Terror strikes Mumbai again. Attacks take place two weeks before a scheduled India and Pakistan foreign ministerial level dialogue in New Delhi on 26 July. This time around instead of hastily blaming Pakistan, New Delhi has shown considerable maturity in showing restraint from coming to any hasty conclusions about the perpetrators of the attacks.
When asked categorically if the blasts were an attempt to derail the India-Pakistan talks later this month, Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in Mumbai “that every angle will be probed in the case.”
Groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) have continuously targeted India and carried out attacks directed at derailing bilateral peace processes and whipping up anti-Pakistan sentiment in India. Based in Pakistan, LeT has been implicated in the high profile, multiple coordinated attacks of November 2008 in Mumbai.
Seen in that light, though the present attacks lack the sophistication of 26/11 attacks, they were premeditated and well coordinated multiple attacks. The LeT does have the wherewithal to carry out such premeditated and well-coordinated attacks through a process of “sub contracting” to maintain deniability. After the killing of Osama Bin laden, the LeT has professed to take on the mantle of Al Qaeda in South Asia and is increasingly functioning through such local subsidiaries. Suspicion has grown on the role of the Indian Mujahedeen (IM), a local affiliate or subsidiary of the LeT. Coinciding with the fifth anniversary of the 2006 Mumbai train blasts, there is considerable amount of similarity in the modus operandi of the attacks.
As India prepares for deepening its partnership with the US and repairing relations with Pakistan, the timing of the attacks do convey a significant message. India and Pakistan have only recently begun holding formal talks that had been derailed in the aftermath of the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai and have even agreed to discuss contentious issues like Jammu and Kashmir. The frayed relationship between the US and Pakistan, in the aftermath of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, has led to considerable isolation of Pakistan.
Pakistan’s foreign minister is scheduled to visit India later this month, and so far there have been no indications that the visit would be scuttled as a result of the 13 July bomb blasts. Likewise, the Indo-US Strategic dialogue slated for 19 July will also take place on schedule. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the US secretary of state, is also expected to visit India next week to discuss regional security issues including Afghanistan and strengthening counter-terrorism cooperation.
The military operations initiated by the Pakistan in Kurram agency and other places could have propelled these groups to divert attention by targeting India. It is also timed with the visit of Burhanuddin Rabbani as the head of the High Peace Council is in New Delhi to discuss the issue of reconciliation with the Taliban with India.
Groups like the LeT would continue to hold the India-Pak peace process to ransom. Unless, both the countries jointly address the menace, these anti-state actors would continue to pose a significant threat. Cooperation on the grounds of intelligence sharing, greater confidence building mechanisms, establishment of hotline between the two armies, political dialogue, media interactions and civil society initiatives are necessary to form a response to the agenda of these groups.
It is time for Pakistan to hold on to India’s hand of friendship. In its absence, these groups would continue to destabilize not only the peace process but also pose a significant existential threat to the countries from where they launch such attacks. They could even come to resemble a classic case of “blow-back.”
This article was published by Al Arabiya and is reprinted with the author’s permission