History never repeats itself exactly, but it does leave signposts. So with India and Pakistan settling into a familiar pattern of accusation and counter-claim following the Mumbai attacks, it's worth remembering what happened after the December 2001 assault on India's parliament brought the two countries to the brink of war. Or more to the point -- thinking about the less remembered follow-up attack on an Indian army camp in Kaluchak in Jammu and Kashmir in May 2002 that nearly propelled India over the edge.
Following the attack on parliament that India blamed on the Laskhar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, both Pakistan-based militant groups, India mobilised its troops all along the border, prompting a similar mobilisation on the Pakistani side. Then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf went on national television in January to promise to crack down on Islamist groups; the activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed were curbed, and tensions abated somewhat.
These tensions exploded again in May when gunmen launched a "fedayeen" attack on a camp for army families in Kaluchak, killing 34 people. (For an Indian version of the Kaluchak attack written at the time, this piece by B. Raman is worth reading.) The Kaluchak attack so outraged India, and particularly the Indian Army, that it came perilously close to war with Pakistan. The crisis was averted after intensive American diplomacy.
So where does that leave us now in the current uneasy no-war, no-peace environment? Or in other words, is there a risk of another attack, another Kaluchak?
If, as some analysts believe, the objective of the Mumbai attacks was to trigger a new military stand-off between India and Pakistan to draw Pakistani troops away from the border with Afghanistan and reduce pressure on al Qaeda and the Taliban, then they failed. Does that mean more gunmen will be assigned to launch a new attack and complete the task? Or will the governments of India and Pakistan, remembering what happened last time around, find a way to insulate themselves from such a risk?