During the last week, politicians and media in both Britain and India were exchanging unpleasant comments over the 280 million pound British aid to India. Political parties in Britain were pressing the Conservative government to stop aid to the rising economic power. In India, ruling MPs and opposition leaders requested the government to reject the aid.
In Britain, media and policy makers have quesioned the logic of providing loans to the fastest growing economy, at a time when British economy is facing fund scarcity. The British government, to put an end to the issue, has declared its final stance that “now is not the time to quit” (from giving aid to India).
A close anaysis on the issue may reveal that the popular frustration regarding aid to India has erupted out of immediate reasons than anything else, adding to the existing factors like India’s rising economic status.
British aid may not be a show a vanity or a promotion of colonial heritage, but rather was expected at reciprocal concessions such as the jet deal. When the deal was not won by the British firm, the aid has also lost its utility for Britain. The cry to stop aid to India in Britain is not because of that Britain became aware of India’s growing status on the previous night. The British media also contextually unearthed the Indian Finance Minister’s ‘peanut’ statement which occurred a year ago to suit the current environment.
People inside and outside the government in Britain highlighted that India is not the same economy, two or three decades ago. The Daily Mail news paper has questioned the logic of pouring “hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money into aid for India, a country with more billionaires than Britain and money to spare for its own space programme.”
Several factors contributed to the unnecessary controversy relating to the aid which is traditionally a good gesture in international economic engagements.
The most important of that is the loss of deal for the British supported Eurofighter Typhoon. The British policy makers view India’s US $ 11 billion jet deal with continental rival and neighbor France’s Dassault as an instance of ‘ingratitude’. The much debated reasons for stopping the aid like India’s rising economic status, large number of rich etc. provide cover for the loss of the jet deal.
The entire event reveals that aid is often used to win deals in a reciprocal manner. If the purpose of the British aid is economic or trade gains, it is better for Britain to stop such aid. Britain has the right to use its money as it like, but without corrupting the good purpose of international aid.
Stopping the aid in the aftermath of the Dassault deal may tell the world that Britain has designed aid to make economic gains. Hence, the British policy that “now is not the time to quit” is a rational one.