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Budget 2019: India increases significant contribution to Maldives; BIMSTEC to get similar funds as SAARC

PM Modi with Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Photograph:( Twitter )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Feb 01, 2019, 04.30 PM (IST) Written By: Sidhant Sibal

The interim Budget saw India increase its contribution substantially to the Maldives while bringing support to SAARC and BIMSTEC Secretariat at the same level.

According to Budget estimates for 2019-2020, Maldives got Rs 400 crore grant and Rs 175 crore loan from India making New Delhi's contribution to the Indian ocean country at Rs 575 crore. It is five- times increase from the sum India contributed in FY 2017-2018 which was just Rs 109.24 crore. 

Budget 2019: Full text of finance minister Piyush Goyal's speech in Parliament

In the case of Maldives, even the revised estimates for the financial year 2018-2019 saw a massive increase. In last year's Budget, India had announced a contribution of Rs 125 crore, it was revised at Rs 440 crore.

It comes after Maldives President Ibrahim Solih visited India in December of 2018, his first foreign visit to any country after taking charge in November last year. During the visit, India had announced an assistance of $1.4 billion to Male.

Clearly, the change in regime in the Maldives has had an impact. The previous regime under Yameen had junked pro-India policies for a pro-China strategy.

For Afghanistan, a country in which India is building a number of infrastructure projects, the interim Budget gave Rs 325 crore. Last year also it was as much but in the revised estimates released on Friday, it increased to Rs 470 crore. 

Bhutan, which is India's close partner and gets substantial budgetary support saw a grant of Rs 2,115 crore and a loan of Rs 500 crore. With Rs 2,615 crore, it is the maximum support India gives to any country. Nepal got Rs 700 crore, Myanmar got Rs 400 crore, Bangladesh got Rs 175 crore & Sri Lanka Rs 150 crore in the interim Budget 2019-2020. 

The Budget estimate for Chabahar port, India's key connectivity plan with Afghanistan and central Asia remained unchanged from the previous year at Rs 150 crore.

India also provides support to international and regional organisations. The amount given for SAARC and BIMSTEC Secretariat stands same at Rs 8 crore. Interestingly, BIMSTEC funds saw an increase from Rs 5 crore last year to Rs 8 crore this year.  

The 2016 SAARC summit in Islamabad was cancelled after India along with regional countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Afghanistan boycotted the summit due to Islamabad's support to terrorism. BIMSTEC has seen a new push from New Delhi especially after the summit in Nepal last year.

India funds two universities also -  The South Asian University and Nalanda International University -  which saw Indian support worth Rs 380 crore and Rs 220 crore in the interim Budget.

For 2019-2020, India announced Rs 265 crore for United Nations, last year it was Rs 258 crore which revised estimates being increased at Rs 307 crore. This is excluding the contribution to its various bodies - like UNESCO and UNCTAD.

India will also give a membership contribution of Rs 0.70 cr to FATF under the interim Budget estimates. 

Indian Ocean and Africa

Two Indian ocean countries - Mauritius and Seychelles, who have been getting aid historically from New Delhi, got Rs 700 crore and Rs 75 crore. Mauritius PM Pravind Kumar Jugnauth was on an 8-day long India visit only last week and was the chief guest at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Varanasi.

India also increased its support to African countries with the Budget announcing Rs 400 crore this year. Last it was Rs 200 crore and before that, it was Rs 175 crore. This is an increase in line with New Delhi's Africa policy which has seen an increase in engagement with the African continent. 

India also provides support to Mongolia. This year it has announced Rs 5 crore, which is same as last year.