Conflict between India and Pakistan over the registration of GI

A geographical indication is a tag for goods representing the unique geographical origin and possessing specified attributes due to that origin and is protected by legal statutes such as the Geographical Indication Act, 1999. The primary goal of a GI tag is to label a product as having quality, credibility or attributes linking to its place of origination.  In Europe, items such as Scottish Farmed Salmon, champagne and stilton cheese have this status, allowing manufacturers from the respective areas to demand higher prices. The market value of Darjeeling tea rose post-2011 when West Bengal was granted the unshared and complete right to carry the name on the packaging of its leaves. The fragrant, long-grain rice identified as ‘Basmati’ has recently become another cause of dispute between the two neighbouring countries, India and Pakistan. The dispute arose after India requested the European Union to regard basmati rice as having originated in seven Indian states and regions, which would grant the Indian rice producers’ special privileges to the basmati name in the rewarding European market. Pakistan dismissed India’s assertion, contending that the rice is grown and produced on its lands too.

Since 2006, the EU has implemented zero tariffs on rice imported into a bloc that is verified as legitimate basmati rice by either the Pakistani or Indian officials. Approximately two-thirds of the imported basmati to the EU comes from India and the remaining from Pakistan. It is not the first GI-related conflict between the two neighbours. In the past, Pashmina’s GI registration had been a controversial subject. In 2008, India wanted to register Pashmina as a GI nationally, and Pakistani officials objected to it on the premise that Pashmina was also manufactured on its land. At the end, ‘Kashmir Pashmina’ was granted a GI tag only for India. Pakistan risks losing the profitable EU export market if India is granted the GI protection in EU. Figures show that India accounts for sixty-five percent of worldwide trade in Basmati rice, whereas Pakistan accounts for 35 per cent and receives significant profit, given the high demand for the fragrant rice. The Indian Government’s request for the designation of a single GI tag for its domestic product has caused unrest at the topmost level of government in Pakistan. According to the Indian application, “the special characteristics of basmati are grown and produced in all districts of the state of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, as well as in specific districts of western Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.”  Back in 2008, India and Pakistan wanted to file a joint application to register the Basmati rice as GI in the European Union. However, it could not be registered as a result of rising disputes between the two countries after the attacks of 26/11 in Mumbai. During the same time, on the same day, the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority or the APEDA[1]  applied for Basmati’s GI registration domestically and in 2016, the GI was registered in its favour.

India’s application was under opposition for a time period that ended on the eleventh of December. The responsibility of demonstrating why Basmati does not fulfil the requirement for registration will be in Pakistan. [2] Earlier in March 2020, Pakistan adopted the GI (Registration and Protection) Act, and it is apparent that they have not yet given Basmati a domestic GI. Even though domestic GI registration is not explicitly instructed for reasons related to the opposition, this would reinforce their assertion[3].  It is a precondition for filing for the security of GI in the EU, but a notification of opposition from the officials of a third party or a legal or natural person with a significant interest founded in a third country may apply for the opposition with the Commission. The awarding of GI status to Indian basmati alone would be a heavy blow to the export markets in Pakistan. Abdul Razak Dawood, the advisor to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, said the request would be “strongly opposed.”[4]. Total exports of basmati to the EU from Pakistan have increased by more than a double over the period of last three years, from 120,000 metric tonnes in 2017 to 300,000 metric tonnes in 2019, as per the European Commission.

PROSPECTIVE GROUNDS OF OPPOSITION:

  • According to Section 10(1)(a) of GI (Registration and Protection) Act of India (hereinafter referred to as the Act), the opposing party must demonstrate that the standards for essential eligibility criteria (in accordance with section 5) and product specification essentials (in accordance with Sec 7(1)) are not fulfilled. India appears to have prima facie satisfied all the requirements for a GI tag. The areas growing Basmati are listed in the application and do not include Madhya Pradesh and this seems to be in the benefit of India. If MP’s claim had been approved, it would have resulted in a separate issue that Pakistan would have brought up in order to undermine India’s claim in the EU. Pakistan could have addressed this issue pursuant to Sec 7(1)(c) of the Act which asks for the requirement of a circumscribed geographic region.
  • Section 10(1)(b) of the Act intends to ensure that the proposed name does not conflict with the identities of the types of plants and the breeds of animals, varieties and the trademarks. Evidently, this argument cannot be made as Basmati does not clash with any of the aforementioned categories.

Section 10(1)(d) covers the provision of proof on the grounds of which it may be stated that Basmati is a common term.  A powerful argument in support of India could be the relentless pursuit by APEDA of attempts at global registration and its attempts at preventing the weakening of Basmati GI. Section 10A gives APEDA the authority to protect Basmati’s GI status both nationally and internationally.


[1] The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority

[2] https://spicyip.com/2020/11/india-vs-pakistan-dispute-over-basmatis-gi-registration-in-the-european-union.html

[3] Id.

[4] Id.


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About Areena Kausar 1 Article
Second year law student from Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad with interests in Intellectual Property Rights and Fashion Law. Through IP Press, I hope to nourish my blogging and research skills alongwith my knowledge on IPR.

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