India tells Britain: We don’t want your aid


India tells Britain: We don’t want your aid
India’s Finance Minister has said that his country “does not require” British aid, describing it as “peanuts”.


Mr Mukherjee’s remarks, previously unreported outside India, were made during question time in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament Photo: REUTERS

By Andrew Gilligan

9:00PM GMT 04 Feb 2012


Pranab Mukherjee and other Indian ministers tried to terminate Britain’s aid to their booming country last year – but relented after the British begged them to keep taking the money, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

The disclosure will fuel the rising controversy over Britain’s aid to India.

The country is the world’s top recipient of British bilateral aid, even though its economy has been growing at up to 10 per cent a year and is projected to become bigger than Britain’s within a decade.

Last week India rejected the British-built Typhoon jet as preferred candidate for a £6.3 billion warplane deal, despite the Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, saying that Britain’s aid to Delhi was partly “about seeking to sell Typhoon.”

Mr Mukherjee’s remarks, previously unreported outside India, were made during question time in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament.

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“We do not require the aid,” he said, according to the official transcript of the session.

“It is a peanut in our total development exercises [expenditure].” He said the Indian government wanted to “voluntarily” give it up.

According to a leaked memo, the foreign minister, Nirumpama Rao, proposed “not to avail [of] any further DFID [British] assistance with effect from 1st April 2011,” because of the “negative publicity of Indian poverty promoted by DFID”.

But officials at DFID, Britain’s Department for International Development, told the Indians that cancelling the programme would cause “grave political embarrassment” to Britain, according to sources in Delhi.

DFID has sent more than £1 billion of UK taxpayers’ money to India in the last five years and is planning to spend a further £600 million on Indian aid by 2015.

“They said that British ministers had spent political capital justifying the aid to their electorate,” one source told The Sunday Telegraph.

“They said it would be highly embarrassing if the Centre [the government of India] then pulled the plug.”

Amid steep reductions in most British government spending, the NHS and aid have been the only two budgets protected from cuts.

Britain currently pays India around £280 million a year, six times the amount given by the second-largest bilateral donor, the United States. Almost three-quarters of all foreign bilateral aid going to India comes from Britain. France, chosen as favourite to land the warplane deal, gives around £19 million a year.

Controversial British projects have included giving the city of Bhopal £118,000 to help fit its municipal buses and dustcarts with GPS satellite tracking systems. Bhopal’s buses got satellite tracking before most of Britain’s did.

In India, meanwhile, government audit reports found £70 million had disappeared from one DFID-funded project alone.

Around £44,000 of British aid was allegedly siphoned off by one project official to finance a movie directed by her son.

Most aid donors to India have wound down their programmes as it has become officially a “middle-income country,” according to the World Bank.

However, Britain has reallocated its aid spending to focus on India at the expense of some far poorer countries, including the African state of Burundi, which is having its British bilateral aid stopped altogether from next year.

The decision comes even though India has a £6 billion space programme, nuclear weapons and has started a substantial foreign aid programme of its own. It now gives out only slightly less in bilateral aid to other countries than it receives from Western donors.

Supporters of British aid say that India still contains about a third of the world’s poor, with 450 million people living on less than 80p a day. DFID says its programmes — which are now focused on the country’s three poorest states – save at least 17,000 lives a year and have lifted 2.3 million people out of poverty since 2005.

The junior development minister, Alan Duncan, said last week that cutting off British aid to India “would mean that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people, will die who otherwise could live.”

However, Mr Mukherjee told the parliament last August that foreign aid from all sources amounted to only 0.4 per cent of India’s gross domestic product. From its own resources, the Indian government has more than doubled spending on health and education since 2003.

Last year, it announced a 17 per cent rise in spending on anti-poverty programmes. Though massive inequalities remain, India has achieved substantial reductions in poverty, from 60 per cent to 42 per cent of the population in the last thirty years.

Emma Boon, campaign director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It is incredible that ministers have defended the aid we send to India, insisting it is vital, when now we learn that even the Indian government doesn’t want it.”

As long ago as 2005, MPs on the international development select committee found that India “seems to have become increasingly tired of being cast in the role of aid recipient.” In their most recent report on the programme, last year, they said that British aid to the country should “change fundamentally,” with different sources of funding. The report praised a number of DFID projects, but questioned others.

As well as the Indian government, many other Indians are sceptical about British aid. Malini Mehra, director of an Indian anti-poverty pressure group, the Centre for Social Markets, said aid was “entirely irrelevant” to the country’s real problems, which she said were the selfishness of India’s rich and the unresponsiveness of its institutions.

“DFID are not able to translate the investments they make on the ground into actual changes in the kind of structures that hold back progress,” Ms Mehra said.

“Unless we arouse that level of indignation and intolerance of the situation, aid will make no difference whatsoever.”

Mr Mitchell last night defended British 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.

“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 declined to comment on why it had asked the Indian government to continue with a programme it wanted to end.


Today 11:39 AM

What we need is a ‘Witchfinder General’ to go through all Government Departments and find what other abuses are being done in the name of the Crown.

Today 11:39 AM

I believe some credit to the BNP is in order here.

Three or four years ago, when anyone who questioned the point of aid to India was dismissed as a racist, the BNP were out on their own demanding an end to it.

Now we have even the Indian government agreeing that the BNP were right.

Today 11:38 AM

Humiliation! But what’s the bet that the UK government, whichever party is in power, will continue to borrow money we can’t afford to shower cash on ungrateful recipients.

If there was any advantage to the UK for aid to India then there may be some justification for this fruitless excercise. Seems like it’s money to grease palms for trade which hasn’t materialised.

(Edited by a moderator)


Today 11:35 AM

What Mr Mukherjee! is saying is he is happy enough to have banks like Barclays, companies like BT, Thames Water, and myriad Bronson’s outfits outsourcing their customer and accounting services to India, and sending their IT coolies to Britain, and that is just enough.
(Edited by a moderator)


Today 11:34 AM

During the time I’ve spent of this blog -around an hour -the population of India has increased by 1,768 people.

This is 1,273,000 a month around 15 million a year. If distributed soley to the increase in India’s numbers, British aid at £600,000 this year would be enough to give the newborn £25 each -a great start in life!


Today 11:32 AM


£600 million would go a long way here at home. And the dozens of charities the constantly collect money for the millions still homeless and starving in that country can now start collecting for our own hungry and homeless.

Benjamin Hurley
Today 11:32 AM

Well this doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out, an economy growing by 8% receiving aid from an economy in decline?…about time this stopped….

Today 11:28 AM

The vanity of our political class knows no bounds or reason. The direct effect of this fiasco is the redundancy of 32,000 Service personnel and thousands more jobs in defence industry. In addition this country’s military capability has been reduced to a joke. All of this money was looted from Defence by Brown and the trend carried on by the current bunch of hand wringing pant wetters. The whole tragic DfID organisation should be shut down, it’s staffed entirely by Guardian reading naive losers who could only get a job in the charity sector.

Today 11:28 AM

Well I was expecting a huge furore in these comments over the less than gracious thank you from our Indian ‘friends’.

I thought at least that someone on here would be castigating the government and in particular that mitchell fellow for being so bloody obnoxious in grovelling to the Indian government to take this huge amount of money off our shoulders.

But no. sadly there are only 2224 and counting comments here, so it looks like no one has the slightest interest in this debacle.

Guess I’ll look on the sports pages. wonder how England got on yesterday?

Today 11:28 AM

Philantropy, aid, charity or whatever one chooses to call it, when it is carried out amidst great publicity, always reminds me of this biblical verse:

Matthew 6:2: “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”

Today 11:28 AM

Many people have been saying aid to India is ridiculous particularly when the Uk does not have money to burn at the moment , and should stop.

The whole budget for all foreign aid should be reviewed !

Now we even have their own ministers re confirming the point .

It cannot be plainer than that!


2 responses to “India tells Britain: We don’t want your aid


    Libyan militia accused of torturing to death ambassador to France

    One of Libya’s many new militias has been accused of detaining and apparently torturing to death a former ambassador to France, the latest allegation of brutality to mar the victorious revolutionaries’ reputation since the fall of Col Muammar Gaddafi.

    Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent
    8:09PM GMT 03 Feb 2012
    Human Rights Watch said that Omar Brebesh, a career diplomat who was cultural attache and then ambassador to France between 2004 to 2008, was brought in for routine questioning in Tripoli over his work for the former regime.

    His body turned up at a hospital in Zintan, the town two hours’ drive to the south-west that was a hub of last year’s revolution, beaten, bruised and with some of its toenails removed.

    The allegation will be particularly alarming because Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the former dictator, is also being held in Zintan. Although the two international organisations allowed to visit him – Human Rights Watch and the International Committee of the Red Cross – both reported he was being well treated, the interim government has refused to disclose details of the process by which he will be put on trial.

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    It was a smaller Zintan-based outfit, called the Al-Shohada Ashura Militia, that demanded Mr Brebesh come in for questioning on January 19, his son, Ziad, told HRW. He was still working as a lawyer in the foreign ministry at the time.

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    The next day, his body was found by Ziad’s brother Mohammed at a hospital in Zintan. Photographs of his body “revealed welts and extensive bruising on the abdomen, lacerations on both legs, and a large wound on the sole of the left foot,” HRW said. “Some of his toenails appear to have been removed.”

    It said that, according to an official report, an unnamed suspect had confessed to the killing.

    Mr Brebesh’s is just the most high-profile documented case of the thousands of former regime associates and others allegedly detained and beaten by militias. The ICRC says it has evidence of at least 8,500 inmates, held by 60 separate militias.

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    The battle between the two on Wednesday, which rumours said concerned anything from control of the beach to the fate of a girl kidnapped by the Misurata side, involved small arms and machine guns, but ended without anyone being killed, according to the authorities.

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