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Synopsis: Owing to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan the shortage with regard to fund and food availability has multiplied the crisis.
At a meeting of G-20 countries, PM of India highlighted about the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. He also called for the international community to provide Afghanistan with immediate and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance.
The meeting came as the UNHCR published a new appeal for funds. The report states that half the population (more than 20 million people) is in need of “lifesaving humanitarian assistance”, and the UN has received only 35% of the funds needed for its relief operations.
What is the current financial situation of Afghanistan?
As a result of the Taliban takeover, most direct aid to the Afghan government has been stopped; its reserves have been frozen by the U.S., making it impossible for salaries to be paid.
The Taliban government’s refusal to allow women to work and its stopping girls from schooling have made the situation more problematic.
As the recognition of the Taliban and any governmental engagement is still a long way off, the world is faced with a critical choice of ensuring that Afghanistan does not suffer further.
What is the strategic ambiguity faced by India?
Taliban took over of Afghanistan, with support from Pakistan while maintaining links with terror groups including those that target India.
This leaves the Government in an ambiguous position of increasing engagement or sending aid directly to the new regime.
How can India help?
India could contribute to international agencies that are working with displaced Afghans, particularly for about one million children at the risk of starvation.
It could also help Iran and the Central Asian states that are housing refugees with monetary assistance.
The Government could also consider liberalising its visa regime for Afghans, which at the moment has cancelled all prior visas to Afghan nationals, and is releasing very few e-visas for Afghans desperate to travel here.
As a goodwill gesture, India could once again send food aid, including wheat, grain, fortified biscuits and other packaged food, directly to Kabul.
What is the way forward?
As pointed out by UN Secretary General this is a “make or break” moment for the Afghan people.
If the international community, which includes a regional leader like India, does not help in coming out of the unfolding humanitarian crisis, not only Afghans but also the rest of the world will pay a heavy price.
Source: This post is based on the article “Aiding Afghans” published in “The Hindu” on 14th October 2021.