India and Pakistan have finally arrived at an agreement to transport 50,000 MT of Indian wheat to Afghanistan through the land route that passes through the Attari-Wagah border. The gigantic exercise involving thousands of trucks is expected to roll out early February.
India and Pakistan had been engaged in finalising the modalities for transporting wheat to drought-stricken Afghanistan since two months. The government is learnt to have conveyed to Pakistan that it will be ready to despatch the first consignment by the second week of next month.
India recently sent its third batch of assistance to Kabul, mostly life-saving medicines, by air. Its offer of delivering wheat to Afghanistan through the border with Pakistan though, despite unceasing hostility in ties with Islamabad, is still the most significant initiative in its outreach to the Taliban who returned in August last year to take control of the strategically important country. Pakistan has rarely, if ever, allowed transit facilities for Indian aid to Afghanistan in the past several decades and in 2002 had rejected the same proposal by India when Afghanistan was faced with a similar humanitarian crisis.
The Taliban have not just welcomed India’s proposal to ship wheat to Afghanistan via Pakistan at this “critical time” but had also sought an early approval from Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. It had been reported on October 19 that India had contacted Pakistan for transporting 50,000 MT of wheat to Afghanistan.
As per the understanding, the two sides have reached, Afghan trucks operating under UN’s World Food Programme will ferry Indian wheat from the India-Pakisan border to Afghanistan via Pakistan’s Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan.