26/11 Mumbai terror attacks: The redline of Indo-Pak relations

Islamabad: On the evening of November 26, 2008, India’s commercial metropolis Mumbai witnessed vicious, devastating and ruthless attacks by terrorists who played havoc for at least 66 hours. The incident not only became India’s 9/11 moment, but also the redline for any positive movement in the decades long rivalry between India and Pakistan.

The 66 hours between November 26 and November 29 saw one of India’s worst terror attacks as at least 10 terrorists ran rampage in Mumbai’s landmark areas, including the Oberoi Trident, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Leopard Cafe, Cama Hospital and the Taj Mahal Hotel.

The carnage left at least 166 innocent civilians dead and 300 others injured in the hands of the 10 terrorists. The incident undoubtedly became the redline between India and Pakistan as it brought the countries on the verge of an all-out-war.

Like the terror attack of 9/11 became the United State’s worst nightmare and resulted in a global offensive against terrorism, for India, the 26/11 attacks were no less.

India claimed that the terrorists belonged to the banned outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), who were recruited, trained and transported from Pakistan and demanded immediate arrest and punishment of the facilitators, who helped them carry out the bloodshed.

Over a decade has passed since the tragic incident, but New Delhi still maintains that Pakistan has not done what was required of it in the case, even after dozens of dossiers with what New Delhi claims are irrefutable evidence of involvement of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD) and the LeT.

As the 26/11 anniversary brings back traumatising and haunting memories to the families of those who lost their lives during the terror strikes, it also casts back memories of events for many in India, who either lost their loved ones, or witnessed the carnage in front of them. Each memory filled with fear, trauma and sorrow.

Since then, India has repeatedly demand Pakistan to take decisive action against the operatives of LeT and JUD, refusing to give any concessions in this regard. New Delhi has maintained that if there can be any talks between India and Pakistan for any positive future discourse, Islamabad will have to first punish the culprits, the mastermind behind the 26/11 terror attacks, the chief of LeT and JUD Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and the other facilitators.

Late Sushma Swaraj, India’s former Minister of External Affairs (MEA), had stated that “offers for peace talks cannot be heard in the loud noise of terror”, as she responded to Islamabad’s offer for dialogue.

In Pakistan, the 26/11 terror attacks were widely mourned and condemned by the people at large with its government offering to investigate the Indian allegations and bringing the culprits to justice, if their involvement in the attack is proven in its courts through the process of its legal investigation framework.

The catastrophe was described as the 9/11 of India by the then Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving attacker who was executed in India after the court awarded him death penalty, was hailed by the LeT, which declared him a hero who would inspire more attacks.

“Ajmal Kasab will be remembered as a hero and will inspire more attacks,” read a statement issued by the LeT.

The other dreaded terror organisation with Pakistani origin, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also vowed to avenge the execution of Kasab by targeting Indians.

While the then sitting Pakistani government assured India of carrying out an all-out investigation into the involvement of groups and individuals on its soil, one Indian claim that fell on silent ears of Islamabad was that of the relationship of its powerful intelligence agencies and the military establishment with the terror groups.

India claimed that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had harbored, funded, trained and facilitated the sea route access to the LeT terrorists, a claim Islamabad denied and hit back at India for accusing its state institutions for harboring terror elements on its soil. This claim by India has been consistently reiterated time and again.

Analysts say that the Mumbai terror attacks case is under trial in the Pakistani courts, where it has been maintained that the evidence provided by New Delhi in the form of dossiers is not enough to punish the accused.

However, Pakistan’s slow paced investigation and trial of the accused is linked with India’s allegations against its security institutions, something that no country would be ready to accept or agree to.

“If India would have come out asking Pakistan to investigate and punish the alleged culprits involved in the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan would have probably done that by now. But with direct accusations against the country’s security establishment for harboring the terror groups and individuals, there is no way that Pakistan would ever agree to it. No country would,” said Javed Siddique, senior strategic analyst.

While Pakistan has asked India to provide more material evidence to back its claims, the Mumbai terror attacks case continues to see through hearings and adjournments in the Pakistani courts in what seems to be a never-ending proceeding, which has put all hopes or opportunities of having the two sides sit across the table for a dialogue for peace on a complete halt, that too for an indefinite period of time.