Post-Kabul attack, India needs to be more assertive in Afghanistan(Commentary)

July 16th, 2008 - 11:15 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Taliban
By Arun Sahgal and V.K. Anand
The vehicle-borne suicide bomb attack at the entrance of the Indian embassy in Kabul and the resultant casualties have created a furore in the Indian national security establishment and the diplomatic community. Afghan President Hamid Karzai immediately blamed the “enemies of Afghanistan-India friendship” for the bombing - an obvious reference to Pakistan. The Afghan interior ministry, in its pronouncement, was quite upfront when it made an official statement announcing that “this attack was carried out in coordination and consultation with an active intelligence service in the region”. No prizes for guessing as to who that might be: Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency is the infamous mentor of the Taliban and has a record of aiding and abetting terrorist and militant activities against Indian interests in Afghanistan and all across in India’s hinterland besides Kashmir. In fact, attacks against Indian road construction workers and engineers have taken place regularly to signal that Indians are not welcome in Afghanistan. Such attacks though carried out by Taliban groups have been ascribed to the guidance given by ISI.

The Indian embassy too picked the gauntlet and Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Jayant Prasad squarely blamed Pakistan for the dastardly attack quoting detailed briefings by the Afghan interior ministry. This has now been confirmed by no less a person than Indian National Security Advisor (NSA) M.K. Narayanan, who, in an interview with a TV news channel, squarely held ISI responsible for the dastardly attack and made a startling revelation - accusing it of planning three or more attacks on Indian interests and consulates.

Coming from the NSA, it is a serious development having implications on India-Pakistan relations and the future of the peace process and joint anti-terror mechanism on which question marks are being raised.

The Pakistani government and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, on the other hand, have been quick to denounce all references to Pakistani involvement as unfounded and malicious. Pakistani commentators are saying that the country itself is under the militancy siege to think of attacking Indian interests in a third country. Ironically, while the Pakistani claims may have merit, the hand of the Pakistani intelligence establishment and other interested parties which function beyond the pale of governmental control, particularly at the present juncture where the new democratic government is yet to establish control and the military at best remains ambivalent, cannot be ruled out.

It is well recognized that training and logistic support for much of Taliban activities in Afghanistan is coming from across the borders in the restive region of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the increasingly troubled tribal areas of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Additionally, despite protestations to the contrary, there is close collaboration in the activities of the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistan Taliban (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan). Because of the flip-flop policies of the Pakistani establishment, Al Qaeda and Taliban have acquired ascendancy in FATA and its adjoining areas.

The bombing of the Kabul embassy has all the characteristics of a professional job and bears the stamp of Al Qaeda and Taliban and, above all, complicity of ISI. Even though the new Taliban leaders are increasingly becoming autonomous and not often under the control and guidance of ISI, it nonetheless continues to maintain nexus with some of the older Taliban elements like the Jalaluddin Haqqani group that is not much enamoured with Mullah Omar and his ilk.

Further, many institutions of Afghan security like the Afghan National Army and the Afghan Police are known to have been infiltrated by Al Qaeda and Taliban elements. Even among the Afghan population, there are a number of sympathizers for Taliban and Al Qaeda who could have provided crucial information on the movement of Indian embassy staff, including the military attach

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