Four-and-a-half months after India proposed to Pakistan that it wants to send wheat for the people of Afghanistan, the first consignment of about 2,000 metric tonnes of the grain, laden in about 50 trucks, will roll out on Tuesday. They will be taken to Afghanistan overland through Pakistan in Afghan trucks, which will pick up the consignments at Attari in Punjab.
This is a significant diplomatic development where India and Pakistan are coming together to help the people of Afghanistan. India doesn’t recognise the Taliban regime in Kabul.
The flag-off is expected to take place on Tuesday afternoon, sources said Monday. This is the first tranche of 50,000 tonnes of wheat India has committed to send to Afghanistan since the Taliban took over the country in mid-August. This follows a pact between India and the World Food Programme, signed earlier this month to supply foodgrain to Afghanistan as a humanitarian gesture.
India had sent a proposal to Pakistan on October 7 last year seeking the transit facility to send 50,000 tonnes of wheat and life-saving medicines to Afghanistan via Pakistani soil, and received a response from Islamabad on November 24, 2021.
Officials said the task of moving 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan would require more than 1,200 trucks via Pakistan. The logistics suggest that Indian trucks would require the wheat to be unloaded, and loaded again into Afghan trucks, at the Zero Point on Wagah-Attari border.
In November last year, more than a month after India sent a request to Pakistan for sending foodgrain to Afghanistan through land route, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had told the visiting Taliban delegation in Islamabad that it would “favourably consider” the request by “Afghan brothers” for transportation of wheat offered by India through Pakistan “on exceptional basis” for “humanitarian purposes, and as per modalities to be worked out”. This was conveyed by Imran Khan to Taliban Foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, who was accompanied by the Taliban’s Finance and Commerce & Industry ministers and senior members of the delegation.
In 2020, India assisted Afghanistan with 75,000 metric tonnes of wheat, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had said at the UN High-Level Meeting on the Humanitarian situation in Afghanistan in September 2021.
On several occasions, India has expressed willingness to send humanitarian aid to people of Afghanistan, though it has cautioned the international community to think through the consequences of granting recognition to the Taliban regime.
Currently, Pakistan allows Afghanistan to only export goods to India but doesn’t allow any other two-way trade through the border crossing. India has so far sent five batches of medical assistance consisting of about 9 tons of essential life-saving medicines to Afghanistan.
Reference : Times of India, The Pioneer, Hindustan Times & Indian Express.