Once a country just on the receiving end of international assistance, India is now playing an increasing and important role in assuring food security for South Asia, particularly in Afghanistan, according to a senior UN official.
"From being a net recipient in 2000, India is presently the 15th largest donor to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in 2005," said Tony Banbury, Asia regional director of WFP.
"This speaks volumes about India's increasing importance in confronting global challenges such as hunger, malnutrition and illiteracy in South Asia and around the world," he said, following meetings with Indian government officials.
Banbury also noted the important role of food assistance in maintaining security in India's neighbouring countries of Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar and Pakistan, according to UN News Service.
In the last three years, India has made donations worth approximately $52 million to help assist the children in Afghanistan and Iraq to come back and attend schools. Nearly two million children benefit from this contribution.
"Funding for our food aid programmes in Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan continues to be a challenge," said Banbury. "I am concerned that any reductions in these feeding operations can undermine recovery and foster insecurity in these neighbouring states to India."
Banbury has been visiting India for a week, travelling to flood-devastated Rajasthan and to Gujarat to visit WFP-supported projects for the rural poor of India. He noted the benefits of many of these pilot programmes in bringing improvements to the lives of the rural poor.
Thanks to the partnership between the agency and the government, "WFP provides fortified food to some two million children and pregnant and lactating women in remote tribal areas of India where malnutrition is at its worst", he noted.