Amid slowdown, India ramps up aid for neighbours - The Times of India NEW DELHI: A difficult economic situation notwithstanding, India will be stepping up its assistance programme to its neighbouring countries in the coming fiscal. The biggest chunk of India's assistance programme is reserved for Afghanistan, Myanmar and Bhutan that are provided for in the 12th five-year Plan. But under the non-plan head, Bhutan takes the largest chunk with a combined loan-grant amount of Rs 1,500 crore. Bhutan has traditionally been the largest recipient of Indian aid, with massive hydro-electric projects being covered in the Plan expenditure. Afghanistan and Myanmar are big recipients, both strategically vital for India's security and economic interests. India has invested heavily in infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, including roads, parliament buildings and capacity building for the Afghans in various fields. India also runs the biggest children's hospital in Kabul. However, recently, India won the Hajigak iron ore mines that will necessitate building several roads connecting the mines to border points. A new component of India's aid package to Afghanistan is in the security sector. As a result of the strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan last year, India is committed to training and equipping Afghan national security forces. This will include training programmes, to be mainly held in India. New Delhi is building a multi-modal transport system in Myanmar that could also serve to improve trade with the country that India now regards as the gateway to south-east Asia. Other countries that will continue to receive Indian aid this fiscal is Sri Lanka, where India has invested in rehabilitation and rebuilding programmes in the north, railway lines and oil terminals as well as building houses for the internally displaced persons from the Tamil regions. Bangladesh also takes a sizeable chunk of Rs 250 crore after the PM announced a $1-billion credit line for the country in 2010. Bafflingly, the government spends a minuscule amount for "energy security" in the MEA, but it's so small that it's unclear what this would be used for. Equally strangely, Mongolia gets Rs 2 crore this year from India, but the reason for that remains unclear.