NEW DELHI // India's steadily growing ties with Afghanistan, coupled with its role in reconstructing the war-ravaged country, have emerged as key reasons for the suicide bombing of its embassy in Kabul on Monday, in which 41 people died, including India's military attache and a senior diplomat. Afghanistan's interior ministry said the attack was executed in co-ordination with "an active intelligence service in the region", a thinly veiled reference to neighbouring Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.
Pakistan has denied any involvement. For years India and Pakistan have battled for strategic influence in Afghanistan, once described as the cockpit of Central Asia. As Pakistan gave its backing to the Taliban, eventually installing the hardline regime in Kabul in the 1990s, India was supporting the opposition Northern Alliance, whose leader was assassinated by al Qa'eda two days after the Sept 11 attacks.
Pakistan's influence in Afghanistan has been waning since Sept 11 when, after intense US pressure, Islamabad turned its back on the Taliban which a US-led invasion toppled from power later that year for failing to give up the al Qa'eda leader, Osama bin Laden. The Taliban and al Qa'eda, backed by the ISI, however, have continued to rankle at India's growing presence in Afghanistan, including its help with training the Afghan army in counter-insurgency operations, analysts said.