UK to cut off aid to India in 2015 despite charities’ concerns over country’s poorest

Justine Greening: No more UK aid to India after 2015. Picture: PA
Justine Greening: No more UK aid to India after 2015. Picture: PA
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UK AID to India will end in 2015, Justine Greening has announced, in a move which will save millions but has been criticised by charities.

• UK aid to India will end in three years’ time, says international development secretary Justine Greening

• Charities raise concerns over India’s poorest as annual £280m aid package set to end in 2015

The international development secretary also revealed the UK will save £200 million between now and then through reduced packages.

She said the former British colony is successfully developing and it was “time to recognise India’s changing place in the world”.

Her announcement will delight many Conservative MPs, who have questioned why the UK sends £280m-a-year to a country with its own space programme, while the Indian governmen insists it no longer needs aid.

But critics have said it is too soon, with many Indians still living in extreme poverty.

Ms Greening said programmes already under way would be completed as planned, but no new ones would be signed off.

“After reviewing the programme and holding discussions with the government of India this week, we agreed that now is the time to move to a relationship focusing on skills-sharing rather than aid,” she said.

“Having visited India I have seen first hand the tremendous progress being made. India is successfully developing and our own bilateral relationship has to keep up with 21st century India. It’s time to recognise India’s changing place in the world.”

After 2015 the UK’s relationship with India is to focus on “technical co-operation”, with a hub of British development experts working with the Delhi government, and a programme of private sector investment to assist some of the poorest parts of India.

Indian finance minister Pranab Mukherjee last year said the country no longer wanted or needed the British aid, describing the money as “a peanut in our total development expenditure”.

But Oxfam warned the scale of the poverty challenge in the country remained “huge”.

Phil Bloomer, director of campaigns and policy, said: “We’re concerned that completely withdrawing British aid to India by 2015 is too hasty. It’s crucial that we don’t cut off money which gives a lifeline to poor families, and a third of the world’s poorest people live in India.”

While India is becoming richer, the poverty campaign group One warned “the plight of children” is getting worse.

Europe director Adrian Lovett said: “India’s economic growth shows how poor countries can transform themselves so that, over time, British aid funding can be directed to countries with greater need.

“But India still has major challenges. Millions of Indian people live in extreme poverty and a shocking number of children under five die each year.”

Melanie Ward, head of advocacy at ActionAid, added: “We are concerned about the UK government’s plans to cancel planned aid programmes in India.

“India is an example of the changing face of global poverty and a fast-moving economic landscape, but the reality is that it is a country with more poor people than in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.

“It is precisely because of the success of aid and development that some countries are no longer low-income. Aid which is carefully targeted at the poorest and most vulnerable people in India still has the potential to make an enormous difference to millions of lives.”

Labour MP Keith Vaz said the move would affect “the most vulnerable”.

“Although undoubtedly India has progressed in the past 20 years, there are still an estimated 360 million people surviving on less than 35p per day.

“In withdrawing our aid to India, which will clearly only affect the most vulnerable, we need to see the minister’s plan for how she will work with other organisations to make sure that the gaps we are creating will be filled.

“Our relationship with Delhi is vital. The Prime Minister has said so himself on many occasions. We need to reassure the Indian government and its people that this relationship is a priority.”