The Mumbai Attacks - Al Qaeda, Pakistani Proxies or Hindutva Backlash?
|Friday, November 28,2008 07:39|
|By Cernig, newshoggers|
With more than 100 dead and reports of up to 900 injured, the horrific events in Mumbai have now moved into a second day. Attacks by well-armed and organised Moslem terrorists, who targeted UK, US and Israeli nationals in particular and took hostages at top hotels in India"s financial capital, have catapulted India"s boiling sectarian feuds and regional tensions into the news this Thanksgiving. Some of the most up-to-date reporting can be found at India"s NDTV.com.
Given the nature of the attacks - coordinated across several targets simultaneously and using grenades and heavy machine guns as well as assault rifiles, the finger of suspicion was naturally first pointed at Al Qaeda by Western media. More serious conservative analysts are following Indian officials and are blaming Kashmir-related groups like the Lashkar e-Taiba, who were instrumental in carrying out bomb attacks in Mumbai in July 2006 and, very unlike the US right"s response in 2006 when protecting Musharraf was high on the neocon agenda, this timeeven the Weekly Standard is making the connection between the LeK and Pakistan"s ISI.
I"ll admit that was my first reaction too, and it"s still possible - there are even unconfirmed reports that at least some of the attackers may be Pakistani nationals. I wrote in an emal discussion with my Newshoggers colleagues that the recent Pakistani government"s charm offensive, making nice with India and announcing curbs on the ISI, was to be distrusted and that I suspected it was more window-dressing than actuality. However, as one analyst told me today "far right Indian politicians and the security apparatus have a lot to gain from claiming that the attacks were from Pakistan and the ISI, and they have a lot to lose economically and in international standing if it turns out it was a domestic attack motivated by religiously charged politics." Moreover, these attacks don"t fit the classic pattern for either AQ or the LeK:
(I"d take the opinion of Ms Fair over that of Mr Gohel any day.)
There"s now evidence that the attacks were carried out by indigenous militants and motivated purely by rage at Hindu-supremacist atrocities inside India rather than being part of an international Al Qaeda plan of attacks or Pakistan"s strategy of "foreign policy by terror proxy". Blake Hounshell notes:
It"s probably significant that the head of Mumbai"s anti-terror squad and two of his staff were assassinated as part of this co-ordinated attack.
The background context is that Mumbai is run by the very extreme Shiv Sena (army of Shiva) party who have advocated acts of violence against Moslims, and have overseen an increasing sectarian division of the city. It"s leader recently called for the formation of Hindu suicide squads. The current issue of Newsweek covers the wider Hindutva or Hindu supremacist movement and its massive influence on Indian life.
While just the other day I noted the arrest of 10 Hindu supremacist terrorists, including a current Colonel in military intelligence and three former military officers - suggesting that there"s reason aplenty for escalating tit-for-tat sectarian violence. Not all Hindus are violent extremists, just as not all Moslems are - but India is a populous nation and there"s always going to be plenty of dangerous extremism going around despite some truly earnest attempts by the current ruling coalition - a Sikh prime minister and a Muslim president elected by a Hindu majority.
All of this goes under-reported in the West, where the prevalent narrative is of India as the world"s biggest democracy and a tolerant culture. And it is, but just like the US it has its KKK equivalents. Still, one wonders whether if the West were more aware of this stuff, and the massive stores of hatred that the Pakistani and Indian militaries have for each other on sectarian/nationalist grounds, politicians or public would be quite so sanguine about the US/India nuke deal and hopes for a detente between the two nations while Obama is President.