Pakistan turns down India’s wheat transit proposal: Report

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Pakistan turns down India’s wheat transit proposal: Report

Highlights

  • Pakistan turns down India’s proposal to transport 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat for Afghanistan
  • India is keen on ensuring that aid reaches the intended beneficiaries without being diverted
  • ‘Option not feasible,’ Pak official on India’s proposal to ship wheat in Indian or Afghan trucks

Pakistan has turned down India’s proposal to transport 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat as humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan either in Indian or Afghan trucks through the Wagah border crossing, according to a media report on Thursday.

Pakistan last week formally informed India about its decision to allow the transportation of wheat and life saving drugs to neighbouring Afghanistan through its territory on an “exceptional basis for humanitarian purposes”. Official sources here alleged that New Delhi was dragging its feet by suggesting “unfeasible” options for transportation of wheat to Afghanistan, the Express Tribune newspaper reported.

On Thursday, India said that discussions with Pakistan are going on to finalise the modalities for the transportation of its aid to Afghanistan through Pakistani soil and insisted that no conditionalities should be attached for sending the humanitarian assistance.

In New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that humanitarian assistance should not be subject to conditionalities. It is learnt that the modalities for the transportation of the Indian aid are yet to be thrashed out as Islamabad has put certain conditions for providing the transit facility.

Pakistan has insisted that the consignments of wheat and medicines to Afghanistan are transported on Pakistani trucks from the Wagah border point while India favoured using its own transport, according to people familiar with the matter.

India is keen on ensuring that aid reaches the intended beneficiaries without being diverted and wants the distribution of the relief materials through a credible international agency, they said.

Pakistan has proposed that trucks under the banner of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) should transport the wheat and other essentials from India to Afghanistan, the paper said, citing sources.

A senior Pakistan Foreign Office official was quoted as saying by the paper that the Pakistani modalities should not be seen as conditions. Rather, he added, they were meant to facilitate India’s humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan.

On India’s reported proposal that the wheat should be shipped either in Indian or Afghan trucks, the official said, “This option is not feasible.” He said that India was given permission to use Pakistan’s land route on an exceptional basis.

“Since there is no two-way trade between Afghanistan and India through Pakistan, even New Delhi knows its trucks cannot be used for the transportation of wheat,ö according to the official.

The official also said if Pakistan allowed Indian trucks and their crew to use its land route, some incident might happen that would trigger a diplomatic crisis. Secondly, Pakistan did consider the option of using Afghan trucks.

However, it was told that Afghan trucks used Pakistani lorries for exports to India.

Afghan trucks transfer goods destined for India on Pakistani trucks because of documentation and other requirements. They unload the consignments at the Wagah border. “Therefore, the option of using Indian or Afghan trucks is not feasible,” the official maintained.

“The ball is in India’s court. There is no delay on our part,” he added.

In October this year, India announced 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat for Afghanistan as humanitarian assistance and sought Pakistan’s permission to transport it through the Wagah border.

Afghanistan’s Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi had also requested Prime Minister Imran Khan to allow India to transport wheat via Pakistan, suggesting that the Taliban government was willing to accept the humanitarian assistance from India.

India has contributed to the humanitarian requirements of the Afghan people. This included providing more than 1 million metric tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan over the past decade.

Last year too India assisted Afghanistan with 75,000 metric tonnes of wheat, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had said at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on the Humanitarian situation in Afghanistan in September.

However, Pakistan had blocked India’s efforts to provide wheat to the Afghan people, amidst the chill in relations between New Delhi and Islamabad over the Kashmir issue.

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