I know what you did last summer

In the novel Murder on the Orient Express, detective Hercule Poirot concludes that since the death of a man on the fabled train could not have been caused by a single suspect, yet involved all of them, that all the suspects were probably in league. If Poirot really existed, what would he make of Indian Prime Minister Mamohan Singh's accusation that Pakistan "must have had the support of some official agencies in Pakistan"?

A dossier handed to Pakistan's high commission in Delhi included interceptions of telephone calls made between the ten Mumbai gunmen and their alleged handlers in Pakistan during the attacks. "The commanders in Pakistan are following events on television and are issuing real-time instructions; telling the gunmen to target certain nationalities and religions; to maximise casualties; not to touch Muslims. This is hands-on direction," a senior Indian government official told The Times.

The commands included the order to execute six foreign Jews held at Nariman House, an orthodox Jewish outreach centre, during the Mumbai atrocities, which claimed more than 170 lives in all.

Poirot might have wondered why the accusation was not accompanied by the traditional ultimatum. Maybe that's because -- and here's the tricky part -- the information is really intended, not to support a declaration of war which is so yesterday, but to pressure the Pakistani government to act against itself. "Key parts" of the dossier came from the FBI and Pakistan, according to the news reports, already knows it is behind the attack. The Times Online continues:

India expects the dossier to increase international pressure on Pakistan to dismantle the support network used by Islamist militants within its borders, much of which dates back to the CIA's backing of Pakistan-based jihadists against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the Cold War.

India is also demanding that Pakistan hand over several terror suspects linked to the Mumbai attacks. However, Islamabad has already said it would not comply to such a request and may settle for access being given to them by the FBI, which helped compile key parts of the Indian dossier.

However, the file is unlikely to contain much that Pakistan's security services are not already aware of, analysts said. Ajit Doval, a former director of India's Intelligence Bureau, said: "It will not carry anything spectacular; more likely it will contain refinements of information already widely known. In any case, Pakistan already has more than enough evidence to act upon if they are willing."

So what gives? Here's one theory which may loosely cover some of the facts.

The US already knows the Pakistani government -- if such an entity can be collectively referred to -- was guilty of the Mumbai attacks. But since the "international community" can't nerve itself to use force and Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons, the plan is to support the international community's Pakistani guys fight al-Qaeda's Pakistani guys. Because only Pakistanis are actually going to be allowed to act directly in this situation.

But they need help. To strengthen their political hand the US has conveniently slipped signals intelligence into the hands of the Indians, because although the al-Qaeda Pakistani guys know they have nothing to fear from the US, for reasons we must pass over here, they may still have something to fear from India next door. And that fear may give the international community's Pakistani guys the edge in what comes next.

But what comes next? That's the rub. Unless anyone really believes the Indian demarche will fix things on its own, then what will follow should be on everybody's mind. That can logically only be some kind of shadow proxy war within the Pakistani government for ultimate control. And it's far from clear who will win, because Singh's statement, which is intended to sound intimidating, paradoxically weakens the anti-terror Pakistani's hand: it's a signal of what the US and India will not do: they will not get directly involved. We'll parachute in suitcases with radios in false bottoms, Sten guns and those nifty-looking maquis berets; but D-Day is off the table.

At this moment, Israel is dealing with the aftermath of a failed proxy war in Gaza. We can only hope the good guys win. If the good guys lose in nuclear armed Pakistan, astride the logistical route to NATO forces in Afghanistan, there won't be much of a market in second-hand maquis berets.