Thursday 02 Apr 2020 | 23:19 | SYDNEY
Thursday 02 Apr 2020 | 23:19 | SYDNEY

Responding to the Mumbai attacks: India options

5 December 2008 09:00

 Guest blogger: Amandeep Gill (pictured) is a visiting scholar at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. His earlier post, Responding to the Mumbai attacks: India's dilemmadealt with constraints on Indian counter-terrorism policy.

So what can India's Prime Minister do in response to the Mumbai attacks, apart from increasing the resources and priority given to internal security, which is a long term and ongoing task? In his measured address to the nation after the attacks, he warned that if India’s neighbors continued to allow terrorism against India there would be ‘costs’. But what immediate costs can he impose?

Does he break off diplomatic relations, call off dialogue and impose economic sanctions on Pakistan? the US can do that to distant Iran, but can India do that to a next door neighbor armed with nuclear weapons? India has invested heavily in a comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan, including improving trade and people-to-people links, in the last four years. Can it write off that investment, which is in its own long term interest?

Does he order limited strikes on terrorist bases in Pakistan or authorize covert raids into Pakistani territory, which Israel has done in the past? Even if the requisite capabilities and targets for such an option are found, can it make the problem disappear? Finally, does he, in a repeat of 2001-2002, mobilize the army in an exercise of ‘compellance’ under the shadow of nuclear weapons to force the Pakistani Government to take India’s concerns seriously and give renewed commitments to end terrorism, commitments it may be unable or unwilling to deliver on?

There are no easy answers, and official Pakistan’s initial response to requests for cooperation with the investigation and apprehension of suspects has disappointed. The turnaround on sending the ISI Chief to India and continued obduracy on handing over suspects does nothing to reduce India’s suspicion that successive generations of Pakistani leaders have deployed doublespeak to lull India into complacence while their armed forces and intelligence services have carried on with their policy of a ‘death by thousand cuts’.

Nonetheless, the Indian PM could persevere. He could use the evidence left by the attackers to test the intentions of the Pakistani Government. If it cooperates fully and transparently in the investigation and hands over suspects involved in these and past attacks, the current pause in the engagement can be undone.

India’s friends abroad could help the Indian PM absorb the political costs as he eschews the temptation for revenge and work with him to craft a joint strategy to rid Pakistan and Afghanistan of the perpetrators of mindless violence. They in turn could resist the temptation to explain away or trivialize these attacks.

Secretary Rice, during her visit to New Delhi, wisely chose to focus on solidarity with India and the need for Pakistan to cooperate with the investigation into the attacks. After all even if Indian elements were involved and the deadly visitors from Pakistan and their sponsors are merely ‘non-state actors’, it does not absolve the Pakistani Government of its responsibility under UN resolutions and past agreements with India to prevent the use of its territory and citizens for terrorist strikes in India and elsewhere and cooperate in bringing them to justice.

Hafiz Sayeed, head of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group suspected of organizing the attacks, gave a speech on 6 October in Pakistan in which he warned that India was about to send 150,000 troops to Afghanistan, one example of a range of crude and hate-filled propaganda theories that unfortunately continue to echo around Pakistan. PM Singh could turn around and say: 'Mr Sayeed, it is pay back time. You get what you set out to prevent – a stronger, secular and democratic India working actively with the international community to root out terrorism from the region.'