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Asia

India fears new terrorist attacks after Pune

Indians fear a new wave of terrorism after four bomb explosions in the western industrial Indian city of Pune. Experts fear the attacks will have a negative effect on investment.

Indians were relieved to hear that no one was killed in the four explosions that went off separately in Pune, India, on Wednesday (August 1) evening. The explosives went off within a one-kilometer radius in the city, located southeast of Mumbai. Authorities were able to defuse two further bombs before they went off.

It is still unclear who was behind the attacks. Authorities have started their investigation. What is clear is that the attacks were coordinated. "Is the terror back?" asked one Hindi language newspaper, Dainik Bhaskar.

The shock from the Mumbai attacks - often referred to as India's September 11 - still runs deep. In November, 2008, ten men took a number of hostages and created a bloodbath in the financial metropolis, killing over 160 people.

Damage to India's image

German President Horst Koehler, center, poses along with Volkswagen Group India President and Managing Director Jorg Muller, right, and Volkswagen Board of Management member Jochem Heizmann, left, at the Volkswagen Plant in Pune in 2010

Former President Horst Köhler visited the VW factory in Pune

The bomb attacks in Pune are definitely having a symbolic effect on India's image. Over five million people live in the city which is often referred to as the "Oxford of the East" because of its many educational institutions. It is an up-and-coming industrial city. Companies in the automotive, software and mechanical engineering branches are especially interested in setting up shop in Pune. There is also a particularly high number of German companies there; Volkswagen builds cars and Daimler, the Allianz conglomerate and Thyssen-Krupp, among others, have subsidiaries there. All together, there are around 250 small and large German corporations in Pune. Since 1976, Pune's sister city has been Bremen, Germany.

Bernhard Steinrücke is Director General of the Indo German Chamber of Commerce in India. Regarding the attacks, he said he did not believe German companies in Pune were worried. "Unfortunately, there are bomb attacks time and again in many Indian cities. Of course, they don't do much good for India's image."

Terrorism in India

The list of attacks in Indian cities is quite long. In 2010, the German Bakery, a well-known tourist haunt in Pune, became the target of an attack. Seventeen people died in the explosion and 70 were injured. An attack in September, 2011, killed 12 people in the capital New Delhi. And Mumbai has also seen multiple attacks. In addition to the hostage crisis in 2008, over 250 people died in a series of attacks in 1993. In 2006, a further 200 people died in an attack. Human rights organizations estimate that over a thousand people have died in such incidents in India.

An Indian soldier takes cover as the Taj Mahal hotel burns during gun battle between Indian military and militants

Over 160 people died in the 26/11 attacks

Security expert Afsar Karim from New Delhi criticized the government for its failure to tackle the threat of terrorism.

"The surveillance cameras in Pune don't work. That means we don't have any video footage of the perpetrators. There have been new ideas and suggestions for improvement on preventing such attacks. But they have not been implemented," he commented.

The explosions in Pune were thus an urgent warning and despite the relative little damage the newest ones caused, they had to be taken seriously, Karim added.

It is not only international Islamist terrorist networks that have their sights on India. The South Asian country is also struggling with its own separatist movements which are also responsible for violence. Maoist rebels have been fighting in eastern and central India since the 1960s for a change in the country's power structures. Now they are active in over a third of the country.

It is difficult to assess the extent to which terrorist strikes have had an effect on foreign investment. But it is clear that investment has decreased within the last few years. In addition to terrorism, experts name other reasons for the reduced investor interest, such as widespread corruption, a lethargic bureaucratic infrastructure and a string of reforms which have yet to be implemented. According to figures from Germany's Department of Foreign Affairs, new direct investment from Germany totalled 200 million US dollars in the fiscal year 2010-2011. In the previous year, it was 626 million dollars.

Author: Priya Esselborn / sb
Editor: Shamil Shams

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