A new working paper by Barnaby Dye analyses how India’s development cooperation with Africa has significantly changed. Founded after India’s independence, the country’s development cooperation programme was rhetorically framed as demand-led, non-interventionist and premised on respect for sovereignty. India has long contrasted itself with the ‘traditional’, ‘western’ development establishment of OECD donor agencies and multilateral organisations like the World Bank.
However, in 2015, India adopted specific policies from the World Bank and UK’s Department for International Development in one of its flagship development schemes, the concessional Lines of Credit (LoCs), handled by the state-owned Export-Import Bank. These changed policy processes of project selection and design, tendering and monitoring. These amount to a much more interventionist development policy where Indian authorities have a greater say over what happens, how, and by whom- powers now previously exclusively held by recipient governments.
However, the changes have not been total. India continues to insist on the principles of sovereignty-first, of mutual respect and demand-led development cooperation. Thus, the projects continue to be negotiated primarily through state-to-state bilateral forums, concentrating on meeting the demands of recipient governments.
Relatedly, the changes are primarily focused on technical improvements to delivery of projects, aiming for timely, functioning and on-budget projects. There is not a political focus on development outcomes, consideration of environmental impacts or assessment of those displaced or affected by Indian-financed schemes. Moreover, research suggests that no subsided loans proposals have been rejected, again suggesting that the Indian governments focus is on improvement on the technical aspect of projects, not their developmental outcomes.
The working paper demonstrates the set of interest driving this pattern of reforms, and frames these changes in a wider pattern of convergence: developing countries from China to South Korea have, in different and particular ways, adopted policies associated with the established OECD development establishment. Equally, donors in that establishment have adopted the economic-growth focus and blended finance approach associated with the ‘new’/rising power’s development cooperation.
Thus, the working paper argues that India’s selective convergence reflects its attempts to deal with its growing portfolio of development cooperation, and particular domestic political priorities.