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‘To Help is to Benefit?’ European Technical Aid and ‘Modernizing’ Approaches to India’s Industrial Sector,
c. 1945-1973

Stefan Tetzlaff

This research project examines the interdependency of European technical aid and ‘modernizing’ approaches to India’s industrial sector during the early Cold War era. A new industrialization drive from the end of World War II helped by foreign governments and business actors marks the beginning of the study. Its end is marked by the Government of India’s increasing emphasis on self-reliance starting with the oil crisis of 1973. During this period, European aid and modernization approaches were crucial for India’s economy. Financial contributions from Britain and West Germany were particularly large. But there is also evidence that these states did not provide aid primarily to help, but for their own industries to benefit from India’s industrialization.
In its more detailed analysis, the project is therefore interested in answering a number of questions: what exactly were the reasons and contexts in which European actors provided technical aid to India during this period at all? Did European modernization perspectives on India’s industry influence the aid-giving process and if so to what extent? Finally, did these aspects effectively influence India’s industrial trajectory and if so to what extent?
To answer these questions, the project prepares case studies of industrial sectors and projects in the automotive, steel and mechanical engineering industry. These sectors/projects are chosen, as they interested a large number of political and business actors both in Europa and India. They also make the differences between aid and modernization approaches apparent. Research will be conducted in political and economic archives across Germany that existing work on economic development in post-independent India barely considers.