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India partners development across the world
Tuesday July 30, 2013 3:59 PM, Ranjana Narayan, IANS

It is one of the largest such knowledge transfer and development assistance programmes in the world that has helped India, a developing country itself, share its expertise with others. In the process it has helped build a reservoir of goodwill for India across Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Through its Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, launched in 1964 as a bilateral programme of assistance, India has been "sharing its knowledge and skills acquired in its own development process with other developing countries going through the same process of development", Kumar Tuhin, joint secretary, development partnership administration-II, in the external affairs ministry, told IANS.

India is helping 161 countries, with many in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, in a big way in capacity building under ITEC.

Under capacity building, the ITEC partner countries send officials to India for training in fields like IT, entrepreneurship and English language, or India sends its experts to advise on how to set up similar institutions.

India also provides to developing countries Lines of Credit, or loans given at concessional terms to finance development projects.

The Cuu Long Delta Rice Research Institute, set up in Vietnam after the country emerged from the war in 1975, is a prime example of the effect of the ITEC programme.

India helped set up the institute in the Mekong Delta, when Vietnam was suffering from severe rice shortage, sending agricultural experts and training its faculty in India. Today, Vietnam is a major rice exporter.

"We are very happy to see that after this very strong partnership, Vietnam is self-sufficient and has also started exporting rice. It is now also competing with India in rice export, which makes us very proud," said Tuhin.

India's development partnership is demand-driven, says Tuhin. "In this we are different from Western countries and do not impose any conditionalities for the loan... We completely respect the sovereignty of the government."

Another aspect of ITEC is the fully supported and funded project grant. This aspect of ITEC has grown substantially in neighbouring South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) as well as those in Southeast Asia and the extended neighbourhood of Africa.

India also has a large number of such projects in Latin America and West Asia, said the official.

Among examples of the project grant are: In Afghanistan, the parliament building being constructed in capital Kabul as well as the Salma dam and power transmission lines; in Sri Lanka, houses being built for the internally displaced and dredging work of Kankesanthurai harbour; and in Nepal, an emergency and trauma centre coming up in Kathmandu besides integrated check posts and Terai roads.

In Myanmar, there are several projects, including an IT centre plus connectivity projects like the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project and the Tamu-Kalewa-Kaleymyo (TKK) road link. In other neighbouring countries like Cambodia and Laos, project grant examples include IT and entrepreneurship training centres, English language and vocational training centres.

Under ITEC, study tours are also organised to India, as well as visits and meetings and the wherewithal provided to set up institutions of learning. Disaster relief is another aspect of India's development partnership, which is provided in cash or kind, said Tuhin.

One major part of ITEC is the scholarships - for courses in IT, English and entrepreneurship - provided to countries as part of capacity building, covering the airfare, course fee, accommodation, project allowance and living allowance.

The success of the venture can be gauged from the fact that in 2012, India offered 8,000 civilian courses and 1,500 defence courses.

There are 47 empanelled institutions with 280 courses on offer. Around 900 slots were given to African countries.

"The utilisation of the scholarships is pretty good, the feedback is good. We have a system of regular interaction. Sep 15 every year is celebrated as ITEC day when the alumni also come and share experiences," said Tuhin.

Among the ITEC alumni are ministers and vice presidents of countries, said Tuhin, adding that among them are the Ethiopian minister of higher education, the president of Nigeria and the king of Bhutan.

With the scope and work of India's development partnership growing, the external affairs ministry set up the Development Partnership Administration last year to provide special focus to the area.

In order to become more accessible, ITEC is now on Facebook. It has fetched 2,688 likes so far. The ITEC website has also been overhauled to make it more attractive.

(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at ranjana.n@ians.in)

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