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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2963

The Usual Suspects

By Sanjeewa Karunaratne,

After sixty hours of siege by ten gunmen left 172 dead in Mumbai; straining Indo-Pakistan relations to the breaking point and taking global terrorism to a new height, the blame game is on. Finally, the finger has pointed to the Pakistan’s Inter-Service-Intelligence (ISI), and its alleged creation "Lashkar-e-Taiba," sidelining the medieval response by the Indian government to the 21st century terrorism. Equally important as the investigations and the revelation of the perpetrators behind the attack are their motives.

Unarguably, this tragedy is "India’s 9/11." According some experts, this is the most sophisticated terrorist attack since 9/11. Similarly in Mumbai, 9/11 attacks targeted a symbol of the U.S., and its economic nerve center, New York. The U.S. economy did not resuscitate after the attacks; in fact, it gradually slid into a recession in 2007. Displaying the decisiveness of the Bush administration and powerfulness of America’s military might, not only did the U.S. attack Afghanistan but also went onto attack Iraq, and the rest is history. The war has taken 4200 U.S. lives to-date together with its economy. India, the world’s second fastest growing economy—9% growth in three consecutive years— must understand what is at risk. A rash decision will ensue years of suffering while fulfilling one of the motives of Mumbai masterminds, who, apparently, have learned a lot from 9/11.

The terrorists took the lives of 14 brave Indian policemen. In July 1983, 13 soldiers were slain in Sri Lanka by the LTTE, which led to a bloody backlash nicknamed the "Black July" that provided a tacit legitimacy to LTTE’s claim of discrimination that wasn’t there, and a foundation for a separatist war, which continued over 30 years, consuming more than 75,000 lives. July clashes between extreme Sinhalese and Tamil factions created the largest diaspora in the world and rooted "homeland" seeds in Tamil minds. The civil war in Sri Lanka has ruined the best economy in Asia on its way to becoming the next Singapore. The lesson for India is that it must calm down its Hindu majority while keeping Hindu extremists at bay so that there is no repeating of 2002 violence in Gujarat. Repercussions of revenge against innocent Muslim minority are India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The attack took place at a turning point in Indo-Pakistan relations. Two nations, who fought three wars since 1947, were in the process of strengthening their relationship after commencing peace talks in 2004. Cricket, the most popular sport in South Asia, has subdued the political tag of war between these two nuclear-armed nations—in 2004, Indian cricket team toured Pakistan ending a 15-year drought because of political tensions. Unfortunately, the terrorist’s attack in Mumbai has put 2009 Indian tour in Pakistan in jeopardy. The unprecedented carnage in Mumbai aimed at disrupting the goodwill of India and Pakistan, while challenging the Ali Zardari Government’s control over Pakistani military.

A volatile political environment in Pakistan is a safe haven for Islamic militants. So far, there had been four military coups since its independence in 1947, and the intelligence service (ISI) is alleged to have played a behind the scene role. Weathering constant pressure from the U.S., the newly-elected President Zardari, whose wife’s and father-in-law’s deaths are also linked to the Pakistani intelligence, is trying to gain control. Submitting to western demands, a few days before the attack, President Zardari took steps to close the “political wing” of the ISI. If it had a hand in the Mumbai siege, it has conveyed a serious warning to the west.

In predominantly Muslim Pakistan, it is not easy to flush out elements associated with Islamic extremism in the military, especially in the ISI, which is considered as a "state within the state," and the Pakistan government is struggling with it, while the U.S. and west are twisting its arm. Undoubtedly, the masterminds behind the last week’s attack envisioned disrupting the Pakistan’s civilian government for their survival. Time will tell whether disciplining ISI would ensure a stable democracy in Pakistan. However, stability in this nuclear-armed nation is crucial to the war against terrorism and world peace.

The complexity, meticulousness of the last week’s attack in Mumbai is mind-boggling so as the prolonged response by the Indian Government. The nature of the attack also suggests an "intelligent design." The silver lining is that, India, like the U.S. can learn from its mistakes and prepare to defend its homeland.

The perpetrators behind this heinous crime were anticipating multiple objectives: crippling India’s economy, instigating a Hindu-Muslim backlash, tarnishing Indo-Pakistan relationship, challenging democracy in Pakistan and injecting fear on western tourists. There is no doubt these are challenging times for India and Pakistan that have an immense responsibility to contain the damages without falling prey to hidden agendas.

- Asian Tribune -

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