New Delhi: India is yet to firm up a comprehensive plan on sending humanitarian aid to Afghanistan despite assurances from Pakistan that the shipments can be sent via land routes through the western neighbour, sources told ThePrint.
New Delhi is weighing its options on whether to send the aid, which primarily contains food and essential items, to Afghanistan in collaboration with the United Nations World Food Programmes (UNWFP), sources said. India wants to send medicines too.
While Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that India can use the Wagah border land route, New Delhi is “wary” of where the shipment will end up, how the distribution will be made within Afghanistan, and if it will reach all corners of the war-ravaged country, sources said.
After his meeting with the Taliban delegation led by Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and the Troika Plus group last week, Pakistan PM’s Office said in a statement: “The Prime Minister conveyed that in the current context Pakistan would favourably consider the request by Afghan brothers for transportation of wheat offered by India through Pakistan on exceptional basis for humanitarian purposes and as per modalities to be worked out.”
The Prime Minister conveyed that in the current context Pakistan would favourably consider the request by Afghan brothers for transportation of wheat offered by India through Pakistan on exceptional basis for humanitarian purposes and as per modalities to be worked out.
— Prime Minister's Office, Pakistan (@PakPMO) November 12, 2021
The Troika Plus group consisted of Special Representatives of Afghanistan from China (Yue Xiaoyong), Russia (Zamir Kabulov) and the US (Thomas West).
The modalities on how the shipments will be sent, whether they will be sent through Indian trucks, and which sections of the Afghan population will get the items, have not yet been finalised, said sources.
They added that New Delhi has already made an assessment that sending the aid through the Iranian Chabahar Port will be “difficult”. Sending it through Pakistan will be the easiest way, but there is concern that this might prove to be counterproductive.
UNWFP Head Programme for Afghanistan Cecilia Garzon has said talks on sending aid are ongoing with India. In an interview to PTI, she said India and other countries should be “doing everything” to help the distressed families in the war-torn country.
Taliban’s interim Foreign Minister Muttaqi told BBC Urdu in an interview that Kabul doesn’t intend any confrontation with any country, including India.
NSA talks focused on aid disbursal
Distribution of aid for Afghanistan was also raised as one of the “main concerns” by the Central Asian countries during the Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan, which was held in New Delhi last week and chaired by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, sources said.
According to a joint statement issued after the meeting, humanitarian aid sent by all countries, especially by the neighbouring and regional countries should be given in an “unimpeded, direct and assured manner to Afghanistan”.
During the NSA talks that Russia, Iran and the five Central Asian countries of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan attended, all nations focussed on the “quantum and distribution mechanism” of the aid keeping in mind the “safety and stability” within the war-torn country, said a source.
Consultations with US’ Special Representative on Afghanistan
The humanitarian aid issue will be one of the main agenda items during the upcoming visit of Thomas West, State Department’s Special Representative and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Afghanistan, said sources.
West, who succeeded Zalmay Khalilzad as the US’ special envoy for Afghanistan, will make his maiden visit to India in this role later this week.
He previously served as special assistant for South and Central Asia to the under secretary of state for political affairs, focusing on growing the US-India strategic partnership from 2008-10.
“We are all focused on the deteriorating humanitarian situation and meeting urgent needs, including to support UN scaling up. The international community must speak with one voice and act with common purpose,” West said in Islamabad last week as he attended the Troika Plus meeting.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)