The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme is the flagship programme of India's effort for technical cooperation in the international arena. It was born on September 15, 1964 by a decision of the Indian Cabinet. It was based on the vision of our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, but formally launched under the premiership of Lal Bahadur Shastri. At that time a question was asked as to what could a newly independent, poor, poverty-stricken, developing country like India provide to the others?
But it was the conviction of the founding fathers that India would share its unique socio-economic development experience and technological achievements with other developing countries.
ITEC, originating on a modest scale, has since graduated in magnitude, geographical spread, and innovative forms of technical cooperation. Today, ITEC extends to 161 countries in Asia, Africa, East Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean as well as Pacific and Small Island countries. ITEC, essentially envisaged as a bilateral programme of cooperation, has evolved and expanded over the years.
One of the major activities under ITEC is vocational training or capacity building imparted by 47 state-of-the-art institutions conducting around 300 courses, having over 8,000 scholarships per year. ITEC covers a very wide range of subjects from traditional areas to leading-edge technologies. Information Technology and English language courses are amongst the most popular.
ITEC is firmly rooted in South-South Cooperation, which constitutes a fundamental pillar of India's foreign policy and diplomacy. South-South cooperation is a partnership born out of a shared sense of solidarity; it is entirely voluntary and free of conditionalities. It furthers national development priorities of our partners and has national ownership at its centre. It is demand-driven and has response-oriented nature of cooperation. It is a completely different paradigm from the traditional North-South aid along with its attendant donor-recipient construct, conditionalities, etc. India has been a staunch proponent and practitioner of South-South Cooperation. India remains committed to providing economic cooperation and technical assistance to our partners in the South. ITEC continues to be a vibrant instrument of channelising this assistance.
India's ITEC programme dovetails very well with the Sultanate's priorities of human resource development, capacity building, skills upgradation through education, training and vocational courses for increased jobs. Under ITEC, India had been extending 50 fully-funded training scholarships to Oman annually. Given its popularity, ITEC slots were increased for Oman to 80 last year, i.e. 2011-12. The ITEC scholarships have been further raised to 125 this year, i.e. 2012-13. This marks an increase of 150% over one year or so. Clearly, ITEC has acquired a brand name or distinct image of its own in Oman.
Recent innovations in the programme include building ITEC alumni networks at three levels – globally, institution-wise and country-based – for keeping in touch with peers, trainers and institutes. Social media tools, including the Ministry of External Affairs' exclusive facebook page for ITEC alumni, have been made available. Embassies celebrate ITEC Day to bring together alumni and to renew contacts. I am very pleased that this year's annual ITEC Day scheduled for February 18, in Muscat will help further strengthen the ITEC alumni network in Oman. J.S. Mukul is Ambassador of India to the Sultanate of Oman