India's development assistance to war-ravaged Afghanistan has seen a reduction of nearly Rs 660 crore in 2016-17 compared to the year-ago period while its financial grant to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were also slashed significantly.
According to data presented to the Lok Sabha by Minister of State External Affairs V K Singh, India provided development aid of Rs 221 crore to Afghanistan between April 1, 2016 and March 27, 2017 as against Rs 880 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 723 crore in 2014-15.
There was a sharp reduction in assistance to Sri Lanka as well.
According to the figures, India had given Rs 499 crore and Rs 403 crore to Colombo in 2014-15 and 2015-16 respectively but the amount in the previous fiscal (till March 27) was only Rs 73 crore.
Singh said India had given a total of Rs 2,985 crore to Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar and Afghanistan in 2016-17 while the amount in 2015-16 was Rs Rs 7,290 and in 2014-15, it was Rs 6,249.
To a specific query on whether relations with neighbouring countries have strained due to the slash in aid, the minister claimed there is no cut as such.
"However, the actual disbursement varies from year to year as per progress/actual need basis of various projects in the relevant year," he said.
To a separate question, he said India has committed to provide Rs 4,500 crores to Bhutan during the country's 11th Five Year Plan from 2013-18.
Asked whether India's strategic investments in the region are comparable to investments made by China, Singh refused to make any comparison.
"India's investments and development projects are based on the priorities of India and the country concerned and these stand firmly on their own," he said.
The minister said India's aid to these countries cannot be compared to investments made by any other country including China.
Talking about assistance to Sri Lanka, he said India's total development portfolio now exceeds $2.6 billion, of which the grant component is more than $436 million.