India re-affirmed her commitment to development cooperation with partner countries based on equality and mutual respect for sovereignty. India has recently launched the e-Vidya Bharti and e-Arogya Bharti besides tele-education and tele-medicine project for Africa which happens to be one of the largest projects being executed by Ministry of External Affairs to mark 55 years of India’s Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC).
These projects will help enable African students to access premier Indian education through the comforts of their homes and offer Indian medical expertise to African doctors and patients alike. Development cooperation has always played a central role in India’s foreign policy and the country has been committed to remain steadfast and reliable developmental partner by sharing its own vast development experience of over seven decades, the External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar, said while speaking on the 55 years of ITEC
ITEC is a pan-African initiative for all the 54 countries of Africa in line with the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for taking advantage of India’s digital revolution for the benefit of African youth. Human resource development is a key component of India’s development cooperation and foreign policy. The ITEC and other capacity building initiatives embody India’s belief that growth and prosperity of the world are indivisible and India stands ready to play its part by sharing its skills and technical expertise acquired over decades of its developmental story.
In fact, the new initiatives assume great significance in the light Dr. Jaishankar’s statement that “the countries of global South are important partners for India”. Together, India and Africa represent the aspiration of 6.3 billion people of the world. The External affairs Minister said, “Many of us have historical ties dating back to centuries, be it through mercantile trade or culture”. He further observed,” our forefathers have struggled together against colonial bondages. Today, our collective bilateral trade stands around US $ 220 billion”
Over the last 55 years, ITEC has been a vehicle to share India’s vast and unique experience of growth and development through capacity building and training of over 200,000 government officials and professionals from 161 partner countries of the global South in premier institutes of the country. With the focus on our immediate neighbourhood and our African partners, it offers around 12,000 scholarships every year to professionals across a wide range of expertise, including in IT, healthcare, agriculture, governance, entrepreneurship, energy, parliamentary studies to name a few and there is demand to expand it further.
India’s development cooperation and support to the cause of multilateralism flow from the philosophy of inter-connectedness and interdependence which reflects commitment to ‘Vasudeva Kutumbakam” (world is one family), Dr. Jaishankar said, hailing the ITEC programme.
Several announcements for enhancement of ITEC training slots have been made during the recent bilateral visits and also at various multilateral engagements such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for multi-sectoral technical and economic cooperation (BIMSTEC), Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Caribbean Community, FIPIC, etc. As the External Affairs Minister put it, these capacity building efforts are also in line with our regional priorities with ‘Neighbourhood countries being First ‘and Africa being central in the scheme of things.
Under ITEC, 161 countries in Asia, Europe, Central Asia, Africa and Latin America are invited to share in the Indian developmental experience acquired over seven decades of its existence as a free nation. Since its inception, the programme has spent over US$ two billion and benefited thousands of students and professionals from across the world and annual expenditure on the programme has averaged US$ 100 million per annum in recent years.
India realises that developing countries are blessed with bounties of nature and enjoy demographic dividend, but they are faced with similar and daunting challenges such as population resource imbalances, rising inequities along with rising aspirations of the youth and climate change, among others. In the wake of these challenges, we need to expand our partnership choices in foreign cooperation and resolve to collaborate more closely to press ahead with our sustainable development goals, Dr. Jaishankar said.
Script: Vinit Wahi, Journalist