Pakistan said will allow Indian wheat for Afghanistan, still blocks it
NEW DELHI: Almost a month after Pakistan said it will allow transportation of humanitarian aid for the Afghan people via the Wagah land border crossing, New Delhi has not been able to ship any wheat as Islamabad has not finalised modalities.
The Indian side made the proposal for sending 50,000 tonnes of wheat and medicines via Wagah on October 7 and received a response from Pakistan only on November 24. On December 3, Pakistan said it will allow Indian relief materials to be shipped via the border crossing only in Afghan trucks.
“The transportation of wheat via Wagah is yet to begin as we are still waiting to hear from the Pakistani side on all the modalities,” a person familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity on Tuesday.
People familiar with the matter said the tardy approach of the Pakistani side was surprising as even the Taliban setup in Kabul raised the issue with the Pakistan government in view of the urgent need for food items amid a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. A Taliban delegation led by acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi that visited Islamabad in November specifically discussed the issue of allowing the shipment of wheat from India with top Pakistani leaders.
On November 12, well before the formal approvals were conveyed to India, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s office tweeted on his meeting with Muttaqi, announcing the prime minister’s assurance to “favourably consider the request by Afghan brothers for transportation of wheat” from India.
India has so far sent 1.6 tonnes of life-saving medicines to Afghanistan on a special charter flight to Kabul on December 11. The flight brought 104 people, most of them Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, from Kabul to New Delhi, and returned with 85 Afghan nationals who were stranded in India following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August.
The supply of medicines, which were handed over to the World Health Organization (WHO) for use at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health in Kabul, was praised by the Taliban.
The Indian side does not recognise the Taliban regime but has repeatedly said it will provide aid for the Afghan people in view of the humanitarian crisis. As there are no direct flights between the two countries, the Indian side proposed that the wheat should be transported via Pakistan.
Several conditions were attached by Pakistan to the shipping of wheat via the Wagah land border. Pakistan told the Indian side that the entire consignment of 50,000 tonnes should be transported within the month of December. The people cited above said about 30 to 40 Afghan trucks currently make a daily trip to Wagah and it would be impossible to transport 50,000 tonnes of wheat via the route within a short period of time.