The monarchy of Bhutan has remained the biggest beneficiary -- by amount and share -- of Indian foreign aid for 17 years, but over the last nine years, Afghanistan has made it to the distant second spot, preferred over traditional recipients Nepal and Bangladesh, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of Indian foreign ministry data.
Although its share of foreign aid is falling and that of African countries, listed as a group, is growing, Bhutan has remained India's unfailing priority because of its strategic location, its dependence on India and its hydropower potential. Indian aid to Sri Lanka and the Maldives increased fastest, according to aid data between the financial years 2000-01 and 2016-17.
However, the averages over this period conceal substantial fluctuations in aid. For instance, while aid to Sri Lanka fell 69 per cent year-on-year in 2016-17, it rose 118 per cent and 166 per cent in 2012-13 and 2009-10. Similarly, while aid to the Maldives rose 45 per cent in 2016-17, it dropped 89 per cent in 2012-13 after rising nearly 25 times in the previous year.
Among the countries to have benefited most by India's reallocation of aid is Afghanistan.
In eight of last 10 years, Afghanistan makes it to second spot
Before 2007-08, the foreign ministry did not even individually report aid for Afghanistan . Since then, it has been the second biggest beneficiary, by share,in eight of the following 10 years.
In the pre-2007-08 period, Nepal was the second-largest recipient in all years except three, when Bangladesh held that position. Over the 17 years we analysed, Afghanistan received the least aid of the 12 major regions reported by the ministry, the allocation shrinking more than a quarter by amount.
Among regions for which the ministry reports data as a group, African countries are the only significant beneficiaries: India's aid grew 57 times between 2000-01 and 2016-17, rising 4.38 percentage points over the same period. African countries, as a group, were the second biggest beneficiary in 2003-04 and 2004-05 among all regions, countries as well as groups of countries, taken together.
The only constant in this story is Bhutan, but other countries in other regions have been eating into its share at a time when questions are being raised about India's policy of aid to Bhutan's hydropower sector. By change in share over the 17 years, it is better only than Afghanistan, with Bhutan's aid having fallen by 10.45 percentage points.
(In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform, with whom Vipul Vivek is an analyst. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)