Peanuts. India has rejected British aid yet again, calling $459M peanuts. Photo by: vizzzual / CC BY

Just imagine U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron turning red after India, the European country’s top bilateral aid recipient for years, rejected British aid yet again.

India has enjoyed British assistance for years. The United Kingdom has maintained280 million pounds ($459 million) in annual foreign assistance to India amid a stressful financial climate and calls to stop aid to the booming Asian country. It even plans to spend an additional 600 million pounds for the country by 2015.

But India, which has been experiencing rapid economic development, no longer wants aid from the United Kingdom. In 2010, then Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao proposed not to “avail of further DfID assistance with effect from 1st April 2011.” But Indian ministers relented after the British allegedly “begged” them to take the money, The Telegraph reports.

This year, however, the ministers have again raised the issue in parliament. The country’s finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, even told the Indian parliament British aid to India is a “peanut” in the country’s total development spending — language that has caught the ire of conservative members of the British parliament.

Philip Davies, a member of parliament from the Tory Party, said it would be “extraordinary” to continue providing British aid to India “given that they don’t want it,” The Daily Mail reports. Davies argued the Asian country’s economy is “growing faster than our own.” He said the country spends billions on defense and space programs.

Peter Bone, another member of parliament from the Tory Party, meanwhile, urged U.K. ministers to abandon its “vanity project” of sticking to its commitment of spending 0.7 percent of the national income on foreign aid.

“I do not understand the Government’s position on this and I don’t think the British public do either,” he said.

But U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell defended British aid to India. In a statement released Sunday night (Feb. 5), Mitchell reiterated the Department for International Development’s new approach of targeting aid to three of India’s poorest states — Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, The Telegraph reports. He also repeated the department’s plan to invest more in the private sector.

“We will not be in India forever, but now is not the time to quit,” Mitchell said.

About 450 million people in India continue to live on less than 80 Indian rupees ($1.60) a day. Anas Sarwar, a member of the U.K. Parliament International Development Committee, once noted India as a “place of extremes” — home to a third of the world’s poor despite being a fast-growing economy. India’s economy has been growing up to 10 percent a year, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

The latest controversy comes on the heels of a parliamentary report questioning the DfID’s decision to end bilateral aid to Burundi, a country devastated by a 12-year civil war and which has the lowest recorded GDP per capita in the world in 2008 — $150.

The department said it will not reconsider its decision to close office and end its bilateral program in the country, with Mitchell arguing the decision is consistent with the department’s global strategy of ensuring every taxpayer’s money is directed where it has the most impact and best value for money. The department, however, said it will continue providing support to Burundi through other channels, most notably through TradeMark East Africa, an initiative established by DfID that leverages funding from other donors.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.