Indian engagement in Afghanistan, a blessing or a headache

October 9, 2009

U.S. General Stanley McChrystal in his assessment of the war in Afghanistan last month only briefly touched upon the growing role of India, but his words were blunt and unsettling for India. In the light of Thursday’s attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul that left 17 people dead, McChrsytal’s comments may yet turn out to be prescient.

“Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan, including significant development efforts and financial investment. In addition, the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian. While Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India,” he said, according to the leaked version of his report.

New Delhi has held its counsel so far on who it thought was responsible for the latest attack, but if it eventually points the finger at elements in Pakistan – blamed for the 2008 attack by both New Delhi and United States - it will reinforce the view that Afghanistan is the foes’ current  battle ground, perhaps more than Kashmir, exhausted by 20 years of a proxy war. 

Last week the Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the Los Angeles Times that Islamabad had real concerns about Indian involvement in Afghanistan.

“They have to justify their interest. They do not share a border with Afghanistan, whereas we do. So the level of engagement has to be commensurate with that. If there is no massive [Indian] reconstruction [in Afghanistan], if there are not long queues in Delhi waiting for visas to travel to Kabul, why do you have such a large presence in Afghanistan? ”

Indian diplomacy has certainly been on an overdrive in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. Besides the embassy in Kabul, there are consulates in Herat, Mazhar-e-Sharif, Kandahar and Jalalabad  representing all four parts of the country, stirring fears in Pakistan of a strategic encirclement.

And while many Afghans hold Pakistan responsible for the brutal Taliban rule before 2001, New Delhi has positioned itself as the “soft power” combining the appeal of Bollywood and soap operas for the Afghans with aid projects that that seem to be delivering.  In May, an India-made power transmission line to Kabul and a sub-station were opened, bringing 24-hour electricity to the capital for the first time in 17 years.

In January, India completed building the 218km Zaranj-Delaram highway in south-west Afghanistan near the Iranian border.  Then, it is building a new parliament building in Kabul as also a dam in Herat

India says a stable Afghanistan is in its interest and it is not about to back down from it. Asked about McChyrstal’s remarks, Indian ambassador Jayant Prasad told the Business Standard  :”How can one agree that Indian assistance is creating a problem for Pakistan? This is not the objective of Indian assistance to Afghanistan. India’s objective is to stabilize Afghanistan. Getting the Afghans to stand on their own feet is good for the Afghan people, good for India and good for the world, including all the regional countries.”

As violence worsens in Afghanistan, and pressure builds up at home, is America going to intervene then and call a halt to the India-Pakistan battle for influence ?

[Photographs of the Kabul bombing and the aftermath]

Comments

India needs to engage itself more in Afghanistan. India needs to clear off the Chinese, Pakistani & US presence from Afghanistan. Pakistan and US is no better than rogue nations like Iran and N Korea. China is too involved in becoming the next economic and military superpower and therefore cannot be relied upon. The Afghanistan misery affects the entire subcontinent because lack of good governance and unemployment in Afghanistan means recruitment offices of Taliban and Al Quaeda opening up in Afghanistan. Like any peaceful nation, Afghani common man has the right to live a peaceful life which has been denied to them by fanatic brigades of rome and mecca.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive
 

Is that Reuters to decide or people of India-Afghanistan to decide?

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive
 

“Indian engagement in Afghanistan, a blessing or a headache?”

Blessing for Afghanistan and India, headache for Pakistan.

I can almost see another Biden or Kerry bill coming through stating that India needs Pakistani approval of its foreign policy specially with reference to Afghanistan. I thought Afghanistan is a sovereign country and has the right to decide who it considers as its friends. Why doesn’t Pakistan try and better Indian efforts at reconstruction and infrasture work in Afghnaistan? Maybe then it will gain some respect in Afghan eyes.

Its time Pakistan grew up and stopped crying “Uncle Sam” every time it hears ‘India’.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive
 

Pakistan never wants Afghanistan to be strong or independent or modern. An undeveloped chaotic Afghanistan is better for ISI to maintain and hide Talibans and poppy producers.

It’s is Pakistan’s ISI, which needs to be fixed. There was no INdia or US/NATO in Afghanistan between 1990 and 2001. What did Pakistan do between 1990 and 2001? How did 9/11, 7/11, 26/11 happen?

If Pakistan can’t control it’s own country, what justification is there for giving it another country?

Choice is clear: do you want democracy or Taliban/AQ back in Afghanistan?

Posted by Sameer | Report as abusive
 

I am Pukhtoon from Pukhtoonkhwa (pakistan). Many many thanks to India for their help for Afghans and hope they will keep it up. They are exactly opposite to pakistani punjabis who are blood thirsty and are not liked anywhere in the world.

Posted by khan | Report as abusive
 

Indian engagement in Afghanistan
Blessing to who? Headache to who?

Pakistani engagement in Afghanistan
Blessing to who? Headache to who?

American engagement in Pakistan
Blessing to who? Headache to who?

Pakistani engagement in Nepal
Blessing to who? Headache to who?

Chinese engagement in Pakistan
Blessing to who? Headache to who?

Pakistani engagement in SriLanka
Blessing to who? Headache to who?

Chinese engagement in Bangladesh
Blessing to who? Headache to who?

Life goes on …..and on…. Miglani
Blessing to who? Headache to who?

 

Why ISI bombs Indian embassy in kabul?

Leading donor:
India also became one of Kabul’s leading donors – it has pledged to spend $1.2bn on helping rebuild the country’s shattered infrastructure, making it the sixth largest bilateral donor.

Funds have been committed for education, health, power and telecommunications. There has also been money in the form of food aid and help to strengthen governance.

India is building the country’s new parliament building, erecting power transmission lines in the north, and building more than 200km (125 miles) of roads.

It is digging tube wells in six provinces, running sanitation projects and medical missions, and working on lighting up 100 villages using solar energy. It is also building a dam and handing out scholarships to young Afghan students.

India has also given at least three Airbus planes to Afghanistan’s ailing national airline. Several thousand Indians are engaged in development work.

Work on the projects has also moved briskly.
In January, India completed building the 218km Zaranj-Delaram highway in south-west Afghanistan near the Iranian border.

In May, an India-made power transmission line to Kabul and a sub-station were opened, bringing 24-hour electricity to the capital for the first time in 17 years.

The new parliament building in Kabul and a new dam in Herat should be ready by next year.

“India’s success in Afghanistan stirred up a hornet’s nest in Islamabad which came to believe that India was ‘taking over Afghanistan’,” says Ahmed Rashid in his book Descent Into Chaos.

Pakistan, on the other hand, backed and recognised the pariah Taleban regime and gained further strategic depth in the region.

Afghanistan’s interior ministry said the 2008 attack on the Indian embassy was carried out “in co-ordination and consultation with an active intelligence service in the region”.

It was clearly alluding to Pakistani agents, who have been blamed for a number of attacks in Afghanistan.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/74 92982.stm
http://in.reuters.com/article/topNews/id INIndia-43011020091008

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive
 

“Indian engagement in Afghanistan, a blessing or a headache”

Obviously good for Afghanistan & a headache for the Pakistani establishment, who want Afghanistan to remain backward & radicalized so that the scheming generals in Rawalpindi can control it as a de-facto colony & strategic depth against India.

Posted by Mortal | Report as abusive
 

What Pakistan did in Afghanistan between 1990-1001:
1. ISI and Benazir Bhutto created Taliban/AQ. There was no Taliban before that.

2. 30000-50000 Afghan women and civilians died from Taliban atrocities

3. Afghanistn was an outcast during that time. Only three countries had diplomatic relations with Afghanistan (i.e. Pakistan Saudis, UAE)

4. Afghanistan became the poppy capital of the world.

5. Afghanistan became the crime capital of the world. All non-Afghans like Taziks, Uzbeks, Chechens, Pakis, Somalians, Yemenies, Arabs occupied Afghanistan and started torturing/raping Afghan women and civilization.

6. Taliban/AQ did 9/11 and invited US B-52s. 100000 Afghans died in following war!

Give Afghanistan back to Pakistan again. Pakistan needs more garage room for Talibans/AQ! The cycle begins again!

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive
 

What do Afghan people want?

Posted by Nora | Report as abusive
 

India: Afghanistan’s influential ally
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/74 92982.stm

Bombing highlights India’s role in Afghanistan
http://in.reuters.com/article/topNews/id INIndia-43011020091008

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive
 

Is Pakistan under Pakistan’s control?

What has Pakistan contributed to Afghansiatn other than Talibans, RPGs and AK-47s?

Posted by Sue | Report as abusive
 

20,000 demand Indian flag for popular Facebook application

Facebook farmers want India flag

More than 20,000 people have called for India’s national flag to be added to a popular web game which allows users to develop and manage a farm online.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/82 98840.stm

THANK YOU world for loving India! We love you back too!

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive
 
 

Not Just Afghanistan, they love India in Tajikstan and Russia! You can blame India for that!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/ 8291451.stm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7azBYOHQo oE

Even my Ukrainian ex-gf sang “Jimmy jimmy jimmy Aja Aja Aja” on our first date! Blame India for that too!

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive
 

‘Hired gun’

‘Feared’ Uzbek militant in Pakistan

Uzbek militants in Pakistan are renowned for their fanaticism. They are believed to have strong links with al-Qaeda and have been known to operate as “hired guns”.
Tahir Yuldashev’s men have been accused of numerous suicide attacks and of killing hundreds of tribal elders in Pakistan over the years.

His militants carried out attacks on Pakistani forces in the tribal belt and are believed to have taken part in the Red Mosque siege in 2007 in which dozens of people were killed.

Nobody really knows exactly how many Uzbek militants are in Pakistan. Estimates vary wildly: from 500 to 5,000. Not all Uzbeks there are active militants – some are merely supporters.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/82 87714.stm

Uzbeks occupy Pakistan and Pakistan needs to Occupy Afghanistan!

Posted by Nora | Report as abusive
 

I disagree with the view that it is a headache for Pakistan b’cos one needs to have head before they can have headache

Posted by Sunny | Report as abusive
 

ISI should be sent back to stone ages for that they have done in Afghanistan! The sufferings of Afghans are incomprehensible!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/8 296297.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/8 295799.stm

Why did world tolerate ISI go this far?

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive
 

‘In Afghanistan, Indians are praised for being Indian’

Also, in my 33 years in the Indian Foreign Service, this is the first time I have been in a country where Indians are appreciated simply for being Indian

http://news.rediff.com/report/2009/oct/0 9/interview-with-jayant-prasad-afghanist an-envoy-after-kabul-attack.htm

Posted by Pooja | Report as abusive
 

Indians in Afghanistan are as old as Hindu-Kush mountains!

Around the year 2000 BC, Indo-European tribe calling themselves Aryans, came to Afghanistan!
http://www.white-history.com/hwr5c.htm

Hinduism in Afghanistan dates back to the Vedic periods, much before the arrival of Islam!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism_in _Afghanistan

The two statues (Buddhas of Bamyan) were built in AD507 and in AD554.[4] The statues are believed to have been built by the Kushans, with the guidance of local Buddhist monks, at the heyday of their empire.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhas_of_ Bamyan

Afghanistan was among the biggest overseas market for Bollywood films until the early 1990s (till the arrival of Talibans)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment  /1679115.stm

Where was McChrystal last year?

Where were Talibans 20 years ago?

Where were ISI/Pakistan 65 years ago?

Who needs a lecture on history?

Posted by Soman | Report as abusive
 

ISI’s Morning gift to people Afghanistan
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2 009/10/2009108531259700.html

and

ISI’s Morning gift to people of Pakistan
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2 009/10/200910965717938522.html

ISI is the enemy of peace and humanity everywhere!

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive
 

Militants ‘making inroads’ deep inside Pakistan

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/82 96485.stm

Posted by Sameer | Report as abusive
 

Right, so India engagement in Afghanistan is good for the people there, but at what price ? Last year’s bombing claimed the lives of senior embassy personnel, this year ordinary Afghans lining up for visas took the brunt of the attack. The point is how do you forestall such attacks, or is India resigned to being targeted ? Should Afghanistan be near the top of the agenda in any future India-Pakistan talks , should the two neighbours be spelling out their positions here so that a country alrerasdy riven by an eight-year war doesn’t get sucked into a Great Game between India and Pakistan ?

Posted by Sanjeev Miglani | Report as abusive
 

Indian engagement in Afghanistan is a Blessing to the Afghans for sure, because of being soft power India always wishes prosperity and goodwill to all it neighbours but it is a severe headache to Pakistanis since they losse their foothold in Kabul and always insisted to have akbul under its belt with ISI and Taliban. So Pakistanis never wished goodwill and prosperity to the Afghans, if they sincerely had – the war in Afghanistan would have been over last decade.

Posted by Jason Bourne | Report as abusive
 

“Right, so India engagement in Afghanistan is good for the people there, but at what price ?” Sanjeev

Are you by any chance suggesting that India just walk out because of some gangsters? I think that is the cowardly way out.By the same logic we should get back with folded hands to the negotiating table and apologise to Pakistan for refusing to restart the composite dialogue.

The tragic loss of lives is the saddest part of this whole episode. The government has strengthened security and by all accounts this attack, as one focussed against Indians failed. Maybe we need to help with security of the surrounding areas too so that innocents are not made victims.

I am almost certain that Indian security in Afghanistan is a matter that has been taken up with the Pakistanis and the Afghan govt. at the highest levels

As long as Pakistan has designs and its own agenda on Afghanistan, and as long as India does what the Afghans request it to, there will be tension – created by the Pakistanis. One doesn’t have to be an Einstein to figure that out.

One does what one has already been doing, bolster forces and be more alert. One doesn’t give in to thuggery.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive
 

India needs to communicate with the common man of Afghanistan that it stands rock solid with them for development and peace in Afghanistan hand in hand with similar thinking Afghan government. Only when common man can link his future prospects of SECURITY, peace and happiness from government will the endeavor succeed. If India is making solo effort, it will fail.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive
 

Sanjeev,

Your logic is too tilted towards Pakistan. You are asking India whether it is worth running constructive projects rebuild Afghanistan when its personnel are being attacked by militants. India is being attacked even inside its own borders by militants. Remember Mumbai? Should India then surrender to the militants and beg for mercy? How can a country be asked to give up constructive projects because it is building goodwill? Pakistan cannot dictate terms to other countries what they should and should not do. Who do they think themselves as? Will they break off relations with China because it irks India? Will they cut off ties with Sri Lanka because it does not suit Indian interests? Where do you draw the line? If India is creating a militant force inside Afghanistan that is anti-Pakistan and keeps sabotaging their nation, then there is reason to highlight it and take it up to the UN. But it has been the other way around all along. Pakistan, having gotten used to sabotaging other countries, now lives in this paranoia that other countries are doing the same to them. They fail to understand that cultures are very different and every culture does not reciprocate the actions of the others. India’s help in Afghanistan is touching the hearts of the people there. India-Afghanistan friendship spans many decades. Both countries have historical links as well. Why would India walk out of Afghanistan because Pakistan wants and because of some rudderless American general said it? Militant attacks are like flies attacking an elephant’s rear end. A tail would do to swat them.

India will not stop doing what it is doing in Afghanistan. Let the Americans and Pakistanis provide credible evidence of sabotage activities there by India. Then we will see. Pakistan has been trying its methods through its militant groups on Indian missions. But it is only going to make the Indian resolve even stronger.

 

Sanjeev,
You are a very simplistic, illogical view. I can’t understand your logic.

Let me ask you, if India
1. Breaks diplomatic relations with all 180 countries including Afghanistan to make Pakistan feel better
2. Gives Kashmir and Punjab to Pakistan
3. And also gives India to Pakistan to make Pakistan feel safer and happy and the Indians will walk in to the sea.

Would that solve the AQ/ISI/Taliban problem? All the madrassas will become monasteries and preach love? AQ/ISI/Taliban will abandon gun and start farming?

India/US were not present in Afghanistan between 1990-2001, that’s when Taliban took birth. Pakistan was the only country controlling Afghanistan during that time. Who gave birth to Taliban? Who nurtured Taliban? who brought up Taliban? How did 9/11 happen?

Are we not repeating the same cycle by giving Afghanistan back to Pakistan?

Should we discipline AQ/ISI/Taliban or should we discipline India/US/NATO?

Truth is ISI’s Frankenstein monster is out of control and blaming India/US is ISI’s first defense.

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive
 

This is not fair! Countries all around India seem to be ganging up on it. Bangladesh is complaining about its share of Ganges water, Nepal is complaining about interference in its internal affairs, China is saying Arunachal does not belong to India, Burma and Sri Lanka are not happy and cite imperialistic behaviour by India and Pakistan is simply behaving like a disobedient pupil & Kashmiris, Tamils, Naxalites, Sikhs, Nagas & Bengalis are acting as if they were not even Indian. And now poor India is getting stuck in Afghanistan. How can it cope with all those problems? Even the Americans and Europeans are now getting fed up with its presence in Afghanistan. Why doesn’t the world understand?

Posted by Khalifa | Report as abusive
 

Sanjeev,
I encountered one Pak blogger literally saying Afghanistan is “dependent territory” of pakistan. Some openly say it but the truth is paks think and act as if Afghanistan is their colony.

It seems your line of argument will support this approach. It is not for paks or Americans or Reuters columnists to decide if India should be in Afghanistan or not. IT IS THE PEOPLE OF AFGHNAISTAN WHO SHOULD DECIDE.

Afghanistan is a soverign independent country and the people of Afghanistan are sick and tired of pak imperialism and sponsorship of terrorism, and destabilizing effects of pakistan. They are grateful for Indian help.

 

Khalifa:

An interesting approach to target India! You are one clever guy with twisted facts.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive
 

First of all, we need to understand a few things, western and asian thought processes are very different.

People in India have a lot of respect and affection for common Afghan people (as against Taliban and the likes)with a historical cultural friendship. ( it might be difficult for most westerners to appreciate…but just to highlight….the stereotypical Bollywood Afghan is a honorable person whose friendship Indians swear by…always)

Whatever work Indian govt is doing in terms of development must not stop. notwithstanding opposition from anyone, ISI, pakistan or even United States…Its our obligation to the Afghan people…we must remember to help our friends in their times of need even if it means going half hungry ourselves.

As long as afghan govt and afghan people welcome us, we must keep up the good work…politics, strategic interests will come and go…needs of Afghan people are urgent and must be fulfilled…

it is sad if Americans (for their petty interests of mollycoddling Pakistan) start opposing Indian presence in afghanistan. It is downright atrocious. Next thing they will say they r stopping diplomatic ties with India coz pakistan doesnt like it… it is downright stupid and shortsighted.

Posted by swapnil | Report as abusive
 

Sanjeev:

@Right, so India engagement in Afghanistan is good for the people there, but at what price ? Last year’s bombing claimed the lives of senior embassy personnel, this year ordinary Afghans lining up for visas took the brunt of the attack. The point is how do you forestall such attacks, or is India resigned to being targeted? Should Afghanistan be near the top of the agenda in any future India-Pakistan talks , should the two neighbours be spelling out their positions here so that a country alrerasdy riven by an eight-year war doesn’t get sucked into a Great Game between India and Pakistan?
- Posted by Sanjeev Miglani

Sanjeev: India is not being altruistic in its contribution to Afghanistan, but that does not take away the fact that superpowers and its allies have only demolished Afghanistan and India is doing rebuilding that is in India and Afghnaistan’s interests. Anyone having problem with that is losing sight of the basics.

@what price: Price is much less than if we India is absent in Afgh. Taliban and terrorists and those interested to use them as tools will not tire of the excuses to kill Afghans. India’s exit is not going to bring down the killings of non-Afghans. This time India was prepared for the attack and saved the lives senior embassy personnel. So that means Indian embassy personnel are not sitting ducks for the terrorists, but yes dangers are severe and that limits the nature of the civil projects and people on there. There is no end to listening to unreasonable demands. The problem is with entertaining the wrong idea. Period–such as that India should not be in Afghanistan, such as that Kashmir is the reason for Pakistan’s non-involvement in Afghanistan. The world is bad and cruel place and only way to face it is to be out there and not getting into some cocoon at home because the problems will chase you wherever you go. India’s position should be its presence in Afghanistan with Afghanistan govt permission and for the ultimate good of Afghans.

To correctly address the question of “spelling out their positions”, it will drag China, Pakistan, SriLanka, Bangladesh into the equation. Moreover the presence of Chinese anywhere is equivalent to presence of Pakistan. Or is it not?

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive
 

@Sanjeev,

The Indians are there to stay in Afghanistan, you cannot intimidate us or get rid of us by a few cowardly bxmb blasts. We are a legion of many, you don’t have enough bullets or bxmbs to get ride of us from anywhere.

Indians have a much more legitimate reason to be there than Pakistani’s. While it is true that Pakistani’s complain that the U.S. abandoned Afghanistan in the 80′s, they can also be rest assured that this time, the U.S. WILL not leave or abandon Afghanistan, and NEITHER will India.

India is doing only goodwill work for the Afghans, so Pakistani’s please don’t complain, just because you cannot compete with us there, doing goodwill work for the Afghans. The Afghans and Indians have a long enduring respect and relationship. The U.S. is absolutely clear and understands India’s benevolent role with Afghans and the U.S. DOES NOT see a problem with it and therefore, they do not intend to object to it either, they would have done so by now.

As one blogger said it correctly here, just because we are starving, it does not mean that we are not willing to share what little food we have, so that others may have some too, so Pakistani’s please take note of that. You Pakistani’s have squandered every relationship you had the chance to build with Afghans.

What did Pakistan give to Afghans….Taliban, the same foreign policy instrument that is butchering Pakistani’s on its own soil and its own HQ, the same Taliban that killed Benazir Bhutto….But Paks need not worry, as long as Indians are in Afghanistan and helping build a legacy of friendship and ties, the Taliban will never come back to power there.

Through goodwill and friendship, India is the only country that has ever given anything lasting to the Afghans. On that basis, India will never abandon the Afghans. We have the ability and energy to lift these people to something better one day.

Posted by GW | Report as abusive
 

correction:

“India’s exit is not going to bring down the killings of innocent Afghans.”

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive
 

GW:

@What did Pakistan give to Afghans….Taliban, the same foreign policy instrument that is butchering Pakistani’s on its own soil and its own HQ, the same Taliban that killed Benazir Bhutto….”

GW: Then, this is another classic example of the monster getting out of control and coming back to bite its creater. It was Benazir Bhutto’s govt under which Taliban was created in 1994.

With Taliban/Punjab-based terrorist alliance, now it is the beginning of Punjab-based militants who are next to follow the suit.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive
 

Ever since the US got heavily involved in Afghanistan during the Soviet Invasion, we always seem to blame the United States for our misery. Over the past 30 years, governments have come and gone, while politicians have been assassinated. Pakistanis have always seemed eager to jump the gun and point fingers at the United States for any hardship faced within our boundaries. But I ask you, are we incapable as a nation of 175 million, to stand up on our own two feet? We are quick in forming conclusions and finding a target to place our misery upon, but can we not take the blame for our misgivings?

http://ahraza.wordpress.com/2009/09/30/t his-is-our-time/

 

near the top of the agenda in any future India-Pakistan talks , should the two neighbours be spelling out their positions here so that a country alrerasdy riven by an eight-year war doesn’t get sucked into a Great Game between India and Pakistan ?

 

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