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'Attacks on India likely to continue'

Suman Guha Mozumder in New York | February 11, 2009 08:24 IST

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A Rand Corporation study on the November 26 terrorist attacks on Mumbai [Images] has concluded that India will remain a target of Pakistan-based terrorism for the foreseeable future because of the inability of New Delhi [Images] and the international community to compel Islamabad [Images] to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure in that country.

Titled 'Lessons of Mumbai', the report posts the possibility of an escalating terrorist campaign in the region and the rise of a 'strategic terrorist culture'.

Citing Pakistan's 'inherent incapacities' to dismantle its terrorist infrastructure and the expanding participation of Indians in Islamist violence, Angel Rabasa of the Rand Corporation, lead author of the report, said all of these coalesced into a grim prospect for the subcontinent.

Asked to elaborate on the doomsday scenario, Rabasa said, "There is an infrastructure of terrorist groups in Pakistan that have been targeting India at least for the past 15 years. and there seems to be very little indication so far that the government of Pakistan is able or willing to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure."

"There are some limitations as far as India and the international community is concerned with regard to the Pakistani policy and to the presence of these terrorist groups in Pakistan. As long as these terrorist groups are in place, they will target India. There are two basic premises: one, that these attacks are likely to continue as long as this terrorist infrastructure continues to be present in Pakistan and two, that there has been an unwillingness or inability on the part of the Pakistani authorities to shut down these infrastructures."

The root cause of the problem, Rabasa says, is that there are different power centres in Pakistan, and the civilian government is incapable of controlling the army and the Inter Services Intelligence. "It is conceivable that even the Pakistani military establishment may not have control over elements in the ISI that continue to support these terrorist groups. We do not see Pakistan as a unified actor in dealing with terrorist groups � there are multiple power centres. It is very hard to engage Pakistan to a reasonable degree."

All of this coupled with the nuclear deterrent, Rabasa argues in the study, limits India's options. "There is always a risk of escalation to nuclear level," Rabasa says, arguing why India cannot safely consider an armed response. "It seems to me that the Pakistani nuclear doctrine does not preclude the first use of nuclear weapons. Asif Ali Zardari [Images] has walked back from that at some points, but then he does not control the nuclear weapons of Pakistan. The ultimate decision makers, I guess, are the military in Pakistan. This is the constraint for conventional action as far as India is concerned."

Further, Rabasa argues, terrorist groups in Pakistan have diversified their infrastructure, "and so it is very difficult to disable these groups by a military strike on their facilities. You can always use military means, but the question is whether it would achieve the objective, mainly dismantling the terrorist infrastructure in that country."

Asked about India's use of massive international diplomacy and whether it could form an effective strategy, Rabasa said the point worth keeping in mind is that as far as the US is concerned, Pakistan has become the epicentre of global terrorism.

"Al Qaeda [Images] has established itself in the tribal areas of Pakistan and there are also other terrorist groups. Even the United Kingdom has suffered terrorist attacks that had links to Pakistan. Terrorists finding sanctuaries in Pakistan is an international problem and therefore, there is a major international interest in securing Pakistani cooperation in dismantling these terrorist infrastructures."

Rabasa pointed out that if the US was to succeed in its offensive against the Taliban [Images] and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, it had to start by eliminating terrorist sanctuaries. "The US is constrained by the fact that it relies on Pakistan for logistical support for its operations in Afghanistan. Therefore, to be able to find ways to persuade sectors in Pakistan that tolerate these terrorist groups, the US needs to find ways to review its reliance for logistical support on Pakistan," Rabasa said, arguing that as long as the US was reliant on Pakistan support, it would lack full freedom to move against terrorist infrastructures in the region.

The comprehensive study points the finger directly at the Lashkar-e-Tayiba [Images] for the Mumbai attacks, but stops short of arguing that there was some level of complicity by the ISI. "We know that LeT has historically had links with ISI -- in fact, the LeT was established with the support of the ISI," Rabasa pointed out.

"But we do not have enough information to make the judgment as to whether ISI, or elements within the ISI, were involved in the terror attack or had knowledge of this specific operation. The LeT has been allowed to operate very openly in Pakistan, but we do not have enough evidence to suggest that there was complicity between the ISI and LeT."






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