So what do we know so far about what is going on in Mumbai?
- The death toll is over a hundred. Cumulatively, the different attacks on India over the last few years add up to more than of 9/11.
- It was a low-tech operation, but well co-ordinated: guns, grenades and boats.
- Under 50 terrorists are involved: perhaps 20.
- No one has heard of the group that claimed credit. It is clear though that the terrorists involved are part of the loose network inspired by Al Queda.
- Despite reports of targeting US and UK Nationals, the vast majority of victims are Indians.
In spite of the carnage, there are reasons to be optimistic.
- This is the latest of a series of attacks aimed at the financial centers of India. The aim is to disrupt one of the few economies in the world that is actually growing. Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi have all been attacked in recent times, but the elephant marches on. Size has its advantages. The Banking Crisis in the US is a bigger threat than these attacks.
- Obama is on the case. The US is not getting directly involved, but by responding calmly and intelligently, he can help defuse the situation. It is unlikely that he will invade Burma in retaliation.
- Despite attempts by the terrorists to rile up the Indian muslim population, Indians are united in their revulsion at this series of attacks. Even in Kashmir, last week’s election had high turnout; although separatists called for a boycott.
So what can we, as individual Americans do ?
- Turn off that TV. Check back every day, not every hour. This will take time to resolve.
- Ignore experts offering convoluted explanations. India is not as mysterious and distant as you may think. Terrorists attacked Mumbai for the same reason they attacked New York, Barcelona,Bali and London: because there are people there, and that is where money is made. Indians react the same way you do: horror, confusion and rage.
- Support closing down secret Bank accounts in Switzerland and such. Although tax evasion is the main reason they exist, they are also used to funnel money to terrorist groups.
- Put pressure on the US Govt to stop funding the Pakistani military. They are not helping in the fight against terrorists, and elements within them are likely behind these attacks.
- Husain Haqqani (2005) Pakistan, Between Mosque and Military, Carnegie Endowment for Peace, ISBN-10: 0870032143
- Ayesha Siddiqa Agha, (2007), Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy, Pluto Press, ISBN 0745325459
The last point is somewhat independent of whether they are directly responsible for this attack. It is simply good foreign policy.
Husain Haqqani, before he became Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, has argued that even when an elected Government is supposed to be in power, the Army is really running the country. Certainly, the civilians have no control on the Army. He calls it Military Rule by other means . Ayesha Siddiqa’s book documents in detail how the military has taken over every national institution and destroyed it. The idea that defunding the military will destabilize Pakistan is laughable.
Without freeing Pakistan from the iron grip of its own military, we cannot shut down safe-havens for terrorists. With new Governments in the US and Pakistan, there is an opportunity for change now.
The Civilian Government of Pakistan has made a remarkable overture by offering a `no first use’ policy on nuclear weapons. This significance is that it is the power that is weak in conventional forces that usually reserves the right of first use: the US never ceded that during the cold war. But it is also a meaningless gesture, until the Army is forced to depend on the Civilian Government for its funding. Without the power of the purse, the Parliament and President answer to the Army and not the other way.
Any thawing of relations between India and Pakistan is deeply threatening to the Pakistani military and to Islamic extremists. Every time it happens, they have lashed out. The timing of this attack fits that pattern.