Terror targets India in Afghanistan, again; India says will go on

afghan-attack1The suicide attack explosion targeting the Indian consulate in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad has once again highlighted the perennial threat to India’s interests in Afghanistan, which continue to be orchestrated by a cold-blooded terror machine operating from across the border.

But contrary to the intentions of bloody-minded killers, the attack has only bolstered India’s resolve to stay engaged in a country in which it has invested not just $2 billion in a wide array of reconstruction projects, but has staked the lives of some of the brightest and the best in rebuilding the violence-beset country.

The explosion that followed after one of the three suicide bombers August 3 set off their explosives-laden car at a checkpoint near the Indian consulate in Jalalabad killed at least nine civilians and left more than two dozen people injured.

Mercifully, for India, none of Indian consulate officials were hurt in the explosion. India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said in New Delhi that all Indian officials in the consulate were safe.

The Taliban has denied any involvement in the attack and there is no clarity on the precise identity of the perpetrators. But the messaging is clear: the violence in Afghanistan looks set to get bloodier in times to come and India will have to up its game to stay in the reckoning in the run-up to the 2014 withdrawal of foreign combat troops.

Given the history of past attacks on the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008 and a botched attempt a year later, one can make a reasonably accurate guess of who these attackers might be.

India has voiced strong condemnation of the suicide attack and underlined that it has “once again highlighted that the main threat to Afghanistan’s security and stability stems from terrorism and the terror machine that continues to operate from beyond its borders.”

But if the motive of the attacker was to intimidate India into rolling back its transformative wide-ranging reconstruction work, they will be sorely disappointed. India made this clear when it went on to upscale its developmental assistance to Afghanistan after the militants targeted the Indian embassy and killed two Indian diplomats five years ago.

India, the spokesperson of the country’s external affairs ministry stressed, will not be deterred from its commitment to assist Afghanistan in its reconstruction and development effort.

“…this was clearly an attack not just against India but an attack against the efforts to help the Afghan people overcome the tragic hardships they have endured due to several decades of war.”

The suicide bombing took place amid a contentious reconciliation process that seeks to bring so-called moderate Taliban into the political mainstream ahead of the 2014 elections.

India has voiced unease with the reconciliation process and has made it clear that any such exercise should honour the internationally agreed red lines – that is, the Taliban should renounce violence and sever links with al-Qaeda, accept the Afghan constitution and respect civilian and women’s rights.

Iafghan-pmndia has pledged over $2 billion in a wide array of reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, that range from building roads, dams and power stations to constructing the building of the Afghan parliament and a slew of grassroots projects that are transforming the lives of ordinary Afghans.

New Delhi’s stakes in the stability of Afghanistan are huge and have economic and strategic dimensions. Economically, India sees Afghanistan as a bridge to Central Asia and a potential hub of regional prosperity. From the security prism, Afghanistan is critically important for India as anti-India Taliban-affiliated terrorist networks, suspected to be supported by Pakistan, continue to operate with impunity from Afghanistan. Given Pakistan’s strategic establishment’s propensity to regard Afghanistan as its strategic backyard, India is concerned at the way the ISI-military establishment is trying to shape the outcome of the problematic reconciliation process in Afghanistan.



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