Saturday, November 29, 2008

Murder In Mumbai

Image credit: CIA World Factbook.

[Updated on Nov. 30]

Like many people, I'm fascinated and appalled at the events that have just recently ended in Mumbai, India. The attacks seem to have been carried out by a dozen or so people, who apparently arrived by sea. Foreigners, particularly Americans, Britons, and Israelis were singled out as targets or hostages. Two Canadians were killed as well. The raiders were well-armed and clearly had some training. Beyond that, I don't think much can be said until events are reconstructed later.

Outside The Beltway writer Dave Schuler observes:

This wasn’t the same as a suicide bomber blowing him- or herself up in a crowded marketplace. That could have been achieved at a fraction of the cost of this particular set of attacks. These attacks had planning and coordination; the young men who forced their way into some of Mumbai’s fanciest hotels and restaurants had received a level of training and preparation. That incurs a cost; such resources are too valuable just to throw away.

I have no more explanation than anybody else and can only offer a handful of guesses. It may have been a probing attack. If that’s the case Mumbai can expect more such attacks and soon, indeed, I would have already expected a followup.

Terrorist Rampage Ended in Mumbai

I don't know why there'd be an immediate followup. They might need to find a different way to get into Mumbai in the future, or not. In any event, there are very few entities that can just whistle up a ride for a dozen armed men into a possibly foreign city any time it wants. We know who most of them are already, as the New York Times reports:

Officials in Washington said Friday that there was no evidence that the Pakistani government had any role in the attacks. But if evidence were to emerge that the operation had been planned and directed from within Pakistan, that would certainly further escalate tensions between India and Pakistan, bitter, nuclear-armed rivals. It could also provoke an Indian military response, even strikes against militants’ training camps.

U.S. Intelligence Focuses on Pakistani Group

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) is certainly a suspect. Pakistan's longstanding conflict with India over the Kashmir region has been the genesis for much of the terrorism in that region. The Federation of American Scientists observe:

Critics of the ISI say that it has become a state within a state, answerable neither to the leadership of the army, nor to the President or the Prime Minister. The result is there has been no real supervision of the ISI, and corruption, narcotics, and big money have all come into play, further complicating the political scenario. Drug money was used by ISI to finance not only the Afghanistan war, but also the ongoing proxy war against India in Kashmir and Northeast India.


The oldest and most widely known militant organization, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), spearheaded the movement for an independent Kashmir. This group declared a cease-fire in 1994. The most powerful of the pro-Pakistani groups is the Hezb-ul-Mujahedin. The other major groups are Harakat-ul Ansar, a group which reportedly has a large number of non-Kashmiris in it, Al Umar, Al Barq, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Lashkar-e Toiba, which is also made up largely of fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Many of these militants were trained in Afghanistan, where several ISI agents were killed during U.S. air strikes in 1998 against terrorist training camps. Since the defeat of the Taliban, militant training camps have moved to Pakistani Kashmir.

Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI]

[bold emphasis mine].
In short, these guys have been really busy fomenting terrorism in that part of the world. Lashkar-e Taiba is considered the most likely organization to have carried out this raid. Taylor Marsh's observation:

With Lashkar's stunning coordination (assuming the reports to date are correct), the scope and targeting of these bombings elevated India's quiet terrorism challenge to the front pages everywhere. It's one reason why the 9/11 comparison is so apt. Like the once sleeping U.S., India's financial mecca was hit to such devastating proportions as to change the perception of the country, awakening the world to the scope of her enemies, as well as the wider horror revealed. That this trio country region [Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India], so to speak, with all its dangers, including Kashmir, can no longer be ignored as simply tribal areas, border disputes and separate missions. They are one.

India: Anatomy of a Calculated Hit

rings true with me, as it seems to with Patrick Lang and Juan Cole as well. This region has been volatile for a long time. It is only now that we are starting to pay attention. India is the world's second largest country, and its twelfth-ranked economy (as of 2007). Its future is in many respects intertwined with our own, particularly since it is the world's largest democracy. Since India's future is intertwined with its two troubled neighbors, this makes it axiomatic that they, too, are going to require more of our, and the rest of the world's, attention in the future.

UPDATE (Nov. 30): The Guardian's William Dalrymple provides a fascinating look at the tie between the conflict over Kashmir and this week's attacks in Mumbai:

If Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is the most emotive issue for Muslims in the Middle East, then India's treatment of the people of Kashmir plays a similar role among South-Asian Muslims. At the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, the state should logically have gone to Pakistan. However, the pro-Indian sympathies of the state's Hindu Maharajah, as well as the Kashmiri origins of the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, led to the state passing instead to India - on the condition that the Kashmiris retained a degree of autonomy.

Successive Indian governments, however, refused to honour their constitutional commitments to the state. The referendum, promised by Nehru at the UN, on whether the state would remain part of India, was never held. Following the shameless rigging of the 1987 local elections, Kashmiri leaders went underground. Soon after, bombings and assassination began, assisted by Pakistan's ISI which ramped up the conflict by sending over the border thousands of heavily armed jihadis.

Mumbai atrocities highlight need for solution in Kashmir

It's well worth a read, I think. (h/t: Lotus)

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