New Delhi: Amid off-and-on allegations about corruption and bureaucratic delays in dispensing funds to foreign countries, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna has initiated a host of steps, including the setting up of a central aid agency, to inject greater transparency and swiftness in delivery systems.

"We believe in providing total transparency in all our operations. It's a fact that in the last four-five years India has emerged as one of the big donors among developing countries for less developed and smaller countries," Krishna told in an interview.

"We have worked out a system to ensure transparency and will not be found wanting," he replied when asked about the oft-iterated allegations of funds diversion and delays in delivery of aid. The authorities in Bangladesh, for example, have often complained that the implementation of projects under the USD 1 billion line of credit provided by India over two years ago has been slow.

But India has maintained that the nature and magnitude of those projects take time."Till now, our aid budget has been small. However, it's been growing for some time. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced $5 billion for Africa at the second India-Africa Forum Summit in Addis Ababa last year," he said.

Amid China's aggressive diplomatic outreach in the developing world, India has scaled up aid and soft loans of over USD 11 billion to developing countries as part of its long-term strategy to push India's strategic interests through economic diplomacy and soft power projection.

The foreign aid, which India likes to call developmental assistance, includes $7.5 billion to Africa, USD 2 billion to Afghanistan, USD 1 billion to Afghanistan, USD 1 billion to Myanmar and substantial aid to neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

"It's one of our key priorities to provide a structural framework for dispensing aid. All aid is now being channelised through the Development Partnership Administration (DPA)," Krishna said. The DPA was set up in January in a bid to enhance India's soft power and economic diplomacy through swifter aid delivery.

Krishna said the DPA's strength will be doubled over the next six months in view of the need to fast-track commitments made by India to various countries. The DPA currently comprises around 20 officials who also include professionals from other countries and brings under one umbrella all aspects related to project implementation, ranging from monitoring implementation and auditing impact assessment.

Experts from other ministries, including the railways, telecommunications, agriculture and human resource development, are being brought on deputation into the DPA'a fold. Experts also join from outside the government as consultants on a project-to-project basis.

Although the DPA, a department of the external affairs ministry, was set up in January, it acquired traction only after the BRICS summit of emerging powers in March-end. The DPA is headed by P.S. Raghavan, additional secretary in the external affairs ministry.Underlining the need for probity, Krishna also stressed that he wants to keep the ministry's operations and activities above board. "That's why in all projects related to the ministry, we have an open tendering system so that we can get the best service provider for a particular project. These contracts are not done through nomination," he said.


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