India recently decided to declare the French Rafale as preferred bidder in its long-running order for 126 multi-role fighter jets. In doing so, the Rafale has trumped the only other fighter in the race – the Eurofighter Typhoon.
One would think that this decision would be received in the UK (one of four partnership in the Eurofighter consortium) with some reflection on why the bid lost out? Rather, it is leading to some fairly childish complaints emerging from the once great colonial power that suggest the UK hasn’t entirely gotten used to its new place in the world.
For one, comments from Britain’s politicians suggest that the Typhoon is actually the far better aircraft and the Indians are essentially idiots to pick the Rafale. It is hard to comment on which of the two are technically superior, but someone should tell David Cameroon that calling your prospective client an idiot is not the best way to get back in the game. Moreover, even the UK’s own analysts suggest the Typhoon may eventually be the better aircraft, but one that the Brits themselves don’t support at the moment. Then why should India?
The Brits go one further, asking how India has the temerity to accept millions in development aid and not reciprocating by giving the UK defence contracts worth several times as much.
Here’s why. For one, a little bit of aid does not a true ally make. The Calcutta Telegraph has an excellent article that highlights how, over the past several decades, it is the French and not the Brits that have stood by India in its time of need. Whether politics was a consideration in the final decision is hard to say, but again the Brits would do themselves a favor by looking at their own actions rather than blaming India for poor judgment.
Second, the question of development aid is, in general, irrelevant to the fighter jet order. It cannot be denied that India can use help in poverty alleviation but to my knowledge, has never asked Britain for aid money. Indeed, it is India that does Britain a favor by allowing it to assuage its colonial, developed world guilt. Indeed, this may be a good time for India’s Prime Minister to preempt the British debate by banning aid from the UK. You keep your aid money, we will keep our freedom to make our own decisions, which we gained when you left the country in 1947. Fair trade.