India opening to export wheat to neighbours despite ban: reflection of ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’
'India is dedicated to addressing the food security of its neighbors and vulnerable nations'
Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, India's ban on wheat exports has reignited worldwide concerns about rising food prices that can exacerbate the problems of food-deficit countries, especially neighboring countries.
The Indian high commission in Dhaka has clarified recently concerning India's ban on wheat exports, saying that the directives have no bearing on shipments of wheat previously contracted for sale.
Commercial wheat exports from India have been restricted, according to a press release released on Sunday.
“These directives will not preclude wheat from being exported to India's neighbors and other nations that may request it to assist their domestic food security measures,” according to the announcement.
The Indian high commission stated that recent media reports claimed that India has imposed a "ban" on wheat exports.
The release stated: "These actions have been taken to ensure domestic food availability, minimize food price-related inflation, and support the legitimate requirements of India's neighbors and other nations with food security issues."
According to a statement issued by the Indian High Commission in Dhaka, India's restriction on wheat export will not prevent export to neighboring countries and countries that may seek to acquire the current crop to boost their domestic food security measures at the request of their governments.
India said today that it will not allow the wheat export embargo to jeopardize the food security of its South Asian neighbors, and that the policy was only temporary.
According to media reports, BVR Subrahmanyam, India's Commerce Secretary, said that there was no wheat shortage in the country and that the decision was to keep domestic wheat and wheat flour prices under control.
He also stated that India is dedicated to addressing the food security of its neighbors and vulnerable nations.
"We've left the window open for the sake of (our) neighbors." We've also left the door open for a significant number of vulnerable countries to make such requests if their governments do so... He went on to say, "The order is to divert trade to the needy, poor, and vulnerable countries," without mentioning any of them.
Wheat prices hit a new high on Monday after India opted to halt exports due to a heat wave that hampered output.As the European market opened, the price increased to 435 euros ($453) per tonne.
Since Russia's February invasion of agricultural powerhouse Ukraine, which previously accounted for 12% of global exports, global wheat prices have risen due to supply concerns.
After the hottest March on record, India, the world's second-largest wheat producer, announced a restriction on exports on Saturday.
New Delhi expressed concern over the food security of its 1.4 billion people, citing reasons such as decreased supply and dramatically increased world prices.
To understand, in the case of Bangladesh (for example), following the commencement of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, India became Bangladesh's primary wheat importer.
India, on the other hand, has stopped exporting wheat since Friday.
The price of wheat in Bangladesh was already expensive, and this move has driven costs much higher.
Bangladesh's second most important crop is wheat. 30 million (3 crore) tonnes of rice and 7.5 million tonnes of wheat are required annually in the country.
Bangladesh's imports from the two countries came to a halt near the end of February, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Traders in Bangladesh began importing wheat from India after that.
According to the website of India's Commerce Ministry, the country exported roughly 6.6 million tonnes of wheat in the first 11 months of the fiscal year 2021-22.
Bangladesh was the final destination for 57% of this wheat.
According to Bangladeshi media outlets, Prices were spiraling as news broke out in Bangladesh, as wheat has been quite inexpensive.
The news of increasing prices of wheat has left people bewildered.
Neighboring countries including Bangladesh were saddened by the news that India has stopped exporting wheat.
Bangladesh is the single largest importer of Indian wheat. Besides, it is the second most used food grain in Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi economists and importers have expressed concern after India announced a halt to wheat exports.
Meanwhile, the government is holding one meeting after another on how to import wheat in an alternative way.
The country's wheat importers are in trouble as India announced a sudden halt to wheat exports last Friday.
After the start of the war in Ukraine, Bangladeshi importers chose India to import more wheat than before.
However, Neighboring countries of India see a glimmer of hope in an assurance from India's Commerce Secretary amid the sanctions.
He said the sanctions would benefit neighboring and poorer countries.
'Neighbourhood first' policy
It is the successful implementation of India’s Neighbourhood First Policy.
India’s neighbors should be thankful and grateful to India.
It proves that India deserves to be a regional responsible country. India’s neighbors must recognize that India is a really South Asian leader because India deserves it.
However, India should help its neighbors in such a way in their moment of need. India should remember that it is the responsible country in the region.
India's Neighbourhood First Policy, a key component of the country's foreign policy, emphasizes peaceful relations and collaborative synergetic co-development with its South Asian neighbors.
Thus, India’s declaration is timely for implementing its Neighbourhood First policy.
The Modi administration recognizes the importance of cultivating and maintaining relationships with its neighbors.
The Modi government has emphasized the Neighborhood First policy as a key component of Indian foreign policy since taking office in 2014.
The strategy aims to foster friendly and cooperative connections with its South Asian neighbors in a variety of fields, including the economy, science and technology, research, and education.
Vaccine diplomacy has been viewed as a pragmatic response to the global pandemic and a means of enhancing the country's image as a responsible leader at both the regional and global levels.
Notably, Indian diplomacy, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, resulted in India being recognized on the international scale as a harbinger of hope, delivering critical assistance to needy nations and people around the world.
Vaccine diplomacy (Vaccine Maitri) was used by India as part of its Neighborhood First strategy to assist numerous countries throughout the world including neighboring countries during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Operation Ganga was conducted to rescue Indian nationals stranded in war-torn Ukraine.
So far, thousands of Indian nationals have been repatriated under the scheme.
Significantly, the Indian government has rescued citizens of several other countries besides Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal through this operation.
It is India that always stood by Bangladesh.
Even during the Ukraine crisis, India helped Bangladesh to evacuate Bangladeshi people.
India’s helping hand to Bangladesh is time-tested.
A friend in need is a friend indeed.
According to the media reports, 9 Bangladeshi nationals have been rescued from Ukraine recently under Operation Ganga.
Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheik Hasina has already thanked Narendra Modi for rescuing the citizens of Bangladesh.
India's vital assistance to South Asian countries by prioritizing neighboring countries in its pursuit of foreign policy objectives, particularly by offering assistance to Sri Lanka and Afghanistan during their crises, demonstrates India's commitment to its Neighborhood First policy.
Now, the declaration of Indian wheat export ban not to affect South Asian neighbours is obviously a reflection of Neighbourhood First Policy.
There are more reasons in the future to support the Neighbourhood First policy: First, persistent interaction with neighboring countries will aid in the creation of a friendly atmosphere in the region, which has long been a barrier to the region's stability, trust, and progress.
Stability will allow India to pursue its foreign policy objectives while also allowing other South Asian countries to flourish and prosper.
Second, by providing essential assistance like declaration of Indian wheat export ban not to affect South Asian neighbors, India can improve its position in the area and gain economic and strategic depth in relation to China.
As a result, there is a stronger need for ongoing involvement with its neighbors.
Third, for long-term cordiality and stability, people-to-people interactions and strong cultural affinities should be prioritized.
Furthermore, quick delivery should be prioritized.
The author is based in Karnataka, India, and has completed a master's degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University in international relations. He is a researcher on Bangladesh studies, and is also a strategic and international affairs analyst. He can be reached at [email protected]
Views expressed in this article are the author's own.