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South-south cooperation a new phenomena: Puri

India has more poor people than all the 48 Least Developed Countries (LDC) in the world -- who are meeting in New Delhi for two days from Friday -- put together. Jayanth Jacob reports.

delhi Updated: Feb 18, 2011 00:00 IST
Jayanth Jacob

India has more poor people than all the 48 Least Developed Countries (LDC) in the world -- who are meeting in New Delhi for two days from Friday -- put together.

But, that very fact is the significance of the meet, where New Delhi plans to announce more concessions to the grouping that has 33 countries from Africa, 17 in Asia Pacific and Haiti, says Hardeep Puri, India’s permanent representative to the United Nations.

New Delhi is hosting the meet for the first time which is a preparatory platform for 4th UN-LDC Conference to be held in Istanbul in May this year. Puri says that the paradigm of south-south cooperation, where India figures, is entirely different from the approach of the traditionally rich countries in the north helping the LDCs.

“The north-south cooperation typically revolves around the classical donor-recipient relationship,” Puri says, adding the Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) has been “very prescriptive” as to what the LDCs do on account of their human rights records and other indicators.

He explains, instead, that the south-south cooperation seeks out LDC countries on what they want to be done in their countries, without being “prescriptive”. The economic crisis drying contributions from the north, and countries like India hitting the path of consistent economic growth have brought fresh life to the south-south cooperation, he feels.

LDC has 33 African countries, so what about the China factor. China has been taking a lead in African initiatives, that many feel are primarily aimed at the continents vast resources.

“We do things differently. We focus basically on capacity building,” explains Puri. And it is different from having the “excavation” industries for getting the minerals.

He admits that the comparison between India “going to a 2 trillion economy” and China “4 to 5 trillion economy” is odd.

But New Delhi wants to be more liberal with the LDCs and is keen on its private sector taking an active role. So far India has a cumulative investment of USD 35 billion in the LDCs, and India imports goods worth ten billion from this grouping.

Considering that the past record of LDCs is not confidence inspiring, can the future be different for the groupings’ ambitious agenda?

Since 1971, just three countries -- Botswana, Cape Verde and Maldives -- graduated from LDC to developing countries.

“Future is positive” Puri asserts. Reasons? “The world has changed, the governance pattern in these countries are changing. There is constant international spotlight on them.”

But he stresses on having strong “follow-up mechanisms” to review the progress of the UN hosted LDC conference, that happens once in ten years.