Mumbai Whodunnit: Names vs. Networks

Following the tenets of Journalism 101, the first question about the Mumbai attacks was “who?” Most of the speculation has focused on Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), although their spokesperson and the spokesperson of their political wing (reported by CTBlog’s Evan Kohlmann) have both denied their organization’s involvement. The reality is that the structures supporting this attack go beyond specific organizations.

In a prescient article, “The Supporting Structures of Pakistan’s Proxy War in Jammu & Kashmir,” in the June 2001 issue of Strategic Analysis (a journal of India’s Institute for Defence Studies & Analysis – the article is not a available online) the author, Ajay Darshan Behra argues:

The supporting structures for the proxy war in J&K are much more complex and go beyond Pakistan’s unstated policies or strategic objectives. Some of these structures have developed their own dynamics… Since the end of the Cold War, these structures have embedded themselves deeply in the political economy of the region. The Pakistani state does not control them but merely exercises influence over them and is able to exploit them to serve its own strategic designs. It is due to the advantages accruing from these structures that Pakistan has been able to engage India militarily for more than a decade through a proxy war, with little cost to itself. Thus, there may be a grain of truth in Gen Musharraf’s statement that the Pakistan Army is unable to stop militants from crossing the LOC. The Pakistani ruling elites are not in complete control of the supporting structures for terrorism, which they have been using for their proxy war in J&K. Because of the above factors, jehad and terrorism in J&K are likely to continue even if the Pakistani ruling elites give assurances about the withdrawal of their support.

The primary factors identified are: the extensive illicit arms trade within Pakistan which ensures that there is an endless supply of weapons, the uncontrollable sources of funding – particularly narcotics trafficking and donations both from within Pakistan and from around the world, and the tens of thousands of radical madrassas that indoctrinate Pakistani youth into radical Islam from Pakistan’s bottomless well of unemployed. The author does not discuss some other related factors, such as the complex geography (particularly the mountainous terrain), which makes controlling substantial parts of the country and particularly the Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir a daunting problem.

This places Jammat ud-Dawa’s denial in context, paralleling Pakistan’s own use of the proxy forces to fight its battles with India. Pakistan fomented the Islamist organizations fighting in Kashmir in order to pressure on India while maintaining plausible deniability. Now, the Islamist organizations such as Jammat ud-Dawa may in fact have separated from their armed wings, but continue to contribute to the broader radicalization that facilitates the violence.

The nature of this radical Islamist network also has serious implications for India and the world. With its long borders and coastline, complex and varied terrain, and enormous domestic Muslim population, India faces Herculean counter-terror challenges and presents enormous opportunities for the Kashmiri networks. Islamist radicals have already collaborated with Indian crime lords (most famously Dawood Ibrahim) in the past. The explosives used in the 1993 Mumbai bombings, which Ibrahim reputedly organized under instructions from the ISI, may have also been smuggled in by sea.

Policy Implications

The nature of the Kashmiri network complicates policy responses. There are no quick or easy options. Merely tracking down key leaders or targeting specific organizations is unlikely to be effective. Jamaat ud-Dawa holds annual festivals that attract nearly a million people. Shutting down organizations that operate on that scale is not a matter of signing an edict – and Jamaat ud-Dawa is but one of a plethora of Pakistani organizations devoted propagating the Islamist message.

Ultimately, large-scale capacity building in both India and Pakistan to expand their respective law enforcement capabilities and coordination while addressing the economic and educational deficiencies that fuel to the growth of radicalism. Unfortunately, capacity building is never a quick fix. It will be years before these policies would have a real effect.

In the short-run the instinct of India’s leaders will be confrontation with Pakistan. Their frustration is understandable – but Pakistan’s present leadership, while imperfect, is as committed to peaceful relations with India as any in recent history. While past Pakistani regimes, and elements of the current government helped set this radicalism into motion, it has spiraled out of their control. While Pakistan must be pressed to reign in its security services and eliminate rogue elements allied to the Islamists, ultimately preventing future Mumbai attacks (and Marriott bombings for that matter) hinges on disrupting the trans-national structures supporting radical Islam.

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2 Responses

  1. Sir:

    While your analysis of the situation may be correct, I doubt that India will be patient while Pakistan attempts to bring Moslem fundamentalists under some sort of control.

    Pakistan, like most states in the Moslem world, is a failed state, with few opportunities for its population. Islam is used as a means of control, preventing the population from rising up and throwing the leaders out of office. Both India and Pakistan started from the same roots, and today India is a modern country, well on the way to solving its problems of poverty. Pakistan is regressing and quite nearly a “failed state” and a terrorist haven.

    Sooner or later, the world will have to acknowledge that Islam is at the root of many of the problems of the modern world. Once the problem is properly identified, solutions can be developed to solve them.

  2. Thank you for your insightful comments. I want to raise some of those points in a future post.

    I think there is one last shot at real reform in Pakistan. Will it work – who can say?

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