India, which offers a unique statistical training programme for participants from least-developed and developing Asian and African countries, should cash in on the geo-political advantage of the course that is being run by the prestigious Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) since 1950, says a veteran statistician. International Statistical Education Centre (ISEC) at the ISI provides training in theoretical and applied statistics at various levels to selected participants from the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the far east and the Commonwealth countries of Africa.
According to S.P. Mukherjee, Chairman, Board of Directors of ISEC, these nations could be made to depend more on India in the area of planning of their economic activities rather than banking on the bigger powers. “In this region, without any economic or political benefit in mind, India has been extending cooperation to strengthen their planning activities. Each country has a national statistical body but their staff members are not well equipped in that discipline. So how do they get their staff equipped and that too at a subsidy? So India came in,” Mukherjee told IANS.
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For the 70th term of the course (2016-2017), there were 28 trainees from 15 countries including 10 African nations.
The primary training programme is a 10-month regular course in statistics leading to a statistical training diploma.
In addition, special courses on different topics of varying duration are also organised. In the current batch of pass outs, 23 trainees were supported by fellowships under the ITEC/SCAAP of India while five trainees availed fellowships of Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
The ISEC was founded at the initiative of Indian scientist and applied statistician, P.C. Mahalanobis.
“Whatever training they need we can help them in applying in their respective economies without them being influenced by some other bigger powers who could channel their economic activities in possibly a different direction. We can tell them that there are better ways of planning economic activities,” Mukherjee observed.
In this way, he explained, “They could be made to depend more on India in terms of their actual planning of their economic activities rather than depending on big powers for subsidies or trade, etc.”
He said that in terms of economic activities, trade — bilateral or multilateral — could also be enhanced. “I don’t mean they should be clubbed with political activities,” he added.
Whatever political happenings take place, they mostly have their impact on the economy. That economy is being influenced by the support that India had been providing, without really getting any return or without asking, he said.
He strongly believes India should leverage the collaborative advantage.
“This (cashing in on) has not happened yet. All these countries have been consistently getting help from ISI. Otherwise they would have failed to plan their own economic activities. The countries of the region who are a bit handicapped in not having strong scientific, technological and statistical basis, they have been consistently deriving adequate support from India… that’s the geopolitical importance.”
The ISEC draws most of its teachers from the ISI and uses all ISI facilities, including its library.
In Asia, apart from India, Japan’s Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific (SIAP) conducts training.
“This is not as academic as ours. Statistics started in India and we have an edge,” he said.
Vouching for the popularity of the course, Mukherjee said Eastern Africa Statistical Training Centre (EASTC) housed in Tanzania has approached the ISEC to enrol their faculty members for the institute’s regular PhD programme.
“They want our help to train their faculty members and so their director came and met me as well. In fact, they would like to have some of their faculty members enrol for the regular PhD programmes of ISI through an examination but for some reason the examination could not be held in their countries,” Mukherjee informed.
In the last 10 years, Afghanistan has sent 23 officials, while as many as 72 participants from 16 African nations have graduated from the ISEC.
Over the past decade, India’s bilateral trade with Africa has more than quadrupled, growing from $12 billion in 2005 to $56.7 billion in 2015-16, largely due to strong government support. India is Africa’s fifth largest investor. This year, the African Development Bank for the first time held its annual meetings in India.