Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation: 56 years of South-South cooperation
Since independence, India’s approach to international relations has been guided by its struggle for independence and solidarity with fellow colonised as well as developing countries. However, it was soon realised that this solidarity should be based not only on shared ideals and experiences, but also on solid economic foundations.
This gave rise to the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC) in 1964, with the objective of addressing the developmental needs of developing countries through innovative technical, economic and technological cooperation. ITEC is a demand-driven, response-oriented, bilateral assistance programme that offers cooperation under broadly six fields, namely personnel training, project-related activities such as consultancy services, study tours, providing of equipment, deputation of Indian experts in the partner country, and assistance for disaster relief.
Fully funded by the Indian government, ITEC has spent over US$2 billion since its inception, and has benefited thousands of professionals from around the globe. As of today, representatives from 161 countries of Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America, Caribbean as well as from the Pacific have partaken in the Indian developmental experience gained over seven decades of its functioning as a flourishing democracy. ITEC furthers development priorities of the partner country and has its ownership at its centre. Programmes like ITEC show that India remains a staunch proponent and practitioner of South-South Cooperation, which has always constituted a fundamental pillar of India’s foreign policy and diplomacy.
Widely regarded as the most popular feature of ITEC, personnel training offers courses in a wide and varied range of subjects to choose from. These include banking, power and renewable energy, information technology, agriculture and rural development, environment and climate change, media, personnel management, administrative and scientific areas, to name a few. The courses can range from a few weeks to months. Some of the finest Indian institutes, including the world-renowned Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) offer ITEC courses regularly. Although ITEC is essentially a bilateral programme, its resources have also been utilised for executing multilateral projects with organisations like the G-77, Economic Commission for Africa, and the UNIDO.
The ITEC courses are open for applicants from a wide variety of fields such as public and private sectors, universities and chambers of commerce, etc. The application procedure is simple. Interested candidates are required to fill the online form for the selected course on the ITEC website (itecgoi.in) and send the application to the Indian Diplomatic Mission with the recommendation of the host government. The mission then forwards it to the respective institute which decides on admission based on seat availability, eligibility, etc. After selection, all expenses including airfare and visa costs, boarding, lodging, tuition fees and book allowances are borne by the Indian government.
Besides training and classes, there is also normally a component of travel to the historic sites and important landmarks of India built into the course. The participants also get to interact with colleagues from all over the world, which is an enriching experience. The bonds forged during the course outlast the period of stay in India. ITEC alumni also stay in contact through the ITEC friendship societies and chapters and meet on ITEC Day celebrations organised all over the world by the Indian diplomatic missions.
ITEC AND COVID-19
There are few things that COVID-19 has not changed in the past few months. Lockdowns and closing of international borders meant that it was impossible for applicants to travel to India in person to attend ITEC courses. To counter this handicap, many institutes came up with e-ITEC Programmes where participants could learn tailor-made courses by Indian faculties online or through video conferencing. The first such courses offered were by the leading medical Institutes of India regarding best medical practices to treat COVID-19 patients and contain the spread of the pandemic. Presently, e-courses ranging from public policy, medical administration, Buddhism, hepatology, and governance are available and can be accessed on the ITEC website. Since April 2020, thousands of participants from across the world have taken these courses.
ITEC AND JAMAICA
More than 350 Jamaicans have already travelled to India for different ITEC courses in the past. Recently, there has been an uptick in the number of participants from Jamaica because of positive word of mouth as those returning back rate the ITEC courses highly and as having enhanced their domain and practical knowledge.
Veron Clarke, from the Jamaica Postal Department, who attended the Leadership Development Programme for Postal Officers course in 2019, wrote that “the Institute treated us like royalty” and the programme was “well put together”. She also thanked ITEC for a “rich, rewarding experience”. Another participant, Howard Everton Prendergast, a senior civil engineer from Jamaica, who attended a course on ‘Earthquake Resistant Design of Structures’ at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur in 2019, described the course as “very beneficial for my professional career and in my capacity as senior civil engineer” and said that it “gave a very good insight into the tools necessary to equip professionals in the subject design aspects”.
India’s development cooperation does not come with any strings attached, as stated by the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, “Our development partnership will be guided by your priorities. It will be on terms that will be comfortable for you, that will liberate your potential and not constrain your future … . We will build as much local capacity and create as many local opportunities as possible. “ As India-Jamaica cooperation intensifies further with the opening of the resident Jamaican mission in New Delhi, ITEC will play a very important role in furthering economic linkages and people-to-people contacts between the two countries.
- Prathit Misra is second secretary at the High Commission of India, Kingston. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.