Although India has abstained from recognising the Taliban government, it has extended humanitarian aid amidst the ongoing food crisis.
Stuck in a bureaucratic limbo between Islamabad and New Delhi, the transportation required overland delivery through the Attari-Wagah border as it was impractical to airlift such a huge quantity.The humanitarian gesture follows a pact between India and the World Food Programme (WFP). But this is a sign that the Indian government could be coming around to the reality of the regime in Afghanistan. This wheat diplomacy presents New Delhi with the opportunity to establish direct communications with the Taliban regime in Kabul. Indian officials had previously acknowledged holding a diplomatic meeting with the Taliban in Doha. Six months into the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, having direct channels to Kabul would prove useful for New Delhi in understanding the situation on the ground. To better position itself, New Delhi could have sent a Special Envoy with a small team to overlook the modalities and distribution of resources amongst the Afghan people in collaboration with WFP. This would have enabled India to have an outreach with the Taliban as well as get a chance to reconnect with non-Taliban members and allies from the former government. Such exchanges would bring better insights into the Afghan anticipations and needs. It would have also functioned well as a confidence-building measure, reinstating Afghan people’s faith in India. Nonetheless, it is a challenging balancing act for India as it addresses the exacerbating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan without legitimising or recognising the Taliban regime. When Pakistan was deliberately holding back the delivery of food grains from India, Iran had offered to facilitate India in dispatching aid to Afghanistan. The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, held the first India-Central Asia summit on the 27th of January, which resulted in the formation of a joint working group aimed at tackling the humanitarian emergency and the matter of Taliban recognition. This allowed India to have a role in shaping the view on Afghanistan and gain insights into the ongoing developments from various stakeholders. For New Delhi, such engagements are imperative as it needs to be an active member in regional discussions.
The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, held the first India-Central Asia summit on the 27th of January, which resulted in the formation of a joint working group aimed at tackling the humanitarian emergency and the matter of Taliban recognition.According to the Indian External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar, over the last decade, New Delhi has provided more than 1 million tons of wheat to Afghanistan. Additionally, after Kabul fell to the Taliban, India supplied 5 lakh doses of COVID vaccines and 1.6 tonnes of medical assistance to Afghanistan via the World Health Organisation (WHO). Although India has cautioned the international community to deliberate on the consequences of legitimising the Taliban regime, it has expressed its willingness to provide aid to Afghan citizens. India’s wheat diplomacy has been well-received by the Taliban. The Taliban leadership had earlier commended India for its humanitarian assistance as they received a fresh supply of medicines on the 7th of January. At the time, Taliban’s official central spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid tweeted that “The Islamic Emirate is grateful to India for its humanitarian assistance and cooperation”. India’s assistance offers it a diplomatic opportunity, but the security concerns, stemming from the Taliban’s proximity to Pakistan and the terrorist groups based there, may continue to limit its efforts. With growing strains in the Taliban-Pakistan relations, and the Taliban desperately seeking help from regional powers, India’s larger engagement will create space for it to secure its interests in Afghanistan.
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Rhea Sinha was a Research Assistant with ORFs Strategic Studies Programme. Her research interests include international governance and security with a focus on Indian foreign ...Read More +