Dismissing the suggestion that India was insisting on food security because of the ensuing general elections at home, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma on Thursday said New Delhi was only pursing an old proposal and stressed that ‘no agreement’ would be better than a bad one.
The minister, at a packed press conference, made it clear that New Delhi was not prepared for any compromise on the food security issue, adding the deal at Bali has to be fair and balanced as ‘it is better to have no agreement than a bad Agreement’.
Asked whether India is raising the food security issue due to the elections back in the country, he said: "I think this is a misconception.
“Democracies do have elections but democracies also have principles and convictions. . .this proposal emanates from the Hong Kong Ministerial meeting of 2005.
"India has not suddenly remembered that there are going to be elections and suddenly pulled the rabbit out of the hat.
“That is not the case.
"This is a eight year old proposal which has been discussed and re-discussed, negotiated and re-negotiated many times and those who are of knowledge of developments, even during the near collapse in June 2008, the AoA continued to be negotiated," he said.
Developed countries like US are asking India to accept a peace clause, an immunity against penalties imposed in case of breach of farm subsidy cap of 10 per cent under the WTO agreement on Agriculture for four years.
Developing nations, including India, on the other hand, want peace clause till a permanent solution is found on the matter for smooth implementation of the food security programme.
India, Sharma said, was not isolated on the food security matter in WTO and majority of countries where over 75 per cent people live are supporting New Delhi's stand.
"I would like to make this absolutely clear that we have not come here as petitioners to beg for a peace clause," he said.
The minister said India cannot accept any binding commitments as the 10 per cent subsidy limit is based on 1986-88 reference prices "and (would make us) vulnerable to disputes and calculations".
"This is a fundamental issue and we will never compromise," he said, adding, "how can there be a sunset clause (4 year peace clause) when you have binding commitment in trade facilitation agreement".
He also said that those countries who are supporting India's stand on food security have huge population.
Allaying apprehensions of developed countries, he said that foodgrain stockpiled for the food security programme would not be released in the global market for trade purposes.
". . .if anybody tries to do that, before the cargo reached the port, the person will be in prison," Sharma said.
Replying to a question about future of WTO if Bali meet fails, he said that the WTO has a good future and "nothing is going to happen. I do not know why gloomy scenario is (being) painted".
Image: Anand Sharma