India’s long-awaited, newly established Development Partnership Administration (DPA) coupled with the decision to contribute $ 10 billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bail out Europe from its current crisis indicates its coming of age as a serious donor. In doing so India is not only shedding its own image as an aid recipient but is also joining the ranks of the other traditional Western donors, notably members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as an emerging donor, particularly to developing and poor countries.
Moreover, as one of the leading peacekeeping nations (India ranks among the top four United Nations troop contributing countries) it has, unlike the OECD countries, been contributing towards providing security through UN peace operations in these underdeveloped and crisis-affected countries, particularly in Africa. Now it is uniquely placed to underwrite both the security and development of these fragile states. This combination is particularly crucial given that the World Bank’s 2011 World Development Report (WDR) highlighted that no low-income country affected by violent conflict (recipients of some of the largest international aid) is on track to meet a single Millennium Development Goal.
Based on the WDR, there is now growing recognition that a quarter of the world’s population which lives in absolute poverty also lives in conflict-affected states and that progress on development can help reinforce and sustain security gains (and vice versa), while reversals in either arena can threaten both. And yet, neither the traditional donors nor the emerging ones like India have been able to effectively formulate and operationalize a strategy that addresses both the security and development needs of the crisis-ridden states.
In India’s case this was probably because about 70% of all its development grant assistance was aimed at South Asian neighbours, notably Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka and India abhorred the idea (perhaps with the exception of Afghanistan) of any outside actors providing security, including the UN. However, as India’s economic and strategic interests increasingly start to expand into Africa, where it is already active as a security actor (through the UN peace operations), and is now emerging as a development actor, it would be crucial to develop a joint security and development approach.
The establishment of India’s DPA provides a unique opportunity for New Delhi in two aspects. First, to build synergies between its well-established and impressive peacekeeping contributions and its emerging development assistance capabilities. India could learn from its own domestic nation building experience which, clearly, recognizes the important link between development and security. Although the Indian experience would be more relevant to other developing countries, harnessing it for the international arena is a challenge. It would depend on how well the DPA is able to incorporate the relevant domestic talent for its international responsibilities.
Second, to work with other donors, within the OECD and non-OECD emerging donors, such as Brazil and South Africa, on formulating a global strategy and, perhaps, improving coordination both at the headquarters and at the local country level. Although India might be tempted to go it alone rather than join the dominant OECD donors, given their inherently different aid philosophy, there is merit in exploring other collaborative efforts both with OECD and non-OECD donors. This would not only allow for pooling resources of the traditional and emerging donors but would also prevent any overlap on the one hand and crucial development gaps on the other. Here the newly created G-20 Development Working Group, the India Brazil South Africa Fund for the Alleviation of Poverty and Hunger as well as the UN’s Development Cooperation Forum are all possible venues for an essential dialogue on boosting international efforts to enhance security and development in fragile states. Setting up the DPA is a crucial first step. Leading the dialogue with others should be the critical next step.
W.P.S. Sidhu is a senior fellow at the Center on International Cooperation, New York University. He writes on strategic affairs every fortnight