India signs MoU with World Food Programme for sending wheat to Afghanistan

WFP assured that it had the required infrastructure on the ground to ensure speedy delivery of wheat to the most vulnerable sections of the Afghan population

April 13, 2023 09:58 pm | Updated 09:58 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A farmer sitting with wheat grain in Lucknow. File

A farmer sitting with wheat grain in Lucknow. File | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

India on Thursday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the World Food Programme (WFP) paving the way for sending 10,000 metric tonnes of wheat for the people of Afghanistan. The signing ceremony between officials of the Ministry of External Affairs and the United Nations WFP was held in Mumbai where the WFP assured that it had the required infrastructure on the ground to ensure speedy delivery of wheat to the most vulnerable sections of the Afghan population. 

“The fifth tranche [to be shipped through the Chahbahar port of Iran], builds upon assistance already delivered to those who need it most by the WFP in Afghanistan. India has delivered on its commitment, standing by the historical relations between the people of the two countries and the pressing needs on the ground,” said Joint Secretary of PAI division, Ministry of External Affairs, J.P. Singh. 

In a press note, the WFP said it had a “massive supply chain” and logistics infrastructure in Afghanistan that could help in ensuring that the food supply reached “those who need it the most and no one is excluded.” Thursday’s MoU follows from the Indian declaration made last month at the India Central Asia Joint Working Group on Afghanistan saying that 20,000 MT of wheat would be sent through the Iranian port of Chahbahar. The decision indicated that India would not send humanitarian assistance such as food and medicines to Afghanistan through the transit route over Pakistan. 

“Sincere gratitude to the Indian government for food assistance to the people of Afghanistan. India’s support has been a lifeline for families in need and is an important part of WFP’s assistance to millions of people across Afghanistan,” said Elisabeth Faure, Representative and Country Director, WFP in India on Thursday. The WFP painted a picture of serious crisis in Afghanistan saying that nine out of 10 Afghan families could not afford enough food at present and at least 20 million Afghans were facing threat of starvation. “Six million of them are one step away from famine,” it said. 

India has not recognised the Taliban government in Kabul which took charge in August 2021 through a quick military campaign that unfolded alongside the withdrawal of the American forces in Afghanistan. But India has maintained that it requires “unimpeded access” to the people of Afghanistan to ensure that the humanitarian goods that are being sent reaches them without getting diverted to the tribal warlords and local Taliban leaders. The WFP appreciated India’s initiative saying Afghanistan’s crisis is “unprecedented” as it is a combination of decades-long conflict, drought, economic crisis and the 6.5 magnitude earthquake that hit northeast Afghanistan last month. 

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