Masoud joins hands with India

The Frontier Post, July 1, 1999

By AIMAL KHAN PESHAWAR - In the wake of mounting tension at the Line of Control (LoC), India has stepped up its secret contacts with former defence minister of Afghanistan and arch rival of ruling Taliban militia Ahmad Shah Masoud. The process of secret consultations between Indian officials and Masoud has significantly increased in the past few weeks. According to credible Afghan sources, unprecedented warmth was witnessed in relations between India and Masoud during the month of June which also saw increased exchange of visits between the two sides. India has traditionally been supporting Afghanistan's opposition Northern Alliance ever since the rise of Taliban. The sources said Masoud sent his nephew, Wadood, along with his close aide Dr Mehdi on a secret mission to New Delhi in early June with an undisclosed agenda. However, it was believed that the Tajik commander wanted to capitalise on the on-going tension along the LoC between India and Pakistan by getting New Delhi's backing for his summer offensive. India has frequently accused Afghanistan's Taliban fighters of having joined the ranks of Kashmiri Mujahideen in the on-going conflict in Kargil and Drass regions of Kashmir. The most intriguing aspect of the on-going secret contacts between Masoud and India is that the latter is asking the Tajik warlord to hand it over some of those Pakistani and Taliban prisoners, who were in his custody so that later on New Delhi could produce them before international media as "captured Pakistani intruders" from Kargil region, added the sources. Similarly, a high level Indian delegation, led by a former Indian ambassador to Afghanistan R. A Qureshi and comprising among others Indian ambassador to Tajikistan, visited Masoud's stronghold in Panjsher valley and held a detailed meeting with him. Interestingly, in one such meeting between the Indian officials and leaders of Afghan opposition, held at Farkhar in Takhar province three weeks ago, a high ranking official from a neighbouring Muslim country also participated, added the source. India, the sources added, assured Masoud of its all out support to his summer military offensive against Taliban. In the background of Pakistan's increased engagement in Kashmir, Masoud is considering it an appropriate time to launch an attack on the Taliban's positions in Kundooz and northern Kabul. Masoud was asked by the Indians to utilise his network for sabotage activities in Pakistan and to create law and order situation, the sources disclosed. According to Afghan observers, the recent rocket and missile attacks on Kabul and Jalalabad and the heavy explosions in the Afghan capital were seen as an attempt by the opposition to win the support from its Indian master by displaying its might and capability.

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