India is in constant touch with the Afghan government and local authorities that have launched a search operation for 47-year-old Prem Kumar, who was abducted yesterday afternoon, according to top official sources. "Indian government is in touch at all levels. External Affairs Minister is monitoring the situation and giving direction when required. Our Ambassador is in the touch with the Afghan government in Kabul and our Consul General is in touch with local authorities in Herat," official sources said. However, no "conclusive" clues have been found by the local authorities so far and nothing has been shared with the Indian government, they said.
Meanwhile, the Spokesperson in External Affairs Ministry denied that Kumar had any connection with the Indian government amidst local reports here that the aid worker was associated with the Indian mission. "He is an Indian national who was working with an NGO. He had no connection with the Indian Govt or Mission or Consulate," the spokesperson said. A native of Tamil Nadu, Kumar was working with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), an educational charity, as its Afghanistan Director and has been in the country for over three years.
Before moving to Afghanistan, Kumar had worked for the JRS, serving Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu. Kumar had accompanied teachers on a visit to a JRS-supported school for the returnee refugees in Sohadat village, 25 km from the city of Herat. He was kidnapped from the school as he was about to return to Herat, the JRS said.
The abduction comes nearly 10 days after the attack on the Indian consulate in Herat by four heavily-armed gunmen carrying rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. The attackers were subsequently killed by the security forces who repelled the attack on May 23.
On May 29, the Indian mission in Herat had issued an advisory asking its nationals to exercise extreme caution while venturing out. Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh flew to Herat on Friday and reviewed the situation following the attack on the Indian consulate in the western Afghan city, bordering Iran.
She held meetings in the Afghan capital on Saturday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani - the two presidential candidates - who asserted that friendship with India would remain a "top priority" for any new government here. Afghanistan is experiencing a rise in Taliban attacks as foreign troops plan to withdraw from the war-torn country by the end of the year.