India on Saturday emphasised that it would continue to work with Afghanistan and carry on with the humanitarian and reconstruction mission in the country, including medical work here that took a hit after the February 26 terror strike.
“We have temporarily suspended the medical mission here. The other four in Afghanistan are going on and we will continue to work here in future,” National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon said at a press conference at the end of his two-day visit here.
India's Ambassador to Afghanistan Jayant Prasad told The Hindu that the Indian Medical Mission here came under attack for the good work it was doing in earning goodwill and building bonds with the people of Afghanistan. Even now, four medical missions continue to operate in Kandhar, Jalalabad, Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat, where India has consulates. He said the spirit of the Indian medical personnel was personified in Dr. Paul who survived the attack with a bullet graze and remains here and is eager to restart work.
Having held meetings with top political and security officials in Kabul during the last two days, Mr. Menon said the two-day mission was to continue the high-level engagement with Afghanistan and also review the situation in the wake of the recent terror attack that killed 7 Indians, including two Army officers.
New Delhi, he asserted, would remain engaged in Afghanistan, carrying on with its developmental work, and “do things as they [Afghanistan] want us to do'' while adjusting the manner in which these were done.
Mr. Menon did not elaborate as to what “adjustments,” were being planned except stating that these largely related to the timing of movement of personnel engaged in various activities so as not to form a predictable pattern.
However, it is understood that India wants the private companies engaged here to alter the model of engagement by training Afghan people in India and then employing them to train the local population and give sub-contracts to these trained personnel.
One shift of focus is to expand the security to include the Indian community going beyond the current measures that takes care of officials and those engaged in official projects at places outside Kabul where the vulnerability factor is greater.
Some 3,500 Indians work here in power, road construction and other infrastructure projects. However, almost 2,500 of them are located in secure areas, while the rest require greater degree of security.
The NSA said he returned home satisfied and that the future of India-Afghanistan relations were much brighter. He said that while both sides would keep working on it since it was not the question of just bilateral relations but in the larger context of peace and stability in the region.
Meanwhile, the Indira Gandhi Medical Hospital, where Indian Army doctors and para-medical staff were providing humanitarian relief, here wore a deserted look. The hospital used to treat some 400 to 500 children every day providing free medication. Many parents expressed a great sense of loss since the terror attacks resulted in their children losing out on medical care.
While there is no timeline for re-starting the medical mission here, sources said that besides getting a new set of doctors/para-medical staff, the issue of the safety of ‘soft targets' had to be attended to.