The external affairs ministry has been given Rs 15,011 crore in the Union budget, an increase of Rs 213 crore from last year, with Nepal getting Rs 650 crore for projects, almost 75 per cent more than what was allocated to the country in 2017-18.
Nepal was allocated Rs 375 crore in the last budget. The allocation comes amid External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s Nepal visit. She arrived in Kathmandu today for discussions with leaders of the Himalayan nation. The allocation for Seychelles has also been increased from Rs 200 crore to Rs 300 crore in the budget, presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Parliament today.
Last week, India and Seychelles signed a revised agreement for the development of facilities on Assomption island which will also allow India to develop an airstrip and jetty there. The original pact was signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit there in 2015.
The amount for the development of the Chabahar Port, a strategic oceanic port situated in Iran, remains the same as last budget at Rs 150 crore.
As per the revised estimate, Rs 13,690 crore was given to the ministry in 2017-18, a decline of Rs 1,108.55 crore from the 2017-18 budgetary allocation of Rs 14798.55 crore.
In total, Rs 5,545 crore has been earmarked under “total-aid to countries”, which includes Bhutan (Rs 2,650 crore), African countries (Rs 200 crore), Bangladesh (Rs 175 crore), and Sri Lanka (Rs 150 crore).
With the government announcing withdrawal of subsidy on the Haj pilgrimage, there were no funds allocated under this category.
Separately, Rs 3,772.60 crore has been earmarked for other expenditures such as funds for the Nalanda university (Rs 200 crore), maintenance cost of Aircraft of Air India for VVIP travel (Rs 141 crore) and ‘Special Diplomatic Expenditure’ (Rs 2,400.01 crore).
The budget also provides for Rs 280 crore towards schemes/projects in Myanmar. India had also inked a pact with Myanmar last December on the restoration of normalcy and development of the Rakhine State, from where thousands of Rohingya Muslims recently fled following incidents of violence against the community.
The pact will focus on socio-economic development and livelihood initiatives in the Rakhine State.