I think this much is clear:
Whoever the Mumbai attackers were, and whatever power they swore allegiance to, they weren’t acting on their own, and those who set things in motion had a larger strategic goal in mind: to relieve military pressure on the Taleban, al-Qaeda and other forces operating along the Afghan-Pakistani border, by provoking a confrontation between India and Pakistan.
If this sounds like Tom Clancy, you should read Steve Coll’s brilliant account of what happened last time. On December 13, 2001, five armed men stormed the grounds of the Indian Parliament in Delhi, killing nine people and setting South Asia’s nuclear rivals on the warpath. Not only was the world closer to a nuclear exchange than ever before since the Cuban missile crisis, but, as Pakistan moved its troops from the Afghan border to protect its eastern flank from a seemingly inevitable Indian offensive, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s senior leadership were allowed to slip into FATA.
As in the case of Mumbai, no hard proof of Pakistan’s complicity was found. For those who still have doubts, here’s my favourite passage from Coll’s story:
On December 13th, the United States Ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlin, happened to be visiting the two-star Pakistani general in command of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, at his headquarters in Quetta, in the western province of Baluchistan. During their meeting, the general kept his television tuned to a satellite news channel, with the sound muted. As reports of the parliament attack crossed the screen and the magnitude of the event became clear, Chamberlin asked her host for his reaction. According to a written record of the meeting, the general offered a one-word reply: ‘Oops.’
[Dang. My hero Ahmed Rashid is saying pretty much the same thing.]