'India's development co-op based on freedom of choice'

'India's development co-op based on freedom of choice'

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar speaks during a session at the India Economic Summit 2019 in New Delhi (PTI Photo)

India's development cooperation with partner countries is based on equality, mutual respect for sovereignty as well as freedom of choice, and not on competition, conditionalities or prescriptions, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Monday.

Addressing an event to mark 55 years of the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC), he said the countries of global south are important partners for India.

"Together, we represent the aspirations of 6.3 billion people of the world. Many of us have historical ties dating back to centuries, be it through mercantile trade or culture. Our forefathers have struggled together against colonial bondages. Today, our collective bilateral trade stands around USD 220 billion," he said.

India's development cooperation and support to the cause of multilateralism flow from the philosophy of interconnectedness and interdependence which reflects commitment to 'Vasudeva Kutumbakam (world is one family), Jaishankar said, hailing the ITEC programme.

Over the last 55 years, ITEC has been a vehicle to share India's vast and unique experience of growth and development through capacity building and training of more than 200,000 government officials and professionals from 160 partner countries of the global south in premier institutes of the country, according to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

At the event, Jaishankar launched the e-Vidya Bharti and e-Arogya Bharti -- tele-education and tele-medicine project for Africa, which is one of the largest projects being executed by the MEA.

This project will enable African students to access premier Indian education through the comforts of their homes and offer Indian medical expertise to African doctors and patients alike, Jaishankar said.

Development cooperation has always played a central role in India's foreign policy and the country has been committed to remain a steadfast and reliable developmental partner by sharing its own vast development experience of over seven decades, he said.

"India's relations with partner countries are based on the principles of equality, mutual respect for sovereignty and freedom of action and choice. It is not based on competition, conditionalities or prescriptions," Jaishankar said.

India's belief stems from the spirit of solidarity to enhance mutual learning for shared and sustainable growth, he said.

"These are also the cornerstones in our capacity building initiatives which span from Latin American countries to Pacific Island countries, as we traverse similar paths of development," Jaishankar said.

Developing countries are blessed with bounties of nature and enjoy demographic dividend, but they are faced with similar and daunting challenges such as population resource imbalances, rising inequities along with rising aspirations of the youth, climate change, technologies that change all too quickly, almost ruthlessly, that they have to keep pace with, he said.

"In the wake of these challenges, we need to expand our partnership choices in foreign cooperation and resolve to collaborate more closely to press ahead with our SDGs (sustainable development goals)," he said.

Several announcements for enhancement of ITEC training slots have been made during the recent bilateral visits and also at the various multilateral engagements such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), IAFS-III, Caribbean Community (CARICOM), FIPIC, he said.

These capacity building efforts are also in line with India's regional priorities with 'Neighbourhood countries being First' and Africa being central in the scheme of things, Jaishankar said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also envisions India's collective and inclusive development through his emphatic call for 'Sabka Saath Sabka Vikaas Sabka Vishwas' (Co-operation of all for development of all) and also through flagship schemes such as 'Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikaas Yojna' (Skill India Mission) which highlight the role that skills play in nation building, Jaishankar said.

He said that to make the benefits of these development schemes accessible to the last person in the remotest of region, the PM has pushed for digitisation of the delivery of flagship schemes.

"India seeks to be leader in Climate Change Action. India's initiative of the International Solar Alliance led by the vision of our Hon'ble PM is testimony to the fact that we are committed to a clean and sustainable future for the children of tomorrow," he said,.

"We are fast moving towards use of clean technologies and e-vehicles for reduction of fossil fuel dependency and emissions," Jaishankar said.

The target of production of 175 GW of renewable energy that India set for itself as part of the Solar Alliance Initiative and its integration in the main power grid, is well on its way to be achieved, he said.

"India believes in a shared future. Sharing of capacities leads to formation of professional and economic inter-linkages which in turn generate the ecosystem for co-creation of mutually beneficial policies and technologies," he said.

Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan, Minister of State for Defence Shripad Yesso Naik, Secretary Economic Relations in the MEA, T S Tirumurti, diplomats from various missions of countries, senior officials from the Indian government and ITEC institution, were among those present on the occasion. 

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