Kabul express heads for India.
With the Taliban mounting attacks almost every day and Pakistansponsored terror groups such as the Haqqani network triggering off suicide attacks in the heart of Kabul, the going was getting tough even for top Afghan officials.
With the 2014 deadline for complete withdrawal of the US and Nato forces from Afghanistan fast approaching, the upper echelons of the Afghan government are seeking safer grounds for their families, putting New Delhi in a difficult position to accommodate requests of safe passage for hundreds of families of top Afghan leaders and provincial governors.
But with the security situation in Afghanistan worsening, India has now rolled out a secret plan to give refuge to many of its old friends and their families. The government is working on this plan to extend cover to many more such Afghan families who will be protected by funds out of the budget of India's top two intelligence agencies.
Since 1992, former Afghanistan President Najibullah's family has been kept in a safe house in Lutyen's Delhi with a monthly allowance of ` 100,000 as well as security.
In 1996, the then external affairs minister I. K. Gujral had said in Parliament " President Najibullah's family has been in India since 1992. I have conveyed to Mrs Najibullah that, while she would naturally be taking decisions about her future, she will always be an honoured guest among us and we will do all that is required to look after the welfare of the family." That became a doctrine which India has been following since.
Given the escalating violence in Afghanistan, an Indian official told MAIL TODAY : " We have to take care of our friends, especially when they are in need. Our help is only on humanitarian grounds and to ensure the safety of their families." For India, which is pumping in a lot of money in aid and reconstruction projects in Afghanistan given the strategic stakes in that country, taking care of the top leaders and their families is a small price to pay, considering that it is the goodwill that India has generated which has helped it gain a strategic foothold despite all odds.
What is interesting is that many of these functionaries have refused similar offers from the US and other countries and India has become a preferred destination because of the goodwill it has among the Afghans and the secure facilities it offers.
INDIA'S GREAT GAME
Top Afghan leaders seek safe retreat for their families in New Delhi
New Delhi works on a secret plan to relocate them from Afghanistan
Funds will be rolled out by two intelligence agencies of the government
The idea is to provide them with a secure identity and only a handful of top functionaries will know their locations and identities
The rationale is that this will give New Delhi a strategic edge in the ' great game' in Afghanistan after 2014, once the international forces leave the country
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