What colour is the sky in your World?
It was expected that NASA, and by extension the U.S., would be the envy of the world after they successfully landed the Curiosity Mars Rover on the red planet this month. That envy could arguably be driven by the recognition that only a country of the size and wealth of the US could even contemplate the massive investment required to conduct such an effort.
However India had joined the race and has announced a plan to send a rocket to Mars next year. The plan calls for a launch in November 2013 which would see the rocket reaching Mars at some point in 2014.
India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, said that the "spaceship to Mars will be a huge step for us in the area of science and technology." That spaceship will cost the nation an estimated $82 million. The Indian Space Research Organization is reportedly developing it.
But India's entry into the space race has been described as an utter folly by many, particularly as they currently receive over £280 million a year in aid from the UK alone.
Jean Drèze, a development economist, said this week. "I don't understand the importance of India sending a space mission to Mars when half of its children are undernourished and half of all Indian families have no access to sanitation," he said. "It seems to be part of the Indian elite's delusional quest for superpower status."
I am persuaded by his argument, sadly it appears the India government are not.
Options exist of course for all the countries paying into the aid pot. They could simply stop doing so (unilateral action) or they could only give money towards named specific projects (add conditionality to future proposals).
I would in this instance be tempted to offer the Indian government an either or proposal.
Either continue with your race to Mars and accept that no more aid will be forthcoming from the UK, or invest the money you were going to spend on the space race on improving the lives of your citizens and we will continue to support you with our financial assistance. You choose.
When persuasion falls on deaf ears we need to try something else. Threats may be unpleasant, but they are also the source of much power in the negotiators armoury.