NEW DELHI, July 2: After surviving on international aid for decades after becoming independent in 1947, India
is now become a major aid-giver thanks to its trillion dollar economy. And it has set up its own international aid agency with a corpus of $15 billion, to be spent over the next five years.
Called Development Partnership Assistance, (DPA), the agency is similar to USAID and Britain`s Department for International Development (DFID). Set up in March this year, it is controlled by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), and headed by PS Raghavan, an additional secretary in the ministry.
During the past decade, India has increasingly extended economic and development assistance. At the moment, a total of 135 India-assisted projects are under various stages of execution in 61 countries in South Asia, Africa, Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
The DPA has been formed by streamlining three difference organisations within the MEA that currently oversee India-sponsored development projects abroad.
Says MEA Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin: `We do not like to call ourselves a donor. We call it development partnership because it is in the framework of sharing development experiences. It follows a model different from that followed in the conventional North-South economic cooperation patterns. The DPA is administering our development partnership projects.`
He further explains: `DPA is an agency meant to streamline implementation, not to lay down policy, not to contribute to policy. We will only implement the policies given by the political wing of the MEA, the Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Secretaries and the territorial divisions.`
Under the grants assistance scheme, India has made a significant contributions in many countries, specifically in the South Asian region in the areas of education, information technology (IT), energy and healthcare.
Some of the big-ticket aid programmes that have propelled India into the donors league include a $1 billion (about INR 56.30 billion) line of credit to Bangladesh and pledges of $2 billion in reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan.
Notable India-assisted projects now under way in the region include post-war reconstruction projects in Sri Lanka
, hydroelectric power projects in Bhutan, road connectivity projects in Myanmar, which will connect India`s Mizoram in the northeast with Myanmar`s Sittwe port.
Ten years ago, Indian foreign aid projects were very limited both in terms of resources and geographical spread around the world. IT projects in many African nations have been a thrust area.
Of course, the foreign projects under the DPA will work around considerations of mutual benefits. Many projects have spin-offs: promotion of Indian exports, and energy-hungry India`s requirements to access important international energy resources.
For example, India`s energy projects in Sudan and South Sudan have also provided opportunities for Indian companies to do business there, and to contribute to local communities through social projects. Recently, thousands of footballs were distributed to school children in the soccer-crazy African continent.
The DPA is an effort to put together under one umbrella all aspects of project implementation, from conception to formulation, to monitoring implementation and impact assessment,` an MEA official said.
Former Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh welcomed the move, saying it will address a major complaint against Indian development programmes that they are not effective enough as such projects take a long while to get completed.