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Prevailing evil behind the curtain

Raja Arifeen

A shipment of 15000 tons of wheat arrived Afghanistan from India via Chahbahar Port on 29 October 2017, which was received in the Afghan City of Zaranj with utmost jubilation. The consignment was said to be the first out of the 1.1 million tons wheat; committed by India for the people of Afghanistan on grant basis and was pompously  projected in the media to showoff Indian generosity and celebrate the launching of the newly constructed Chahbahar Port.

The rest of the consignment is expected to arrive in different stages and is set to be completed by the end of January 2018. This was the first shipment for Afgha-nistan through Chabahar port, after the trilateral agreement to develop the port as a transport and transit corridor between India, Iran and Afghanistan in May 2016.The Chabahar port is located in the Sistan-Balochistan Province of Iran on the energy-rich Persian Gulf southern coast and can be accessed from India’s western coast, bypassing Pakistan. Afghanistan has emerged as one of the world’s largest importers of wheat and flour, consistently ranked among the top three annually along with Uzbekistan and Iraq. In the post-2000 period, although flour production has increased rapidly in Afghanistan, demand has grown even faster.

Afghanistan is a landlocked country, bordered on the west by Iran, on the south and east by Pakistan, and on the north by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. It imports wheat and flour from most of these neighboring countries, with Pakistan being the leading supplier, fulfilling up to 46% of the Afghan wheat and flour requirement from 2006 to 2017.

According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service “the private millers and traders of Pakistan work closely with Afghan traders, Pakistani flour is widely accepted by Afghan consumers because of its quality, and Pakistani mills extend credit to Afghan traders seeking to purchase flour”. Kazakhstan, the largest exporter of wheat in the region and in recent years a dominant flour exporter, is the other major supplier, although it does not share a border with Afghanistan.

The Indian move to supply huge quantity of wheat to Afghanistan via Chahbahar is mainly aimed at to project the launching of the port which has mainly been constructed with an effort to challenge the economic advancement of China via  Gwader Port. However, it also seems to be an attempt of reducing the high market value of Pakist-ani wheat in Afghanistan.

With its extremely narrow minded sense of rivalry with Pakistan, India even does not hesitate to cross the moral and humanitarian limits in international relations.

This fact was exposed to Pakistani authorities when they came to know that the huge quantity of wheat being supplied to Afghanistan in the name of grant was from the old stock, infected and injurious to the health. It was due to this reason that the earlier Indian request of transiting this wheat via Torkham was regretted by the Govt of Pakistan.

India was earlier a wheat importing country spending huge amount of money to fulfill the basic food requirement of its dense population. However, during the last few years, the country has shown record wheat production which has made India as the 4th largest producer of wheat in the world after Russia, the USA and China. It now accounts for 8.7% of the world’s total production of wheat. Wheat production has touched a record 98 million tons (MT) in the 2016-17 ,crop year on account of higher yields in the country. The government not only stopped import of wheat to save money by imposing 10% custom duty on the grain but also restricted wheat export in order to store sufficient stocks of wheat for her own requirements.

Due to administrative mismanagement and red-tapism in the country, a large number of these stocks got unnoticed for years and ultimately expired. The Indian Government’s recent move of demonetization of currency notes in the country also added to further infect these already expired stocks of wheat as the Indian farmers did not have new currency notes to purchase seeds which were earlier being provided to them from these old stocks and they ultimately used their fresh yields as seeds.

Meanwhile, the issue of hasty launching of Chahbahar Port came to a head in the wake of Gwadar becoming a focus of global attention due to being the junction of CPEC. Therefore, in order to fulfill its so-called strategic agenda with maximum projection, India provided the wheat from its expired stocks giving it the name of grant so that not only to project the launching but with a more softer Indian image, ignoring the health of millions of Afghanis, who would be using this wheat as their basic food. It is pertinent to mention it here that the said issue has also been raised and discussed by the Afghan media, but due to the Indian monopoly and influence over the local Afghan and international media elements in Afghanistan, they are unable to subdue their negativity.

The issue can have serious implications for the health and lives of our Afghani brethren, who have already been suffering from food and health crisis since long due to continuous destructions and displacements.

Besides, there is an apprehension that the infected wheat or its by-products, could be smuggled  into Pakistan by taking the advantage of porous Pak-Afghan bordering areas. The political administration as well as other related departments must be on guard to foil any such attempts. it should not be a laborious matter for the concerned authorities, as conventionally, Wheat or flour has always been exported or smuggled from Pakistan to Afghanistan, its reverse trend should be enough  to jolt  the authorities in foiling any such attempts.

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