It’s India’s profile that is bothering the extremists in Afghanistan. Prior to the killing of Political Counsellor V. Venkateswara Rao, Defence Adviser Brigadier Ravi Datt Mehta, and ITBP staffers Ajai Pathaniya and Roop Singh, there have been three suicide attacks on Indian nationals this year.
All the attacks were on Indians working on the strategic $266 million Zaranj-Delaram road, which will provide an all-weather link from Afghanistan to the Iranian port of Chabahar.
Monday’s suicide attack, however, is in a separate league. It’s a pointer to the growing strength of the Taliban-Al Qaeda forces and, simultaneously, the inability of Afghan security forces to deal with the jehadis. Indians killed | How the blast happened | See other details | pics.
India, which has pledged $750 million to Afghanistan’s reconstruction since 2002, is the country’s fifth largest donor after the US, UK, Japan and Germany. This places India among the big players in Afghanistan.
The ferocity of Monday’s attack, in which an Indian diplomat has been killed for the first time in the line of duty since the murder of Ravindra Mhatre, assistant high commissioner in Birmingham, points to the obvious success India has achieved in reconstruction efforts.
The idea is to send Indians home; the attack is intended to terrorise them into fleeing: why work where you are not safe?
New Delhi believes it has played a significant role in Afghanistan’s reconstruction. “This is based on the understanding that democracy and development are key instruments in ensuring that Afghanistan become a source of regional stability and does not slide back into extremism…” the website of India’s embassy in Kabul says.
Like in Iraq and Pakistan, jehadi elements think nothing of hitting civilians in the course of their actions. According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, till end-June there had been 698 civilian casualties as opposed to 430 for the same period in 2007.
In 2007, the level of terrorist activity increased sharply over 2006. “An average of 566 incidents per month was recorded in 2007, compared to 425 per month in the previous year. Of the over 8,000 conflict-related fatalities in 2007, over 1,500 were civilians,” the UN Secretary-General said in a report to the Security Council earlier this year.
Indians are being targeted because they are working in key jobs there. The attack on our embassy and diplomats is a wake-up call. As long as our citizens are living and working in Afghanistan, the dangers posed by the jehadis will lurk round the corner.