Wednesday's terrorist strikes in Mumbai are the latest in a
string of attacks across India over the last year, most of which
appear to have been perpetrated by local Islamists with external
links. These most recent attacks should lead to greater
counterterrorism cooperation between Washington and New Delhi, two
nations whose interests in countering regional and global terrorism
continue to converge.At the same time, these strikes could heighten
tensions between India and Pakistan, especially if investigations
reveal that the attackers received training, finances, or
logistical support from Pakistan-based terror groups. Indeed,
Indian authorities have already begun to accuse Pakistan-based
groups of having links to Wednesday's attacks.
A New Kind of Terrorism in India
Although the name of the group claiming responsibility for
Wednesday's attacks, Deccan Mujahideen, is new, the group is likely
affiliated with the same individuals responsible for conducting a
series of attacks across the country over the last year, attacks
that have claimed the lives of hundreds of Indian citizens.For
instance, a group calling itself the Indian Mujahideen (IM) claimed
responsibility for the May 13 bomb blasts that exploded at crowded
markets in the city of Jaipur. The IM also took credit for the
similar November 23, 2007, attacks on the Indian cities of Varnasi,
Faizabad, and Lucknow.
Additionally, an organization identifying itself as ISF-IM
claimed responsibility for the October 30 serial blasts in Assam (a
state in northeast India) that left 75 dead.Local police believe
the acronym may stand for Indian Security Force-Indian
Wednesday's attacks bear another similarity to IM bombings of
the past year: Just as, in most instances, the IM takes credit for
its atrocities via e-mails sent either prior to or immediately
following an attack, shortly after the November 26 strikes, the
Deccan Mujahideen apparently also sent e-mails claiming
responsibility for the attacks.
By using names that relate to India, the terrorists clearly want
to portray themselves as indigenous, but given the level of
sophistication, planning, and organization of the attacks,
especially Wednesday's assault on Mumbai, they almost certainly
have external links and support.Focusing Wednesday's attacks on
Americans also further demonstrates the group's pan-Islamic agenda,
yet another strong indication that these terrorists could be under
the command of a well-organized group located outside India.
Information gleaned about the IM from the previous attacks
indicates India is facing a new kind of terrorist threat that is
not limited to any one part of the country and involves homegrown
extremists who are linking domestic grievances with pan-Islamic
agendas. Many of the individuals arrested for involvement in the
numerous attacks of the past year are young men (under the age of
35) with good educations and lucrative, prestigious occupations,
such as web designers, doctors, and engineers--a fact that has
surprised Indian authorities, as well as the general public.
Although these individuals could be self-radicalizing through
al-Qaeda propaganda over the Internet, it is possible they have
received training and support from outside India.Indian terrorism
analysts have yet to determine if IM is a single organization or a
united front of several autonomous groups.
Impact on Indo-Pakistani Peace
Wednesday's attack could have a negative impact on
Indo-Pakistani ties, which--due to revelations of Pakistani
intelligence involvement in the bombing of the Indian embassy in
Kabul on July 7, 2008--were already strained.
Although Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has made several
peace gestures toward India since he took office a few months ago,
many Indians question whether the Pakistani security establishment
supports his efforts to improve relations.Without backing from
Pakistan's still-powerful army, Zardari's efforts at confidence
building will have little real impact on boosting India-Pakistan
ties, especially if India believes the Pakistani security
establishment is fomenting violence against India. However,
Islamabad and New Delhi did recently re-open a road between Indian
and Pakistani Kashmir that had been closed for over 60 years, a
significant milestone in improving relations between the two
countries over the complex issue of Kashmir.
The historical animosity between Pakistan and India has also
begun to increasingly manifest itself in Afghanistan, where
Pakistan fears it is losing influence to India.New Delhi has
pledged over $1 billion in assistance to the Afghan government and
increased its political and economic influence throughout the
country over the last few years.Pakistan's ability to maintain
influence in Afghanistan throughout the 1990s stemmed from its
support to the Taliban, whose leadership is allied with al-Qaeda.
Other than strengthening ties to Kabul through stronger economic
and trade linkages, Pakistan now finds itself with few options to
project influence in Afghanistan; any further dealings with the
Taliban risk isolation from the international community.
The massive scale of the Mumbai attacks and the specific
targeting of U.S. citizens should bring the U.S. and India closer
in terms of counterterrorism cooperation and intelligence sharing.
U.S. and Indian counterterrorism interests are increasingly
converging, and Wednesday's attack could help jolt both sides into
even closer coordination with the goal of preventing further
regional and global attacks.
Despite their agreement on the need to aggressively contain
terrorist threats, Washington and New Delhi have failed in the past
to work as closely as they could to minimize terrorist threats.
This failure is largely the result of divergent geo-strategic
perceptions, Indian reticence to deepen the intelligence
relationship, and U.S. bureaucratic resistance toward elevating
counterterrorism cooperation beyond a certain level.The gravity of
the threat posed to both countries from terrorists in the region
require New Delhi and Washington to overcome past suspicions and
recognize that they both stand to gain considerably from stepping
up their cooperation.
To some degree, intelligence cooperation between New Delhi and
Washington may already be improving. For example, Indian media
reports indicate that the U.S. possessed intelligence information
related to the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul that it shared
with the Indian government weeks before the attack
occurred.Unfortunately, U.S.-India intelligence sharing was unable
to prevent this horrific attack, but there may be future
opportunities for the U.S. and India to assist each other in
preventing Taliban and al-Qaeda attacks against both coalition
forces and Indian interests in Afghanistan.
Toward a Mutually Beneficial
Washington and New Delhi will both benefit by pooling their
counterterrorism expertise and increasing joint activities to
address regional and global terrorist threats.Since 90 percent of
counterterrorism is about intelligence, Washington and New Delhi
should focus on breaking down barriers to intelligence sharing. But
to take full advantage of the opportunities for enhancing Indo-U.S.
counterterrorism coordination, both sides will have to work on
enhancing trust and confidence in each other's counterterrorism
strategies.Each nation will have to increase their understanding of
the other's core national security interests that drive their
respective counterterrorism objectives while demonstrating that
pre-9/11 regional narratives on the issue are no longer
Lisa Curtis is Senior
Research Fellow for South Asia in the Asian Studies Center at The