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Murder in Afghanistan, India still clueless

November 24, 2005 14:11 IST
The Taliban's brutal slaughter of Maniappan Raman Kutty, a poor Keralite driver working with the Border Roads Organisation, is a message to India to withdraw from Afghanistan, feel some analysts.

The analysts have rightly advised the Indian government to not to be intimidated by this blackmail. They have suggested India continue helping the Hamid Karzai government in its reconstruction programme, while strengthening physical security for Indian personnel deployed in Afghan territory.

Where I disagree with them is about the origin of this blackmail.

Kutty's body found: Police

It is not a message from the Taliban as they have contended, but it is a message from Pakistan through the Taliban.

The message is: Don't get unduly involved in Afghanistan, particularly in the southern parts of the country bordering the Pakistani province of Balochistan, where the independence movement shows no signs of petering out despite the Pervez Musharraf government's brutal measures of suppression.

Ever since India started sending its reconstruction personnel to the interior areas of Afghanistan, particularly in southern Afghanistan and in the Herat area bordering Iran, the Pakistan government -- including Musharraf himself -- and the jihadi terrorist organisations have been repeatedly criticising the presence of Indian personnel in this area.

PM condemns BRO driver's killing

Insinuations have been repeatedly made that many of these personnel are actually Indian intelligence and security agency officers sent to train alleged Baloch 'terrorists'.

In a television interview on Wednesday night, our minister of state for external affairs has, unfortunately, provided added ammunition to these anti-India elements by saying that the Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel are protecting BRO staff sent to this area.

The Pakistan Army, like its Chinese counterpart, hates the ITBP. The brave ITBP jawans have in the past proved themselves to be more than a match for the Pakistani and Chinese security forces.

The minister's statement that some ITBP personnel have been deployed in southern Afghanistan to protect BRO personnel is likely to act as a red rag to the bull, increasing the chances of more attacks on Indian personnel.

India won't abandon construction

According to the minister, the Indian government, on coming to know of Kutty's kidnapping, had immediately sought the intervention of the Karzai government, foreign embassies in Kabul and Afghan tribal leaders.

The government's action gives a disturbing indication of the extent to which it is out of touch with the ground realities relating to terrorism in general, and Afghanistan in particular.

What are the ground realities, you might well ask.

The Karzai government has very little control over southern and eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban, al Qaeda and Hizbe Islami remnants -- operating from sanctuaries in and around Quetta, Pakistan -- have stepped up their activities in this region since March. They have killed a large number of Afghan government troops, policemen and an increasing number of American soldiers.

Note found pinned to Kutty's body

The Taliban remnants -- operating from sanctuaries in Pakistan -- had also shot down a US Army helicopter in the area bordering Pakistan earlier this year.

I had written on September 11: 'Since March, Afghanistan has been slowly sliding back into a state of anarchy and lawlessness due to the re-infiltration of terrorists belonging to the al Qaeda and the Taliban from sanctuaries in Pakistan.' 

Even if the Karzai government had wanted to, it would not have been able to be of any effective assistance in this area.

It is very well known that all the surviving members of the Taliban leadership -- including its Amir, Mulla Mohammad Omer, and its spokesman -- operate from sanctuaries provided by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence in the Quetta area and not from Afghan territory.

Since the Taliban leadership looks upon Karzai as an American quisling who has to be eliminated, it was futile to have expected him to intervene.

Karzai himself has been repeatedly saying in public about the activities of these elements from Pakistani sanctuaries and it is, therefore, surprising that he did not advise the Indian government to take up the matter with Islamabad, which can alone control them.

Since Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's US visit in July, the Taliban and al Qaeda have stepped up their propaganda against India.

'He just wanted to build a new house'

I had written on August 13: 'Reports from well-informed sources in Balochistan say that Musharraf has made a deal with the al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Hizbe Islami, under which he has promised not to interfere with their activities from their sanctuaries in Pakistani territory in return for their refraining from any terrorist attacks against him or in Pakistani territory.

'For the last about 10 months, there has been no major terrorist attack, barring the periodic anti-Shia strikes, in Pakistani territory attributable to these organisations. The first references to India in the messages of the al Qaeda and its leaders started appearing after the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Aeriel Sharon to India in 2003, but these messages did not refer to the so-called Kashmir issue.

'Against this background, it is significant that a recent message attributed to al Qaeda and its associates in Afghanistan refers to Kashmir. On August 9, the Al Arabiya television channel showed a video recording of what was described as the recent successful operations of al Qaeda and the Taliban against US troops in Afghanistan.

'A report on the video circulated by the Associated Press says:

'A purported al Qaeda-made video shows militants in Afghanistan -- including Europeans, Arabs and others -- preparing to attack US troops and showing off what they said was a US military laptop. The video features interviews with a masked man yelling: 'As you bomb us, you will be bombed!'

Kutty's village in shock

'It shows a group of men packing explosives into bombs. The program includes interviews with bearded fighters claiming they are avenging the killing of Muslims by the US, Britain, Israel and India.

'If this is terrorism and fundamentalism, then OK, we are terrorists and fundamentalists,' a Pakistani man who identifies himself as Bilal says in Urdu. The tapes feature a diatribe by a British or Australian-accented man wearing a black robe, AK-47 and military-style vest, who warns Westerners of 'the lies of Blair and Bush.'

'Yet another scene pans across a cache of captured US gear, including a laptop, an M-16, military radios, a global positioning satellite display and the ID card of slain Navy SEAL Danny Phillip Dietz Jr. Dietz, 25, was killed June 28 after his four-man reconnaissance team came under attack in Kunar province. The Chinook helicopter was downed and the 16 troops killed as the craft was on its way to aid Dietz, killing all aboard.

'An insurgent is shown going through the laptop's hard drive, zooming in on a US military document marked 'For Official Use Only' and a map of Kabul marked with the locations of the US and British embassies. The film is subtitled in Arabic, but carries interviews in English, French, Pashto and Urdu, as well as Arabic spoken with Yemeni, Saudi and Iraqi accents.'

'Other news agencies have quoted the British or Australian accented man appearing in the video as saying: 'We will not let you kill our families in Palestine, Afghanistan, Kashmir, the Balkans, Indonesia, the Caucasus and elsewhere.'

'While the authenticity of this video has not yet been established by the Western and Australian intelligence agencies, it does not appear to be a doctored one.

'It is not clear whether this video was recorded before the recent visit of our Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to the US or after the visit. The two countries' determination to co-operate against terrorism was highlighted during the visit.'

Commenting on the Delhi blasts of October 29, I had written: 'The blasts of October 29 have come in the wake of the propaganda against India stepped up by al Qaeda, the Taliban and the International Islamic Front following the recent visit to the US in July by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

'One has to seriously take into account the possibility that the Al Qaeda and/or the IIF might have now targeted India because of its open alignment, as seen by them, with the US on matters affecting the vital interests of the Islamic Ummah.' 

Jihad's new anti-US front

Only two persons could have effectively intervened with the Taliban and saved Kutty's life: Musharraf and Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the Amir of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam Pakistan, who is very close to the Taliban Amir.

Some of the Indian Deobandi leaders might have been able to seek the intervention of the Maulana, who would have been only too glad to try to be of assistance.

If it had not occurred to the Indian government to try these approaches, it shows how out of touch with the ground realities our policy makers have been.

B Raman