NEW DELHI: There has been a "discernible mismatch" between funds required by External Affairs Ministry and allocations given to it in the last three years, severely affecting its functioning, particularly in implementing major projects abroad, a key Parliamentary panel today said.
Referring to an outlay of Rs 14,966 crore to the MEA as against its demand of Rs 22,967 crore for 2016-17, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs said shortage of funds is going to compromise India's foreign policy objectives.
"Ministry of External Affairs has been put in a situation where during the current year they will have to manage India's expanding international engagement and the welfare of the diaspora with limited resources that the objectives of India's foreign policy are definitely going to be compromised," it said.
The Committee took serious note of the "cavalier approach" of the Ministry of Finance over such a serious issue that "undermines" India's credibility abroad. At present, India has 187 missions/posts in 123 countries and the committee said allocation of adequate resources was key for their smooth functioning.
The panel, headed by Shashi Tharoor, also said notwithstanding an overall cut in budget allocation to the MEA, there has been a 13.4 per cent hike under the head "Entertainment Charges" in view of increase in visits by Head of State/ Head of Government/Vice President and the Foreign Secretary.
To limit utilisation of resources, the MEA told the panel that it has taken series of steps like limiting to bare minimum visits of personnel to foreign countries, restricting purchase of vehicles and discouraging holding of seminars/ conferences at the five star hotels.
The committee also expressed dismay over sizeable reduction in aid and loans to countries in India's immediate neighbourhood such as Maldives, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, recommending that allocation under this head must be enhanced in consonance with the "neighbourhood first" policy.
The committee said lack of adequate fundings to the MEA has affected various development projects in foreign countries including in India's neighbourhood.
On the merger of the Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) card into Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card, the report said the scheme has been well received.
"Out of total of 2 lakh (approx) PIO cards issued in the past, more than 95,000 of them have been converted into OCI cards," the Ministry said.
The merger has given the PIOs the benefits like life-long visa and exemption from appearing before the local police station on every visit to India.