Ambiguities Surrounding Mumbai Bombings

Monday, December 1, 2008

During the preceding year, several cases of terrorist attacks have hit major cities in India, threatening peace of a country which is home to different ethnic groups.

Explosions and armed attacks, which started on Wednesday and continued up to yesterday, have been called as India’s September 11 by mass media and threaten ethnic integrity of the nation and peaceful coexistence of different ethnic groups.

However, political implications of the attacks point to possible changes in South Asian countries’ relations and security plans of the region. Protagonists of these attacks have not yet been clearly identified, but the most probable hypotheses can delineate a relatively clear picture of terrorist attacks and the outlook facing India and the whole South Asia. A group called “Deccan Mujahideen” has assumed responsibility for the attack, but the name is new for terrorist experts and security institutions. Some think that the group is a nascent branch of extremist Indian movements most of whose members are young and educated. Indian sources have also reported Indian Mujahideen, a group with Wahhabi tendencies which has branched off the student religious movement, as another possible group involved in the attacks, though it does not seem the above group could have orchestrated such widespread terrorist attacks. Anyway, Deccan Mujahideen have thus far been incriminated as the main protagonist behind what happened in India last week. They have emphasized on their Indian origin, thus ruling out possible foreign intervention. They have emphasized on some historical issues which has prompted Indian analysts to conclude that in view of its Indian origin and the said historical references, Deccan Mujahideen aims to take revenge on extremist Hindus and show reaction to India’s alliance with the United States and Israel.

India is home to the biggest democracy in the world and is a role model of territorial integrity and national solidarity. However, changing interactions between extremist Hindus and Muslims in past years and the approach taken to this issue by the central government has led to major crises in lower layers of social and cultural relations of India, especially in Kashmir. India has a population of 1.13 billion with Muslims accounting for 13.4 percent. However, its officials have been unjust to Muslims in Kashmir. Security and police crackdown on religious minorities has led to growth of hostilities and inattention to role of those minorities in Indian democratic system.

Although recent attacks stemmed from a social background, their foreign reverberations will be resounding, especially in relation to regional goals of the United States and interactions between India and Pakistan.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has implicated foreign elements in the attacks. As a first step, Indian authorities have incriminated Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (Army of the Righteous), which is an extremist Pakistani Muslim group with relations to part of Pakistan’s intelligence service, in Mumbai bombings. A bomb explosion in the Indian embassy in Kabul last year had been also blamed on this group and, indirectly, on Pakistani secret service. India and Pakistan have constantly reciprocated charges about supporting separatist groups on each other’s soils.

However, India’s incriminations do not seem to be very realistic as to Mumbai’s bombings.

Explosions on November 26 took place at a time that Mahmood Qureshi, the Pakistani foreign minister, was in India to discuss details of a new plan for economic and security cooperation with his Indian counterpart. Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistani president is well aware of benefits of economic cooperation with India and has taken a more lenient approach toward India and the conflicts in Kashmir compared to his predecessors, thus, gaining trust from Indian leaders.

Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani have thus far preferred to leave major security threats like Taliban to the United States and also to take a more rational approach to the issue of Kashmir. However, recent claims by New Delhi have proven the opposite. Claims raised by Indian foreign ministry about involvement of Islamabad in Mumbai bomb blasts will overshadow the India-Pakistan peace plan. The difference will also affect Obama Administration because from now on, the United States will have uncertain allies in its war on terror whose longstanding hostilities will cast serious doubts on everything, including the war on terror. The new development will be both a challenge and opportunity for new leaders of the White House. Mumbai attacks may restrict United States’ presence in the region and, at the same time, it may pave the way for further military intervention of Washington in the affairs of Indian Subcontinent.


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