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In India’s Budget, a message to Afghan people that New Delhi isn’t switching off

Source : Hindustan Times

In India’s Budget, a message to Afghan people that New Delhi isn’t switching off
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India on Tuesday allocated ₹200 crore as aid for Afghanistan in its budget for 2022-23, signalling New Delhi’s continuing commitment to the war-torn country, even as it made an outlay of ₹100 crore for the development of Iran’s Chabahar port.

The government also proposed an allocation of ₹360 crore as aid for the Maldives, a key part of India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy, and ₹600 crore for Myanmar, which is currently dealing with an economic crisis in the wake of last year’s coup and the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

These allocations were part of the total outlay of ₹17,250 crore for the ministry for the next fiscal, down from the ₹18,155 crore allocated in 2021-22. The revised estimate for the ministry’s expenditure during the current fiscal was ₹16,000 crore, and people familiar with the matter said the figure was lower than usual as activities such as foreign visits and projects were affected by the pandemic.

As usual, India’s close partner Bhutan got the lion’s share – ₹2,266 crore – of the total outlay of ₹6,292 crore as aid to foreign countries during 2022-23. However, this was far lower than the ₹3,005 crore allocated for Bhutan in 2021-22.

India has not recognised the Taliban setup that assumed power in Afghanistan in mid-August last year after the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government, but it has said it will continue to provide assistance to the Afghan people who are currently grappling with a humanitarian crisis. The people cited above said the allocation of ₹200 crore as aid for Afghanistan reflected the government’s continuing commitment to the Afghan people.

“It is a signal that India is not switching off,” one of the people said.

The amount allocated for the next fiscal will be used to meet expenses related to projects that India has been implementing in Afghanistan, to provide relief materials and humanitarian assistance and to cover existing schemes such as scholarships for Afghan students, the people said.

The allocation for 2022-23 was lower than the outlay of ₹350 crore for the current fiscal.

Following the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, India emerged as the largest regional donor for the country with pledges of almost $3 billion. India has executed several key infrastructure projects, including the construction of a new Parliament building, the 218-km Zaranj-Delaram highway and the $290-million Friendship Dam. However, India-funded development projects came to a standstill after the Taliban takeover.

India has airlifted 6.6 tonnes of medicines and 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Afghanistan and is working with Pakistan to transport 50,000 tonnes of wheat via land routes. This aid has been welcomed by the Taliban.

The government also made an outlay of ₹100 crore for developing Iran’s Chabahar port – the same as the allocation for the current fiscal – as part of efforts to boost the prospects of the facility on the Gulf of Oman for connectivity with Afghanistan and Central Asia. India and the Central Asian states are exploring the possibility of creating a joint working group on using Chabahar port.

India has committed grant assistance of $85 million and a credit facility of $150 million for developing Shahid Beheshti terminal at Chabahar port, for which the US has granted a special waiver from sanctions imposed on Iran.

The budget for 2022-23 also included an outlay of ₹900 crore for Mauritius, ₹750 crore for Nepal, ₹300 crore for Bangladesh, ₹200 crore for Sri Lanka, ₹14 crore for Seychelles, ₹12 crore for Mongolia, ₹250 crore for African countries, ₹140 crore for Eurasian states, ₹40 crore for Latin American countries and ₹150 crore for developing countries.

There was also an allocation of ₹447 crore to support international training programmes. The outlay for embassies and missions was hiked from ₹3,240 crore during 2021-22 to ₹3,769 crore in the next fiscal.

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