Karnal bunt indeed

Wheat procurement measures a lack confidence in India

This year’s wheat shortage in Pakistan has not eased. Sindh and Balochistan have requested the federal government to allow them to import 2.5 million tons of wheat from neighbouring India. The federal government has banned it, ostensibly due to its belief that the karnal bunt virus has infected Indian wheat.

Pakistan’s wheat producing Punjab province has banned ‘exports’ to other provinces. The federal government earlier banned Australian wheat on the suspicions that it too had been infected with the same karnal bunt. That kicked off a diplomatic row with Australia which became embarassing for Pakistan after other countries imported the consignments, and presumably, found no trace of the virus.

Inadequate distribution, insufficient safeguards against hoarding and profiteering, and bad politics have led to the wheat crisis. This was an excellent opportunity for real confidence building between India and Pakistan – in blocking the import of Indian wheat the Pakistani government shown how ethereal the much-bandied confidence building measures really are.