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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2427

Mumbai massacre brings Pakistan on India, US firing line

By M Rama Rao, - India Editor, Asian Tribune, New Delhi

New Delhi, 28 November, (Asiantribune.com): The Mumbai massacre will bring Pakistan into the firing line of India and the United States, say American intelligence experts.

The shape of the crisis will consist of demands that the Pakistanis take immediate steps to suppress Islamist radicals across the board, but particularly in Kashmir. New Delhi will demand that this action be immediate and public. This demand will come parallel to U.S. demands for the same actions, and threats by incoming U.S. President Barack Obama to force greater cooperation from Pakistan, a commentary by Stratfor has put out even as the Mumbai events were unfolding in their full terrorist fury.

Stratfor opines that as a consequence of Islamist attack on Mumbai, India and Pakistan would plunge into the worst crisis they have had since 2002.

"If the Pakistanis are understood to be responsible for the attack, then the Indians must hold them responsible, and that means they will have to take action in retaliation — otherwise, the Indian government's domestic credibility will plunge", the commentary points out.

Stratfor adds: "If that happens, Pakistan will find itself in a nutcracker. On the one side, the Indians will be threatening action — deliberately vague but menacing — along with the Americans. This will be even more intense if it turns out, as currently seems likely, that Americans and Europeans were being held hostage (or worse) in the two hotels that were attacked. If the attacks are traced to Pakistan, American demands will escalate well in advance of inauguration day".

There is a precedent for this. In 2002 there was an attack on the Indian parliament in Mumbai by Islamist militants linked to Pakistan. Indian army moved to the border then and was in an eye ball –to-eyeball confrontation with Pak army. The United States brokered a stand-down in return for intensified Pakistani pressure on the Islamists. The crisis helped redefine the Pakistani position on Islamist radicals with in the country.

In the current situation, the demands on Pakistan are bound to be even more intense.

The Indians and Americans will have a joint interest in forcing the Pakistani government to act decisively and immediately. Islamabad is already under pressure on the western front with American drones flying into FATA and NWFP at will.

President Zardari and his advisors are invoking fears of destabilization of Pakistan to end these drone attacks. They will step up the campaign to keep Delhi and Washington at bay but the US with Barak Obama at helm of affairs is unlikely to yield. Instead it will see the situation as an opportunity to extract major concessions with its focus zeroed in on 'operations' in Afghanistan

It is not clear the degree to which the Pakistani government can control the situation. Its plate is full in dealing with its own jihadist insurgency and a major economic crisis. It is just forced to accept an IMF bailout with its accompanying tough conditionalities and opened itself to attacks from the opposition. In that sense, President Zardari's minority government is bound to face tough choices and challenges.

Al Qaeda Angle

Indian experts like B Raman see an Al Qaeda angle to the attacks on Mumbai; they aver the target is not India but America and other Western interests in India to spread the message of fear.

Some Western security officials also appear to share the theory though they note that the attacks organized, directed and funded specifically by al-Qaeda's core leadership along the Afghan/Pakistan border are not frequent.

Says Nigel Inkster, director of Transnational Threats at London based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS): "There is a possible link to al-Qaeda. Logically it would be easier for al-Qaeda to get things done in India than in the U.S. and Europe. Everyone's been expecting some type of pre-U.S. election or post-U.S. election spectacular, and there is some speculation that this is it".

Another UK expert Paul Wilkinson has echoed the same view. He said the Mumbai attacks were likely to have been mounted by a group linked to al-Qaeda.

'Extremist groups which share the ideology of al-Qaeda believe they must make war on western countries, as well as on the governments and authorities of all the countries they want to take control over. It is really in their eyes an attack on the world of unbelievers and they regard the western countries, particularly the US and its allies, as being especially attractive targets', Wilson, emeritus professor of international relations at St Andrews University, said

Islamist groups in India have been operating under banners of Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) or Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami (HUJI). These groups would both collaborate and compete with each other, but they all shared a life line that started in Islamabad with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

Recently a new name, Indian Mujahideen (IM) has popped up frequently. But the latest Mumbai terror has been claimed by Deccan Mujahideen, an unknown entity. Deccan is a plateau region that covers most of southern India and the new name suggests it is a more localized offshoot of IM, thus creating the impression that the group is proliferating into smaller branches. It can also be a clever tactics to sow confusion in India's security apparatus.

B Raman, Indian security expert, however, attributes the Mumbai terror to the naval wing of Lashkar-e-Toiba. It is not a well known outfit but he maintained that the LeT has been trying in Karachi for maritime terrorism.

Facing pressure from India and the United States particularly after 9/11, Pakistan has banned LeT and HUJI (SIMI was already banned inside India), in an attempt to create more plausible deniability for Islamabad when these groups carried out attacks. The ban has not come in the way of LeT activities in India that leave the tell-tale sign of RDX (a military-grade explosive that would most likely be provided by a state sponsor like Pakistan) used in attacks to point the finger at Islamabad.

In the instant terror attack also RDX has been recovered. It was found just behind the Taj hotel.

Over the past two years the Islamist militant groups operating in India have become more innovative in their attacks. Their ties with the ISI became strained partly out of Islamabad's intent and partly out of its preoccupation with its own jihadist insurgency). And they have begun to rely more on commercial-grade explosives to create crude devices that can be placed in a bag and attached to a bicycle or auto-rickshaw near a target and set off with a timer. These techniques were at full play in the New Delhi, Jaipur, Bangalore and Surat blasts.

Since October 2005, nearly 700 people have died in the bombings. And since May, Indian Mujahideen has taken credit for a string of blasts that have killed more than 130 people. The most recent was two months back in September when a series of explosions struck a park and shopping areas in New Delhi, killing 21 people.

Mumbai has been hit repeatedly by terror attacks since March 1993, when Muslim underworld figures tied to Pakistani militants allegedly carried out a series of bombings on the stock exchange, trains, hotels and petrol stations.

Primarily, the goal of Islamist militant groups operating in India is to incite religious violence but as the Stratfor and other experts observe, the militants are not achieving the desired results. Apparently, this failure has promoted their shift to harder and more strategic targets and a more Western-focused target set.

External Forces

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has blamed 'external forces' for the attacks on India's financial capital.

In a televised address to the nation, shortly before he landed in Mumbai, Singh said "The well-planned and well-orchestrated attacks, probably with external linkages, were intended to create a sense of terror by choosing high-profile targets."

He added "I'm confident the people of India will rise united to face this challenge to the country's security and integrity."

Security has been strengthened across India in the wake of terror attacks in Mumbai that claimed over 100 lives and left more than 300 injured.

Checkings and patrolling has been intensified at bus terminals, railway stations, airport, cinema halls and other public places.

Police are deployed in strength in the national capital, Delhi. The city is going to polls in the next 48 hours to elect a new city government.

-Asian Tribune-

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