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India, Pakistan and terrorism

The attacks on Mumbai have had huge political consequences already in India with the chief security officer dead, political resignations or offers of resignations and India’s borders placed on a war footing. There is more to come. Indian political opinion has turned on the politicians as it has been alleged that security alerts concerning Mumbai had been ignored. Relations between India and Pakistan are severely strained. A major security review is under way in India with concerns being raised for security not only in Mumbai but in Delhi where there have been further threats allegedly targeting the international airport and key railway stations. Fears that gunmen are still on the loose in Mumbai and the information that the targeted number of deaths was 5,000 have caused further insecurity, fear and anger. Condoleeza Rice, the United States secretary of State, has been sent to India to review the situation with politicians there and no doubt to urge caution on the developing tension between India and Pakistan. If the idea was to throw relations in the sub-continent into disarray then the terrorists must be denied this prize. Other countries face problems too as a result of this new wave of terrorism.

Condoleeza Rice is trying to reduce the tension between India and Pakistan. She has already been in contact with ministers in both countries and her visit to India is about maintaining this diplomatic initiative. Even at this stage with little public information to go on, it seems fairly certain that the plot was hatched in Pakistan and the terrorists trained there. Newspapers have suggested that the clandestine Pakistani group known as Lashkar-e-Taiba is involved. However, Condoleeza Rice must reflect on the fact that United States policy towards Pakistan, including US border raids from Afghanistan in Pakistan, has fuelled popular discontent with the United States. Non-state actors taking up terrorism creates problems for all governments but Pakistan is facing a difficult set of domestic issues. There is a rich soil on which extreme fundamentalism and terrorism can grow. Given the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and terrorist activity within Pakistan, and, popular views on Kashmir, the danger of exporting terrorism into India has always been real. Pakistan groups have been inciting Indian Muslim groups, such as the Deccan Mujahedeen, to take direct action. The situation has just become worse. Domestically India which is essentially a secular state, must avoid problems between Muslims (in the minority in most states) and Hindus. There are domestic extremists on both sides.

The security situation has domestic implications but it must be considered also within a broader framework of international and political relations in the region. India must be mature enough not to “export? the problem. Its leaders must reflect also on Mumbai as a target. Ease of penetration may have been one factor though the terrorists must have had a means of getting close by sea. That Mumbai is the financial capital of India and hence closely associated with Indian economic success is perhaps another significant reason. Mumbai’s symbolic value as a focus for the application of “economic globalization? and hence the spread of western economic values, is considerable. Sustainable economic growth requires stability. Westerners were the prime target even if this in fact failed to be the case. Counter-productive policies, American policies in particular, in Afghanistan, towards Pakistan and other countries such as Iran, need to be reviewed. This will need to await the new administration. Obama’s team will be closely informed about the discussions with the Indian government. Talking about a foreegn policy testing of a new adminstration seems appropriate, though this may be reading too much into the situation. Clarity of though rather than emotional reaction is essential. As with other aspects of United States foreign policy, a new approach may well be essential but practical polices that can achieve change may continue to be out of reach. Deep and detailed political as well as security cooperation is required and not an escalation of conflict between India and Pakistan.