| Suryanarayana’s widow Manjula and her three children in tears at their home in Hyderabad. For many hours, Manjula sat clasping his picture, occasionally wiping it with a wet cloth. Six-year-old son Satyateja kept punching his cell number and asking: “Why is appa not answering' He always responds within two rings.” (AFP)
April 30: K. Suryanarayana was today found beheaded in Afghanistan in a new Great Game in which tactics are becoming more cold-blooded and motives less concealed.
The 41-year-old telecom engineer from Hyderabad was killed much before the deadline set by the Taliban for his execution expired, prompting India to label the murder a “premeditated” act by the militia and its “sponsors”.
“It (the killing) was a premeditated act committed before the Indian team led by a senior official of the ministry of external affairs could reach there,” foreign secretary Shyam Saran said in Delhi. “It demonstrates that the Taliban were not interested in negotiations.”
Delhi found the Taliban’s demand that all Indians should leave Afghanistan within 24 hours “outrageous” as well as menacing.
The Taliban’s blanket condition reflects a gradual change in priorities and motives: what once began as localised demands like freedom for comrades are increasingly acquiring a larger sweep, which means bigger forces are at play.
India pinned the blame on the Taliban’s “sponsors” but stopped short of naming any country. A reference was made to the usual suspect, Pakistan, but in an indirect manner.
“We know the Taliban have been active on the Pakistan-Afghan border. Even Pakistan is affected by their terror. So everyone, including Pakistan, needs to confront this,” Saran said.
South Block was rippling with suggestions of how a new version of the Great Game 'originally used to describe the race among the big powers for strategic control of Afghanistan ' is being played out in the treacherous terrain.
After the Taliban regime collapsed, India has been helping Afghanistan rebuild itself. In the process, Delhi has regained a toehold in the region for the first time since the Soviet Union pulled out.
The area where Suryanarayana was working ' eastern Afghanistan on the western border of Pakistan ' is strategically the most crucial for Islamabad. By undertaking infrastructure projects there, India has brought alive Pakistan’s worst nightmare ' the possibility of a new playground for Delhi in an area so far considered inaccessible.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who visited India this month, may have aggravated Islamabad’s fears when he said he is keen on “trilateral cooperation” among his country, India and Pakistan. Besides, Karzai had made it clear when he was in Pakistan that India cannot be kept out of the reconstruction programme in Afghanistan.
The statements carry in them the possibility of India stepping up its activities along the western border of Pakistan in Afghanistan.
Saran vowed today to continue India’s “fraternal assistance to the people of Afghanistan in their endeavours to bring peace, stability and economic recovery”.
This means that having clawed back some of the lost ground, India can ill-afford to step back now, though it is ill-equipped to protect those on the field in Afghanistan.
The body of Suryanarayana was spotted by a police patrol this morning in a roadside ditch in Zabul in southeastern Afghanistan. The Taliban had threatened to kill him by Sunday 6 pm unless the condition was met.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said the engineer was killed while trying to flee but Afghan officials rubbished the claim. “The engineer was in a room with one guard, he attacked the guard and punched him, went out of the building running as other Mujahedin shot him dead,” Ahmadi said by satellite phone.