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The Rediff Special/ Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC

'India's patience is not infinite'

December 29, 2008

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The consensus among a high-profile group of former diplomats, military leaders, politicians, businessmen and others was that the Mumbai terror attacks [Images] of 26/11 was a tangible manifestation of a global threat that calls for a global response.

At a seminar held by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the group of thought leaders visiting the United States for the previously scheduled annual US-India dialogue of the Aspen Strategy Group further argued that the the Mumbai attacks should not be exclusively viewed through the prism of India-Pakistan relations.

Instead, they advocated, it needed to be seen as calculated terrorist attacks launched from Pakistan with the specific objective of furthering a sinister game-plan. The Lashkar-e-Tayiba [Images], widely believed to be responsible for 26/11, was in their opinion working to a two-fold objective: to strike at India's financial capital in general, and foreign nationals in particular, in order to erode international confidence in the Indian economy and, two, to further inflame communal passions within the country.

The Lashkar failed to achieve the second objective, they said, because the Indian Muslim community had taken an immediate, strong stand against the attacks and even refused to grant the slain terrorists an Islamic burial.

The group, that met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [Images] and other senior officials of the Bush administration during its tour, said the body of evidence including what had been gathered by US intelligence agencies pointed at the complicity of Pakistan-based terrorist groups in the attacks, and called for a concerted international effort to shore up Pakistan's nascent democratic government and to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure within the country.

While the best-case scenario was for such groups to be shut down by the Pakistan government in tandem with the United Nations, India's patience would not be infinite, the group warned. If Islamabad [Images] continued to shift and stall, as it has done after terrorist incidents of the past such as the December 13, 2001 attack on India's Parliament, and if the international community fails to get Pakistan to act, then India would act unilaterally, the group warned.

Starting the discussion, Satinder K Lambah, former ambassador and now special envoy in the Prime Minister's Office, said 'You will all agree that India has shown restraint. This was an attack on our sovereignty. Even after the Mumbai blast of 2006, we had continued with the India-Pakistan peace process. This was 9/11 for us.'

He said the attacks should not be seen in an India-Pakistan context, and noted that 'President-elect Obama [Images] has been mentioning that the next hub of activities is Pakistan, so you have to look at an international aspect.'

Retired Lieutenant General Satish Nambiar, now director of the United Service Institution of India, New Delhi [Images], said 26/11 'was a very much closely-planned and well-executed operation by a bunch of well-equipped and motivated persons. In fact, it had all the hallmarks of a classic military raid, the sort of thing when I watched it unfold I was reminded of one's own experience (as a young major in the Indian army [Images]).'

General Nambiar said the attacks pointed to the need to 'strengthen our internal laws, the law-and-order mechanism, to deal with such things, as many countries in the West have done after the sad events of 9/11. There would be some curbs on individual liberties, which all of us will have to accept. This is not, of course, to suggest that basic human rights have to be violated.'

He rubbished theories that terrorism had its roots in issues ranging from the Kashmir problem, to the plight of the Muslim community in India and similar issues. 'I'm not so sure about that because there's much more now at stake. Even if those problems are resolved, I don't think this phenomenon is going to disappear, because there is a larger agenda which is being attempted.'

Part II: 'What more evidence do we need to provide?'

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