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Cameron leads the attack on Indian decision on Rafale

British Prime Minister David Cameron. File photo  

Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday led an attack on India for selecting French firm Dassault Rafale for a mega deal to supply fighter jets ignoring British claims as MPs and the media accused New Delhi of “ingratitude,” arguing that Britain gave millions of pounds in aid to India.

Mr. Cameron told the House of Commons that he was “disappointed” by the decision and assured MPs that he would do all he could to persuade India to change its mind insisting that a contract to Dassault had not yet been granted.

The decision, announced on Tuesday, did “not rule out the Typhoon for India.” The BAE Systems whose bid was turned down was still in the hunt for the contract despite losing the first round of bidding, he suggested.

“Of course, I will do everything I can — as I have already — to encourage the Indians to look at Typhoon, because I think it is such a good aircraft,” he said.

“The decision is obviously disappointing, but it is about who the Indians have assessed as making the lowest bid and, therefore, asked to enter into further negotiations. They have not yet awarded the contract.”

Mr. Cameron's intervention came as his party MPs and right-wing media questioned the wisdom of giving aid to India if it persisted in “snubbing” Britain. India's decision was described as much a failure of British diplomacy as a personal setback to Mr. Cameron in his campaign to establish Britain as a “partner of choice for India.”

In the Commons, his senior Conservative Party colleague and a contender for the party leadership David Davis called for him to pull his full weight to get India to change its mind pointing out that “we give aid to India many times more than what France gives.”

Another Conservative MP Peter Bone said it was a “myth” that “doling out billions of pounds out to countries like this exerts any influence whatsoever on the decisions made by those governments when purchasing equipment.”

“We need to slash the international development money and invest the billions saved to help hard-pressed British families,” he said.

The decision also came under attack from Labour MPs, with Barry Gardiner, Chair of Labour Friends of India, calling for “major reforms” to U.K. Trade and Investment [UKTI] which promotes trade abroad. He also urged the Indian High Commission to take a “more pro-active role in encouraging British companies to invest in India.” The High Commission denied his claim relating to “downgrading” of India-U.K. trade relations.

The right-wing Daily Mail said the contract was lost despite the government claims that the U.K.'s £1billion aid package to India would help secure the order. It recalled that the Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell justified aid to India last year on grounds that it would facilitate selling Typhoon to India.

BAE Systems insisted it was not completely eliminated from the process and could still land the deal if India's talks with Dassault collapsed.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 7:14:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Cameron-leads-the-attack-on-Indian-decision-on-Rafale/article13296584.ece

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