Could the Taliban Get India and Pakistan to Cooperate?

Updated: November 26th, 2021 04:50 PM IST

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Could the Taliban Get India and Pakistan to Cooperate?

Pakistan has agreed to allow India to send humanitarian assistance in the form of 50,000 metric tons of wheat to Afghanistan through an overland route, as millions of Afghans face hunger and starvation under Taliban rule.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the decision earlier this week when he chaired the first Apex Committee meeting of the newly established Afghanistan Inter-ministerial Coordination Cell (AICC) in Islamabad. Pakistan’s foreign office has conveyed the decision formally to Indian authorities.

Afghanistan is on the brink of a massive food shortage. The World Food Program (WFP) recently said that the country faces a shortage of 2.5 million tons of wheat and that only percent of its people has “enough to eat.”

The support from India is important as a harsh winter descends on the country. Pakistan has also announced that it will match India’s support by sending 50,000 metric tons of wheat and other supplies to Afghanistan.

This is perhaps the first time in a long time that Pakistan has allowed India to use the land route through it territory for any trade activity to Afghanistan. For a long time, Pakistan has only allowed Afghanistan to export goods to India. The country doesn’t allow any two-way trade through the Wagah border crossing.

Pakistan has also announced that it will facilitate the return of Afghan patients who are currently stuck in India for medical treatment. The development shows that it is possible for India and Pakistan to work together in some capacity to provide a boost to humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan.

Although Pakistan’s foreign office has said that the passage of wheat is being allowed on an “exceptional basis,” the conversation may change as Islamabad pushes the international community to actively offer financial and humanitarian support to Afghanistan.

It is important to note here that it was on the request Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Taliban regime’s interim foreign minister that Pakistan agreed to allow India to transport wheat via Pakistan. Pakistan’s acceptance of the Taliban request indicates that neither Pakistan nor the Taliban has any problem with accepting India’s humanitarian assistance.

It is possible that the Taliban could request more assistance from India in the coming weeks. Possibly, New Delhi could announce additional aid for Afghanistan, meaning Islamabad will be forced to open its borders again as it doesn’t want to be seen as bringing its conflict with India into the complicated situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban regime faces the daunting challenge of feeding millions of Afghans.

Moreover, Pakistan wouldn’t like the international community to see it as standing in the way of Indian humanitarian aid for Afghanistan just because they continue to compete for influence in Afghanistan.

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