The suicide bomb attack that killed three Indians and injured several others in Afghanistan is a grim reminder of the risks reconstruction workers face in the war-torn country. At the same time, it is also a test of India’s commitment to contribute as much as possible to the rebuilding of Afghanistan. The three engineers of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up at Nimroz. Although no one has claimed responsibility, it is evident that the Taliban were behind the murders. This is the latest in the Taliban’s attempts to intimidate India into abandoning its role in rebuilding Afghanistan’s infrastructure.
New Delhi has worked hard to develop ties with the new Afghan government following the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. An estimated 5,000 Indian nationals are currently working on reconstruction projects there. Thanks to Indian engineers and other workers, Afghanistan has been able to construct many buildings, including its Parliament, and Indian officials train Afghans in fields like telecommunications, public transportation and policing. While the Hamid Karzai government has a large responsibility for protecting foreign workers, there is, unfortunately, only so much that it can do. Beyond Kabul, the government’s control evidently ranges from minimal to non-existent, as it has yet to deal with the warlords who run most of Afghanistan. Which leaves India to work out a strategy to thwart Taliban designs and protect its workers there. Merely putting out security advisories asking Indians to curtail their movements and ‘remain at a safe distance from military and police convoys’ won’t help. India must strengthen and widen its intelligence links with Afghan security and intelligence forces to monitor Taliban activities.
Even this may not make Indian workers totally immune to future attacks. But at least it will make them that much more secure. In fact, the sooner India is able to help rebuild democratic institutions in Afghanistan, the more the chances of checking the Taliban militants who are trying to regroup themselves.