Giving India's current diplomacy against Pakistan a new boost, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh speaking at a conference of chief ministers in New Delhi on 6 January 2008 commented, "Given the sophistication and military precision of Mumbai attacks, some official agencies in Pakistan must have supported them." Earlier, in an interview published on 3 January, the famous Mumbai-born novelist of the Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie termed 26/11 as an act of war by Pakistan.
Armed aggression, according to a UN definition, constitute among other things, sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another State……..(Definition of Aggression, adopted on 14 December 1974 by the UN General Assembly). Going by this definition, Pakistan has been carrying out continued acts of aggression against the Indian state for over two decades now. The latest terrorist strike on Mumbai has been rightly adjudged an act of war with most security analysts including senior government functionaries agreeing that an attack of this magnitude could not have taken place without the active connivance of state agencies.
While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hinted at the involvement of 'elements within Pakistan' for Mumbai attack, he fell short of naming the government agencies which could have abetted the crime at least in parts. The Mumbai terrorist attack clearly points to a nefarious LeT-ISI-Pakistan Army nexus. Speaking to a private TV channel on 5 January, India's Foreign Secretary, Shri Shiv Shankar Menon, opined that it was hard to believe that an attack of this magnitude could have taken place without any one in the Pakistani government knowing it.
The 26/11 has often been compared to the infamous 9/11 terrorist attack on the US. This comparison is however limited only to the extent of its magnitude and impact, not extending to the manner in which political leadership in both countries responded to the respective terrorist attacks. The US viewed 9/11 as an "armed attack' and invoked the collective self-defence clause under Article 5 of the NATO charter where an armed attack on one or more of [its members] shall be considered an attack on all," and that the members may exercise the right of self-defence which includes the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area. As a result of the sustained US-NATO combined military campaign against terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, the US has not suffered any serious terrorist attack since 9/11.
By contrast, India's response to 26/11 so far has been a subdued one. Having initially thundered that India retained all options against Pakistan including the military one, the government of India finally recoiled to the oft-repeated diplomatic approach in dealing with Pakistan. Diplomatic pressure wrought upon Pakistan so far by India in conjunction with the US and other countries has had little impact with the result that Islamabad continues to remain in a state of constant denial over its involvement in the Mumbai terrorist strike.
Pakistan's continued refusal to act on the evidence provided by India implicating Pakistan based organizations responsible for Mumbai massacre, is edging India closer towards some kind of punitive military strikes, at least as a token gesture, to appease public sentiments ahead of general elections which are scheduled to be held by May this year. With diplomacy not yielding desired results, India will be forced soon to adopt tougher measures against Pakistan. Another terrorist strike of this magnitude and India goes to war with Pakistan.
While it is true that the government of India has taken some very effective long-term measures on the internal front to combat future terror, the fact however remains that no amount of defence is plausible against suicide attacks. If India is really serious about stopping export-variant terrorism then it will have to combat terror at the place of its origin. India's diplomacy needs to be backed by meaningful use of force.
Failure to take unilateral military action against Pakistan stems partly from India's inability to control surgical strikes spiraling into a full-blown war with Pakistan and partly from the fact that India is not insulated by any collective security alliance like NATO. India's policy of non-alignment and its ideology does not permit joining any alliance with a military bias. However, in the changed security scenario, India needs to seriously reexamine its policy of non-alignment, particularly at a time when the world is dominated by a single power.
There is a sizable number of opinion makers in India who suggest that India should join NATO to combat terrorism on a long-term basis. Joining NATO on full-term basis could become problematic for India as it would hurl the country headlong into the Global War on Terror, precipitating greater involvement of Indian troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere. However, there are common grounds for NATO-India convergence such as containing China and combating terrorism. Therefore, India needs to open a strategic dialogue with NATO and work towards areas of common security concern on a case-by-case basis.