India Insight

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.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and Indian President Pratibha Patil attend their meeting at the presidential palace in New Delhi July 29, 2010. REUTERS/B Mathur

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.

What makes a religious symbol conspicuous?

Last week, a college in Mangalore in India banned a student wearing a burqa from attending class. The principal told local media the college had a policy of not allowing symbols of religion.

The media did not say if there were students on campus with a ‘bindi’ (dot) on their foreheads or crucifixes around their necks or turbans on their heads, other symbols of religion one commonly sees in India, besides the ubiquitous “Om” scarves and t-shirts.

Mangalore, a cosmopolitan city, is no stranger to controversy; it was recently in the news for attacks on bars and women by a fundamentalist Hindu outfit that declared they were against Indian culture.

Riding out the global crisis…in a Bentley

If you want a break from a global financial meltdown, the launch of Bentley’s latest luxury car in India can be welcome relief – and show that the rich are still doing what they do best. Buying unnecessary things.

It means you can, in my case, leave behind an office full of tired journalists hunched over ever more depressing data, and ignore TV screens showing grimfaced politicians and weepy traders.

bentley.jpgOut there somewhere, someone has the cash to buy the ‘New Continental Flying Spur Speed’ Bentley – even if that somebody isn’t you.