NEW DELHI: With Afghanistan’s food crisis driving millions to the brink of starvation, India is considering options to transport 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat, and medical aid to the country.
The government needs to circumvent what it has described as the challenge of efficient logistics to be able to despatch any food aid to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan though. India wants unhindered and direct access for those handling humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and believes only the UN is equipped to monitor, as foreign minister S Jaishankar said last month in a UN address, a non-discriminatory distribution of humanitarian assistance across all sections of Afghan society. Indian aid will depend on whether or not this “enabling environment” is created.
The UN World Food Programme had said earlier this month that it was in touch with Indian authorities for procurement of wheat from India for Afghanistan. India had last year delivered 75,000MT of wheat to Afghanistan but that was through the long and circuitous Chabahar port route.
One of the options being considered is to transport wheat to Afghanistan by road via the Attari-Wagah border with Pakistan but that will be a complicated exercise given that Pakistan doesn’t allow two-way trade for India and Afghanistan through that border. It only allows Afghanistan to export goods to India. India though is learnt to be in touch with Pakistan on this issue. For any such proposal to materialise, UN will have an important role to play in the logistics.
In his G20 address last week, PM Narendra Modi had also called for unhindered and urgent humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people. India has also said that, irrespective of India’s relations with the Taliban, its traditionally friendly ties with the Afghan people will continue to guide its approach to Afghanistan. Humanitarian assistance, including food aid, will be a major focus area for the international conference India has proposed to organise next month in Delhi and for which it has invited Russia, China and Pakistan, among others. TOI had first reported on Saturday that India had proposed the conference on Afghanistan.
India is a major source of wheat for Afghanistan, having supplied over a million metric tonnes in the past 10 years.

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