Thursday 14 Oct 2021 | 09:52 | SYDNEY
Thursday 14 Oct 2021 | 09:52 | SYDNEY

Mumbai postscript


Rory Medcalf


27 November 2008 14:52

The violence in Mumbai is reportedly not over, with the death toll now passing 100 and some of the assailants holding hostages and under siege. The chief questions now are: who is responsible and what do they want?

This warning of an impending assault on Mumbai, issued by the Indian Mujahideen earlier this year, adds to the theory that this essentially home-grown Indian terrorist organisation or one of its offshoots is behind the attacks. Meanwhile Foreign Policy’s Passport blog has this speculation about Pakistan’s ISI. Certainly not a possibility to be dismissed, but a dangerous conclusion for an Indian government to leap to.

But a few other puzzles remain. First, why such a focus on foreigners? It is becoming increasingly clear that foreigners, especially US and UK nationals, were important targets. Does this mean that a central grievance of the attackers was to do with the Western presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, or perhaps with India’s increasing alignment with the West?  Or is this seen as a way of inflicting maximum damage on the Indian state and the Indian economy, by discouraging investment and tourism?

Second, the tactic — not unlike the suicide squads occasionally used by militant groups in Kashmir — is highly unusual for an assault in urban India, where the preferred terrorist method has involved timed or remote-controlled bombs. This time it was almost inevitable that the attackers, showing their faces and using guns and grenades, would be killed or captured. Questioning of the prisoners will no doubt reveal and lend publicity to their motives. Perhaps that is precisely what their leaders want.