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November 28, 2008

India Attacks: What Next?
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Let's recap what we still don't know:

  • domestic group (as the innovative tactics and recent Indian history of homegrown extremism suggest) or foreign (as the level of precision and focus on international targets suggest);
  • link with Al Qaeda (see above);
  • link with Pakistan (lots of allegations coming out in the Indian press, but that is what would be said first in any case);
  • final extent of casualties/hostage-taking.

The experts I reached in between bites of turkey yesterday suggested looking ahead to several decisions the Indian government will have to make on response --

1.  Can it be restrained?  The current government faces elections next spring and was criticized for reacting too little to attacks over the summer.  This time, it may feel that it has to keep up the menacing rhetoric, and even follow it with action, whatever facts emerge.

2.  What happens to the rapprochement with Pakistan?  Pakistani PM Zardari had just made interesting overtures to India, suggesting that Pakistan could adopt a no-first-use nuclear policy (anathema to the Pakistani military) and take other steps to warm the relationship.  It was unclear before this whether Zardari was serious; now it's unclear whether either side will have the will to follow through, to put it mildly -- and, because of #1 above, the consequences could be much more serious. (Thanks, Ezra.)

3.  What happens to US-Indian relations?  Though the great majority of casualties seem to have been Indian, the aggressive targeting of Americans, Brits and Israelis appears to have been a bid not just for media attention but also to disrupt the growing US-India ties. 

4.  What becomes of India's heightened global profile?  One expert I spoke to saw it as an effort to disrupt India's internationalizing economy (of which Mumbai is the de facto center) and send the message to the Indian government that its efforts to reach outward could be thrown off at will.  He worried that the Indian government might be tempted to pull back from its strengthened global engagement, citing the US-India civil nuclear agreement and India's activism in Afghanistan as two potential flashpoints.  This seems unlikely to me -- frankly, India's struggles with terrorism are extensive enough that one attack seems unlikely to deter a determined government -- but again, something to watch for. 


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Well, I'm scarcely an "expert" (though I DID have some turkey yesterday!), but I would hazard a guess to answer your questions:

1. Probably not. (not in the short-term anyway)
2. Probably screwed. (in the short-term anyway)
3. Probably strengthened (if for no other reason than victimization-solidarity)
4. Probably raised (considerably).

India's recent history of profile-raising, and increased participation on the international stage is likely to be too far advanced at this point to be sidetracked or derailed by anything short of a full-scale shooting war (likely NOT nuclear - but who knows?). As are US-Indian ties. Terrorist incidents like the Mumbai Massacres are awful, but one has to hope that the Indian Government will be wiser in their response, than, say, the Bush Administration was after 9/11/01.

To respond to question number one - the government HAS to now. It's great that the media's been lapping this up and publicizing it because now New Delhi has to respond or risk the political consequences. It'll be like the US after 9/11, albeit to a much lesser extent.

Final comment: What are the chances that Pakistan is not involved?

Negligible. For example, this:

At least this will shut up the "experts" who claimed that this was because of domestic oppression of muslims, or due to "hindu extremists".

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