Friday, November 28, 2008

India the latest weak spot for world's terrorists

Amidst the chaos in Mumbai, as the military tries to mop up the last of the terrorists who launched outrageous attacks that have killed over 120 people, one thing is showing up clearly: The world's terrorists have found the latest weakness to exploit. Awfully sorry, that's you, India.

The general philosophy of all recent terrorist attacks, shorn of local variation, is basically this: We'll kill as many people as possible, preferably foreigners, to send the message that the corrupt West must be rejected and America condemned. But a philosophy is one thing. Execution is something else altogether: When a country's security establishment cracks down hard, it is actually very difficult for militants to ply their murderous trade.

The United States, despite being the heart of darkness as far as these Islamo-fascists are concerned, has been hard to penetrate after the stunning September 11 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. The Americans revamped their entire security architecture and hasn't been struck since.

Then came Europe, where Madrid in 2004 and Britain in 2005 saw co-ordinated bombings. Again, the security and intelligence forces, put on notice, have been able to disrupt attempts at large-scale attacks.

On the other side of the world, Indonesia shuddered again and again as tourist paradise Bali (2002 and 2005) and Jakarta, the capital, (2003) were targeted. But the country learned. Safety measures have been boosted extensively at potential targets and, though there are still nests of militants, major terrorist successes have been averted.

Now, we have India. In these things, patterns cannot be set aside as just coincidences. In just recent months, there has been a series of horrific attacks in different cities, including in Jaipur (63 killed in May), Ahmedabad (45 in July), New Delhi (18 dead in September) and now - most stunningly - the Mumbai outrage. In India's commercial and entertainment capital, some 10 sites were targeted for infantry assaults. Attackers slipped in by boat and, two days on, there are still foreigners trapped in two luxury hotels as terrorists fight army commandos.

As each region in turn has convulsed from terrorist flare-ups, local extremists may have been the tip of the spear. But there can surely be no doubt that militant masterminds from abroad extended assistance, planning help, funds and perhaps manpower. The "global terror network" can be conceived of as a mass of interconnected tentacles: Once a weakness is found anywhere, resources and succour are poured in to exploit it. When a tentacle is cut off or weakened by government responses, the probing continues elsewhere for a weakness.

India, reeling from so many atrocities in succession, will eventually get a grip on the security situation. But the tentacle will withdraw, and somewhere else, a tentacle will lash out. Where this next place will be, only time and sudden tragedy will tell.