Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said that the government was closely monitoring the situation unfolding in Afghanistan and taking steps to ensure that anti-India forces do not exploit the developments there to fuel cross-border terrorism in India.

Delivering a talk on national security as part of the late Balramji Das Tandon lecture series, the defence minister said the developments in Afghanistan posed new security challenges. He said the government is committed to ensuring the security of Indians in Afghanistan.

“Security of Indians is a cause of concern for the government. We also do not want anti-India forces to take advantage of the evolving Afghan situation for cross-border terrorism,” he said.

The Indian security establishment has flagged concerns about terror spilling over from Afghanistan to Jammu and Kashmir via Pakistan after the Taliban takeover. Last week, chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat said India was concerned about terrorist activity in Afghanistan spilling over into the country after the takeover and contingency plans were in place to deal with the scenario.

On August 25, Rawat, the country’s senior-most military commander, said India anticipated the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan but its rapid pace was surprising.

Taliban wrested control of the Afghan capital Kabul on August 15, capping a swift takeover of most major cities in the country.

In an assessment done as recently as last month, the Indian side had concluded that the Taliban would shift its campaign to capture territory from rural areas to urban centres and provincial capitals only by the end of August, after the completion of the withdrawal of US forces. The Indian side had also expected that there would be air support for Afghan security forces from the US if the Taliban entered urban areas. Assessments done by both the Indian and Afghan sides also suggested that the fighting would continue for at least two to three months, till winter sets in.

However, the Taliban rapidly stepped up its offensive this month, seizing one provincial capital after another, both in the southern part of Afghanistan, the traditional stronghold of the group, and the north, where it had faced greater resistance in the past. This was done by concluding agreements with warlords and commanders of the security forces, and thousands of troops simply surrendered without a fight at a time when the Ashraf Ghani government showed no indication of taking the fight with the Taliban.

Singh touched on the ongoing border row with China in the Ladakh sector. He said that the government had made it clear to the forces that any unilateral action by the neighbour on the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) will not be ignored.

“That’s what the Indian Army did that day in Galwan and bravely confronted the PLA soldiers and forced them to retreat,” Singh said, referring to the June 2020 brutal skirmish that left 20 Indian and an unspecified number of Chinese soldiers dead.

He said future generations would be proud of the bravery and restraint shown by the Indian Army in Galwan valley.

Talking about the efforts of the security forces to counter terror activities in Jammu and Kashmir during the last seven years, Singh said the UT would soon be free of terror.

“The strength that separatist forces used to get due to Article 370 and 35A is now nowhere to be seen,” Singh said. The government’s 2019 decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution that provided for special status to J&K and the bifurcation of the border state into two union territories was hailed by military experts as a bold and logical move towards national integration.

“The anti-India forces have understood that they are no longer in a position to do much in the Kashmir Valley, especially after the abrogation of Article 370. I want to assure you that no power in the world can separate J&K from India,” the minister said.

He also enumerated reforms undertaken by the government to strengthen national security, including creating the post of chief of defence staff and the department of military affairs.

“We are working towards creating theatre commands in a new way. This is also going to be a revolutionary step in itself,” he said. On Sunday, he said discussions on the creation of joint commands and their implementation were progressing well and fast, indicating that differences between stakeholders on the Theaterisation model are being addressed and India is on course to set up theatre commands.