Researching a backgrounder on the Mumbai attacks, I exchanged emails with Wilson John, a Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, a Delhi-based thinktank.
Although I’m what they used to call “an old India hand”, I haven’t paid much attention to the Subcontinent for quite some time, and a lot of what John told me came as news. Excerpts:
On the radicalisation of Indian muslims:
”There is evidence of a section of the Indian Muslims getting radicalised enough to take up arms against the State but they are neither trained nor capable of carrying out terrorist attacks without outside help. In the past, all of them were trained in Pakistan or Bangladesh or in Kashmir where militant camps have been operating for quite some time. Weapons and explosives have often been procured from outside sources, helped in large measure by the criminal underworld in Mumbai and other cities. I must say that there are people, mostly young, in the Muslim community who are more influenced by the al Qaida ideology than by Pakistan. Many of the doctors and software professionals caught in the recent past point to such a possibility.”
On the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Kashmir connection:
“Pakistan has kept jihadi groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and Jaish-e-Mohammad operational despite severe restrictions on such groups imposed by the US and other nations since September 2001. These groups have been sustained both as tactical and strategic tools in achieving certain foreign policy objectives, viz. India and Afghanistan. LeT men, for instance, were sent as first line of intruders in Kargil in 1999. JeM was created after the 1999 Kandahar hijacking to launch a series of suicide missions against the army in Jammu and Kashmir. Today, key terrorist leaders — LeT chief Hafiz Saeed, JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar, HuJI chief Qari Saifullah Akhtar and Harkat ul Mujahideen chief Fazlur Rehman Khalil — are free. LeT hand in the July 2008 suicide bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul and the attack on the US troops in Kunar province proves the group’s strength and operational capability.”
I also spoke with Professor Martti Koskenniemi, a leading Finnish expert on international law, who showed no mercy to my attempts at drawing an analogy between Mumbai and the U.S. military response to 9/11. He pointed out that unless the Pakistani government refuses to co-operate (so far it hasn’t), there is no legal basis for an Indian retaliation.
I asked him whether Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 2006 was thus illegal, as clearly the Lebanese government was not responsible for the attacks that led to the war. He promptly replied: “Absolutely it was illegal, there was never any doubt about it.”