Following intense speculation over the past several weeks on how Islamabad would respond to India’s proposal to deliver humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, Pakistan PM Imran Khan announced that his government will allow India to transport 50,000 MT of wheat to Afghanistan via the land route “as soon as modalities are finalised with the Indian side’’.
India wanted to send 50,000 MT of wheat to Afghanistan, where the impending winter threatens to exacerbate an acute food crisis, and was in touch with Pakistan over the issue. The announcement by Khan and his office followed a meeting of Pakistan’s Afghanistan inter-ministerial coordination cell which was chaired by Khan and in which Pakistan also announced its own humanitarian assistance package that included 50,000 tons of wheat and medical supplies.
“This is a welcome development. If India and Pakistan can find pragmatic ways to smoothen their interface on Afghanistan it will be a step forward for both, for Afghanistan and for regional cooperation,’’ said TCA Raghavan, veteran diplomat and former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan. Khan also announced Pakistan will also facilitate the return of Afghan patients who had gone to India for medical treatment and are stuck there.
While there was no immediate response by India to the development, sources said India will wait for an official communication. Pakistan’s announcement came a little over six weeks after India proposed delivery of wheat via the Attari-Wagah border.
If Pakistan does indeed allow land transport of wheat to Afghanistan, it will be quite a change from 2002 when it rejected the same proposal by India in similar circumstances even though then Afghan President Hamid Karzai had repeatedly taken up the issue with Islamabad. There had been little indication so far of India and Pakistan working together to deal with the emerging situation in Afghanistan. Pakistan NSA Moeed Yusuf had refused to participate in India’s Afghanistan conference and, on Sunday, he was quoted by the Pakistani media as describing PM Narendra Modi as the “most fascist leader’’ since Hitler.
The Taliban had discussed the wheat proposal with Khan during the recent visit of foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi to Pakistan. Khan had said after the meeting that Pakistan will favourably consider the proposed delivery.