Made in India! It’s their tryst with India, and the spirit of South-South sharing, that has branded them for life. On the night of October 21, which coincided with the Diwali eve, students and mid-career professionals from dozens of countries across the globe celebrated a unique institution called ITEC, which brought them together to India in an adventure of learning, seeking, sharing and skilling.
Singing and dancing amid animated chatter to Indian pop star Alisha Chinai’s foot-tapping number Made in India, this rainbow brotherhood toasted the golden jubilee of Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, which has become their ticket to India and the world in more ways than one. The atmosphere was heady and resembled that of a graduation dinner, with ITEC alumni from diverse nationalities exchanging notes, clicking photos and packing their nostalgia bag with memories of India. Noor Mohammed from Afghanistan said disarmingly: “It’s a gift. I am so happy to be part of ITEC and come to India.” Catherine from Colombia was also all praise for the ITEC ethos: ”It was an invaluable experience. India is an amazing country.”
Now, when they go home, each of them will have their own India Story to tell and the ITEC experience they will cherish for life. These experiences will come alive in an interactive format in a new ITEC portal which promises to simplify the processing of applications, provide a vibrant platform for ITEC alumni to interact and send the much-needed feedback to the Indian missions and officials of India’s ministry of external affairs.
“ITEC alumni are our goodwill ambassadors and it is apt that this important work to e-connect with them is being undertaken in the golden jubilee year,” said India’s Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj at the 50th golden jubilee celebrations of ITEC held at ITC Maurya hotel in New Delhi.
The minister said the ITEC participants should stay in touch after their return home to buttress the network of friendship created by ITEC.
Encapsulating the ethos of ITEC, the minister underlined that this empowering programme has helped train thousands of participants from across the world and helped in capacity building of diverse nations during the five decades of its existence.
Looking ahead, a series of events will be held to mark the golden jubilee year of ITEC. The focus will be on nourishing the ITEC with new ideas and initiatives to keep it vibrant and responsive to changing needs of kindred developing countries. It was in this spirit that the minister urged the ITEC partner institutions to undertake a review of their association with the programme and provide a feedback to the ministry on to improve the capacity building schemes.
“The ITEC programme was commenced in 1964 as an expression of India’s solidarity with fellow developing countries of the south. It was started with the belief that developing countries should assist each other, since they traverse similar paths of development and their knowledge and experience would be especially relevant to other fellow developing countries,” she said.
In the five decades of its non-stop journey, ITEC, a signature Indian programme of capacity building and human resource development targeted at the developing world, has emerged as a shining example of South-South solidarity, and its impact can be seen and felt in different corners of the world.
Since ITEC was launched in 1964, 161 countries cutting across continents have been enriched and transformed by thousands of alumni of the ITEC who learnt myriad skills during the short-period training courses they attended in India over the years.
An embodiment of India’s unflinching commitment to South-South cooperation, the ITEC programme has successfully disseminated expertise and shared India’s developmental experience with countries of the developing south. Started as a bilateral programme of assistance of the Indian government, the ITEC, including its corollary SCAAP (Special Commonwealth Assistance for Africa Programme), has expanded to include over 250-odd courses ranging from IT, textile designing, entrepreneurship training, foreign affairs to commerce, science and media.
Self-fashioning remain the driving mantra of ITEC, and is reflected in the annual voyage of “solar grandmothers” to India. Under the ITEC programme, every year, these illiterate and semi-literate women living in far-flung villages in countries like Senegal, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Nauru, El Salvador, Haiti, Zanzibar and Sudan come to Barefoot College in Tilonia, a small village near Ajmer in Rajasthan. And they go back as trained solar engineers who are feted as heroes back home. They are the true bearers of light, and as the ITEC celebrates its 50th year and braces for another 50 golden years, it is this radiant light of giving and sharing in the South-South spirit that will continue to light up a vast expanse of the developing world.
(Manish Chand is Editor-in-Chief of India Writes, www.indiawrites.org, an e-magazine and journal focused on international affairs and the India Story).
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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