries also contacted a number of well-known agricultural scientists. Some very useful suggestions appear to have come out of these interactions. For instance, M. S. Swaminathan, one of the most renowned agricultural economist in India, came up with the suggestion that India should press for a livelihood box, in which all the country’s concerns on rural development and poverty alleviation could be aired.(11) This concept seems to have been taken on board even though India’s final proposal talks of a ‘food security box’ rather than a ‘livelihood box’. At the same time, the policy framers also had to factor in views such as those expressed by Devinder Sharma, a trade and food policy analyst who, at that time, wrote that

five years after the World Trade Organization came into existence, the anticipated gains for India from the trade liberalization process in agriculture are practically zero. And yet, undaunted by the negative fallout from the implementation of the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture, the Ministry of Agriculture is aggressively pushing for the second phase of reforms. The entire effort of the free trade initiative is to destroy the foundations of food self-sufficiency so assiduously built over the years.(12)

  

Consultations with industry    back to top

Indian industry representatives appear to have been involved in the entire consultative process. Srinivasan stated that ‘in addition to providing feedback to MOCI, CII also lobbied and presented the industry’s view on key issues to people like Mr Lamy and Mr Zoelick, whom we met on several occasions’.(13) Manab Majumdar said that ‘FICCI had constituted an agriculture task force, whose primary mandate was to provide inputs to the government on agriculture issues’.(14) He, in fact, felt that it was not the government but the industry associations which needed to do more, including by apportioning more resources into their analysis of WTO issues. However, one criticism levied at industry associations by some of the stakeholders was that they tended to adopt positions on policy issues that looked suspiciously similar to those of the government and that they were rarely critical of government. However, both the representatives of CII and FICCI disagree: Srinivasan said that ‘we did not hesitate to criticize the government, although such views are often expressed in private consultations, rather than in public statements of disagreement’. Majumdar was of the view that ‘we do have differences with the government but we tend not to wash our dirty linen in public’.

 

Inter-ministerial consultations    back to top

Even though the two key ministries, the MOCI and the MOA, appear to have initiated the process somewhat independently, they do seem to have kept each other involved and informed on developments. Subsequently, the interaction between the two ministries increased even more and culminated in what was practically a joint negotiating proposal. But the path to the final common position was not all that smooth. Officials from both ministries admitted that there were — at times serious — differences on the position the two ministries wanted to adopt on key issues. R. C. A. Jain, in trying to explain the reasons for these differences, said that ‘MOCI, understandably, has a broader perspective and sees agriculture as one of the sectors being negotiated, whereas for MOA it was difficult to accept such an approach as agriculture is a very sensitive sector in which compromises cannot be made’.(15) He also felt that differences arose because ‘MOCI’s mandate was to increase India’s share of global trade, while MOA wanted to ensure that domestic production and the livelihood of small farmers was in no way threatened.’ A former expert who was closely associated with the drafting process said that ‘the two ministries were like the two sides of a convex lens; the inevitability of their relationship being signified by the two joined ends of the lens, while the differences amongst them on the approach to key issues is illustrated by the bulging middle part of the lens’.

  

State-level consultations    back to top

The central government organized very wide-ranging consultations on WTO agriculture issues. In the June—July 2000 issue of MOCI’s monthly newsletter mention is made that ‘in the process of preparing India’s negotiating position on agriculture, the government initiated regional consultations at various places, besides national level consultations, with a view to generating greater awareness of the issues and to receive views and suggestions which would facilitate a consensus regarding India’s position’. However, some people still feel that these consultations were more of a formality rather than a process that led to significant changes. T. S. R. Subramanian said that ‘the discussions in these state-level consultative meetings often remained superficial because of a lack of in-depth knowledge of WTO issues at the state level’.(16) An official of the Ministry of Agriculture said that ‘rather than contributing to the substantive aspects of the negotiating elements, these discussions tended to largely reflect a fear “psychosis” of the WTO, and views simply did not emanate in these consultations that the agriculture negotiations should be seen as an opportunity; instead, there was an overwhelming feeling that this was a threat which had to be countered’. A former official of the MOA said that ‘an attempt was made to explain that the agriculture negotiations did not represent the kind of threat people made it out to be, but it was very difficult in view of the unidirectional nature of views that were being expressed. The best we could do in these circumstances was to build the negotiating proposal around the objective of maintaining the status quo.’(17)

 

Finalization of the proposal by the Cabinet    back to top

All these meetings and consultations played an important role in giving final shape to the Indian proposal. The Commerce Ministry’s website specifically mentions that

the Indian proposal jointly formulated by the Department of Agriculture and Co-operation and Department of Commerce, reflects the broad consensus which was achieved through a series of regional-level meetings, meetings with the state governments, interaction with political parties, representatives of farmers’ organizations, various autonomous institutions, agricultural universities and eminent agricultural economists.

As for the involvement of India’s WTO mission in Geneva, an official said that the mission was always kept in the picture and provided useful feedback, especially about the likely reactions of possible/potential alliance partners to the different elements of the proposal. The final draft was submitted to the cabinet early in January 2001. While it was not possible to consult the file on the cabinet note (all such notes are secret), officials involved with the exercise indicated that since most ministries had been consulted beforehand practically no changes took place during the examination by the cabinet. Once approved by the cabinet, the proposal was transmitted to Geneva.

It was the culmination of this intense consultative process that led to India’s negotiating proposal being submitted to the Special Session on Agriculture in January 2001. As a very detailed proposal, it broadly reflects the concerns and attempts to address the issues that were raised during the consultative process. While all three pillars of the negotiations are covered, it starts with a detailed proposal on food security in which it proposes the setting up of a food security box which encompasses all the special and differential treatment flexibilities. In the other sections, there is an evident thrust on seeking adequate reduction of tariffs, including tariff peaks, in developed countries, while seeking flexibility not to reduce tariffs on its food security crops. There is also a clear reference to the linkage between an a priori reduction in trade distorting domestic support in developed countries, and reductions in tariffs in developing countries. It seeks the complete elimination of all export subsidies. At the same time, it proposes that all measures taken by developing countries for poverty alleviation, rural development, rural employment and diversification of agriculture should be exempted from any reduction commitments.

 

The perception of the WTO’s role in the process    back to top

The documented records and the oral interviews that were conducted clearly show that the Indian proposal on agriculture was finalized mainly through a bureaucratic process based on consultations with stakeholders. Julius Sen has pointed out, in relation to the proposals on WTO issues, that ‘India’s negotiating positions are almost without exception recommended by Commerce Ministry officials, examined by the Committee of Secretaries, and then approved by the concerned Cabinet sub-committee’.(18) Clearly the process was bureaucratically driven and subject to fairly wide-ranging domestic consultations. And yet, to many, the WTO seems to have a significant influence, on both the process and outcome. The general perception is that the WTO is pushing the agenda for global economic reform and that the agriculture negotiations are a part of this WTO-led reform agenda. Feelings against the WTO are expressed even more strongly in the context of reductions in tariffs, especially on agriculture products, which many of the stakeholders felt would open up domestic markets with negative implications for rural employment and agriculture production. The fact that the WTO does not have an organizational mandate of the kind that the World Bank and the IMF have, and that it is a completely member-driven organization, where the agenda is set and executed by the members on the basis of explicit consensus, does not seem to be a well known, or an accepted fact. Instead, as Amrita Narlikar said, ‘the general public seems to have a very opinionated view of the WTO, and even certain civil society organizations and other institutions who would be expected to have a better understanding of the WTO, more often than not seem to have a negative perception of the organization’.(19) Biswajit Dhar, who writes for a number of newspapers, also said that because of such a perception ‘it is not always very easy to take a pro-WTO line in public writings’.

A number of reasons were put forward to explain this perception. The Indian ambassador to the WTO felt that this was because ‘the general public still regards the WTO as a developed country club, pushing the agenda at the behest of the major players and global MNCs’.(20) Another, perhaps more historical, explanation was given by a former official of the Commerce Ministry, who said that ‘when India signed up to the Uruguay Round Agreements the long-term implications of many of the obligations it was undertaking were far from clear. Later, when quantitative restrictions had to be lifted and patent protections tightened, there was a public outcry. At that stage it was convenient to attribute the responsibility for these decisions to the WTO.’ The former Indian ambassador to the WTO supported such an explanation, when he said that ‘the public at large has a very negative perception of the TRIPS Agreement and there is a feeling that developing countries, including India, were literally coerced into accepting the agreement; a feeling that is still very deeply entrenched in the Indian psyche and colours the general perception of the WTO even today’. These feelings become even more pronounced in the context of agriculture. A former official of the MOA said that ‘self-sufficiency in agriculture is still seen as the single most important achievement after independence, and there is a feeling that the WTO is out to undo this very achievement by its insistence on liberalization, without acknowledging the importance of self-sustainable domestic production’.

Not that balanced views were not forthcoming. Srinivasan of the CII said that their members understood that ‘the WTO only provides a platform for negotiations and it was up to member countries to negotiate outcomes of interest to them’. Others too acknowledged that many positive things had come about because of the WTO. For instance, Biswajit Dhar said that ‘the consumer in India today has a much wider choice, mainly because of the removal of quantitative restrictions’. Subramanian said that ‘there has been a vast improvement in the efficiency and in the customer service of the banking sector after foreign banks were allowed to open up branches in the country’. But these positive outcomes are rarely acknowledged. Subramanian, in fact, equated the WTO to the British Raj in India, which, according to him, ‘got blamed for things, but never got credit for the positive changes it introduced’.

 
 

IV. Lessons for others (the players’ views)    back to top

It is not very easy to generalize, or to draw lessons from a process which had so many protagonists, especially as their contributions were spread out both geographically and temporally. Some of the decision-making processes have definitely been institutionalized and it would not be wrong to assume that they would be followed whenever decisions are being taken on other WTO-related issues. It is also clear that the consultative process in India had come a long way, especially as compared with the situation before the Uruguay Round, and the debate on the various tenets of trade policy had been thrown open to a much wider audience. As the present analysis shows, very wide-ranging consultations, spread out over more than two years, were held while finalizing negotiating the proposal on agriculture. As obtained from the records of the Commerce Ministry, in addition to a very large number of informal consultations, a total of fourteen formal consultative meetings were held with stakeholders between 1999 and 2001.

The inclusiveness of the consultative process is also borne out by the reactions of some of the key stakeholders. The associations representing Indian industry appear to be largely satisfied with the consultative process. The Director-General of CII said that ‘we were involved at all stages of the process’, and that the ‘final proposal adequately reflects the concerns that we brought to the government’s attention’. Similarly, Manab Majumdar of FICCI said that ‘the process of consultations followed during the course of finalizing the agriculture proposal reflects the exponential increase in interaction between government and the industry associations’. However, the position is less clear as far as the involvement of the actual agricultural producers is concerned. Where rural agricultural worker unions exist, their political priorities seem to limit their capacity to organize themselves at the grass-roots level; they also appear reluctant to go beyond their own immediate spheres of interest. Clearly, therefore, the ability of agricultural workers’ groups to influence the government still remains very limited. To some extent their views were reflected in the stance taken by the MOA, whose officials were generally satisfied with the final proposal. Jain felt that this was because ‘of a clear understanding at the political level that on issues of substance the views of MOA would prevail’.(21) There is also no denying that the process was kept very transparent. Flyers were put out on the official website at every stage, and comments appear to have been regularly solicited from the various stakeholders. However, it also appears that the political bosses preferred to play safe and were more comfortable with a defensive strategy rather than pushing aggressively for market reforms. As a former Cabinet Secretary said, ‘the politicians do not want to lose their domestic support for events taking place in far away Geneva and therefore tend to adopt an intransigent stand, especially on an issue like agriculture, where that domestic constituency is as large as 700 million people’.(22)

It would, therefore, not be wrong to conclude that the Indian position and policy approach to the agriculture negotiations in the WTO were arrived at on the basis of some very intensive cross-sectoral and inter-ministerial consultations, and then adopted at the highest possible level in the government. Apart from the officials in the ministries of Commerce and Agriculture, representatives of various autonomous institutions, agricultural universities and eminent agricultural economists were also involved in the process. In addition, inputs were sought from the state governments, representatives of different political parties and civil society. Clearly, therefore, this was a decision taken by the government on the basis of expressed domestic concerns.

Such a decision-making process would seem to fit in with the mandate and role of the WTO as a facilitator of an inter-governmental dialogue that leads, among other things, to binding decisions on the governments involved. The WTO, as is well known, though perhaps not well enough propagated, is not an independent or self-contained entity with the constitutional legitimacy to take decisions in the name of its members. Rather, it is a vehicle for decision-making among national governments vested with sovereign authority. The present analysis strengthens this view, since clearly in the formulation of India’s agriculture negotiating proposal there is very little, if anything at all, that can be attributed to extraneous factors, including the WTO. And yet the spectre of the WTO, not as an institution mandated merely to facilitate the negotiating process, but as an institution attempting to influence domestic decision-making process, does not seem to have completely disappeared. The WTO is still perceived somewhat negatively. The general view seems to be that it is an institution seeking to undermine domestic policy space. There is clearly a lack of understanding about the WTO’s mandate and the member-driven nature of the organization. The dichotomy between a decision-making process which was no doubt completely domestic and clearly very democratic, and the perception of the WTO as an organization attempting to influence domestic decision-making processes, is perhaps best summed up by excerpts from two different interviews that the Union Agriculture Minister gave recently. While speaking to the Financial Express, he said ‘let me make it amply clear that India will not succumb to any pressure…. we will take a pragmatic view on various issues…. we will not compromise on safeguarding the interests of the small and marginal farmers’(23) — a statement that clearly emphasizes the domestic imperatives of India’s position in the agriculture negotiations. However, in another interview(24) given very soon afterwards, he still referred to the ‘threat from the WTO’, a threat whose only basis is perhaps a continuing, though hopefully diminishing, legacy from the Uruguay Round, when the responsibility of certain politically uncomfortable decisions had been apportioned to the WTO.

 
 

NOTES:
1.- G/AG/NG/W/102, 15 Jan. 2001 back to text
2.- Government of India’s allocation of business orders of June 2004. back to text
3.- Unlike most foreign missions, that invariably lobby for their government’s position, there is very little evidence of Indian embassies abroad performing similar lobbying in the context of the agriculture negotiations. This could perhaps be explained by the minimal involvement of the MEA in the drafting of the agriculture proposal. back to text
4.- The government of India has designated certain subjects, including agriculture, as state subjects, which are areas where the basic and residual authority to legislate has been delegated to the state governments. Areas such as external affairs, defence and finance have been placed in the corresponding list of areas falling within the competence of the central government. Interestingly, there is also a concurrent list on which both the central and state governments can legislate. back to text
5.- Views expressed in a meeting of Chief Ministers convened in May 2001. back to text
6.- Interview with T. S. R. Subramanian, former Cabinet Secretary, who normally, though not necessarily, is the most senior civil servant in the country. back to text
7.- Interview with N. Srinivasan, Director-General, CII. back to text
8.- Interview with Manab Majumdar, Project Leader WTO Issues, FICCI. back to text
9.- Interview with Dr Anil Sharma, Senior Economist, NCAER. back to text
10.- Interview with Biswajit Dhar, head of the WTO Unit, IIFT. back to text
11.- As quoted in the 3-16 Feb. 2001 issue of Frontline Magazine, in which Dr Swaminathan is reported to have made this suggestion in a convocation address given by him at the Kerala Agriculture University on 29 Dec. 2000. back to text
12.- Devinder Sharma, ‘WTO and Indian Agriculture: The End Result Is Zero’. back to text
13.- Interview with Srinivasan. back to text
14.- Interview with Majumdar. back to text
15.- Interview with R. C. A. Jain, former Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture. back to text
16.- Interview with Subramanian, who earlier had also worked as Joint Secretary in the Trade Policy Division (TPD) of the MOCI. back to text
17.- Interview with R. Agarwal, former Director of the MOA. back to text
18.- Interview with Julius Sen, a former Indian administrative service officer, now an Associate Director and Senior Programme Adviser at Enterprise LSE, London School of Economics. back to text
19.- Interview with Amrita Narlikar, Lecturer in International Relations at the Centre of International Studies, University of Cambridge. back to text
20.- Interview with K. M. Chandrasekhar, Indian ambassador to the WTO. back to text
21.- Interview with Jain. back to text
22.- Interview with Subramanian. back to text
23.- Interview with Sharad Pawar, Minister of Agriculture, Financial Express, 7 June 2004. back to text
24.- Interview with Pawar, India Today, 5 July 2004. back to text
 

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* Counsellor, Development Division, World Trade Organization. The views expressed in this case study do not reflect those of the WTO or its members and are purely an expression of the author’s assessment of decision-making processes in India in the context of the agriculture negotiations. The study is based on a number of interviews that he carried out in July-Aug. 2004. The author wishes to thank all those people who agreed to be interviewed, without whose valuable inputs and insight this case study would not have been possible.