So looks like things are finally cooling down between Pakistan and India….siiiiike! An anonymous former US Defense department official told the New York Times that American intelligence agencies had determined that former officers from Pakistan’s Army Inter-Services Intelligence agency helped train the Mumbai attackers. This is obviously a serious charge and we don’t know what the Indian intelligence or government knows, as that is more important. So what happens next?
While some are calling for restraint and calm in India, thousands of others are demanding accountability from the government and action aimed at curbing future attacks. The ruling coalition in India faces quite the challenge as the temerity and attention-grabbing nature of the Mumbai attack virtually guarantees that they make some kind of action, or else face the fall of their government. India has already demanded 20 suspected terrorists from Pakistan’s government and though President Zardari has pledged cooperation, it does not appear that this request will be met. Indian Foreign Minister Mukherjee in a press conference with Condi Rice, responded to a question of how India would handle this denial from Pakistan:
“So far, Government of India is concerned, more action will be taken by the government — will depend on the response which we have from the Pakistan authorities. We have given (inaudible) and expecting the response. After obtaining the response (inaudible), the government will consider it necessary to protect its territorial integrity, sovereignty and security of the — of its civilians, government.”
This was not the strongest statement, but it does leave the door open for more aggressive action by the Indian government in response to the Mumbai attack. Secretary of State Rice pledged her support for the Indian government in this trying time, but warned against actions that would have ‘unintended consequences.’
While the states and citizens of Pakistan and India obviously have much to lose and gain in this rising conflict, so does the United States, as Condi Rice is not just in Mumbai to give condolences, as her first name might suggest. Right as India was ramping up its rhetoric regarding Pakistani involvement in the attacks, Pakistan’s military and government warned that it would move some its 100,000 troops stationed on its Western border with Afghanistan to its Eastern border with India if New Delphi made any type of power play. If this were to happen the main beneficiaries would be the Taliban as they could even further concentrate their energy on destabilizing the Afghanistan government and demoralizing the West’s forces. One can also not assume that an actual hot war could occur between India and Pakistan near the Kashmir region, as one almost occurred under similar circumstance in 2001. These are two possibilities that the US desperately wants to avoid and Rice is no doubt there to try to restrain India. However, this will be difficult as evidence mounts of Pakistani military-terror involvement and India’s ruling coalition faces tremendous domestic pressure to show results and strength. I wish I didn’t have to write ‘siiiike.
(On a bit of a side note, here is an excellent editorial by Thomas Friedman calling for all Pakistanis to protest as loudly against the Mumbai Massacre as they did for the Dutch cartoons.)