By Rajeev Sharma
Israeli Mission terror attack
The February 13 terror attack on an Israeli embassy car in New Delhi very close to the embassy and the Prime Minister’s residence has rung an alarm bell for the Indian security establishment. Circumstantial pattern makes it clear that the Iran-Israel conflict has spilled over to India in a big way for the first time. The New Delhi attack coincided with a much bolder attack in Georgia the same day and a failed strike in Thailand on Tuesday (i.e. February 14).
The Indian government, however, is not in a mood to display any knee-jerk reaction by blaming anyone at this stage. The most probable perpetrator is the Iranian-backed militant outfit Hezbollah, though the Indians can’t rule out the possibility of Iran outsourcing the planning and execution of the attack to Indian Mujahideen, a home-grown terror outfit. An operational advantage for using the IM option is to reduce chances of detection and arrest as IM operatives are known for using indigenous manpower and resources.
A flaw in Iran using the IM route theory is that the bomb device used in the February 13 New Delhi attack was very sophisticated. In fact it was a magnetic device, used for the first time in India. The targeted sports utility vehicle only caught fire but did not explode. It shows that the bomb had more incendiary material than explosives.
If Hezbollah is behind the attack, it would throw open a number of crucial questions and unfold a number of strategic possibilities. Hezbollah is a Shia body. India does not have any known Shia terror outfit operating from its soil, in contrast to Pakistan which has a vibrant network of Shia terror outfits. Years ago a couple of small Shia terror modules were present in Jammu and Kashmir but even they have been lying dormant for a number of years. Hezbollah’s involvement in the February 13 New Delhi attack, if proved, will have important strategic repercussions for India as it would show the Iranian intelligence and its network have indeed made forays into this country. No foreign entity – state or non-state – can do this without having the local support. The Hezbollah involvement in this attack would then be indicative of the outfit having acquired this capability.
Hezbollah’s entry into the Indian terror space, if proven, would be a game changer. The Indian intelligence and security outfits have so far been obsessed only with Pakistan’s secret service Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistan-supported non-state actors. Now they will have to look beyond their noses.
The Delhi Police submitted a detailed report to the Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday evening (i.e. February 14) giving its prognosis and other details of the terror incident. The police have said that forensic reports show that the magnetic bomb, used by the motorcycle-borne lone wolf was a sophisticated device which was high on incendiary quotient and had lesser explosives. Also, no RDX was used in the magnetic bomb, the first time such a device has been used in India. The motorcycle rider attached the magnetic bomb to the Israeli embassy car while it was waiting at a red light which exploded a minute later, injuring four people including the wife of Israel's Defence Attaché. Though no CCTV footage of the actual incident is available, police have examined CCTV footage from the Prime Minister's residence and the Israeli embassy, both of which were in close vicinity, but the motorcycle number is not visible in any of the footage.
February 13, terror incident and the subsequent diplomatic offensive launched by Israel against Iran has far reaching strategic implications for India as the United States-led international community is expected to exert more pressure on New Delhi for its Iran policy. It is no secret that Indian government has made it clear to the West that it will continue to buy crude oil from Iran despite fresh West-supported sanctions imposed on Iran. India has said it cannot compromise its energy security as nearly 25 per cent of oil imports are through Iran. Petroleum Minister Jaipal Reddy is set to hold bilateral talks with Iran for the Indo-Iran cooperation for laying down a gas pipeline through Pakistan and the deal is set to be clinched if security aspects is taken care of by the stake-holders in the project. This is being viewed with great suspicion by the US and its allies and efforts are on to dissuade India not to go ahead with this project, better known as Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project.
India’s decision to buy Rafale, the jet fighter, and clinch the $18 billion deal with French-led consortium is also seen another setback to the US and its close ally Israel. February 13 blast can put India under the western world’s tremendous pressure to change its Iran policy. Besides, the incident is another cause of worry for India as it has now to be extremely worried about its territory being used by rival countries as a battlefield. The November 2008 Mumbai attacks were perhaps the first indication that the shadow war between Israel and its Islamist enemies would also be fought in India as six Israelis had died when Pakistani trained militants stormed Chabad House. The attack will reinforce memories of 26/11 and underscore that as in many other parts of the world, Israeli diplomats and tourists in India must watch their backs.
Indian security agencies need to work out the February 13 terror incident in double quick time. This attack must not remain unsolved like many blasts perpetrated by Indian Mujahideen over the years have been. Straws in the wind suggest that this incident has far more macabre implications than all the IM-triggered blasts put together.