India may review security of workers in Afghanistan

April 12th, 2008 - 11:25 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, April 12 (IANS) India is again likely to appraise the security arrangements for its personnel in Afghanistan following an attack on an Indian road construction team that claimed at least two lives Saturday. The external affairs ministry said two Indian engineers were killed and five were injured when two suicide bombers attacked their convoy in Nimroz province of southwestern Afghanistan.

They were working on the construction of a strategic road from Zaranj to Delaram that will connect the landlocked country to Iran and its seaports.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said India “will take necessary measures to safeguard security of Indians working in Afghanistan”.

“Despite the attack, India will remain firm on its stand (to assist reconstruction in Afghanistan) and not succumb to the pressures of the militia,” he told reporters in Behrampore in West Bengal.

Indians working on this strategic road and elsewhere in the war-torn country have been targeted before.

After each of the previous attacks, India had sent a team to Afghanistan to appraise the security situation and safety arrangement for its nationals.

There are about 3,000-4,000 Indian nationals working on several reconstruction projects in the country.

The Afghanistan government, at its highest levels, had also assured India that its nationals would be accorded adequate security. Afghan President Hamid Karzai had conveyed this in his various meetings with Indian leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

India has a major assistance project in Afghanistan worth nearly $850 million, which includes expansion of the national television network, reconstruction of Salma Dam and construction of a 220-kilovolt transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul.

The Indian embassy in Kabul has frequently put out security advisories asking Indians in the country to curtail their movements and remain at a safe distance from military and police convoys. It has also asked them to vary their movements and avoid regular visits to restaurants frequented by foreigners.

The biggest upgrade in security had taken place in 2005, after the kidnapping and murder of Border Road Organisation (BRO) driver Ramankutty Maniappan by the Taliban.

Following his death, India had increased the strength of its security personnel, with nearly 400 members of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) guarding Indian installations and camps.

But, despite the upgrade, six months later in 2006, another Indian national, K. Suryanarayana, working with a Gulf-based company, had been kidnapped and killed by Taliban insurgents.

This year, two ITBP personnel were killed in January in an ambush by suicide bombers, which also left five Indians critically injured.

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