Goal of the Mumbai attacks: Sparking India-Pakistan war?

The perpetrators of the recent wave of anti-civilian (i.e. terror) attacks in Mumbai were evidently well organized and well prepared for their mission. It was almost certainly planned as a series of suicide attacks. These indicators point to (but do not prove) the responsibility of Lashkar-i-Taiba, “Army of the pure”, a group that originated in Indian-occupied Kashmir but has also operated elsewhere throughout the subcontinent and in Afghanistan. The nature of their attacks evidently had a strong anti-western and anti-Jewish/Israeli cast to it, along with an even stronger readiness/willingness to kill Indian civilians. Those in the west who have centered on the deaths of westerners– who included two devoutly spiritual followers of a Hindu swami who live near my home-town Charlottesville, one of them a 13-year-old girl– should remember that westerners have made up fewer than ten percent of the deaths confirmed so far, with the rest being Indian citizens.
Given the amount of planning, coordination, dedication to martyrdom, and resources that went into this mission, it must have had a political purpose broader than “simply” killing people (for revenge, or for “expressive” purposes, or whatever.) One possible purpose may have been precisely to try to spur a strong Indian military “counter-attack” against Pakistan that would also– because of the western casualties involved– receive the backing of the US and other western nations.
India may oblige. In fact, its military, security, and political chiefs are meeting right now to decide how to respond to the attacks. On Friday, Indian Foreign Minister already accused unidentified “elements in Pakistan” of being behind the attacks.
Islamabad seems to be bracing for the possibility of some harsh Indian response. Earlier, the Pakistani government had said it would send the head of the powerful (but Hydra-like) ISI intelligence, Lieut-Gen, Ahmed Shuja Pasha to New Delhi to help in the investigation. But now, as the cabinet holds an emergency session in Islamabad, it has also announced it will downgrade the level of that cooperation mission.
I’m sure the Indian government feels itself under a lot of pressure to “do something” forceful and rapid to re-assert an appearance of control over the national situation, to reassure its citizens and its foreign partners, and to “avenge” those who died.
Launching a military attack against Pakistan at this time would be the height of counter-productive folly. It would not solve, but rather would seriously exacerbate, the many problems India already has with its neighbor to the north. The governance system in Pakistan is already extremely shaky and stretched to near collapse. Does the Indian government want to push Pakistan– and with it much of the rest of the subcontinent– over the brink?
Where is the Security Council? It was precisely to deal with and defuse these kinds of crisis that the UN was established. But apart from issuing a pablum-y type of statement yesterday, the SC has taken no action on the crisis. Nor has Sec-Gen Ban Ki-moon.

17 thoughts on “Goal of the Mumbai attacks: Sparking India-Pakistan war?

  1. Jack

    >Given the amount of planning, coordination, dedication to martyrdom, and resources tha went into this mission,it mush have had a broader purpose than simply killing people.One possible purpose may have been precisely to spur a strong military Indian counter attack against Pakistan that would also–because of the western casualties involved–receive the backing of the US and other western nations.”
    If Lashkar-i-Taiba was behind the attack isn’t it also possible some elements in the ISI were involved?
    From what I’ve been reading,the Bush administration is pressuring Pakistan to do more to confront the extremists in the west and be less confrontational towards India. But this attack comes four months after the one on the Indian embassy in Kabul. President Karzai and others have blamed the ISI and even claimed they have tapes of phone conversations between the attackers and members of the ISI.
    If the attack was meant to “spur a strong military Indian counter attack,” perhaps some elements in Pakistan would not be disappointed.
    Ayman al-Zawahiri wouldn’t be disappointed if India got the backing of the US. After his taunting comments to Obama, I wouldn’t be surprised if he told him the same thing he said to Bush when the surge began.
    Instead of Iraq…
    “Send your whole army” to Afghanistan and help India out.
    I woulkdn’t be surprised if al-Zawahiri knew this attack in Mumbai was coming when he made his taunting comments to Obama.
    I can’t wait to read China Hand’s comments…

  2. Salah

    and anti-Jewish/Israeli cast to it,

    According to the Jerusalem Post, the two countries have already discussed an agreement for Israel’s Defence Force to send its own highly trained commandos to help India in Kashmir, the Moslem majority region claimed by both India and Pakistan.

    The newspaper claism that Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi, the commander in chief of Israel’s Ground Forces Command spent three days visiting Kashmir in September to discuss the plan.

  3. KDJ

    It is just devastating to see this happening. The world radical Islamists want is so apparent to me. From 9/11 to Madrid, to London to Mumbai, it is clear that radical Islamists have absolutely no concern for the sanctity of human life, no matter whose it is. I think we must recognize radical Islam for what it is; of course I do not support totalizing theories, however the patterns of boldness, maximum damage to civillian life, and chaos is indeed a world order sought and imposed with absolute impunity. Yes, this is some people’s Islam.
    Here is an interesting piece from the NY Times.
    The New York Times
    November 29, 2008
    Op-Ed Contributor
    What They Hate About Mumbai
    By SUKETU MEHTA
    MY bleeding city. My poor great bleeding heart of a city. Why do they go
    after Mumbai? There s something about this island-state that appalls
    religious extremists, Hindus and Muslims alike. Perhaps because Mumbai
    stands for lucre, profane dreams and an indiscriminate openness.
    Mumbai is all about dhandha, or transaction. From the street food vendor
    squatting on a sidewalk, fiercely guarding his little business, to the
    tycoons and their dreams of acquiring Hollywood, this city understands
    money and has no guilt about the getting and spending of it. I once asked
    a Muslim man living in a shack without indoor plumbing what kept him in
    the city. Mumbai is a golden songbird, he said. It flies quick and sly,
    and you ll have to work hard to catch it, but if you do, a fabulous
    fortune will open up for you. The executives who congregated in the Taj
    Mahal hotel were chasing this golden songbird. The terrorists want to kill
    the songbird.
    Just as cinema is a mass dream of the audience, Mumbai is a mass dream of
    the peoples of South Asia. Bollywood movies are the most popular form of
    entertainment across the subcontinent. Through them, every Pakistani and
    Bangladeshi is familiar with the wedding-cake architecture of the Taj and
    the arc of the Gateway of India, symbols of the city that gives the
    industry its name. It is no wonder that one of the first things the
    Taliban did upon entering Kabul was to shut down the Bollywood video
    rental stores. The Taliban also banned, wouldn t you know it, the keeping
    of songbirds.
    Bollywood dream-makers are shaken. I am ashamed to say this, Amitabh
    Bachchan, superstar of a hundred action movies, wrote on his blog. As the
    events of the terror attack unfolded in front of me, I did something for
    the first time and one that I had hoped never ever to be in a situation to
    do. Before retiring for the night, I pulled out my licensed .32 revolver,
    loaded it and put it under my pillow.
    Mumbai is a soft target, the terrorism analysts say. Anybody can walk
    into the hotels, the hospitals, the train stations, and start spraying
    with a machine gun. Where are the metal detectors, the random bag checks?
    In Mumbai, it s impossible to control the crowd. In other cities, if
    there s an explosion, people run away from it. In Mumbai, people run
    toward it to help. Greater Mumbai takes in a million new residents a
    year. This is the problem, say the nativists. The city is just too
    hospitable. You let them in, and they break your heart.
    In the Bombay I grew up in, your religion was a personal eccentricity,
    like a hairstyle. In my school, you were denominated by which cricketer or
    Bollywood star you worshiped, not which prophet. In today s Mumbai, things
    have changed. Hindu and Muslim demagogues want the mobs to come out again
    in the streets, and slaughter one another in the name of God. They want
    India and Pakistan to go to war. They want Indian Muslims to be expelled.
    They want India to get out of Kashmir. They want mosques torn down. They
    want temples bombed.
    And now it looks as if the latest terrorists were our neighbors, young men
    dressed not in Afghan tunics but in blue jeans and designer T-shirts.
    Being South Asian, they would have grown up watching the painted lady that
    is Mumbai in the movies: a city of flashy cars and flashier women. A
    pleasure-loving city, a sensual city. Everything that preachers of every
    religion thunder against. It is, as a monk of the pacifist Jain religion
    explained to me, paap-ni-bhoomi : the sinful land.
    In 1993, Hindu mobs burned people alive in the streets for the crime of
    being Muslim in Mumbai. Now these young Muslim men murdered people in
    front of their families for the crime of visiting Mumbai. They attacked
    the luxury businessmen s hotels. They attacked the open-air Cafe Leopold,
    where backpackers of the world refresh themselves with cheap beer out of
    three-foot-high towers before heading out into India. Their drunken
    revelry, their shameless flirting, must have offended the righteous
    believers in the jihad. They attacked the train station everyone calls
    V.T., the terminus for runaways and dreamers from all across India. And in
    the attack on the Chabad house, for the first time ever, it became
    dangerous to be Jewish in India.
    The terrorists message was clear: Stay away from Mumbai or you will get
    killed. Cricket matches with visiting English and Australian teams have
    been shelved. Japanese and Western companies have closed their Mumbai
    offices and prohibited their employees from visiting the city. Tour groups
    are canceling long-planned trips.
    But the best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more
    money, and visit Mumbai more than ever. Dream of making a good home for
    all Mumbaikars, not just the denizens of $500-a-night hotel rooms. Dream
    not just of Bollywood stars like Aishwarya Rai or Shah Rukh Khan, but of
    clean running water, humane mass transit, better toilets, a responsive
    government. Make a killing not in God s name but in the stock market, and
    then turn up the forbidden music and dance; work hard and party harder.
    If the rest of the world wants to help, it should run toward the
    explosion. It should fly to Mumbai, and spend money. Where else are you
    going to be safe? New York? London? Madrid?
    So I m booking flights to Mumbai. I m going to go get a beer at the
    Leopold, stroll over to the Taj for samosas at the Sea Lounge, and watch a
    Bollywood movie at the Metro. Stimulus doesn t have to be just economic.
    Suketu Mehta, a professor of journalism at New York University, is the
    author of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found.

  4. Helena

    Kevin, could you please supply just the URL and excerpt(s) and commentary short enough to fit the guidelines here, rather than pasting in whole articles.
    On the Kashmir connection, of course this reminds us that leaving deep conflicts unresolved for many decades often doesn’t make them go away but simply incubates them in an ever more deadly way.
    I think you should be a bit more targeted than just excoriating “radical Islam”, or “some people’s Islam.” Radical is in the eye of the beholder. I know several Muslims who consider their faith radical but are also strong supporters of nonviolence… Surely it is the practice– by Islamists or people motivated by any other ideology– of using violence against civilians that should receive the greatest condemnation. But since so many people from so many different walks of life and ideologies engage in this practice, it’s also important to understand what motivates them. Usually some combination of fear and anger.

  5. kdj

    Thank you for this, Helena. Apologies about the NY Times piece, I will indeed just post links.
    Of course, I too know so many Muslim identified people who deplore this perversion of religion; and of course, any and all attacks against civillians is just deplorable.
    Indeed unresolved conflicts are certainly incubators for extreme tactics-I think your point is very important and indeed your articulation is very astute. I hate resorting to notions of radical Islam, but I do think that this phenomenon is an actuality in the global political landscape, which of course needs to be unpacked and requires a nuanced analysis.

  6. Titus

    The UN defusing without the perps and their hosts paying any price? Are you insane? That is an invitation to the next attack.
    Conveniently no mention by Helena that these unsolved problems are largely brewing in her native UK. They created the India Pakistan mess and London is where the putrid radical ideology fermented. There are allegation that UK nationals particapted in the attack just like in Mike’s cafe terror incident. Here is some more candid islmaic instrospection:
    “Ed Husain, director of the Quilliam Foundation, a London-based counter-extremism think tank founded by former leading ideologues of UK-based extremist Islamist organizations, responded to the reports of British involvement in the attacks: “British Muslim leaders need to take their heads out of the sand and begin systematically dismantling the warped theology that has inspired these and other attacks.
    “Unless our government is bolder in identifying Islamism as the root cause of extremism, we will only be responding to and not preventing terrorism. Extremist Islamist groups continue to hold events in the UK and recruit new followers, radical Islamism has no place in our country,” he said.
    The Independent suggested that according to UK security agencies, more than 4,000 British Muslims have passed through terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, providing a fertile recruitment pool for the Islamist international jihad.
    In an article on Saturday, the newspaper said that men from the Kashmiri community in the UK have joined groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba, the prime suspects in the Mumbai terror attacks, which have been fighting against Indian forces in Kashmir.”

  7. Jack

    China Hand..August 24, 2008…
    “America drinks the COIN kool-aid”
    Last two paragraphs…
    “Instead, while Karzai floundered to his doom, the Pakistan army could do what it does best:deploy it’s divsions in a convention order of battle in Pakistan’s east facing India”…
    “So, a surge into Afghanistan, instead of adding an emollient sheen to waters already smoothed by an interested regional power, might instead apply a highly flammable coating of gasoline to all of South Asia–with the Taliban and ISI eager to throw a match.”
    What happened in Mumbai would seem to be much bigger than the attack at the Indian embassy in Kabul but with many of the same players.

  8. Helena

    Titus, I never said the perpetrators and their hosts should pay no price. But we should not assume that the “price” has to be exacted using military means. That was the big mistake Bush made after 9/11. Much smarter and more effective to get effective and tough international police action for what is, after all, a decidedly international crime.
    Also, your randomly reproduced quotes add nothing to the discussion without citations and also, preferably, URLs.

  9. Titus

    Helena, you were asking for UN mediation to defuse the situation and avoid the perps paying a price. Whether the price is military or by some other unspecified mechanism is up to the victims, not you or the UN. Mediation is as irrelevant and futile as asking for some third party to mediate between you and your ex-husband.
    As for the composition of the victims what matters is what was targeted, right? By sheer statistics the victims would be dominated by locals, please be open minded on the admitted targets.
    Questioning the authenticity of the paragraph I pasted is plain infantile. Want to bet something on its authenticity? Or just your usual cheap words? I’ll be happy to provide the URL once you answer.
    The India episode so disgusting and predictable, is as predictable as the responses of the usual Islamic apologists on this board. The cumulative effect of reading them atrocity after atrocity can lead one to the conviction that the main difference between the young terrorists and their apologists is just their testosterone level, and maybe some white hairs.

  10. omop

    Came across the following on an Asian website:
    Posted – 11/28/2008 : 12:23:14
    Downside The World News
    Possible Geopolitical Consequences of the Mumbai Attacks
    Possible Geopolitical Consequences of the Mumbai Attacks
    Did Indian regime and Zion-USA-West made a deal to split Pakistan ?
    and then the hope of Zion-US-West mutual destruction of India and pakistan ?
    Statement issued by David Ben Gurion, the first Israeli Prime Minister, as printed in the Jewish Chronicle, 9 August 1967:
    “The world Zionist movement should not be neglectful of the dangers of Pakistan to it. And Pakistan now should be its first target, for this ideological State is a threat to our existence. And Pakistan, the whole of it, hates the Jews and loves the Arabs.
    This lover of the Arabs is more dangerous to us than the Arabs themselves. For that matter, it is most essential for the world Zionism that it should now take immediate steps against Pakistan.
    Whereas the inhabitants of the Indian peninsula are Hindus whose hearts have been full of hatred towards Muslims, therefore, India is the most important base for us to work therefrom against Pakistan.
    It is essential that we exploit this base and strike and crush Pakistanis, enemies of Jews and Zionism, by all disguised and secret plans.”
    Your comment about the non-involvement of the UN is interesting when one recollects that it was brought in to investigate the assassination of Hariri in Lebanon. And the fact that the FBI is sending a team to investigate. Over 300 people arekiled in Nigeria and no one seems to give whit about.
    This tragedy like all such criminal acts should be covered as Aristotle’s suggestions of “causal factors” imply. The motivation for such an act under why and who stands to benefit.
    Some US websites are implying that the new administration undertake military actions and soon. Its almost like out of Iraq into Pakistan is on the agenda with out any mention of the UN’s role.

  11. Helena

    I’ll repeat: I never said anything about “allowing” the perpetrators to avoid paying a price. I was writing about the need for concerted international action– preferably led by the UN– to prevent this incident leading to (yet another) all-out war. Anyone who has any direct experience of the costs that war imposes on all sectors of society, especially the most vulnerable, will understand the urgency of doing that. (People who imagine that war is “just a video game”, by contrast, might continue to imagine it’s a realistic option.)
    In the context of international negotiations to defuse India-Pakistan tensions raised by this atrocity, of course a robust international partnership should be established to hunt down the killers and their supporters and bring them to a civilized and effective form of justice. I thought that would go without saying. That’s what we have Interpol and all sorts of other international police-coordination mechanisms for.
    Titus, your idea that the form of the punishment is up to the victims is quite bizarre and barbaric. What we have rules and laws for at any level of society is so that punishment is done by duly constituted (and most preferably, democratically accountable) state or intra-governmental authorities, rather than bands of vigilantes roaming the earth.
    I wasn’t “questioning the authenticity” of the text you pasted in. I merely pointed out it has little probative value in any discussion unless we know the source, preferably also with a URL.
    Finally, you know nothing about the state of my relationship with my ex-husband. Nothing at all. The references you make to it are ill-informed, quite irrelevant to any of our discussions here, and childishly ad-feminam.

  12. omop

    Ms. Cobban.
    Could not resist the temptation to commend and applaud your comments relative the personalized insinuations and insults of by “Titus”.
    A dogmatic/fanatic approach to any issue serves no good purpose or ethical end.
    If the UN is irrelevant in instances such as what took place in Mumbai then its back to the old and well worn idiom of “might makes right” and bomb, bomb, bomb by any and all.

  13. KDJ

    For what it is worth, I am posting the URL to Senator Feingold’s most constructive approach, which calls for an urgent engagement btw India and Pakistan, versus an erosion of this relationship. As usual, this Senator’s responses are exempary and reflect the best of US policy approaches.
    I too deplore the obnoxious postings which invoke HC personal relationships. It is always amazing to me the extent to which people cannot go in having an adult conversation. Name calling is in fact the lowest form (in terms of human development) of human relations, and lets hope that there is a lot less of this here.
    Senator Feingold is a sunflower.
    http://feingold.senate.gov/~feingold/statements/08/11/20081128.htm

  14. DE Teodoru

    At this time Israel is competing with India. Israel wants to keep US focus in the Middle East– even if through continued war in Iraq– so America can get into a tangle with Iran. India wants the US to keep focus on Afghanistan because there the US will do its bidding, ending up inevitably at war with Pakistan. It is in that context that the situation has to be seen. The offer of Israeli military personel should be seen in light of the military “advisers” that Israel sent to Georgia. With three Shakashvilli Cabinet Ministers holding Israeli passports and Israel’s advisers getting out in time while the Americans were caught flat-footed and some even died in the South Osetia conflict, one can only wish that Israel keep its “advisers” out of the India-Pakistan tinderbox. The IDF does its own thing, rarely notifying the Israeli government afterwards. India and Israel are no friends so nothing good came come out of this attempt to exploit eachother’s misery through more bloodshed to add to the Islamic radical bloodshed they both suffer.

  15. virgil xenophon

    Helena
    For a supposedly highly educated and erudite individual, your views on the UN are so delusional as to cause me to believe that you have been “educated beyond your intelligence.” Considering the make-up of the security council and the running joke that is the Human Rights Commission (or panel or whatever they call themselves now) consisting of some of the biggest human rights violaters extant and the UN’s miserable record of corruption cowardace, and outright thuggish banditry and rape in it’s peacekeeping operations–not to mention it’s looking away from numerous pogroms in Rwanda and Kosovo and elsewhere,as well as the corruption in the “Food-for-oil” Iraqi sanctions (or lack thereof) program–I am compelled to ask: “Are you at once the direct descendant of both Holly Go-Lightly and Pollyanna? And just what sort of “robust international partnerships” have EVER been successful without major participation by America?

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