With the assault on Mumbai finally at an end, we can start to look at some of its likely consequences. The attacks, allegedly perpetrated by an unknown radical group in the name of Allah, killed at least 195 people, including several Americans, and created unseen havoc in one of the world’s great economic capitals. Though the nation of India has seen its share of terrorist attacks, including an assault on its parliament and a tremendous train bombing, it appears that Mumbai attack of November 2008 may be lead to a sea change in the way the Indian populace looks at Islamic terrorism.
The Times of India immediately put out an editorial basically stating that the nation was at war:
“The scale, intensity and level of orchestration of terror attacks in Mumbai put one thing beyond doubt: India is effectively at war and it has deadly enemies in its midst.”
Many of the citizens of Mumbai and state government officials have also made comments that ‘this is enough’ and referenced the US War on Terror as a possible strategy to follow. These coordinated and dramatic attacks were carried out in a way that resembled war, they even featured a beach landing assault, and the targets chosen, major centers of commerce and foreign travelers, also raised the assault’s international exposure. One cannot pretend that only India was attacked, as Americans, Britons, and Jews were all targeted and Mumbai’s businesses touch nearly every part of the globe.
For Indian perspective, one issue to immediately look to is the failure of their intelligence network to sniff out any possibly leads to prevent this incident. Considering the sophistication and breadth of this attack involving tens, maybe hundreds, of perpetrators, how could they so effectively hide this coming calamity? The Indian police and commando units fought valiantly, but why did they have to come all the way from New Delhi? That’s like an attack occurs in NYC and the US government had to send in elite fighting forces all the way in DC.
Mumbai’s place as the center of Indian commerce also plays an important part in the possible ramifications of this incident. Economists and investors are already saying that this attack could cause the city from becoming a regional financial powerhouse that it so much desires for itself. As I mentioned on the day of the attack, the continuing presence of terrorist attacks hurts India’s ability to project its power outward. A nation with internal fissures that are still volatile will struggle in its attempts to spread its influence elsewhere. Now I’m not saying India is an anarchial state by no means, but it is true that incidents like this, if seen to be unstoppable and consistent, will decay international views of the state, and this includes less foreign direct investment.
The Mumbai Massacre also puts India’s geopolitical position concerning Pakistan in more muddled waters. India’s President Singh has already stated that he believes there were ‘foreign’ influences in this attack, aka Pakistan. With the perpetrators origins still unknown, it is too early to say if the Pakistani state or ISI had any involvement, but years and years of distrust lead to suspicions that may be just as powerful as the truth. Pakistan’s has already agreed to send their top ISI chief to India to help in the investigation and to try and show transparency and cooperation, and this is a very positive sign. If the perpetrators were in fact homegrown radical Islamists or from Pakistan, but unconnected to the ISI, other problems of course arise, but at least this may not lead to a greater war.
This massacre will likely have consequences over much of India’s future and it will be worth watching to see how the nation, both its citizenry and its government, react in the near and extended future. Will India start to more aggressively hunt terrorists and terrorist networks, a la the US War on Terror? Or will this incident just be seen in the prism of the ongoing Indian-Pakistani clash over Kashmir?
I’ll end this post on a positive note by quoting none other than Dubya:
“The killers who struck this week are brutal and violent, but terror will not have the final word,” President Bush said. “People of India are resilient. People of India are strong. They have built a vibrant, multiethnic democracy that can withstand this trial. Their financial capital of Mumbai will continue to be the center of commerce and prosperity.”