India sends 1st batch of wheat aid to Afghanistan via Pakistan

India’s efforts for a toehold in the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan got a boost with the government despatching the first of what will be many consignments of wheat to the country via Pakistan.

Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla travelled to Amritsar, along with Afghan ambassador Farid Mamundzay, to flag off 50 trucks carrying 2,500MT of wheat aid to Afghanistan.

India proposes to send 50,000MT of wheat to Afghanistan through the land route with Pakistan. The exercise is expected to be completed over several weeks.

The government said in a statement that supply will be effected by the Food Corporation of India and transported from Attari (India) to Jalalabad (Afghanistan) by Afghan transporters. UN World Food Programme will handle the distribution. The wheat will be delivered in 50-kg jute bags. According to sources, each bag is stamped with a text in English, Pashto and Dari saying — ‘Gift from the people of India to the people of Afghanistan’.

Shringla said the decision to transport wheat to Afghanistan was taken keeping in mind strong people-to-people contact with Afghanistan. India has be- en encouraged by the fact that the Taliban didn’t just welcome the proposal but also sought early approval from Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“The shelf life of the wheat is minimum one year from the date of dispatch and necessary information would be clearly mentioned on bag. Fumigation of the consignment has been undertaken before handing over for transportation in order to cater for long passage time,” said a source, adding the government is also getting the wheat quality tested by World Food Programme approved laboratory.

The government’s supply of wheat at a critical juncture is expected to help India remain relevant in Afghanistan, if not act also as a template for cooperation in a region marred by conflict. “India remains committed to its special relationship with the people of Afghanistan. In this endeavour, India has already supplied 500,000 doses of Covaxin, 13 tonnes of essential lifesaving medicines and 500 units of winter clothing. These consignments were handed over to the World Health Organisation and the Indira Gandhi Hospital, Kabul,” said the government in its announcement.

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