With trigger-happy Taliban on the rampage in a bid to wrest control of key government-controlled parts of Afghanistan, India has decided to play it safe by monitoring the situation more frequently and regularly, given its huge investment in the war-torn country.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) informed, “Around 50 diplomats and other staff members at the consulate in Afghanistan’s Kandahar have been evacuated in view of intense fighting near Kandahar city.” The personnel were flown to Delhi last evening by special Air Force plane.
Sources told The Daily Guardian that External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has spoken to his Afghan counterpart Mohammad Haneef Atmar on the situation there. “Whatever has been done is nothing but a temporary measure by India to keep its people safe from Taliban’s terror,” Atmar was assured, sources said.
“India is closely monitoring the evolving security situation in Afghanistan. The safety and security of our personnel is paramount, said MEA. “The Consulate General of India in Kandahar has not been closed. However due to intense fighting near Kandahar city, India-based personnel have been brought back for the time being. I want to emphasise that this is a purely temporary measure until the situation stabilises. The Consulate continues to operate through our local staff members,” added the statement by MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.
In fact, the MEA sought to dispel the impression being created at this point of time that India is going to trim its presence in Afghanistan and “withdrawal” of diplomats and personnel is the beginning. Indian officials have strongly objected to Pakistan-based propagandists spreading rumour that India is running away from Afghanistan even as the country is in trouble due to resurgence of Taliban.
Though the MEA has steered clear of coming on record with rebuttal to Pakistan-based rumour-mongers obviously backed by officials in Islamabad, diplomats in MEA told TDG that India is just monitoring and reviewing the situation on daily basis, and it will do what is the best to take care of its heavy investment (to the tune of $3 billion) in Afghanistan. Moreover, India is committed to the cause of a stable and developed Afghanistan.
According to sources, MEA is also assessing the intelligence inputs saying that terrorists of groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed are backing Taliban in Afghanistan. What India is wary of is that these terrorists are out to target Indian missions in Afghanistan and citizens of the country. Terrorists of these organisations have been spotted in various regions sharing the border with Pakistan.
While monitoring the “grim” situation in Afghanistan, India is also waiting for powerful countries such as the US, Russia, UK, etc., to react to what is happening in the trouble-torn nation amid the withdrawal of NATO and American forces from there. India wants a strong message to Taliban who are bleeding Afghanistan.
Jaishankar has already been quite active to draw the attention of the global community on Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan and other attendant problems. It was Jaishankar who had sought an immediate intervention of the global community to ensure that ceasefire violation in Afghanistan is stopped.
“For enduring peace in Afghanistan, terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries must be dismantled immediately and terrorist supply chains disrupted. There needs to be zero tolerance for terrorism in all its forms and manifestations including its cross-border one” Jaishankar had once told the United Nations. “It is equally important to ensure that the territory of Afghanistan is not used by terrorist groups to threaten or attack any other country. Those providing material and financial support to terrorist entities must be held accountable,” he had emphatically said.
“The Afghan government has been told in no uncertain terms to ensure that India’s mission is protected and Afghanistan’s soil should not be allowed to be used by terror organisations for anti-India activities,” sources said.
India’s presence in Afghanistan has been as a major development and civilian reconstruction partner. India’s role in Afghanistan has also been focused on the development and aid aspect of the security-development complex in the country. Infrastructure development, capacity building, humanitarian aid among other initiatives have been the focus. But what is worrying now is that the Taliban have been rapidly gaining control of some of the key cities in the country ever since the US finalised its exit, ending a 20-year-long war.
While discussing India’s plan ahead in Afghanistan, what diplomats cannot lose sight of is the fact that if Afghan provinces fell to the Taliban and war intensified, Pakistan’s military the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) would exploit the prevailing chaos. Both the establishments of Pakistan will try and foment trouble for India in Afghanistan. “So India needs to formulate its strategy to tackle this possible scenario in Kabul,” says an official.