The shock and horror that accompanies the death of four Indians— including Indian Foreign Service officer V.V. Rao and Brigadier R.D. Mehta—from a suicide bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul on Tuesday is direct proof that the war against the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda has a new recruit: India.
Afghanistan is one of the two largest beneficiaries of the $750 million that India spends on development aid. And, while the Western powers, in deference to Pakistani sensitivities after 9/11, gave themselves the high-profile role of sending troops to Afghanistan and training the Afghan army, India was relegated to a relatively lower profile. India could only train the Afghan police, send non-lethal goods and be involved in development projects.
Having been kept out of Afghanistan for more than a decade during the Taliban years, India took advantage of the Nato presence there to rebuild the historical relationship. It began building bridges, roads and electricity transmission lines, while consignments of high-protein biscuits continue to be sent.
Surely and silently, India began to regain its toehold in Afghanistan. Not so silently, Pakistan began to protest the loss of its “strategic depth” in Afghanistan, and even criticized the opening of four Indian consulates in the Afghan cities of Herat, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Mazar-e-Sharif.
The Tuesday blasts are now believed to have targeted the Indian officers, and were not merely an attack on the Indian embassy. The Afghan interior ministry has said it was carried out “in coordination and consultation with an active intelligence service in the region.” That is an open accusation against Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has publicly complained that the ISI and the Pakistan army are recruiting and training the Taliban to carry out attacks within Afghanistan.
In a perverse way, the bomb attack is proof of the fact that India’s presence in Afghanistan is beginning to make a difference. India must stay the course and not be deterred by the ISI’s bullying tactics. If it stays firm, the death of the fo-ur Indians, in the line of duty to promote India’s national interest, will not be in vain.
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