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India swaps aid for status

AFP filed an interesting story today on a recent example of India's overseas lending:

India has extended a $100-million loan to Mali for a power project, while Bamako promised to support the Asian giant's bid for a permanent UN Security Council seat, a statement said.

The joint statement, received by AFP Friday, was issued after a visit to India by Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure on January 11-12.

The Indian government $100-million (77.8-million euro) credit line is meant to finance a power transmission project connecting the Malian capital Bamako to the southern city of Sikasso.

"The Indian side thanked Mali for its support to India?s candidature for permanent membership in an expanded United Nations Security Council," the statement said.

India is on a charm offensive to build good ties with the resource-rich African continent, where its Chinese rival is already heavily involved.

The phenomenon of emerging-power lending--particularly from China--has gotten plenty of attention in the past few years, sometimes with the lament that their no-strings-attached lending extracts nothing from borrowers on human rights and corruption and thereby undercuts efforts by the World Bank and other multilateral lenders. Seen in that light, emerging-power largesse cuts against global governance efforts and international institutions, which some emerging powers have never felt particularly fond of in any case. For Beijing, the quid pro quo has often been project financing in the developing world in exchange for greater access to desperately needed natural resources.

But in the case of Mali described above, it certainly appears that India is swapping development aid for an improved shot at the status symbol of a UN Security Council seat. And if that's indeed what was at work, it's tantalizing evidence of a different and potentially important dynamic: emerging-power lending used not to circumvent existing institutions but as a lever to increase their ownership of them. 

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