No plans to review India aid, says UK

No plans to review India aid, says UK

Britain today defended its multi- million pound aid to India, amid demands by ruling Conservative party MPs and others to end it, saying "now is not the time to quit".

International aid is among few areas that have not been subjected to deep funding cuts by the economically-strapped David Cameron government, which has faced much ridicule and more for continuing to send aid to an increasingly prosperous India.

The passionate debate was reignited on Sunday with the re-publication of remarks by Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who said in 2010 that in the overall context of funds that India spends on development, British aid was "peanuts", and one that India could do without.

A spokesperson of the Department for International Development (DFID) told PTI today that there were no plans to reconsider the aid programme to India.
He said: "We reviewed the India programme last year. There are no plans to review again".

Conservative MPs Philip Davies, Douglas Carswell and Peter Bone joined a critical chorus, urging Prime Minister Cameron to immediately end aid to India in view of Mukherjee's re-published remarks, but International Development secretary Andrew Mitchell defended the aid.

Mitchell said: "We will not be in India for ever but now is not the time to quit. Our completely revamped programme is in Indian's and Britain's national interest and is a small part of a much wider relationship between our two countries".
He added: "We are changing our approach to India.

We will target aid at three of India's poorest states, rather than central Government. We will invest more in the private sector, with our aid programme having some of the characteristics of a sovereign wealth fund."

Mukherjee's remarks sparked off waves of comments by readers of The Sunday Telegraph and the tabloid press that often splashes reports of millions of pounds of British money allegedly being pocketed by corrupt officials in India.

The remarks were seen as another rebuff after India last week preferred the French fighter Rafale to the Typhoon, which is partly build in Britain. The tabloid press today went to town with demands by Conservative MPs demanding an immediate end to the aid to India.

Tory MP Davies said: "India spends tens of billions on defence and hundreds of millions a year on a space programme – in those circumstances it would be unacceptable to give them aid even if they were begging us for it".

He added: "Given that they don't even want it, it would be even more extraordinary if it were to be allowed to continue. There will be millions of hard-pressed families wondering why on earth the Government is wasting money in this way." 

Fellow Tory MP Douglas Carswell said: "This is concrete proof that Britain's aid programme is run in the interests of Whitehall officials and the DFID machine. The fact is that India's economy is growing much faster than our own. We should be encouraging free trade with them and trying to learn from them rather than handing out patronising lectures."

Another Conservative MP, Peter Bone, urged ministers to abandon the 'vanity project' of pursuing a target to hand out 0.7 per cent of the UK's entire national income in aid.

He said: "India has its own foreign aid programme so it is absurd for us to be still giving them aid. They are more than capable of looking after their own issues. As for the 0.7 per cent target, it is a vanity project that is being pursued for no good reason at all. I do not understand the Government's position on this and I don't think the British public do either."