After laying low for nearly five decades at agri-related international platforms, India has decided to field a candidate for leadership position at the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation or FAO. PMO officials confirmed that India has nominated Ramesh Chand, member of the NITI Aayog and the Finance Commission, for the job.
The FAO aides food programmes in nearly 150 poorer countries. As per the rotation policy, this time the position may go to a candidate from either Europe or Asia. The competition was expected to be between the EU and China, but with India throwing its hat in the ring, things have become more complex. Ramesh Chand will travel to Rome in the third week of February to start lobbying for the job. If elected, he will be the second Indian to head the FAO. The first was bureaucrat Bimal Ranjan Sen. He was appointed in 1956 and had remained at the post till 1967.
But the road ahead is not easy. Some diplomats told BT that India aims to convince China to not field its candidate and support its choice. If China doesn't agree, Ramesh Chand will not only get tough competition from the Chinese but also the EU. Both see this as a turf war. China is aiming to further increase its growing influence at the United Nations. Obviously, this will irritate Washington, which has been fighting a trade war with Beijing for the last one year. The US is the largest donor to the FAO.
Although China has not declared its candidate, most diplomats expect Shenggen Fan, Director General of Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute, to be its choice. Anticipating tough competition from Asia, especially China, the EU has fielded a joint candidate, French agriculture bureaucrat Catherine Geslain-Laneelle. At most multilaterals, the EU continues to act like a block. It is expecting support from Washington too. Georgia has already fielded David Kirvalidze, an advisor to Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze.
The tenure of the incumbent Director-General, the Brazilian agronomist Jose Graziano da Silva, ends on August 31. Delegates from 194 FAO member countries will elect the new head in June end. The member countries have time till the end of February to nominate their candidates.