It’s Diwali, and this year, President Obama will be celebrating the festival of lights in India. In Delhi, the Bukhara Restaurant is preparing for the American President’s arrival by creating a platter named after him. (Bill Clinton has his own platter there too, but I’m wondering if the contents have changed to reflect his current vegan diet.)
So what’s on the Obama platter?
“The restaurant is now preparing a platter for Obama and will be have delights such as fish and murgh khurchan and other kinds of meat”
Meat will be not only on the President’s menu during his India trip but also part of his agenda. Food and agriculture on the huge list of topics to be discussed.
Raj Jain, the head of Wal-Mart India, had some interesting things to say in this interview about his vision of U.S. Indian Partnerships:
“In India, we have a specific problem. Our food production has almost plateaued and most of our big states like Punjab and Haryana haven’t seen great growth in food production. As a result there has been significant food inflation in our country. So I think partnering with a country like the US which has had a good track record of developing productivity in food, agriculture as well as the supply chain of food and agriculture and then taking those learnings out of the US and applying them to India would be a great outcome of this visit”
But is the export of U.S. agricultural systems and products really what will ensure India’s food security? Here’s what the U.S. wants to get out of these talks:
“The US wish list will include easier sanitary import norms in the dairy sector, so that US made cheese and milk products can be sold in India. The US also wants India to open up its huge market for chicken legs and pork from the US.”
Opening India up to the U.S. dairy sector brings with it a host of Indian concerns.
“U.S. cheese contains rennet, an enzyme extracted from the stomach of calves. And U.S. milk producers cannot confirm that their cows weren’t fed a diet that includes other animals…India requires any country sending dairy produce here to certify that the source was “never fed feeds produced from internal organs, blood meal and tissues of ruminant origin”
The Indian dairy industry is complaining too:
“The US wants full access to our market while it denies market access to our dairy exports.” says R S Sodhi, Managing Director of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, which markets its products under the Amul brand.”
The Communist Party of India is also weighing in:
“As far as the CPI(M) and the Left are concerned, ‘we recognize the difference between Bush and Obama. At the same time, we are aware that the Obama administration represents a continuity in terms of the basic US approach for global dominance,’
The Obama visit should not result in Walmart being allowed into retail trade in India which will destroy the livelihood of tens of thousands of small shopkeepers and traders.”
The US-India Business council argues opening up India’s retail sector to foreign investment will bring out an “Ever-Green Revolution.”
“Doing so would bring efficiency, infrastructure, technology and know-how to Indian farmers, food processors, food service providers and other suppliers.”
The introduction of this agricultural “know-how” in India with genetically modified crops and expensive pesticide inputs hasn’t resulted in the increased yield it promised. Instead, Indian farmers have experienced crop failures, accrued debt and committed suicide. A group of widows of cotton farmers are protesting Obama’s visit.
“Our aim is to inform Obama that Vidarbha cotton farmers mass genocide is the result of American policies to protect their cotton farmers and claim that Bt Cotton has brought genetic revolution in agriculture is hoax when 80% of three million cotton growers families are in deep distress and debt and one farmer is committing suicide every eight hours.”
U.S. agriculture technology could prove to be as disastrous in India as American weapons. The LA times notes:
“The U.S. could sell India stripped-down weapon systems that don’t require assurances, but that would create its own problems.”
Though only a few weeks before the COP16 Climate Change Conference in Cancun, these U.S.- India dealings seem to also ignore the mounting evidence of the contribution of industrialized animal agriculture to greenhouse gas emissions. India and Bangladesh were found in a recent study to be the two countries most vulnerable to climate change. Obama could brush up on these issues in India and attend a talk on the matter presented by Humane Society International, the Indian Youth Climate Network, SHARAN and the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Groups.
Obama knows Diwali is a time for reflection, “a time when we must remember that there are always others less fortunate then ourselves.” In his NYT Op-Ed, President Obama advocates the U.S. exporting its way to stability. But how will this approach benefit the “less fortunate” populations of India?
In this video, a student asked Obama who (dead or alive) he would like to have dinner with. Obama chose Gandhi:
“If it hadn’t been for the non-violent movement in India you might not have seen the same non-violent movement for civil rights here in the United States.”
So if the U.S. President could dine with Gandhi on this trip to India, how would Gandhi respond to the Obama Platter of meat, cheese and arms displayed in front of him?
Most likely with a hunger strike.