India faces serious risk of another Mumbai-style attack: US expert

May 10th, 2009 - 10:03 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 10 (IANS) With Pakistan’s “jihadist Frankenstein monster” forcing its army to remain focused on India, a retired CIA expert on South Asia has warned of a serious risk of another Mumbai-style attack on the country.

Noting that the post-Mumbai era of significant tension between India and Pakistan has not come to a close yet, Bruce O. Riedel says, “there is a serious risk of another Mumbai-style attack.”

This “would ratchet up tensions and make the Pakistani army even more determined to keep 80 percent of its manpower focused on India rather than on the threat posed by the internal jihadist problem,” he said in an interview with Council on Foreign Relations, a Washington think tank.

There are a few tentative signs of Pakistan realising that its army and the intelligence service has created a “jihadist Frankenstein monster”, said Riedel who chaired a special rask force to develop President Barack Obama’s policy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“But it is far from clear that they acknowledge that the existential threat to Pakistan’s freedoms comes from within” he said. “I think the army remains focused on the external threat posed by India.”

“Of course, here the ‘Frankenstein’ [monster] is a self-fulfilling prophecy because extremist groups, in this case Lashkar-e-Taiba, attacked India last November in Mumbai,” said Riedel, now senior fellow at Brookings Institution, another think tank.

Suggesting that tension between New Delhi and Islamabad is back to a very high level, the expert said: “In that sense, the ‘Frankenstein’ (monster creates) the conditions for the army to be focused on India.”

Riedel also warned of “a real possibility of a jihadist state emerging in Pakistan sometime in the future. And that has to be one of the worst nightmares American foreign policy could have to deal with.”

A growing coalescence of jihadist militant groups, not just in the tribal areas, but in the Punjab and in the major cities including Karachi “is threatening the very survival of the Pakistani state as we have known it,” Riedel said.

Describing Pakistan as “a base of operations for repeated attacks on India going back to the hijacking of an Indian aircraft in 1999,” he said:

“Indians feel that they have put out the olive branch on more than one occasion and instead of a reciprocal response, they’ve gotten more terror.”

India has shown remarkable restraint over the years, but “there has to be some point at which India’s tolerance is pushed too far, he said. “Of course that’s exactly what the jihadists want.”

“They want the situation constantly boiling on the India-Pakistan front that diverts the Pakistani army away from them, providing them (Islamic militants) the conditions that allow for them to grow and fester in Pakistan,” Riedel said.

As the “situation remains dire” in Pakistan, he said “it is crucial for Congress to pass the five-year $7.5 billion economic aid package for Pakistan without too many conditions on the bill, so that “we can send a signal to Pakistan that we’re in this for the long haul and that it’s not a conditions-based relationship.”

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