New Delhi: Playing down media reports in the UK seeking stoppage of the GBP 280 million annual aid to India on the basis of a reported Rajya Sabha proceedings last year, New Delhi on Monday said it has always been appreciative of foreign assistance.
"The expanse of our need is such that foreign assistance provided is very small portion of it," a senior government official said.
"There are niche areas where we require assistance and we have always been appreciative of efforts to provide that assistance," he said.
The official was responding to reports in the UK's 'Sunday Times' and 'The Sunday Telegraph' that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had stated in the Rajya Sabha last August that India did not need British aid which, according to him, was "peanuts".
India’s reaction came even as Tory MP Philip Davies called for the Indian aid programme to be cancelled immediately, saying, “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.”
“Given that they don't even want it, it would be even more extraordinary if it were to be allowed to continue,” Davies was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, 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.
A spokesperson of the Department for International Development (DFID) said 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 were seen as another rebuff to UK after India last week preferred the French fighter Rafale to the Typhoon, which is partly build in Britain.
According to recent British media reports, Pranab Mukherjee said during a Rajya Sabha session that India “does not require” UK aid.
“We do not require the aid. It is a peanut in our total development exercises (expenditure).” Mukherjee said, adding that the Indian government wanted to “voluntarily” give it up.
It also emerged that in a leaked memo dating from 2010, the then Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao proposed “not to avail of any further British assistance with effect from 1st April 2011”, because of the “negative publicity of Indian poverty promoted by UK’s Department For International Development”.
Also today, major parties back home took strong exception to demands in the UK for stopping aid to India, with opposition BJP saying that the country did not require such help and should give a befitting reply to the "arrogance" of a section of the British political class by refusing it.
BJP MP Balbir Punj said, "I am surprised that in India which is seen as a rising economic power, inspite of the misgovernance by the UPA, should take these peanuts from the UK or anywhere else.
"I will call upon the government to stop this aid immediately. That will be a proper and fit reply to the arrogance of those British who think that they can influence the decision-making in India with the help of a few pennies."
Senior CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said Britain was "reacting in a typical manner in which a conservative Tory-led government would react. They are saying that if you are not meeting our interests, why should we give you any aid."
"So any aid, which is tied or conditional, is not going to be helpful to India," Yechury said.
Referring to the decision on Rafale, Union Minister and Congress leader Veerappa Moily said, "Business cannot work on monopolies, but (depends) on competitiveness. Whatever the best quality and whatever the prices, we do business.
"Any country cannot dictate and say that you do business only with me and not anybody else, I don't think this can run. We have to deal with things that are in the best interests of the country."
(With agency inputs)
First Published: Monday, February 06, 2012, 11:43