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Is India Stumbling Blindly to War?

The Indian press is raising the bloody shirt. Every day a new proof that the attackers were Pakistani is used to argue that there should be strikes against Pakistan, and the time table is short. The trail of the accused group, the Lashkar-e-Taiba or LeT, is long in international terrorism. They have been sanctioned as a terrorist group in a variety of ways. They are located in a front line state in the so called war on Terrorism, and yet, little has really been done about them, because of their connections to the "ISI" – Pakistan’s powerful security force.

It does not help that the Congress Party’s response has been confused. A cabinet minister was sacked, but another was left in place. Nothing has been done to improve the police or state security, which is the hole that was exploited by gun men that went on a naked rampage. India had received multiple warnings of the attacks, from multiple sources, with a high degree of confidence, and yet, it was completely unprepared. Malice or incompetence, it makes little difference to the dead.

It is already clear that the militant commando team had help inside of India and that the police forces were completely ill prepared and ill equipped. Reviews have started, but it is a measure of the inefficiency of the Indian military that no concrete steps have been taken.

It does not help that American leadership has been vague about what India’s right to self defense actually entails. Hot pursuit? Surgical strikes? Joint military action? It is not that Obama does not have a broader strategic vision: he has in the past called for a military alliance of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India against terror. He is pushing for the government of Pakistan to get time to deal with the multiple internal problems. Both of the internal divisions in Pakistan, because the ISI, in effect, does not answer to the government – and the civilian government has only recently replaced a military government. This three sided political problem means that the civilian government must first persuade the armed forces to act against the security forces – in a matter which the armed forces regard as being vital to the defense of Pakistan’s interests, namely the status of Kashmir.

But time is a very expensive commodity when outrage, particularly profitable outrage, is being used for the gain of individual parties. It is fairly clear that the terrorist attack was meant to provoke the elite of India, and in particular against Pakistan. And yet, as President-Elect Obama has already made clear, terrorism of this sort – quasi-state actors pursuing their own goals – is an equal threat to all.

Outgoing Secretary of State Rice is headed to India, filled with a great deal of language about a demand for total transparency from Pakistan. While urging restraint with one hand, she is pressing the civilian government of Pakistan to act against internal forces, while offering very little in the way of aid or positive incentive. The war in Afghanistan has metastasized into a larger conflict: forces of dissolution, militancy, extremism, and violence have used the money, weapons, and chaos, being generated. It is to the good to call for an investigation, but transparency must work both ways. India cannot ask for cooperation from Pakistan on security, without giving it in return. By blaming the Pakistani government for the actions of Pakistani factions, the government of India, and the United States which has provided cover for the deteriorating relationship between the two governments, has made a grave error.

The Mumbai attacks were calculated to drive the elites of India into a frenzy – there have been more deaths in attacks before, but none struck at the rich and powerful. The last militant said that the end was to cause India’s "9/11." It was not the attacks on 9/11 that did the most damage, but the incoherent and hysterical response. The best step is not shuttle diplomacy, but a three way security summit, aimed at producing concrete steps in investigating the attacks, and reducing dramatically the cross border violence that long stand off between India and Pakistan has fostered.

Terrorism feeds on failed states, failed societies, and failed relationships. Pakistan’s security elite almost certainly had a hand in these attacks, but the field that they sprung from was seeded by the hostility between the two nations. India and Pakistan, as state actors, can no longer afford to fail to settle their differences by using military means.

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