July 2011 Mumbai Attacks

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    Jul 14, 2011

    Q1: What happened during the last attacks in Mumbai in November 2008?

    A1: The 2008 Mumbai attacks (often referred to by the Indians as 26/11) consisted of more than 10 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai, by attackers who approached the city by sea. The terrorists who carried out the reconnaissance beforehand later stated that the attacks were conducted with the support of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The attacks began on November 26 and lasted until November 29, killing 166 people and wounding over 300. To date, Pakistan has not finished the trial of its Mumbai suspects, nor has it taken concrete steps to dismantle Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group responsible for the attacks.

    Q2: Who might have been responsible for the July 13, 2011, attacks?

    A2: The Indian government has been very careful not to assign any blame until the investigation runs its course. While no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, speculation has focused on the Indian Mujahideen as a possibility. Lashkar-e-Taiba has also been mentioned as another possibility by Indian press reports. The Indian Mujahideen (IM) is closely affiliated with the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which emerged in the late 1970s. The IM is opposed to Hindu nationalism, has endorsed al Qaeda’s goals and agenda, and seeks to avenge violence against Muslims in India, as well as protest the lack of socioeconomic opportunities for Muslims within Indian society. The group also reportedly has links to Lashkar-e-Taiba.

    Q3: Did Pakistan support these attacks in any way?

    A3: Again, it’s too early to judge whether elements of the Pakistani government may have any involvement in these attacks. There are certainly elements within the Pakistani establishment that don’t favor a warming of relations between India and Pakistan. However, at this juncture, there shouldn’t be any rash judgments about whether Pakistan is connected to these attacks.

    Q4: What are the implications of these attacks on India-Pakistan relations?

    A4: It’s unclear at this point what the implications will be from these attacks. India and Pakistan have recently restarted a series of formal dialogues to include commerce, homeland security, and defense issues, which were broken off after the Mumbai attacks in 2008. The foreign ministers of both countries are scheduled to meet later this month to discuss the full range of bilateral issues between them. Depending on what materializes from the investigation into these attacks, it could cause the talks to be delayed.

    Q5: What are the stakes for the United States and regional stability?

    A5: There is always the risk of a crisis forming between India and Pakistan, as has occurred on multiple occasions in the past. If India and Pakistan begin to deploy forces to the border, it could adversely affect U.S. efforts on counterterrorism in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), as Pakistan would transfer troops from its western border to bolster its forces along the border with India. A crisis between India and Pakistan would most certainly require active U.S. diplomacy to help prevent an escalation of tensions between these rivals. On a related note, the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue is scheduled to occur next week. In her public statement on July 13, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that she still plans to travel to India to participate in the dialogue.

    Q6: What should we watch for over the next 24 to 48 hours?

    A6: There will be pressure within the Indian government to identify the perpetrators of this attack quickly. During the last attack on Mumbai in 2008, public anger was largely directed at the Indian government for its lack of preparedness in protecting the country from attack. If India were to find evidence of Pakistani support for this latest attack, the reaction could be different—the public may feel that some retaliation is necessary to punish Pakistan for another attack.

    S. Amer Latif is a visiting fellow with the Wadhwani Chair for U.S.-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

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