Afghanistan’s Taliban said Friday they had received a fresh supply of medicines from India, as the United Nations warns harsh winter conditions are aggravating the severe humanitarian crisis facing millions of Afghans.
“The Islamic Emirate is grateful to India for its humanitarian assistance and cooperation,” said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in a local language tweet after Kabul airport authorities received the aid package. Mujahid used the official name of the new Taliban government.
The Indian foreign ministry noted in a statement that Friday’s delivery was the third batch of medical assistance “consisting of two tonnes of essential life-saving medicines” and said it is part of New Delhi’s ongoing humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
India already has delivered half a million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and 1.6 tons of medical aid to Kabul through the World Health Organization. It has pledged to supply more medicines and food grains in coming weeks.
“India stands committed to continue our special relationship with the people of Afghanistan and provide them humanitarian assistance,” the ministry said.
New Delhi also has pledged to send 50,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan and requested neighboring Pakistan’s help by allowing its transportation through its territory. Islamabad agreed to New Delhi’s request in November, and the two arch-rival countries are reported to be sorting out the modalities of the transportation.
Relief agencies say the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan was bad even before the Islamist Taliban took over the country last August, citing years of conflict and a prolonged nationwide drought.
The subsequent suspension of international assistance, though, along with international sanctions on the Taliban, and the freezing of Afghanistan’s foreign cash reserves by many countries and donor agencies have triggered an economic crisis in the aid-dependent country — increasing humanitarian needs to record levels.
The U.N. estimates that more than 24 million Afghans will need humanitarian assistance this year, and more than nine in 10 of them are likely to be acutely food insecure by March.
India maintained close ties with the Western-backed Afghan government ousted by the Taliban ousted in August. New Delhi invested several billion dollars in development projects in Afghanistan over the past several years to increase its influence in the country.
But the Indian diplomatic effort suffered a huge blow with the final withdrawal of the United States and allied troops from Afghanistan days after the Taliban retook power. The Islamist group is believed to have used sanctuaries in Pakistan to sustain its two decades long violent insurgency against local and foreign troops in Afghanistan.
India’s latest effort to provide humanitarian aid to Kabul is seen as an attempt to renew its diplomatic engagement with the country to sustain developmental projects, though Indian leaders remain deeply skeptical about the Taliban’s close ties with Pakistan.