Funds allocation to MEA inadequate considering India's foreign policy objectives: Par panel

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New Delhi, Mar 17 (PTI) The budgetary allocation to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is inadequate, considering the extent and magnitude of India's diplomatic outreach and foreign policy objectives, a parliamentary committee said in a report on Wednesday.

The panel said the budgetary resources will play a 'determining role' in India's pursuit of a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as it requires adequate global presence and expansion of diplomatic outreach.

The report of the committee on external affairs was tabled in both houses of Parliament.

It mentioned that the rise of China is a major geostrategic development of the current time and it has caused a rearrangement of the global balances of power and capacity that developed after World War II and during the Cold War.

The committee said the nature of threats has changed and the conventional war has been supplemented by the rising security challenges from terrorism, social violence, climate change and other biological and non-traditional threats.

The international polity is characterised by extraordinary rates of change and India's diplomatic strategy is adjusting to it with agility and flexibility, and building capacities to maintain 'decisional autonomy', it added.

Referring to resource allocation to the MEA, the panel noted that against the ministry's demand for Rs 22,888 crore for 2021-22, it has been given a budgetary outlay of Rs 18,154 crore, which is merely 0.52 per cent of the government's overall budget.

'Keeping in view the extent and magnitude of India's diplomatic outreach and foreign policy objectives, the committee strongly feel that the allocation is incommensurate and inadequate,' it said.

The committee said the provisioning of adequate finances is critical to ensure that India's global footprint and diplomatic outreach is 'not circumscribed'.

'The committee, therefore, strongly recommend that the allocation to the Ministry of External Affairs, mandated with managing India's external relations, should further be suitably and appropriately enhanced from what is being provisioned now,' it added.

The panel said the MEA should also make a strong case for the same.

The 30-member committee, headed by BJP MP P P Chaudhary, includes Meenakashi Lekhi, P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Preneet Kaur, Abhishek Banerjee and Poonam Mahajan.

Referring to the outlay to the MEA for 2021-22, the committee, however, mentioned that the allocation is the highest ever to it and is 4.66 per cent more than the budgetary estimate in 2020-21 and 21 per cent more than the revised estimate of allocation in the year.

'Notwithstanding these figures, the percentage of MEA's budget during 2021-22 as a percentage of the government's budget is merely 0.52,' it said.

'While the increased allocation to MEA in absolute term is a fine development, however, it is continuously slipping down as a percentage of the government's total expenditure,' the panel said.

Recognising the significance of a focussed budgetary planning process, the committee emphatically stressed upon the need to develop a well-defined and focused budgetary planning process by the MEA.

It criticised the MEA for its 'casual approach' towards the panel's earlier recommendation for conducting a cross-country comparative study of the budgetary allocations of the ministries and departments entrusted with the task of managing foreign affairs.

The report said the MEA informed the committee that a preliminary report of a study conducted is under examination and that its comprehensive assessment has been completed. The MEA also informed the panel that more comparative study variables are being included in the report.

The committee strongly recommended that the findings of the preliminary report should be furnished to it 'instantly' and the final report should be compiled within three months.

'The ministry should also ensure that the comparative data and figures are used to bolster its case for enhanced budgetary allocation in the next financial year,' it said. PTI MPB RC