A row on aid to India heated up on Sunday after diplomats said a statement frontpaged by a leading British newspaper, quoting finance minister Pranab Mukherjee as saying aid is "peanuts," was in fact made in 2010.
"They seem to have got their chronology a bit mixed up," a British diplomat in New Delhi said. The report in the Sunday Telegraph, headlined ‘India tells Britain: We don’t want your aid’, quoted Mukherjee as telling the Rajya Sabha: "We don’t require the aid. It is a peanut in our total development exercises."
But Mukherjee’s statement was apparently about foreign in aid in general and underscored the fact that, in terms of flow, aid was small in comparison to trade and investment. The comments were published amid a demand by a small number of MPs to cancel British aid to India.
The row, mostly played out in the media, follows New Delhi’s decision to name the French Dassault as favourites in a competition to supply India with billions of dollars of fighter aircraft. Some MPs in Britain, which was part of the competing Eurofighter Typhoon bid, think that Typhoon should have been chosen.
Alan Duncan, international development minister, brought some clarity into the debate, telling a TV audience this week, “We do not link aid to trade… In due course we will come out of India because it is on an upward path and we should be very pleased that that’s the trajectory they’re on.” The Sunday Telegraph reported that it was British officials from the Department of International Development who last year “begged” India not to end aid, claiming such a move would cause “grave political embarrassment” to Britain.