Terrorism in India

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Once again, India has experienced the pain of another 9/11-type event. In 1993, the Mumbai stock exchange and other targets in the city were struck, resulting in over 250 killed and 700 injured. Mumbai was struck again in 2006. The primary targets on this occasion were trains and public transportation, resulting in 180 fatalities. The innocent victims of last week’s mayhem were at public venues, a Jewish Center, and at luxury hotels, which now appear to have replaced commercial airliners as the target of choice for extremists with guns and grenades.

Investigators are now connecting the dots between the perpetrators of these heinous acts and their home bases, where they received instruction, training, and equipment to kill innocent people on a mass scale. On the basis of partial evidence now in the public domain, there appears to be considerable evidence linking the terrorists to locations in Pakistan — but not to the Government of Pakistan.

If this is indeed the case, the Governments of India and Pakistan have hard decisions to make. The U.S. Government also faces stiff diplomatic challenges. The most serious recent crisis between India and Pakistan was provoked by a brazen attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001. This attack came close to killing a large number of Indian Parliamentarians and perhaps Cabinet officers, who were scheduled to be in session when the attack occured.

The Bush administration, primarily in the persons of Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, engaged in successful crisis management to help the Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistani President avoid a war that neither wanted. After the attack on the Indian Parliament, U.S. and world leaders traveled to the region to buy time for diplomacy. The Bush administration succeeded in eliciting from then-President Pervez Musharraf a pledge, announced in a January 12, 2002 speech, to crack down onmilitants operating on Pakistani soil. Musharraf stated that he would tolerate no terrorist activity, even in support of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir. “No organization will be allowed to perpetuate terrorism behind the garb of the Kashmiri cause,” he declared.

A second peak in the 2001-2002 crisis occured in May, when housing facilities in Jammu were attacked by extremists believed to belong to Lashkar e Toiba. Family members of Indian soldiers stationed at the front were killed in these attacks. Shortly thereafter, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited the front lines near where the attacks occurred, and delivered a chilling message to his troops that “the time has come for a decisive battle, and we will have a sure victory in this battle.”

Once again, the State Department mounted a crisis management effort. Deputy Secretary Armitage visited Pakistan, where he elicited a second pledge from Musharraf — that he would do his utmost to cease infiltration “permanently” across the Line of Control dividing Kashmir. This pledge was relayed to senior Indian officials in New Delhi, and at their behest, Armitage went public with Musharraf’s pledge while in India. After the completion of Indian state elections in Jammu and Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani military forces began to demobilize the almost one million troops that stood ready to fight during the ten month-long duration of this crisis.

Following this crisis, Polly Nayak and I interviewed two dozen Bush administration officials involved in the successful crisis management effort, including both Secretary Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage. Their reflections on the crisis as well as our findings might warrant wider readership in light of current events. Our report can be accessed on the Stimson center website at US Crisis Management in South Asia’s Twin Peaks Crisis.

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