Sweeter than the nuclear deal, faster than the 123 Agreement, there’s the ‘Harleys for mangoes’ arrangement between India and the US. It’s not quite an exchange programme, but the first batch of Indian mangoes in almost 20 years reached American shores last week, coinciding with the go-ahead for Harley-Davidson motorcycles to rev and thunder along the asphalt of Indian roads. And if Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath has his way, we could even see import duties on high-end bikes being slashed to make the Harleys give the Enfield bullet a run for its 1000cc.
So what was blocking Alphonsos from travelling to Miami and Harleys from rolling along the Indian highways? Non-tariff barriers, in the case of the mangoes, arising out of a fear of pesticide overuse in the fruit. In the case of the bikes, Indian emission norms blocked the way. The latest trading relationship matches the mood on the diplomatic front. US Ambassador to India David Mulford lost no time to pose before two baskets of mangoes. We are yet to see Ambassador Ronen Sen straddling a Harley 2007 Sportster and telling the Washington press corps, “Go forth, and spread the word of torque.”
Non-tariff barriers, of course, are partly based on real fears and partly on bogeys that suit domestic plans. But with mangoes now meeting US standards, the chances are that fears regarding other Indian items will now be blown away. Who knows, maybe somewhere down the line, Indian mobikes with the right look and feel will end up traversing up and down the great American highways. With mango-shake pit stops dotting the landscape.