Pakistani fighters, Taliban told to first target Indian assets in Afghanistan

Currently, India's major assets in Afghanistan include the 218-km Delaram-Zaranj highway, the India Afghanistan friendship dam (also known as the Salma Dam) and Afghan Parliament building

It is still unclear if the Indian government will be allowed to maintain a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan with the return of the Taliban. Pic: Representational image PTI

As a large number of Pakistan terror groups have entered Afghanistan to join Taliban in their fight against the government, Pakistan intelligence agency, ISI, has ostensibly instructed them to first target buildings and infrastructure constructed by India, over the last 20 years, in war-torn Afghanistan.

Sources told India Today that even as 10,000 Pakistani jihadi fighters have joined Taliban in their battle against the government, they have been explicitly told to first focus on bringing down Indian assets and buildings.

Many Pakistani fighters have entered Afghanistan through its porous borders, while several were already there actively fighting against the US and allied forces. After the exit of the US and NATO forces, Taliban has been vigorously pushing ahead with military offensives across Afghanistan, making significant progress which is being viewed with unease by the international community, including India.

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Since Afghanistan is critical to India’s strategic interests in the region, India has been pouring aid into the country, under the protective gaze of the US. India has built vital roads, dams, electricity transmission lines and substations, schools and hospitals, etc., and has reportedly spent well over $3 billion in rebuilding Afghanistan.

Also read: Endgame in Afghanistan rattles everyone in the region and beyond

With the 2011 India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement, India had recommitted Indian assistance to help rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure and institutions and had lined up nearly 400-plus projects in all 34 of Afghanistan’s provinces.

Currently, India’s major assets in Afghanistan includes the 218-km highway between Delaram and Zaranj; the India Afghanistan friendship dam (also known as the Salma Dam) and the Afghan Parliament building. The 42MW Salma Dam in Herat province,  a hydropower and irrigation project, was completed against all odds and inaugurated in 2016. Today, the Taliban have mounted attacks in nearby places around the dam and claim the area is under their control.

Meanwhile, the Zaranj-Delaram highway has been built by the Border Roads Organisation.  Zaranj is located near the Afghanistan’s border with Iran, and this highway is of strategic importance to New Delhi, as it provides an alternative route into landlocked Afghanistan through Iran’s Chabahar port. Six Indians working on this project had lost their lives as they were killed in terrorist attacks, while five had died in accidents.

The Afghan Parliament in Kabul was built by India at a cost of $90 million. It was opened in 2015, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurating the building.

Meanwhile, it is still unclear if the Indian government will be allowed to maintain a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan with the return of the Taliban. There has been no indication or assurance received from the ultra-radical Islamic establishment who are seen as being opposed to India.

However, Indians working in the construction field and civil works have been asked to move out of Afghanistan. Only two Indian institutions are functioning in Afghanistan – the consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif and the embassy in Kabul.

The Kandahar Indian citizens and security personnel from Kandahar consulate have returned to India recently, while the Jalalabad and Herat consulates were shut earlier.

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