Ganguly: India's Diplomatic Victory

On Dec. 13, 2001, a group of terrorists later found to be members of the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, both Pakistan terrorist organizations, attacked the Indian parliament. In the ensuing battle all of them were killed along with a small handful of security personnel. In the aftermath of this attack, the right–of-center Bharatiya Janata Party-led government embarked upon a massive military mobilization along the Indo-Pakistani border designed to coerce Pakistan to comply to a set of Indian demands including the handover of at least 20 people accused of carrying out acts of terror on Indian soil. This military mobilization lasted several months and mostly yielded pious promises of compliance from Pakistan. Not a single person was handed over to the Indian authorities and the relevant terrorist groups were allowed to flourish within Pakistan with impunity, albeit under new names. The Lashkar-e-Taiba, for instance, became the Jammat-ud-Dawa.

The abject failure of India's strategy of coercive diplomacy during the 2001-2002 crisis has not been lost on the current regime in New Delhi. In the aftermath of the vicious and deadly terrorist attack in Mumbai (previously Bombay) on Nov. 26 of last year, which left 176 people dead and many more injured, the government of India has eschewed all military options to force a change in Pakistan's behavior. Instead it has adopted strategies of bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, and an unprecedented openness in handling its intelligence. Most importantly, one of the terrorists, Mohammed Ajmal Amir Iman, who was captured alive in Mumbai, has not only admitted to his Pakistani origins but has provided substantial details about the planning, organization and execution of this attack from Pakistan. More to the point, Indian intelligence authorities have made public a series of telephone conversations between the terrorists and their Pakistani handlers.

Thanks to deft Indian diplomacy, the terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks have failed in their chief goal, which was to provoke another Indo-Pakistani military confrontation and thereby undermine a nascent peace process. They have also failed to sow Hindu-Muslim discord and undermine the confidence of foreign investors in India, but these were secondary goals. The terrorists were hoping to see India launch sharp, swift attacks across the Line of Control in Kashmir (the de facto international border).

This diplomatic restraint is all the more impressive considering how tempting it was for India leaders to lash out militarily at Pakistan, given the state of public opinion and the pressures from hawkish members of India's attentive public. Instead, India's policymakers have adopted a diplomatic track designed to place Pakistan in the dock. To that end, its leaders have carefully briefed key countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the People's Republic of China and Saudi Arabia about the evidence that they have gathered about Pakistani complicity in the terrorist attack. They have also subsequently released a 69-page document that includes telephonic intercepts, details pertaining to the sea voyage from the Pakistani port city of Karachi to Mumbai and the weaponry and other logistical equipment used in the attacks. Simultaneously, they have firmly and relentlessly pressed Pakistan to not only hand over those individuals who orchestrated the attack but also a group of others involved in prior terror attacks. In all these efforts, India has steadfastly invoked the United Nations resolution 1373 that enjoins all countries to prevent the use of their territory for the prosecution of terrorist acts.

The initial Pakistani reactions to these Indian multilateral and bilateral diplomatic efforts were unpromising. Pakistani authorities, quite disingenuously called for a joint investigation while denying any links with the terrorists. Faced with persistent Indian diplomatic efforts, they have grudgingly conceded that the sole captured assailant, Mohammed Ajmal Amir Iman, is indeed a Pakistani. More recently, Pakistani authorities have arrested more than 70 leaders and operatives of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, including its mastermind, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed. They have also apparently shut down five training camps belonging to the Lashkar-e-Taiba. These developments, while promising, do not guarantee a dismantling of what Indian authorities refer to as the "infrastructure of terror". In the wake of the terrorist attack of Dec. 13, 2001, under Indian military and American diplomatic pressures, Pakistan had undertaken similar measures only to revert to past practices within months. This time, however, the Indian authorities do not appear to be taking any chances. India's Foreign Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, who has orchestrated India's current diplomatic strategy, has made clear that his government will not relent until Pakistan provides a full accounting of those involved in the Mumbai attacks.

Only time will tell if India's adroit diplomatic strategy yields the appropriate dividends. Should a similar attack occur again, it is sobering to consider that Indian public opinion may force the government to take military action. For the moment, however, it has avoided a military confrontation culminating in yet another Pyrrhic victory.