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. Indians At Risk In Afghanistan

Indian media surround the coffin containing the body of Indian engineer K. Suryanarayana, a contractor for Afghan mobile telephone network Roshan, in transit to the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, at the Indra Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, 01 May 2006. Police in Afghanistan found the headless body on 30 April of an Indian engineer kidnapped two days before by Taliban militants, a killing that earned swift condemnation from New Delhi. Photo courtesy of Manpreet Romana and AFP.
by Kushal Jeena
New Delhi (UPI) May 02, 2006
India needs to strengthen its intelligence mechanism in Afghanistan to protect its workers and engineers engaged in reconstruction work in the war-ravaged nation, Indian strategic affairs analysts said Monday.

"India needs to strengthen its capacity to collect information, assess the risks involved and inform those who are prepared to embark on difficult postings," said Ajai Sahani, executive director of the Institute of Conflict Management, a New Delhi based think-tank.

Sahani said the government has no plan to offer protection as more and more Indians find their way to turbulent places all over the globe in search of lucrative jobs.

An Indian telecom engineer K. Suryanarayana -- who was working with a Bahrain-based telecommunication company in Afghanistan -- was abducted and subsequently beheaded by the Taliban even before negotiations could begin for his release.

After Suryanarayana's abduction, the Taliban gave a 24 hour ultimatum to all Indians working in Afghanistan to leave the country or else the abducted engineer would be killed.

The warning was a clear indication that the Islamist extremists were not willing to negotiate his release. His killing was premedidated.

"It was obvious that the kidnappers were not interested in negotiating for his release but had premeditated his killing. The outrageous demand that all Indians should leave Afghanistan with 24 hours testifies to the real motivation behind this act of terror," said Shayam Saran, India's foreign secretary.

India said it could not be cowed down by such acts of terrorism and is determined to play its role to re-build Afghanistan.

"India was appalled by this dastardly and inhuman act of terror on the part of Taliban and its sponsors. The slain engineer had like many of his compatriots, been making a contribution to Afghanistan's reconstruction," Saran said.

The Taliban announced the killing of Indian engineer a few hours after his abduction from a site. The Islamist militants said he was killed while trying to escape.

"The Indian engineer was in a room with one guard, he attacked the guard and punched him, went out of the building running as other mujahedin shot him dead," said a Talibani spokesman.

The Indian government swung into action immediately after the engineer's abduction. A rescue and crisis management team was formed and left for Kabul to negotiate with the Islamic militants. However, the militants killed the Indian even before the team landed in Kabul.

The brutal killing of Suryanarayana is also a test for an Indian government that has time and again reiterated its commitment to contribute as much as it could to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The rugged country was liberated from the Taliban by international coalition forces led by the United States and Britain.

The killing was also an attempt to intimidate India into abandoning its major role in the ongoing international attempts to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.

Indian engineers and other workers have helped Afghanistan construct many buildings, including its parliament. India has also trained Afghans in many fields including telecommunications, public transportation, intelligence gathering and policing.

By refusing to succumb to any pressure from terrorists, India has maintained its policy of not giving in to the demands of those who take its nationals hostage. The Taliban has always considered Indians soft targets, as it was evident from the Kandahar hijacking case of 1999.

"India must unambiguously state that there would be no down-grading of its workers and engineers in Afghanistan," said Sahani. He added that any change in the policy in this direction would be a victory for the Taliban's action against India in Afghanistan.

As the killing of Suryanarayana is not the end of murders of Indians in the Afghanistan countryside, India must work out some strategy to deal with the Taliban and to provide adequate protection to its workers in that country.

New Delhi could strengthen and widen its intelligence links with Afghan security and intelligence forces, expand training and the arming of police, security forces and the Afghan national army, he explained.

India along with the international community is helping Kabul set up an intelligence network to collect information about the activities of the Taliban. To better provide security for its workers, India may seek to improve the protection of government personnel working in Afghanistan.

However, Indians like Surayanarayana working with private companies would likely continue to remain open to Taliban attacks.

Source: United Press International

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