Basmati talks between Pakistan and India end inconclusively

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Islamabad, Nov.9 : A two-day meeting between Indian and Pakistani officials over the possible joint registration of Basmati rice in the world market came to an inconclusive end on Saturday.

Both countries have, however, agreed to continue their dialogue in the first quarter of 2009 in New Delhi to achieve a 'uniformity of views' on three agenda items - consensus on the definition of Basmati, the area where Basmati is produced historically and how to make a joint effort to stop third parties from registering Basmati under the Geographical Indication (GI) of the World Trade Organisation agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

According to the Dawn, this was the second meeting of the Pak-India Joint Working Group on the possibility of registration of Basmati rice as a joint GI.

The Pakistan delegation was headed by Joint Secretary (Exports), Ministry of Commerce, Azher Ali Chaudhry, while the Indian team of experts was led by Joint Secretary of the Indian Department of Commerce, Dinesh Sharma. A commerce ministry official said that both sides shared technical information on standards and the delimitation of Basmati growing areas. They also discussed how both the countries could challenge 'a third party infringement'.

Due to immense pressure from growers and exporters of Basmati, Pakistan had last year considered legal action against India for announcing Super Basmati rice as an originally Indian produce.

The Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) and Rice Export Association of Pakistan (REAP) were ready to represent Pakistan and proceed with the case in an Indian court.

However, during the course of a composite dialogue in June 2006, both countries decided to resolve the issue through dialogue by constituting a joint working group. The working group held its first meeting in New Delhi in April this year and agreed to iron out differences.

It is not only India and Pakistan who have tried to patent Basmati rice. RiceTec Inc, a US-based company, was granted a controversial patent in September 1997 on Basmati rice grains and lines. India challenged this patent and RiceTec Inc was forced to withdraw its claim.

The meeting also discussed how both the countries could take a joint stand against any such infringement in the future. Due to persistent Indian lobbying and diplomacy, the European Union (EU) has already stated that it would not accept Basmati registration separately and considered it a product of both Pakistan and India. This was one of the reasons that Pakistan had agreed to holding talks over the joint registration of Basmati.

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