“Pakistan hand” in Mumbai blasts? I hope not!

Posted on July 14, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Foreign Relations
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Adil Najam

Only yesterday (13 July, 2006) I was a guest on the National Public Radio (NPR) show OnPoint on the terrorist connections behind the Mumbai train blasts. Amongst other things, I made the point that it was a good sign that India and Pakistan had been very careful and cautious in their statements and this had not yet turned into a regional finger-pointing exercise. I also expressed the hope that it would not, and that this was something to keep an eye on.

It turns out that I may have spoken too soon It is now reported that the Indian Prime Minister is pointing towards ‘elements across the border’ as being connected and that Pakistan is vehemently denying any connections and calling the allegation ‘unsubstantiated.’

I, of course, have no way of knowing who is correct–each is plausible–but it is quite clear that this is now a ‘Pakistan-India thing.’

Indeed, the BBC reports that the ‘mood against Pakistan is hardening in India’ (see photo, from BBC). This is sad, especially given the generally positive trajectory that the India-Pakistan peace dialogue was on and also people-to-people pouring of sympathy we had seen from Pakistanis in the aftermath of the horrible train attacks. Indeed, the earnestness of the Indian response is evident from their decision to delay the Secretary-level talks that were scheduled and is threatening to halt the dialogue all-together. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister has predictably, although needlessly, turned the finger-pointing into a two-way exercise by blaming the attacks on India’s own policy on Kashmir. Indeed, an editorial in the Indian newspaper Tribune proclaims that “The peace process has ended.”

To be fair, the Indian Prime Minister has not (yet) accused Pakistan (or the ISI) of direct involvement (although others in India are); he is pointing fingers towards Pakistan for not enough action on the elements who support and instigate terrorism in India. According to the New York Times, for example:

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India scolded Pakistan today for what he said was a failure to rein in terrorism and warned of the dangers that poses to the peace process, in his toughest remarks yet in the aftermath of the serial bombings on the Mumbai commuter trains. “These terrorist modules are instigated, inspired and supported by elements across the border without which they cannot act with such devastating effect,” Mr. Singh said at a press briefing this afternoon in Mumbai, India’s commercial capital, three days after bombs tore through seven commuter trains within minutes of each other during the evening rush hour. “I have explained it to the government of Pakistan at the highest level that if the acts of terrorism are not controlled, it is exceedingly difficult for any government to carry forward what may be called as normalization and peace process.”

Pakistan, for its part, is equally vehement in denying any link, asking that the peace process not be compromised in this process, and also offering to help in the investigations into the blasts to get to the bottom on this.

So, where do we go from here? Probably no place good. First, let us get to the bottom of this and get a better grip on who exactly is behind this. It seems to me that there are at least three likely scenarios.

Scenario #1: This could be playing regular South Asia politics. When in trouble, blame the folks across the border to rally domestic support. Both India and Pakistan do this regularly. Pakistan did this most recently by trying to blame the uprising in Balochistan on India. This is a convenient, but dangerous, game to play; especially as the stakes–regional as well as global–keep rising. In general, it is an unbecoming strategy.

Scenario #2: India may actually have evidence that ISI or rouge elements within it (or once associated with it) were, in fact, supporting those who carried out these horrible attacks. If so, the two countries need to talk more than ever about it. Pakistan should take immediate, unambiguous, and transparent action to not only condemn ‘reign in’ such elements but to publicly take steps of punishment and retribution against those involved. This should be done not only for the sake of India-Pakistan relations, but for Pakistan’s own domestic reasons. Because, if so, such elements will eventually cause mayhem within Pakistan and tear at the fabric of society.

Scenario #3: It could be that there is evidence that elements in Pakistan that are not related to the government or state agencies are providing sustenance and support to terrorists in India. This seems to be what the the Indian Prime Minister is hinting at. If so, there is again reason for the two countries to work together to root out such elements. In such an eventuality, India has every right to demand a sincerity of action from Pakistan and the Pakistan government must act, and be seen to be acting, to remove any such elements. Of coruse, in this case the Pakistan government’s ability to do anything would be limited if they are underground and anti-government. However, whatever can be done, should be done. Again, there is not only the foreign policy logic for doing so, but the domestic stability logic. If such elements exist, they cannot be friends either of Pakistan as a country or of the Gen. Musharraf regime. There is no short-sighted reason whatsoever to tolerate them if they do exist.

As I said, I have no way of knowing which of the above scenarios is closest to reality. However, what shodul be clear is that irrespective of which it might be,

  • It makes sense for Pakistan to demonstrably control any forces within the country who might lean towards the use of terrorist violence abroad, and to do so for domestic stability as much as for foreign policy reasons.
  • It makes equal sense for India to actively engage in dialogue with Pakistan, placing those issue at the core if there is justification, rather than retreating from negotiation which could only expand the space for such elements if they exist.

One response to ““Pakistan hand” in Mumbai blasts? I hope not!”

  1. Adil Najam says:


    It is with a sad heart that I am forced to stop comments on this post and remove existing comments. I had feared this, but hoped that it would not happen. However, despite the fact that the MAJORITY of the respondents (from both sides of the border) were civil and reasoned, a few individuals (again, from both sides of the border) have sought to abuse the openness of the web to hurl incendiary, off-topic, and personal attacks, and to attempt to drown out other voices by posting multiple, repeated messages. These were contrary to the etiquette of the site and the spirit of trying to focus on solutions rather than finger-pointing (Please see comment policy under ‘About ATP’). More than that, they take the discussion towards an inflammatory direction where ATP does not wish to go.

    I am saddened by this turn of events, but not disheartened.

    I join in echoing the sentiment of reader Karma_prisoner who wrote: “A person who kills another person does not belong to any religion, sect, cast, creed, country. He/She is merely a criminal… I praise every human being who lends a helping hand to another human being, irrespective of his/her creed, culture, religious beliefs, country.â€

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