Shuhab sees ripple effects of the Mumbai tragedy affecting Kashmir and beyond
(Shuhab Hashmi, 38, was born in Baramulla, and graduated from the Degree College in Sopore, and completed his M.A. from the University of Kashmir. He is a Columnist, and in his spare time enjoys reading, discussions and traveling.)
Mumbai: Tremors may travel far and wide
India is facing a high scale threat to its security as is evident from the ongoing terror attack in Mumbai. This is for the second time that such a horrific situation is developing in India with this apparently well planned and meticulous operation which was targeted not only at the elite class in the financial nerve centre of the country but also the foreigners especially those from US, UK and Israel. It is a different and unique strike in many ways from the previous ones, either short-lived fidayeen (suicide squad) attacks or planting the high caliber explosives at train stations or crowded places. In this particular attack nearly 150 people including many foreigners have been killed and thwe number is likely to go further up.
How the developments will unfold in the coming days is not clearly known though the Government of India may be forced to think of a new anti terror mechanism, more stringent and harsh. The legal framework to counter terrorism may be scanned once more to make some fresh inclusions akin to things like POTA which was withdrawn by the present government after coming to power and the security set up may also witness some radical changes. Upgradation of security mechanism to prevent such high volt attacks is also likely. But the most significant fallout of this strike may be the relations between India and Pakistan. These relations, though always on a cliff, had witnessed some kind of positive change in the past few months, especially after the democratically elected government returned to power in Pakistan. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s renewed peace overtures in the recent weeks had also added to the optimism, though caution would accompany it on both sides of the divide.
However, as the coincidence would be Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was on a visit to Delhi to boost these ties when the terror struck Mumbai. He must have been caught on a wrong foot after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his address to nation made a pointed reference towards external hand in these attacks; and the kind of context that had developed over many years behind this ‘external’ hand is all too obvious. It was further complicated when Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee directly asked Pakistan to control the instruments of terrorism as assured by it in the past. Mukherjee went on to say that prima facie it was found that some elements in Pakistan were responsible for these strikes. Indian authorities also pointed out that two merchant ships were used for carrying out the attack.
Islamabad has no doubt denied any involvement in the attack but security experts in India insist that it was not necessary that establishment would be directly involved, but involvement of some sections in its intelligence agencies cannot be ruled out. New Delhi is repeatedly pointing towards Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group operating in Kashmir, and maintaining that it was actively supported by Pakistan. This is the only link New Delhi is pointing towards to “prove Pakistan connection”, in this entire scheme of terror. But Lashkar too has, in unambiguous terms, denied its involvement in the terror attack. Interestingly this time the responsibility has been owned by Deccan Mujahideen, a hitherto unknown militant outfit. Earlier inclusion into the plethora of terror organizations, Indian Mujahideen, that surfaced in the wake of blasts, which hit some of the Indian cities, still remains unknown. Now we have Deccan Mujahideen; and the matter becoming more and more complicated. Now whichever way the investigations might go, things have received a jolt with the killing of Anti Terrorist Squad chief and two others who would have been beneficial in tracking the new links and connecting them with the previous ones.
Mehmood Qureshi’s offer to co-operate in the joint investigations is a welcome sign but is India really willing to do that at a time when it is in real shock, and thinking on taking some radical initiative to counter the terror, remains to be seen. Investigations apart, if the reports about involvement of Al Qaeda are found true then it certainly shows that this international terror network is nudging its way onto the Indian soil. And this will have far reaching and dangerous consequences for the region. The way those involved in this terror attack were looking for the US, UK and Israeli citizens and the Jewish Centre being on its map of activity, lends credence to the apprehensions of their linkage with the International network. Here it may be pertinent to mention that Pakistan too is facing the worst kind of terror, and two months back The Marriot in Islamabad, its centre point for tourism, was turned into the target of action by terrorists and scores were killed. Internal extremism allied with Taliban on Pakistan borders is eating into the very vitals of Pakistan and the country is not in a position to control them. Its assurances to India on not allowing its territory for use against India does not hold much water in view of the changing dynamics of terror politics in the region.
To what extent these guesses could turn out to be real is a separate subject, but both India and Pakistan seem to have covered a fair distance on their path to remove mistrust and suspicion. From Kashmir to other vital issues, both the governments were making a good progress. But analysts who have been discussing the aftermath of Mumbai terror are of the opinion that situation may lead to one that existed after December 13 attack on Indian parliament. Both countries were at the brink of war and only after United States’ intervention it was averted. But given the political pressure Manmohan Singh is under, within the country, to counter the terror may force India to think on the lines on which the then A B Vajpayee government did following the parliament attack. In this situation if both countries go back to the era of complete mistrust it will worsen the situation in the region. The peace process, though not moving ahead with the same pace as it was a year back, will derail with all its benefits down the drain. And apart from all other issues Kashmir will again become the victim of this decades old mistrust.