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Address by Minister of State for External Affairs Smt. Meenakashi Lekhi at Spain-India Council Foundation

September 16, 2021

President of the Spain India Council Foundation, Mr. Juan Ignacio Entrecanales ,
Secretary General Ambassador Jose Leandro Consarnau,
Ambassador Mr. Sanjay Verma,
Members of the Board,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Namaste and Good Afternoon

It is a pleasure to be speaking with you today. I appreciate the role played by Track II initiatives like the Spain India Council Foundation in enriching our bilateral relationship.

India’s Developmental Cooperation is a topic which can be de-constructed in different ways. For some, it would be a window to best practices in developmental cooperation. To some, it may be in the context of social entrepreneurship or even Corporate Social Responsibility. There is much to unbox on frugal engineering, cost competitiveness and appropriate technology and practice sharing.

However, before that, allow me to set some context.

India is home to a glorious civilization and past. Even as late as the 18th century nearly a quarter of the global GDP came out of India. But, in 1947, when the British finally were made to leave India, we had been hollowed out, and reduced to penury. Our prospects as a modern state seemed highly improbable, at least for our former rulers! From that historical inflection point, even as we were rebuilding, and notwithstanding our own challenges, India emerged as a beacon and advocate of the Afro-Asian liberation movements. A solidarity that naturally translated into India sharing its development experience with some of the most challenged countries. The roots of our developmental cooperation efforts began with India’s independence and association with the colonised. As Mahatma Gandhi said, ¨My patriotism includes the good of mankind in general. Therefore, my service to India includes the service of humanity.¨

Today, as we mark 75 years of independence, we also celebrate our different development partnerships that are as old as our freedom.

As has been emphasized by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, our development cooperation is primarily human-centric. It is marked by respect, diversity, care for the future, and sustainable development. For us, a fundamental principle is respecting development partners and their development priorities, and on terms that are comfortable for our partners that liberates their potential and does not constrain their future. We focus on building local capacity and creating local opportunities. India’s development cooperation does not come with any prescriptive nor extractive conditions. We believe in projects that are viable, transparent, and which do not contribute to debt.

India deploys its development assistance resources through a mix of multiple instruments, including grant-in-aid, line of credit and capacity building and technical assistance. Projects that are fully-financed by grants are the most important elements in our development cooperation portfolio. Currently, projects worth over USD 4 billion in the infrastructure, hydroelectricity, power transmission, agriculture, education, health and industrial sector are under implementation. Some examples include the Afghan-India Friendship Dam in the Herat province of Afghanistan, the Afghan Parliament Building in Kabul, an ENT hospital in Mauritius, the Metro Express Project in Mauritius, the Jaffna Cultural Centre in Sri Lanka, the Supreme Court building in Mauritius and so on.

I may add that our development assistance to Afghanistan is over USD 3 billion, with projects in nearly all of the country´s provinces.

Our projects through Lines of Credit on concessional terms have been successful in bringing into reality commercially viable projects while also building local project management capacities in diverse areas of socio-economic development such as power, transport connectivity, agriculture and irrigation and manufacturing industries. Currently, 311 LoCs in 64 countries worth USD 31.54 billion are being implemented. As of date, 657 projects have been covered under the LoC process.

Recognizing the need for robust multimodal connectivity in our immediate neighbourhood, we have taken up a total of 98 connectivity projects worth USD 7 billion dollars in 5 countries, of which 44 projects have already been completed, for instance the Railway Bridges and Signalling Systems in Bangladesh and the post-war rebuilding of the Sri Lankan Railways.

India has also completed numerous infrastructure projects in other partner countries like the Parliament Building of Gambia, the Presidential Palace in Ghana, the Kosti Power project in Sudan which provides one-third of the country’s power, the Nyaborongo Power Project in Rwanda which provides one-fourth of the country’s power. We have set up the first ever industrial units in many countries – like the first Cement Plant of Djibouti, the first Milk Processing Plant of Mauritania and the first Sugar Factory of Ghana. India is currently building the first oil refinery of Mongolia through concessional loans worth USD 1.24 billion dollars.

Capacity building assistance is a cornerstone of India's development partnerships. It is delivered under the flagship Indian Technical & Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme instituted in 1964. Every year, more than 11,500 participants from 161 countries in Asia, Africa, East Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean as well as Pacific and Small Island countries benefit from more than 350 short and mid-term ITEC training programmes in 100 premier Indian institutions. Additionally, about 2000 foreign defence personnel attend training with their Indian counterparts in various Indian defence institutions annually.

Apart from ITEC, we also deliver capacity building by creating institutional capacities like Centres of Excellence in IT, Vocational Training Centres and Business Incubation Centres. In IT for example, we are engaged with 45 countries to deliver IT-related skills-training and sharing of advanced computing expertise in fields like High Performance Computing, AI and Big Data analytics. We have also equipped countries with advanced IT facilities like super-computers, telemedicine networks and AI-enabled software which in turn strengthen their capacities in health services, e-governance and education.

Ladies and Gentlemen, India´s rich civilizational and cultural ethos is also leveraged for the benefit of our development partners. My Ministry of External Affairs executes several conservation and heritage site restoration projects. We share expertise in areas like documentation, heritage property management and use of digital tools in preservation, documentation and restoration of cultural heritage. Our restoration footprint spans over two dozen countries. 60 projects, valued at USD 46 million have been completed in 21 countries. 52 projects are on-going or planned in 12 countries at the cost of USD 120. Some of the key on-going projects include – My Son group of Temples in Vietnam, the Vat Phou Temple in Lao PDR, Ta Prohm Temple in Cambodia, and the Preah Vihear Temple in Cambodia, in consultation with UNESCO.

Friends, we are amidst the most disruptive phase of human existence. But, even during the ongoing Covid pandemic we have reached out. We sent essential medicines, Hydroxychloroquine, paracetamol, testing kits, Covid- related protection gear to 82 friendly foreign countries. We revamped our flagship ITEC programme to provide webinar-based e-ITEC modules focussing on Covid responses to 1200 professionals across 47 countries. We despatched Medical Teams to Comoros, Mauritius, Kuwait, and the Maldives. Nearly 62 million doses of vaccines for nearly 80 countries were provided through grant or commercial or COVAX route. We have also offered capacity building enhancements like the CoWin, which is an open-source IT platform for countries to build their own customised health interventions, especially vaccination.

To suggest the range of our assistance, I must also briefly mention the ‘India for Humanity’ campaign, launched by the former External Affairs Minister, Mrs. Sushma Swaraj. Through this initiative we have provided indigenously developed low-cost artificial limbs, known as the ‘Jaipur Foot’ to 7000 beneficiaries, who lost their limbs in conflicts or disasters. Another such niche development initiative is the "Solar Mamas” programme that has trained 2000 women from 97 countries in fabricating and maintaining solar lanterns to benefit more than 18,000 households and 2 million people in remote, inaccessible, hitherto unelectrified villages. The programme is run in India by a non-profit/ NGO popularly called the Barefoot College which selects, hosts, trains and hand-holds the beneficiaries using community-based approaches.

To conclude, India has long been a constructive actor in the shaping of a people-centric world order; India’s development partnership initiatives form a core element of India’s foreign policy. We have shared our developmental experience with the Global South in the spirit of "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” – which means, the whole world is one family! A social construct and social contract for our times.

I thank you for this opportunity to share with you India´s unique model and approach to development assistance. I congratulate the patrons of the Foundation for their good work and wish you the best ahead.

Thank you.

Madrid, Spain
September 16, 2021
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