London: Britain on Monday 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
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 on Monday 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
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."
First Published: Monday, February 06, 2012, 18:02