The motivation behind deploying aid is often spurred by geopolitical and diplomatic considerations rather than purely developmental goals
Former colonial powers used development aid to maintain special relations with former colonies, spheres of influence as witnessed during the Cold War, and subsequently, to ensure regional stability, lasting solutions to fragile political systems, access to markets and resources, and so on.Development cooperation, used as an instrument of diplomacy, is referred to as development diplomacy, which comprises the repurposing of aid in a way that serves public diplomacy objectives as well as the achievement of development goals concurrently. As a tool of diplomacy, development cooperation can be used to support regional integration and cooperation. Donor countries can use aid to support regional organisations, such as the African Union (AU) or Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and to promote regional cooperation on issues such as trade, security, and environmental protection. Development aid, thus, became a tool to maintain existing alliances and create new ones. It is an important dimension of international relations, particularly relations between developing and developed countries, and also between and among developing countries as it forms the link between foreign policy and development cooperation. The accommodation of geostrategic and geoeconomic concerns is both an inevitable and an inalienable component of development cooperation.
An assessment of the politics of aid is critical for enhancing the main (moral) goal of aid—to sustain development and reduce poverty.This is because it is political motivations, and more appropriately, geopolitical motivations that drive the world order, and also because an estimation of the varied political motives behind aid dispensation can act as a measure of aid effectiveness. In other words, an assessment of the politics of aid is critical for enhancing the main (moral) goal of aid—to sustain development and reduce poverty. Thus, while ‘no strings attached’ makes for great publicity by appealing to ethics, it is essentially the nature and pull of the strings that make the difference. As they say, the devil is in the details. For instance, aid given by China is essentially a loan with strict regulations, no waivers, and as has been witnessed, comes at the cost of the recipient country’s sovereignty if the regulations are not met.
The overarching narrative has divided the region into ‘like-minded countries’ led by the West on the one hand and China on the other.The ‘competition’ in development cooperation was prompted by China’s rapid and overriding emergence as a major player in development cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. Based primarily on infrastructure development, Beijing’s entry has been accompanied by a sufficient degree of ambiguity and apprehension in recent years for its predatory and appropriating nature. Beijing’s conditions of aid delivery have, thus, altered the geopolitical landscape in the Indo-Pacific. The overarching narrative has divided the region into ‘like-minded countries’ led by the West on the one hand and China on the other. Most countries within the region are prompted to follow a delicate tightrope walk trying not to irk Beijing while opting into cooperation frameworks and platforms that can help to balance against China’s extending footholds across the region alongside a disregard for the international rules-based order. This scenario has complicated regional as well as global politics since the economic fate of all major powers is connected with the stability of the Indo-Pacific. However, at the same time, this offers scope for the creation of political incentives that would discourage non-compliance. It is naïve to assume that goals would always be altruistic as geopolitical factors affect how governments interact. Due to this, the case for not delinking politics from development cooperation forms an important component of the development cooperation discourse and practice.
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Pratnashree Basu is an Associate Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata, with the CNED programme. She is a 2017 US Department of State IVLP Fellow ...Read More +