NEW DELHI – The fallout from the terror attacks in Mumbai last week has already shaken India. Deep and sustained anger across the country – at its demonstrated vulnerability to terror and at the multiple institutional failures that allowed such loss of life – has prompted the resignations of the Home Minister in the national government and the Chief Minister and his Deputy in the state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital. As evidence mounts that the attacks were planned and directed from Pakistani territory, calls for decisive action have intensified. But what can India do?
The terrorists hit multiple targets in Mumbai, both literally and figuratively. They caused death and destruction to Indians with near-impunity, searing India’s psyche, showing up the limitations of its security apparatus and humiliating its government. They dented the worldwide image of India as an emerging economic giant, a success story of the era of globalization and an increasing magnet for investors and tourists. Instead the world was made to see an insecure and vulnerable India, a “soft state” bedevilled by enemies who can strike it at will.
That was not all. By singling out Americans, British and Israelis for their malign attention, the terrorists extended the global Islamist war against “Jews and crusaders” to new territory. As they dominated the world’s media for three gruesome days, the killers achieved a startling success for their cause, one that must have shaken anti-terrorist experts around the world, who now realize how easy it would be for ten men unafraid of death to hold any city in the world hostage.
The interrogation of the one surviving terrorist, and evidence from satellite telephone intercepts and other intelligence, has led to an emerging international consensus that the attacks were masterminded by the Wahhabi-inspired Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group once patronized, protected and trained by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as a useful instrument in their country’s proxy war against India in Kashmir. Though banned by General Pervez Musharraf under duress after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Lashkar (which considers the United States, Israel and India “existential enemies of Islam”) simply regrouped under a different name and is even more powerful than before.