Mark Kleiman offers a speculation regarding why the attacks occurred at this time.
The important context for the Mumbai bombings must surely be the peace initiative launched by the Pakistani President earlier in the week and seemingly moved forward by a meeting of the two foreign ministers yesterday. That makes the obvious suspects the folks who have the strongest interests in keeping India and Pakistan at daggers drawn: the Pakistani ISI (which Zardari had already stripped of its role in domestic politics) has to be the prime suspect, and apparently India has such suspicions. But there's also the Pakistani military, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Hindu nationalists.Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent and an expert on terrorism, has said much the same thing.
“There has obviously for many, many years been a type of feelings by India that, say, 150 or so million Muslims who are in the minority are feeling sort of hard done by in terms of the Hindu majority. There are also complaints by Indian Muslims about the way Kashmir is progressing, that enclave, and that is a huge, huge flashpoint. But what’s really amazing is that often, it’s blamed on tensions with Pakistan. And yet, this comes at a time where the president of Pakistan has really made an unprecedented overture to India in terms of trying to warm up relations, trying to secure a lasting peace. And just today, Indian and Pakistani officials were having meetings, and they ended it with a joint declaration that they wanted to co-operate on ending terrorism and combating terrorism,” the terrorism expert said.The terror attacks may well be a desperate effort to force the governments of India and Pakistan to stop their apparent rapprochement and return to their previous positions of deadly enemies.
Addendum November 28, 9:40 am CST
Reuters presented some background information at 8:39 am EST Nov 27. They describe two organizations considered likely candidates to have directed the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Indian Mjuahideen. The article briefly describes those two organizations.
For more extensive information, here is the wikipedia entry on Lashkar-e-Toiba and here is the wikipedia entry on the Indian Mjuahideen. As always with wikipedia, consider the references the articles provide and remember that such articles can be manipulated by people with axes to grind.
Reuters offered two inferences which could be drawn from the tactics used:
- WHAT CAN BE INFERRED FROM THE ATTACKERS' TACTICS?
The Mumbai attacks were unusual in that they involved coordinated attacks by gunmen on multiple targets, hostages were taken, and foreigners were specifically targeted.
Several analysts say these tactics point to Lashkar-e-Taiba as being involved. The attacks on symbolic targets designed to gather maximum publicity, and the specific targeting, point to a group following al Qaeda ideology and tactics.
The attacks also show a considerable degree of sophistication, another factor pointing to an experienced group like Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The Indonesian Mujahideen have also surprised police with the sophistication of their attacks, however, although until now these have always been bomb attacks on Indian targets.
In May, the Indian Mujahideen made a specific threat to attack tourist sites in India unless the government stopped supporting the United States in the international arena.
The threat was made in an e-mail claiming responsibility for bomb attacks that killed 63 people in the tourist city of Jaipur. The mail declared "open war against India" and included the serial number of a bicycle used in one of the bombings.
- WHAT CAN BE INFERRED FROM THEIR DEMANDS?
A man speaking Urdu with a Kashmiri accent phoned an Indian TV station, offering talks with the government and accusing the Indian army of killing Muslims in Kashmir. This suggests the attackers are involved with a Kashmiri group like Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The demands of the Indian Mujahideen -- like their targets -- have always tended to be much more domestic. The group issued an e-mail threat in September to attack Mumbai but directed its anger at the Mumbai police anti-terrorist squad, accusing them of harassing Muslims.
"If this is the degree your arrogance has reached, and if you think that by these stunts you can scare us, then let the Indian Mujahideen warn all the people of Mumbai that whatever deadly attacks Mumbaikars will face in future, their responsibility would lie with the Mumbai ATS and their guardians," it said.
In this case the flashpoint is probably the status of Kashmir, the key disagreement between Pakistan and India since the original partition of those two countries in 1947 out of British India. Organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Indian Mjuahideen are known to share training and personnel, and are known to be supported by segments of the Pakistani Inter-services Intelligence (ISI). elements of the ISI also provide support to the Taliban operating in Afghanistan out of the northern Pakistani province Waziristan.
All of this lends credence to speculations that the Mumbai terrorist attacks are efforts to derail the efforts of the new government of Pakistan to take tighter control over Waziristan and Pakistan in general. The recent efforts towards a peace initiative recently begun by the Pakistani President and advanced by the two foreign ministers of Pakistan and India are clearly anathema to the Islamic terrorist organizations.
Since the United States and Great Britain can both be expected to encourage the Pakistani President to exert greater control over Pakistani territory and also to work towards a rapprochement between the two nuclear powers - India and Pakistan - the logic behind the Mumbai terrorist attacks and the apparent effort of the terrorists to take American and British hostages appears quite logical. The terrorist attacks appear to be the lashing out by a weak opposition organization as the governments of both Pakistan and India move to threaten their existence and their goals.