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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2994

Victims of a Surrogate War

By Tushar Charan - Syndicate Features

The brutal killing of Indian engineer K Suryanarayana clearly shows that Pakistan is using the Taliban as its foot soldier in Afghanistan to gain a new strategic advantage. Since Gen Pervez Musharraf pretends that the Taliban cadres have just disappeared from the face of earth, India must bring the reality to the notice of the US and the rest of the world, even Pakistan for that matter, says the author.

The inhuman killing of telecom engineer K. Suryanarayana in Afghanistan, where he was working on behalf of a Bahrain firm, by the barbaric forces known as the Taliban has closely followed a rush of video/audio tapes carrying anti-US and anti-India messages from Al Qaeda, the patron-in-chief of Terror International, from their safe havens in the rugged mountains of Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The tragedy can also be viewed in the backdrop of Pakistan’s increasing frustration, expressed publicly by the country’s military ruler and his minions, over India’s growing presence in Afghanistan and the not so covert attempts by Pakistan to scuttle India’s influence and popularity in Afghanistan.

It will not be too late for India to either talk directly to Pakistan or draw the attention of Pakistan’s powerful friends to a hitherto lesser-known surrogate war that Islamabad has launched against India on the Afghan soil. Irrespective of the progress, or lack of it in taking the Indo-Pak peace process forward this expose has become necessary as by now three Indians have been killed by the Taliban, with a ‘message’ attached to each of them that they were paying for India’s presence in Afghanistan. The latest Taliban interview to Afghan TV channel, Tolo, clearly brings out the ISI imprint on Taliban and Pak angle to Suryanarayana’s murder, even if, for argument sake, the Taliban claim is accepted that while one camp wanted to release him in exchange for a ransom, the other —working under the influence of the ISI— had its way in order to send out a signal.

Islamabad’s tricks at undermining the Afghan appreciation of India’s contribution to Afghanistan’s reconstruction efforts—worth some $600 million-- have not worked, as would appear from the accolades Indians and the government of India have been receiving from Kabul and the ordinary Afghans. Islamabad has also been unable to get the Americans to exert more pressure on India to limit its presence in Afghanistan. Gen Pervez Musharraf, the military ruler of Pakistan, finds that the chances of Pakistan regaining its ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan are fading by the day. He is desperate to see the Taliban—maybe under a different name-- installed again in Kabul.

The beheading of Suryanarayana has understandably angered not only his family but also a lot of other Indians who want to know if the government of India is doing enough to assure safety and security of Indians in Afghanistan. Last year in February and November, the Taliban had killed two other Indian employees in Afghanistan, including one belonging to the Borders Road Organisation. The ruthlessness manner of executing Indians was shocking, but not surprising.

It may sound distasteful, but it can be argued that the fate of Suryanarayana would not have been very different had an Indian team started to ‘negotiate’ with his Taliban kidnappers. The absurdity of the Taliban demand, seeking withdrawal of all Indians workers from Afghanistan within 24 hours of kidnapping, made it very plain that there was going to be no positive outcome of the negotiations with them. In any case, they carried out their dastardly plan even before the expiry of the deadline they themselves had set.

Nevertheless, it has to be said that many in the country believe that the government could have done ‘something’ to save the life of 41-year-old Suryanarayana. His being an employee of a foreign company does not matter to most people who seem to think that it is the government’s duty to provide security to all Indians, whether employed by the government of India or a foreign company. It is the Indian life that needs to be protected. And there are an estimated 2500 Indians—some say it is 3000—working in Afghanistan at present.

While it has been clear for almost a year that the security situation in Afghanistan has been deteriorating and foreign workers face greater danger to their lives, the government decided to dispatch about 200 jawans of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police to protect the personnel working on Indian government projects in Afghanistan. After the killing of Suryanarayana, suggestions have emerged that the government should explore the possibility of sending a contingent of the Central Reserve Police Force to Afghanistan where the southern parts, close to the porous border with Pakistan, have become very dangerous for the lives of Indians.

Even if the Afghan government agrees to allow a contingent of CRPF or any other Indian force, it might be useful to ponder whether it will not be a prelude to sending a regular military contingent from India to Afghanistan. The Americans will be only too pleased if that happens and so will, perhaps, be the Afghans. Who knows it might prompt the Americans to ask India to revise its stand on not sending its troops to Iraq.

Apart from the wide opposition in the country to the idea of getting involved in the military adventures of the US in foreign countries, nobody can say for sure that an Indian military presence or dispatching units of paramilitary forces to Afghanistan will ensure safety of all Indian workers in that country. On the other hand, a large presence of Indian security forces might see a further escalation of attacks on Indians in Afghanistan.

It is the Taliban influence in Afghanistan that has to be reduced, if not eliminated entirely, both for the good of the Afghan people and the safety and security of foreign workers, including those from India. This is a tough proposition because far from getting weakened, the Taliban has been able to regroup without much hindrance and is able to challenge the authority of the Hamid Karzai government

In the much-acclaimed Afghan elections last year, many Taliban activists had reportedly got elected to the National Assembly. The Karzai government is also reaching out to the so-called moderate Taliban elements. Some of them, in fact, are already occupying positions of authority in Afghanistan.

The case in support of the ‘moderate’ Taliban was pushed by Pakistan and later endorsed by the US. Karzai may have many reasons to support the policy of accommodating the ‘moderate’ Taliban, but India can hardly feel comfortable. The Taliban is one of those Islamist outfits that are virulently opposed to all non-Muslims. Both the Taliban and the Al Qaeda have called the Hindus ‘enemies’ of Islam. Under the Taliban regime, the Hindus were asked to wear special identification marks. The Taliban cadres, trained by Pakistan, have also been in the forefront of exporting holy warriors and terrorists to Kashmir. Pakistan, therefore, is unwilling to go after the Taliban cadres.

India has noted with some concern that while Pakistan has been making much of the claim that it has arrested or killed ‘hundreds’ of Al Qaeda cadres, not a single Taliban member of note has either been arrested or killed in Pakistan. Significantly, Pakistan receives much encouragement in clandestinely using the Taliban against India because the US has put no pressure on Musharraf to pursue the Taliban. Pakistan may pretend that the Taliban cadres have just disappeared from the earth, but it is for India to bring the reality to the notice of Pakistan and the rest of the world...

- Syndicate Features -

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