Days before he officially takes charge, Narendra Modi stepped into the prime minister's shoes Friday as he responded with alacrity to the terrorist attack on the Indian consulate in Herat, even as caretaker PM Manmohan Singh was reportedly indisposed.
Modi spoke to Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on the phone and also directly called up the Indian ambassador in Kabul, Amar Sinha. Senior officials said the PM-designate spoke to Sinha before 11am. By then, the attack had been foiled and the four suicide attackers killed. The gunmen had used rocket-propelled grenades to attack the mission, narrowly missing the bedroom of Indian consul general Amit Mishra.
Top South Block officials said Karzai's office first sought to speak to Singh, via the ministry of external affairs, in the morning but the call had to be rescheduled for 6pm as the caretaker PM was indisposed. Instead, at around noon, the prime minister's office released a statement condemning the attack on Singh's behalf. Officials in the MEA were instructed to prepare talking points for Singh's scheduled conversation with Karzai in the evening.
However, Karzai decided not to wait and called up Modi at around 1.30pm, assuring him of protection to all Indian missions in his country. He later spoke to Singh for five minutes at the scheduled 6pm, briefing him in detail on the attack and assuring him of the safety of Indian assets in Afghanistan.
Modi later tweeted his praise of the staff at the consulate and the efforts of Indian and Afghan security personnel in foiling the attack.