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Political pressure forces Cameron to cut aid to India

Justine Greening's decision to end British aid to India was based on placating Tory backbenchers, instead of combating poverty, according to a damning report from the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank.

world Updated: Feb 11, 2013 02:14 IST

Justine Greening's decision to end British aid to India was based on placating Tory backbenchers, instead of combating poverty, according to a damning report from the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank.

Will Straw, the associate director of the IPPR, said that the coalition's announcement in November that aid to India would be halted in 2015, was "a tactic for winning votes at home rather than tackling poverty abroad".

India has achieved impressive economic growth in the past 10 years, as the shift in power to emerging economies has accelerated, but the country remains home to one-third of the world's poorest people - measured as those who live on less than 79p a day.

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The UK spent just over £300m on development in the country last year, with the most channelled through the Department for International Development; but after 2015 that will fall to just £30m of "technical assistance".

Straw said: "The UK should not give aid to India for ever, but withdrawing now is premature given India's development challenges. DfID should instead focus on areas that are not benefiting from India's growth, and key issues like health, HIV and good governance in the poorest states."

David Cameron committed the Conservatives to fulfil Labour's pledge to lift overseas aid spending to 0.7% of GDP by this year.

But the ringfenced aid budget has become increasingly controversial with rightwing backbenchers, at a time when many other departments are facing deep cuts.

Greening, who replaced Andrew Mitchell at DfID after a cabinet reshuffle, had been regarded as a sceptic on the issue of spending on aid before she took the job, and her decision to change Britain's relationship with India was her first key policy announcement. Max Lawson, the head of policy at Oxfam, said there was, "no development case to be made for stopping aid to India".

"Three hundred thousand women a year die in childbirth," he said. It's inexcusable that the rich in India allow that to happen - but that's just as true in Nigeria or in Angola, and no one says we shouldn't help poor people in those places."