Cameron under fire over Indian arms deal

By staff writers
August 1, 2010

The Prime Minister has been criticised for using his trip to India this past week as a platform for a £700 million arms deal. David Cameron said he wants the UK to have an “enhanced” relationship with India, but a key part of this seems to be the sale of 57 Hawk jets from BAE Systems.

A number of leading arms dealers were amongst the business people who accompanied Cameron on his trip to India from 28 to 30 July. They included BAE Chairman Dick Olver, Rolls Royce's Miles Cowdry and Augusta Westland's Managing Director Graham Cole. Ministers in attendance included the Chancellor, George Osborne and the Business Secretary, Vince Cable.

The jets will be manufactured under licence in India by BAE's partner Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, with technical and other support provided by BAE in the UK.

Cameron said, “This is an outstanding example of India-UK defence and industrial partnership, and this agreement will bring significant economic benefits to both our countries".

But the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said that the deal would secure a total of 200 UK jobs, meaning that it costs £3.5million to secure each job.

BAE seeks to present itself as a British company when looking for public support in the UK, but campaigners point out that the majority of its staff and shareholders are now outside Britain.

Condemning Cameron's deal, CAAT said that according to a recent estimate by the World Bank, 42 per cent of the population of India live below the internationally defined poverty line. This means there are even more poor people in India than in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa.

“Although the Prime Minister has stated that the mission purpose is to build an 'enhanced' relationship with India, the bottom line is making money,” explained CAAT's spokesperson, Kaye Stearman.

She added, “The Hawk deal will not benefit the people of India who need food security rather than vastly expensive weapons. Nor will it benefit British taxpayers who are already subsidising UK arms exports.”

CAAT have recently been particularly critical of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), a unit of the Department of Business responsible for promoting British exports. UKTI employs more staff in its Defence and Security Organisation (DSO), which promotes arms exports, than it does in the sections devoted to all civil sectors combined.

Responsibility for arms export promotion was moved to UKTI after the closure of the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO), a unit within the Ministry of Defence which was accused of giving arms dealers unique access to ministers. DESO's closure followed a long-running campaign by CAAT, the Fellowship of Reconciliation and other groups.


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