India faces attack for support to Af

India faces attack for support to Af

The past few days have underscored India’s extreme vulnerability to terrorist attacks. Even as security forces were battling a major terrorist attack on the Indian Air Force base at Pathankot, the Indian consulate at Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan came under fire from heavily-armed terrorists. An attack was thwarted thanks to the alacrity of Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel guarding the consulate and the robust and swift support they received from the Afghan Special Forces. The abor-tive attack is of serious concern. The terrorists were well armed; they used rocket-propelled grenades. The Indian embassy and its consulates are among the most tightly protected in Afghanistan as they have been repeatedly attacked by the Taliban and terrorist groups closely aligned to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). That the terrorists were able to get close enough to the Mazar-e-Sharif consulate – they were firing from a building nearby – points to serious gaps in the security grid.

Delhi and Kabul need to review the measures in place to guard our missions, especially since attacks on India’s missions, assets and personnel in Afghanistan are expected to rise in the coming months. During his recent visit to Kabul, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Afghan parliament, which India funded and built. It drew global attention to India’s role in supporting Afghanistan’s democratic transition and reconstruction. It won India international applause. More importantly, during his visit, Modi handed over a few attack helicopters to Afghanistan, signaling an expansion in India’s hitherto small military role in the strife-torn country. This is likely to have raised the hackles of those opposed to India’s friendship with Kabul. They will strike at Indian assets in Afghanistan.

The attack on the Mazar-e-Sharif consulate is not the first time an Indian mission has come under fire in Afghanistan. It was preceded by attacks on the consulate in Kabul and missions in Jalalabad and Herat. India has rightly not allowed these repeated provocations to weaken its commitment to stay the course in Afghanistan.In the first year of his presidency, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s diplomacy prioritised Pakistan over
India. With his outreach to Pakistan hugely unpopular among the Afghan people and power elite and his effort to involve Islamabad in the peace process running aground, the Afghan president is reportedly looking to India to shore up his country’s capacity to take on the Taliban. The supply of four attack helicopters will not boost Afghanistan’s military capacity in a substan-tial way. However, it is a gesture that signals India’s support to Afghanistan however high the risk and costs.
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