Kya khichdi pak rahi hain, Morrison ji? (AKA On khichdi and Australia-India Bilateral Trade Agreement)

Recently, the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison tweeted his culinary preparation, a bowl of khichdi, accompanied by a tweet addressed to the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

                              Pic 1: Morrison cooks khichdi. [1]

A few thoughts on the khichdi, one of India’s ancient comfort food.[2] A delicacy loved by most Indians in its various avatars. The dish itself is unique due to its multiple regional variations and names. Ingredients can be few or many, and simple as much as regal. They spread across the food spectrum ranging from, rice, lentil, grains, veggies, fish, meat, and poultry. Although there are recipes for khichdi, yet, it is the individual and her palate that rules the roost aka the laws of khichdi. Therefore, making the culinary delight, an inclusive yet exclusive comfort food.

I often wonder whether the inclusive-exclusive nature of the khichdi is the root of India’s ‘unity in diversity’ cultural ideology? Hmm… perhaps it is the other way around that birthed the khichdi. ‘Multi cultures maketh khichdi’?   😃😃 Maybe it is both! No wonder, it was crowned as the ‘national dish’ in 2017! And then, found its way on the billboards…with Amul (an Indian dairy cooperative society) giving it the topical treatment. Voilà!

                                Pic 2: Amul’s topical on khichdi.[3]

Yet, khichdi, when not used in a culinary context, is a play of words and has multiple meanings. For instance, the title of this piece, Kya khichdi pak rahi hain, Morrison ji? In the context of food, it means: ‘Are you cooking khichdi, Mr. Morrison?’ Otherwise, it is a sly dig which means: ‘You are up to something, Mr. Morrison!’ 😃😃

So then, what khichdi is Morrison cooking? The answer lies in his tweet that accompanied his khichdi pakao picture (The first picture in this piece). He tweets, ‘To celebrate our new trade agreement with India, the curries I chose to cook for curry night tonight are all from my dear friend Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Gujarat province, including his favorite khichdi…’[4].

Morrison’s ‘our new trade agreement’ tweet is about, Australia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement 2022 (AI-CECA).[5] AI-CECA is a bilateral agreement signed between Australia and India this month.[6] Morrison addresses the deal as ‘opening the biggest door of one of the biggest economies in the world’.[7] Furthermore, he views the agreement as ‘one of the biggest economic deals in the world today. [8] While for Modi it is a ‘watershed moment’ of bilateral ties between India and Australia.[9]

What is this excitement all about? Here are a few highlights of the AI-CECA trade deal and its benefits for India and Australia.[10]

  • Experts predict that bilateral trade will escalate from US$ 27.5 billion to US$ 45 billion, making it nearly two-fold by 2027.
  • This trade agreement will change the current bilateral trade dynamics between the countries. (At present on the ranking of largest trading partner scale, India is Australia’s 7th trade partner while Australia is ranked 17th on the scale).
  • Multiple sectors such as agriculture, employment, service, investment, import-export, technology, science and innovation, agriculture, skill development, space technology, and education and research will benefit.
  • Increase in market access. Simultaneously, lowering of tariffs.
  • The structure is moving from ‘positive list’ to tariff reduced/free ‘negative list’.
  • Government procurement are now open to Indian and Australian companies. They can bid for government billion-dollar tenders.
  • The service sector is being liberalized.
  • Australian tax laws to be amended to accommodate Indian IT companies and their issues of offshore income and double taxation.
  • Australia offers duty-free access to 95% tariff lines. These include machinery, jewellery, furniture, textiles, leather, and Indian pharma.
  • India offers 40% tariff removal on Australia VAT imports (with further reduction within a 3-10 years period).
  • Visa rules will be modified to accommodate degree holders, workers, and holiday visa holders.
  • The deal opens Australian business to the huge Indian market in the sectors of, sport, infrastructure, energy, resources, tourism, financial services, agriculture, education, and healthcare.[11]

In conclusion, billion dollars bilateral/multilateral free trade agreements between states or regions are quite like khichdis. They are customized yet, an eclectic mix of diversity and diversified interests. The participants bring various ingredients or various spheres to the deal. For instance, the AI-CECA deals with tariff removals and includes multiple sectors such as sport, pharma, agriculture, service, and technology. These diversified trade interests need to adhere to the ‘unity in diversity’ principle and need to complement each other to bring unity to the agreement. Resulting in a deal with prosperity wheels.

Well, India and Australia did pakao their AI-CECA bilateral trade agreement. What bilateral trade khichdi are you cooking?

[1] “Australia PM Cooks ‘Friend’ Modi’s ‘Favourite’ Khichdi, ‘Celebrates’ New Trade Ties,” Hindustan Times, April 9, 2022, https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/australia-pm-cooks-friend-modi-s-favourite-khichdi-celebrates-new-trade-ties-101649518520453.html.

[2] Aashana Ahuja, “Khichdi: What Makes It the Ultimate Indian Comfort Food?,” NDTV Food, October 12, 2017, https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/khichdi-what-makes-it-the-ultimate-indian-comfort-food-1439821.

[3] “Amul Hits :: Amul – the Taste of India,” amul.com, November 2017, https://amul.com/m/amul-hits?s=2017&l=2.

[4] As above 1.

[5] “Australia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (AI-CECA),” Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, April 2022, https://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/agreements/negotiations/aifta/australia-india-comprehensive-economic-cooperation-agreement.

[6] “India-Australia Sign Trade Pact; Bilateral Trade to Reach $45 Bn in 5 Years | IBEF,” www.ibef.org, April 4, 2022, https://www.ibef.org/news/india-australia-sign-trade-pact-bilateral-trade-to-reach-45-bn-in-5-years.

[7] Zoe Zaczek, “PM Declares Australia Is Opening ‘One of the Biggest Economic Doors’ in the World,” Sky News, April 2, 2022, https://www.skynews.com.au/australia-news/morrison-declares-australia-is-opening-one-of-the-biggest-economic-doors-in-the-world-in-signing-historic-trade-deal-with-india/news-story/5f014733edc0774647d9f669112c38c8.

[8] As above 7.

[9] IANS, “IndAus ECTA ‘Watershed’ Moment for Bilateral Relations, Says PM Modi,” Business Standard India, April 2, 2022, https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/indaus-ecta-watershed-moment-for-bilateral-relations-says-pm-modi-122040200572_1.html.

[10] As above 5, 6 and 9.

[11] As above 5.

 

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