UK defends 1 billion pound aid to India

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Prasun Sonwalkar

London, Feb 16 (PTI) As an outcry blew over Britain''sdecision to continue over 1 billion pounds in aid to New Delhiuntil 2015, the David Cameron government has defended themove, saying India symbolises a development paradox.

The vociferous tabloid press led the criticism todaywith headlines such as ''Scandal of our 1b pounds aid to India''(Daily Express) and ''Our 1b pounds aid to India: A nation withthree times as many billionaires as we have'' (Daily Mail).

International development secretary Andrew Mitchelldefended the aid on the ground that India symbolised a''development paradox'' - it has a growing economy and gives aidto Africa, but also has more poor than the entire sub-SaharanAfrica.

He said British aid would henceforth focus on threestates: Orissa, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

A spokesman for the Department for InternationalDevelopment said: "The coalition Government has announced thatBritish aid to Russia and China will end. India is different.

Our development programme is in transition, but now is not thetime to end it completely. For the next four years, we willfocus only on the poorest states in India".

"We will not be in India forever. But as part of therevitalised British relationship with India, following thePM''s successful visit last year, our development partnershiphas an important role to play." he added.

However, criticism of the aid to India is likely tofigure in the House of Commons today.

"It is completely unacceptable to be giving aid to acountry that can afford to spend vast amounts of money onnuclear weapons and a space programme," Conservative MP PhilipDavies said.

"India''s economy is growing at a rate that we can onlydream of. It is quite extraordinary to be giving aid money toa country that could end up lending it back to us," he added.

Emma Boon, of the TaxPayers'' Alliance, said: "India isone of the world''s fastest-growing economies so it is now hardto justify these huge aid payments from the UK. At a time whenwe are making spending cuts at home, it is unfair to forcetaxpayers to pour another 1 billion pounds in aid, over thenext four years, into a country that has a space programme.

"Much of this aid never reaches those who really needit and the Department for International Development would dobetter to focus on trying to prevent abuses of the aid theyare already giving out, before promising more." (more) PTI PS

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