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India surrenders in Kabul: Retreat begins

India surrenders in Kabul: Retreat begins

The inevitable has happened. Hardly had the ink dried on the instrument of the Strategic Dialogue in Washington between Pakistan and American–that Delhi has announced a gradual but determined withdrawal from Kabul.

The loud bluster from Delhi about staying in Afghanistan for the long haul have been replaced by the silent whimper and the sound of “cut and run” from Kabul. The deteriorating security condition in Kabul, the belligerence of Mr. Karzai, the enmity with Tehran, the downgrading of relations with the USA, lack of support from Russia, enmity with China, and the antagonism with Pakistan are some of the chief reasons for the withdrawal–which is being seen as big as the of the Bharat forces from Lanka, and the Maldives.

After the snub during the tripartite conference in Tehran, the exclusion of Bharat from the Istanbul conference on Afghanistan, and the fact that Bharat was ignored in the London International Conference on Afghanistan, Bharat knew the writing on the wall. Media reports emanating from Delhi reflected this diminution of Bharati stature.

Bharat protested with the Turks–to no avail. Ms. Rao made the rounds in Washington and did not find an ear. Even Mr. Putin could not provide any help. Mr. Obama i Kabul reiterated that Pakistan would help bring peace in Kabul.

Though the retreat is being sugar coated as a temporary “suspension”, analysts believe that the Bharati staff is not willing to stay in Kabul any more. Bharat has tried all the tricks to prevent the departure; it tried to talk to Mr. Karzai, it has tried to approach the Saudis, and it tried to convince the Americans–al lthis came to naught.

The final hair that broke the camels back was the snub by the Iranian government which even refused to meet the Bharati Foreign Minsiter, or even give a date so that the Bharati Premier could schedule a trip to Tehran.

New Delhi: India may keep insisting that it is in Afghanistan for the long haul, but on the ground there are signs that it is gradually winding down its presence following persistent attacks on Indian interests there. Officials here say that the terms of engagement may be changing but India is not in retreat.

A more honest appraisal would be that this is a tactical scaling down and much will depend on how the situation pans out once the Americans and Nato forces whittle down their numbers at the end of next year. India winds down its presence in Kabul. Seema Guha / DNAThursday, April 1, 2010 0:59 IST

The farce of “suspension” is not being accepted even by the Bharati media. Ambassador Bhadrakumar describes it as the worst foreign policy failure that Delhi has ever faced. Ms. Seema Guha has described Delhi’s dilemma succinctly when she says that an honest appraisal would clearly describe this as a withdrawal and a beginning of the end of Bharati involvement in Afghanistan.

KABUL—India temporarily suspended its medical aid and teaching missions in Kabul following the February bombing of a guesthouse in the Afghan capital that killed or wounded most of the staff members.

Both programs should be up and running again by the summer, when many of the staffers who were wounded return and volunteers step forward to replace those slain, said an Indian diplomat in Kabul on Wednesday. Six Indian nationals were among the 17 killed in the attack. It isn’t clear how many were wounded.

Medical missions in four other Afghan cities are still operating, said an Indian official speaking from New Delhi. Those missions treated about 320,000 Afghans in 2009, according to India’s foreign ministry.

India’s prominent role in rebuilding Afghanistan—it also has donated more than $1.5 billion in the past nine years—has made it one of the key non-Western backers of President Hamid Karzai. But that, in turn, has nurtured a quiet proxy battle for influence here between India and Pakistan, which has traditionally viewed Afghanistan as within its sphere.

U.S. officials and experts believe Pakistan’s fears of an Indian-allied government in Kabul are a major reason why Pakistan has allowed the Taliban to operate from its territory and, at times, provided material support to the insurgents.

Pakistan denies aiding or sheltering the Taliban, and the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s spy agency, has in recent months arrested a number of top Afghan insurgent leaders.

Indians interests in Afghanistan, meanwhile, have faced repeated attack from the Taliban and its Islamist allies. ASIA NEWSMARCH 31, 2010, 12:49 P.M. ET. By MATTHEW ROSENBERG. Indian Efforts in Kabul Suspended After February Bombing

What the Bharati press is not saying–the retreat has been forced by the US and the UK–which have been leading the charge for the expulsion of Bharati influence and the pairing down of its Consulates in Afghanistan.

The February 26 attack on a guest house and hotel in the heart of Kabul brought home the danger in a big way. Since then, New Delhi’s concerns about the safety of its nationals have become a major concern. Earlier, there were two deadly attacks on the Indian embassy in Kabul.

“We are not scaling down at all, but certainly we do not want to expose our citizens to terrorist attacks. We are hoping to tweak the new projects and ensure that while we keep helping the people of Afghanistan as long as they need us, we will make the operations safer for our nationals,” an official said. India winds down its presence in Kabul. Seema Guha / DNAThursday, April 1, 2010 0:59 IST

Bharat faces a total meltdown in its operations in Kabul; its employees are in revolt, ready to bolt out of the city; its projects blown up before they can be completed; its citizens under threat from the Taliban; its please to Mr. Kabul falling on deaf ears.

When Bharat supported Mr. Abdullah Abdullah instead of Mr. Karzai, it shose the wrong horse to support. Mr. Karzai was not impressed by this Bharati deceit. He has now made a decision that Bharat is not to be trusted and wants them out.

When Bharat decided to cozy up with the Israelis, it antagonized the Iranians. When Delhi launched a Iran specific satellite for Israel and stabbed Tehran in the back during the IAEA meeting, Iranians were furious. They immediately canceled the $6 Billion LNG project. Further they went ahead with the Iran Pakistan pipeline program and is now extending it to China. When mr. Rigi the Jundullah terrorist met with the Indian Ambassador in Kabul, he was nabbed by the Pakistanis and handed over to the Iranians. Iran then snubbed the Bharati Foreign Minsiter by not giving them dates to visit and all but canceled Premier Manmohan Singh’s visit to Iran.

All this has reduced Bharat’s clout in Afghanistan–and has led to the entourage packing its bags.

Indians are now increasingly being targeted in Afghanistan as Pakistan prepares to win back ground it lost to India since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001. When the Taliban was in control in Kabul, from 1996, Pakistan ruled the roost and ensured that India was completely out of Afghanistan.

But after the February attack, nearly 50% of those working in various projects in Afghanistan have returned home. There are just two major works now in hand. The rest, like the 218-km Zelarang-Delaram highway, the 220 kv DC transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul and a sub-station on Chimtala, have been completed and handed over to the Afghan government. India winds down its presence in Kabul. Seema Guha / DNAThursday, April 1, 2010 0:59 IST

Bharat has antagonized both the Iranians and the Pakistanis by building a dam in Afghanistan which stops water to Iran and Pakistan. The projects were built to help Bharati trucks rumble to Kabul and to Central Asia. The road is already in disrepair and not pliable. The Taliban control it anyway.

Two major projects where work is on in full swing is the construction of the parliament building in Kabul and the Salma Dam power project. Both are to be completed by 2011.

Security for Indian workers in the parliament site is being provided by a private Indian security firm. Most of the guards here are former army soldiers. Afghan security men give additional cover.

Of the 55 Indians on the project, about 23 are engineers. All of them live on the work site in makeshift houses. The Salma dam project has roughly the same arrangement. The Indian embassy in Kabul as well as the consulates in Kandahar, Jalalabad, Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif are guarded by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. India winds down its presence in Kabul. Seema Guha / DNAThursday, April 1, 2010 0:59 IST

There are rumors that there are many more soldiers in Afghanistan than Delhi is divulging. Numbers as high as 10,000 have been mentioned.

But roughly 3,500 Indians now working in Afghanistan are there by choice and working in private firms, for the government of Afghanistan, the UN, as well as for the Americans in Bagram base. India is unable to provide security to them and has to make do with frequent advisories.

NGO’s like Sewa were doing excellent work, but after the latest
attack, most of the Indians have left for home. The military doctors working for the Indira Gandhi hospital have closed shop. But the medical missions in Kandahar, Jalalabad, Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif are still operating. Vocational training projects are also on hold. India is not taking on any new projects. Pakistan has certainly got the upper hand at the moment
. India winds down its presence in Kabul. Seema Guha / DNAThursday, April 1, 2010 0:59 IST

Bharat has taken the wise step to begin withdrawing. It has taken the first step. Many more steps will be taken. Bharat will try all its usual tactics. It will try to stage spectacular events to divert the attention of the world media and obfuscate the issue, it will try to malign Pakistan for any and all issues, and it will try tooth and nail to stay.

Bharati departure will be welcomed in capitals around the world, and it will not be missed by many.

  1. April 12, 2010 at 10:12 am

    You are publishing many of our article without link backs and credit given to our site. Kindly make sure that you provide link backs

    Editor Hindustan Globe

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