Friday, July 14, 2006

Subcontinental Disarray

The situation between India and Pakistan seems to have coagulated into an icy standoff. India seems certain that the Mumbai attacks were directed by "elements" within the Pakistani government, and that the leaders of that government have the ability to control those elements. Pakistan denies the allegations, but also uses the fact that those allegations are made as evidence that India is unserious about resolving the Kashmir issue, that India wishes, with or without evidence, to exploit the bombings to withdraw from talks with Pakistan. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made the accusations after visiting victims of the bombings in Mumbai

"We are also certain that these terrorist modules are instigated, inspired and supported by elements across the border without which they cannot act with such devastating effect," Singh said. "Pakistan in 2004 had solemnly given an assurance that Pakistani territory will not be used to promote, encourage, train and abet terrorist elements directed against India. That assurance has to be fulfilled before the peace process or other processes can make progress," Singh said.

The other Indian officials are more explicit:
"Activists of SIMI [Students Islamic Movement of India] have probably facilitated this but the planning was ISI," a senior Home Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters in New Delhi.

He was referring to the outlawed Students Islamic Movement of India and the Inter-Services Intelligence agency of Pakistan.

Indian National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan also told a cabinet meeting on Thursday that investigations suggested a Pakistani intelligence hand in the bombings, the official said.

At this point though, much is unknown. The Indian investigation appears to be in somewhat of a disarray. Having detained hundreds of individuals, mostly those associated with SIMI, the police are still searching for three specific suspects. They have their photographs and are showing those pictures to victims, but they have not articulated the provenance of the images, just that the individuals are fugitive Islamic radicals. The police seem to believe that the likely culprits are Indian, or at least resident in Mumbai, but equivocate as to whether there was outside support. There is, however, some compelling evidence that individuals in Pakistan are involved in some way: "Investigators said they were looking at international calls made from phone booths immediately after the blasts, particularly to Pakistan."

There has also been speculation about the motives of the bombers that directly implicates Pakistan and other Muslim states:
The Lashkar-e-Taiba, intelligence reports suggest, has recruited local youths saying that they should take revenge for the atrocities heaped on the minority community in Gujarat where the Narendra Modi government is heavily funded by the rich Gujarati businessmen of Mumbai.

It is not for nothing that Modi is coming here early next week to meet community leaders. A former activist of the Students' Movement of India (SIMI) said that since LeT is not able to find recruits in Gujarat, it has brainwashed former activists of SIMI and new recruits in Maharashtra.

"Funds are available for the asking for LeT not only from Pakistan, but also from Wahabi fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia and the UAE," the ex-activist stated.

A matter of some concern is an attack that took place within Pakistan today. A Sunni suicide bomber killed a prominent Shiite cleric in Karachi. That city has seen violence between Sunni and Shia before, but the attack following so closely the bombing in Mumbai is reminiscent at least of a power struggle. The ongoing violence between the factions also indicates how little control the Pakistani state has within its own borders.

UPDATE: The Hindustan Times further articulates the Indian allegations. The evidence, however, is ambiguous:
A senior intelligence officer said the synchronised explosions had the '“hallmark' of an ISI operation. Militants operating in Kashmir were not capable of such meticulous planning and could only carry out fidayeen attacks or plant bombs in crowded places like markets.

"A lot of planning went into the blasts. This is typical of an ISI operation, as was revealed during the 1993 Bombay blasts," said an officer.

Outside The Beltway and Captain's Quarters make much of the ambiguity, and each brings up the possibility of al Qaeda involvement. Ed Morrissey articulates why this is all becoming a diplomatic stalemate:
This could lead to a chicken-egg argument. Did the Mumbai attacks come from AQ or the ISI? Did the ISI teach these tactics to al-Qaeda -- or do they still assist AQ in operational planning of such attacks? Does Pervez Musharraf have control over his own intel service, or does the ISI have a rogue element that supports international Islamist terrorism?

Such back-and-forth questions can lead to madness, to enigmas wrapped in riddles shrouded by mysteries. Because the evidence is so ambiguous, it can be exploited as an argument tp push for any outcome. Indian hardliners can use it as a causus belli against Pakistan; Pakistanis can use it as evidence of Indian belligerence, charging them with a rush to war based on unsubstantiated claims.

We're probably better off with the various sides bickering over whether Pakistan is guilty, and if so, how guilty. Too much certitude within either of these nuclear powers is an unpleasant thought to contemplate.

What is cited as evidence of an al Qaeda presence is a phone call placed to a Kashmiri news agency. Outside the Beltway discusses it specifically here. The latest news is that the call was placed from a phone booth in Kashmir by a person whose accent suggested Kashmiri origins, but while authorities are taking the call seriously, so far no concrete evidence has been found that the caller legitimately represented al Qaeda. Bomb hoaxes were reported in New Delhi, and this caller may similarly be taking advantage of the crisis to sow fear and disrupt the investigation. Also, I do not recall al Qaeda in the past announcing itself in a region prior to making attacks (I believe I read that elsewhere, but I cannot seem to find where). I'm not inclined to credit the announcement as legitimate.


Technorati tags: | |

No comments: