Bhutan has received the largest share of the amount that the Budget allocated for the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) under “Grants and Loans to Foreign Governments”. The annual Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman showed India’s commitment to the people and continued humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, which received ₹200 crore for the coming year.
Under the budgetary plans, Bhutan will receive ₹2,400.58 crore out of which ₹1,632.24 crore will be “grant” and ₹768.34 crore will be a part of “loan”. An amount of ₹550 crore has been allocated for Nepal under” grant”. Traditionally, Bhutan has been the top recipient of Budget allocation from India as a number of development projects in the fields of health, digitisation and other sectors in the Himalayan country, receive India’s financial assistance.
The Budget estimate for 2023-2024 allocation for the Ministry of External Affairs is around ₹18,050 crore which is ₹800 crore higher than the allocation for the previous financial year (2022-2023). The increase is being interpreted as a move that will help the “foreign policy objectives and expansive development partnership” of India.
The Budget has allocated ₹990 crore for India’s G20 Presidency which will include a string of preparatory meetings and the summit of leaders of the member-countries, next September. “In these times of global challenges, the G20 presidency gives us a unique opportunity to strengthen India’s role in the world economic order,” said Ms. Sitharaman in her speech.
The allocation of ₹200 crore for Afghanistan has indicated the priority that India continues to attach with the Afghan society and the “special relationship” between the two sides. Afghanistan has been under the control of the Taliban since August 2021 and India has not established normal diplomatic ties with Kabul till now though a “technical team” from India has been operating out of the Indian embassy in the Afghan capital. Specific allocation has been made to support the Global Innovation Partnership (GIP) launched by India and the UK, in April 2022.
The Budget also made an allocation of funds for Mauritius (₹460 crore), the port of Chabahar in Iran (₹100 crore). The Indian Ocean archipelago of Seychelles will receive ₹10 crore as assistance during the coming financial year. Nalanda University and the South Asia University— two international education projects under the MEA — will receive ₹250 crore and ₹129 crore, respectively. Noteworthy that Myanmar which is facing a civil disorder since February 1, 2021 coup, received a grant of ₹400 crore and the same amount has also been earmarked for the Maldives, which has several India-funded development projects currently underway.
“In these times of global challenges, the G20 presidency gives us a unique opportunity to strengthen India’s role in the world economic order”Nirmala SitharamanFinance Minister