The Unfinished Crisis: US Crisis Management After the 2008 Mumbai Attacks
During the limited war between India and Pakistan in the heights above Kargil in 1999, and again after the attack on the Indian Parliament building in 2001 by Pakistani nationals, the United States engaged in intense diplomacy to defuse a severe crisis. Then, in late November, 2008, the world watched in horror for three days as extremists, once again based, trained, and armed in Pakistan, carried out attacks in Mumbai against two luxury hotels, the city’s central train station, a Jewish center, and other targets. These events in Mumbai are referred to in India as “26/11”—an Indian analog to the 9/11 attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
In this study, we focus especially on approaches and mechanisms adopted by American officials after the 2008 attacks, as they tried both to address terrorism-related issues and to steer India and Pakistan away from confrontation. Some of these mechanisms were honed in earlier crises between India and Pakistan, notably he reliance on top-level diplomacy and on the choreography of high-level official US visits to Islamabad and New Delhi with other key capitals. After the 2008 Mumbai crisis, however, information sharing and law enforcement cooperation assumed new importance, and the Bush administration undertook an unprecedented attempt to broker direct counterterrorism cooperation between New Delhi and Islamabad.
This case study is the first detailed account of US crisis management after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, one that will no doubt be amplified by future first-person accounts and the release of additional details. We conclude that this crisis is both unresolved and unfinished, as our title suggests, and that further attacks in India by militants trained in Pakistan are likely. Although the circumstances, targets, and venues of any future attacks may differ significantly, our analysis and conclusions might help inform US planning for and management of resultant crises between the two countries.