Abduction of Indians in Af worrying

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani

The abduction of seven Indian engineers along with their local driver in Afghanistan is worrying. The engineers are employed with an Indian company which is working on the government-run Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), a power plant project in the northern Baghlan province. They were on their way to work when armed men stopped their vehicle and took them away. No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction yet. However, the needle of suspicion points to the Taliban, which is said to have a strong presence in the area. According to the Governor of Baghlan, Abdulhai Nemati, the Taliban is responsible for the abduction. Apparently, the abduction was a case of mistaken identity; the gunmen assumed that the seven men were Afghan government employees. If this is indeed true then one can hope for the early release of the eight men. But given the animosity that the Taliban is believed to hold towards India, it is hard to predict their next steps.

The Indian government is reportedly in touch with Afghan authorities. It should reach out to Afghan civil society organisations that are working in Baghlan as they are likely to have contacts with local groups. Importantly, India should consider reaching out to other countries with ties to the Taliban. However, New Delhi must keep the Ashraf Ghani government in the loop. If not, various actors in the kidnap drama may end up working at cross-purposes. Importantly, India should keep families of the abducted men informed of their well-being. The Centre should avoid dissembling and opacity in dealing with the families. The unseemly and insensitive manner in which the government dealt with families of the 39 Indian hostages who were executed by the Islamic State group in Iraq must not be repeated. Any information the government has about the fate of the kidnapped men in Afghanistan should be shared with the families first. They should not have to hear positive or negative news of their kin from the media or Parliament.

India is involved in several development projects in Afghanistan and its work there is appreciated by the Afghan people. Recently, India and China agreed to work together on an economic project in Afghanistan. Such co-operative efforts which are bringing India accolades are resented by anti-India groups and agencies active in Afghanistan. Besides the Taliban, there is the IS as well as dozens of armed militias that kidnap foreign nationals and Afghans for monetary reasons. As elections draw near, violence will increase. Not only should New Delhi strengthen security for its nationals in Afghanistan, they should also avoid taking risks. Indian nationals should follow advisories on safety issued by the government.

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Abduction of Indians in Af worrying

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