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India ready to send aid to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan but how to route it is the question

Indian delegation at Moscow talks held separate meet with Taliban, but no final decision on how the aid will be delivered and through which channels.

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New Delhi: India has promised to grant humanitarian assistance and aid to the Taliban-led Afghanistan in talks held in Russia’s capital Moscow, but logistical issues continue to remain a challenge, ThePrint has learnt.

Indian officials who were present in the Moscow-format talks with the Taliban Wednesday vowed to stand by the Afghan people by offering them aid, but a final decision couldn’t be arrived at on how the aid will be delivered and through which channels, sources said.

The Indian delegation, led by J.P. Singh, Joint Secretary for the Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran Division, and Adarsh Swaika, Joint Secretary for the Eurasia Division in the Ministry of External Affairs, held separate talks with the Taliban, sources confirmed after the Taliban tweeted about it.

In another tweet Wednesday, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah said: “The Indian envoy to the Moscow format meeting said that the people of Afghanistan need humanitarian assistance, Afghanistan is going through a difficult situation. India is ready to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.”

With the winter approaching, Afghanistan is expected to face monumental challenges, with people compelled to sell their household items such as carpets, furniture and electronic items for necessities.

Also read: TV host turns refugee, businesses kaput — Afghans detail Taliban impact in searing Twitter post

Stumbling blocks to aid

Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August, India has made it clear that New Delhi will provide assistance to the war-ravaged country, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying as much at several multilateral forums, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the G20. But this time, sources said, India expected that the Taliban would come up with a plan on how that aid will be received and distributed.

The sources added that India has made it clear to the Taliban delegation present at the Moscow meeting that India is ready to extend humanitarian assistance, but it will not be given directly to the new regime — it will be distributed through international aid agencies like the United Nations and others.

India has demanded from the Taliban “unimpeded and unhindered access” and a “proper distribution plan” but it seems the discussion is still ongoing. New Delhi has plans to send wheat and other items to Afghanistan, but the modalities are yet to be worked out.

A source said India has also sought Pakistan’s help for overflight in sending wheat to Afghanistan. Talks are believed to be going on between the neighbours.

‘Problem of drug production remains acute’

Apart from India and Taliban representatives, nine countries were part of the Moscow format talks held Wednesday — Russia (host), China, Pakistan, Iran and the five Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. This was the third round of the Moscow format talks, but the first since the Taliban took over Afghanistan.

“The main and indisputable advantage of the Moscow format is that it unites Afghanistan with all neighbouring countries and other influential states of the region without exception,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, addressing the meeting.

However, Lavrov also cautioned that numerous terrorist groups, primarily the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, are trying to take advantage of the situation in Afghanistan and “raise their heads”. He added that the “problem of drug production in Afghanistan remains acute”.

The Taliban delegation, led by their interim government’s Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi, which also included Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Haqqani Network’s influential leader Anas Haqqani, said Thursday at a press conference that in the meeting they sought international recognition and access to those financial assets which remain frozen.

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

Also read: ‘Martyrs, heroes of the country’ — Taliban promises cash, land to families of suicide bombers


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