External affairs ministry gets 16 percent hike in budget
New Delhi, Feb 28 : Finance Minister P. Chidambaram Thursday proposed a hike of over 16 percent in the external affairs ministry budget in 2013-14 at Rs.11,719 crore (USD 2.154 bn), with aid to neighbouring countries getting special focus.
The budget sees a rise of Rs.1,657 crore allocation over the revised estimates of last fiscal, which was at Rs.10,062 crore.
For international cooperation, the ministry has got Rs.376.23 crore over the revised estimate of Rs.271 crore. Under Haj expenditure, which saw the apex court slash the government's discretionary quota seats for Haj pilgrims to 300 from the 5,050 seats proposed, the budget outlay is at Rs.3.13 crore. The budget outlay was Rs.9.60 crore for Haj, but the revised estimate was just Rs.0.60 crore.
Under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, the government's bilateral programme of assistance, the ministry has got Rs.140 crore, over the revised estimate of Rs.120 crore.
Aid to neighbouring countries, barring Maldives, has seen a significant boost in the budget.
For Bangladesh, with which relations are at a high and President Pranab Mukherjee is slated to visit March 3-5, the budget has allocated Rs.580 crore, a major hike over the outlay of Rs.30 crore last year, though the revised estimate was much higher at Rs.280 crore.
For Bhutan, the budget has allocated aid of Rs.3,614 crore over the revised estimate of Rs.3.409 crore. Bhutan king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was chief guest at this year's Republic Day parade after the Sultan of Oman declined.
Nepal is another important neighbour, with the budget allocating aid of Rs.380 crore, over the revised estimate of Rs. 270 crore.
Sri Lanka has been allocated a major hike of Rs.500 crore aid in the budget compared to the revised estimate of Rs.290 crore last year.
However, Maldives, with which relations appear to have become strained of late after the Maldivian government snapped the airport contract with GMR and after former president Mohamed Nasheed sought refuge for 11 days this month to escape an arrest warrant, the aid allocation is just Rs.30 crore.
The aid outlay in last year's budget was Rs.286 crore, but the revised estimate stood at Rs.30 crore.
For African countries, where India is pushing to make a strong presence, the aid allocation is Rs.300 crore, compared to the revised estimate of Rs.237 crore.
For Afghanistan, the aid allocation is Rs.648 crore, over the revised estimate of Rs. 491 crore.