Alpesh Patel’s Political Sketchbook: India, Space and UK Aid

Thursday 31st August 2023 07:36 EDT

As India proved her space prowess, some took to social media to complain about UK aid to India, they then revelled in the ire it caused among Indians. You see, the trick is not to be irked. Here is my response – a very British response.

Title: "The Aid Affair"

[Scene: A posh room in the British Prime Minister’s residence, 10 Downing Street. A Goddess Lakshmi picture hangs next to one of Margaret Thatcher. Sir Humphrey Appleby, the Cabinet Secretary, stands to the side. The British Prime Minister (PM) sits confidently behind the desk. Entering the room is the Indian High Commissioner (IHC), looking visibly irritated.]

IHC: Prime Minister, I must address the constant aid you’ve been sending to India.

PM: Ah! Commissioner, always a pleasure. And about the aid – it's our duty to help. Besides, it does wonders for our global image.

IHC: That’s precisely the problem! We don’t need it! In fact, the administrative burden of dealing with your "aid" is draining our resources.

Sir Humphrey (musingly): Ah, the irony, Prime Minister. Giving aid and draining resources. Almost poetic, wouldn’t you say?

PM: Nonsense, Commissioner. We’ve been giving aid for decades. It’s our tradition. Besides, it's only a few million pounds.

IHC: And we appreciate the sentiment, truly. But you see, India's economy is growing. We've a space program, thriving industries... We're not the same country you remember from decades ago.

Sir Humphrey: The tradition of aid... a symbol of longstanding friendship. Can't just let go of such traditions, can we?

IHC: But, Sir Humphrey, it's like offering a ladder to someone in a bungalow.

PM: I must say, we give aid to many countries, and you’re the first to complain.

IHC: We aren’t complaining, we are... declining. Politely. Besides, your taxpayers would surely appreciate their money being spent more judiciously?

Sir Humphrey: The taxpayers, Commissioner, are more concerned with their daily soap operas than where their tax money goes.

IHC (frustrated): But why continue this farce? What's the real reason?

PM: It’s simple. We give, and then we can talk about how we’re helping. It keeps our global image polished. You understand, don’t you?

Sir Humphrey: Moreover, discontinuing aid might send a message that we no longer care. Or even worse, that we acknowledge India's superpower status.

IHC: And what’s wrong with that?

PM: It’s politics. It’s complicated.

IHC: So, what if we send aid to the UK? Turn the tables?

Sir Humphrey (chuckling): Oh, Commissioner, imagine the headlines! "Former Colony Aids the Empire!" Delightfully scandalous.

PM: Look, Commissioner, we’ve been giving aid for decades. We can't suddenly stop. What would people say?

IHC (pausing, thinking): Alright. What if India accepts the aid, but immediately donates it back to the UK for... let’s say... the preservation of British historical sites?

Sir Humphrey: A financial merry-go-round. Delightful!

PM: That’s... unorthodox. But... if it maintains appearances and satisfies your concerns, I think that’s a splendid idea!

IHC: It’s a deal then. The Taj Mahal helps preserve the Tower of London. Who would've thought?

Sir Humphrey: The wonders of diplomacy!

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