A looming confrontation between India and Pakistan

The Times of India, without naming sources, claims it is “suspected” that the Pakistan Marine Agency helped terrorists hijack a fishing trawler which was then used to transport the attackers from Karachi, Pakistan, to the Indian coast. 

The Indian major-general leading operations against the militants in Mumbai has also said they came from Pakistan.

The Pakistani president and prime minister have meanwhile offered condolences to their counterparts in India.

There are several disturbing implications if al Qaeda is found to have behind the Mumbai attack. First, and most obviously, it would demonstrate that the terror group, which has suffered setbacks of late, remains capable of coordinating sophisticated and simultaneous assaults on a wide variety of targets.

Secondly, and perhaps more seriously, it would suggest an al-Qaeda foothold in India. India had been considered largely free of al-Qaeda, despite a Muslim population of more than 150 million. No Indians were captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002, for example, nor have there been any Indian inmates at Guantanamo Bay. But the country has been in al-Qaeda’s crosshairs for at least three years. In April of 2006, Osama bin Laden for the first time referred to a “Crusader-Zionist-Hindu conspiracy against the Muslims.” Around the same time, Indian intelligence agencies began reporting an al-Qaeda presence in Kashmir. An al-Qaeda hand in Mumbai would suggest that the international terrorist group has opened up a new front.

As bad as this would be, however, should Pakistan’s government or intelligence agency be implicated — and recall that the Indian prime minister has already blamed a group “based outside the country” — the results may well be graver. It is difficult to conceive that the Indian government, especially one that is wary of being outflanked by the more conservative Bharatiya Janata Party, would not respond with some force.

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