Herat attack was meant to stop Sharif visit, spoil Modi’s ‘party’
Invariably and inevitably, the high hopes generated by India-Pakistan summit-level encounters give way to the verities of bilateral ties. Nawaz Sharif’s visit last month to attend Narendra Modi’s oath-taking ceremony is proving to be no exception. Under attack from Tehrik-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan for allowing himself to be treated like a “schoolboy” by India, Sharif has let it be known to the Pakistani media that he was “not too happy” with his visit because the Indians “didn’t appropriately acknowledge the importance of his presence”. But on the other hand, he has written an effusive letter to PM Modi about their meeting and his hopes for the future. Modi has taken the correspondence further with an encouraging response.
While all this may be interpreted by enthusiastic analysts as part of the ebb and flow of Pakistani politics and India-Pakistan diplomacy, what cannot be dismissed lightly is the clear message sent out by the Pakistan army through the LeT attack on the Indian consulate-general in Herat on May 22. Afghan President Hamid Karzai confirmed that the attack was carried out by the LeT. Its purpose was to create a critical hostage situation that would have coincided with Modi’s oath-taking ceremony. A credible Indian report has given details of the weapons found on the attackers and the foodstuff carried by them. This report along with the communication intercepts that the Afghan and other intelligence agencies would have shared with Karzai give credence to his claims. The LeT is widely seen as the Pakistan army’s proxy in its hostile actions against India. Its reach has now spread to Afghanistan.
Earlier attacks on the Indian mission in Kabul and the consulate-general in Jalalabad were carried out by the Haqqani network at the behest of Pakistani generals. Herat is outside the network’s sphere of operations. Hence, the choice of the LeT, which, in Afghanistan, acts in close coordination with the Taliban. As such attacks take considerable planning, it is obvious that the decision to target the consulate would have been taken some time ago. However, it is impossible to believe that the timing of the execution was not decided to coincide with the oath-taking ceremony and Sharif’s visit. It is noteworthy that the earlier attacks on Indian institutions in Afghanistan were carried out to inflict damage and not to take hostages.
Modi’s decision to invite Saarc leaders to his oath taking was a bold, forward-looking and dramatic gesture, signalling his solidarity with the region and intent to energise the processes of regional integration. It was evident that Sharif wanted to respond positively and, by and large, Pakistani political parties supported this. However, for continued…