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February 5, 2012 8:04 AM   Subscribe

India tells Britain: We don't want your aid According to a leaked memo, the foreign minister, Nirupama Rao, proposed “not to avail [of] any further DFID [British] assistance with effect from 1st April 2011,” because of the “negative publicity of Indian poverty promoted by DFID”. But officials at DFID, Britain’s Department for International Development, told the Indians that cancelling the programme would cause “grave political embarrassment” to Britain, according to sources in Delhi. Further embarressment ensues. Emma Boon, campaign director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It is incredible that ministers have defended the aid we send to India, insisting it is vital, when now we learn that even the Indian government doesn’t want it.”
posted by infini (34 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Seems they are still keen on our asbestos, though.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:10 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The decision comes even though India has a £6 billion space programme, nuclear weapons and has started a substantial foreign aid programme of its own. It now gives out only slightly less in bilateral aid to other countries than it receives from Western donors.

The Onion couldn't write this well.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:15 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jet deal goes to France.

BBC's video of Britain's defence

The Daily Mail version

ps Meatbomb, do they want it or does Harper want to sell more?
posted by infini at 8:16 AM on February 5, 2012


At the same time, let's not forget that the 'taxpayer's alliance' is an astroturf organisation with strong links to tax dodgers and generally vile people.

So it's a case of giving money to India to encourage them to buy weapons back from the UK? Seems the usual mechanism of routing taxpayers' money to private (arms) industries.
posted by davemee at 8:20 AM on February 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


Note that the Taxpayers' Alliance is right-wing astroturf who spend most of their time complaining about any and all government expenses, especially social care - except for local bin collections and military spending.
posted by Zarkonnen at 8:20 AM on February 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


The TPA aren't my favourite group in the world - but its bogus to call them astroturfers - they do have a good measure of popular support, albeit their funding is somewhat opaque. I also can't remember them having a go about social care spending Zarkonnen - most other areas of council spending yes, but not social care - have I missed a press release?

The TPA aside, this is pretty embarrassing news for the Government and will add to voices in the Conservative party in particular who were concerned about the protection overseas aid was given in recent Government savings.
posted by prentiz at 9:03 AM on February 5, 2012


Dear India,

We're kind of embarrassed we made you a subject colony for as long as we did. There's perhaps some sort of collective guilt on behalf of our left here, so aid it is.

Fuck apologizing, though. It's just not cricket, is it? We'll just keep cutting you a cheque instead of actually acknowledging the massive amount of wealth we pirated from your people for like, oh, ages. It'll get back to you in the end in the form of good solid English money. It was a while ago anyway, it's not like you guys are still suffering the aftereffects of colonization or anything.

Good luck with that emerging economy thing,

Toodles,
Britain.
posted by Jilder at 9:03 AM on February 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


There was some noise about aid to Pakistan not so long ago. I think a lot of UK citizens don't approve of aid–giving unless the country is clearly destitute. Nor would many people acknowledge any debt or guilt to former empire countries that ought to be assuaged by money gifts. A government could garner a fair few votes by announcing cuts in aid to some countries, and it would normalize our relations with them for the few that care to think in such terms. But if aid has more to do with influencing arms sales, then it's unlikely to be something citizens have a say on.
posted by Jehan at 9:08 AM on February 5, 2012


We're kind of embarrassed we made you a subject colony for as long as we did. There's perhaps some sort of collective guilt on behalf of our left here, so aid it is.

The government try to maintain the payments, even thought some people have complained about sending certain countries money. I think a good half or more of UK citizens think that British India was a net good to its inhabitants. Guilt there ain't, sadly.
posted by Jehan at 9:10 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Helping poor people is only one reason of many that one country might give financial or technical assistance to another. In many cases, it is far from the most important reason, though it may be the reason which is given the most public political prominence.

Similarly, helping poor people in their own country is only one reason of many that governments accept financial or technical assistance. In many cases, it is far from the most important reason, though it may be the reason which is given the most public political prominence.

The UK-India assistance is one example of this; the several billion of US aid to Pakistan is another; there are countless others.

(And, FWIW, the exact same thing is true for assistance given by NGOs and foundations like Gates'.)
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 9:23 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The quoted Indian group has some interesting verbiage describing itself, and lists quite a few big names as partners, but doesn't explain what or who a "social entrepreneur" is.
posted by the cydonian at 9:38 AM on February 5, 2012


The Foreign Minister doesn't want a £280 million in annual support for development initiatives because it's bad for PR? Whose PR?
posted by honest knave at 10:07 AM on February 5, 2012


I think a good half or more of UK citizens think that British India was a net good to its inhabitants

I think a good 90% of UK citizens don't have an opinion on the matter. It's fun to pluck numbers out of the air isn't it?
posted by Summer at 10:33 AM on February 5, 2012


> " I think a good half or more of UK citizens think that British India was a net good to its inhabitants."

I think it's a fair larger percentage of UK citizens that are unacceptably ignorant about British colonialism, and I completely include myself in that number. There's just no incentive to learn that our wealth is built on the backs of others and we have a social debt to foreign nations. We're not taught in schools or through the media about how we adversely affected other countries - our historical obsession with ourselves is limited to others invading us.

I've said for a long time that schools (if they're not already) would be doing the world a service to stop teaching kids about WWII for five years straight, and instead start teaching new generations about how the world gained and lost from us meddling in other cultures.
posted by saturnine at 10:40 AM on February 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think a good 90% of UK citizens don't have an opinion on the matter. It's fun to pluck numbers out of the air isn't it?

They might not hold an active opinion, but asked to give an answer, what do you think they would say? Would it include words like "civilization", "law", "development", "open markets", "civil service", and the ever–wonderful "railways"? They're semi–ignorant on the matter, and might not think about it at all, but you know full well that the majority of people could only come up with positive associations. The common knowledge of history in this country is a farce.
posted by Jehan at 10:46 AM on February 5, 2012


doesn't explain what or who a "social entrepreneur" is.

Its the trendiest new thing among the poverty conscious - alleviating poverty through sustainable business, the hashtag is #socent, there's a buttload (pardon my french) of money under "social impact" and this is the source. www.nextbillion.net
posted by infini at 10:49 AM on February 5, 2012


The Foreign Minister doesn't want a £280 million in annual support for development initiatives because it's bad for PR? Whose PR?

India's, I imagine. The UK agencies have a tendency to keep changing their metrics of poverty and increasing the number of India's population below the line. The most recent study I saw from Oxford included "admission to schools" and "electricity" - by that metric, there's nobody above teh poverty line in India.
posted by infini at 10:53 AM on February 5, 2012


This is embarrassing to all sides.

It's embarrassing to British people because we are giving money to a country which was once a colony, emerging from being a neocolony (in the form of outsourcing) and in ten years will have a seat on the UN Security Council and be ahead of the UK in economic value. Within 15 years we'll all marvel ironically at the days when a little island off Northern Europe was more economically powerful than India.

And it's embarrassing to Indian politicians because it punctures the great myth they wish to create. There is already a first world India, populated by the few - a world of new cars, smartphones and space programmes. Regardless of Britain's underlying motives for aid, that £280m of aid is there because of the hundreds of millions of Indians living in extreme poverty. And the less Indian politicians have to face about the wealth inequality, the rampant corruption, and the decisions to spend money on vanity projects ahead of lifting some its own citizens out of life shortening poverty the better.

In short: Britain isn't giving the money for the best of reasons; but wealthy, privileged politicians turning away aid money for the poor is fairly disgusting.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:58 AM on February 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


I think it's a fair larger percentage of UK citizens that are unacceptably ignorant about British colonialism, and I completely include myself in that number. There's just no incentive to learn that our wealth is built on the backs of others and we have a social debt to foreign nations. We're not taught in schools or through the media about how we adversely affected other countries - our historical obsession with ourselves is limited to others invading us.

I've said for a long time that schools (if they're not already) would be doing the world a service to stop teaching kids about WWII for five years straight, and instead start teaching new generations about how the world gained and lost from us meddling in other cultures.


I agree. We only teach about WWII because we were the "good guys", and the teaching the truth about colonial history is derided as a "lefty" obsession. As a country we're almost ahistorical in our existence, once you remove the mythology. I hope the breakup of the union will help us judge our past more clearly, but there's also the danger of alienating it. Our relationship with India is just one symptom of the disease.
posted by Jehan at 10:58 AM on February 5, 2012


but you know full well that the majority of people could only come up with positive associations

No I don't. British people are confronted with their colonial past every day in the form of former colonial peoples living beside them in every big city in the country. You presume too much.

Which isn't to say I don't agree with your wider point about ignorance of British history. History teaching tends to go Romans - Battle of Hastings - Tudors - WW1&II. It is a scandal.
posted by Summer at 11:31 AM on February 5, 2012


And the less Indian politicians have to face about the wealth inequality, the rampant corruption, and the decisions to spend money on vanity projects ahead of lifting some its own citizens out of life shortening poverty the better.

That sounds almost exactly like The Guardian.

There's certainly a lot of corruption, but that tends to happen whenever there's huge chunks of money thrown at you (and even otherwise). But avoiding the existence of poverty ? Impossible and unlikely. The poor are the biggest vote banks and I imagine that the cydonian or someone more knowledgeable than myself could better clarify this bit. I've been tracking this hoo haa since it started last year and what's really embarrassing is how the UK has been begging India to not stop accepting aid.
posted by infini at 11:43 AM on February 5, 2012


> "British people are confronted with their colonial past every day in the form of former colonial peoples living beside them in every big city in the country. "

Thinking that everyone is confronted with a colonial past when they don't even have the luxury of knowing what it was is a bit optimistic really. From my experiences, most people don't even know the difference between an asylum seeker and an illegal immigrant, let alone be able to name all the colonies, what happened there and why their residents are allowed to move to the UK to compete for the same jobs as them.
posted by saturnine at 11:49 AM on February 5, 2012


No I don't. British people are confronted with their colonial past every day in the form of former colonial peoples living beside them in every big city in the country. You presume too much.

This doesn't really come to the point about how the average person views British India. What does "confronted with their colonial past" mean anyway? Migrants and their descendants just aren't viewed in this way, whether a person views migration positively or negatively. I've rarely heard anybody use a distinction between "former colonial peoples" and other migrants, as though such groups have different meaning to the country's past. Plenty of English people are stupid enough to have social relations with people of Indian descent without it affecting their view of colonial history.

For example, here's one from me. I once lived with a Malaysian woman when a student, and she was quite offended when it became evident that I didn't know her country was once part of the British Empire. I must have had some clue, but it really wasn't on my radar. I wondered why I was never taught about Malaysia in history lessons, or it was much mentioned in common culture. The answer, I guess, is that the end of the colony was a shameful episode, the Malaya "Emergency", best scrubbed from the history books.
posted by Jehan at 12:12 PM on February 5, 2012


That sounds almost exactly like The Guardian.

I think it simply sounds like being right. I believe that, regardless of the British reasons for this aid (and it's a bit difficult to try to second-guess sixty million people), I'm reasonably certain that the DFID is supporting a number of reasonably worthy projects, and that the poor currently benefitting from these projects will be thrilled to learn that they are going to be cut because of an unholy alliance of selfish campaigners in Britain and self-important politicians in India. Maybe the Indian government could give up a Rafale fighter or two, and instead use that money to compensate for this shortfall...
posted by Skeptic at 12:16 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


and was reported by the Independent in the following terms:

Asked about the strategic goals of Britain’s aid programme to India, Mr Mitchell yesterday referred to the proposed education scheme in Orissa, and added: “It’s about everything I have just mentioned. The focus… is also about seeking to sell Typhoon. The relationship is a relationship you have to take in the round.”

The Minister, after previously pushing the line that Indian defence spending was reducing and its people are in need of our money, had bluntly admitted the reality that the UK Government was sending British taxpayers’ money to India as part of an effort to secure the sale of 126 Typhoon fighter jets. It is effectively a £1.2bn bribe being paid over four years to sweeten an arms deal.
Via


and instead use that money to compensate for this shortfall...


Mitchell told The Sunday Telegraph: "We are changing our approach in India. We will target aid at three of India's poorest states, rather than central Government. We will invest more in the private sector, with our programme having some of the characteristics of a sovereign wealth fund. We will not be in India forever, but now is not the time to quit."


That's not why grandmothers went to jail for marching under the Quit India banner.
posted by infini at 12:31 PM on February 5, 2012


I've rarely heard anybody use a distinction between "former colonial peoples" and other migrants

And yet you think 'over 50%' of people have a definite view on whether the colonial occupation of India was a good thing or a bad thing. Either it's ignorance or it's something else. Which is it?

Personally, I think British people have a whole rag bag of opinions about colonialism and immigration which defy sweeping statements such as the one you made originally.
posted by Summer at 12:33 PM on February 5, 2012


I suppose I have been suspicious of The Daily Telegraph since their "climategate" days, but this piece feels a little too convenient to me. For one, they haven't quite mentioned -when- did Pranab Mukherjee make this comment - they said "has said" but that's an incorrect tense; he had said this many months ago. Going from the piece though, there's no way for us to look up the parliamentary proceedings and see the context.

For another, and this one's big enough to notice, Nirupama Rao isn't the foreign minister; she was the foreign secretary, the top civil servant in the External Affairs ministry. As a civil servant, she wouldn't (shouldn't) be directing policy, she'd merely implement her boss, the foreign Minister's, policy aims.

I'm as leftist as it gets, but as someone with a lot of acquaintances in the development game, I can easily believe the notion that there's a lot (literally, A LOT) of money floating into specific development activities in India's impoverished central regions; the bigger challenge there is policy, not resources. So I do think policy-makers are in a position to choose aid from a variety of sources, not dissimilar to a startup preferring angel investors from one VC firm over other.

(Which segues back to my earlier comment on 'social' entrepreneurs; just found it strange that someone would call herself a social entrepreneur, without detailing what projects she did as part of this deal. The nextbillion link is neat; thanks for sharing)

I wondered why I was never taught about Malaysia in history lessons, or it was much mentioned in common culture. The answer, I guess, is that the end of the colony was a shameful episode, the Malaya "Emergency", best scrubbed from the history books.

The Imperial War Musuem has a decent, if summarized, exhibit on the Malayan Emergency. Which is actually more material than whatever I've seen in Malaysia itself. But I don't think it's the British behaviour at the end of the colonial era that shaped the consciousness of Malaysia in Britain; it's more for the fact that, because the Federal Malay States fell to the invading Japanese exactly 60 years back. As a result, Malaysia isn't really much of a focus for colonial narratives, as it were, unless you were reading Maugham obviously. Also, unlike other postcolonial nations, modern Malaysia has had a bit of an intense period of de-anglophone-ification, if you will; quite a few people in Malaysia lamented the fact that kids these days arent taught to think in English for one. Whether that's desirable or not is an entirely different tale, but it's true to say the countries have drifted more apart than before.

I think India and UK are in this perpetual embrace because of how are urban communities are structured; for one, I fear Lord Macaulay has been _too_ successful in creating a clerical class that thinks in bureaucratese. On a more serious note though, I'm increasingly of the opinion that the whole social stratification in urban India is massively Victorian in character; as a result, you have a lower class and an upper class dialect in many Indian languages, and a lot of traditional castes re-imagined into Victorian jobs. So Brahmins have sub-sects for clerical occupations, the lower castes doing jobs that are as equally at home in, say, Georgian era Bath, as they would be with the Manusmriti.

The real difference here, then, is historical and cultural; which is why you have a huge and culturally-significant India section at the V&A - real treasures there which have always tailed Indian consciousness; a Kamadhenu idol that clearly had inspired The Hindu's logo, that Tiger of Mysore animatron, one of the oldest and most complete Nataraja's you'll ever find - but none for Malaysia. Not in the South East Asian section, not in the Islamic section. Some countries were plundered only for their natural resources apparently; their cultural wealth escaped the colonial masters' attention.
posted by the cydonian at 1:50 PM on February 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some countries were plundered only for their natural resources apparently; their cultural wealth escaped the colonial masters' attention.

Which is why chicken tikka masala is Britain's national dish, and not a tasty seafood laksa.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:03 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dear England

Send us the dough instead of those ingrate indians. We are WAY past the point of being able to be picky about what kind of help we get. We are pretty well screwed.

Best regards

Uncle Sam
posted by jcworth at 2:25 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


It’s about everything I have just mentioned. The focus… is also about seeking to sell Typhoon.

That's an interesting ellipsis, I must wonder what the full sentence was.

But anyway, I'm neither naïve nor unaware of the links between aid and export deals, weapon exports included. Nevertheless, I don't see why this should taint the aid itself, especially since India has chosen not to buy Typhoon. Wouldn't canceling the aid just now send the worst possible message to pretty much everybody involved?
posted by Skeptic at 3:08 PM on February 5, 2012


It’s about everything I have just mentioned. The focus… is also about seeking to sell Typhoo.

My initial reading of that statement.
posted by rh at 5:39 PM on February 5, 2012


Skeptic, would still you want to send money ostensibly for the poor if you knew it would be squandered, wasted and siphoned off by corrupt officials and never reach those it was intended for?

In India I saw how the money is squandered. The very first primary school I visited – opened last summer in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh state, with the help of British aid – was half empty because parents say the conditions are not good enough for their children. It had not one desk or chair because they were stolen on the way from the factory.

The children sat on a floor riddled with holes because the builders had diluted the concrete mix with sand – so they could sell the spare cement.
Indian officials admit that £70million of the £388million given by Britain to fund an education programme offering free classes for every child from the age of six to 14 in Indian’s poorest states, has disappeared through corruption and theft.

So why don’t we do what the Indians (and many Britons) plainly want and pull the plug on overseas aid?

posted by infini at 12:02 AM on February 6, 2012


Nthing the shitty state of the History curriculum in England (up to the age of 14, anyway, which is when the majority would stop studying it). We don't even get taught about how badly we fucked over Ireland, and they're right next door. It goes:
Boadicea
Harold
Henry VIII
HITLER HITLER HITLER
ok you're done off you go isn't England marvellous.
posted by omnikron at 12:52 AM on February 6, 2012


Why India chose Rafale
posted by infini at 12:21 PM on February 11, 2012


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