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Charu Sudan Kasturi and Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, December 17, 2012
It ranks higher on most social indices and is notorious for its massive bureaucracy. But communist China has turned to India to learn how to better deliver key social programmes to its citizens and to improve its civil services.

Beijing has told Indian officials it wants to study the country's mid-day meal (MDM) scheme and integrated child development scheme (ICDS), which are the world's largest school lunch and early childcare programmes, top government sources told HT.

Chinese officials have used the platform of the E-9 - a group of the world's nine most-populated developing countries - which met in November in Delhi, to communicate their desire to learn from these schemes.


China - where the rigorous civil services examinations that most Asian countries use originated in the 7th century AD -also wants to pick up tips from India's administrative services to improve and update its governance services. India's stock market has also caught the attention of the Chinese.

"It was a stumper," a senior Indian official said, recalling his surprise when his Chinese counterpart first brought up his country's desire to study the Indian civil services. India and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation in civil services, personnel management and public administration in May 2010.

China's requests to India point to the complex nature of the relationship between the two countries, which can appear almost schizophrenic in nature at times. Though the neighbours share a contentious border, fought a war in 1962 and are lodged in a global race for resources to pump their growing economies, they work together in other areas such as climate change.

"These requests represent rare stamps approval for Indian governance from China," an Indian official involved with the talks on the social sector schemes said. "And the recognition comes as encouragement - clearly we're doing some things rights."

The MDM feeds over 100 million children daily, covering all government schools till class 8.