Many people, including some readers of the Republic, have been asking for some years why we give aid to India.
Now I'm a believer in international aid. Without labouring the point, I believe that while we should make sure that our own people are looked after, even our poorest are comfortable compared to the misery of starvation, pestilence and natural disaster that afflicts some parts of the world.
We constantly make it clear that we don't want and can't afford to accept economic migrants here. So, if we had intelligent and well planned aid programmes, we might be able to help people to make lives for themselves and their families at home, their home. It's not just charitable; it makes sound economic sense too.
So, back to India. I know that there is grinding poverty in India. My brother is not long back from there, having visited the slums on Mumbai. But India is a rich country with economic growth running at over 10%, something like 100 times the UK's.
India can afford nuclear weapons, and a space programme. Slowly, but surely, India is working to alleviate its poverty. It has, for example, doubled spending on health in the last 8 years. To pull it from third world status will take a long time. It could be done faster if so much of the cake was not taken by the rich. But that is how things are, not just in India, but everywhere, including the UK where the gap between rich and poor is the greatest in the developed world.
While we have been saying that India doesn't need money from this poor little island, so has India. Pranab Mukherjee, India's Finance Minister, last year asked the British to stop sending aid.
And Britain (wait for it) begged India to continue to accept it.
A leaked memo from Mr Mukherjee shows that he wished to terminate aid from Britain because it was portraying a negative image of the poverty in his country. Although in our terms it was a large amount, it was a trickle in the overall budget of India and it was more damaging than helpful. Furthermore, most of the aid was either being syphoned off by corrupt officials in India, or was inappropriate or unneeded because the the administration in the Department For International Development (DFID) send televisions to schools that don't have electricity, or satellite tracking for buses which already have the system.
DFID, having made a considerable effort to persuade the British public that aid was vital to India, said that it would be embarrassing if the country rejected the aid on the basis that it didn't need the money. Alan Duncan, a junior minister, had told the UK public that hundreds of thousands if not millions would die without our aid. This was clearly a total fabrication.
And now, despite having been told publicly that the money is not wanted, Andrew Mitchell Secretary of State at DFID, seems determined to continue to throw money at the country with a revamped programme which will target the states rather than the Federal Government, at the same time as he is cutting money to some African states desperately in need of it.
Last week the Indian government decided to purchase a French fighter plane, rejecting the British Typhoon in the process. Mitchell, who according to a Despatches programme keeps his own money in the British Virgin Islands, is livid. Seemingly another reason for the aid was "to sell Typhoon".
I wouldn't put Andrew Mitchell in charge of the office tea fund, never mind a multi billion spending department. What a bloody fool.