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India sets up global aid agency

Development Partnership Administration has a corpus of $15 billion.

Kabir Taneja  NEW DELHI | 1st Jul 2012

ndia has set up its own international aid agency similar to USAID and UK's Department for International Development (DFID), with an estimated corpus of a sizable $15-billion to be spent over the next five years. This new agency, called Development Partnership Administration (DPA), will oversee all the development partnership projects that India will undertake in developing countries around the world. DPA is headed by Ministry of External Affairs' (MEA) additional secretary P.S. Raghavan and will bring under one umbrella all agencies involved with foreign aid and development projects within the MEA. The DPA is being formed by streamlining three different organisations within the MEA that currently oversee India-sponsored development projects abroad. Foreign aid from the BRIC group of nations to other developing nations has increased drastically in the past few years, with a Global Humanitarian Association estimate suggesting foreign aid from Brazil, Russia, India and China more than doubling between 2005 and 2008.

"We do not like to call ourselves a donor," says Syed Akbaruddin, joint secretary with the Ministry of External Affairs. "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, hence the designation of Development Partnership Administration, it is administering our development partnership projects."

Under the grants assistance scheme, India has made significant contributions in many countries, specifically in the South Asia region in the areas of education, IT, energy and healthcare.

Efforts such as post-war reconstruction projects in Sri Lanka, hydroelectric power projects with Bhutan, which is the biggest recipient of Indian aid (Rs 1,330 cr in 2010-11), road connectivity projects with Myanmar, which will connect the India's Mizoram with the Myanmar port of Sittwe and recently a multitude of development projects in Afghanistan including recent plans to export more than 1.5 lakh tonnes of wheat to the struggling nation are some instances of India's growing influence via foreign development projects.

About ten years ago, Indian foreign aid projects were very limited both in terms of resources and geographical spread. However, today the reach of Indian aid has spread around the world with more than 60 countries benefiting from India sponsored projects. IT projects in many African nations have been a thrust area. "DPA is an agency meant to streamline implementation, not to lay down policy, not to contribute to policy," explains Akbaruddin. "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," he adds.

India's foreign projects under the DPA will work around strict considerations of mutual benefits. Many projects do have spin-offs of promotions of Indian exports and India's requirements to access all important international energy resources. For example, India's energy projects in Sudan and South Sudan have also provided opportunity for Indian companies to contribute to local communities via many social projects, including the recent distribution of thousands of footballs to schools and children's camps due to the popularity of the sport in the African continent.

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