It's India's poor who need British aid, not its military and business elites

Discussion in 'Foreign Relations' started by bhramos, Aug 3, 2010.

  1. bhramos

    bhramos Elite Member Elite Member

    Mar 21, 2009
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    This week David Cameron flew to India in a chartered plane, accompanied by six ministers, innumerable corporate chiefs, and even a few Olympic medallists. Cameron has vowed to forge a "new special relationship" with the world's second-fastest growing economy, which the Labour government, infatuated with the old special relationship, neglected to build. A foundation for this alliance was apparently laid today when BAE signed a £500m contract to supply 57 Hawk jet trainers to India's air force and navy.

    India seeks urgently and expensively to modernise its military. No one in the British delegation will be pressing Indian flesh more eagerly this week than representatives of BAE and Rolls-Royce, who in India are vying for some of the world's biggest weapons contracts. The rest of the Indian scene is not so inviting (and Cameron is wise to refrain from invoking old colonial links, which would slight India's new amour-propre as much as it might gladden British hearts).

    The foreign policies of the two countries remain at odds. While Britain sensibly advocates negotiations with the Taliban, India wants its own zone of influence in Afghanistan. India is much closer, politically and commercially, to the US than it is to Britain; the UK government's proposed immigration caps will further deter highly skilled Indians from contributing to the British economy. And British business people seeking fresh openings in India's tightly regulated finance, banking, insurance and retail sectors are likely to be disappointed.

    Nevertheless, the coalition government, and its approving media chorus, seems intoxicated by its Rip-Van-Winklish discovery of "Shining India". The old Jewel in the Crown has suddenly mutated into the new El Dorado, and this widespread but unexamined fantasy is already helping the coalition government to dismantle the most principled aspect of Britain's relationship with India. Jo Johnson, the Conservative MP for Orpington, seemed to amplify a growing Tory consensus when, in the Financial Times, he described British aid to India as an "anachronism". Citing India's grand projects and superpower ambitions, Johnson claimed that the country is "no longer a natural aid recipient".

    This is certainly a bold assertion. According to the latest measure of the United Nations Development Programme, which includes such indicators of deprivation as education and health, just eight Indian states have more poor people – 421 million – than the 28 poorest countries of Africa. In fact, undernutrition in India is twice as high as that in sub-Saharan Africa, with nearly half of India's 120 million children exposed to early death.

    Survival is no less a challenge for many children in Gujarat, one of India's richest states. Poverty and inequality stubbornly persist across India despite spectacular GDP growth, proving the moral nullity of the trickle-down theory, memorably derided by John Kenneth Galbraith as the notion that "if you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows".

    A relatively tiny minority monopolises the oats in India, and now claims an exalted position for itself in the world. As innumerable urban "beautification" programmes reveal, these powerful Indians would ideally like their less well-off compatriots – like the woman from the Mumbai slum who was run over by a car in David Cameron's cavalcade in 2006 – to disappear from sight. To take their vanity projects, such as October's £1.5bn Commonwealth Games in Delhi or India's planned junket to the moon, as evidence of inclusive economic growth is to fall for the flimsiest of illusions.

    India's political and business elites have not only failed to provide basic public services to the deprived majority; their preferred model of economic development actively victimises the poor, provoking India's conservative supreme court to marvel last week at how "every step that we take seems to give rise to insurgency and political extremism".

    The court was ruling over the acquisition of land by a company that failed to compensate its tribal owners for 23 years. Business people and politicians in India have perpetrated many such blatant, and bigger, injustices in the name of development, forcing many dispossessed people to take up arms in the intensifying Maoist insurgency in central India. As the supreme court observed, development has become a "dreadful and hated word" to millions of Indians.

    Dfid – Britain's international development department – has occasionally been complicit in the kind of economic growth that strangulates the poor while making the richest even richer. However, with all its flaws, it is still more conscientious than most of its western peers – especially US aid agencies, which blatantly funnel large portions of "aid" money to American "consultants" while advancing the interests of large American companies. Two-thirds of Dfid's outlay in India is spent on providing health and education services where almost none exist. There is of course ample scope for cutting down wasteful spending and reducing, if not altogether eliminating, corruption. But foreign aid is not an anachronism in a country whose more than 800 million people still live on less than $2 a day: a pitiable budget under assault by double-digit inflation.

    It is surely no accident that Cameron's high-powered delegation could not find a place for Andrew Mitchell, the minister in charge of Dfid, which runs the largest single-country programme in India, accounting for nearly 30% of all foreign aid received by the country. Mitchell himself probably put his name on the no-fly-to-India list. "£250m of public money spent annually on nuclear-armed India could be scaled back," he said recently.

    Jo Johnson, too, cites India's huge defence budget as evidence that the country can attend to its own development needs. But this defence outlay, which grew by an unprecedented 34% last year and is almost entirely exempt from parliamentary scrutiny or public debate, is an exclusive bonanza for India's alarmingly numerous corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and army officers (whom BAE, with its experience of Saudi Arabia, may be well placed to indulge). Delhi's opulent five-star hotels swarm with lobbyists for Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Dassault and other arms companies. A recent rash of ill-suited and extravagant acquisitions by the Indian government prompted even Sunil Khilnani, a sober political scientist and author of The Idea of India, to warn of a nascent "military-industrial complex" in India.

    This is particularly disturbing as the expensive new weapons are likely to be turned against people India claims as its own – and not just in the valley of Kashmir where an anti-India insurgency has consumed more than 80,000 lives, and where Indian security forces have shot dead 17 Muslim protesters, mostly teenagers, in just the past six weeks. The Indian government is also considering deploying the army and air force to suppress the growing Maoist rebellion.

    Flying into this gathering storm, the British delegation seems to want little more than safe landing for its Hawk jets and other military hardware. Cameron will no doubt play to the Indian gallery by accusing Pakistan of terrorism while remaining silent about murder and torture in Kashmir. He will tickle the vanity of India's elite by supporting their claims to a permanent seat at the UN security council and other high tables. He may even relax visa rules for Indians. But none of this can compensate for the severing of Britain's old links with India's great mass of ordinary people – or the replacement of Dfid's lifelines to India's poorest with a "new special relationship" that at present promises to do little more than enliven the parties of Delhi's arms dealers.
  3. arya

    arya Senior Member Senior Member

    Sep 14, 2009
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    i think india is capable to do for its poor people

    well fact is that we are growing
    have you ever think how many Bangladeshi ,Nepali,s.l are living here illegal

    you can find large numbers of Bangladeshi in every city

    so my point is yes we have oor peoples but the fact is we are growing
  4. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

    Mar 24, 2009
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    Typical rant from the idealistic British politician. Thank God Cameroon is the PM. They have to realize that India is now a land of opportunities for all and that Indias poor will slowly but surely pull themselves out of poverty as India grows. There are separate programs for poverty alleviation and also to showcase Indias growing technological prowess. None of it is being compromised. India being a huge country with a very large population will take time to make sure the riches it is gaining from its economic growth goes right down to the poorest man. You just cannot say India should not have a moon mission just because it has a huge number of people below the poverty line. We just cannot go and distribute money among them can we?

    I also contend this "new" finding about 420 million Indians being below the poverty line. God knows who counted them out. Is each and everyone of those living in the 8 states mentioned living under the poverty line? Has to be a joke. I guess some people like Cameroon are pragmatic and want to embrace the rising India. Some others are still clinging onto the colonial mindset and cannot see a country they sucked dry now talking as equal and partners in the new millennium.
  5. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    Pankaj Mishra, the author of this article has the typical condescension of the British Raj ancients. Sadly, he shall remain as brown as brown can be!

    I don't know if he is a British citizen of Indian parentage or an Indian who is crowing like a crow or a jackdaw in bonny England.

    Great Britain cannot give anything for the poor since their technology etc is not poor oriented as we understand in India. GB can only offer India technological and scientific assistance.

    Indian defence has the lowest budget given the GDP and so the author is ranting without knowledge about defence expenditure. I wonder if a bottle of Heinz in the UK is still the same rate as it was a few years back. He seems to have forgotten what inflation does to prices. Or does he feel that the Indian army should have flintlocks of the time of the Sepoy Mutiny as they call it? And kites and paper boats for India's Air Force and Navy respectively?! Indian defence budget is presented to the Parliament and it is passed with very little discussion, not because it is classified, but because very few Indian Parliamentarians have any idea of defence matters unlike those in the US Congress and British Parliament.

    Noble thought that it might be but what can GB do for educating the poor and help the health infrastructure in the rural areas? Send some missionaries across or MI Agents masquerading as doctors and teachers? The US Peace Corps did something on these lines if reports are to be believed! No thank you, India does not require such help and we can do quite sufficiently in these areas.

    CW Games and the Lunar Project are essential to give a morale boost to Indians, rich and poor. If we have the expertise, does it mean just because we aren't as affluent as others, we should sit pretty and twiddle our thumbs? Even if one is poor, one is entitled to dream. Bhutto said the Pakistanis would eat grass but it will get the Bomb and she did! Pakistan is still poverty stricken, but the confidence has skyrocketed even though the vast majority are still eking an existence in abject squalor! One requires to give morale boosts to its population so that the desire to excel and reach the moon burns bright in the heart and the soul!

    I could go on, but then this author who is nothing more than a WOG (Westernised Oriental Gentleman) is trying his best to be more British than the British themselves.

    Typical of the syndrome of many who touch foreign shores!
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2010

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