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Millennium Post

Commit only if you can deliver, MEA

Has the ministry of external affairs bitten off much more than it can possibly chew? If the reports of the severe funding crisis within the MEA are any indication, that exactly is the case. The MEA is unable fulfill its international commitments because of budgetary woes, because of which India’s standing in the immediate South Asian neighbourhood as well as its credibility in the African countries has taken a big hit. Naturally, poorer and considerably smaller nations like Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal depend a lot on Indian aid to fund crucial projects in their territory and investments with New Delhi’s nod often form the backbone of the respective economies. Landlocked countries like Bhutan and Nepal have India and China as their biggest trading partners, which also help make these regions strategic choices for setting up of military and technological bases. But the funding crunch has badly dented India’s image, halting a number of projects in the middle and creating hurdles in the bilateral relationships which are based on Indian investment for infrastructural and other development-related projects. For example, India’s $200-million aid to Bangladesh has been stopped at the halfway mark, disbursing 50 per cent of the amount to the eastern neighbour, much the consternation of the MEA, becoming a stretch on the diplomatic ties. In addition, hydropower projects in Bhutan as well as projects committed in the India Africa Forum Summit have taken a massive hit since monetary mismanagement has left the MEA biting its own hands.

Certainly, India must expand its footprint in the immediate neighbourhood as well as in distant shores, but must also weigh in how much it can spread its wings without having the feathers fall off! While grants to needy and poorer countries are the best ways to build a solid reputation and gain international traction, failure to adhere to its high-profile commitments would land us in a diplomatic soup. The finance ministry must take note of that and issue guidelines for the MEA on the promises it can or cannot make, depending on the situation at home.
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