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Study predicts Mumbai rerun

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  • Published 17.01.09

New Delhi, Jan. 17: The terrorist attacks in Mumbai will encourage more raids in Indian cities by fundamentalists because of the low costs but high benefits to Pakistan-based and indigenous militant outfits, a study by a leading American think tank for the US defence department has predicted.

“The Lessons of Mumbai”, the study by the Rand Corporation, describes the attack as the sign of the rise of “strategic terrorist culture”.

“Without an appropriate response,” it warns, “Pakistan or at least those elements of its military and intelligence leadership that are supportive of the activities of groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba are likely to conclude that these operations, in some measure, yield benefits that exceed the cost.”

The study was led by Angel Rabasa, a senior political scientist with Rand. Among its other authors are the former US ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, South Asia analyst Seth Jones and the India-hand for the Bush administration’s state department, Ashley Tellis. It was prepared by Rand’s National Security Research Division which conducts research and analysis for US intelligence and ministries of defence of US allies and partners.

“India will continue to face a serious jihadist threat from Pakistan-based terrorist groups, and neither Indian nor US policy is likely to reduce that threat in the near future,” the statement quoted lead author Rabasa.

“Other extremist groups in Pakistan likely will find inspiration in the Mumbai attacks and we can expect more attacks with high body counts and symbolic targets,” the researcher said.

Any military action would be dangerous because both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, a Rand Corporation press statement said. But a failure by India to respond “would signal a lack of Indian resolve or capability”, according to the report.

“India is likely to hold the state of Pakistan responsible for the attacks and may look for a way to punish Pakistan to deter future attacks,” the study says.

The report studies India’s counter-terrorism and threat-mitigation structure, response-timing problems, limitations of municipal fire and emergency services, flawed hostage-rescue plans and poor strategic communications and information management, the statement said.

The study suggests that the terrorists planned the attacks in Mumbai from as far back as mid-2007. They were heavily armed, had maps and information about their multiple targets which “were carefully chosen for their religious, political and cultural values in order to make a statement”.

Brian Michael, senior adviser at Rand, said: “The goal was not only to slaughter as many people as possible, but to target specific groups of people and facilities with political, cultural and emotional value. This indicates a level of strategic thought — a strategic culture — that poses a difficult challenge: not whether we can outgun the terrorists but whether we can outthink them.”

The focus on Pakistan, however, “should not obscure the fact that the terrorists likely had held from inside India”. Indian and American officials acknowledge that the Zardari government does not control the Pakistan military and intelligence agency.

The study says Pakistan’s civilian government should “slowly and incrementally” exert control on the military and intelligence agencies but this will be difficult as the agencies view the Taliban and other extremists as their “natural allies”.

Ultimately, the world community has to address the “transnational sources” of such terrorism. Diplomatic efforts may have to reassess the basic assumptions in policy towards Pakistan, it says.