India and the US bilateral relations have developed into a ‘global strategic partnership’, based on shared democratic values and increasing convergence of interests on bilateral, regional and global issues. The emphasis placed by the Govt. in India on development and good governance has created opportunity to reinvigorate bilateral ties and enhance cooperation with the motto - ‘Forward Together We Go and Progress for All’, adopted during the first two summits of Indian Prime Minister Modi and President Obama in September 2014 and January 2015 respectively. The summit level joint statement issued in June 2016 called the India-US relationship an ‘Enduring Global Partners in the 21st Century’. Regular exchange of high-level political visits has provided sustained momentum to bilateral cooperation. Recently, in November 2017 in Manila, the Indian Prime Minister Narender Modi had a wide range of talks with US president Donald Trump, and both agreed for raising the ties beyond bilateral domain and work jointly for the future of Asia, reflecting their growing convergence on strategic issues. Following the successive efforts of past and present administrations, the quantum of relationship has doubled and both the fastest growing economies see their future in the aligned interests and values.
Today, the India-US cooperation is broad-based and multi-sectoral, covering trade & investment, defence &d security, education, cultural exchange, agriculture, science & technology, cybersecurity, high-technology, civil nuclear energy, space technology & applications, clean energy, and health. Cooperation in education sector has been made an integral part of the strategic partnership between the two countries. India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and US Ambassador Loy Henderson in 1950 signed the Indo-US bi-national agreement on educational exchange, which established the United States Educational Foundation in India (USEFI) to administer the Fulbright Program. Today, it is known as United States-India Education Foundation (USIEF). USIEF engages institutions of higher education in the US and in India to help foster and enhance linkages between them.
The multi-sectoral cooperation between India and US though has agriculture and agriculture education at its agenda, but cooperative output in this sector is still at its fancy. The world’s population, at seven billion people today, is expected to reach nine billion by 2050 and may exceed 10 billion by the end of the century. The vast majority of this growth will occur in developing countries, especially in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa – regions already too familiar with chronic hunger. Much of the expansion will also occur in urban areas, where most people buy food, not grow it. Keeping into consideration the global trends of food consumption, meeting the food needs of billions will not be easy. We (India and US) must at once work together to enable farmers around the world to produce higher yields and get those crops to market efficiently, while also tending to a fragile environment and conserving the valuable resources of land and water. The issue of water scarcity and climate variability also needs concerted cooperative efforts. The challenge of climate change is expected to have a disproportionate impact precisely on those regions where demand growth is expected to be greatest and the capacity to adapt the weakest. Climate change is predicted to affect precipitation rates and patterns, resulting in both more droughts and increased catastrophic flooding in various parts of the world. The next crucial issue before both the countries is to bring reduction in their post-harvest waste for meeting the challenge of feeding nine billion people. Although there are few reliable estimates of the magnitude of food lost between harvest and consumption, experts believe the volumes are huge: 15- 50 percent worldwide.
In the high-income countries like US, most losses are at retail and post-consumer waste stages. Whereas in the developing countries like India, the most proportion of post-harvest losses occur before retail. Thus, both the countries have a lot to learn and share for mitigating their postharvest losses. Therefore, agriculture and allied sectors
require the participation of not only our governments, but our businesses, farmers, NGOs, scientists and economists in the future to come. Agriculture cooperation has played an increasingly important role in our relationship. In India, over 60 percent of the population’s economic activity is agriculture-based. And just last year, bilateral trade in agriculture, fish and forestry products between our two countries reached $3.4 billion. But trade is only one component of this relationship. US-India agricultural research has already been initiated for strengthening our bilateral partnership to help address the twin challenges of hunger and under nutrition. And it is not for the first time, over 47 years ago, an American scientist, Norman Borlaug and an Indian scientist, M.S. Swaminathan, took the first step. Their research on an obscure range of dwarf varieties has resulted in many fold increase in food production throughout Asia and Africa in the recent past. Funded by the Rockefeller foundation and other US organizations, this partnership got translated into the ‘Green Revolution’ – a movement for which India adopted a series of highly successful agriculture policies, including double-cropping, increased irrigation, and greater land use for agriculture. High-yield seeds like Lerma Rojo, Sonora 64, Siete Cerros, and Super X became household names. The Green Revolution was so successful that it transformed India from a country of hunger and starvation to a food exporting nation whose agricultural output quadrupled from the 1960s to the 1990s.
Climate change is predicted to affect precipitation rates and patterns, resulting in both more droughts and increased catastrophic flooding in various parts of the world
Green Revolution used more inputs for greater yields. But now, those same inputs yield relatively less. We are required to focus on the ways we can harness modern technology to improve crop yields and other productivity metrics for farmers. By sharing our expertise, we can once again develop new tools and resources that will benefit the poorest segment of the society. Therefore, the partnership for progress between Indian and American scientists/teachers and agricultural experts is seen as a frontier area. Each side has something special to contribute to the process. We will accomplish far more together than we would separately. Today, wide spread hunger and under nutrition is once again drawing the world’s attention. One out of every six people is at risk of not having enough to eat. And hungry families which tend to spend more than half of their income on food remain extremely vulnerable to food price increases. That’s why we need further strong bilateral cooperation between India and US in the agriculture education sector. Our new collaborative efforts will help discover solutions for the new agricultural challenges we face.
The substantive interaction between Indian and US governments has no doubt provided ample opportunities for exchange of ideas in engineering, especially the biomedical engineering, but the sector of agricultural engineering is still underprivileged. In India, most of the agricultural and almost all of the horticultural operations are still manual works and are labour dependent. Even in the US, there are farms where people still dream of taking hard, manual work out of agriculture. These farms grow crops that mostly have to be tended and picked by hand, such as apples, oranges and strawberries. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find people to do this at wages farmers say they can afford. Despite worries about food shortages in the coming years, many farmers are more worried about labour shortages. Just as the motorized harvesters transformed the economics of agriculture farms, a new wave of mechanization is required in horticulture. As picking of apples is different from that of strawberry, there are number of orchard management issues which require high level of technological intervention. Today, agriculture and horticulture need to find new ways for improving their efficiency. The US has done a lot on precision farming, which has shown promise for transformation of production system. It is therefore high time to move forward for developing new range of agricultural equipment based on small smart machines that can do the right thing in right place at right time in the right way. The approach of treating crop and soil selectively according to their needs by small autonomous machines is the next step required in the development of high precision farming. Automatic sensing and control for each task is feasible, but the developments in this direction are very slow, hence require enhanced interest of the technological experts of both the countries for developing cost effective agriculture and horticulture. Automation and robotics no doubt have the potential to take precision farming to new heights, but this can only be possible with right coding of the machines, and that right coding requires high precision information on plant functions and responses to variable growing conditions. Therefore, for the elimination of poverty and hunger from the globe, the integration of plant sciences with the STEM disciplines is the area where the US and India should strengthen their cooperation for raising quality of education in agriculture and allied sectors to evolve to a stage where every farmer will become competent for producing more, while leaving smaller environmental footprints.
Therefore, for eliminating hunger and poverty from the globe, strengthening of efforts is needed for raising technologically empowered work force in the agriculture sector. India has strength of large young population with bigger proportion of science graduates, but its weakness on technological fronts and global outreach shuns its potential. Contrarily, the US has demonstrated its agricultural productivity strength with the help of its technological capabilities, but it lacks the necessary threshold of human work force which can be empowered technologically for sharp agricultural acumen. Therefore, the confluence of large scale literate workforce of India and the new technologies spawning capacity of the US will enable the duo to uproot the problem of poverty and hunger from the globe forever.