That an attack on Mumbai was being planned within the highest echelons of the Pakistan military was no secret to the US, Saudi Arabian and Chinese secret services. The Saudi state has traditionally valued the interests of the Pakistan army above those of the 156 million Muslims of India, while the PLA has since 1958 been in favour of any action by any source that it sees as weakening India.
Indeed, even these days, it is mainly affluent Saudis who fund the opulent lifestyles of jehadi terrorists such as those belonging to the LeT. Even in the case of Mumbai, the Chinese and the Saudi secret services kept this information of an impending attack on India to themselves. As for the US, it acted in a half-hearted manner, passing on not the full situation report but a confusing and non-actionable collage of bits and pieces of intelligence on what its sources within Pakistan had learnt about the impending attack.
As in the past, the prime consideration of the CIA was not the saving of Indian lives, but the protection of their friends in Pakistan from exposure as terrorist supporters. However, this time around, the CIA made a mistake that cost several American lives. It assumed that the attacks would once again be carried out in locations frequented only by Indian vegetable sellers, unemployed youth and junior staff in nearby offices. The ISI-friendly intelligence agency of the US did not forecast that the Pakistan army'stargets would this time be the business elite of India, the very societal group that has driven forward the India-US alliance forged during the latter phase of the Bush presidency. That in the process of killing large numbers of the Indian elite, the Pakistani terrorists would also identify, isolate and kill nationals of the US, the UK and Israel, for the first time in India (outside Kashmir).
Why did the Pakistan army make its terrorist ancillaries go this far? Clearly, the generals were determined to punish Washington for continously prodding the Pakistan army to take action against its ally, the Taliban. Angered by the constant US pressure to act in less than the present deliberately ineffective way in FATA, senior generals within the Pakistan services led by (the US-approved) Ashfaq Parvez Kayani decided to take revenge on the US and its closest European ally, the UK, by choosing locations where nationals of both countries congregated, the Taj and Trident hotels on Mumbai'swaterfront. The training of the ?terror commandos?, their equipping and the entire logistics of the operation was handled by the Pakistan army, acting through officers ?on leave?.
The expectation within the Pakistan military was that such a show of vulnerability of their own nations would divert the attention of the US away from its focus on the western border of Pakistan to fight the Taliban towards the traditional Pakistan army project of creating a Talibanised state in Kashmir with US-EU help. In other words, towards a repeat of Kosovo. The Mumbai attacks would be used by the Pakistan establishment to illustrate ?the cost of not solving the Kashmir issue? to the advantage of the Pakistan army, and would thus assist policymakers in the US receptive to the Pakistan army in making President-elect Barack Obama keep his promise of pressuring India to change the status quo in Kashmir.
A statement that must rank as one of the most unwise ever made by this otherwise brilliant and charismatic leader, in the context of stability in South Asia. Indeed, a plausible case can be made out that Obama'sKashmir-centric musings on India-Pakistan relations may have served as a strand in the matrix of reasons for launching such a direct attack on the West and friends of the West in India.
Unfortunately for the future trajectory of the battle against terrorism in the region, President-elect Obama (with inputs from Pakistan Army backer Shirin Taher-Kheli and pro-army academics such as Stephen Cohen and Teresita Shaffer) injected himself into the Kashmir cauldron to the satisfaction of the backers of jehad. Neither he nor his principal foreign policy advisor Susan Rice seems to have studied the purport of the numerous and consistent statements and literature of those active in what is clearly a pan-Indian jehad. The jehadi groups operating within Kashmir and now within the whole of India are transparent and consistent in conveying their message: that Kashmir is but the appetizer. The main course will be the rest of India, the population of which will have the option of either converting to Wahabbism or surviving as serfs, as they did during the reign of kings as enlightened and secular as Aurangzeb Alamgir.
As part of their objective of diverting international attention away from their own refusal to take on and help defeat the Taliban, the Pakistan army expected that the Mumbai strike would ensure that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh go the emotional way of Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2002 by responding to the November 26-28 Mumbai attack by another sham mobilisation of troops on India'swestern frontier. Not only did the 2002 military mobilisation by India have zero impact on the Pakistan army'sdetermination to bleed India to extinction by multiple terrorist cuts, it created an excuse for Robert Blackwill (the US envoy to Delhi at the time) to demonise the country before the international business community as an unsafe investment destination. Although he, as did most other diplomats, were aware that Shri Vajpayee was bluffing and that war was never an option, Blackwill engineered a pell-mell evacutation of tens of thousands of US nationals from India, a step that was duplicated even by the otherwise cool Israelis. By this single act of advertising India as a likely theatre of nuclear conflict, Blackwill did yet another favour to his friends in Beijing, through substantially weakening India'scase as a stable alternative investment destination to the PRC. Yet another war scare this time around would have put the finishing touches to the destruction of India'seconomic capability since 2005 that has been carried out by Sonia Maino'smen in the Finance Ministry, SEBI and the RBI.
Fortunately for the country, Manmohan Singh'spacifist nature (which renders him unable to respond with force even if faced with a nuclear attack) for once proved to the correct medicine, as his spokespersons made it repeatedly known that war was not on the table. A mobilisation of troops towards the Pakistan border would have played into the hands of the Pakistan army, which is eager for an excuse to move away from the Afghan to the India border, aware that its policy of talking tough against the Taliban while secretly helping them prevail in the field has become visible even to the most moonstruck admirers in the US and the EU?and these are many?of ?Jehad? Kayani and his merry men. Given the propensity of these self-proclaimed ?pious Muslims? towards the hedonistic lifestyle, had the US made the UN impose sanctions on the pro-jehad generals in the Pakistan army, most would have abandoned the path of terror rather than forsake the comforts of London and New York. Sadly, rather than be reviled and shunned, ?Jehad? Kayani and his team are feted by their very victims.
Kayani wanted an Indian mobilisation. He should not get it. War is not the option, at least for the present. And it is surprising that Senator John McCain sought to generate the sort of hysteria that the Pakistan army was seeking by claiming that the Manmohan Singh government was very close to such a course, when no such impression was conveyed to him. On the contrary, India needs to give upto 36 months (or 24, depending on the frequency and scale of future attacks) to Washington in that ally'sefforts to steer the Pakistan military away from its policy of helping jehadis attack India. Should the US fail to achieve such a result during this timeframe, India should launch a war against the Pakistan army. This can be initially confined to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in the first instance, and against military targets only, including of course terrorist infrastructure. Should Pakistan respond by retaliating against India beyond military targets in Kashmir, our counter-attack should be expanded to cover the whole country, again initially with only military targets being selected. Should the Pakistan military at any stage respond with an attack on civilian areas, an all-out offensive should be launched, designed to ensure the shutting down of rail, road, sea and air traffic in Pakistan, to demonstrate the costs of nurturing terrorists. In the unlikely event that a nuclear device will be deployed against an Indian target, the top 10 cities in Pakistan should be automatically and repeatedly bombed with nuclear weapons. Massive nuclear retaliation is the only sane response to such an escalation of aggression by the generals in Pakistan. While India needs to hold its military fire now, the entire country must begin preparations immediately for war with Pakistan within 36 months, should US effiorts fail.
Should Washington fail to defang the jehadi beast that it still believes to be its ally rather than the single biggest present threat to international security, there would be no other option other than war for India, if the country is to avoid the deadly bleed caused by jehadist violence that has been the country'sfate since the 1980s, and which has accelerated since Sonia Maino took over its fortunes (in some senses, literally) in 2004. The public in India needs to be prepared for the prospect of a war that could see the end of Pakistan, possibly at the cost of significant destruction in India. However painful this may be, it is nevertheless preferable to suffering jehadi terror indefinitely, and this time, the war needs to end only with the dismantling of the terror camps (in the scenario where the Pakistan army responds rationally to the limited Indian offensive and conducts only a limited response) or the destruction of Pakistan as a viable country (in the event that a nuclear device get used by Pakistan). This has to be the final India-Pakistan war.