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Speech by Foreign Secretary at the Research and Information System for Developing Countries

August 25, 2017

  • I am very pleased to join you all this afternoon as you begin the "Consultation on Asia-Africa Growth Corridor: The Way Forward”. At the outset, let me thank RIS and CII for their initiative in organizing this deliberation. I would like to particularly express appreciation for the interest and initiative that Chairman RIS Ambassador H.S. Puri has taken in this regard.
  • The Vision Document of the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) that was released at the African Development Bank meeting in May this year envisages it as a "people-centric sustainable growth strategy, details of which would be evolved through a process of detailed consultations across Asia and Africa, engaging various stake holders.” I underline this message because growth and connectivity initiatives are truly globally owned only when they emerge from a broad consultative process. In fact, it is precisely such deliberations that can make them really people-centric and ensure that the interests of all stake holders are adequately reflected. It is particularly necessary if we are to ensure that such initiatives are demand-driven and locally owned. Today’s gathering is one step in that direction and I am confident that it would contribute to the emergence of a broad consensus on this set of issues.
  • As we set about fashioning the AAGC, it is only natural that it would reflect how we each look at the world. Today, there is much common ground among the nations of the region and it is that shared perspective that brings us together in this joint endeavour. We would naturally like the initiative to be based on universally recognized international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality. There must be a strong sense of local ownership that can only happen with consultative project designing, transfer of technology and encouragement of skills. No less important is ensuring of financial responsibility, so that there is no encouragement of unsustainable debts. Our activities must fully conform to balanced ecological and environmental protection and preservation standards. And, I am compelled to add, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  • Given these broad principles, it is a matter of satisfaction that the four components of the AAGC are (i) development and cooperation projects, (ii) quality infrastructure and institutional connectivity, (iii) capacity and skill enhancement, and (iv) people-to-people partnerships. These components are mutually self-supporting and together, reflect the approach that I have just explained. Indeed, India’s own approach to development cooperation and international partnerships has these elements at their heart. I am sure that is also the case of many other countries present today.
  • Growth and connectivity are today very central to India’s foreign policy thinking. The approach of ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ (collective action, inclusive growth) is as much a belief in international relations as it is in domestic development. It is already being reflected vigorously in our Neighbourhood First policy. In the last three years, new energies and additional resources have been devoted to ensuring that our immediate neighbours are also beneficiaries of our growth story. That must have been evident yesterday in the outcomes of the visit of the Nepal Prime Minister. In fact, across South Asia, you can see today transformational initiatives in energy, road and rail connectivity and infrastructure building. As they are realized, their contribution to the emergence of a larger regional cooperative architecture would be increasingly appreciated. Significantly, we are today working closely with a number of other international players whose approach is similar in this regard.
  • India’s activities in the maritime space to its south have complemented those on the land. An integrated approach towards the Indian Ocean has allowed us to think in a more interconnected manner with East Africa as much as with the Pacific islands. We have an established developed cooperation record in Africa, that ranges from power projects and dams in Sudan and Rwanda to water treatment in Tanzania and sugar factories in Ethiopia. Our training centres are scattered across the continent and we have a long tradition of receiving students. Our approach has been to not only teach people to fish but even encourage them to identify the fish in question. To make this succeed, we must think bigger than what we can do for each other. We must actually be there for each other, whether it is natural disasters, man-made ones or medical emergencies. That has been India’s recent record in Yemen and Nepal, in Sri Lanka and Seychelles.
  • The Vision Document points out that AAGC connects the robust Asian economy to the young demography of Africa that holds so many possibilities. This mix of opportunity and challenge is so vast that it requires a whole-hearted international collaboration. The AAGC is conceptualized to address that need and I am confident that your deliberations today would take that debate further.

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