India has hardened its stance on seeking exclusive the geographical indication (GI) tag from the European Union (EU) on basmati rice. The country’s Permanent Representative to Unesco, Vishal V Sharma, has categorically said Pakistan “cannot use the trademark basmati” even as exporters in the neighbouring country have been clamouring for a joint approval.
“It is a question of intangible cultural legacy of India. The creation of Pakistan was on the basis of rejection of the Indian identity, history and culture. Else, why Partition? Hence, one is free to grow what one wants in Pakistan, but cannot use the trademark basmati,” Sharma said in a tweet.
After India filed to register the name ‘basmati’ under GI in the EU in 2018, the European Commission last year sought public comments that prompted Pakistan to hurriedly pass a GI law and also claim trademark over “basmati”.
Reports in Pakistan media suggested that exporters of the aromatic rice varieties in both countries wanted joint claim over the trademark. However, All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA) has termed such reports mischievous and said the industry body is with the government.
“India’s application for registration of basmati rice as GI in EU was placed in public domain for comments. The comments are under evaluation in EU. We have to wait and watch for the moment,” said Vinod Kaul, executive director of AIREA.
Last week, commerce minister Piyush Goyal had a meeting with civil aviation minister HS Puri on increasing India’s share in basmati rice exports.
Pakistan cannot claim historic reputation based on ‘origin theory’ in basmati, said S Chandrasekaran, a trade policy analyst and author of a book on basmati GI. “Besides, Pakistan had changed its map in August 2020 to include Jammu and Kashmir. When both nations apply for a joint status, Pakistan would be presenting J&K as its integral part where basmati rice is grown. India, too, will include J&K. This will create problems for both, but more importantly, in case of a joint application it would look as if India is endorsing Pakistan’s map,” Chandrasekaran said.
Considering the past instances of attempts to sell aromatic rice of other countries under basmati, registration under
GI will help India protect the name legally.
Basmati rice is grown below the foothills of the Himalayas in the Indo-Gangetic plains, which include some areas in Pakistan. But the application by India doesn’t mention Pakistan. The government recognises 34 Indian rice varieties, both traditional and evolved, as basmati, while Pakistan has also a few more. India’s basmati exports to EU countries dropped 9% to $207 million during FY20, but surged by nearly 50% in FY21 to around $300 million. The EU had a share of about 8% in India’s total basmati rice exports of around $4 billion.