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Pak allows India to deliver wheat to Afghanistan

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Foreign Ministry officials have said to allow arch-rival India to deliver tonnes of wheat to Afghans struggling through intensifying food shortages.

Under a deal with India, dozens of trucks from Afghanistan will be allowed to collect wheat from India by way of Pakistan’s Wagha border near the city of Lahore, beginning February 21, the officials added.

The trucks filled with wheat will then head back to Afghanistan’s Jalalabad city via Pakistan’s Torkham border the next day.

They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media on the record.

The arrangement comes more than three months after India announced it would deliver 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat and life-saving medicines to Afghanistan.

Pakistan said at the time it would allow the Indian aid to pass through its territory into Afghanistan, but New Delhi could not finalise modalities until last week, said the officials.

Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations, especially over disputed Kashmir’s sovereignty.  

Ties between them have further strained after deadly attacks in India-administered Kashmir three years ago.

More than 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers were killed. 

India said it launched air strikes on rebel launchpads inside Pakistan. In reply, Pakistani fighter jets dropped bombs near Indian military facilities in India-administered Kashmir. 

India immediately sent its warplanes to chase Pakistani jets in an aerial dogfight, in which Pakistan claimed downing two Indian jets. Pakistan also captured one pilot who was later handed over to New Delhi in a goodwill gesture. 

Pakistan suspended trade with India in 2019 after New Delhi stripped the Indian-controlled section of Kashmir of its special constitutional status and annexed it. 

Since then, normal diplomatic and trade ties between them have not resumed.

Pakistan now says it is allowing India to deliver food to Kabul through its territory under a special arrangement.

Afghanistan’s economy is teetering on the brink of collapse in the wake of the Taliban takeover in August after the Western-backed government collapsed. 

Also on Monday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in a meeting with visiting Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi stressed the need for urgent action by the international community “to prevent a humanitarian crisis and economic meltdown in Afghanistan,” according to a government statement.

Recently, the United Nations made a $5 billion appeal for Afghanistan. The UN warns that 1 million children are in danger of starving and 90 percent of Afghans live below the poverty level of just $1.90 a day.

Pakistan in recent months has also sent food and medicines to Afghanistan.

Like the rest of the world, Pakistan and India have so far not recognised the Taliban government.

New Delhi has no diplomatic presence in Kabul after evacuating its staff ahead of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August. It did, however, meet with a Taliban representative in Qatar on August 31.

Before the Taliban took Kabul, India provided Afghan security forces with operational training and military equipment, even though it had no troops on the ground.

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