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Monday 6 February 2012

India rejects aid from Britain, says it is peanuts

India rejects aid from Britain, says it is peanuts

Pranab Mukherjee had stated in the Rajya Sabha last August that India did not need British aid which, according to him, was "peanuts".
LONDON: Public unease has given way to increasing fury here over giving millions of pounds in aid to an increasingly prosperous India, as the David Cameron government continues to resist pressure to stop it despite being in the throes of an economic crisis.

The clamour to stop the aid reached a new high when India last week decided to prefer the French fighter jet Rafale to the Typhoon, which is partly manufactured in Britain.

The debate was passionately renewed today with The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph reporting 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". "We do not require the aid. It is a peanut in our total development exercises (expenditure)."

Mukherjee's remarks, reported to have been taken from the official transcript of the Rajya Sabha, were not reported in the UK media earlier, the newspapers said, sparking another wave of comments from people demanding an end to aid to India.

Reacting to media reports, the spokesman of the Indian High Commission to the UK said, "Yes, we have currently an aid programme with the UK. We are in ongoing consultation with British Government on nature, future direction, priority and manner of disbursal (of the aid)."

The papers also quoted a "leaked memo" which reportedly said that the then foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao proposed "not to avail (of) any further DFID (British) assistance with effect from April 1, 2011," because of the "negative publicity of Indian poverty promoted by DFID".

India preferring France to Britain in the fighter jet deal has added public pressure to stop aid to India.

However, last night officials insisted that British aid to India was necessary and that "now is not the time to end aid to India."

The Cameron government's policy to continue the aid has come in for much ridicule, also because International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell had linked the continuation of aid to "seeking to sell Typhoon."

Britain currently gives 280 million pounds annually to India, totalling 1.4 billion pounds between now and 2015.

Mitchell last night defended giving the aid, saying: "Our completely revamped programme is in India's and Britain's national interest and is a small part of a much wider relationship between our two countries."

Mitchell told The Sunday Telegraph: "We are changing our approach in 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 programme having some of the characteristics of a sovereign wealth fund. We will not be in India forever, but now is not the time to quit."

DFID has sent more than 1 billion pounds of British taxpayers' money to India in the past five years and is planning to spend a further 600 million pound on Indian aid by 2015.

Last week India rejected the British-built Typhoon jet as preferred candidate for a 6.3 billion pound warplane deal, despite Andrew Mitchell, the development secretary, saying Britain's aid to Delhi was partly "about seeking to sell Typhoon".

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