India sends 2,500 tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan via Pakistan

India committed to send altogether 50,000 MT of wheat to Afghanistan through Pakistan
Last Updated 22 February 2022, 15:08 IST

India on Tuesday started sending wheat to Afghanistan through Pakistan – five months after the World Food Programme of the United Nations started persuading India and Pakistan to set aside mutual hostilities to help starving people of the war-ravaged country now ruled by the Taliban.

India has not yet recognised the government set up by the Taliban in Kabul in September 2021, but started sending out wheat as “gift from the people of India to the people of Afghanistan” – a point clearly mentioned on each bag of grains.

India committed to send altogether 50,000 MT of wheat to Afghanistan through Pakistan.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla was in Amritsar in Punjab on Tuesday to ceremonially flag off the 50 Afghan trucks, which started from Amritsar in Punjab carrying the first consignment of 2,500 MT of wheat. The trucks will carry wheat from the Integrated Check Post at Attari (India) on Attari-Wagah border between India and Pakistan all the way to Jalalabad in Afghanistan. The consignment will be handed over to the World Food Programme officials in Jalalabad for distribution across Afghanistan.

India also subtly sent out a message to Taliban and its mentors in Islamabad by ensuring the presence of Farid Mamundzay, the ambassador of Afghanistan to India, in the flag-off ceremony in Amritsar. Mamundzay was appointed as Kabul’s envoy to New Delhi by President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which the Taliban overthrew in August 2021 through a swift military blitz. He continues to be a representative of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in New Delhi as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan set up by the Taliban has not yet been recognised by the Indian government.

The WFP estimated that around 22.8 million in Afghanistan face acute food insecurity, while 8.7 million face emergency-level food insecurity. A humanitarian crisis of incredible proportions has grown even more complex and severe since the Taliban took control. Job losses, lack of cash and soaring prices are creating a new class of hungry in Afghanistan, according to the WFP.

The WFP in October 2021 started discussion with India and Pakistan about the possibility of India sending wheat to Afghanistan.

Islamabad on December 3 decided that trucks of Afghanistan would be allowed to use the territory of Pakistan to transport wheat and medicines from India to the conflict-ravaged country ruled by the Taliban.

The Centre signed an agreement with the WFP for the distribution of 50,000 MT of wheat within Afghanistan.

The WFP Country Director Bishaw Parajuli was also present in the flag-off ceremony in Amritsar on Friday.

New Delhi already supplied 500,000 doses of Covaxin anti-Covid-19 vaccine, 13 tons of essential lifesaving medicines and 500 units of winter clothing to Afghanistan. The consignments were handed over to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Indira Gandhi Hospital in Kabul.

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(Published 22 February 2022, 14:43 IST)

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