It's an explosive situation. Tensions between India and Pakistan, after the brutal attacks in Mumbai, have been close to at an all time high, bad enough to make U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, fly in to India to try ease the strain.
It may not help. The days since the attacks on Mumbai have witnessed a never-before-seen reaction from India, a country that usually thrives on a what-will-be-will-be attitude. From Facebook groups, candlelight vigils, and media outcries, to fiery debates, call for action and the resignations of ministers, - it's all happened in the past few days.
There is a lot of anger in India right now, and people want the guilty to be punished. Pakistan, needless to say, is in the line of fire, and not without reason.
As has been suspected from the start, there is now enough reason to believe that last week's attacks in Mumbai were the handiwork of the Pakistan-based militant group, The Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which believes that Hindus and Jews are enemies of Islam - something that could explain why Jews in particular were targeted. The group has also long been known to have links with the Taliban and Al-Qaida. Mike McConnell, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence on Tuesday went ahead and named LeT as being responsible for Mumbai's terror acts.
India is, as it should be, in the mood to take serious action, for this is hardly the first time it is facing terror, which, even if one were to believe is not being directly sponsored by the Pakistani government, is being encouraged by the country. The LeT has been suspected to have been involved, at some level or the other, in many of the previous bombings in India - from the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament to the 2006 bombings in Mumbai trains, to name two incidents over the past several years. This year has been particularly bloody - even before Wednesday's attacks. There have been countless attacks in different parts of India, from the north to the south, which have left hundreds dead and perhaps thousands injured. Though these have been claimed by a previously unknown group, called the Indian Mujahideen, but terror experts say that it is really splinter groups of the LeT. For India, the important point is that no matter what the group, when followed, the trail finally leads to Pakistan.
As a result, there is pressure on the government to act. Parallels are being drawn to 9/11 when the U.S. took the hard line, - harder than many in the country approved of - to tackle terror, but it succeeded, so far, in avoiding attacks on its soil. This is not to say that war is the answer, but cracking down heavily on the militant groups certainly is, something that a so far reluctant Pakistan needs to do.
Apart from dilly-dallying over the issue and calling for joint investigations on the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, has also refused India's request to hand over the 20 suspects wanted in connection with the killings saying there was not enough evidence, despite India's willingness to present it. India on the other hand is not interested in half-baked measures, which it sees as time delay tactics which Pakistan has tried in the past; in the case of the Parliament bombings, Pakistan also offered a joint probe.
That said, it is also true that while it is easy to point fingers it is important to be introspective as well. Many questions are being asked about India's national security and the fact that the terrorists were able to smuggle so much ammunition into the country. They seemed to have done their homework, visiting Mumbai several times and checking into the Taj hotel to lay out the game plan. So the questions about Indian security are also being asked. What about those at the top? Was this an Intelligence failure or did this happen despite tips that such an attack was being planned? These questions are hotly debated.
But, the fact of the matter is - and this, again, is being debated to death in the Indian media - terror is not India's problem alone. The U.S., to take one, prime example, has witnessed 9/11 and received many threats thereafter, the latest one warning President elect Barack Obama of a terror attack to "greet" his arrival in the White House. It needs to be seriously tackled together, at an international level, with a no-tolerance approach. Till that is done, unfortunately, these attacks are not going to stop.
For the sake of the innocent lives that have so far been lost in mindless terror, I hope India, this time, takes serious action. If not, this will only encourage the terrorists to strike again. Life seems to have changes irreversibly for Indians - getting into a mall or sending a child to school now seems fraught with danger. It's no way to live.
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