Indian Technical And Economic Cooperation Programme
India's ITEC programme prepares them with life-sustaining skills
They carry a little bit of India in their hearts and minds. Over 25,000 students and diplomats from countries as diverse as Nigeria, Senegal, Uzbekistan, Romania, Panama, Honduras and Maldives are passouts of a 45-year-old skills training programme in India that has empowered them to adapt and succeed in their chosen careers in a globalised world.
The face of India's commitment to South-South cooperation, the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme has disseminated expertise and the country's developmental experience over nearly six decades to generations of students and budding diplomats from 156 countries in Asia, Africa, East Europe, Central Asia and Latin America.
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh encapsulated the ethos of the ITEC programme in his address to the first India-Africa Forum summit held in New Delhi last year. “Both India and Africa are blessed with young populations. It is only by investing in the creative energies of our youth that the potential of our partnership will be fulfilled.”
Manmohan Singh also announced a hike of slots for African students in the ITEC programme.
“We will enhance opportunities for African students to pursue higher studies in India. As an immediate measure we propose to double our long-term scholarships for undergraduates, postgraduates and higher courses and increase the number of training slots under our technical assistance programmes from 1100 to 1600 every year,” he said.
Started in 1964 as a bilateral programme of assistance of the Indian government, the ITEC programme, including its corollary SCAAP (Special Commonwealth Assistance for Africa Programme), has expanded to include some 220 odd courses ranging from IT, textile designing, foreign affairs to commerce and science.
Students who are selected for ITEC courses - most of these courses are short-duration lasting from two to three to six weeks - are sent to 39 institutions empanelled by India's Ministry of External Affairs.
"We share our expertise and transfer skills that stay with them for their whole life. It is infinitely more important than just giving money," says Primrose Sharma, who headed the department of technical cooperation in the Indian external affairs ministry a couple of years ago.
ITEC is divided into five components: training in India of nominees of ITEC partner countries; projects and project related activities such as feasibility studies and consultancy services; deputation of Indian experts abroad; study tours; and aid for disaster relief.
The rationale behind imparting technical training to young men and women from developing countries is based on India's strengths and expertise in different sectors of the knowledge economy.
"India is not a rich country and cannot offer grants-in-aid to match those of the developed countries. It does, however, possess skills of manpower and technology more appropriate to the geographical and ecological conditions and the stage of technological development of several developing countries," says the ITEC website www.itec.nic.in.
Besides empowering them with life-sustaining skills, the ITEC programme also gives students from different countries a taste of the multicultural and pluralistic secular ethos of India.
"Networking and bonding is incredible among students. Many of them have tears in their eyes when the course ends and most of them retain their bonds forged during this short programme," says Sharma. This is why the ministry is toying with the idea of starting alumni associations of ITEC students.
Over the years, ITEC has also become a powerful instrument of projecting India's soft power and its cultural diplomacy as most of these students retain a lifelong association with India long after their brief stay in the country. "It's not just transfer of technology and knowledge but it's also dissemination and projection of our culture," says Sharma.
Many of these students who attended ITEC courses have gone on to become ministers and have risen to top positions in their respective fields. In Botswana, half of the top brass in the defence establishment have trained under this programme. In Zanzibar and Tanzania, over 24 percent personnel have been through the ITEC experience.
"Maldives has benefited tremendously from the ITEC programme. There are doctors, engineers, IT experts in Maldives who have attended this programme," says Zubair Muhammad, first secretary in the Maldives high commission here.
On an average, India spends about Rs 500 million ($10.8 million) on varied ITEC activities. Since 1964, India has provided nearly $2.5 billion worth of technical assistance to developing countries, including neighbouring countries (assistance to whom is administered separately). Mr. Gurjit Singh, Ambassador of India to Ethiopia addressing the gathered ITEC Alumni and Alumni Association of Harar military Academy Members of Parliament and other dignitaries addending th ITEC Day Celebration
The flag-bearer of the Indian government's technical cooperation effort, ITEC is essentially bilateral in its outreach. ITEC resources have, however, been occasionally used for financing trilateral and regional programmes managed by the Economic Commission for Africa, UNIDO and Group of 77.
Today, Afro-Asian Rural Reconstruction Organisation (AARRO) and the G-15 are being helped by ITEC with training and project support, and a small beginning has also been made with cooperation with the SADC (Southern African Development Community).
Project assistance like training accounts for 40 percent of the annual ITEC budget. India has financed an entire range of infrastructure-related projects across Asia, Africa and Latin America, and in recent years in the central Asian Republics (CARs)
Thanks to ITEC, Cuba and Costa Rica have got solar energy plants. Other key projects executed under the ITEC programme included computerization of the office of the prime minister of Senegal, assistance in the transformation of the educational system of South Africa, and fitting of artificial limbs in Cambodia and Uzbekistan
Agriculture, however, remains a major focus of ITEC's project assistance. The programme has provided Ghana, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali and Suriname with equipment and expertise for agricultural use, and generated tremendous goodwill among African countries.
Vocational training in small-scale industry and entrepreneurship development are important areas of cooperation with Senegal, Zimbabwe, Vietnam and Mongolia under ITEC. Such training enables young people to gain useful employment at comparatively low levels of capital intensity.
It's not just students from foreign countries that have benefited from ITEC programme, but several public sector undertakings have acquired a distinctive niche in developing countries, in especially Africa.
The National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC), Hindustan Machine Tools International Limited HMT (I), Water and Power Consultancy Services Limited (WAPCOS), Rail India Technical & Economic Services (RITES) and Central Economic Limited(CEL) have capitalised on their ITEC association, and are now bidding for development projects in these countries on their own.
The ITEC division of the external affairs ministry also takes up feasibility studies and consultancy services on request. Results of these studies are handed over to the governments concerned, who are at liberty to use them in the manner they like.
Not surprisingly, the ITEC programme, that encompasses an eclectic range of activities ranging from building and manning of a hospital in Afghanistan, restoration of Angkor Vat temple in Cambodia, to sharing experience in dry-farming technique with Iraq and teaching Vietnamese students to converse in English, has created huge reservoirs of goodwill the world over.
With India emerging as an emerging global power, its knowledge economy that is epitomised in the ITEC programme will shine as an example of the country's ethos of creating a more equitable world based on a transfer of technology and skills from the powerful to those who are still struggling to find their voice.
ITEC programme is an integral part of India's broader diplomatic thrust to partner Africa in its ongoing resurgence. “The 21st century is often described as the Asian century. India wishes to see the 21st century as the Century of Asia and Africa, with the people of the two continents working together to promote inclusive globalisation,” he said.
For more on ITEC programme, go to website www.itec.nic.in