India and Pakistan Aren’t Ready for Another Terrorist Crisis

Commentary
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Foreign Policy

India and Pakistan Aren’t Ready for Another Terrorist Crisis

On the week of the 10th anniversary of the Mumbai terrorist massacre, the bilateral cooperation between India and Pakistan to open a visa-free corridor for Sikh pilgrims to access a sacred place of worship offers a rare moment of inspiration. Ten years ago this week, India awoke to the horrific three-day assault on its financial capital of Mumbai by Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists, much of it broadcast live, in which at least 170 people were killed, hundreds more were wounded, and South Asian rivals raised fears of a major conflict and nuclear crisis. Today, the impromptu corridor of free passage between decades-long adversaries might signal the triumph of back-channel diplomacy and pragmatic confidence-building.

Unfortunately, this thaw in what has been an otherwise tense year in India-Pakistan bilateral relations is unlikely to endure. The risk of another nuclear-tinged crisis remains high, because the conditions precipitating the Mumbai crisis persist or have worsened after a decade. Pakistan continues to strategically support proxies that conduct cross-border terrorism. A revitalized Kashmir insurgency intensifies India-Pakistan tensions. India still lacks sufficient deterrence or defense options, and third parties are less able or inclined to mediate a crisis.

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