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#IndiaAfrica: Promises are good. Now make good on them

Shiv Shankar Mukherjee | Updated on: 31 October 2015, 23:12 IST

The outcome

The India-Africa Summit was a successThe PMO and external affairs ministry deserve credit

What next

The real work starts nowIndia must ensure it delivers on its promises

More in the story

What have been India\'s mistakes in the pastHow can India make sure it doesn\'t fault again

If you want to enjoy the fruits of your effort, you must first make the effort- Margaret Thatcher.

The real work begins now. Now that the speeches have been made, the photo-opportunities are over, the personal contacts have been established, and the TV cameras have moved on.

By the Iron Lady's criterion: the effort has indeed been made, and with undeniable success.

The government, and particularly the Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry of External Affairs MEA, deserve unstinted praise for achieving, in full measure, their ambitious goals.

The participation by every country in the African Union, with 41 heads of state or government, and the rest represented at senior vice-president or ministerial level, underlines two things: first, a meticulous and efficient diplomatic efforts to ensure total participation.

This was not just by delivering the invitations personally by emissaries at the ministerial level, but largely by unseen, but effective engagement with each individual country to convince the African leaders that attending the summit was in their interest.

The second thing highlighted was the respect that India has enjoyed historically as a key supporter of Africa's liberation struggles, its success in maintaining a rambunctious yet flourishing democracy in a huge and diverse land, it's economic achievements, and it's role over the last five decades in capacity-building.

For some, especially the 'equal opportunity' critics, much more could have been done, and much more goodwill and profits earned.

Maybe. But national interest demands we do not keep wringing our hands about missed opportunities of the past, but get on with the job of building on a reasonably good foundation for the future. More so, because India's growth allows it to do much more now.

The $7.4 billion in concessional credits (which translates to a grant equivalent of 35-40%) since the first summit in 2008, $1.2 billion dollars in grants, creating over a 100 capacity-building institutions and projects in key areas of infrastructure, training and skills, transport, energy, irrigation and agriculture, manufacturing, e-connectivity, etc, are impressive by any standards.

So are the doubling of trade in less than 10 years, and 25,000 scholarships over the last three years. The announcement of an additional $10 billion in concessional credit over the next five years and a grant of $600 million for a development and health fund and 50,000 scholarships show that India is putting money where its mouth is.

What is the real work now?

The latest Delhi Declaration and the India-Africa Framework for Strategic Cooperation includes just about everything that demands attention and cooperation - political, economic and commercial, even cultural.

The challenge now, as always, is implementation: to pursue the decisions and declarations of intent to full delivery.

For me, with a dozen years' of experience serving India's interests in Africa, the most significant - and encouraging - departure from the rhetoric of the earlier summits was the realisation and its frank admission by the Prime Minister in both his opening and closing speeches.

#IndiaAfrica: The challenge, as always, is implementation of decisions

We were wanting in this in the past in delivering on our promises in a time-bound and complete fashion. So much of the expected and deserved goodwill and the spin-off benefits were lost because the implementation was mired in bureaucratic delays, and ragged implementation.

In his opening speech, the PM referred to lapses of attention, and delays in fulfilling commitments.

In his closing remarks, based as he said on feedback from his interaction with the visiting leaders, he said even more clearly: "We are conscious of the shadow that falls between intention and implementation."

The Delhi Declaration includes an agreement for "removing bottlenecks and putting in financial mechanisms to ensure full implementation of the action plans of the 3 IAFPs.

The 'India Africa Framework for Strategic Cooperation' agreed to establish a regular monitoring mechanism to review implementation for strategic cooperation and its plan of action within the agreed timeframe.

This applies to both sides - flaws in implementation are as much attributable to lack of capacity or delays by African countries. But the onus is clearly on us, as the senior partner in means and expertise, to pick up the slack.

If this mechanism is set up and designed to function effectively, given teeth to push implementation, remove obstacles, and even given punitive powers to enforce action, our development cooperation efforts in Africa will see a quantum jump. The benefits of that will be felt in every sphere, including the political.

It is this which could ensure that we change the discourse from " India promises, but China delivers", to " India promises, and delivers on its promises".

First published: 31 October 2015, 23:12 IST
Shiv Shankar Mukherjee @ShivMjee

The writer was India's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, South Africa and Namibia, and Ambassador to Nepal and Egypt.