Pakistan, India inch closer towards deal on Afghan wheat transit:Report

Islamabad, Dec 30 (PTI) India has provided a list of Afghan contractors and truck drivers to the Pakistan government who would transport the Indian consignment of 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan as humanitarian assistance, as the two neighbours inch closer towards finalising the agreement, a media report said on Thursday.

Both countries have agreed to the modalities, and the shipment of wheat would commence once Pakistan approves the list of Afghan contractors and drivers, the Express Tribune newspaper said.

In October, India announced 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat for Afghanistan as humanitarian assistance and requested Pakistan to ship the food grains via the Wagah border.

Currently, Pakistan only allows Afghanistan to export goods to India, but doesn’t allow any other two-way trade through the border crossing.

However, the Imran Khan government made an exception to this rule during the first Apex Committee meeting of the newly established Afghanistan Inter-ministerial Coordination Cell here last month, when he announced that Pakistan would allow India to send wheat to the war-torn country through its territory.

Pakistan, however, said this decision was taken keeping in view the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and must not serve as a precedent for future transhipment.

Pakistan had initially suggested for the transportation of wheat to be done under the banner of the United Nations.

But the Indian government made a counter proposal, suggesting the shipment be done either in Afghan or Indian trucks, the report said.

Once Islamabad gave nod to this proposal, sources said that Pakistani authorities have begun the process of vetting the list of Afghan contractors and drivers sent by India, the report added.

The two countries have agreed to join hands at a time when Afghanistan is in desperate need for international aid ever since the Taliban regime took over in August this year.

According to the UN estimates, nearly 23 million Afghans are facing acute food shortage, with as many as 3.2 million children at the risk of malnutrition.

The UNDP has warned that 97 per cent of Afghans would slip below the poverty line by June next year if steps are not taken.

Earlier this month, Pakistan hosted the extraordinary conference of the member nations of the Organisation of Islamic countries (OIC), in which it was agreed that a humanitarian trust fund would be set up for relief measures in Afghanistan.