India and Pakistan briefly set aside their long-running hostility this week in order to facilitate the delivery of 50,000 metric tons of wheat to Afghanistan. The aid comes as Afghanistan is in the early stages of a famine caused by an economic crisis and instability.
While the wheat delivery was donated by the Indian government, it received special dispensation to cross into Pakistan by land. Delivering aid through Pakistan is no easy task for India, as transit trade between the two countries has been suspended since 2019.
The donation was dispatched from Attari, a village near the famed Wagah border crossing post between India and Pakistan. The Indian trucks traveled through Wagah, northwest across Pakistan, and will pass through Pakistan’s Torkham border crossing to enter Afghanistan.
Once it arrives, the food is slated to be distributed by the United Nations World Food Programme, or WFP. The aid delivery was celebrated by Indian foreign minister Harsh Shringla and Afghan ambassador to India Farid Mamundzay, who has remained in India since the fall of the previous government. “Truly an honor to witness the flagging off ceremony of India’s wheat assistance shipment to Afghanistan at Attari today,” the ambassador wrote on Twitter.
Since its takeover in August 2021, the Taliban has struggled to provide services and economic stability to the people of Afghanistan. As international aid made up 80 percent of the previous government’s budget, this challenge has been made more difficult by the international community’s refusal to extend aid to the Taliban.
Two weeks ago, President Joe Biden announced that $7 billion in frozen Afghan assets would be liquidated, with half devoted to humanitarian aid for Afghanistan and the other half reserved for potential damage payments to the families of 9/11 victims. Biden’s decision to split the funds in this manner has provoked considerable controversy, both within Afghanistan and abroad. Nearly all Afghans, whether affiliated with the Taliban or opposed to it, have condemned the choice.
The UN indicated in January that it would need $4.4 billion to help avert famine in Afghanistan, although UN officials described the funding as a “stopgap” intended to assist Afghans with short-term food insecurity rather than long-term economic recovery. With 8.7 million Afghans facing “emergency-level food insecurity,” the UN has repeatedly requested more funding for humanitarian causes within the country.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.