ISLAMABAD: India ready to ship wheat to Afghanistan via Pakistan early February

ISLAMABAD: India ready to ship wheat to Afghanistan via Pakistan early February

ISLAMABAD: India and Pakistan have finally arrived at an agreement to transport 50,000 MT of Indian wheat to Afghanistan through the land route that passes through the Attari-Wagah border, ToI has learnt. The gigantic exercise involving thousands of trucks is expected to roll out early February.

India and Pakistan had been engaged in finalising the modalities for transporting wheat to drought-stricken Afghanistan for almost 2 months. The government is learnt to have conveyed to Pakistan that it will be ready to despatch the first consignment by the second week of next month.

India recently sent its third batch of assistance to Kabul, mostly life-saving medicines, by air. Its offer of delivering wheat to Afghanistan through the border with Pakistan though, despite unceasing hostility in ties with Islamabad, is still the most significant initiative in its outreach to the Taliban who returned in August last year to take control of the strategically important country.

Pakistan has rarely, if ever, allowed transit facilities for Indian aid to Afghanistan in the past several decades and in 2002 had rejected the same proposal by India when Afghanistan was faced with a similar humanitarian crisis.

The Taliban have not just welcomed India’s proposal to ship wheat to Afghanistan via Pakistan at this “critical time” but had also sought an early approval from Pakistan PM Imran Khan. ToI had first reported on October 19 that India had contacted Pakistan for transporting 50,000 MT of wheat to Afghanistan.

As per the understanding the 2 sides have reached, Afghan trucks operating under UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) will ferry Indian wheat from the India-Pakisan border to Afghanistan via Pakistan’s Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan. Pakistan had announced earlier this week that it had put all arrangements in place and was awaiting final confirmation from India for the despatch of the first consignment.

Official sources denied that there had been any delay by India while recalling that Pakistan had taken well over a month to approve the Indian government’s proposal last year. India is still working to resolve logistical issues involved in transporting 50,000 MT of wheat to the border. The exercise has been further complicated by the upcoming elections in Punjab.

India also wanted UN to supervise distribution of wheat and other aid to Afghanistan. The security conference on Afghanistan hosted by NSA Ajit Doval in November had called for humanitarian assistance to be provided in an unimpeded, direct and assured manner to Afghanistan and also that the assistance was distributed within the country in a non-discriminatory manner across all sections of the Afghan society.

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