On June 15-16 2022, ICWA organised a two-day virtual National Seminar on 'India’s Development Partnership: Expanding Vistas'. The seminar had scholars from eminent institutions, who spoke on India’s development partnership programme in its immediate neighbourhood, in South East Asia, Indian and Pacific Ocean islands, in the Indo Pacific, Central Asia, West Asia, Africa, the Latin America and the Caribbean. On the tenth anniversary of the Development Partnership Administration of the Ministry of External Affairs of India, the seminar took stock of its activities, achievements and challenges. The seminar had thirty-two speakers from think tanks, academic institutions, media as also former diplomats.
At the inaugural session, Amb Vijay Thakur Singh, DG, ICWA said that India has steadily walked the path of economic growth with impressive development of its agricultural, industrial, technological base. Even as it has been developing itself, India has continually shared its developmental experience and technical expertise with other developing countries. India’s Development Partnership has become one of the principal tools for strengthening its ties with other developing countries and a pillar of its foreign policy. India’s Development Partnership underpinned by a firm commitment to South-South Cooperation has been long, regular and fruitful.
Shri Dammu Ravi, Secretary (Economic Relations), MEA said the solidarity and logic of sharing with developing countries has been an important component of India's external relations to build a peaceful and stable order. India has been active in implementing projects such as lines of credit in the last couple of decades; for example, more than 600 projects are either completed or ongoing, showing India’s commitments towards developmental assistance in various regions of the world. Development Partnership has multidimensional effects on bilateral ties.
Shri Prabhat Kumar, Assistant Secretary (Economic Relations and DPA), MEA, elucidated his experiences with development partnership projects in Colombia, Kazakhstan, and Nepal which ranged from training local teachers in English language, providing prosthetic limbs along with exchanges of medical professionals, setting up of centres of excellence in IT, to building hospitals and libraries. India is also engaging in trilateral cooperation in developing countries with the participation of developed countries. Shri Sachin Chaturvedi, Director General, RIS gave an overview of the genesis and evolution of India’s developmental partnerships. He stated that from 1947 to 2022-23, India's growing development cooperation stands at USD 156.9 billion.
The first session “Neighbourhood First: Enhanced Focus” was divided into two parts. Amb. Amar Sinha, Former Ambassador of India to Afghanistan chaired part one of the first session. He emphasized the manner in which India has played a development partnership role while respecting the partner country’s needs, showing respect to their sovereignty. Dr. Nihar Nayak, Research Fellow, MPIDSA, Dr. Biswajit Nag, Professor & Head (Economics Division), Indian Institute of Foreign Trade and Prof. Medha Bisht, Associate Professor, Department of International Relations, South Asia University spoke about the various partnership programs, the progress and challenges in Nepal, Sri Lanka and the energy projects and partnerships with Bhutan.
The second part of the first session themed “Neighbourhood First: Enhanced Focus” was chaired by Amb. Ranjit Ray, Former Ambassador of India to Nepal. He stated that he was witness to the crucial role of Indian Missions abroad in advancing developmental partnerships in the neighbourhood and beyond. He mentioned about the important role of the private sector and civil society in such cooperation. The governments can create the infrastructure but a mechanism for interface with the private sector and civil society is crucial for sustainable growth and better reach. Srimanti Sarkar, Assistant Professor, West Bengal State University, Kolkata, Angshuman Choudhury, Senior Research Associate, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, Dr. N. Manoharan, Associate Professor, Christ University, Bangalore and Dr. Shanthie Mariet D’souza, Founder & President, Mantraya; Visiting Fellow, SWP, Berlin spoke about the various prospects, challenges and the way ahead for India in development partnership projects in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Maldives and Afghanistan.
The second session titled ‘Act East and the Indo-Pacific: New Opportunities’ was chaired by Amb. Gautam Mukhopadhyay, Former Ambassador of India to Myanmar. He noted that it is important to strike a balance between the principles and values of India’s development partnership and geopolitical, strategic and economic interests. It is important to critically evaluate the concepts, mechanisms, operational procedures, scope and direction to make the development partnership programme more robust. Mr. Sanjay Pulipaka, Independent Researcher on International Politics and Security Issues, Dr. Vivek Mishra, Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi and Dr. Pragya Pandey, Research Fellow, ICWA spoke about the various partnership programmes, structures and architecture that are getting built in South-East Asia and the Pacific and Indian Ocean region. Discussion also covered the Indo- Pacific Economic Framework and the role of India in the Indo Pacific.
The third session titled “Africa: A Trusted Partnership” was chaired by Amb. Gurjit Singh, Former Ambassador of India to Ethiopia, Djibouti. He said that India needs to shift its focus from ‘doing’ projects with Africa to doing ‘better’ projects with Africa. Mr. Pramit Pal Choudhury, Senior Editor, Hindustan Times, Dr. Sankalp Gurjar, Research Fellow, ICWA and Dr. Ruchita Beri, Senior Research Associate, MPIDSA emphasized upon the role of FinTech and India’s IT programmes in Africa and the need for sustainable energy cooperation.
Session four titled “Latin American Countries: Renewed Vigour” was chaired by Amb. R. Vishwanathan, Former Ambassador of India to Venezuela, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. He said that there has been a dramatic shift in perception in the 21st century, where Latin America started to see India as an emerging power in IT & a growing prosperous nation and where India sees Latin America as a region which is stable. Prof. Aparajita Gangopadhyaya, Professor, School of International and Area Studies, Goa University and Dr. Priti Singh, Associate Professor, Centre for Canadian, US & Latin American Studies, JNU spoke about the need of strengthening India’s local participation through capacity building with the help of the Indian diaspora in the region and the need for a focus on CARICOM in strengthening relations with the Caribbean.
The next session themed “Connect Central Asia: Building on Traditional Goodwill” was chaired by Amb. Skand Tayal, Former Ambassador of India to Uzbekistan. He said education and health sectors are important areas of cooperation for India and Central Asia. Dr. Athar Zafar, Senior Research Fellow, ICWA and Dr. Angira Sen Sharma, Assistant Professor, Allahabad University stated that India enjoys immense goodwill among the people in Central Asia. Two-way synergy between India and Central Asia can bring better results for the region. Capacity building and human resource development are important for strengthening of ties between India and Central Asia.
The final session titled “Look West: Building Bridges” was chaired by Amb Anil Trigunayat, Former Ambassador of India to Libya and Jordan. He said that Middle East is an important region for India. India’s key engagements are in the field of energy security, food security, maritime security, human security, trade and investment, and technology partnership. Ms Priya Singh, Associate Director and Programme Coordinator, Asia in Global Affairs, Kolkata, Prof. Kingshuk Chatterjee, Professor, Department of History, University of Calcutta and Dr. Deepika Saraswat, Associate Fellow, West Asia Center, MPIDSA spoke about the need to look at India’s ‘Look West’ policy through a holistic framework, the need to look at food, films and music, which can be used to promote cultural ties between India and the region. India is well-positioned to expand into clean energy and partner with the Gulf countries that are dealing with the challenge of energy transition. India’s economic diplomacy in the region will help forge development partnerships.