Even more shocking for me personally was the fact that I spent a whole week in Mumbai in January this year staying with my good friends Rano & Kamal Singh who live only a couple of blocks away from The Oberoi, where I had all my social and business meetings almost on a daily basis. The horrific pictures on TV screen seemed like a cloud over my wonderful visit earlier in the year.
At this time plenty of finger pointing is going on. The Indian Prime Minister initially talked about a linkage to Karachi, then news came that some of the terrorists were British born and some had Mauritian passports. Also, that some had credit cards issued by various Indian banks. The latest report from India seems to suggest that the lone survivor of the terror group comes from a village near Multan, Pakistan. BBC's Barbara Plett reported from that village this morning and no one has heard of this young man in that small village where everyone know everyone else.
The Indian Government and some foreign agencies are suggesting this was a Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LET) operation - a terrorist group initially sponsored by Pakistan's ISI and later banned and abandoned and since moved to Indian Kashmir. It is highly doubtful that this was an LET operation. This fanatical group believes that a Muslim without a beard is not a Muslim at all, whereas the terrorists were clean shaven young men.
The Pakistan Government has denied any involvement. In fact for the last several years, operations against India have seized and more recently ISI has been harnessed by the new Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kiyani, who has been working hard to rid the army and intelligence services of rogue elements. Also, Pakistan Government with the full backing of Pakistani public has been making serious efforts to kick start the slow dialogue with India in order to improve trade, tourism and cooperation in a number of areas. Each time the two countries come close to putting the past behind, something like this happens. It seems, certain forces on both sides of the border are not interested in the rapprochement.
The blame game by the Indian Government may partly be due to their long held suspicions and also perhaps for political reasons due to upcoming State elections where the opposition BJP is trying to make political capital against the ruling Congress party. The fact is that no one is really sure of who is behind this operation. A full investigation has not taken place yet and many aspects of this terror attacks still need to be examined. There is no doubt that the terrorists had local support not just on the day of the operation but for sometime before. Also, they seemed to roam around Mumbai streets as if they were fully familiar with the landscape, people just coming off the boats would not have had that kind of knowledge of the city.
A number of questions remain unanswered and need to be investigated. Some of these are:
- Who stands to gain from this carnage, politically as well as otherwise.
- What local help did the terrorists have and who are their local contacts and what is their agenda and have they escaped by simply melting into the crowds.
- Who is the Mastermind behind this operation
- Why did the Indian intelligence not know anything about it and who is responsible for this massive failure.
- Why did the Indian Navy and coast Guard not intercept the merchant vessels or the dinghies and why did they not have surveillance along the coast.
- If the person or persons behind it are based in Pakistan, who are these people. Rather than the blame game, this is where Indian and Pakistani intelligence need to work together to put such individuals/groups out of business for good.
- If indeed individuals/groups from Pakistan were involved then why did the Pakistani intelligence not know about their activities and who is responsible for this massive intelligence failure.
- Who are the elements that do not want India and Pakistan to have close relationship and want to drive a wedge.
This is a matter of great importance for the future 1.4 billion people in India and Pakistan. It is extremely important to get to the bottom of all this. An impartial and fair investigation needs to takes place to determine responsibility and to identify field operatives and Principals on both sides of the border. That task is large and complicated. India needs to engage the services of a neutral foreign intelligence agency which will have access on both sides of the border. Britain's Scotland Yard is ideal for getting to the root of such problems and is equally respected in India and Pakistan. Also, the findings of Scotland Yard will be considered free of political motives and blame game. However, both countries must agree in advance to accept their final report and commit to work jointly to identify and eliminate terrorists and their backers.