The attack on Mumbai shows signs of al Quaeda involvement, and is likely to bring unrest to all of Southeast Asia, DW's Thomas Baerthlein writes.
It is a sad fact that India's big cities have become accustomed to terrorism over the past few years. While Indians have routinely pointed to Pakistan any time there was an attack in the past, it has become clear that there are various home-grown terrorist organizations in India as well.
The groups are effectively motivated by domestic policy issues. These include: Indian Muslims radicalized by discrimination and pogroms spurred on by radical Hindu politicians; a variety of separatist groups, from Kashmir to the northeast of the country; and finally, the last weeks have seen the arrest of apparently Hindu terrorists who attacked Muslim targets -- including an army officer on active duty.
Signs point to al Qaeda
DW's Thomas Baerthlein
But the pattern behind the most recent attacks is different. A simultaneous attack on a series of "soft targets" points to al Qaeda. The sheer effort of coordinating so many attackers over so many sites at one time would be too much for groups with a local or national agenda.
The apparent selection of US, British and Israeli hostages, too, looks like the behavior of an international terror group.
In an early reaction, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indicated that the group behind the attacks came from a "foreign base." Even if he didn't call Pakistan by name, it is probable that the latest series of attacks will lead to new tensions between India and Pakistan. Something the attackers are probably well aware of.
Convenient event for Taliban
The event has raised recollections of 2001, when terrorists stormed India's parliament just months after Sept. 11. India blamed Pakistan and mobilized troops to the border. For months, the situation escalated, and on occasion it seemed like an atomic war between the two east-Asian neighbors was unavoidable. In the meantime, al Qaeda and the Taliban capitalized on the fact that Pakistan's army was busy on its eastern border. It used the opportunity to move into the Afghan-Pakistan border territories.
At that time, al Qaeda came under pressure in the region because the Pakistani military had begun operations on the Afghan border, and the USA had begun air strikes out of Afghanistan. For the terror network, poor Indian-Pakistani relations are in their own best interest.
The results of the violence in Mumbai will expand well beyond the borders of India. They will affect the entire region, and are likely to be the first challenge facing US President-Elect Barack Obama, who has promised to work toward solving the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He'll need a lot of tact for that job.
Thomas Baerthlein is an expert on Pakistan and India at Deutsche Welle (jen)