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Diplomacy

India's Wheat Offer: Jaishankar Urges Russia, China to Ensure Aid to Afghanistan Isn't Politicised

India had last month sent a note verbale to Pakistan on a proposal to transport 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat through land route to Afghanistan, which is facing a humanitarian disaster.

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New Delhi: Even as India said that there should be no conditionalities on transporting 50,000 tonnes of wheat through Pakistan, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar also urged Russia and China to ensure that there was no politicisation of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

India had last month sent a note verbale to Pakistan on a proposal to transport 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat through land route to Afghanistan, which is facing a humanitarian disaster due to a long-standing drought and economic collapse.

Pakistan formally replied to the proposal earlier this week, after Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan said that his government would favourably consider the suggestion subject to modalities.

Two days later, Jaishankar brought up the wheat aid at the trilateral ministerial summit with Russia and China, both closely working with Pakistan on the situation in Afghanistan.

“In line with our commitment to the well-being of Afghan people, we have offered supply of 50,000 MT of wheat to Afghanistan to address the drought situation. RIC countries need to work together to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches the Afghan people without hindrance and without politicisation,” he said on Friday.

Later, the MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi implied that Pakistan should not put too many conditions on the transportation of Indian aid through its territory.

“We are examining the response of the government of Pakistan. We are also working on the modalities with the Pakistan side. We believe that humanitarian assistance should not be subject to conditionalities,” he added.

In a sign of the complicated relationship with Islamabad, India had earlier, to mark 13 years of 26/11, summoned a senior Pakistani diplomat to protest the lack of progress in prosecuting the masterminds.

Bagchi added that the people of Afghanistan stood for both humanitarian support and development assistance.

There are currently no flights between India and Afghanistan. Transporting the materials via Pakistan was seen as the quickest and cheapest way of getting aid to Afghanistan, which is on the brink of a looming humanitarian crisis.

Even a Taliban delegation led by acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi that recently visited Islamabad had raised the issue of allowing the shipment of the wheat with the top Pakistani leadership. Khan said that he would favourably consider the Indian aid offer at that meeting.

This week, Khan said his government would allow the transportation of the wheat as soon as Islamabad and New Delhi finalised modalities.

The UN has warned up to 23 million Afghans will be in “crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity” as winter approaches. Ten out of 11 of Afghanistan’s most densely populated urban areas are now anticipated to be at emergency levels of food insecurity.

The joint statement issued after the virtual meeting of the Russian, Indian and Chinese foreign ministers called for “immediate and unhindered humanitarian assistance to be provided to Afghanistan” and emphasised the “central role of UN” the war-ravaged country.

The document did not refer to the Taliban’s conquest of Afghanistan directly but only mentioned the “dramatic change in the situation in Afghanistan”.

The three countries also reiterated their support for the formation of a “truly inclusive government that represents all the major ethnic and political groups” in Afghanistan.

“The ministers advocated a peaceful, secure, united, sovereign, stable and prosperous, inclusive Afghanistan that exists in harmony with its neighbours. They called on the Taliban to take actions in accordance with the results of all the recently held international and regional formats of interaction on Afghanistan, including the UN Resolutions on Afghanistan,” it added.

Further, the three countries also called for the urgent elimination of UNSC proscribed terror groups from Afghanistan and the region. While the joint statement refers to the terror groups as “Al-Qaeda, ISIL and others”, Jaishankar also tweeted the names of organisations targeting India, such as Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba.

(with PTI inputs)