Times of India, April 23, 2003

Miffed by Jaswant, Gujarat, Dutch review aid to India



NEW DELHI: The Vajpayee government appears to be holding a grudge against some European countries for their trenchant criticism of last year’s Gujarat riots, thumbing its nose at aid from what it says are "certain bilateral partners with smaller assistance packages". Outlining the new policy in this year’s budget speech, finance minister Jaswant Singh said "A stage has come in our development where we should... review our dependence on external donors".

Though Singh did not identify the countries whose aid was no longer welcome, at least one European donor, Holland, feels targeted. Making a reference to the budget proposal as well as to the lack of progress in the rehabilitation of riot victims in Gujarat, the Dutch government told the European parliament on April 11 that it "feels obliged to reconsider the whole development cooperation relation with India". Holland was India’s fourth largest bilateral donor in 2002-03, giving about 24 million euros (Rs 120 crore) to primary education, drinking water and urban environment projects in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Gujarat.

The three biggest donors are Japan (Rs 2058 crore in 2001-02), Germany (Rs 412 crore) and the UK (Rs 1944 crore). The Dutch government noted in written answers to Members of European Parliament that the "state government under Modi has done little to prevent massacres" and recommendations of the NHRC "have been insufficiently acted upon".

It also said: "Prosecution of the perpetrators is only taking place to a limited extent... There is concern about deliberate and systematic discrimination of and/or exclusion of Muslims." The "national BJP government", it said, had "initially adopted a wait and see attitude on the massacres." Though Robert Aarsse, press officer at the Dutch embassy, told TNN that his government had yet to receive official communication from the Indian government, he made it clear "it would have to review development aid".

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India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep - 28 april 2003