India has become the world's largest importer of arms, accounting for 9 per cent of all global purchases. As we report today, its annual defence budget stands at a record £22.3bn – an 11 per cent rise over the previous year – more than double the amount that India, with its rapidly rising economy, spends on education and health combined.
This startling figure again calls into question the usefulness of the United Kingdom's continuing annual grant to India of £295m in foreign aid. Mr Cameron on his recent tour of sub-Saharan Africa has spoken robustly in defence of foreign aid, the budget for which his Government has protected from the cuts. A new survey (for Chatham House and YouGov) reveals a majority of the public believe Britain spends too much on overseas aid and too little on its own armed forces.
Funds for overseas development, properly administered, do indeed improve impoverished lives across the world. However, Mr Cameron's case for this valuable programme would be far more convincing to voters if this paradoxical and ineffectual gesture to our former colony and now a wealthy superpower-in-waiting was dropped.