Pak Agrees To Let India Transport Wheat, Life-Saving Drugs To Afghanistan

Islamabad, Dec 3 (PTI): Pakistan on Friday agreed to let India transport 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat and life-saving drugs as humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan on Afghan trucks through the Wagah border crossing, after a row erupted between the two countries over the modalities of transportation.

On Thursday, India said that discussions with Pakistan are going on to finalise the modalities for the transportation of its aid to Afghanistan through Pakistani soil and insisted that no conditionalities should be attached for sending the humanitarian assistance.

In New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that humanitarian assistance should not be subject to conditionalities.

Pakistan last week formally informed India about its decision to allow the transportation of wheat and life-saving drugs to neighbouring Afghanistan through its territory on an “exceptional basis for humanitarian purposes”.

On Thursday, Pakistan turned down India’s wheat transit proposal.

However, the Foreign Office said in a statement on Friday that the decision to let New Delhi send wheat and life-saving drugs to Afghanistan through Pakistan on Afghan trucks was formally conveyed to India.

“With a view to further facilitate Pakistan’s decision to allow transportation of 50,000 MT of wheat and life-saving medicines from India to Afghanistan via Wagah border on an exceptional basis for humanitarian purposes, it has been decided to also allow the use of Afghan trucks for transportation from Wagah border to Torkham,” it said.

The Foreign Office said that the decision was conveyed to the Charge d’Affaires of India at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Pakistan has previously insisted that the consignments of wheat and medicines to Afghanistan are transported on Pakistani trucks from the Wagah border point while India favoured using its own transport. India wants to ensure that the aid reaches the intended beneficiaries without being diverted and wants the distribution of the relief materials through a credible international agency.

The FO statement said that the Indian government has been urged to take necessary steps to expeditiously undertake the delivery of the humanitarian assistance.

It said that the decision demonstrates the commitment and seriousness of the Government of Pakistan to facilitate the proposed humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

Experts have warned that, if the weather is as poor as predicted this winter, millions of people including children are likely to face acute hunger and widespread famine in war-torn Afghanistan, which is now ruled by the Taliban. The hardliners seized power in Kabul in mid-August.

According to UN figures from early November, almost 24 million people in Afghanistan, around 60 per cent of the population, suffer from acute hunger.

That includes 8.7 million living in near- famine. Increasing numbers of malnourished children have filled hospital wards.

India has contributed to the humanitarian requirements of the Afghan people. This included providing more than 1 million metric tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan over the past decade.

Last year too India assisted Afghanistan with 75,000 metric tonnes of wheat, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had said at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on the Humanitarian situation in Afghanistan in September.

However, Pakistan had blocked India’s efforts to provide wheat to the Afghan people, amidst the chill in relations between New Delhi and Islamabad over the Kashmir issue.