India today evacuated about 50 diplomats and other staff members from its consulate in the Afghan city of Kandahar on Sunday, by an Indian Air Force flight. The city has been under siege by the Taliban forces for the past 3 days. Kandahar was the Taliban’s seat of power prior to the US and NATO moved in after the 9/11 attacks. Indian security experts say that Kandahar may fall any time.
“India is closely monitoring the evolving security situation in Afghanistan. The safety and security of our personnel is paramount. The Consulate General of India in Kandahar has not been closed. However, due to the intense fighting near Kandahar city, India based personnel have been brought back for the time being. I want to emphasize that this is a purely temporary measure until the situation stabilizes. The Consulate continues to operate through our local staff members.
“Arrangements are being made to ensure continued delivery of visa and consular services through our Embassy in Kabul,” writes Arindam Bagchi, a spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
In a July 08 briefing, Arindam Bagchi had said “our embassy in Kabul and our consulates in Kandahar and Mazar- e- Sharif are functional. We are, however, carefully monitoring the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and its implications on the security and safety of Indian nationals in Afghanistan. Our responses will be calibrated accordingly, depending on how the situation evolves.”
Earlier, the Indian embassy in Kabul had asked Indians to exercise caution and avoid non-essential travel to Afghanistan. An advisory issued by the embassy had described the situation in Afghanistan as “dangerous.”
“The speed of Taliban advance and the feeble resistance it is meeting from Govt forces has shocked the world including the departing American and NATO countries. Kandahar is seriously threatened and is being evacuated by most embassies including India. With civil war looming and the Taliban and China cosying up what happens to India’s 3 billion USD investment is anybody’s guess. With the Taliban angry with Pakistan there will be serious friction as well as collusion with the Pakistani Taliban which is against Indian interests. A grim issue for the world peace in terms of civil war,” said Security columnist, Major General Raj Mehta (Retd).
“India’s sudden decision of evacuating its staff members from the Consulate in Kandahar due to the fighting near the city of Kandahar as a precautionary measure though justified conveys a strong message to the Afghan leadership. Is such a step a mere precursor to the permanent closure of the Consulate, like the closure of two other Consulates of Herat and Jalalabad, which were closed last year? Are we going to see a further withdrawal of Indian staff from the Embassy from Kabul? These are events to be watched in the coming months as India should not get embroiled in the fight between the Afghan Government troops and the Taliban. The bomb attack on 7 July 2008 on the Embassy in Kabul, and as reported by the New York Times, mastered by Pak ISI, which killed 48 personnel, including the Indian Defence Attache, remains fresh in the minds of the Indian polity and the Indian Army. India must be wary of repetitions of the kind of 2008 with the strong connect having been established between Pak terrorist groups and Taliban” said Brigadier Rajiv Williams (Retd).
“No power on earth has been able to sudue Afghanistan in the recent times except Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The victory of the Taliban was a foregone conclusion when the US decided to leave. Principles of liberal democracy is not acceptable to the Taliban. The imposition of Sharia is what will happen,” said Group Captain Johnson Chacko (Retd).
“Kandahar is under attack by the Taliban. It may fall anytime. The Kandahar faction of the Taliban is close to Pakistan, thus India had no option but to pull out its diplomats,” said author and national security analyst, Colonel Rajinder Singh Kushwaha (Retd).
“It’s a good step by the Union Government to evacuate Indian diplomats. Although India has a strategic interest in having a presence in Afghanistan, for which diplomatic presence helps. But in the end, the safety of the country’s citizens is more important. The Indian government has a history of safeguarding its citizen’s interests across the world, especially its diplomats. So the current action is consistent with government policy,” said Shashwat Gupta Ray, veteran Defence Journalist and the former Resident Editor, Gomantak Times.
“To be there or not to be there, that is the question, and it does appear that the time is up, it’s time to return home, prudence being the better part of valour in the vale and mountains. For long the well armed nations have let slip the dogs of war in that country, to what finite end? It is hard to discern, for there never has been any meaningful closure or development, simply a caricature of strutting and fretting on a stage, as the Bard would say, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It is believed that India has invested over USD 3 billion over the years on development activities without a military presence. When seen in the context of our own poverty, it is money invested in trying to make heaven out of hell. Would it not be more prudent to shore up our own needs and try and achieve the famous quote of ‘Garibi Hatao’ heard half a century ago? Has there been a method in the madness of our tryst with Afghanistan? There’s nothing much to show. It’s probably best for our country to have a policy of “India First”, as we build our economy, before we squander the tax payers’ money in foreign lands,” said Rear Admiral Vineet Bakhshi (Retd).
Other than the Kabul embassy, India maintains consulates in Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar, and Mazar- e- Sharif.