On Nov 26, an enigma began unfolding in Mumbai. It emerged that 12 gunmen armed with AK-47 assault rifles ransacked Mumbai for three days killing 188 people (unverified), including a few Israelis and other westerners. Security forces suffered 14 casualties. One terrorist, Kasab, who appeared to have been focused by the cameras, was arrested while all others were killed.
Why did the terrorists not carry any shoulder-fired rockets/grenades and explosives to Mumbai? The attackers, if they had no love lost for India, ought to have planned for maximum destruction during the attack. Or was the attack not meant to cause extensive damage?
Three of the 14 personnel killed were those who had proved that a serving Indian Army colonel, in collusion with Hindu militant groups, had actually bombed and burned Pakistanis alive inside the Samjhauta Express in 2007. While the father of Karkare, the senior-most Anti-Terrorist Squad officer, refused to receive condolences on behalf of the State of India and his widow refused to receive any monetary award. Did they conclusively believe that Karkare and his companions were assassinated for absolving Pakistan of complicity in the Samjhauta Express massacre in which 68 Pakistanis lost their lives? If this was somehow true, as it can be because of a very plausible State motive existing, then what was actually happening in Mumbai on 26 November 2008? Was there the linkage between the terrorists and the State forces? Is this why rocket launchers and explosives were not carried by the attackers, in order to contain destruction? Questions like these seek credible answers. The suspicious killing of Karkare and his colleagues has caused a rumpus even in the Indian Parliament.
With every window on each floor of the Taj Hotel being an entry point that was accessible by the fire brigade equipment available in Mumbai, could three terrorists actually hold that 750-room hotel building for three days against the might of India? What we saw happening in Mumbai defies military logic. How could the other nine terrorists also hold out in groups of twos and threes in a number of very accessible and widely dispersed buildings, independent of each other, for three days?
The Islamabad Marriott was destroyed in moments. That was a horrific real-life terrorist attack. The terrorists in Mumbai somehow did not even carry enough explosive to blow up one single room anywhere? Billowing smoke came through the top of the Taj Hotel. Was the smoke there for the cameras of the world electronic media in order to have Mumbai on the television screens of the world for three days to cause an international outcry meant to facilitate the subsequent political moves in the region? Could that objective have been to bring in the entire world against Pakistan, especially the USA, by maligning Pakistan in such a manner that Pakistan’s political and military establishment is cornered and browbeaten into submission?
The road would then obviously lead to measured attempts aimed at denuclearisation of Pakistan’s military potential and also decimating its conventional military potential, including the crippling of the ISI. To people saying its preposterous to imagine that India orchestrated Mumbai it can be said that the price paid by India is nothing at all if the bigger objectives outlined above are even partially achieved. India may not be alone on this. Israeli interest in the denuclearisation of Pakistan is well known and the Israelis are likely to have played a role larger than what is obvious.
The Indian Navy’s Western Command based at Mumbai maintains a hawkish vigil on India’s maritime borders with Pakistan. Yet, it is said that a bunch of ragtag terrorists sailed into Mumbai for the attacks we all witnessed on TV. For a moment let us assume that the terrorists actually came from Pakistan’s maritime borders. Why, then, have the Indian chief of the Naval Staff and the Commander of the Indian Naval Western Command not been held accountable for such a colossal failure?
The Mumbai enigma needs to be conclusively resolved and the best way to do so is through a combined investigation committee of Pakistan and India, as Pakistan has offered.
Pakistan and India are burdened by unemployment, poverty and deprivation. Neither country can boast of internal stability. Both have their share of ethnic and sectarian disorders and are troubled by militancy. Some very strong Hindu militant organisations in India are far beyond State control. Nearly 200 districts in India have some sort of serious disorder or insurgency. Neither country can ever overpower the other militarily. The option of a Pakistan-India war is no longer an option because the cost would be the total destruction of South Asia. Therefore, the only way that Pakistan and India can survive and be viable States is through peaceful and good relations. India has to stop dreaming of ever being able to treat Pakistan as a satellite state.
India must guard against falling prey to any wishful desire to see Pakistan dismembered through an international conspiracy, because the domino effect of disaster will not stop at Pakistan’s borders with India. The many blood borders, within India itself, will all get activated, as in the case of the erstwhile Soviet Union. Let both countries now begin to move towards a European-Union-kind of a South Asia.
If the people of South Asia are to be more than mere pawns in world politics then the only way towards that is for Pakistan and India to bury the hatchet. Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Burma, Sri Lanka and the Maldives will become natural partners of Pakistan and India. Other countries like Iran and Afghanistan would then want to be on the South Asian bandwagon of peace, progress and prosperity. Central Asia, China and ASEAN too would be interested in a fruitful partnership. Pakistan and India truly hold the balance between the survival or destruction of South Asia and to a progressive or a retrogressive Asia.