NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday described India’s approach to development partnership as “mainly human-centric", contrasting with other forms which, he pointed out, had forced countries into “dependence partnerships", giving rise to colonial rule and to the advance of global power blocks.
In his speech at a virtual inauguration ceremony of the Mauritius Supreme Court building in Port Louis, Modi took a swipe at China saying “India is making development partnerships that are marked by respect, diversity, care for the future, and sustainable development."
The court building in Port Louis is one of the five projects implemented under a $353 million special economic package extended by India in 2016. It is also the first India-assisted infrastructure project in the Mauritius capital. With China aggressively stepping up efforts to woo India’s neighbours, New Delhi has focused on delivering on its promises of assistance to its neighbours to ensure its influence in the region is not eclipsed.
The inauguration of the Supreme Court building coincidentally also comes amid military tensions between India and China along their common border.
“For India, the most fundamental principle in development cooperation is respecting our partners. This sharing of development lessons is our only motivation. That is why our development cooperation does not come with any conditions. It is not influenced by political or commercial considerations," Modi said.
The obvious contrast was with China whose ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been called out by India and other countries for burdening developing countries with unsustainable debts besides propagating predatory lending practices, the lack of project transparency and imposing environmental costs.
“India’s approach to development is mainly human-centric. We want to work for the welfare of humanity. History has taught us that in the name of development partnerships, nations were forced into dependence partnerships. It gave rise to colonial and imperial rule. It gave rise to global power blocks. And humanity suffered," Modi said in his speech.
Underlining India’s development partnership credentials, Modi said the projects India had undertaken were diverse – commerce to culture, energy to engineering, health to housing, IT to infrastructure and sports to science. And, these spanned the expanse of the globe – from the Parliament building in Afghanistan, the Mahatma Gandhi Convention Centre in Niger, an emergency and trauma hospital and an oil pipeline project in Nepal, an emergency ambulance service in all the nine provinces of Sri Lanka, the availability of drinking water and sanitation in thirty-four islands of the Maldives besides popularizing cricket through the building of stadia and other facilities in Afghanistan and Guyana, the prime minister said.
“Our development partnerships reflect the development priorities of our partner nations," Modi said underlining the contrast with China whose assistance to countries has been seen as reflecting Chinese national goals and priorities and not that of the recipient nation.
“We consider it our privilege to help you create a better future for your youth. That is why training and skilling is such an important part of our development cooperation. They will make youngsters in our partner nations self-reliant and more confident to guide the future to newer heights," Modi said.
On India’s ties with Mauritius, Modi described the island nation as situated at the “heart of India's approach to the Indian Ocean region" – that India sees as its sphere of influence where China has been extending its influence with infrastructure projects and cheap commercial loans in the countries in India’s near and extended neighbourhood.
“And today, I want to add that Mauritius is also at the heart of India's approach to development partnerships," Modi said. He recalled that it was during a visit to Mauritius in 2015 that he had first enunciated India's vision of SAGAR or Security and Growth for All in the Region.
“With Mauritius, we share not only the waters of the Indian Ocean but also a common heritage of kinship, culture, and language," Modi said in a reference to a majority of Mauritius nationals being of Indian origin with a large section of people being Hindu in religion.
In his remarks, Mauritius prime minister Pravind Jugnauth said that the inauguration of the Supreme Court building was “significant milestone in the modernisation of our country’s infrastructure".
“It is a fact that India has accompanied Mauritius all along its journey towards socio-economic progress. Our shared past as well as close economic ties have forged a deep bond between our two countries," Jugnauth said.
Spread over more than 4700 square metres with 10 floors and a built-up area of 25,000 square metres, the Supreme Court building boasts of many green features as well as high energy efficiency. It will house all divisions and offices of the Supreme Court.