Forty-one people are reported to have been killed by a suicide bomber outside the gates of the Indian Embassy in Kabul on Monday. Four Indians killed included a Defence Attache and a Counsellor-level diplomat.
From the indications available so far, it is evident that it was an attack targeted at the Indian mission. Was the Defence Attache also a target? This question arises from the fact that the suicide bomber reportedly rammed his vehicle against a car of the mission. This would indicate the possibility that the primary targets were the occupants of the two cars. The rest of the fatalities were apparently collateral.
There has been a sharp increase in acts of terrorism in Afghanistan since the new Pakistan government assumed office in the last week of March.
NATO officers in Afghanistan have spoken of a 40 per cent rise in infiltration of jihadi terrorists since Pakistan suspended military operations against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and entered into peace negotiations with them.
Even as acts of terrorism — including suicide terrorism — have increased in Afghan territory, there has been a sharp decrease in acts of suicide terrorism in Pakistani territory. This indicates that the new government has made a deal with the Taliban allowing it to operate freely in Afghanistan in return for its stepping down operations in Pakistani territory.
The increasing Indian presence in Afghanistan to assist in its economic development has been a constant source of criticism by Pakistan, which has taken up the issue repeatedly with the US and other NATO countries.
Sections of the media and religious parties in Pakistan have also been critical of the close relations of the Karzai government with India. Urdu newspapers in Pakistan had even accused India of fomenting trouble in Balochistan from covert bases in Afghan territory.
Pakistan thus has a strong motive to target Indian nationals and interests in Afghanistan through surrogate Taliban. During the last three years, there has been a steep increase in acts of suicide terrorism by the Neo-Taliban of Afghanistan headed by Mullah Mohammad Omar.
Initially, the suicide attacks were by individual suicide bombers who carried the IEDs on their person. Later, they started using Vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED).
The successful attack outside the mission has been made possible by poor security on the road on which it is located. It has been reported that the Afghan Interior Ministry is also on the same road. One would have, therefore, expected the level of road security here to have been high.
The details available do not speak of any specific physical security deficiency in the Indian mission itself. Despite this, the physical security set-ups in all the Indian missions and offices in Afghanistan, whether in Kabul or other places, need to be urgently examined and the required security enhancements undertaken. A vulnerability assessment of all Indian missions and offices is urgently called for.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai)