‘Exceptional basis’ for Wagah transit of Afghan wheat

FO says India formally notified of land route facility


Kamran Yousaf November 25, 2021
Average import price of 1.9m tons of wheat came in at Rs2,533 per 40 kg, according to the food ministry. photo: reuters

ISLAMABAD:

Islamabad on Wednesday formally conveyed to New Delhi its decision to allow transportation of 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat and life-saving medicines from India to Afghanistan via Wagah border on what it called “exceptional basis for humanitarian purposes”.

The decision to allow India to ship food grain through its land route was taken earlier this week by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“As a goodwill gesture towards the brotherly Afghan people, the Government of Pakistan has decided to allow the transportation of 50000 metric tonnes of wheat and life-saving medicines from India to Afghanistan via Wagah border on an exceptional basis for humanitarian purposes,” said an official handout issued by the Foreign Office.

“The decision of the government of Pakistan to this effect was formally conveyed to the Charge d’ Affaires of India at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today (Wednesday),” the statement added.

The press release did not make clear under what modalities the huge quantity of wheat would be transported from India to Afghanistan via Pakistan. Islamabad, otherwise, does not allow two-way trade between India and landlocked Afghanistan.

But the exemption was given after the Taliban government also requested Pakistan to let the India wheat passes through its borders. The move is part of Pakistan’s efforts to help Afghanistan at a time when as many as 23 million Afghans are facing acute food shortage and possible famine if urgent help does not reach them.

Read More: India allowed Wagah transit of Afghan wheat

Pakistan on its part is sending humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, while at the same relaxed taxes and duties on exports from Afghanistan in order to help the war-ravaged country.

The decision to allow India to transport wheat through Pakistan came at a time when relations between Islamabad and New Delhi are tense over the long standing Kashmir dispute.

Since the controversial Indian move to do away with the special status of Kashmir in August 2019, the trade between Pakistan and India has remained suspended. Importantly, Afghan Taliban also have agreed to accept aid from India with whom they do not have any relations.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Nigel Casey, who is on a three-day visit to Pakistan, held meetings with the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf, Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood, and Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Muhammad Sadiq to cover matters related to Afghanistan.

According to ISPR, the army chief told the UK envoy that there was need for “global convergence” on Afghanistan for avoiding humanitarian crisis and coordinated efforts for economic uplift of the Afghan people. He stressed that “peace in Afghanistan means peace in Pakistan.”

A separate statement issued by the British High Commission said he discussed the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, for which the UK has already pledged £50m of funding for 2.5m Afghans, most of them women and girls, drawn from the UK’s £286 million aid commitment to Afghanistan this year.

“The UK is committed to doing everything it can to ensure stability in Afghanistan, and our policy is one of pragmatic engagement. We will continue to work together with Pakistan on matters of shared concern, including providing humanitarian support to the people of Afghanistan and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a place where terrorism flourishes,” Casey said.

In addition to his discussions on Afghanistan, the special representative would meet business leaders in Karachi to discuss trade opportunities between the UK and Pakistan. The UK and Pakistan share strong business and people-to-people ties, which are bolstered by the 1.6 million Pakistani diaspora in the UK.

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