New Delhi (Sputnik) — The "mistaken" abduction of six Indian engineers in Afghanistan's Baghlan area is proving to be a serious crisis for the Indian government with news reports suggesting stalled negotiations between the local authorities and the Taliban. The Indian government has offered no official confirmation of the hostage crisis, choosing instead to remain tight-lipped on the matter.
Online news portal The Quint reported on Monday quoting sources that the Indian engineers kidnapped in Afghanistan over the weekend were being held in the Taliban-controlled village of Dand-i Shahabuddin on the northern fringes of the town of Pul-i Khumri in Afghanistan's Baghlan area. The portal reported that the negotiations between the Baghlan authorities and the kidnappers seemed to have derailed following tremendous media attention.
"Early on Sunday, Qari Bakhtiar said the kidnapping of the men was a mistake, and they would be released soon, but later on Sunday, as the kidnapping acquired a higher media profile, negotiations stalled," said an anonymous senior Baghlan official, as quoted by The Quint.
The abducted Indian engineers of the company KEC International had been working on a World Bank-funded project in Afghanistan in a war-torn area that somewhat falls under Taliban-controlled territory.
KEC International, a subsidiary of the RPG company, was among two Indian companies that won a $235.16 million contract in 2017, from Afghan state-run power firm Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, to build the CASA-1000 power line project, linking Pakistan via Afghanistan to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
As per an early arrangement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, the project was continuing under the understanding that once installed, power would be supplied to villages under their control, including Sang Soragh, Karadak, Alikhel, Zahrabi, Kamra and Dand-i Shahabuddin.
Meanwhile, some social media users have blamed the abduction on India's neighbor and rival Pakistan.
Indians abducted in Afghanistan. Comes as no surprise. Taliban or whomsoever it may be, buck stops at Rawalpindi.— LCA TEJAS (@Leopard212) May 6, 2018
Remember, kidnapping of Foreign tourists by Al Faran in Kashmir?
The abduction came to the Indian mainstream media's attention after RPG head Harsh Goenka tweeted seeking the Indian government's help in rescuing his staff. The Indian government has chosen not to comment on the issue.
We have not been able to establish any direct contact to start negotiations but we are making efforts to establish contact with local leaders and elders to secure their release, said the Baghlan Police Spokesman Zabihullah Shuja.
From infrastructure to education, India is engaged in projects worth $2 billion in rebuilding war-torn Afghanistan. In 2016, the two countries agreed to initiate an ambitious and forward-looking "New Development Partnership," according to which India agreed to take up 116 high-impact community development projects to be implemented in 31 provinces of Afghanistan.