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India reels, but resists pointing finger at Pakistan
Sydney Morning Herald - July 15, 2011
Instead, the Indian government's most immediate problem is domestic: calming a populace angry that the country's biggest city has again been attacked by terrorists, and countering a perception they have not done enough to prevent it.
In a city still rebuilding after the siege three years ago, 17 people were killed and 131 injured when three co-ordinated bomb blasts were set off within 12 minutes of each other. The crude ammonium nitrate bombs, set off at Dadar, Jhaveri Bazaar, and the Opera House district, were timed for the height of the peak hour rush when the streets were full of commuters.
Rain hampered police efforts to gather evidence yesterday. The crime scenes remained cordoned off.
In the aftermath, India's politicians have been careful to avoid any speculation about who might be responsible, and in particular from mentioning Pakistan as a possible source.
But terrorism experts agree the method of the attacks – using low to mid-level serial bombings, detonated in public places, and without a specific target but aiming to kill as many people as possible – carry the hallmarks of an Islamist terrorist group.
"In terms of the pattern of attack, it certainly points to one of the Pakistan-backed Islamist terrorist organisations," Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management, told the Herald yesterday.
"Most particularly the Indian Mujahideen, who, it is known, have been trying to put together something for a while, or Lashkar-e-Taiba, with whom they have links, and who have attacked Mumbai previously. It could also be a joint effort between those and other groups."
The LeT were responsible for the last major attack on India's financial hub, when 10 Pakistani gunmen stormed the city in November 2008, laying siege to two hotels and killing 166 people.
It has since been alleged Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, was involved in the attack, charges furiously denied by the Pakistan government.
But, Mr Sahni said, the always fraught India-Pakistan relationship, mired in the mistrust and doublespeak of six decades of hostility, will not be significantly affected by this latest attack, whether it had origins in Pakistan or not.
"Nothing at all will change. Look at what happened all the other times there were attacks. We are at war, we have accepted that. After 2008, what did India do, we said to Pakistan 'we won't talk to you', but after a year we started talking again, despite their having met not one of the conditions imposed. "We might react by making some noise, but this won't change."
The director of the Sapra India Foundation, Indranil Banerjie, said even while the Indian government might suspect Pakistani involvement, there was no evidence, and that the slow rebuilding of the relationship would continue.
Their foreign ministers will meet in Delhi in a fortnight. India's foreign minister, S.M. Krishna, said a "new chapter" had been opened in the relationship.
"It is almost understood that these attacks will happen. The talks will go ahead. No one expects any big breakthrough in these talks, it is simply about holding them, the atmospherics," Mr Banerjie said.
The Indian government is already weathering a backlash for its failure to prevent the attacks, the fourth major attack on Mumbai in a decade.
Film producer Ashok Pandit said: "It looks like a repeat telecast of the same incident. Politicians have already started the blame game and now the candle vigil marches will begin. The term security no longer has any meaning."
Mr Banerjie said Indians saw their government as ineffective at countering terrorism. "It says it is working to stop terrorism, but then Mumbai gets hit again."