By the time this article appears in print, it is likely that the remaining 19 South Korean Christian aid workers, held hostage by Taliban militia for over six weeks, would have been released. This has implications that New Delhi would do well to take note of.
To begin with, the South Koreans are the second known group of foreign Christian missionaries who have entered Afghanistan in the guise of aid workers, but in reality to preach the Bible and convert local residents. The first group comprised German missionaries working for an NGO ostensibly specialising in providing shelters to persons in disturbed zones. They were kidnapped by Taliban guerrillas on the charge of indulging in conversion activities, which was strenuously denied by the German government and the concerned NGO so long as the workers were in captivity. But after America bombed Afghanistan after the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and the group was rescued sometime in 2002, the hostages admitted at they were in Kabul to preach the Gospel.
The South Korean evangelists, however, were more honest about their intentions, and when the ineffective Afghan President Hamid Karzai proved incapable of helping them release their personnel, openly appealed to the United States – the fountainhead and main sponsor of international evangelism. The response was heart-warming: the Karzai government was asked to provide safe passage to Taliban negotiators with the South Korean regime, and soon thereafter Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi announced that the missionaries, mostly young women in their 20s and 30s, would soon be released through the good offices of tribal elders. Two hostages were released earlier and two males were executed in July this year.
Some inferences are obvious. One, the US-dominated West remains fully committed to the conversion of the entire world to Christianity, and no efforts are spared in the pursuit of this quest. The Hindu-Indian complacency that Christians do not dare to practice conversions in Muslim-dominated areas (of India) or in Islamic countries, rests on willful ignorance. In the violence-prone Kashmir Valley where Hindu spiritual leaders dare not enter, Christian evangelists have admittedly altered the demographic profile by five per cent (unofficial reports put the figure at 10 per cent).
In neighbouring Pakistan, the burqa-clad Chinese women who were allowed to leave Lal Masjid before the army action, may well have been evangelists. Even Afghan refugees in Pakistan have been vulnerable to missionaries. Last year, one Rashid who was converted to Christianity while working for a western NGO in Pakistan, fell foul of his own family members on return to Kabul. President Karzai was subjected to intense international pressure to allow him to leave the country, and Italy provided the convert with refuge.
The fact that the West dares evangelize in Islamic countries, where conversion is apostasy and punishable by death, exposes its fanaticism and utter intolerance of other faiths anywhere in the world. This proves that Western protestations about secularism are only a mask to prevent other faith communities from operating in the public arena in their own countries, even as the West funnels funds and personnel to undermine native traditions and subordinate different parts of the world to its strategic and economic needs.
Second and more disturbing is the fact that America clearly continues to have active links with the Taliban commanders with whom it ostensibly snapped ties in the wake of the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. This is evident in the manner in which the Taliban agreed not to press its previous demand for exchange of prisoners in return for the South Koreans, and its decision to accept Seoul'spromise to withdraw troops (a token 200 soldiers) posted in Afghanistan by the end of 2007 and ensure that missionaries did not return to Afghanistan. Interestingly, Taliban agreed to let the International Committee of the Red Cross mediate the deal with the diplomats from Seoul.
What is pertinent to India is the larger geo-political factors operating in the north west. America wants President Karzai to talk to the Taliban and arrive at a political understanding with them, which he is naturally resisting. India and Iran have a traditional rapport with the traditional tribal rulers of Afghanistan, who are under pressure from the America-favoured Taliban. Washington knows it cannot bank on President Karzai in the longterm as his hold on even Kabul is tenuous, and does not want to let the traditional tribal leaders take over the country; hence the continued relations with Taliban.
The Taliban, as is well known, is the Al Qaeda which Pakistan uses against India with chilling effect. Thus, a Taliban-Pakistan-US nexus is being strengthened under our noses, while US pretends to be unhappy with Gen. Musharraf'sfailure to deliver in the war on terror. New Delhi has already erred in setting up a Joint Terror Mechanism with Pakistan under pressure from the White House.