No plans to review India aid, says UK

London: Britain today defended its multi- million pound aid to India, amid demands by ruling Conservative party MPs and others to end it, saying "now is not the time to quit". International aid is among few areas that have not been subjected to deep funding cuts by the economically-strapped David Cameron government, which has faced much ridicule and more for continuing to send aid to an increasingly prosperous India.

The passionate debate was reignited on Sunday with the re-publication of remarks by Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who said in 2010 that in the overall context of funds that India spends on development, British aid was "peanuts", and one that India could do without. A spokesperson of the Department for International Development (DFID) told PTI today that there were no plans to reconsider the aid programme to India. He said, "We reviewed the India programme last year. There are no plans to review again".

Conservative MPs Philip Davies, Douglas Carswell and Peter Bone joined a critical chorus, urging Prime Minister Cameron to immediately end aid to India in view of Mukherjee`s re-published remarks, but International Development secretary Andrew Mitchell defended the aid. "We will not be in India for ever but now is not the time to quit. Our completely revamped programme is in Indian`s and Britain`s national interest and is a small part of a much wider relationship between our two countries", Mitchell said.

"We are changing our approach to India. We will target aid at three of India`s poorest states, rather than central Government. We will invest more in the private sector, with our aid programme having some of the characteristics of a sovereign wealth fund", he added.