Mumbai blasts a ploy to derail India-Pakistan talks?

Last Updated: Wed, Jul 13, 2011 19:45 hrs

New Delhi: India has scrupulously avoided pointing a finger at Pakistan for the serial blasts in Mumbai Wednesday evening, but the terror attack which occurred barely a fortnight before the meeting of foreign ministers of the two countries here has raised suspicions about whether some right-wing elements were trying to derail the revived peace process.

After cold-shouldering Pakistan's overtures for talks for over two years following the 26/11 Mumbai terror spree, India decided to revive the peace process with its estranged neighbour in February.

Since then, the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan held talks in Islamabad last month and agreed on some cross-Kashmir and nuclear confidence-building measures to bridge the post-26/11 trust deficit.

The Islamabad meeting set the stage for the talks between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan July 26-27. As the blasts took place barely a fortnight before Pakistan's foreign minister comes here for talks, some analysts, speaking on condition of anonymity, speculated whether it was a handiwork of those trying to derail the peace process between the two neighbnours.

In his condemnation of the attacks, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh scrupulously avoided even the vaguest insinuation about the involvement of Pakistan-based elements in the attacks. When contacted, officials of the external affairs ministry also declined to speculate.

Pakistan's president and prime minister were quick to condemn the attacks. Early this week, Pakistan's foreign office said Minister of State for External Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar, who is widely tipped to be the next foreign minister, will be coming to New Delhi for the talks.

Although the motive of the Wednesday attack is not known, its timing has raised suspicions in informed strategic circles whether the serial blasts were engineered by those unhappy with the latest stab at rapprochement between the two neighbours.

The blasts also took place a few days before US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton comes to India Monday for the second India-US strategic dialogue July 19-20.

According to Stratfor Global Intelligence, a US strategic affairs think tank, the Mumbai serial blasts mark the first major attack in India since the November 2008 Mumbai attack.

'Though the magnitude of these explosions has yet to be determined, this attack does not appear to be as sophisticated as the 2008 attacks, which involved an assault team consisting of a number of militants that coordinated 10 shooting and bombing attacks across the city,' Stratfor said in a report. 'The July 13 attack, by contrast, appears to have not involved suicide attackers but consisted of explosives placed in a taxi, a meter box and locations where they could be remotely detonated. This tactic is much more in line with those used by more amateurish groups, such the Indian Mujahideen, who have targeted crowded urban areas before,' it said.

However, the think tank placed the attacks against the backdrop of the fragile security dynamics in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. 'Nonetheless, the attack comes at a critical juncture in US-Pakistani relations as the United States is trying to accelerate a withdrawal of its military forces in Afghanistan,' it said.

'The 2008 Mumbai attacks revealed the extent to which traditional Pakistan-based Islamist militant groups, such as elements from the defunct Lashkar-e-Taiba, had collaborated with transnational jihadist elements like al Qaeda in trying to instigate a crisis between Islamabad and New Delhi,' the think tank said.

'Such a crisis would complicate US-Pakistani dealings on Afghanistan, potentially serving the interests of al Qaeda as well as factions within Pakistan trying to derail a negotiation between the United States and Pakistan,' it added.

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