New Delhi: Responding to a query by a Parliamentary panel on India having only resident Missions in 48 countries out of 193 UN member nations, the Centre on Tuesday said the Cabinet has approved the opening of new Consulates in Maldives, Lithuania.

"Cabinet has also approved the opening of a new Consulate in Addu, Maldives in May 2021 and a new Mission in Lithuania in April 2022 and all efforts, including the creation of posts of director and below from the Department of Expenditure are underway to operationalise it," the government said in reply to the Parliamentary panel.

Recognising the crucial role of the Indian missions or posts would go a long way in boosting India's aspiration to be a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the committee said, as it recommended that the Ministry chalk out a roadmap for setting up Indian missions or posts in the remaining 48 countries in a time-bound manner.

The committee also acknowledged the Ministry's efforts in establishing Indian missions in various countries worldwide.

India has opened missions in 14 African countries out of the 18 announced in March 2018. Personnel have been deployed to Chad and are awaiting travel to assume charge, the panel was notified.

The committee said it was hopeful that the missions in Mogadishu (Somalia), Bissau (Guinea-Bissau) and Praia (Cape Verde) shall be made operational soon.

The panel reiterated that the Ministry should prepare a roadmap and act sincerely towards establishing Resident Missions in remaining UN member countries and apprise the committee accordingly.

Three new Missions in Estonia, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic, approved by Cabinet in December 2020, were made operational in January-February, 2022.

The government also highlighted India's 'Neighbourhood First' policy, saying India announced a new Project Executing Agency for early completion of a portion of road under the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport project.

"India handed 2 Capacity Building institutions, Myanmar Institute of Information Technology (MIIT) in Mandalay and Advanced Centre for Agricultural Research and Education (ACARE) at Yezin Agricultural University in Nay Pyi Taw in March," the government told the Parliamentary panel.

It further stated that the waterways component was completed and a port operator was jointly appointed by the governments of India and Myanmar, which has started maintenance of the port since February 2020 on the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport project.

"Given the current security and political situation in Myanmar, implementation and execution of the above projects have been met with numerous challenges. Kalewa-Yargi road section projects on the trilateral highway are under construction and the current physical progress is 40 per cent," said the government.

It further said the fund disbursement of India's Committed Plan Assistance of Rs 4500 crores for the 12th Plan of Bhutan is progressing smoothly on India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline.

The Ministry of External Affairs said it was engaging extensively with the Bangladesh government to expedite the Akhaura-Agartala project and ensure its timely completion.

The most recent joint review of the project was conducted by officials of the High Commissions of India, Dhaka and Bangladesh Railway along with consultants and contractors on April 7, 2022. Physical progress is approximately 55 per cent and financial progress is approximately 40.54 per cent, the panel was notified.

"129.5 km pipeline for supply of high-speed diesel is being constructed from Siliguri in West Bengal to Parbatipur in Bangladesh. The project has achieved physical progress of 90.30 per cent as on April 30, 2022," said the government.

The panel also reviewed the e-Passport project. The government replied, "Total anticipated expenditure for the rollout of the e-Passport project by the NIC is about Rs 268.67 Crore. Anticipated expenditure of Rs 268.67 Crores is primarily for building up Information and Technology Infrastructure for issuance of e-Passport."

An e-Passport is a combined paper and electronic passport with an embedded Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip that contains biometric information that can be used to authenticate the identity of travellers.

The panel also raised the slowdown in the construction of the South Asian University (SAU) campus due to various factors, including the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The work has resumed with the return of labour and the contractor to the project site, from February 2022. The construction of five buildings under Package II is physically complete and the landscaping and artwork are ongoing. The pace of work in various projects is improving now, which, hitherto, was being impeded by Covid-19 challenges," the government informed the panel.