India’s options after Mumbai

Published on openDemocracy, by Bibhu Prasad Routray, 17 Dec 2008.

Despite all the evidence that investigators claim links the Mumbai attacks to groups and individuals in Pakistan, India’s options vis-à-vis its hostile neighbour are severely limited.

It has so far been established that Pakistani nationals, described as “stateless actors” by Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, were indeed involved in the attack on 26 November that led to the death of 163 people and injured more than three hundred in Mumbai. The lone terrorist taken alive during the attack, Mohammad Ajmal Amir Iman (alias Kasab), is a Pakistani citizen …

… India may have the tacit, rhetorical support of a number of countries, especially those whose nationals were killed in the attacks. However, there is very little possibility that any of these countries, probably with the exception of Israel, would actually support an Indian military campaign inside Pakistan, which will certainly degenerate into a full scale war. Gordon Brown’s recent visit to New Delhi was primarily to underline the west’s position against potential Indian aggression. Pakistan has indicated that any aggressive Indian military posture would force it to divert forces from its western border with Afghanistan to the eastern border with India. With Pakistan’s western tribal areas continuing to be the source of Afghanistan’s instability and continuing to host al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the US and the NATO do not want to Islamabad to have an excuse to disengage from the restive area.

Moreover, it is well-known that the writ of the Pakistan government does not run in vast stretches of its territory. While many Indian analysts maintain that it will not be easy for Pakistan to get away this time around, Islamabad can cite its ultimate lack of control over its own country to evade responsibility. In such a scenario, there is very little that India possibly can do, except for choosing to opt for a long, arduous (and politically unexciting) process of building evidence against the perpetrators and their sponsors in Pakistan. India’s prior records of such endeavours are far from encouraging. (full text).

(Bibhu Prasad Routray is a security analyst and works as a Research Fellow at the Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi).

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