Is India playing its hand well over Mumbai?

January 7, 2009

It has been a tense game of poker between India and Pakistan since the Mumbai attacks. On the face of it, India had the much stronger hand — not least because it captured one of the attackers alive and got him to confess to being trained in Pakistan.

But has it played its cards well?

Some analysts say India overplayed its hand in the initial days after the attack by saying the military option remained open.

That allowed Pakistan to cloud the issue and raise the spectre of an Indian military strike — neatly uniting the country behind the army and against India.

One former foreign secretary told me India had made a mistake on those initial days, by making a threat it was not prepared to carry out and allowing Pakistan the chance to play the victim.

Since then, New Delhi has been much more restrained and cautious in what it has said, admirably so according to diplomats and analysts I have spoken to. On Monday it presented its carefully complied dossier of evidence to Pakistan and other countries.

But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh raised the stakes again this week by suggesting that the Pakistani “agencies” must have known about and supported the plan to attack Mumbai.

Pakistan has once again pounced on this claim, accusing Singh of engaging in a propaganda war.

Last year India had the backing of the U.S. in its allegation that the ISI was involved in the attack on its embassy in Kabul.

But this time around, diplomatic sources say New Delhi has yet to prove to them that the ISI was involved.

“In their oral presentation, Indian officials told the envoys of their belief that the ISI was indeed involved in the incident,” Siddharth Varadarajan wrote in the Hindu newspaper.

“Thought his claim was not contested, at least one nation, the United States, has told India it is still not in a position to share this perception.”

I wonder now if Singh might have overplayed his hand again. Should he have stuck to what can be proved in a court of law, so that he retains the moral high ground and gives Pakistan no room to wriggle out?

Or is he simply saying what everybody knows — that the ISI has links to extreme Islamist groups and must have at least known this attack was being planned?


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May be India has overplayed a bit. But what I don’t think was a smart move was to not use the internal diplomatic machinary well. We might have suspended the Pakistan Highcommissnoer and called back ours before Pakistan get a chance to do the same.

Sure, why not military option? Pakistan is playing a proxy war against India. But Indians shouldn’t do anything? That logic is a bit biased? don’t you think.

I also believe some of the so called evidences India is claiming can’t be used at a court of law. But still then, combining all the recent past attacks, there is nothing wrong in concluding it as such.

If you haven’t seen it check it at The Hindu : idence-1.pdf

Posted by George Thomas | Report as abusive

India has not overplayed its hand, it has actually played its hand badly. The hoax phone call to Pakistani President and the latter’s weak-kneed response may have hurt their national pride and united all constituents on an anti-India platform but Indian leaders had all along been ruling out an open war as an option. True, the military option was open but no sovereign country can “not keep it open” after such an attack.
Propaganda plays an important role in this episode and Pakistan has been playing quite well all along, the first thing it did was float conspiracy theories against India. Given the nature and magnitude of the attack, the average Pakistani should feel sympathetic towards India and expect its government to cooperate but these “conspiracy theories” were woven to make India look like the aggressor and the victim! It worked and thats what is making the situation worse!
Another mistake that India committed was to blindly trust the US to pressurize Pakistan to take action. What Indian leaders and officials forgot was that the US as the mediator made Pakistan more comfortable than it did to India. Pakistani administration knew that the US wouldn’t abandon them at this moment especially since US-Pakistani forces are already fighting Taliban on Afghan border. With the US as the mediator Pakistan knew that all it had to do was convince the Americans which shouldn’t have been hard as the US wouldn’t want a situation that could in any way affect its interest on Afghan border. Lets not forget that for the US, terrorists are only those who pose a direct threat to them.
Hence, despite being a victim to this gruesome attack from a known source, India has been unable to take concrete steps. Pakistan continues to harp on “credible evidence” but does it really need them or it just needs the political will? Don’t groups like LeT, JeM exist in Pakistan? and are they not militant groups fighting against India? Pakistan, being a sovereign state can dispute each and every evidence that India comes up with but if it is really serious all it has to do is look within.

Posted by Aryan | Report as abusive

No question of overplaying by India here.. the fundamental problem arised by labelling mumbai attackers as terrorists..when they were from a enemy nation, trained by a national army, plotted an attack with a help from state agency (ISI) and illegally entered another nation and killed civilians – i call this invasion..India should have called this invasion by pakistan and heavily retailated. The military action is the only move that I would consider a play by India.
India trying a diplomatic affensive is not in the game..pakistan is playing a game which is totally different and India is not in the leauge..

Posted by Om | Report as abusive

No question of overplaying by India here.. the fundamental problem arised by labelling mumbai attackers as terrorists..when they were from a enemy nation, trained by a national army, plotted an attack with a help from state agency (ISI) and illegally entered another nation and killed civilians – i call this invasion..India should have called this invasion by pakistan and heavily retaliated. The military action is the only move that I would consider a play by India.
India trying a diplomatic affensive is not in the game..pakistan is playing a game which is totally different and India is not in the leauge..

Posted by Om | Report as abusive

At times the culprits assume the patience of the victim as their strength. The pattern of their deeds in the past of similar kind further add to their misconception. The Pakistanese, state actors or non state actors are demontrating the similar behaviour. They have sown, grown, reared and riping a crop of false hallusination that every time they can get away with every misdeeds they have done to provoke India, under the garb of geo – political contradictions of their own creations. Despite having sheltered, nourished and instrumented the 1993 offenders for fermenting several troubles, with the full world view, they are denying the recognition of their own sons used for the geo – political aims.
Does the art of diplomacy so brazen that it compels a nation to blind the whole world and prove it false point to be true?
This time it is not the leaders but the pulic of India is watching the whole episode. The opinion will decisively make amends to the way we look at the irritant crossing all limits. The leaders, will have no option except to fall in line. The peace loving people should not be taken to be RESILIENT of recurring scrubs on wounds forever.

Posted by Pratap Singh | Report as abusive

Rather Singh has underplayed it, & what ‘Court of Law’ are you talking of? An Islamic court? Or do you mean proof that will be subjected to the whims & suitability of the western powers? Or should the trial be run by the western media? Or is it that the reality of the Mumbai attacks depends on the acceptance of the above cited or else Indians should just believe it was a figment of their imagination? How do you ‘prove’ a terror attack? do the Americans have tangible proof of Osama Bin Laden’s involvement in 9/11??? Did they run a trial in an international court of law?
By accusing the ISI he was simply stating the obvious to his Chief Ministers for internal security reasons, why should he differ from stating what is the truth to his own people…

Posted by Anup | Report as abusive

Underplayed is the word, as was always.India ought to have striken Pakistan for their Mumbai offence, even if the strike was just symbolic. By not doing so, it sends a message accross that,”India’s defence forces are not capable of taking care of Pak’s forces”. This gives Pakistan that much more space to carry out their game in future too. To stop terrorism emanating from Pak, India needs a ‘standard military response’, which is deterence enough for Pak to control its state & non-state actors from carrying out any such activities in India. One thing is for sure, untill & unless Pak is shown its real place in the world, they will harbour grand illusions about being a strategic player in Geo-Politics and will continue their game. What China does is not our concern, India has to Dominate as the big brother in South Asia at-least.

Posted by Debojit Dey | Report as abusive

Politically embarass and decapitate Pakistan diplocmatically, that is the only way to reign in the “non-state” actors, terrorists, ISI, govt, Pak Military, jihadists.

Embarass and expose them to the point where they lose credibility that even their friends won’t touch them.

Pakistan is always good for a few laughs. My family in India was right, since I was a child, they said you can never trust what comes out the mouth of Pakistani’s, when talking with non-muslims. It is justified in their holy book to talk this way. It never really dawned on me what they meant, until you see this behavior on a large scale, so out there for everyone to see.

India should do everything to smash Pakistan’s credibility as this is a hallmark time to capitalize and build consensus against Pakistan’s complicit, tacit approval of existence of its terrorist infrastructure.

If nothing comes of this diplomacy, the U.S. has a moral obligation, under the terrorism plan it currently has with Pakistan, to dismantle even the terrorist infrastructure that is attacking India.

Posted by Global Watcher | Report as abusive

It is time for the UN and its member nations to dismantle Pakistan permanently.

The entire military and intelligence structure should be removed

Mr. Jinnah’s delusion is an utter failure and so is Lord Mountbatten’s short sighted liberalness that even thought that this concept could function as a country.

It is time to return this land called Pakistan under British Rule and re-integrate this land into India’s territory, as it was 800 years ago.

Posted by Global Watcher | Report as abusive

The question whether India played its card wisely or foolishly, the fact is that India has been attacked not for the first time , but Mumbai attack is the latest in the series . It is wrong on the part of India to rely much on US for support, without going into the historical background of Indo-US relation, US has never been our friend , US has always stood by Pakistan in case of any Indo-Pak hostility . We can not expect the change in this mindset overnight especially in a given situation of US involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan being its front line ally in war against terror.

Time and again, the international community’s attempt to brand Pakistan as a rogue state for illegal export nuclear technology to Iran, N.Korea, Libya ,Seria etc, and also branding of Pakistan as terrorist state has always met with vehement opposition from Pakistan’s traditional friend , China and US , and yet US expects us to act as counter to China , this is something not acceptable to a large number of Indians .It is our relation with US which is detrimental to our developing relations with China , our next door neighbor.

The Mumbai terror attack and the reaction of the international community as well reaction Pakistan Govt and Pakistani people in general, should work as eye opener to all those propagator of people to people contact, visa free regime etc , that Pakistan and Paksitanis can never be trusted , they can never be our ally . The time has come now where India’s ruling establishment should give up vote bank politics and take some radical steps with regard to Indo-Pak relations are concerned ,and this should start with total seizing of diplomatic relations with Paksitan, stopping of visas to Paksitanis, withdrawal of MFN status, free trade . We must also seal our borders as far as possible. As India being the front line state being the victim of terrorist spilling from Pakistan,India is at war like Israel, we must strenghten our internal security, srengthen our intel network .

Posted by Manish | Report as abusive