In August this year, India landed a craft on the moon and successfully carried out its spectacular Chandrayaan-3 lunar mission.
Most people across the world celebrated, but this news was not palatable to the British TV Channel 'GB News' .
They started a campaign demanding that countries like India which had a space program should not be asking for handouts from the UK.
They demanded that India return the £2.3 billion of 'aid' money that the UK had sent to India from 2016 - 2021.
Ignorance and arrogance it seems is widespread. One expects a news channel to at least get their facts right.
Fact is Indian government does not need nor asks for aid. Then why does the UK give India aid?
This is a £2.3 billion question.
'Aid' is a misnomer.
It is no more the rich nation giving handouts to poor countries. Aid is mainly the investment of funds to enhance commercial, social, economic and technological partnerships between countries on an equitable basis.
All aid programs even charity, are designed by 'donor nations' to provide demonstrable returns on investment. Often this requirement is implicit and couched in diplomatic language.
Typically all the money of the 'aid' that countries receive flow back to the UK economy, providing jobs, revenues and delivering strategic advantage to the UK. Typically for every Pound the UK gives in so called 'aid', it takes back £2.5.
Here I offer some examples of 'Aid'.
In the early 1980s India wanted to buy several helicopters. In the bidding race was the British company Westland. Both Indian and international aviation experts advised against buying the Westland 30 helicopters because of their unsuitability.
Margaret Thatcher the extremely clever British PM made Rajiv Gandhi, then prime minister of India an offer that the "courteous, diffident non intellectual ..." Rajiv Gandhi found hard to refuse.
The UK agreed to grant aid (actually a long term loan at a low interest rate) on the condition that India bought the Westland Helicopters. In 1985 India bought 21 helicopters for a price of £65m. This aid helped save the Westland Helicopters company and Thatcher.
As predicted, the choice was an unmitigated disaster for India. The choppers were plagued by technical snags and and after several choppers crashes the entire fleet was permanently grounded.
This aid soured commercial and defence relations between the UK and India. Eventually in the year 2000, the UK in an act of atonement bought back 9 of the remaining choppers for a paltry sum of £900,000.
Here are other examples from my own experience
In 1986, my company was offered a £25,000 (Rs 10 lacs) grant from DeCTA -Developing countries Trade Agency to employ a British consultant to help with formulating a product and marketing strategy to penetrate the British and European market.
It appeared as an attractive gift and we jumped at the offer to obtain high quality British consulting at almost no cost to us. It was beneficial for us.Months later we were informed that the contract between DeCTA and the consultant had come to an end. We would henceforth be required to pay the consultant from our own pocket going forward This would entail an outflow of £40,000 pound (Rs 16 lacs) per year for a 2 year contract to retain the consultant which we promptly invested in and benefited.
In 2013 whilst I served as a trustee and volunteer CEO of a Pune based swim training NGO, we were contacted by UK Sport to promote swimming education in India. This was done on as part of the UK government's promise to promote sports in other countries in its efforts to host the 2012 London Olympics. Their technical and program partner was a leading UK based swim gear manufacturer.
The money went towards hiring swimming facilities, coaches, evaluation and certification. We landed up training more than 10,000 school children to swim. The swim gear company benefited enormously by boosting its brand awareness, market share and profitability in India.
The money came from the UK government to India as aid. All in all a win-win program.
Currently the same NGO is promoting a UK based disaster management program seemingly for free. This is quite a good proposition on the face of it.
However the aim is to use UK tax payers money to dominate and control Indian rescue and disaster management activity and the NGO receives a fee.
However the serious drawbacks of this aid initiative is that it will innocuously stifle indigenous efforts, capacity and capabilities. It will dismantle not only Indian local training expertise, but also curtail development and supply of indigenous equipment which are inevitably integrated into the training and deployment.
If India accepts this 'aid' it will discover it is always dependent on expensive imported British expertise and equipment in the future. This will be losing proposition for India.
We have to remember that not all aid is beneficial.
Aid is a deceptive term and we have to see it for what it really is. Often Aid is a covert action to achieve religious, economic, technological, political influence and control over recipient countries and make them pay for it themselves in the medium to long term. There is nothing immoral about 'aid', it is just the nature of the matter.
Aid that was and now being given to countries even Ukraine is required to be paid back with interest.
One should always be wary of people bearing gifts, because the strings attached are usually long and knotty. Charity and aid always result in dependency, never freedom.
Chandrayaan-3 ~ Indian Space research Organisation
Westland Helicopters ~ Wikipedia
Westland deal 'Achilles heel' in UK-India ties: British govt docs ~ Hindustan Times
India sells back helicopter fleet to Britain ~ The Guardian -Oct 2000
EvaluationReport 6.87 ~ The Royal Norwegian Ministry of Development Cooperation
Report: UK aid to India ~ ICAI (Independent Commission for Aid Impact)
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