Women wait in queue with their children during a World Food Programme food distribution on the outskirts of Kabul. (AFP photo for representation)
NEW DELHI: The Taliban have welcomed Pakistan's decision to allow India to send wheat to Afghanistan through the land route and expressed readiness again to have Indian diplomats back in the country.
This followed Pakistan's announcement earlier in the day that it had formally conveyed to India its decision to allow, as a goodwill gesture, transportation of Indian wheat to Afghanistan via the Attari-Wagah border.
"I appreciate Pakistan’s announcement to facilitate wheat delivery by India to Afghanistan. We welcome decision by any country to reopen its embassy in Kabul and we categorically assure them of their diplomats' security," Taliban's ambassador-designate to UN Suhail Shaheen told TOI, responding to a query on Taliban's stated willingness to have diplomatic ties with India.
Significantly, India's close strategic partner Japan said Wednesday it will consider reopening its embassy in Kabul if the security situation allowed it. "We intend to reopen our embassy after security is assured. A joint framework should be created for practical measures," Japan's ambassador to Afghanistan Takashi Okada was quoted as saying by TOLO News. The ambassador also said Japan will continue to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. Foreign minister S Jaishankar and his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi had in a phone conversation earlier this week underlined the need for cooperation in dealing with the Afghanistan situation.
While maintaining that the current dispensation in Kabul isn't inclusive enough to merit international recognition, India has been looking to work with the Taliban to help them deal with the unfolding humanitarian crisis. More public engagements with the Taliban in the next few weeks aren't ruled out as the government prepares to send aid, including 50,000 MT of wheat, to Afghanistan.
Taliban's assurance on security also comes ahead of another round of talks with the US in Doha where the 2 sides are expected to discuss, among other things, humanitarian aid and the threat from terrorism.
Earlier in the day, Pakistan said in a statement that as a goodwill gesture towards the "brotherly" Afghan people, it had decided to allow the transportation of wheat and life saving medicines from India to Afghanistan via Wagah Border on an "exceptional basis for humanitarian purposes". The decision was officially conveyed to the Indian chargé d'affaires in Islamabad Wednesday.
The Taliban have been keen on accepting aid from India, an important source of wheat for Afghanistan even in the past, and its foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi had discussed India's proposal to deliver the grain by road in a meeting with Pakistan PM Imran Khan earlier this month. Khan had then said Pakistan was favourably considering the proposal. After the meeting with an Indian delegation in Moscow last month, Taliban leaders had said they wanted improved trade and diplomatic ties with India.