The international pressure on the Pakistani Government to take action following the Mumbai attacks has led to the first raid on a camp run by Lashkar-e-Taiba. Whether this action is the start of a concerted effort against militant groups in Pakistan or whether this has been done to temporarily placate India and the US remains to be seen. What is obvious is that the Pakistani Government is coming under intense pressure to take tough and decisive action and with the precarious state of Pakistan’s economy and the need for foreign assistance, any future international help may become conditional on its activities against militant groups.
The increased tensions between India and Pakistan following the Mumbai attacks is precisely what the terrorists set out to achieve.
India is under huge domestic pressure to provide a swift and proper response to Pakistan not least to jolt Zardari’s Government into taking action against cross border terror raids and to rein in the ISI who India accuses of supporting Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group being blamed for the attacks.
Doing nothing would make India look weak, leave the ruling Congress Party open to the charge of being soft on terrorists denting its electoral chances next year and worse, invite further attacks.
But would any military action against Pakistan prove counter productive and actually increase militancy? Look at this potential scenario and the risks associated with an attack on Pakistan:
- India increases the number of its troops on the border with Pakistan or launches a pre-emptive strike against specified targets in Pakistan.
- Pakistan retaliates and moves its troops to the border with India and there is a tense stand off at best, or worse, a full scale battle.
- As a result Pakistan reduces troops from its border with Afghanistan giving greater freedom of movement to various militant groups to launch attacks against NATO troops in Afghanistan.
- Militant groups increase their activities and are able to recruit more people to their cause especially against the ‘Hindu enemy.’
- Even a minor skirmish gives oxygen to militants everywhere and increases the risks of further terror attacks in India not least from home grown terrorists. The Kashmir situation is exacerbated by militant activity.
- The freedom of movement between Pakistan and Afghanistan gives groups such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda a chance to re-group and launch more audacious attacks in Afghanistan destabilising the country further.
- The US responds to the increased attacks with raids into Pakistan with fighting on two fronts of Pakistan which leads to the fall of the civilian Government with either the military or Islamist backed rulers coming to power.
- The confrontation between India and Pakistan ends with no discernible outcome except the strengthening of militant groups in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan and further destabilising of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- Militant groups are strengthened and are in a stronger position to launch attacks not only in Asia but the Middle East and the West.
India will take action, its people will demand it but will it show restraint and avoid steps leading to the above scenario or punish Pakistan and take a risk? India is standing between a very hard rock and a rock hard place.
Interesting to note that the Mumbai terrorists did not make any formal demands or request any ransom despite holding foreign hostages and having the world’s attention focused on their actions. With the exception of one offer to release hostages in return for the release of ‘mujahideen’ held in India’s jails made to an Indian TV station, no specific demand or coordinated request appears to have been made. Here was an opportunity for the terrorists to list their grievances possibly live on air to an international TV Channel and highlight their concerns which was not taken up. There was no mention of Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan or the suffering of Muslims in India. Instead they held some hostages preferring UK, US and Israeli nationals and continued battling against the Indian Forces.
Do the terrorists have any demands or is what they desire non-negotiable and only satisfied once their power hungry and murderous ideology is in power? The goal of the Mumbai terrorists was to simply kill as many people as possible, fight until their ‘martyrdom’ and gain as much publicity and political capital among other Islamists around the world as possible. They had no wish to negotiate, or desire to live. Their aim was to send a message of fear, whether that was economic, social or religious to India and the rest of the world – do as the Islamists demand or else. And it matters not whether you are a Muslim and hold similar religious beliefs, they will kill indiscriminately to get their political message across.
The Islamist ideology’s oxygen is its terror and hatred. It seeks to attract sufficient Muslims to its cause to enable it to strike anywhere in the world. It seeks for its young and often vulnerable recruits newer and more rewarding and satisfying methods of battle. Trivial demands and ransoms are irrelevant when compared to martyrdom and the desire of Islamist global domination. The Islamists seek a total surrender to their political beliefs and nothing else will suffice and that is why anyone who thinks that negotiations with these people will lead to peace is deluded.
The warped notion of the terrorists that they are soldiers of a religious army battling against soldiers of a non-Islamic force and engaged in Jihad is satisfied by engaging in the Mumbai type of attack especially when compared to suicide missions. This is more honourable and overcomes the prohibition against committing suicide in Islam and undoubtedly gives the Islamists a larger base of potential recruits – what more could Islamists use as recruitment propaganda than death at the hands of a ‘Kuffar’ soldier?
The Mumbai attack could easily be replicated elsewhere by terrorists living locally who would know their area well. All Intelligence Agencies need to improve their intelligence gathering and learn how to prevent such an attack; and all Governments need to combat the global Islamist ideology whose goal is to kill as many people as possible in the hope that democratically elected Governments lose the will to fight and hand over failed states such as Afghanistan and Somalia to Islamists who rule according to their own rules and who export terror and hatred to all corners of the world. The stakes have most definitely been raised.
The siege ended on Saturday 29/11/2008 after the remaining terrorists were killed. The death toll stands at 195.
Update at 19.45pm 28/11/2008: The Taj Palace Hotel still remains unsecured with a few terrorists continuing to battle against Indian Forces. It appears that the terrorists are very well trained and equally well armed and able to take the siege into a third night.
Update at 15.10pm 28/11/2008: 155 people now being reported as killed with 327 wounded. The seige at the Jewish Centre has ended with 5 hostages and 2 terrorists reported as killed. Fighting is still ongoing at the Taj Palace Hotel.
Update at 12.50pm 28/11/2008: UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith says the government has no information regarding reports that some of the gunmen may have been British citizens. ‘It’s important that we make judgements on this on the basis of the fullest possible knowledge and intelligence – and that’s obviously what we are working on at the moment.’
Rumours persist of someone from the UK being involved. I suspect there is more to this story than what the official Government line is.
Update at 10.00 am 28/11/2008: All hostages have been released at the Oberoi Hotel according to CNN. Commandos have abseiled onto the roof of the Mumbai Jewish Centre and the operation is ongoing. Another huge explosion heard at the Taj Palace Hotel.
There are rumours that one of the gunmen may have been British and a lot of finger pointing is going on at Pakistan with the Indian foreign minister saying that ‘elements with links to Pakistan’ were involved.
Update at 16.15pm: 24 hours after the siege started and gunfire is still being heard from the three sites in Mumbai where the hostages are holed up. Not very clear what is happening due to conflicting reports and differing versions of events.
Update at 15.00pm: CNN is reporting that the death toll from the Mumbai attacks stands at 125 with 327 injured.
Update at 14.00pm: One British national among the dead in Mumbai attack according to Foreign Office. A fire has broken out at the Oberoi Hotel and there are conflicting reports on the hostage situation and whether any have been released.
It remains unclear who the Deccan Mujahideen are and whether this name is being used by an existing terror group seeking to hide its identity.
Update at 12.20pm: India’s PM Manmohan Singh has said that he will take whatever measures are necessary to track down those responsible for the Mumbai attacks. He added that the perpetrators were based outside the country and that India would not tolerate neighbours who provide a haven to militants targeting it. A bit reckless and premature to be pointing the finger at Pakistan when the siege hasn’t even ended?
Update @ 10.40am 27/11/2008 : The hostage situation is still ongoing with explosions heard at the Oberoi Hotel. The Times is reporting that the terrorists are demanding that all ‘mujahideen’ held in Indian jails are freed before they release the hostages.
All financial markets in India have been closed as well as all public places in Mumbai. My relatives have managed to get to Mumbai Central Railway station and are on their way home after a delay of 90 minutes.
Update @ 22.30pm 26/11/2008: It is being reported that there are three separate hostage situations the authorities are dealing with.
Update @ 22.50pm 26/11/2008: Up to 50 people have been rescued from the fire at the Taj Palace Hotel. Gunfire continuing to be heard at the Oberoi Hotel.
Update @ 22.25pm 26/11/2008: The Taj Palace Hotel is on fire and a group calling itself the ‘Deccan Mujahideen’ has claimed responsibility for the attacks. (A group calling itself ‘Indian Mujahideen’ claimed responsibility for the attacks in Ahmedabad in July 2008)
My relatives in Mumbai have twice had the vehicle they were travelling in stopped and searched by Police before being allowed to move on.
At least 78 101 people have been killed and 250 have been injured in multiple shootings across Mumbai by terrorists. CNN is reporting that hostages including western tourists have been taken at the Taj Palace Hotel and the Oberoi Hotel. The army has been called in to deal with the terrorists holed up in several locations. Three very senior police officers including the head of Mumbai’s anti-terrorism unit have been killed.
I have had contact with relatives who are currently in Mumbai who inform me that the situation is very tense.
The attack appears extremely well coordinated with eight ten sites frequented by western tourists being targeted by the terrorists. More later