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Remarks by Secretary (ER) on the Delhi Process V South South and triangular Cooperation: Exploring New Opportunities and New Partnerships Post-BAPA+40 in New Delhi

August 22, 2019

H.E. Dr. Nomvuyo Nokwe of IORA
Excellency Amb. Mohan Kumar, Chairperson, RIS,
Prof. Sachin Chaturvedi, Dignitaries on the dais,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,


  • It is privilege to welcome all of you today to this global interaction with stakeholders in development cooperation, to address South-South Cooperation and Triangular Cooperation.
  • This is a unique initiative of RIS, to connect with all our partner countries for collectively exploring and introspecting on how best to strengthen South-South Cooperation. I commend the RIS for their leadership on South-South Cooperation, under the Chairmanship of Ambassador Mohan Kumar. I would also like to convey my deep appreciation for the excellent work done by RIS team over the years. MEA is delighted to partner RIS in this quest. I appreciate the partnership that the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, Forum for Indian Development Cooperation (FIDC) and Network of Southern Think-tanks (NeST) have offered in enriching the Delhi Process.
  • Friends, the recently held Second United Nations High Level Conference on South-South Cooperation commemorating the 40th anniversary of Buenos Aires Plan of Action, often abbreviated as BAPA+40, has come up with an ambitious work plan. The Outcome Document of the Conference underscores the need to give enhanced focus on South-South Cooperation (SSC).
  • I appreciate the efforts by many of you present here, directly or indirectly, in framing the Outcome Document.
  • At this juncture, I would also like to acknowledge the contribution of IBSA countries for bringing out last year a timely declaration on South-South Cooperation, and for reiterating certain principles of SSC that it is a partnership amongst equals guided by principles of respect for national sovereignty; national ownership and independence; equality; non-conditionality; non-interference in domestic affairs; and mutual benefit. These principles provide the blueprint for IBSA partnership with countries of the South, and are part of wider SSC principles.
  • However, as always, the challenge is how to translate principles into concrete action. We have seen how time and again, in spite of all the goodwill which countries have, there are vast gaps between what we finally achieve and the principles we wanted to uphold. Therefore, even as you deliberate on new opportunities and new partnerships, kindly remember to constantly evaluate whether what you do meets the touchstone of the principles we have declared as sacred.
  • Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi had outlined last year ten guiding principles for India’s engagement with Africa. But in effect, these guiding principles may well be the guiding principles for India’s engagement with the developing world itself i.e. South-South Cooperation.
  • The vision which our Prime Minister outlined is as follows: to intensify and deepen engagement; development partnership to be guided by partners priorities, build on local capacities and create local opportunities; development partnership to be on terms that will be comfortable for partner country so that it liberates their potential and not constrain their future; open up markets and make trade and investment easier; harness India’s digital revolution to enhance education, health, public services, financial inclusion etc.; improve agriculture; address challenges of climate change; combat terrorism and extremism including in the cyber sphere; give enhanced focus on youth and their aspirations; keep oceans open and free for the benefit of all nations and together strive for a representative and democratic global order.
  • Friends, I would like to underline certain aspects which you, as stakeholders, may like to consider while deliberating on BAPA+40 decisions. I appreciate the RIS for bringing out a booklet on "Five Modalities of Development Compact – sharing South-South Cooperation”. I would like to touch on some important aspects of these modalities.
  • No South-South Cooperation can and should result in restricting the space for development or constrain the future of our countries. This may be self-evident but if you start evaluating many of the SSC initiatives on this touchstone, you will find that there are aberrations. These aberrations creep in right at the outset if the terms of engagement in SSC are not reasonable. For e,g India’s own record of extending Lines of Credit to developing countries is an exemplary one, and we have extended more than US$ 26 billion so far as Lines of Credit, not including the billions we have given as grant assistance. What stands out is that India has almost always tried to assist countries, including heavily indebted ones, in case they run into difficulties of repayment. Our terms are reasonable and transparent. It is, therefore, important that right at the outset, development partnership rests on a sustainable model of engagement, on terms that are reasonable and appropriate.
  • Further, in order to ensure that development is sustainable, it should naturally fit in with the national priorities of the countries concerned. India has always believed that South-South Cooperation should be demand driven and not supply driven. With such an approach, we have been able to touch the lives of people the world over.
  • Creation of local capacity and local opportunities are vital for any success. Project implementation should be to finally hand over to the recipient partner country. In this, I need hardly emphasize India’s record on capacity building and extended to developing countries. Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme (ITEC) has completed 55 years since its inception and now has around 10,000 participants every year, from more than 160 partner countries. We are now taking this to the next level by rolling out innovative schemes like e-ITEC to reach larger numbers. Some of India’s leading institutions like Indian Institute of Technology and other centres of excellence, both public and private, participate in this effort.
  • Further, development partnership should equally be a vehicle for sharing cutting edge technology, especially digital technology and artificial intelligence. India believes that hi-tech is a necessity for developing countries to leap frog into the 4th industrial revolution, as well as directly impact positively the lives of people, especially in delivery of public services, education, health, agriculture etc. Is South-South cooperation providing that option? If not, its time it did. But it is equally clear that recipient partner countries should carefully evaluate the most appropriate options for them and avoid the digital divide, so that the 4th industrial revolution is an inclusive one.
  • Not enough attention is also being given to youth and their employment in the construct of South-South Cooperation. Building sustainable infrastructure is only one aspect of development cooperation, however important they may be. But true sustainability comes in empowering the local population, especially the youth. Empowering the youth and creating opportunities for their employment need to go hand in hand.
  • Ideally, South South engagement should be able to leverage trade and investment so that the engagement becomes self-sustaining and helps the recipient partner country to get out of the development partnership cycle and become independent of it.
  • While we do all this, we need to exercise care and prudence in institutionalization of South-South Cooperation and while developing an impact assessment framework. I am confident that you will resist the temptation to construct a structure for South South assessment which starts resembling structures put together by developed countries for North-South Cooperation. This will go against the principles we have agreed on. As they say, substance should inform form. It is important that we let South-South institutionalization and framework develop more organically, rather than rush to create an intrusive accounting framework for ourselves.
  • Triangular cooperation has become another important vehicle to combine the best of North and South, for the benefit of the South. India is working actively with countries like Japan, France, E.U. U.S. and others to see how best Africa and Asia can benefit from this tripartite construct. While there are challenges of bringing together two different systems of assistance for a common cause, we are confident that we can overcome such technical hurdles for the larger goal.
  • To expand the idea of triangular cooperation beyond its traditional connotations, India has been instrumental in establishing, with France, the International Solar Alliance (ISA). ISA has last year taken the decision to expand its membership to make it universal so that we can develop a truly universal solar grid. Prime Minister Modi has announced a Line of Credit of US$ 2 billion for solar energy projects, an example of how development partnership can venture into new and innovative areas
  • India is even working with some developing countries like UAE to assist Africa. Contributions from India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) to IBSA-UN Fund in providing development support to least developed countries across the globe is also indicative of our commitment to the expanded idea of triangular cooperation.
  • Friends, at a different level, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Prime Minister Modi has articulated the importance of "reformed multilateralism”. He had proposed this in BRICS Summit last year in Johannesburg and again this year at the G20 Summit in Osaka. He pointed out in the BRICS Summit last year that BRICS had started a decade ago to, interalia, address the concern that multilateralism did not address our concerns and that it needed reform to benefit the developing world. However, ten years later, when we are faced with issues of unilateralism and protectionism, we cannot start reinforcing the status quo of multilateralism – a multilateralism which we had sought to reform ten years earlier. Consequently, instead of reinforcing the status quo of multilateralism as it exists now, we need to bring about "reformed multilateralism”. The Foreign Minister of BRICS recognised this in their recent meeting in Brazil. I would like to mention that in this "reformed multilateralism”, South-South Cooperation has a crucial role to shape it. For this, South-South Cooperation needs to adhere to its unique voice, principles and practices to benefit all developing countries.
  • Friends, the Delhi Process has assumed significance as it gathers academics, subject experts, policy makers and practitioners for exploring various facets and features of SSC. As they say, substance should inform process. So let substance guide and inform the Delhi Process. I would like to once again commend RIS for their admirable work and thank them for inviting me for this important conference.
I wish the Conference all success.
Thank you


New Delhi
August 22, 2019

 

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