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Home > India > News > Columnists > Colonel (retired) Anil Athale

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How should India respond to Mumbai attacks

December 05, 2008

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The Mumbai terror strike is no ordinary attack. All over the world there have been several blasts but in all those cases they have been attacks by stealth. Here is the first instance where the attackers have openly defied a nation of one billion. That the nation's 200 elite commandos were defied for 60 hours is a tremendous boost for the morale of terrorists all over the world. This also brings into question even India's nuclear deterrence. The effect of inaction can be devastating.

Understanding the attack objectives:

Enough has been written and shown about the methods, routes and actual actions of the young psychopath terrorists who killed Indian citizens and foreigners in Mumbai. I do not intend to cover that ground again except to say that as an ex-soldier (and a commando instructor) I felt immense pride at the bravery shown by our men in eliminating the terrorists.

I salute those brave men and women of the staff at the hotels who gave their lives to protect the guests in hotel. It is in a sense our finest hour -- shows how a decent peace-loving citizenry can rise to the occasion. I salute them.

First and foremost it must be clearly understood that the attack did not have a direct Pakistan government hand in it, by that I mean the civil government. Whether it had the backing of Pakistan Army [Images]/Inter Services Intelligence combine is a difficult question to answer. I wish to again reiterate that I do not distinguish between ISI and the army. This is myth propagated by the Pakistan army and swallowed by gullible Indian media; after all the ISI functions directly under the army chief (recent efforts to put it under civil control were brought to naught due to army pressure) and headed by a serving Lieutenant General. The ISI and Pakistan army are one and the same.

The young attackers had a single motivation -- to kill the maximum number of Indians. It is true that they asked for Americans and British citizens in hotels -- but that must have been when they may be running short of ammunition.

Some idea of the aim of the terrorists could be gauged from the effect it has had on the sub-continent. First and foremost, it has brought to naught the entire peace process and CBMs (confidence building measures) between India and Pakistan. This has been the aim of extremist elements in Pakistan for a very long time. Some elements in Pakistan, close to the army, are blaming India for over-reaction. These worthies forget that it is the failure of the Pakistan government and society to control these jihadists in their midst that is the reason for this sorry pass.

The rise in Indo-Pakistan tensions has given the opportunity to the Pakistani army to wind down its operations against al Qaeda and Taliban [Images] on the Afghan border. Thus the direct beneficiary of this attack is undoubtedly al Qaeda/Taliban. The perceived threat from India has given rise to the Taliban offering a ceasefire to the Pakistan army to deal with the infidel enemy on the east -- India! This has extricated the Pakistan army from a difficult and bloody campaign that many in Pakistan and in its army had termed as 'America's war'. Thus there is a convergence of interests of Taliban/Al Qaeda [Images]/Pakistan army in breaking the Indo-Pakistan peace process and creating tensions on the Indo-Pakistan border.

In international affairs there are no accidents -- each event has a firm cause-effect relationship. It is therefore fair to assume that it was a joint al Qaeda/Taliban/Pakistan Army operation. Here the term 'Taliban is used in a generic sense and includes groups like Massod Azhar's Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayiba or its new 'avatar' Markaz-e-Dawa. As more and more evidence comes to light, involvement of groups from the middle-east -- Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and UK-based Pakistani is coming to light. There seems to be a 'consortium' formed to carry out terror attacks in India.

Another reason to suspect such involvement is the magnitude of logistic support needed for such an operation. Even professional armies find it difficult to launch a sea borne assault nearly 500 nautical miles from its base! As a thumb rule for each terrorist in operation, there would be ten persons needed for support and logistics. This means at least 100 to 150 persons are involved with skills ranging from sea navigation to communication to medical aid. The terrorist must have planned for contingencies and a get away. A local support cell is an absolute certainty.

None of this can be done without support or nod from the real rulers of Pakistan -- the army. Democratic fa�ade notwithstanding -- Pakistan is unique. Elsewhere a country has an army -- here an army has a country. One of the pluses of this operation could well be the ending of brief life of the democratic govt in that country. The Pakistan army has conquered Pakistan several times, it may well be preparing for anther conquest of their own country.

Predictably, western pressure seems to be mounting on India, the victim of terrorism and not Pakistan the perpetrator. The West is solely interested in getting help for its operations in Afghanistan -- Indian loss of lives be damned. Some indication of this is already available with Western media acting coy in acknowledging the fact that a terrorist has been caught alive and singing like a canary.

There have been attempts to link this with Kashmir -- the perennial love of the West. That at this very moment Kashmir has voted in elections -- an overwhelming 60 percent -- is of no consequence to the blind western media. Indians have seen this farce repeat in the past 30 years, the end of Cold war has done very little to change this entrenched mindset. This author was in Salzburg (Austria) last year September attending a global workshop on terrorism. Whenever there was a mention of a terrorist attack, 9/11 topped the list and that included London [Images] and Madrid bombings but never the serial bomb attacks on Mumbai. But it must be admitted that it is wrong to blame the foreigners alone. Our own pseudo liberals and secularists have time and time only highlighted the victim hood of minorities. These anti-nationals have created an image of the country and its majority as one of the most intolerant countries in the world.

Part II: Target the Pakistan army, not Pakistan

Col Athale is Chhattrapati Shivaji fellow of the USI, Delhi [Images], working on a project on internal security. He is also coordinator of the Pune-based think tank Inpad.

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