London: Public unease has given way to increasing fury in London over giving millions of pounds in aid to an increasingly prosperous India, as the David Cameron government continues to resist pressure to stop it despite being in the throes of an economic crisis.
The clamour to stop the aid reached a new high when India last week decided to prefer the French fighter jet Rafale to the Typhoon, which is partly manufactured in Britain.
The debate was passionately renewed on Sunday with The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph reporting that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had stated in the Rajya Sabha last August that India did not need British aid which, according to him, was "peanuts". "We do not require the aid. It is a peanut in our total development exercises (expenditure)."
Mukherjee's remarks, reported to have been taken from the official transcript of the Rajya Sabha, were not reported in the UK media earlier, the newspapers said, sparking another wave of comments from people demanding an end to aid to India.
Reacting to media reports, the spokesman of the Indian High Commission to the UK said, "Yes, we have currently an aid programme with the UK. We are in ongoing consultation with British Government on nature, future direction, priority and manner of disbursal (of the aid)."
The papers also quoted a "leaked memo" which reportedly said that the then foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao proposed "not to avail (of) any further DFID (British) assistance with effect from April 1, 2011," because of the "negative publicity of Indian poverty promoted by DFID".
India preferring France to Britain in the fighter jet deal has added public pressure to stop aid to India.
However, on Saturday night officials insisted that British aid to India was necessary and that "now is not the time to end aid to India."