Children left out in 'no-aid'
India By A D McKenzie
PARIS - As India forges ahead with a host
of trade agreements with various European
countries, including France, some Indian
commentators say the country can well do without
the "paltry" sum in financial aid it currently
receives from the United Kingdom. For others, the
US$320 million in direct aid that the UK
government plans to terminate by 2015 could affect
the welfare of the Asian nation's most
has major challenges. Millions of Indian people
live in extreme poverty and a shocking number of
children die each year," Guillaume Grosso,
director of the French branch of the anti-poverty
group ONE, told IPS. "As Britain reduces aid, it
must be very careful to ensure the plight of those
children is not made worse."
United Nations figures, India had the highest
number of under-five child deaths in 2011, despite
advances in health
care. World Vision, a
Christian relief and development group, has
questioned the UK's decision.
moment nearly half of India's children under five
are stunted by lack of nutritious food. That is
more than 60 million children... equivalent to the
entire population of the UK," head of policy David
Thomson said. "Unlike acute malnutrition during
famine, which can be treated, children never
recover from stunting. Their brains and bodies
never fully develop, making them much less likely
to earn a decent income as adults."
said that ONE, founded by the singer Bono, and
other NGOs fighting against poverty would like to
see "a day when development aid is no longer
needed". In the meantime, "aid helps people escape
poverty and get access to things we take for
granted such as vaccines and clean water", he
said. "It is a temporary solution, but it plays a
very important role in kick-starting development.
In many countries the resources are simply not
available to provide those basic services, so aid
Still, he agreed that India
is increasingly able to do without aid, as its
"strong economic growth" means that the country
now has an expanding pool of domestic resources.
India is an example of "how poor countries can
transform themselves. As this happens, over time,
aid funding can be directed to those countries
with the greatest need," Grosso told IPS.
This was likely the thinking behind the
British Department for International Development
(DFID)'s announcement in early November that
Development Secretary Justine Greening would not
"sign off on any new programmes" and that
financial aid to the Asian country would end
completely in 2015.
"After reviewing the
programme and holding discussions with the
Government of India... we agreed that now is the
time to move to a relationship focusing on
skills-sharing rather than aid," Greening said.
The move has annoyed some Indian officials
and brought them closer to the UK's fellow EU
member, France, though it too does not supply aid
to India. A few days after the announcement, while
Indian officials were in France for the annual
commemoration ceremony for Indian soldiers who
lost their lives in Europe during World War I,
closer ties between the two countries were on
According to the Indian Embassy
in Paris, "India and France are quite strategic
partners" especially in defense and security
issues, and the relationship is growing closer.
India's proposed controversial Jaitapur
Nuclear Power Project, for instance, is a joint
project with France. If realized, Jaitapur would
be the world's largest nuclear power generating
station, with French nuclear engineering company
Areva holding the contract to build several
India is also scheduled to
purchase 126 French-built Rafale fighter jets from
the French company Dassault Aviation in a deal
reported to be worth more than US$10 billion. The
company recently set up a subsidiary in India,
Dassault Aircraft Services India Private Ltd.
Indian embassy officials here told IPS
that France neither "receives nor gives any
bilateral aid to India", but India does provide a
few French students with scholarships in the
fields of traditional Indian medicine and arts.
"India has stopped accepting aid from many
countries, including France," an embassy
These steps are just
one sign of India's "changing place in the world",
according to Greening. For their part, Indian
commentators like the Times of India have
suggested that the time is now ripe for their
country to say, "No thank you to the paltry aid"
from the UK.
But while officials haggle
over political details, NGOs fear that the 360
million people still living in crushing poverty in
India will bear the brunt of this abrupt change in
"India may be a middle-income
country now, but it still has the highest child
malnutrition levels in the world," said Matt
Davies, head of international policy and advocacy
for ATD Fourth World, a France-based organization
that works to eradicate chronic poverty.
"We have to look at where the aid is going
and make sure that the poorest of the poor don't
suffer from funding cuts as governments try to cut
corners," he told IPS. "Ending financial aid can
have serious consequences for those most at risk,
in a country where one of the big issues is income