India has around 600 million people living in abject poverty and this is increasing, India also has the largest rates of child poverty in the world. The current model of Indian 'economic growth' has far from a sound grounding, based as it is on free market capitalism, and having a dwindling state-based strategy for development, especially in terms of helping the poor to rise out of their poverty. The comparison between China and India is a good case in point, where China as a result of its definitive break in its revolution in 1949 has managed to lift over 300 million people out of abject poverty and develop its state control of the economy; in contrast Indian independence of 1947 never made a clean break with capitalism and neo-colonialism, and as a result right-wing political movements and policies have been in the ascendency for some time now.
The problem is not that India gets aid from Britain, as it obviously needs strategies to resolve the massive problem of poverty, the major problem in India the move away from pro-people economics and politics from the state and government levels.
It also should be stated that this spat with the british the Indians are having will add to the concerns of britain and the west that they need to bring India to heel, other factors contributing to the unease about India in the west was India's vocal opposition to the nato bombing of Libya last year, and its defiance of western sanctions on Iran in stating that they will continue as they were only to buy Iranian oil with gold. If britain stops giving this aid to India, it will free up India that little bit more from any political obligations to the former colonial power, and pushing for this at the same time rejecting the a possible british military deal over fighter jets and instead going for a French deal, will be a snub the brits will take note of and not forget.
India is a massive nation, and what the west fears and has and is planning to scupper is any possibility that India will unite with Russia and China, if this were to happen, Asia would be moving rapidly on the path to independence and people-centred development very quickly. The west knowing this, also respond in kind by stoking the tensions between India and China (as well as Pakistan, India and Pakistan relations would warm very quickly up if India and China were to unite), and Clinton and Obama making it very clear that their priority now is to focus on Asia and the Pacific so as to contain China.
Whether India has the internal political forces to develop things in the direction of a real and thorough strategic anti-imperialist alignment with the Global South, remains to be seen. India has a massive and strong left nationalist and socialist recent history, and much of the Indian masses have a pro-people and anti-imperialist conciousness, so one can positively expect that things will develop in favour of a stronger multi-polar foreign policy and a more progressive and people-centred economic model.
Finally, whatever happens in this issue of aid between britain and India, Britain has a lot of reparations to make to India for the total looting of India and the killing of many millions of Indians as a direct consequence to the colonisation of the sub-continent.
- Sukant Chandan, Sons of Malcolm
What does India want from Britain?
How ungrateful are the Indians? Our hard-working taxpayers give them £280? million a year in aid, and they fail to hand Britain a lucrative £13?billion fighter jet contract in return. That is the mood among a number of backbench Tory MPs after India’s decision last week to overlook the Typhoon Eurofighter jet in favour of the French Rafale; a feeling fuelled by a report in The Sunday Telegraph last weekend that the country’s finance minister had described British aid as an unwanted “peanut” in the greater scheme of its development spending.
The comments, though made in the Indian parliament the summer before last, were widely condemned and brought ritual calls from MPs for British aid to India to be cancelled. Philip Davies said the “tens of billions” India spends on defence, including the £13?billion deal we may have lost to the French, made it unacceptable to give further aid. “Given that they don’t even want it, it would be even more extraordinary if it were to be allowed to continue,” he said.
Indian newspapers reported senior Tory backbencher David Davis urging his leader to “pull his weight” in persuading India to change its mind, pointing out that “we give aid to India many times more than what France gives”.
It’s not what David Cameron had in mind when he visited India shortly after his 2010 election victory and spoke of our “shared history”. After landing in India’s hi-tech capital Bangalore, he said he wanted to take the relationship with the world’s second fastest-growing economy “to the next level”.
“I want to make it stronger, wider, deeper,” he said, and to see “thousands more jobs created in Britain and India through trade in the years and months ahead”.
“There is a hangover there, the feeling that you give aid and should get something,” he says. “Our finance minister said we can live without it and we can. The British were here as colonisers, not the Salvation Army. It would be better if the two prime ministers met and agreed we just don’t need the aid any more. Not having it would lend greater equality.”
According to Dilip Cherian, one of India’s most powerful lobbyists, there is still great goodwill towards Britain, but tensions have increased over the last 20 years as British governments have become more “transactional” in their demands. Since Sir John Major’s premiership, British governments have become more demanding of “immediate payback” for aid and concessions to India, he says. “Everything is 'if we do this, you do that’, which negates what went before. We’re used to transactionalism as far as the Americans are concerned but it somehow grates [from Britain].”
Colonial baggage obstructs the path to projecting our culture in India, too. At a recent Delhi party, a British Council official was asked why Britain’s arts programmes in India are dominated by British-Indian music acts, often regarded, with amusement, as pale imitations by Indians. The reason, he said, was our colonial past meant there was a resistance to the promotion of British culture. The result is the misleading promotion of Britain as a culture dominated by Indian artists.
British business leaders believe that while our colonial past is a factor, the blame for our disappointing trading performance in India rests with British businesses. “India is a young country with most people under 30 who don’t care about the past. They care about what they were taught at school, which is that the British came here and were bad, but they want to move on,” says Alan Rosling, a business executive based in Mumbai.
He says it is easy to forget the advantages Britain still enjoys in India – the common language, educational ties, cricket and business. “Britain is the second most important outside investor in this country. We’re ahead of the game but losing our relative position because the Americans and Germans are moving very fast. It’s the fault of the private sector. Too few British companies take the long-term view required.”
Those companies that overcame the initial difficulties of trading in India, such as Reckitt, Cadbury and HSBC, enjoyed great success, while JCB now has 70 per cent of India’s digger market. Last year BP clinched a massive $7.2 billion Indian oil and gas deal. Other British firms must think about the long term, while the British government should get the “mood music” right, Mr Rosling says. “You have to treat it like a grown up country, not a poor country.”
A senior British-Indian business leader says one of the obstacles to commercial success in India is that many of our strengths are in sectors that remain closed to foreign investors. Britain’s legal, financial and banking services are restricted from opening in India, along with higher education colleges and supermarket giants such as Tesco.
Much of Britain’s efforts have been aimed at persuading India to lift these restrictions, but so far they have had little success. India’s government has been effectively paralysed since the opposition joined a nationwide anti-corruption campaign, and its only major announcement to break the logjam – opening the country to foreign supermarket giants – was short-lived. Within days of announcing that firms such as Tesco could open in India if they invested in the country’s backward farming and food processing sectors, ministers withdrew after a revolt by coalition partners. So, despite its status as India’s largest aid donor, Britain has been left with its nose pressed to the window looking in as American and French nuclear suppliers, German engineering firms and Japanese and Korean car, motorbike and consumer electronics companies play supermarket sweep.
The British-Indian business leader, who plays an important role in promoting trade between the two countries, believes Britain needs to counter an impression of hostility to Indians by relaxing tough visa restrictions, and to turn the aid issue in Britain’s favour by privatising it.
“It’s an easy target,” he says. “Indians ask, 'Why are these white people giving us money? We don’t need their charity, we’re going to be the biggest economy in the world.’ India has gone beyond aid. What it needs isn’t money, but technical expertise and experience, and it’s possible for [British agencies] to do that on a commercial basis.” In that way, one door could be opened to British business – and the elephant might be encouraged to leave the room.