New Delhi, March 01: With the recent attack in Kabul against Indians prompting yet another security review, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon to urgently visit Kabul this week and assess the situation while finding ways to tackle this targeted threat against Indian nationals.
It’s learnt that Menon is slated to be in Kabul on March 5-6 and will be meeting the top leadership there during his trip. The attack came after repeated intelligence on Indian nationals being specifically targeted by groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and others which have the tacit backing of Pakistani intelligence agencies. The attempt last October too was traced to this outfit.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, sources said, has been extremely upset after the attack. He is believed to have raised doubts over whether the war on terror is actually making an impact. Given that terrorists are able to attack in such close proximity to the presidential palace and other government buildings, Karzai is believed to have conveyed in dismay to Indian authorities on Saturday that the situation is not changing on the ground despite tall claims.
Karzai’s doubts, sources said, are bound to make India even more nervous. Having expanded its profile over the years in various sectors of cooperation, the key difference India is able to make in Afghanistan is that its assistance is more easily accepted by the Afghan people. The familiarity of being from the same neighbourhood helps, which is what was behind the massive success of the Indian medical mission.
New Delhi is clear that Indians are being targeted because of the goodwill they seem to be earning. But more importantly, sources said, this targeting will carry on in the days ahead and India will have to beef up presence to secure its personnel on the ground.
The Afghan government has set up a high-powered team to investigate the case but as Karzai has indicated to Indian officials, the NATO campaign is still nowhere near getting after the new breed of Taliban which is far more violent and different. India will be making all efforts to reach out to a disappointed Karzai at this juncture because many of the anti-India groups are also fast building linkages with al-Qaeda elements.
Menon’s conversation with leaders and officials in Kabul will span across this entire realm, starting with securing Indians to recalibrate Indo-Afghan ties amid growing disquiet over the approach US has taken largely at the persuasion of its European allies.
On the security front, India has a large detachment of ITBP and CISF personnel in Afghanistan to guard the embassy, residential areas and consulates in different parts of the country. However, they are not responsible for every Indian who is part of the assistance effort. New Delhi will have to now take a relook at all these issues.
At the same time, India is clear that it has complete faith in the Afghan security personnel. None of the Afghan securitymen deserted when the attack took place and were, in fact, killed. The last October attempt on the Indian embassy when a van laden with explosives blew up before it even came close to the compound walls could only fail because alert Afghan security men stopped the van and they were even killed in the attack.