Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Mumbai Bombs and Pakistan

By now you've probably heard about the terrible carnage in Mumbai, India, where more than 160 people have been killed and 460 injured by seven bombs on the train network - set by Islamist terrorists who want Kashmir to be part of Pakistan.

Here's the main report on the attacks from the BBC.

What you may not have heard is that the attacks in Mumbai closely followed grenade attacks on Indian tourists and local residents by Islamist seperatists in the Kashmiri summer capital of Srinigar. The toll there is six dead and sixteen wounded.

The BBC reports that Pakistani leaders, like other leaders across the globe, have condemned the blasts as a "despicable act of terrorism". The official story seems to be that, with Pervez Musharaff himself expressing outrage and sympathy, the peace process between nuclear armed rivals India and pakistan is still on track.

However, the Indian authorities are attributing the Mumbia attacks to two Islamist groups - both of which India alleges have connections to both Al Qaeda and to the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence agency.
The terror attack on Mumbai trains was carried out by Lashkar-e-Toiba and local Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) activists and was designed to trigger communal conflagration in the country’s financial capital, intelligence sources said.

While still waiting for clues to emerge, top intelligence sources in New Delhi seem pretty sure the blasts on the trains were plotted by Lashkar modules which are increasingly collaborating with activists of SIMI, which boasts of strong pockets of influence across Maharashtra.

The estimate of intelligence agencies here is derived from the scale of the attack, as well as precise information about the Lashkar’s sleeper cells that have proliferated in Maharashtra.

Sources in the home ministry, in fact, said that a carnage had seemed very much on the cards with information pouring in about stockpiling of arms and explosives by religious extremists.
Lashkar-e-Toiba is an armed Kashmiri separatist group which is actually based in Pakistan and has mostly non-Kashmiri members. It is blamed by India for an attack on parliament in Delhi in 2001 - which brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. Subsequently, Musharaff ordered the arrest of the group's leader, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed but he was released again without charge in 2002. One of his first acts on being freed was to declare that it was every Muslim's duty to wage jihad in Kashmir. The Indians were furious - especially since they have long maintained that the group is supported by Pakistan's intelligence agency.

The Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), has a stated mission of converting India to an Islamic land and regards Osama bin Laden as a true jihadi to be respected and emulated. The group's Wikipedia entry notes:
Indian government alleges that SIMI is associated with Pakistan's ISI and also with numerous anti-Indian groups. Charges of sedition have been brought against some members of SIMI. Part of the Indian Government's crack down against SIMI is also due to the latter's declaration that the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir is not an integral part of India.
and follows with literally dozens of terrorist incidents the group are believed to have been involved with.

Given that both groups are said to be connected to the ISI - as, incidentally, the Karzai administration in Afghanistan says that Al qaeda is - the Pakistan/India peace process, no matter what anyone is saying, is going to be under tremendous pressure right now. Likewise, India is going to want its newest bestest friend, America, to do something about Pakistan. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has way too much political capital and way too much arms-trade loot invested in Pakistan to do any kind of about face on its relationship with that nation. Expect there to be no mention of the Indian allegations of Pakistani complicity - the possibility just doesn't exist for the Bush White House. Yet again and as usual, foreign policy will be determined by the needs of domestic policy - and admitting such a close relationship with a state sponsor of Islamist terrorism would be a domestic poison pill.

But the Indians will not be likely to dismiss supposed Pakistani ties so lightly and the Indian sub-continent just became a slightly more dangerous place. That may, in fact, be the intention of the terrorists - to write large the civil war of Iraq by fommenting a real war between India and Pakistan. A war where both sides have nukes. If so, the ISI and Pakistan's leadership are playing a truly dangerous game - one which America should not be neutral in observing.

Update 12th July As the death toll climbs past 200 there have as yet, to my knowledge, been no claims of responsibility for the attacks. The Indian intelligence services, however, have added another name to the suspects list - Dawood Ibrahim, who was already India's most wanted person. He is not a nice guy - he runs a massive criminal gand with influence across the sub-continent, is involved in narcotics as well as extremist islamic terrorism and is belived to be sheltering under the wing of Pakistan's ISI in Islamabad.

Meanwhile, Indians are furious at remarks made by Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri following the Mumbai attacks, which are being read as Kasuri saying that Pakistan will do something about terrorists finding bases of operation in that country just as soon as India agrees to see the Kashmir dispute Pakistan's way.

And Indian rightwing hawks are already appearing on the op-ed pages of newspapers and news websites to remind everyone of Dubya's words - 'We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbour them". The militant Right in India - almost wholely composed of ultra-religious Hindus - accuses the Indian government of cowardice in not carrying through on Bush's words and expects the international community to approve any military action consistent with the Bush Doctrine.

A commenter reminds me that India has a "no first use" policy. However, that leaves plenty of room for conventional carnage. I would also remind him of another Militant Right refrain from America that I expect to be echoed by their Indian counterparts any day now - "after 911, everything changed".

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