An Indian ship on Sunday began its journey to Iran’s Chabahar port, carrying a major consignment for Afghanistan of wheat and anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which is being used in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“251 containers carrying the first consignment of 5,022 MT of wheat out of a total gift of 75,000 MT from India to Afghanistan set sail from the Kandla Port to the Chabahar Port today [on Sunday]. The remaining consignments will follow in the weeks ahead. India is gifting 5,00,000 tablets of HydroxyChloroquine to Afghanistan for health professionals and COVID-19 positive cases,” the Embassy of India in Kabul said in a post on social media.
The initiative comes a month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a video-conference with South Asian leaders, including Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, leading to the integration of Afghanistan in India’s regional strategy for the containment of the disease through the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund.
The use of the Chabahar port is being viewed as symbolically important as it is the first time India is using it for a humanitarian mission since the top leaders of Iran criticised India for the violence in Delhi during the last week of February that led to the killing and displacement of Muslim citizens.
The violence broke out during the February 24-25 visit of U.S. President Donald Trump to India when the U.S. sanctions on Iran were highlighted. When asked to comment on India’s use of the Chabahar port for the humanitarian mission, an Iranian diplomatic source hinted that Iran had asked for support of the international community to defeat U.S. sanctions as they had hampered its fight against the disease. The open letter in this regard was written by President Hassan Rouhani on March 13, and the diplomat said the request was also aimed at India, indicating that a response from New Delhi was yet to reach Tehran.