Could the Indian government prevented the Mumbai attacks? The November, 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks were highly coordinated and sophisticated, and they were executed with the assistance of technology that was easily available to the public.
Be substantive and clear, and use examples to reinforce your ideas:
Could the Indian government have done anything to prevent the Mumbai attacks? Explain.
Is there anything any government (including the United States) could do to prevent the use of readily available technology to conduct such attacks? Why or why not?
What countermeasures to terrorists’ use of handheld devices and the Internet, if any, could be taken by the government? Explain.
Do you feel it would be difficult to attempt to regulate the use of personal devices? Why or why not?
Just over five years ago, ten assailants launched coordinated attacks across downtown Mumbai that held India’s commercial capital hostage for three days. As the world watched the tragedy unfold in real-time via Indian news channels, terrorists killed over one hundred and fifty people. From a Karachi safe house, the assailants’ handlers used the news channels’ video to direct their well-trained and powerfully armed foot soldiers to inflict even greater casualties.
Not surprisingly, the attacks outraged the Indian public. A few days later, then Indian foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon told US Ambassador David Mulford that he had “never seen levels of anger like this.” Though few would have condemned the Indian government for a robust military response, none was forthcoming. Instead India lobbied the United States to pressure Pakistan to take action against Islamist terrorist groups in Pakistan and attempted to frame the attacks to the Indian public as primarily a domestic security issue.
Five years after the Mumbai attacks – commonly referred to in India as 26/11 – we should consider the reasons for the remarkably restrained reaction of the Indian government to this terrible and brazen assault. After all, we cannot assume that the government of India will not take military action in response to similar terrorist attacks in the future. Three months after 9/11, militants from Lashkar-e-Taiba, the same Pakistan-based terrorist organization responsible for the Mumbai bombings, attacked the Indian Parliament, leaving seven dead. In response, the Indian government mobilized the Indian Army (codenamed Operation Parakram), which nearly led to all-out war between India and Pakistan.
Much of the credit for the restrained reaction to the Mumbai attacks rightfully goes to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Singh’s birthplace stands today in eastern Pakistan and many believe his policy towards Pakistan is guided by a profound desire for India and Pakistan to reconcile. During his first term Singh famously commented that he looked forward to a day when he could have breakfast in Amritsar, lunch in Lahore and dinner in Kabul. While many doubt Prime Minister Singh’s power and see Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi as the true arbiter of decision-making in Delhi, Singh seems to take the lead on India’s policy towards Pakistan.
The second actor often credited with de-escalating the crisis is the United States. While undeniably important, the United States’ role in South Asia is not inherent and India and Pakistan are too proud to tolerate much US meddling. In my view, the Indian government first decided not to use military force, and then invited the United States to use its influence over Pakistan to compel the dismantling of Pakistan’s terror infrastructure, a goal shared by the United States and India.
A third actor shaping India’s foreign policy is the Indian strategic community, comprised of academics, journalists, and retired officials who all participate in the public discourse on Indian foreign policy. While this community is neither as large nor as influential as its counterpart in the US, its importance is increasing as public interest in foreign policy issues rises in tandem with the growth of India’s middle class.