Shunning UK aid would show India’s rising confidence
Choosing to jump on its own terms than face the ignominy of waiting to be pushed, India may have politely but firmly asked the UK not to send any more aid from next year in a sign of the country’s increasing self-confidence on the global stage.
Citing whispers in London’s corridors of power that suggest the country’s Department for International Development (DFID) was preparing to radically reduce the cash sent to India, the Indian Express reported on Wednesday that Nirupama Rao, India’s Foreign Secretary, had asked the Finance Secretary “not to avail any further DFID assistance with effect from 1st April 2011.”
A DFID spokesperson told Reuters: “All DFID’s country programmes are currently under review to ensure our aid helps the poorest people in the poorest countries. No decision on future funding to India has been made and we are in close dialogue with the Government of India.” The Ministry for External Affairs were not available for comment.
Since 1998, India has received more British aid than any other country, worth over £1.5 billion ($2.3 billion) in the past five years.
If the report is true, the Indian government’s decision to end aid would signal that the country wants to be in control of its own financial affairs, rather than appearing dependent on others. It demonstrates a confident approach to international relations and an assertion that the country is able to look after itself.
Sending taxpayer funds to India has become increasingly difficult to justify for the cash-strapped British government, who have committed to cutting the country’s record deficit by 25 percent over the next five years.
National newspapers in the UK have questioned the rationale behind providing financial assistance to one of the world’s fastest growing economies.
Critics of Britain’s aid package to India have also pointed to the country’s $31.5 billion defence budget and its ambitions to join the U.N. Security Council.
Permanent Security Council members Russia and China were told by DFID in June that continuing to supply aid to them was “not justifiable”.
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell told the Financial Times in July that as India was “roaring out of poverty”, his department would “look with great care” at its aid allocation.
And a briefing to the British parliament in late July on aid to India admitted that “the UK’s India aid programme has proved particularly controversial”, noting that “particular attention has also been drawn to India’s space programme,” which has a budget of 57.8 billion rupees ($1.25 billion) for the current financial year.
Any decision to take the bull by the horns should not be seen as a diplomatic courtesy to save DFID hand-wringing. India is now confident enough to dictate its own terms with major international players.
Is India’s reliance on other countries coming to an end?