A review of the meeting conducted on 28th September 2016 by Institute of Sustainable Development and Governance.
A paradigm shift has been long underway in the way India approaches it’s extra-territorial developmental initiatives since 2003. There has been a sustained effort to come out of the post-colonial image of a assistance recipient nation, largely driven by geopolitical strategy and fueled by our economic prowess.
At the turn of new millennium, lines of credit has emerged to be the new instruments of chequebook diplomacy. In this context, Panchsheel principles along with India’s efforts via Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme has given the much needed push towards establishing a developmental assistance regime based on enlightened national interest.
One of the consequences of the trade protectionism, financial recession and currency wars between global powers is the emergence of regional groupings. It is proposed that supra national bodies like BRICS and SAARC will serve as a platform to leverage finances at the disposal of the member nations. It is in this context one must view the emergence of New Developmental Bank which has given a new hope to the member nations of global south movement.
With sustainable developmental goals featuring high in the priorities of Non Governmental Organisations and Civil Society Organisations world over, it is only apt that India’s developmental assistance to South Asian community is focused on the same. Construction of Salma dam and Parliamentary building in Afghanistan and hydroelectric projects in Bhutan are evidences of an alternative model of developmental assistance that is approaching it’s silent watershed moment. This model is likely to focus on self reliance and non-conditionality avoiding the compulsions of free-market. Effectiveness of this model will largely be based on how clear the recipients are about what they want and in which form. To be put the issue in the framework of India’s domestic development structure, one might find similarities with India’s Panchayati Raj regime, essentially giving recipient the freedom to do what they want. In this backdrop, we are likely to find India assuming the role of a Panchayat Sarpanch among the members of global south whereas other donors would be viewed as disruptive outsiders.
Such a model is likely to align with the larger goals of the much anticipated global south south cooperation as it was on show during the African-Indian summit of 2016. Domestically, such a model is likely to create a sense of post-colonial pride, the need of which was first found to be resonating in Bandung Conference of 1956.
What makes such a model unique apart from the obvious advantage of it being non-intrusive in nature? It is a lesser observed fact that back-end and front-end services that comes along with the developmental assistance is considerably cheaper while being supplied from India. For example, setting up a healthcare system based on generic drugs model in a global south nation is likely to be more successful than any other free-market initiative. Much admired and respected Indian feature of economic frugality and efficient use of available resource is a highly marketable product in this context.
Questioning the system and changing the status quo has always presented itself with unique challenges but history time and again has proven that a community with a better story to tell and a better developmental template to show for has eventually been accepted. In this regard, India has the potential to carve out an alternative system of developmental cooperation giving flesh to the idea of global south, which much lacking in recent times. This model can aptly be described as a messy pulp fiction but with an enormous potential to transform into a classical work that will stand the test of time.