India Sends Vaccines to Afghanistan as Part of Humanitarian Assistance

India has given half a million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Afghanistan and pledged to send more vaccines and food grain in the coming weeks to the country, where millions face hunger.

The vaccines were delivered Saturday, according to the Indian Foreign Ministry.

This was the second batch of humanitarian assistance from New Delhi to Kabul following the Taliban takeover in August.India sent 1.6 tons of medicines to the country last month.

“The Government of India has committed to provide humanitarian assistance consisting of food grains, one million doses of COVID vaccine and essential life-saving drugs,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “In coming weeks, we would be undertaking supply of wheat and the remaining medical assistance.”

India has said that it plans to ship 50,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan and has requested Pakistan’s help in delivering it through its territory.

Although Islamabad has denied India commercial or other transport links to Afghanistan for years, it agreed to New Delhi’s request in November after Taliban officials asked Islamabad to allow the transit.

Both sides are reported to be sorting out the modalities of the transportation — the wheat would go via the Wagah land border between India and Pakistan that lies close to India’s grain producing regions.

Nearly 23 million Afghans, more than half the country’s population, are facing acute food shortages, according to the World Food Program. Nine million are on the brink of starvation and more than 3 million children are at the risk of malnutrition.

India’s effort to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan is seen as part of a diplomatic initiative to engage with the country, where it has been marginalized in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover.

Over the last two decades, India has invested billions in development projects in a bid to build “soft power” in Afghanistan, but its position suffered a huge blow with the withdrawal of U.S. troops last year.

New Delhi stressed the need to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghans at a meeting of officials from regional countries it hosted in November. 

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