Friday, November 28, 2008

Mumbai Battle Leaves Over 150 Dead: Guerrilla Attacks Increase Tension Between India and Pakistan

Mumbai hostage buildings taken

By James Lamont in New Delhi and and Joe Leahy in Mumbai
November 28 2008 19:10

Indian commandos on Friday night managed finally to wrest control of two of the three buildings taken by militants in one of the worst terror attacks on Indian soil.

The siege of Mumbai’s Oberoi hotel and a Jewish centre ended, as officials reported that the death toll had risen to 155 at nine locations with about 327 wounded. Nine gunmen and eight foreigners were among the dead.

A day-long effort to regain control of the Jewish community centre, Nariman House, ended with the news that at least five hostages including a young rabbi and his wife had been killed.

The attempt to storm the building had seen gun battles through the day and commandos sliding down ropes from helicopters hovering above the centre’s roof. At one point the Indian forces blew a hole in the outer wall of the centre.

Fierce battles also continued with militants who were still holed up in one of India’s most famous luxury hotels, the Taj, hours after senior Indian officials said the conflict would end.

Elite Indian commandos spoke of fierce battles through the maze of corridors and rooms of the 100-year-old hotel in which the terrorists had a better knowledge of the layout than security forces.

A senior marine commando officer, dressed in a black balaclava to obscure his identity, said the “very determined and remorseless” militants were well armed and had smuggled weapons into the hotels ahead of their attack, including plastic explosives.

“There is blood all over, bodies all over. We are not looking at those who have been killed, just looking at who is exchanging fire,” he said. “They can go on and on [resisting]”.

Earlier, 143 people were freed and the Oberoi Police confirmed that at least 30 guests and two others had died in the attack.

Analysts said the terrorists had achieved a “significant success” by managing to keep the Indian security forces at bay for so long since the attack began on Wednesday night.

“The attackers received as much attention as they could possibly have hoped for, and the Mumbai outrage can only be described as a very significant terrorist success,” said Paul Cornish, head of the international security programme at Chatham House in London.

Ashok Mehta, a retired army commander, said the casualty count in Mumbai could have been halved if the elite National Security Guard had arrived on the scene earlier.

A little-known group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attacks.

A militant claiming to be one of those holding the Jewish family rang an Indian television channel to offer talks on the release of the hostages while complaining about India’s actions in Kashmir. India and Pakistan are at odds over the disputed territory.

Condemnation has flooded in over the attacks, which have brought India’s financial capital to a halt, with most businesses closed on Friday.

Those killed included: Ashok Kapur, chairman of India’s YES Bank, Loumia Hiridjee and Mourad Amarsy, founders of Princess Tam Tam, a French lingerie label.

The Indian government increased its pressure on Pakistan as the suspected source of the attacks.

Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, summoned the head of Pakistan’s military spy agency to help assist with the investigation into the identity and motives of the terrorists, which is so far unknown.

Pranab Mukherjee, India’s external affairs minister, said preliminary investigation pointed towards Pakistani involvement, in spite of assertions by President Asif Ali Zardari that land under Pakistani control would not be allowed to launch attacks on India.

Pakistan denied involvement.

The attacks have brought into question the future of Mumbai as a global financial centre.

Senior Indian business executives have criticised the government for not taking heed of earlier attacks on the city in 2006 and 1993 to improve the city’s infrastructure and emergency services.

The attacks come at a critical time for the Congress party-led government, which faces an election by next May.

The Hindu nationalist opposition Bharatiya Janata party has campaigned relentlessly against the government’s record on security, as police struggling to bring militants to justice despite almost monthly attacks on major cities.

Additional reporting by James Fontanella-Khan in Mumbai
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Fears of return to guerrilla-based terrorism

By James Blitz and Roula Khalaf in London
November 28 2008 19:20

As western intelligence officials study links between the Mumbai gunmen and external groups, a question reverberating in intelligence circles is: do the Mumbai killings mark the start of a new chapter in the story of global terrorism, in which jihadists revert to the use of machine guns and grenades in crowded places rather than cooking up technically ­ambitious plots?

Ever since the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001, al-Qaeda and those influenced by its jihadist ideology have focused on trying to carry out another complex spectacular, often seeking to blow up several bombs simultaneously. In Madrid in 2004 and in London in 2005, multiple bomb attacks were synchronised across transport systems. In 2006, British jihadists tried – and failed – to blow up airliners over the Atlantic. A big fear in western intelligence agencies, meanwhile, has been that al-Qaeda and its affiliates will eventually get hold of weapons of mass destruction.

In Mumbai, however, the tactics have been different. The Mumbai terrorists have used some ideas that come out of the “al-Qaeda handbook,” such as mounting synchronised attacks across a city and targeting US and UK citizens. But while the attack was sophisticated, some intelligence analysts believe it suggests terrorists are going “back to basics,” using guns and grenades rather than airliners or bombs.

“This is very reminiscent of the kind of the thing carried out by terrorists like Abu Nidal and Carlos the Jackal some 20 or 30 years ago,” says one intelligence analyst, pointing to the similarity, for example, to the atrocity at Rome airport in 1973 when Arab terrorists killed 31 people in multiple attacks on check-in desks and an aircraft. “It is terrorism that is more in the realm of guerrilla warfare – and while the terrorist in the Mumbai case is prepared to die, suicide is not his weapon.”

Nigel Inkster, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, suggests that the methods used by the Mumbai terrorists do not necessarily reflect a strategic rethink by jihadists. “The kind of storming technique we have seen, using firearms and grenades, is characteristic of Kashmiri terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba,” he says.

However, others believe it might reflect a broader change of thinking among international terror groups. The intelligence community has been thinking for some time that al-Qaeda and its affiliates make their task a great deal more difficult by trying to accomplish complex spectaculars that are often discovered by the authorities. This may be one of the reasons why al-Qaeda has failed to inspire any big attack in Europe since the London bombings – and why it has been deemed this year to be on the back-foot.

“One of the perplexing things about al-Qaeda is why they have been focused on this one modus operandi of doing spectacular bombings when there are other more basic ways of terrorising populations,” says one intelligence expert.

His argument is that it is far easier to train terrorists to use firearms than to build bombs, and that guns are far easier to transport around a city than explosives. This is a subject on which few in intelligence will want to say much publicly. But one of the lessons of global terrorism in recent decades is that it mutates in terms of tactics. One of the dangers of this week’s atrocity is that other jihadists, whether connected to the Mumbai attackers or not, will learn this lesson.

Radicals threaten India’s global ambitions

By Jo Johnson
November 27 2008 22:27

This is not the face that India likes to show the world. The faster it rises up the ranks of the world’s nations and the closer it comes to being a global power, the more India objects to being bogged down in a sub-regional conflict with Pakistan, its rival for the past six decades.

If there is one thing that the Indian elite fears could derail the country’s rise, it is that agents provocateurs acting on behalf of rivals could disrupt its delicate religious and ethnic balance.

Manmohan Singh, who as prime minister since May 2004 has presided over a spectacular transformation of India’s global standing, was quick to blame the country’s neighbours for the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Whenever terror strikes, the Indian elite instinctively looks for scapegoats beyond its borders, almost always blaming the Pakistan-based militant groups that are opposed to the peace process between the two nuclear-armed rivals. They point out that big terrorist attacks often coincide with periods of rapprochement.

“Unless the national security adviser had told the prime minister – a circumspect man not given to rash statements – that there was evidence of foreign involvement, he wouldn’t have gone on television and said this, especially when he’s trying to work with [Pakistan president] Asif Ali Zardari,” says Sumit Ganguly, professor of political science at Indiana University. “The Pakistani president has made a series of extraordinary gestures that the Indian prime minister is extremely keen on reciprocating.”

But the speed with which India blames Pakistan, or groups operating under the direct or indirect control of Islamabad’s main intelligence agency, worries those who believe that terrorism on Indian soil also has indigenous roots.

Human rights groups have long pointed out the risk that India’s most marginalised and vulnerable communities could prove susceptible to radicalisation. The spread of revolutionary Naxalism, a violent Maoist movement, has shown the appeal of radical ideologies to India’s castes and tribes.

Academics believe that the roots of India’s terrorism problem can be found in a complex fusion of greed and grievance. While a Muslim-dominated underworld plays a part in facilitating and carrying out terror attacks, that is just part of the story.

In spite of four years of turbo-charged growth, there are still hundreds of millions living in abject poverty, with next to no stake in an otherwise newly wealthy and self-confident society. Of all the groups yet to benefit from spectacular growth, none, apart from so-called dalits (once known as “untouchables”) and tribals, have fared as poorly as Muslims.

Some, inevitably, succumb to the blandishments of recruiters from the country’s myriad insurgencies and extremist movements.

The Muslim community, although far from monolithic, forms the second largest religious group in the country and represents just under 14 per cent of the 1.1bn population.

Sociologists describe the relationship of India’s Muslims to the rest of Indian society as one of “upper class inclusion and mass exclusion”. While a small elite – typified by the Khans of Bollywood, the aristocratic Nawabs and businessmen such as Azim Premji, chairman of Wipro, a leading software group – thrives in the new India, a far larger number of Muslims, in many cases low-caste converts from Hinduism, often face marginalisation.

A government report into the community’s socio-economic condition found India’s Muslims constantly battling perceptions that they were “anti-national”, “unpatriotic” or “belonged in Pakistan” and either withdrawing or being pushed into ghettos.

Markers of their identity, such as the burka, the purdah, the beard and the topi, a Muslim cap, produced ridicule and harassment. Bearded men said they were routinely picked up for interrogation:, hijab-wearing women that they struggled to find jobs.

The integration of India’s Muslim population into the economic mainstream has strategic importance for the subcontinent and for the west. Unless this underlying susceptibility to terrorism is addressed, India’s path to superpowerdom could be bumpier than almost everyone predicts.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Assault on India’s fabled city of dreams

By Ashutosh Varshney
November 28 2008 20:46

Terror has rocked India before but never have terrorists been so audacious. South Mumbai is India’s economic heart. This attack is “India’s 9/11”.

Mumbai is no routine urban agglomeration. It is a fabled city, where millions of Indians, migrating from poor hinterlands, seek a living; where rags-to-riches stories are not uncommon; where vast business deals are struck. It is where dreams are manufactured by a film industry that gives countless Indians relief from the struggles of life. Millions identify with the city.

Mumbai is a paradox. It has areas of appalling squalor but is India’s city of hope. It is in south Mumbai that the Tatas honed world-class business skills, Zubin Mehta learnt how to conduct Beethoven’s Fifth and Salman Rushdie understood how to turn the drama of everyday life into novels.

By targeting south Mumbai, the terrorists have not only attacked the economic symbol of a rising India but also its most globalised quarters.

A big hypothesis beckons: India is a highly unequal democracy in a bad neighbourhood, and as long as its democracy, inequalities and regional misfortunes remain unreformed, it will be vulnerable to terrorism.

Consider how Indian democracy has addressed terrorism. India’s politicians have asked: are terrorists simply terrorists, or are they Muslim or Hindu terrorists?

This question is tied up with electoral politics. Muslims comprise about 13 per cent of India’s population. Given how they are geographically distributed, they form a crucial electoral segment of at least a quarter of India’s parliamentary seats.

Seeking Hindu votes, some politicians have been quick to equate terror with Islam. Others, especially pro-Muslim political parties, focus on the unfair treatment of Muslims by the police rather than the fight to eliminate terror.

Recently Indian democracy has been treated to the obverse of “Muslim terror”. Prima facie evidence and intelligence suggest the rise of Hindu networks practising terror against Muslims. In India’s democracy, terror has become identified not as an evil but as an outgrowth of the grievances of Muslims or Hindus, or as a sign of whether the Indian state is unfair to Muslims or Hindus. That is a recipe for further disasters.

Inequalities are the second part of the problem. The Indian economy has been booming, but while some business leaders, film stars and sports icons are Muslim, Muslims mostly come from the poorest, least educated and most poorly skilled communities.

Nowhere is this contradiction more evident than in Mumbai. It has some of the richest Indian Muslims but there is a huge Muslim underclass and a connection between Mumbai’s underworld and its poor Muslims has been noted. Muslim gangs are among the most powerful players in Mumbai’s organised crime. To many, crime appears to offer greater and easier rewards than a dogged pursuit of regular employment.

Finally, Indian democracy functions in a region, whose failings are second only to the Middle East’s. Recent works by Pakistani scholars make it clear that the state in Pakistan has long been fractured between agencies that support terrorism and those that seek to control it.

India has its troubles in Kashmir and the north-east, but these conflicts have never reduced the Indian state to a shambles. Alone in south Asia, India has had sufficient institutional strength to hold regular elections.

India has to ask how long it can continue to be institutionally strong if the neighbourhood is so violent. Its borders are porous and the prospect of maritime terrorism, raised by the Mumbai carnage, makes them more so. Foreign policy and national security are increasingly tied up with India’s political health, with potential consequences for India’s economic resilience.

What can be done? How to include India’s Muslims in the economic mainstream is key. India’s political parties need to learn that terrorism cannot be seen as a vote-winner. It is an evil and a security threat. If political parties link terrorism with Muslims or Hindus, they will only bring greater catastrophe closer. Finally, India must vigorously cultivate peace with Pakistan. Luckily, a government today exists in Pakistan that has made the most resolute gestures towards peace in decades. President Asif Ali Zardari has opened up a unique opportunity for regional peace. After Mumbai, India needs to respond.

The writer is professor of political science at Brown University

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008


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