Defence

The politics of foreign aid in India

By Hindustan times

As India reeled under the second wave of Covid-19, one fact became evident — it would not be left to struggle alone. Aid poured into India from over 40 nations. Countries sent oxygen, medical equipment, ventilators, and antiviral drugs. Offers of help came not just from expected corners such as the United States (US) and Russia, but also from unexpected sources such as China and Uzbekistan.

India’s acceptance of the aid (that continues to flow in) has been pointed out as a reversal of Indian policy, and an indication of the pandemic hole the Indian government has dug itself into. For many nationalists, acceptance of aid even brought back the humiliating memories of India’s forced reliance on food aid in the years after Independence. But both beliefs — that India does not accept aid, and that receiving foreign aid is a sign of weakness — are fallacies.

The myth of a self-reliant India refusing to accept foreign aid dates back to around 2004 when the Indian government officially stopped accepting foreign aid for disasters. That year, during the Indian Ocean tsunami, the government released $115 million for the National Contingency Fund.

And India not only refused any humanitarian assistance from Japan, but also turned down emergency aid offers from the US and Israel. Prime Minister (PM) Manmohan Singh said, “We feel that we can cope with the situation on our own.”

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