by Alys Mumford

Now normally I manage to resist the urge to rise to a Daily Mail article I disagree with. But for this one:

‘Well that’s gratitude! We give India £1bm in aid, THEY snub the UK and give France a £13bn jet contact’

I’ve made an exception.

The article refers to a contract awarded by the Indian government to the French firm Dassault Rafale to provide 126 military jets to the Indian air force, over British firm BAE systems. This is seen to be an affront given that Britain’s aid package to India is 15 times larger that that of France. The contract was given to France ‘despite Government claims that the UK’s £1billion aid package to India would help secure the order’.

It has always been known that ‘aid’ is often understood by governments to be payment for favourable trade terms, a supportive vote in the UN, or money expressly to be used to hire foreign firms, but it is not normally put quite so clearly (by press or government). The outrage is almost refreshing.

The reason cited for the decision to buy the jets from France is one of cost – and this seems to be what has put a few noses out of joint. We give India money, they should spend it on buying our planes, regardless of cost, quality or suitability, the logic goes. This has happened countless times througout the past decades – Indonesia’s Suharto using British loans to buy weapons to persecute thousands of Indonesian civilians is the classic example.

Aid is aid; to give money expecting a lucrative arms deal to come out of it as a result is bribery, plain and simple.