Towards health diplomacy: emerging trends in India’s South-South health cooperation

From India’s Approach to Development Cooperation, this chapter takes a look at the development of India’s health cooperation.


In recent years, the South has emerged as a leading protagonist in international development cooperation, often in sectors previously dominated by developed countries. Health-related action provides one striking example. Emerging economies such as Brazil, India, China, and South Africa (BICS), along with other countries such as Cuba, have come forward to supplement global efforts in tackling various health-sector challenges. The growing magnitude of development assistance from BICS has given new hope for health-sector management efforts in developing countries.

South-South cooperation (SSC) in health comes with a built-in
element of diplomacy and raises questions about the agendas of participating countries. The present chapter analyses India’s contributions to these actions and their implications for India’s aid architecture in general. India’s participation in the multilateral dialogue comes during a period of intensifi ed effort in the health sector, both within and outside the country. This effort has focused on low-cost, often bilateral, projects in the areas of its growing domestic strength: health infrastructure, human resources, capacity building and enhancement, and education. Indian health professionals and researchers have shared expertise with other developing countries, and Indian entrepreneurs have shared products and
other resources, thus promoting health research and capacity building alongside economic development.

The first section addresses the emerging concept of global health diplomacy (GHD) and discuss the specific modalities that India has emphasised as elements of its development compact. The second section situates Indian activity within the general framework of multilateral South-South cooperation in the health sector. The chapter then looks at the traditionally bilateral, demand-driven character of India’s development cooperation and its regional focus, now expanding to new developing countries and a greater role in multilateral platforms. The chapter concludes with some of the challenges, as well as the most promising strategies, for future policy.

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