Working To Ensure Freedom Of Abducted Indian Engineers: Afghanistan Government
Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani (Photo: Afghanistan Mission to the UN)

Afghanistan government said it is working at the highest level to ensure the release of seven kidnapped Indian engineers in the country. Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, who met Indian envoy Vinay Kumar in his office, spoke about efforts initiated through community elders to help secure their release.

The Afghan foreign ministry said in a statement, “At the outset, Foreign minister Rabbani expressed grief and sorrow over the abduction of Indian engineers in Baghlan province and said that the Afghan security forces will not spare any efforts to protect the physical safety and secure the release of these engineers. He also mentioned that efforts have been initiated through the community elders to help secure their release.”

The statement came a day after Rabbani spoke over telephone with India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj about the abduction.

“Rabbani in the conversation assured the Indian External Affairs Minister that the Afghan security forces would not spare any efforts in rescuing and ensuring the security and safety of the engineers,” the Afghan statement said.

The seven Indians, employed with Indian power company KEC International, were abducted on Sunday, May 5 by suspected Taliban gunmen in northern Afghanistan. The Indian workers were working on a project to build an energy substation in the country. No group has publicly claimed responsibility for the abduction. But Baghlan Governor Abdulhai Nemati was quoted by local media as saying that a Taliban group has communicated to authorities through local residents that the Indians had been mistaken for Afghan government staff.

The Pajhwok Afghan News quoted provincial police spokesman Zabiullah Shuja as saying that the abductees were in good health, citing initial information.

India is Afghanistan’s sixth largest donor, providing the country with some $2 billion in effective aid since 2001. An estimated 3,000 Indian nationals in Afghanistan work for reconstruction companies, international aid agencies or are Indian government employees working at the consulates and embassies.  India has targeted its aid to the country in the form of aid and infrastructure programs which include infrastructure development  like building power stations and dams, institutional capacity building, small development projects, as well as food security assistance in the form of ongoing deliveries of wheat to Afghanistan.

Due to their work in infrastructure, Indians are largely seen as a neutral party and also have historic goodwill in Afghanistan. However, the Indian Embassy in Kabul has been targeted by Taliban supported by Pakistan’s ISI.