‘Mumbai attacks may spur US-India counter-terrorism cooperation’

November 29th, 2008 - 12:15 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanWashington, Nov 29 (IANS) The terrorist strikes in Mumbai could lead to greater counter-terrorism cooperation between India and the US as their interests in countering regional and global terrorism continue to converge, a US think tank has suggested.The latest in a string of attacks across India over the last year, most of which appear to have been perpetrated by local Islamists with external links indicate that US and Indian counter-terrorism interests are increasingly converging, said South Asia expert Lisa Curtis.

“Wednesday’s attack could help jolt both sides into even closer coordination with the goal of preventing further regional and global attacks,” added Curtis, senior research fellow for South Asia in the Asian Studies Centre at The Heritage Foundation.

Focussing Wednesday’s attacks on Americans further demonstrates the terrorist group’s pan-Islamic agenda, yet another strong indication that these terrorists could be under the command of a well-organised group located outside India, she said.

The massive scale of the Mumbai attacks and the specific targeting of US citizens should bring the US and India closer in terms of counter-terrorism cooperation and intelligence sharing, Curtis said.

However, despite their agreement on the need to aggressively contain terrorist threats, Washington and New Delhi have failed in the past to work as closely as they could to minimise terrorist threats, she said.

“This failure is largely the result of divergent geo-strategic perceptions, Indian reticence to deepen the intelligence relationship, and US bureaucratic resistance toward elevating counter-terrorism cooperation beyond a certain level,” Curtis said.

“The gravity of the threat posed to both countries from terrorists in the region require New Delhi and Washington to overcome past suspicions and recognize that they both stand to gain considerably from stepping up their cooperation,” the expert said.

To some degree, intelligence cooperation between New Delhi and Washington may already be improving, she said. For example, Indian media reports indicate that the US possessed intelligence information related to the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul that it shared with the Indian government weeks before the attack occurred.

“Unfortunately, US-India intelligence sharing was unable to prevent this horrific attack, but there may be future opportunities for the US and India to assist each other in preventing Taliban and Al Qaeda attacks against both coalition forces and Indian interests in Afghanistan,” she said.

Washington and New Delhi will both benefit by pooling their counter-terrorism expertise and increasing joint activities to address regional and global terrorist threats.

Curtis said the Mumbai attacks could heighten tensions between India and Pakistan, especially if investigations reveal that the attackers received training, finances, or logistical support from Pakistan-based terror groups.

As it is Indo-Pakistani ties were already strained due to revelations of Pakistani intelligence involvement in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul on July 7, 2008, she noted.

Although Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has made several peace gestures toward India since he took office a few months ago, many Indians question whether the Pakistani security establishment supports his efforts to improve relations.

Without backing from Pakistan’s still-powerful army, Zardari’s efforts at confidence building will have little real impact on boosting India-Pakistan ties, especially if India believes the Pakistani security establishment is fomenting violence against India, Curtis said.

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