Indian plan to send wheat to Afghanistan back on track, shipment begins next week
NEW DELHI: The shipping of 50,000 tonnes of wheat offered by India as humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people via Pakistani land routes is expected to begin next week, Afghan ambassador Farid Mamundzay said on Wednesday.
Mamundzay welcomed the Indian government’s allocation of ₹200 crore as aid for Afghanistan in its budget for 2022-23, describing it as a “timely intervention” against the backdrop of a dire need for food grains and humanitarian assistance among the Afghan people.
The Indian side proposed sending 50,000 tonnes of wheat via the Wagah land border with Pakistan on October 7, and received an initial response from Islamabad only on November 24. On December 3, Pakistan said it would allow Indian relief materials to be shipped via the border crossing only in Afghan trucks, and the two sides have been finalising the modalities since then.
“India is going to deliver 50,000 tonnes of wheat in the next week or two, and the delivery will be completed in a month’s time,” Mamundzay told the media on the sidelines of a trade meet hosted by the Afghan embassy.
“We can expect the delivery to start between February 10 and 12,” he said, adding that Pakistan has given all the assurances required by the Indian side.
Referring to the allocation of ₹200 crore as aid for Afghanistan in the Indian budget for the next fiscal, Mamundzay said, “This comes at a very crucial time when other countries have turned their back toward Afghanistan. India has been forthcoming to support the Afghan people at a difficult time.”
He added, “The assistance of ₹200 crore for development is something we greatly appreciate. The ₹100 crore [allocated in India’s budget] for development of [Iran’s] Chabahar port is yet another initiative that has been welcomed by the Afghan business community.”
Mamundzay also welcomed New Delhi’s decision to continue funding scholarships for Afghan students, saying: “India continues to invest in our future. There has also been support in the humanitarian field in the form of six tonnes of medicines and 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines that were sent in the past few weeks. We look forward to India’s timely intervention in the areas where the Afghan people require the most help.”
Noting that Afghanistan is going through a difficult time and needs developmental assistance, he said, “There couldn’t be a better time than this for displaying the goodwill and generosity that India has always shown to the Afghan people.”
Mamundzay said trade with India under the erstwhile Afghan government had incrementally increased over the past 20 years and reached a peak of about $1.5 billion a year before the Taliban takeover of Kabul.
“This trade could be doubled in a few years if trade routes are properly opened. In the past nine months, trade has increased and there was no dip. The focus of the Taliban is on banking and the release of foreign reserves, they have an understanding of the significance of trade. We hope they will continue with that approach,” he said.
India hasn’t recognised the Taliban setup that assumed power in Afghanistan in mid-August last year after the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government, but it has said it will continue to provide aid to the Afghan people, who are currently grappling with a humanitarian crisis.