Pakistan formally informed India on Wednesday that it will allow the shipment of 50,000 tonnes of wheat and life-saving medicines from India to Afghanistan via the Wagah land border as a goodwill gesture to the Afghan people.
India’s offer to supply wheat and other essential items as humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan had been pending for more than a month as Pakistan had not cleared the transportation of the relief materials via land routes.
There are currently no flights between India and Afghanistan, and transporting the materials via Pakistan was being seen as the quickest way of getting the aid to Afghanistan, which is on the brink of a looming humanitarian crisis.
The Pakistan government’s decision was formally conveyed to the charge d’affaires of the Indian high commission in Islamabad at the foreign ministry, according to an official statement from the Pakistani side.
“As a goodwill gesture towards the brotherly Afghan people, the Government of Pakistan has decided to allow the transportation of 50,000 Metric Tonnes of wheat and lifesaving medicines from India to Afghanistan via Wagah Border on an exceptional basis for humanitarian purposes,” the statement said.
The announcement was more of a formality as Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had said on Monday his government would allow the transportation of the wheat offered by India to Afghanistan as soon as modalities were finalised by Islamabad and New Delhi.
Even a Taliban delegation that recently visited Islamabad had raised the issue of allowing the shipment of the wheat with the top Pakistani leadership.
The UN has warned that 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.
Khan made the announcement while approving a humanitarian assistance package for Afghanistan. He also said Pakistan will facilitate the return of Afghan nationals who had gone to India for medical treatment and were stuck there.
Hundreds of Afghan nationals, including patients seeking medical treatment and their relatives or attendants, have been stranded in India for months following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August.
In recent weeks, some of them made their way back to Afghanistan via Iran on a handful of specially arranged flights. However, the fare for this route was $850 and out of the reach of many of the stranded Afghans.