The Mumbai terror attacks have huge consequences for India. If in next few months, similar attacks take place, they can create clashes between Hindus and Muslims in India. On the other hand, Pakistani President Asif Zardari is sincere in nurturing good relations with India. But there is a dichotomy in Islamabad: Pakistan is not run by the elected civilian government, but by the Pakistani Army. Hence, if Zardari goes too far in cooperating with India, there could be a threat to his life. Conversely, the risk for India is that Zardari, in order to sustain himself in power, might court the Pakistani Army. In these circumstances, a war between the two nuclear super-powers, India and Pakistan, should not be totally excluded.
So far, the Indian police are said to have sufficient evidence to accuse the Lashkar-e-Taiba movement, which has the patronage of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), for the Mumbai assault.
The ISI could be described as ''a state within a state'' in Pakistan. Recent attempts by Pakistani Prime Minister Raza Gilani, to place the ISI under civilian control, have actually been swiftly rebuffed. Along the years, the ISI’s main target has mainly been India. Last July, the ISI was actually accused of being behind the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul. The attack killed 58 people and wounded 141. The reason behind the attack is that the ISI fear to lose influence in Afghanistan, now that New Delhi and Kabul have close relations. The ISI has been also suspected to be behind the assassination attempt in Kabul on President Hamid Karzai.
So far, Pakistani security forces have raided a training camp used by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the militant group blamed for last month's attack on Mumbai, and arrested at least 12 of the group's militants. Among the arrested terrorists was Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, LeT's operations chief, whom India accuses of being the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks. However, despite the arrests, Pakistan has decided not to hand over the terrorists to India. It is clear then, that Pakistan cooperated in the raid only to respond to the pressure from New Delhi and Washington, but has no intention to take further actions and to truly cooperate in the investigations with India.
However, the November terrorist stated that the fight is for “Muslims to have their own land”, referring to the region of Kashmir, defined as the “Pakistan’s Palestine”. Pakistan actually accuses India of “occupying” Kashmir and promised “to set it free”. Recently, there has been an increase in the infiltration of Lashkar-e-Taiba militants from Pakistan into Indian Kashmir. And Indian policy makers are worried that the group could mount suicide attacks in the area.
During the 1980s, the ISI was involved in recruiting militants to join the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan. However, after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, the ISI thought that if a superpower like the Soviet Union could be forced out of Afghanistan, Indians could be forced out of the Kashmir region. Hence, in the 1990s, the ISI created a number of jihadist organizations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and Hizbul Mujahideen. Soon after their creation, these groups started an armed insurgency against India in Kashmir. Similarly, in order to gain control over Afghanistan, Pakistan also strengthened the Taliban militarily in 1994.
The responsibility for the attack in India was claimed by an alleged group called “Deccan Mujahideen.” According to Indian investigators, it is a fictitious movement, invented to distance the Pakistani-based Lashkar-e Taiba from the attacks. It was actually proven that all of the terrorists were from Pakistan and that they sailed in a merchant vessel from Karachi to India.
The Mumbai attacks of November - which targeted the central railway station, a hospital, a Jewish center, and two luxurious hotels, Taj Mahal and Oberoi-Trident - is also referred to as the “Indian 9-11.” There are actually similarities. The first is that terrorists, in both cases, decided to attack a metropolis. Mumbai is the Indian fashionable and sleepless city. The second is that terrorists targeted a democracy.
The sophisticated level of planning and of execution seen in the Mumbai attacks immediately forced the Indian police to think that the militants were trained by the Pakistani Army. And only Lashkar-e Taiba, and to some extent the Pakistan-based Jaish-e Muhammad group, are known to carry out such daring terror attacks. We shall see.