India and the UK on Thursday downplayed the contentious issue of slashing of 280 million pounds per annum British aid by half as external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said “aid is past, trade is future.” Addressing a joint press conference with his UK counterpart William Hague,
The UK decided to slash the assistance to half due to mounting domestic criticism that Britain’s overseas assistance to India was not justified in times of downturn.
On his part, Hague said Britain’s international development secretary Justine Greening would be examining the issue and take a decision.
He also said the two countries are holding talks on the issue. “We have been discussing the issue… The governments of UK and India have agreed on the way forward on this issue,” Hague said, adding that Greening would be issuing a statement and he did “not want to pre-empt the issue”.
Khurshid said the two sides had discussed all aspects of bilateral trade, which “has immense potential” and noted that India is third largest investor in Britain, while the UK also has major investments in India.
President Pranab Mukherjee as finance minister had dismissed British aid as “peanuts” in India’s total development expenditure.