THERE was fresh anger over taxpayer aid to India last night as it emerged the country is spending £1billion on three warships.
Britain is still handing over £280million a year despite India admitting it doesn’t need the help and regards the amount as “peanuts”.
As the Royal Navy suffers severe budget cuts, India has splashed out on Russian-built frigates, including one said to carry the world’s fastest Cruise missile. The news follows this month’s announcement that India is planning a £50million unmanned spacecraft mission to Mars.
Conservative MP Philip Davies said: “It seems to me that a country that spends billions on defence is more than capable of looking after its own people without £280million a year from British taxpayers. They could just spend £280million less on defence.
“Also, the money we give to India we have to borrow, so by the time we have repaid it, it’s a lot more.”Overseas aid spending has escaped Coalition austerity cuts.
Ministers are committed to increasing it to 0.7 per cent of national output, up from £7.8billion this year to £11.5billion by 2015, to reach targets set by the United Nations.India’s new Cruise missile-carrying frigate, INS Teg, is the first of three Talwar class warships ordered from the Yantar shipyard in Russia.
The International Development Department insists: “As we have made clear many times, British aid is not used to fund India’s defence programme.”
But Joseph Hosier, a retired merchant seaman who revealed the purchase of the warships, said: “We haven’t got a merchant navy to speak of and, with what’s happened to the Royal Navy too, it’s disgusting.
“I’d like to know, if we’re so friendly with India, whether we were offered the contract for these ships, and if not, why not?”
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Just a couple of weeks after learning how they are effectively subsidising India’s mission to Mars, British taxpayers will be dismayed to discover that the Indian government is splashing the cash on these new warships.
“India can afford to spend billions on ventures and equipment that the British Government goes without. This only goes to emphasise the absurdity of British aid going to India.”
Yorkshire MEP Godfrey Bloom, UK Independence Party defence spokesman, said: “India now has a far superior navy to ours – new frigates, aircraft carriers with aircraft. And what do we have?”
Despite India’s booming economy, millions of its citizens still live in poverty.
And yet India is said to be the world’s largest importer of arms.
Last year it also came seventh in a world league table of military spending after the US, China, Russia, the UK, France and Japan.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute put India joint fourth with Britain in terms of spending as a percentage of GDP, at 2.6 per cent. India spent £30.9billion against the UK’s £39.6billion.
India’s military expansion has been driven by rivalries with neighbours Pakistan and China.
In January it chose French company Dassault for a £13billion order for 126 fighter aircraft instead of buying Eurofighter Typhoons offered by a consortium in which BAE Systems has a 33 per cent stake.
Britain has been without an aircraft carrier strike force since Sea Harriers were axed in 2010.