In the aftermath of this past week’s devastating attacks in Mumbai, media outlets are focusing their coverage on what the recent violence [that killed 183 people and wounded 273] will mean for India–Pakistan relations. On CNN’s Situation Room today, correspondent Nic Robertson reported that while 11 of the attackers were killed, “the biggest lead in the investigation is the fact that the police have one of the attackers alive and they’re questioning him.” Robertson told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer,
They say that he is a Pakistani. Our sister network CNN IBN has been talking to intelligence sources that they have. They’re being told that this Pakistani claims that he was trained in Pakistan by a terror group in Pakistan, that he’d come to India to perpetrate this attack, that they have been told to study Google Earth maps so they would know their way around Mumbai when they arrived here. They arrived, some of the attackers arrived by boat. It’s still not clear had that boat come directly from Pakistan or had they spent some time out at sea.
The AFP identified the attacker as Ajmal Amir Kamal, and cited U.S. counterterrorism officials who said “some evidence was emerging that Lashkar-e-Toiba could have been behind the Mumbai attacks.” The LeT, as was reported earlier, have denied responsibility for the attacks. The group, which has been fighting in Indian-administered Kashmir, was behind the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament that had threatened Indian-Pakistani ties.
Since the blast, relations between the two neighboring states are once again at the brink, and New Delhi has asserted that “elements in Pakistan” are behind the Mumbai attacks. Sources reportedly told CNN’s sister network in India, CNN-IBN, “The Indian government is considering suspending the five-year-old cease-fire with Pakistan and perhaps even ending the dialogue process with the country.” This weekend, several Pakistani figures urged India not to “overreact.” Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., told CNN today,
Terrorists operate in so many countries these days. There have been terrorists that have been found in the United States training, they have been caught. That doesn’t mean that the United States is to blame. The important thing is Pakistan is a victim of terrorism. India is a victim of terrorism. We need to put the burden of history behind us, work together and make sure both of us get rid of this terrorist menace that afflicts both of our countries.
President Asif Ali Zardari asserted on Saturday that Pakistan’s government would take immediate and strong measures if proof of Pakistani involvement was provided. The Daily Times quoted him stating, “Let me assure you that if any evidence points to any individual or any group in this part of the world, I shall take the strictest of action in the light of this evidence and in front of the world.” Zardari also urged India not to “over-react,” arguing that “reducing the Mumbai attacks to an India-Pakistan problem was counter-productive.”
Today, Dawn reported that “more than 1,000” people marched in Lahore to urge both India and Pakistan to refrain from hostilities following the Mumbai attacks. According to the news agency, participants of the rally, organized by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (Pakistan People’s Movement), carried Pakistani flags and chanted slogans like, “We want peace, not war.”
Will these tensions escalate? Hopefully not, but these recent developments have highlighted just how “good” Pakistan’s relations really have been with India, [particularly since representatives from both states had just pledged to cooperate on counterterrorism efforts the morning of the attacks]. The accusations and tensions also highlight the domestic issues persisting within both countries. According to Dawn, in Pakistan, reactions by the country’s top officials “are indicative of a growing gulf between the government and the security establishment” on how to handle the issue. Although political officials in Pakistan have attempted to reason with India’s accusations, leaning towards dialogue and promising they will help curb terrorism in both nations, Dawn pointed out that Pakistan’s military brass has reacted differently. The news agency cited a senior military official who “squarely accused India of indulging in the blame game without even investigating the matter and said that at this stage Pakistan’s security establishment was applying methods to avoid what he called an unwanted war,” [this may include shifting Pakistani troops from the Afghanistan border to the Indian border]. However, “some political and security analysts described the differences in approach and perception to the challenge as nothing unusual. According to them, the fears of Pakistan’s security establishment were because of years of suspicions about the intentions of the Indian authorities to undermine Pakistan.”
Resorting to force and resolving the current tensions through military means will not help either nation, especially Pakistan. We already face our own domestic terrorist threat, as well as pressures from Afghanistan, the U.S. and NATO-led forces to handle the militant campaign raging in the border areas. And, although we were recently granted an IMF credit, [see previous post], our economic issues are far from over. A war with India is the last thing either country needs, particularly because it is still not yet clear who perpetrated the Mumbai attacks. Until that fact has been ascertained, officials on either side should not act preemptively or jumpstart an unnecessary war. As Mohsin Hamid wrote in a recent column for the UK’s Guardian, “[Pakistan and India’s] fights against extremism cannot be separated by national borders into convenient compartments, one marked “domestic” and the other “foreign.” Just as Pakistan and Afghanistan must cooperate if they are to solve the problems of violent extremism, so must Pakistan and India. [Image from the AFP]