The well-coordinated, 18-hour terror attacks in Kabul that targeted the Afghan Parliament, Western embassies and Nato forces, has once again forced a security review of Indian assets in Afghanistan.
Afghan interior minister Bismillah Mohammadi told reporters in Kabul on Monday that one of the arrested militants revealed to authorities that the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network was behind the fierce attacks. The Haqqanis — referred to as a ‘veritable arm’ of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) by former top US official Mike Mullen — have repeatedly targeted the Indian embassy in Kabul and kept its four consulates in Afghanistan on their radar.
The Haqqanis are the prime suspects of the July 2008 attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul that killed 58 people, including the defence attaché, a senior diplomat and security guards, and another attack in 2009 that killed 17 people.
Senior Kabul-based officials told HT on the telephone that while the Indian embassy — located 3 km from one of the places attacked on Sunday — was not the target, “it was only a question of luck”.
Several crucial steps have been taken to secure India’s assets. These include special surveillance by the Afghan interior ministry in the area surrounding the Indian embassy in Kabul.
Though the Afghans, Indians and Americans share intelligence, Sunday’s attacks point to the stark fact that rockets blasted the fortified diplomatic zone with impunity and no prior intelligence.
As an official of the external affairs ministry put it, “We are now mulling over the prowess shown by the Taliban 10 years into the global war against terror and the simple question is – how do you guard against men willing to turn their bodies into missiles?”
After a Lashkar-e-Taiba-sponsored 26/11-type attack in 2010 on two guesthouses where Indians were staying, a fortified complex to house Indian staff was commissioned. It is near completion and will be protected by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, which is already present at the Kabul embassy and four consulates.
India – much to the ISI’s dislike – plays a major role in reconstruction of the war-ravaged country and Sunday’s attacks have only served as a reminder of the high risk faced by the 3,000 Indians there. “Each day is like a fresh lease of life,’’ said an official.