In the days since the siege in Mumbai was fought to its bloody conclusion, policymakers and observers in India and elsewhere have been struggling to come to grips with this latest terrorist atrocity. Many have noted with concern the potential implications of this escalation in jihadist violence in a country that has a population of 150 million sometimes ill-treated Muslims and is already no stranger to Islamist terrorism.
Given the alleged confession by the lone surviving terrorist that his group received their training in Pakistan, and leaked reports that the terrorist controllers were located there, many also worry about the potential for this incident to inflame the Indo-Pakistani conflict and reverse recent improvements in the relationship between New Delhi and Islamabad.
It is also hard not to read into such reported Pakistani connections as yet another troubling instance of Islamabad’s unwillingness (or inability) to exert control over radicalized elements within its bureaucracy and over broad swathes of their own territory. In part, depending upon whether there turns out to have been an al-Qaeda connection or not, one might speculate whether the Mumbai attackers’ effort to seize and murder Westerners amid the carnage of running gun battles in a majority-Hindu city is an implicit admission that the indiscriminate bombings that massacred fellow Muslims in Iraq have proven counterproductive for the jihadists.
Counterterrorist analysts may conclude that we are now moving into a new phase of the war in which terrorists seek once again to take the fight against the infidel to the latter’s own turf, but where the locations targeted for mass murder have expanded from government buildings and major symbolic monuments to essentially any place that people congregate (e.g., major hotels or train stations). Too little is known at this time, however, to reach more than the most tentative of conclusions.