India’s role as an international development actor

Authored by: Emma Mawdsley

Routledge Handbook of Contemporary India

Print publication date:  August  2015
Online publication date:  August  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415738651
eBook ISBN: 9781315682570
Adobe ISBN: 9781317403586


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India has been a provider of development assistance to other countries since the early 1950s, impressively soon after it achieved independence. This includes grants, loans, debt relief, scholarships, technical cooperation, food aid, peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance (Price 2005, Agrawal 2007, Chanana 2009, Meier and Murthy 2011, Chaturvedi 2012a, 2012b, Mullen 2013). Over the last decade India’s visibility in and contributions to international development have significantly expanded, and together with other ‘South–South’ partners like Brazil and China, India is now successfully challenging the dominant, western-led norms, modalities and institutions of the ‘international’ development regime (Mawdsley 2012a). Development cooperation is rarely the explicit subject of foreign policy analyses, yet it has much to recommend it as a lens on the identities and interests that shape India’s engagement with the South Asian region, the rest of the G77, other ‘rising powers’ and the West. In particular, the languages, performances, practices and agendas of development cooperation provide insight into a rich interplay between the realms of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ power. As with all ‘donor’ or partner countries, development cooperation combines claims to a particular form of national virtue in combination with strategic geo-economic agendas, sometimes in complementary ways and sometimes in tension. India’s development cooperation continues to be powerfully anchored in its colonial and post-colonial history, even as it is currently being re-tuned towards evolving foreign policy interests, capacities and contexts in the twenty-first century. Development cooperation is now a key element in the meetings and discussions of rising power initiatives and forums, notably IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa), the BRICS Forum Summit (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), and the India–Africa Forum Summits; as well as in the global development governance architecture (UNDP 2013). It therefore provides a means of exploring India’s re-positioning with G77 partner states, with other ‘rising powers’ such as China and Brazil, and with the ‘established’ powers.

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