London: "Why should poor Britain continue its economic aid to rich India", Lord Meghnad Desai, Indian-born British economist and Labour politician, asked of visiting Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari.
Realising that the unexpected question was basically to seek his views on the ongoing debate in Britain, that in the face of the economic slowdown London should stop its development aid to a booming economy like India, Gadkari told Lord Desai that British aid has been "very helpful in improving the lot of poor people in backward and tribal areas of India".
Britain has been providing around four million pounds worth of aid through various agencies to different Indian states for improving rural health and sanitation, drinking water facilities in tribal areas and primary education in backward area.
But in view of the difficult economic situation faced by the country, if the British government wants to withdraw this aid it is for them to decide, Gadkari said at a well-attended dinner at the Asia House Wednesday night.
He agreed with Lord Desai that India was very much in a position to take care of its problems and that "Indian states should be able to continue developmental work without British aid".
He said his party favoured Indo-British cooperation in areas like agriculture, irrigation, water management, power, renewable energy sources and infrastructure like rural roads and invited British companies to invest in the BJP-ruled states on public-private partnership basis.
Gadkari announced that he has authorised Rajesh Shah, a member of the BJP national executive and head of various economic cells, who hosted the Asia House dinner, to coordinate between the British opinion makers and the appropriate party forums for cooperation in different areas in the BJP-ruled states.
A large number of British industrialists, businessmen, lords and legal experts were present at the dinner.
Earlier in the day Gadkari held an interactive session with Oxford University students on climate change organised by the UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC). He also addressed the UK India Business Council (UKIBC) where he explored Indo-British cooperation in skilled management and small and medium enterprise.
The UKIBC evinced keen interest in sending a delegation to India to explore joint ventures in infrastructure in the BJP ruled states.
Addressing a press conference, Gadkari said the BJP supported the demand of the people of Indian origin for dual citizenship which he said will further boost the Indian economy.
He said the BJP would raise their demand for resumption of Air India`s direct flights from London to Ahmedabad and Amritsar that have been terminated. Gadkari said Jet Airways had assured him it would consider operating its flights in these sectors.