Send Special Forces to Afghanistan

India must begin to speak to the Taliban in a language they understand

Indian negotiators arrived in Afghanistan an hour after K Suryanarayana’s body was found, decapitated. His abductors demanded that India cease its development activities in Afghanistan but didn’t wait for an answer. Quite obviously they knew that the Indian government — which has provided over US$500 million in development aid — was hardly going to give in to their demand. It was thus just PR.

Suryanarayana was a telecom engineer working for a Bahraini company. He was neither a soldier nor an employee of the Indian government. His Taliban kidnappers killed him simply because of his nationality and religion. His kidnapping may have been opportunistic or premeditated. Once he fell into the Taliban’s hands the duration of the window of opportunity to rescue him would have been between a few hours to a day or two at best. Too short, in fact, for the Indian government to maintain both a “never bow to acts of terror” policy (which is the correct one) and yet hope to rescue the hostage.

When Maniappan Raman Kutty was killed a few months ago under similar circumstances, this blog called for the stationing of troops in Afghanistan. The Indian government, which then ‘reviewed’ the security arrangements obviously failed to even put up an effort to rescue Suryanarayana. It has now promised another ‘review’. Here’s what it should do — in addition to increasing the strength of regular army/paramilitary forces securing Indian projects, facilities and development workers, it should station special force units in key locations in Afghanistan. Their command post must be located in Kabul or Jalalabad, not New Delhi. India must speak to the Taliban in the language they understand. The para commandos, for example, speak that language very well.

Let’s look at the murderers’ demands: The halting of development work does not make Afghans better off in any way. It does make Pakistan better off — at least from the ISI’s perspective. Stung by what they allege is India’s support for the Balochistan insurgents, Pakistani intelligence will certainly want to score some points in return. If the Baloch insurgency strengthens, then it is all the more likely that the ISI will take it out on Indian civilians working across the border in Afghanistan. The presence of Indian troops there will enable India to put up an effort to rescue its citizens and also increase Pakistan’s costs of pursuing its current course.

Judging from India’s responses —- from IC-814 to Suryanarayana — the Taliban and their supporters cannot be blamed for confirming their belief that, rhetoric apart, India is not only soft, but powerless. The time has come to disabuse them. Let the special forces speak.

Related Link: Daniel Ashok Babu, an Indian national working in Afghanistan, writes that one does not have to be a rocket-scientist to figure out the Pakistan’s role in this. (via Desipundit)

19 thoughts on “Send Special Forces to Afghanistan”

  1. “it should station special force units in key locations in Afghanistan. Their command post must be located in Kabul or Jalalabad, not New Delhi. India must speak to the Taliban in the language they understand. The para commandos, for example, speak that language very well.”

    Hear hear!
    If the Germans and the Canadians can station troops in Afghanistan, I don’t see why Indians shouldn’t especially when Indian civvies are being kidnapped and murdered. The only language the Pakistani Fifth Coloumn is going to understand is one which comes from the mouth of the gun. This UPA govt. has to wake up and realise that the development of Afghanistan is important to India’s strategic goals in the region, and if it means stationing special units, then so be it. There is a time for everything, and maybe it is the time to get a lttle tough with our neighbours, even if it means a little diplomatic tiff.

  2. they should use the new base in Tajikistan to station forces there, that is if they really are serious in preserving Indian interests . If they don’t use the base for such purposes then it doesn’t make sense to have a base there in the first place.

  3. First and foremost I like many other citizens of India condemn this barbaric beheading of a Indian engineer by Taliban murderers. As is the case every time a Indian citizen is murdered by terrorist thugs, the Indian govt. dominated by eunuchs,gives lengthy speeches of condemnation. The time has come for the Indian govt. to show some guts and match action with deeds not words. It is also shameful and disgraceful that none of our so-called “Intellectuals” condemn these acts of savery and barbarity committed by blood-thirsty Islamo-fascist murderers on unarmed Indian civilians whether in Kashmir, Afghanistan or elsewhere.

  4. Agree on every count. The time is actually long past for sitting on our hands. By taking some serious counter-measures we safeguard the rest of the Indian contingent in Afghanistan (and elsewhere). The ISI-sponsored bozos only respect those who beat the daylights out of them. Let’s kindly oblige. And should be ISI raise the ante, there’s a path for severe escalation from our side. Suryanarayan and Kutty should not die in vain. New Delhi are you listening?

  5. I, too, would like to add my voice to the chorus call for swift action against the murderers of an innocent man. It would not be out of point to say that Pakistan had in this?

  6. Let us fix the situations in Nepal, SriLanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan before we go invest billions of dollars over the death of one Indian. Why do you feel that we would fair any different from the US in Iraq. The only reasons why I feel we would fair differently is because we do not have the military strength of the US, and because we already have large terrorist threats in our country. The US has only experienced one such event.

  7. Patel,

    No one is issuing a clarion-call for an invasion of Afghanistan of any kind. The argument very simplistically stated runs:

    1. India has strategic interests in Afghanistan
    a. It won’t hurt to have Afghanistan as an ally.
    b. To “deny strategic depth” to certain terrorists and their bosom
    buddies.
    c. We have geopolitical interests in Central Asia and Iran – trade and
    resources (oil and natural gas).

    2. In recognition of the above India helps develop infrastucture, schools,
    hospitals etc. in the country, thus
    a. Making sure a development takes place so that the Taliban can’t easily
    make a comeback, and
    b. earning goodwill

    3. However to ensure the above and recognising that it would not be in the Islamofascist’s interests (who are doing what they can to disrupt the same at the bidding of their masters) that it happens:
    We need a security presence and as Nitin mentions not in Delhi, but at hand where they can provide cover for the civvies doing the development work or providing support etc.

  8. I agree with you whole heartedly about your points, but do not see how that they cannot be accomplished without sending troops to afghanistan. Their are immediate consequences for India’s security were we to send troops to Afghanistan to try and improve their security. There are a number places we should be sending our troops before even considering Afghanistan.

    First, and foremost would be the maoists problems in our own states. This is a very critical time. By showing no mercy to maoists in the north east it will not only bring more stability to a number of troubled states, but also provide a strong incentive/warning sign to the maoists in Nepal not to renegade on their promise to end violence.

  9. Nitin,

    I have mixed thoughts about this.
    In principle I agree with power projection in the neighbourhood.
    However implementation wise I would put Afganistan on lower priority than our immediate neighbourhood to be specific Pakistan and Bangladesh.

    More than economic cost, I am afraid that Indian army is overstretched (from some data I read long time back) and hence not very enthusiastic about burdening it further

    Regards

    PS Kala Gulaab, Kala Gulaab

  10. Patel,

    Sending troops to secure Indian projects and special forces to execute rescue operations cannot in anyway be termed an ‘invasion’, and the comparison with the US invasion of Iraq is way off the mark. I think Abhishek has summed it up very well.

    There is absolutely no doubt that fighting Naxalites etc at home is very important. The troop complement required in Afghanistan will be extremely small given its limited objectives. If, as you and Gaurav contend, our forces are overstretched, why is India still contributing to UN Peace Keeping forces in Africa?

    The constraint is in terms of political will and national resolve, not in terms of military capabilities and resources.

  11. Nitin,
    Recently, there have been world wide protests over a bunch of cartoons, pretty silly no? Sending troops to Afghanistand will be seen as an invasion, and result in increased terrorist acts in India, worsen our ties with many islamic countries (who for the most part view us more favorably than they do the west).

    I am not saying that India should let these two reasons prevent it from behaving in its own interest, but it definitely should consider these to issues when determining what is in its best interest. Troops in Afhganistan are not it.

  12. Nitin,

    I do not agree with Patel,

    However I make a distinction between stationing troop in places like Africa (which is a part and parcel of being a responsbile member of UN) and Afaganistan, which in my opinion has tremendous importance for Indian self interest and therefore requires a long term plan geared towards a stable and pro India polity.

    Regards

  13. Patel,

    IMO you give less credit where it’s due. True the cartoon protests happened, but there was condemnation, as well, by members of the clergy on some of the over-the-top positions adopted by the more extrimist elements e.g. the UP minority affairs minister calling for beheading of the cartoonists. Similarly the Varanasi bombings and the murder of Suryanarayana have been condemned by the Islamic ulemmas in India as being un-Islamic. So:
    1. Extrimist elements are increasingly coming under fire by the Islamic clergy(who arguably hold a very high status in the Muslim community) and in the community itself.
    2. Terrorist acts don’t decrease if we back down, they will increase. Suryanarayana was murdered because there was no security. Similarly inside Indian territory, I really don’t think ISI and its cohorts are going to stop fuelling terrorism in India, if we don’t send troops to protect our citizens in Afghanistan.
    3. the Afghanistani Govt. is not going to be against GOI stationing troops to protect Indians helping them out. So it can’t be an ‘invasion’ if it’s w/ consent and approval of the local govt.
    4. Finally as far as relations w/ islamic states go, this is where the GoI will have to use its diplomatic muscle to explain the diff b/w an invasion and and aid.

  14. I agree its high time that the Indian government does something about the deaths of Indian citizens rather than long speeches-which are pretty empty and weightless despite the heavy use of words.

  15. Folks,
    I only see 2 options:
    1. Send special forces with the aid of US army to catch these animals who prey upon weak and defenceless humans. The forces should not rest until each coward is caught and brought to justice. A death of one is one too many.
    2. Take our Indian brothers/sisters out of Afghanistan until it is stable. If we want to help, we can do it financially. If we cant protect our citizens, dont send them to such places.

    I cant tell how much anguish/anger I have over this brutal incident.
    – Mehul

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