The first shipment of 10,000 tonnes of wheat from India for the Afghan people will be shipped through the Attari-Wagah land border post on Tuesday, with more food and other humanitarian aid expected to follow in the weeks to come. to come.
The shipment is being sent after the Indian and Pakistani sides finalized the terms for transporting the wheat through Pakistani land routes after weeks of negotiations. India first offered to send 50,000 tons of wheat through the Attari-Wagah crossing on October 7, and received a first response from Pakistan on November 24. Since then, the two countries have been in talks on the modalities.
The first shipment will be officially launched in Attari-Wagah in the presence of Indian and Pakistani officials and representatives of the World Food Program (WFP), which is responsible for distributing the wheat in Afghanistan.
“The Indian government’s assistance at this stage is greatly appreciated. Food is the most necessary item for the Afghan people. WFP has already assisted some seven million Afghans, and an estimated 22 million people – half of Afghanistan’s population – are in need of food assistance,” said Bishow Parajuli, WFP India Country Director.
The Indian government signed a memorandum of understanding with the WFP on February 12 for the distribution of food grains in Afghanistan. The MoU, which covers the first shipment of 10,000 tons, outlines the commitments and responsibilities of the Indian government and the WFP and other basic terms, and was necessary as the Indian side is paying for the delivery of the wheat.
The WFP had described the memorandum of understanding as a “historic agreement” and thanked the Indian authorities for the “generous contribution of wheat in favor of the Afghan people facing severe food shortages”.
Once Afghan trucks have delivered the wheat to WFP warehouses, the UN agency will take care of transporting the food grains to where they are needed. “We have a fleet of 176 trucks and 600 people, and we work closely with Afghan civil society. We will make sure people who need food get it,” Parajuli said.
“We are ready to serve and work with the Indian government if needed. We call on India to do all it can. The cold, the displacement of populations and the destruction of the economy have had a massive impact on Afghanistan. It is heartbreaking to see children as young as 10 shining shoes in the cold winter to earn money,” added Parajuli.
The wheat will be shipped three days after India sent 2.5 tonnes of medical aid and winter clothing to Afghanistan on Saturday. It was the fifth shipment of humanitarian aid sent by India since the beginning of the year. India has so far provided 6.6 tons of life-saving drugs and 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Afghanistan, and most of the aid has been sent on flights via the United Arab Emirates and Iran.
The Indian side is also studying the possibility of sending more wheat to Afghanistan via the Iranian port of Chabahar. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian had said in a telephone conversation with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar in January that Tehran would cooperate with New Delhi to deliver humanitarian aid, including wheat and medicine, to Afghanistan. .
Although the first shipment of wheat will start shipping on Tuesday, several issues remain due to the conditions imposed by the Pakistani side. For example, Pakistan insisted that the 50,000 tons be shipped within a month using Afghan trucks. People familiar with the matter said it would be extremely difficult as only about 40 Afghan trucks operate daily at the Attari-Wagah crossing.