The threat of terrorism may have faded in the mind of the average American since September 11, but that is certainly not the case for the more than one billion citizens of the Republic of India.
On December 13, 2001, terrorists from the militant Islamist groups “Lashkar-e-Taiba” and “Jaish-e-Mohammad” gained access to the parking lot of the Indian Parliament building, deliberately crashed their car into that of the Vice President of India, exited their vehicle, and opened fire on every human being in sight. Five policemen, one security guard, one gardener, and all five gunmen were killed. A mere nine months later, 130 people died in a train derailment caused by the Naxalites, a local Maoist terrorist group. In the year following that tragedy, Mumbai—the financial capital of India—would be attacked five times, leaving nearly 70 people dead and scores injured.
Terrorist attacks continue to be a regular occurrence throughout India, and even seem to be increasing in incidence. This past year saw an astounding 10 major terrorist attacks, a figure equal to the number of attacks in 2005, 2006, and 2007 combined. The last calendar year without a terrorist attack in India was the year 2000.
Since 9/11, there have been at least 30 attacks within Indian territory, in addition to the deadly bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul last summer. In total, more than 1,200 people have been killed, nearly all of them civilians. The most remarkable fact about this situation is that, with the exception of the incredibly lethal and complex attack against Mumbai in November of last year, none of these attacks have attracted the attention of the Western media for more than a day or two. The fact that these attacks have become commonplace does not diminish their significance.
Interestingly, the media coverage of the recent carnage in Mumbai generally treated that attack as if it were an isolated incident. Though the rampage was indeed unique in its targeting of Westerners and Jews, it was far from the only assault on the city in recent years, as mentioned above. A coordinated bombing of the city’s suburban railway system as recently as 2006 left 209 dead and 714 injured. And though Mumbai has been particularly hard-hit, nearly every major city in India has been targeted at least once.
The most common perpetrator of these acts of terrorism is Lashkar-e-Taiba (The Army of the Righteous), allegedly supported by Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI). Lashkar-e-Taiba’s stated goal is to introduce an Islamic state in South Asia. Other groups implicated in the various attacks include the Students Islamic Movement of India, Indian Mujahideen, Naxalites, and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (The Islamic Resistance Movement). Hindu nationalist groups have also been blamed for several smaller attacks over the years.
In addition to these acts targeting civilians, India faces an ongoing insurgency in Kashmir, where thousands of its soldiers have been killed, and which raises the ever-present specter of a potential war with Pakistan. For years, India has accused Pakistan of supporting the organizations that have carried out the attacks described above, and continues to do so, as in the case of the most recent attacks on Mumbai. Fears remain that India’s patience will soon run out, and with it will go the policy of relative restraint it has followed until now.
The point to take away from all of this is that India needs help in protecting and stabilizing itself, and the United States and other Western nations can do much more than they are currently doing to assist in this challenge. India, as the world’s largest democracy and a consistent victim of Islamist onslaughts, is the greatest potential ally of the United States in the Global War on Terrorism (which still exists, despite the Obama administration’s shunning of this term). Though the reach of groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba may be local at the moment, their aim is global, as revealed by LeT’s targeting of Westerners in its latest attack on Mumbai. America and India are fighting the same enemy, and the relationship between the two countries should be adjusted to reflect that reality. Though significant positive gains have been made over the past several years, these efforts need to continue and, indeed, accelerate, if India is ever to banish the scourge of terrorism from its territory and fulfill its vast potential as the world’s largest democracy.
Timeline of terrorist attacks in India since 2001:
October 1, 2001: Attack on Kashmir legislative assembly, 38 dead
December 13, 2001: Indian Parliament attack, 12 dead
January 22, 2002: Attack on American cultural center in Kolkata, 5 dead
September 10, 2002: Rafiganj rail disaster, 130 dead
September 25, 2002: Akshardham Temple attack, 33 dead
December 6, 2002: Bus bombing in Mumbai, 2 dead
March 13, 2003: Train bombing in Mumbai, 10 dead
July 28, 2003: Bus bombing in Mumbai, 4 dead
August 25, 2003: Twin car bombings in Mumbai, 52 dead
July 5, 2005: Attack on site of demolished Babri Mosque, 6 dead
July 28, 2005: Train bombing in Jaunpur, 13 dead
October 29, 2005: Bombing of markets in Delhi, 62 dead
March 7, 2006: Bombings in Varanasi, 28 dead
July 11, 2006: Seven train bombings in Mumbai, 209 dead
September 8, 2006: Bombings in Malegaon, 37 dead
February 18, 2007: Bombing of Samjhauta Express, 68 dead
May 18, 2007: Bombing of Mecca Mosque, 16 dead
August 25, 2007: Bombings in Hyderabad, 42 dead
November 23, 2007: Coordinated bombings in the state of Uttar Pradesh, 18 dead
May 13, 2008: Bombings in Jaipur, 80 dead
July 25, 2008: Bombings in Bangalore, 2 dead
July 26, 2008: Bombings in Ahmedabad, 56 dead
September 13, 2008: Bombings in Delhi, 30 dead
September 27, 2008: Blast in Delhi, 3 dead
September 29, 2008: Bombings in Malegaon and Modasa, 8 dead
October 1, 2008: Bombings in Agartala, 4 dead
October 21, 2008: Blast in Imphal, 17 dead
October 30, 2008: Blasts in Assam, 81 dead
November 26-29, 2008: Coordinated attacks in Mumbai, 173 dead
January 1, 2009: Bombings in Guwahati, 6 dead