The terrorist attacks on two hotels, a jewish centre and the central railway station in Mumbai on Wednesday 26 November have claimed the lives of 188 people and maimed many more.
At the time of writing, we do not have sufficient information to form a definitive view on who was behind this attack. However, on the basis of circumstantial evidence, it is possible to form a preliminary opinion of the motivation and guiding hand behind this atrocity.
All the signs are that sections of the Pakistani military establishment, especially its intelligence agency, the ISI, have engineered this incident – with the twin aims of weakening and destabilising the present civilian government in Pakistan and to stopping in their tracks the recent steps taken by the Pakistani government towards improved relations with India.
The Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zardari, had only a few days prior to the Mumbai events offered a no-first nuclear strike agreement to India, as well as suggesting an economic union between the two countries. This would have been seen in Pakistani army circles as nothing short of a provocation.
Precisely for that reason, these elements have struck pre-emptively to bring to a sudden halt the movement for better relations between the two countries.
Although, through massive agitation, the Pakistani military has been forced to make way for elections and a civilian government in Pakistan, it is not reconciled to civilian rule.
The Pakistani military is an all-powerful institution; it has run Pakistan for more than half of its existence; it runs lucrative businesses and industrial establishments; it is the recipient of huge sums in US aid; and it has a ‘fair’ share of the international drug trade. Understandably, it does not like to lose its grip on the goose that has been laying these golden eggs.
The main thing that gives the army the power that it has hitherto exercised is confrontation with India. Any improvement of relations between India and Pakistan spells death for the army’s pre-eminent role in Pakistan. What better way, then, to derail the whole process of thaw in Indo-Pak relations than to stage an atrocity of the type that was staged in Mumbai?
This being the case, the Indian and Pakistani authorities have a duty to give a measured response to the Mumbai outrage, for it is directed not only against India but also against Pakistan.
Both countries have much to lose from any confrontation with each other following these events. Such a confrontation would only be a help to the perpetrators of this ghastly act and serve to further their nefarious designs.