NEW DELHI: Pitching for deeper South-South cooperation, India today said development assistance to needy countries "cannot and should not" be put in a box and judged according to "orthodox parameters" of donor-recipient relationships, comments seen as a subtle dig at China.
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, delivering a lecture at a conference on South-South cooperation listed India's development projects in various countries including in Africa, noting it does not attach any conditionality and has always been respectful of sovereignty of the partner nations.
Talking about India's neighbourhood, he said it is virtually the largest donor to its neighbours today.
"Ours is a demand-driven solidarity based approach and we do not attach any conditionality and we are always respectful of the sovereignty of our partner countries. Our experience has been that the greatest strength of the South South cooperation has been its diversity of forms and flows.
"The core idea is to share best practices and lessons with other partner countries. For this reason, it cannot be and it should not be put in a box and judged according to the orthodox parameters of donor, recipient relationships," Jaishankar said.
China has been involved in major infrastructure projects in various African countries. India has been engaged in capacity-building initiatives in the African continent with whom it shares a historical bonding.
Referring to the neighbourhood first policy of the Modi government, he said it has boosted practical cooperation among the countries in a number of areas including connectivity, human resource development and institution building.
"We are today the largest donor by far to virtually all our neighbours," the Foreign Secretary said.
Highlighting India's engagement in Africa, he talked about the India-Africa Forum Summit held in October last year and quoted Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying "it is a partnership beyond strategic concerns and economic benefits."
He said South-South cooperation is an important aspect of India's foreign policy, especially its engagement with other development partners.
"It is only appropriate for us to proactively contribute to the discourse for South South Cooperation," he said.
The Foreign Secretary stressed on the need for sustainable development instead of going for improvements in certain indicators.
"Unlike the partial list of objectives, merely seeking an improvement of some indicators, sustainable development goals seek transformation across the entire development landscape."
He said success of the transformation hinges on ensuring robust and inclusive economic growth, creation of infrastructure and jobs, ensuring access to modern energy.
Jaishankar also highlighted various initiatives of the government including Make in India, Digital India, Swachh Bharat campaign and smart cities and said they opened new opportunity to enhance development cooperation with India's partner countries.