India flies tons of essential items to earthquake-ravaged Afghanistan

NEW DELHI (AP) – India is flying emergency aid and a technical team to help the people of eastern Afghanistan after a powerful earthquake that killed 1,000 people, state media said.

The 27 tons of relief effort in two flights consists of essential items, including family tents, sleeping bags, blankets and sleeping mats, a ministry statement said Friday.

“India, a real first responder,” tweeted Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar.

The relief supplies will be handed over to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Afghan Red Crescent Society in Kabul.

The technical team has been deployed to its embassy in the Afghan capital to coordinate the delivery of humanitarian aid, the statement said. The embassy has been vacant since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August.

“As always, India stands in solidarity with the Afghan people, with whom we share age-old ties, and remains determined to provide immediate assistance to the Afghan people,” the statement said.

Residents in the worst-hit district appeared largely on their own in their efforts to survive after the earthquake, as the Taliban-led government and the international aid community struggled to bring in aid.

India was left without a diplomatic presence in Kabul after it evacuated its personnel ahead of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. But since then, it has sent 20,000 tons of wheat, 13 tons of medicines, 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines and winter clothing to Afghanistan to help with the shortages there, according to the State Department.

Indian officials held talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan for the first time early this month to discuss the distribution of humanitarian aid.

India’s envoys have previously met with Taliban representatives in Qatar’s capital Doha, where they have an office.

India has said it will follow the lead of the United Nations in deciding whether or not to recognize the Taliban government.

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