First convoy of 50 Indian trucks carrying around 2,500 metric tonnes of wheat reached Attari-Wagah, frontier crossing with Pakistan, officials say. From there, Afghan lorries are taking the food aid to Afghanistan.
India has dispatched wheat to Afghanistan to help alleviate food shortages after Pakistan gave permission to allow the shipments across their shared border.
Senior Indian government officials on Tuesday flagged off the first convoy of 50 trucks carrying 2,500 metric tonnes of wheat donated by India to Afghanistan at Attari in the northern state of Punjab, which shares the border with Pakistan.
The consignment was picked up by Afghan trucks at Attari which will take it to Afghanistan, said India's Ministry of External Affairs.
"The shipment is part of the commitment made by the Government of India to supply 50,000 MT of wheat for the people of Afghanistan. The wheat assistance will be delivered in multiple consignments and will be handed over to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in Jalalabad, Afghanistan," the ministry said in a statement.
"Truly an honour to witness the flagging off ceremony of India's wheat assistance shipment to Afghanistan at Attari today. At least 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat is one of the largest food contributions done by any country to support in this difficult hour,” Farid Mamundzay, Afghanistan's ambassador to India, who was also present at the ceremony, said on Twitter
"I thank the Indian government for the generosity displayed at a time when more than 20 million Afghans are facing crisis or the worse levels of food insecurity in more than 3 decades," he added.
Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Arindam Bagchi termed it an "important milestone in India's humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people."
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Pakistan: Humanitarian purposes are exception
The first shipment of wheat to Afghanistan came more than three months after India announced that it would send wheat and life-saving medicine to Afghanistan.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), half the population now faces acute hunger, over 9 million people have been displaced and millions of children are out of school.
Previously, the UN and its partners launched a $4.4 billion funding appeal to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan in 2022.
India has already supplied Covid-19 vaccines, 13 tonnes of essential lifesaving medicines and 500 units of winter clothing to Afghanistan.
In December, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry announced that it would allow transportation from India to Afghanistan via the Wagah border "on an exceptional basis for humanitarian purposes."
Bilateral trade with India was suspended by Pakistan in 2019 after New Delhi stripped India-administered Kashmir of its special status and annexed it, sparking tensions with Pakistan and China.
Since then, normal diplomatic and trade ties between them have not resumed.
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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