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After Kabul

Monday’s suicide bombing at the Indian embassy marks a major escalation in terrorist attacks against New Delhi’s...

The Indian Express |
July 8, 2008 11:22:42 pm

Monday’s suicide bombing at the Indian embassy marks a major escalation in terrorist attacks against New Delhi’s Afghan policy. For more than two years, Indian personnel taking part in a variety of developmental projects in war-torn Afghanistan have been targeted. Terrorists have now aimed at the Indian diplomatic presence in Afghanistan and have killed an Indian Foreign Service officer, V. Venkateswara Rao, and the military attaché, Brig R.D. Mehta, besides many other Indians and scores of Afghans. As a leading contributor to the economic reconstruction of Afghanistan, and a major political partner of Kabul, India’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks in Afghanistan will continue to mount amidst the resurgence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda on the Pak-Afghan border. Responding to the attack, the Foreign Office was quick to reaffirm that acts of terror will not deter India from fulfilling its commitments to the people and government of Afghanistan. Given its high stakes in Afghanistan, India cannot bend before the terrorists.

As India mourns the murder of its diplomats in Kabul, it must brace itself up to a new burden that comes with increasing global weight. Like China, whose citizens have come under attack in various parts of the world, India too must learn to cope with the new threat to its conduct of its foreign policy. If withdrawal is not an option, India must quickly find ways to minimise the risk to its diplomats. For one, India must coordinate with local administrations to stress that it is not a soft target. For another, India must make the security of its worldwide missions an urgent national priority. India must also show it values those who put themselves in the line of fire abroad, for the sake of the nation, with far greater rewards than on offer today.

After the Kabul bombing, India must come to terms with an important question that it has avoided debating so far. New Delhi cannot continue to expand its economic and diplomatic activity in Afghanistan, while avoiding a commensurate increase in its military presence there. For too long, New Delhi has deferred to Pakistani and American sensitivities about raising India’s strategic profile in Afghanistan.

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