The tragedy in India continues to unfold today. India’s leaders already insinuated that Pakistan might be responsible. Pakistan’s leaders warned India’s leaders not to burn their good will by reflexively blaming their traditional enemies, especially at a time when Pakistan’s new leaders offer things like forswearing a nuclear strike on India. Two scenarios or a combination look more likely than a foolish and pointless Pakistani-pushed terror operation:
1) Jihadists groups seeking to blow apart a thawing of relations between India and Pakistan. Aside from undermining the rationale for the existence of militant jihadist groups in India, a thaw in relations would free more resources for Pakistan to turn on the jihadists within Pakistan. And that’s a problem for them in more than one respect: first, the ability to flow back and forth across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border allows insurgents to escape U.S./NATO forces whose operational mandate restricts their ability to fully pursue insurgents into Pakistan. Second, al-Qaida has decided its new focus is Pakistan (hat tip Noah):
Pakistan has replaced Iraq as al Qaeda’s main focus, and the terror group has stepped up its efforts to destabilize the nuclear-armed South Asian nation, according to a senior U.S. military commander.
“Iraq is now a rear-guard action on the part of al Qaeda,” said Gen. James Conway, the head of the Marine Corps and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an interview. “They’ve changed their strategic focus not to Afghanistan but to Pakistan, because Pakistan is the closest place where you have the nexus of terrorism and nuclear weapons.”
Increased tensions between Pakistan and India would leech military resources toward the India/Pakistan border, giving insurgents a freer rein to work to destabilize Pakistan. A fight with India would also inherently destabilize Pakistan, making it an easier target.
2) Disaffected Muslim groups native to India lashing out against being left behind. Fareed Zakaria:
I think one of the misconceptions we’re seeing so far is the assumption that these attacks were aimed primarily at foreigners. Look at their targets. The two hotels they attacked—the Taj and the Oberoi—are old, iconic Indian hotels. It used to be true that these places were affordable only by Westerners. But this is no longer true, and it’s one of the big changes over the last ten years in India. The five-star hotels today are filled with Indians. Businessmen, wedding receptions, parties…these are real meeting places now, and even those who cannot afford to stay there often pass through the lobby…
One of the untold stories of India is that the Muslim population has not shared in the boom the country has enjoyed over the last ten years. There is still a lot of institutional discrimination, and many remain persecuted. There’s enough alienation out there that there are locals who can be drawn in to plots. That tends to be a pattern, from Madrid to Casablanca to Bali—some hard-core jihadis who indoctrinate alienated locals they can seduce.
What’s also new and different about this was that it involved suicide attackers. There have been planted bombs in the past. But this is a different level than we’ve seen in India.
Zakaria’s gut lends creedence to #1:
An Indian businessman who says he heard the attackers said he didn’t understand the language that the young men were speaking. That means that it wasn’t Hindi or Urdu… most Indians would recognize the major languages even if they couldn’t speak one of them. But most Indians would be unfamiliar with what’s spoken in parts of the Kashmir. That’s a source of much of the terrorism. My guess is that ultimately this will turn out to be some outside jihadi groups who might also recruit among disaffected Muslims locally.
Whether this turns out to be the case or not, the situation is very dangerous. A fight between India and Pakistan would be a nightmare. Let’s keep the victims, the violent, and the leaders of both countries in our prayers.