Accepted paper:

Rebranding 'soft power' and the 'indianisation' of Indian aid to Africa


Meera Venkatachalam (University of Mumbai)

Paper short abstract:

India has cultivated a new identity as a nation with a civilisational duty, a process which began at economic liberalisation and was amplified with the ascent of Modi's Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). How this process has reconfigured India's African educational outreach is examined.

Paper long abstract:

India's diplomacy was framed in the context of 'South-South Cooperation' and 'Non-alignment' during the Nehruvian era (1949-64). The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) program, inaugurated in 1964, declares itself to be "demand-driven", according to the needs of the partnering country, engaging in "cooperation" for "mutual benefit". Under the Special Commonwealth Assistance for Africa Programme (SCAAP), "more than 160 countries are invited to share India's developmental experience acquired over six decades of her existence as a free nation." After liberalisation in 1991, as the Indian economy reported double digit growth, Indian political actors began rebranding their place in the world, especially vis-à-vis Africa. India-Africa relations were rejuvenated with the triannual India-Africa Forum Summits (IAFS)s from 2008. A new unit, the Development Partnership Agency (DPA), was set up in 2012 within the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), for governing outgoing aid projects. Modi's premiership (2014-), has seen an aggressive Africa outreach: in 2015, he announced 50,000 new scholarships, and Lines of Credit (LOCs) amounting to USD 10 billion, over 5 years. The rationale for India's engagement with Africa also changed, as a reinvention of Indian culture and reconceptualisation of the nation's past civilisational role in the world ensued, against the backdrop of the right-wing Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP)'s ascent to power. This paper looks at how the 'Indianisation' of the educational system plays out with reference to India's African educational outreach, in terms of marketing India in Africa, student recruitment, modalities of skill and knowledge transmissions, and return contributions.

panel Econ20
India's aid and soft power in Africa: connections and connectivities