South-South Cooperation: INDIA

Senior Management of UNDP in Kyrgyzstan recently visited India to explore the opportunities for cooperation between UNDP Kyrgyzstan and UNDP India. This visit took place against the backdrop of the rise in cooperation between the two countries. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi visited Kyrgyzstan two month ago, in July 2015, and signed several agreements with the Kyrgyz Government, including the one on reciprocal assistance in the conduct of elections.

Kaarmanbek Kuluev interviewed UNRC/UNDP RR Alexander Avanessov and UNDP DRR Pradeep Sharma about their visit and its correlation with intergovernmental relations between India and Kyrgyzstan.

A.Avanessov and P.Sharma with colleagues in IndiaA.Avanessov and P.Sharma with colleagues in India

Interviewer: So, you have visited India to see the opportunities for cooperation between UNDP offices in these two countries. Why India?


Mr. Sharma: Why not India? Of course there are very concrete reasons for this try.


Interviewer: We do not often hear about visit to India for some new opportunities, at least not from UNDP side. Especially from a Bureau that deals with European and Central Asia countries. So, this trip looks quite different. And also, Prime Minister of India has visited Kyrgyzstan just recently. Is it just coincidence or something directly related?


Mr. Sharma: The purpose of our visit to India was to explore – through UNDP offices - possible collaboration between Kyrgyzstan and India on a number of key areas within the framework of south-south cooperation. Kyrgyzstan as you know is surrounded by economic powerhouses. When UNDP Administrator Helen Clark was here in May 2011 she commented that Kyrgyzstan should more actively use the advantage to benefit greatly by better integration with these emerging economies, like Russia, Turkey, China and India. In fact, our office has been trying to contribute to this process and develop cooperation with emerging donors like Russia, Turkey, and Kazakhstan for last few years. Now its India’s turn. It also totally complies with our South-South cooperation policy, which being actively pushed forwarded within UNDP.


Additionally, India is a key player in BRICS. It is alsonow a regular member of SCO . These factors add further impetus to need for better collaboration between India and CA. Government of India is also showing keen interest in Central Asia as was evident from PM Modi’s recent visit to all five countries along with his participation at Ufa summit of SCO and BRICS meeting. To Kyrgyzstan, this was the first visit of an Indian PM after 20 years. Government of India’s policy shift from “look east” to “act east” will see many more activities between the two countries. UNDP stands ready to support wherever we can.


Mr. Avanessov: Indeed, Mr. Modi has just recently visited Kyrgyzstan. Several agreements were signed. And this definitely was very good background for our visit. However, our visit was more about exchange of best practices and learning from each other. We went to India with pragmatic goals, such as seeing best practices within UNDP India. India has many good practices and interesting experience, which could be replicated in Kyrgyzstan as well especially in the areas of regional development, elections, environment and disaster risk reduction. We could see in India some very interesting initiatives initiated by PM Modi, like “Make it in India”, which could be of great interest for Kyrgyzstan, which is also trying, especially after joining Eurasia Economic Union, to expand its industrial base, internal production of agro products, creation of jobs  and stimulate investments.


Interviewer: Could you, please, tell us more about these experiences in India, which got you interested?


Mr. Sharma: We had positive meetings and very interesting discussion with the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Environment, and Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) besides meetings with UNDP India CO to learn about government cost-sharing and private sector collaboration. We also met with the Kyrgyzstan Ambassador in India, who immediately came up with some ideas of UNDP support, including promotion of Indian tourism and investments to Kyrgyzstan.


Overall response was very positive. Ministry of Environment agreed to jointly develop with UNDP Kyrgyzstan project on bio-diversity, which is about famous Snow Leopard and Han-Tengry park creation funded by GEF and implemented by UNDP. First meeting is likely to take place in a month or so. On disaster risk management, UNDP India has developed indicators to measure community resilience which we will receive and possibly adopt. Their experience in mainstreaming DRR in development plans is also worth emulating.


Kyrgyzstan Ambassador requested our support in introduction of e-visa for the country in collaboration with the Indian counterparts who have experience in this regard. On e-governance, we will invite an expert from India when we organize the Open data workshop later this year.


The presentation on MSME gave us ideas on how to strengthen skill base in the country if the country has to attract investors, especially foreign investors. On the government cost-sharing, UNDP India is doing very well as it provides operational support to the national and sub-national governments. This is directly linked with the program “Make it in India”. We agreed with the Minister to promote their training programs in Kyrgyzstan and further explore possibilities of a bilateral initiative with participation of UNDP as a facilitator.


This was an exploratory visit and we need to continue the momentum. India is a big donor but not a conventional donor. It works largely on bilateral basis. Our challenge in UNDP is to offer value so that we could work together.


Interviewer: In which areas are you thinking to work together? Which particular experience in UNDP India is interesting for Kyrgyzstan?


Mr. Avanessov: We are working on it right now. As for now, UNDP will organize round tables for delegations of Indian entrepreneurs together with Indian Embassy. They could be involved in some UNDP projects, such as small hydro projects in cooperation with UNIDO. Also we are planning to work with medical doctors on developmental situation in the country with special attention to the MDG acceleration framework. India has very interesting experience in telemedicine, which allow consultations of rural doctors with their colleagues from leading institutions in capital. We plan to focus the work on topics where UNDP, in close work with other UN agencies, such as WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF and UNIDO, can benefit from India expertise and possible funding.


But broadly speaking, we are looking at the indicators to measure community resilience. That should be quite unique thing to adopt in Kyrgyzstan. It is a very useful tool to see, how well prepared the community is for possible disaster. This is a very important experience for disaster risk reduction and management.

Elections in IndiaElections in India


Another one is their experience in elections. As you are aware Kyrgyzstan is making a big effort to capitalize on modern technology to ensure free and transparent elections. There obvious challenges here. One of those is how to make it work in remote, mostly rural areas. In India the modern electoral technologies are used both in urban and remote rural areas. This is something to learn from.


The third one, in my view, could be their experience in regional development. You know that in Kyrgyzstan we are realizing Area Based Development Programme in Naryn oblast. So, India has something similar. UNDP has been requested by the Government to facilitate development programme in certain states of India with very difficult socio-economic situations and to strengthen livelihoods and sustainable development. Indian Government has provided to UNDP $80 millions for Area Development projects in these states. With a view to support the Indian government’s call to “Make in India” – the policy – aimed at attracting investors is the  Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, the existence of which is already very interesting, is preparing a large skill-base in the country to meet the demand from investors. This will ensure that when business comes, it will find adequate and relevant skilled labor, among others. This is what is lacking very often in Kyrgyzstan which is experiencing outflow of skilled workers and management personnel.


The main resource for India is human capital. It means that India should nourish it. Teach people specific skills, promote it, etc. This approach may be very interesting for Kyrgyzstan, as it has entered Eurasian Economic Union and boosting the industry is one of country’s main objectives now.


Interviewer: Does it mean that UNDP will support Kyrgyzstan’s efforts to gain a bigger role within Eurasian Economic Union?


Mr. Avanessov: Country’s entrance into Eurasian Economic Union is just another condition we take into account, just like many others. UNDP will support Kyrgyzstan’s efforts for development, for empowering people. That’s what UNDP stands for. Empowered lives. Resilient nations.


Kaarmanbek Kuluev
UNRCO Communications Associate