India’s Wheat Consignment to Afghanistan Marks Rare Instance of Cooperation with Pakistan

The shipment is part of the commitment made by India to supply 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat to strife-torn Afghanistan.

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New Delhi: In a rare instance of cooperation in the tense relationship between the two neighbours, India sent the first shipment of 2,500 metric tonnes of wheat for Afghanistan through Pakistani territory on Tuesday, February 22.

In a ceremony held in Amritsar, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla along with Afghan Ambassador Farid Mamundzay and World Food Programme’s Country Director Bishaw Parajuli flagged off the first convoy of 50 trucks carrying the consignment.

India had sent a proposal to Islamabad on October 7 seeking a transit facility to send 50,000 tonnes of wheat to the people of Afghanistan via Pakistani soil. It received a positive response on November 24.

Following this, both sides were in touch to finalise modalities for the transportation of the grains.

“The shipment is part of the commitment made by the Government of India to supply 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat for the people of Afghanistan. The wheat assistance will be delivered in multiple consignments and will be handed over to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in Jalalabad, Afghanistan,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.

India signed an agreement with the WFP to distribute 50,000 MT of wheat last week.

The wheat of the Rabi market season of 2020-2021 has been procured by the Food Corporation of India and packed in 50-kilogram jute bags for transportation.

As per sources, efforts have been made to ensure the longevity of the food grains, starting with double bagging to prevent moisture and infection and fumigation of the consignation.

FCI will be providing the necessary phytosanitary and fit-to-consume certificates. A WFP-approved laboratory will also perform additional testing. “Guidelines for necessary precautions to preserve the consignment during passage would be given to the Afghan transport agency”.

The shelf-life of the wheat is a minimum of one year.

On 50 Afghan trucks, the shipment will travel through Pakistan to Jalalabad in Afghanistan, where it will be handed over to World Food Programme.

In a statement, the MEA said India remains committed to its special relationship with the people of Afghanistan.

“In this endeavour, India has already supplied 5,00,000 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 at the Indira Gandhi Hospital, Kabul,” it said.

The last consignment of medical supplies was delivered on Saturday, February 19. It was the fifth consignment of humanitarian aid to that country.

India has been pitching for unimpeded humanitarian aid to Afghanistan to address the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the country.

India has not recognised the new regime in Afghanistan and has been pitching for the formation of a truly inclusive government in Kabul besides insisting that Afghan soil must not be used for any terrorist activities against any country.

Farid Mamundzay is still recognised as the Afghan ambassador by India, even though he was appointed by former president Ashraf Ghani.

(With PTI inputs)