Notwithstanding Modi’s world wide visits, there has been less focus on external affairs
GN Bureau | December 2, 2015
While prime minister Narendra Modi raises India’s visibility on world stage, the parliamentary standing committee on external affairs has pulled up the government for ignoring MEA's request for higher allocation for the 2014-15 budget.
In its report presented in Lok Sabha on Monday it has pointed out that budgetary allocation was grossly inadequate considering the size and aspirations of the country which wants to be a global power. The committee also suggested that MEA should augment its strength and advised the ministry to consult DoPT for intake of officers from other departments. It also recommended appointing qualified and experienced individuals as lateral entrants. It may be noted that the MEA has recently appointed two such outside experts as lateral entrants in the ministry's policy, planning and research division.
the Standing Committee of External Affairs (2015-16) led by former MoS External Affairs Shashi Tharoor said that MEA during Budget Estimates (BE) had sought an allocation of Rs 26,111.23 crore but were "distressed to note that the actual Budget allocation at BE Stage was Rs 14,730.39 crore". The gap between demand and allocation was to the tune of 43.5 per cent.
The committee felt that the budgetary allocation was grossly inadequate, given the size and aspirations of the country. The committee had said that if India intended to be a major power in the region and play an important role in world affairs, the intentions should be duly accompanied and complimented by appropriate budgetary support, the report exhorted.
The MEA, according to the report, has regretted that despite its push at the highest level at Revised Estimates (RE) of the budget for 2014-15, the Ministry of Finance did not maintain any request. Instead the allocation was reduced at the RE stage.
"The committee wishes to express their displeasure at this approach of the Ministry of Finance to reduce allocations at RE stage instead of suitably increasing it. The committee strongly feels that with such reduced allocations, India's role in world affairs and at the regional level will be compromised," according to the report. The committee advised the Ministry of Finance to take into account broader national interests while making any decision to cut MEA's budget.
The panel that also comprises Rahul Gandhi noted that due to budgetary constraints, MEA had to constantly resort to internal allocation and shifting of funds from one head to other head owing to urgency or the strategic or political importance of the expenditure.
Interestingly, MEA saw a 19 per cent rise in its fund allocations in the Union Budget 2015-16 as the main thrust remained towards various development assistance projects implemented by India in neighbouring countries including Bhutan and Afghanistan. While Rs 12,620 crore was given by finance minister Arun Jaitley in Revised Estimates 2014-15, the allocation has been raised to Rs 14,966.83 crore for 2015-16 for MEA.
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