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India joins anti-Taliban coalition

15 March 2001
India joins anti-Taliban coalition

By Rahul Bedi

India is believed to have joined Russia, the USA and Iran in a concerted front against Afghanistan's Taliban regime.

Military sources in Delhi, claim that the opposition Northern Alliance's capture of the strategic town of Bamiyan, was precipitated by the four countries' collaborative effort.

The 13 February fall of Bamiyan, after several days of heavy fighting, threatened to cut off the only land route from Kabul to Taliban troops in northern Afghanistan. However, media reports indicate that Taliban forces recaptured the town on 17 February.

India is believed to have supplied the Northern Alliance leader, Ahmed Shah Massoud, with high-altitude warfare equipment. Indian defence advisors, including air force helicopter technicians, are reportedly providing tactical advice in operations against the Taliban.

Twenty-five Indian army doctors and male nurses are also believed to be treating Northern Alliance troops at a 20-bed hospital at Farkhor, close to the Afghan-Tajik border. The Statesman newspaper quoting Indian officials said the medical contingent is being financed from Delhi.

Several recent meetings between the newly instituted Indo-US and Indo-Russian joint working groups on terrorism led to this effort to tactically and logistically counter the Taliban.

Intelligence sources in Delhi said that while India, Russia and Iran were leading the anti-Taliban campaign on the ground, Washington was giving the Northern Alliance information and logistic support. Oleg Chervov, deputy head of Russia's security council, recently described Taliban-controlled Afghanistan as a base of international terrorism attempting to expand into Central Asia. Radical Islamic groups are also trying to increase their influence across Pakistan, he said at a meeting of Indian and Russian security officials in Moscow. "All this dictates a pressing need for close co-operation between Russia and India in opposing terrorism," he said.

Military sources indicated that Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are being used as bases to launch anti-Taliban operations by India and Russia. They also hinted at the presence of a small Russian force actively assisting Massoud in the Panjsher Valley. "The situation in Afghanistan cannot be ignored as it impinges directly on the 12-year old Kashmir insurgency," an Indian military official said, adding that the Northern Alliance's elimination by the Taliban would be "disastrous" for India.

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