Assessing U.S. intervention in India-Pakistan: enough for now?

December 7, 2008

In the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, India’s response has been to look to the United States to lean on Pakistan, which it blames for spawning Islamist militancy across the region, rather than launching any military retaliation of its own. So after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s trip to India and Pakistan last week, have the Americans done enough for now?

According to Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, Rice told Pakistan there was “irrefutable evidence” that elements within the country were involved in the Mumbai attacks. And it quotes unnamed sources as saying that behind-the-scenes she “pushed the Pakistani leaders to take care of the perpetrators, otherwise the U.S. will act”.

India’s Business Standard said the Indian government was pleased with the U.S. warning. “This is exactly what India wanted,” the newspaper said.

The Times of India, however, fretted the U.S. action against Pakistan appeared to be “turning tepid”, in public at least. It attributed the U.S. approach to the perceived need to avoid backing the civilian government led by President Asif Ali Zardari into a corner. (India has specifically not accused the Pakistan government of involvement in the Mumbai attacks, pointing instead to militant groups supported by Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.) It also said the United States was wary of destabilising a partner on which it depends crucially as a transit route for supplies to Afghanistan, while also being hobbled by the change of administration in Washington.

So which way is the pendulum swinging — towards firm U.S. action that will allow Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to say he was right to put his faith in American diplomacy, or a lukewarm response that will either force India to act alone or leave its Congress-led government looking on in helpless frustration as it heads into a general election due by next May?

U.S. pressure has succeeded in pulling India and Pakistan back from the brink in the past.  When fighting erupted between the two newly declared nuclear-armed powers in the Kargil war in 1999, U.S. President Bill Clinton persuaded then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to pull Pakistani troops back. (Sharif paid a high price. Later in the year he was overthrown by then General Pervez Musharraf, a lesson unlikely to be lost on the current civilian government which is seen as wary of making too many concessions to India for fear of alienating the powerful Pakistan Army.)

Then after an attack on India’s parliament in December 2001 triggered the mobilisation of close to a million men along the two countries’ borders, the United States dived into another round of frantic diplomacy to persuade Pakistan to crack down on Kashmiri militant groups and the Indians to stand down.  Much of that diplomacy went on behind-the-scenes, though for an interesting Pakistani view of how close the two countries came to war in 2002, here is a link to an article written in January that year by the current Pakistan High Commissioner to Britain.

So what are the prospects in the current crisis?

Unlike in previous years, the Americans have become much more forthright about the extent to which they are willing to support Indian assertions that the roots of Islamist militancy lie in Pakistan.  When the Indians blamed the ISI for bombing its embassy in Kabul in July — a charge Pakistan denied — the Americans delivered by leaking reports of ISI involvement to U.S. newspapers, as I discussed in an earlier post.

After the Mumbai attacks, the New York Times has brushed off Pakistani denials of involvement with an op-ed boldly headlined The Pakistan Connection.

Bruce Riedel at the Brookings Institution has argued that “the most dangerous terrorist menace (to India) comes from groups with intimate connections to the global jihadist network centered around Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda and its allies in the Pakistani jihadist culture.”  Exploring links between the ISI and militant groups he says it nurtured to fight India in Kashmir, he says that Zardari’s ability to get control of the ISI “is still very much in doubt.”

At the other side of the world, The Australian has challenged what it calls “The dangerous illusion of independent terrorists” — the misconceived notion, it says, that perpetrators of attacks are non-state actors operating beyond the control of governments. “The radical increase in the lethality, range, political consequence and strategic influence of terrorists comes not from their being non-state actors at all. Instead it comes from their being sponsored by states,” it says.  Then in language that could have come straight from the Indian government, it says: “Pakistan has for many years been a significant state sponsor of terrorism.”

All that sounds like the kind of response the Indian prime minister was looking for when he said that “We expect the world community to recognise that the territory of the neighbouring country has been used for perpetrating this crime.”

But how will it play inside Pakistan, where a weak civilian government is delicately balanced against a powerful army that has run the country for much of its life, and which in turn is battling militants on its border with Afghanistan? And what too will it mean for the ordinary people of Pakistan, caught in the middle?


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Disaster! If good sense doesn’t prevail..

Posted by Anup | Report as abusive

There was an article in the paper saying that NWFP as well as in balouchistan pak forces found the containers as well as papers from the indian government. However when these evidence was put tothe Pak Gov they brushed it aside saying this is minor at a time when we are trying to build relation with over arch rival.

So they and many other evidense were put under the carpet, to put forward the hand of friendship. So many bombings has hapened in Pakistan but never have they pointed finger at India with the evidence. But still not happy then be it…

The people who are suggesting to stike Pakistan…try it talk of fight then WE KNOW HOW TO FIGHT TOO!!!!

Posted by Ali786 | Report as abusive

Shallow commentary with little substance and an anti-India bias is the hallmark of Macdonald’s reportage. While she has toned down the latter in this report it is, as always, devoid of meaningful analysis. For example, she quotes the current Pakistani Ambassador’s “analysis” of the 2002 Indo-Pak tensions as saying that the Indian Air Force readied air bases in “Jonpur” and Halwara to help the Indian Army on the Rajasthan front. The first base is non-existent while the second is over a 1000 kilometers from the Rajasthan frontline.

Posted by VijayD | Report as abusive

Vijay, are you saying that an article that links to three Indian publications, two Pakistani publications, two American publications and an Australian newspaper is evidence of shallow anti-India bias? Hmm.

Perhaps now you have taken the time to read through all those links, you might address the question in the article?

Posted by Myra MacDonald | Report as abusive -action-is-joke.html

Posted by Afghan LORD | Report as abusive

The US won’t be able to achieve much, at best there will be a few people arrested and a few superficial warnings. A long-term firm action though would be taken by banning these organisations and freezing all their assets. Kashmir has been a dispute for the past 60 years or so, but problems of extremism and military started only after 1988, the time when the ISI under Hamid Gul started a proxy war with the help of jihadi outfits. India has not been flexible in dealing with the Kashmir issue after that, but it has not trained commondo outfits to spread violence on ordinary citizens in Pakistan. Kashmir according to Rushdie is a problem of greed, of Indian and Pakistani greed, whereas the concern should be the Kashmiri people. It would take the LeT about 15 minutes to capture the whole of it if India backs off, so freedom from all is an unrealistic dream. There is no doubt about the hand of LeT, there is a wealth of evidence which Pakistan too has accepted.An unstable Pakistan is not in anyone’s interest but Pakistan as it is now is also a menace. Pakistan still believes that 9/11 was a CIA conspiracy and Mumbai is a Mossad inspired operation.I agree that sometimes India jumps to conclusions and starts blaming Pakistan but Mumbai 1993, Parliament attack 2001, Kabul embassy bombing and Mumbai 2008 are the handiworks of ISI backed jihadi outfits in Pakistan. If the US stops giving money to Pakistan, money that is diverted to hundred things other than the War on Terror, Pakistan will be on its knees in just two weeks time. They are recruiting terrorists for food and 200 rupees a month.

Posted by akant | Report as abusive

In the short term, the rhetoric of an existential threat from India or the US will be used in Pakistan to unify its severly fractured polity. This tactic has been used by the civilian/army rulers in the past; as a result, most likely, it will be used again.
In Pakistan, some cosmetic changes will be made because of international pressure however, there will not be any fundamental shift. India and Afghanistan will continue to bleed by the hit & run terrorist attacks originating from Pakistan.

Posted by Nikhil | Report as abusive

I believe any war between India and Pakistan in reaction to the Mumbai attacks is unlikely. This is because,

1) The Pakistanis know that the Americans, atleast for now, need them to stabilize Afghanistan. In return for more international aid, the terrorist activities against India may be curbed but will not be destroyed.

2) The Indians are up for general elections and most likely they will bring in another coalition government. Typically, coalition governments lack political will to take decisive actions, such as going to war.

3) No country, certainly not India, would want to be seen as responsible for toppling an elected Pakistani leadership, no matter however weak it may be.

4) The US (and India) has limited influence on Pakistan and they cannot corner Pakistan as much as they like. In the event of US sanctions, the cash rich and wannabe super-power China will happily lend a helping hand to belligerent Pakistan.

Posted by Nikhil | Report as abusive

Ironic! Pakistan is being tried to labelled as a sponsor of terrorism.
By same definition, the USA was sponsor of terrorism during the 80s by arming the Mujahideen against the soviets in Afghanistan. So wahts the big deal about Pakistan sponsoring terrorism? After all, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. This is the free world and era of freedom and democracy. Every country has a right of self defence. If Pakistan uses millitants as a proxy to fight the Indians in Kashmir, so what? Pakistan has the right to fight covert and overt wars and use nuclear and conventional weapons to ensure its defence and maintain deterrence.
As for the Americans, they need a strategic ally in Pakistan that could take care of their interests in the region. We have been a US ally since 1950. We understand them and they understand us. The notion that America will just assault Pakistan because India thinks Pakistan is sponsoring terrorism against India is childish. US has and always will act as a mediator between India and Pakistan unless India stops from negotiaitng with Pakistan directly.

Thanks and regards

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive

Pakistan foils Indian conspiracy

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Intelligence agencies once again made unsuccessful, the Indian awful conspiracy against state of Pakistan. According to details Pakistan intelligence got confirmed report about Indian conspiracy that Indian navy had planned to kidnap Pakistan cargo ship carrying cement for Sri Lanka. Intelligence sources said that Indian Navy had hatched a conspiracy to place arms on Pakistani cargo ship to put blame of smuggling of arms and ammunition on Pakistan government but Pakistani intelligence agency stopped that cargo ship at Karachi port.
December 08, 2008

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive

Extremism is deep rooted in Pakistan and it was planted, fed and brought up by ISI. Yesterday in NDTV(Indian news channel), Hamid Gul(ex-chief) was speaking like he was a saint. Zardari dismissing these rogue elements as non-state actors is like admitting that he don’t have any control over them.

Posted by Sudhir | Report as abusive

–Air-strikes by the Indian Airforce on ISI Jihadi training camps is soon going to be a regular feature like the Drone attacks..

Posted by Anup | Report as abusive

Pakistan Air Force is a force to be reckoned with. Let the fireworks begin, none of Indian pilots will return alive to their bases.

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive

If I replace the term Indians with Idiot than this would not be so inaccurate to do so. They don’t see the true picture, and they are really do not see the truth. Pakistan, the nation of great religion, has been many times accused of being sponsoring and supporting the Kashmiri freedom fighter, Afghan defense against soviet invasion and on many failures of indian defence for protecting its people, but no viable evidencs has ever been given either to Pakistan, United Nation. Many people from Pakistan have been accused of links with many riots in india but why no evidence has been provided or Interpol being contacted?. Recently they establish that the detained terrorist belongs to Pakistan, however the truth is that, which being hidden by Indian media is that all such details provided by india pertains to a person who have died 15 years ago – just ask yourself why indian or supporters of indian media are not showing the relatives of detained suspect, why not showing the videos of villagers who said that they knew that detained person – We all know that Indian media – Indian govt. is lying and lies don’t live and speak for long.
A person who had seen his mother, wife, sister, daughter being raped by soldiers, knives being put into thier sensitive body organs, infants being burnt alive, killing for no reason – this all happen in indian occupied Kashmir, indian Gujrat, and even mumbai – what do you expect him to do – he’ll fight for his defense – and will be termed by cowards as terrorist – yes he is a terrorist to those who made him to become one.
Previously they were showing photos in which so-called terrorist was wearing the thread band on his right hand – now they are showing the same picture without that band – isn’t it their effort to hide the truth that those persons were infact Hindu and actually planted by indians themself. How can they simply said that there exist no evidnce of any indian support – nobody would believe that only idiots can and they have accepted that as truth.

Long live and prosperous Pakistan.

Posted by Peace | Report as abusive

The World is tired of Pakistani complicity with Terorism.

Pakistani Politicians and ex or current intelligence officials like Hamid Gul always engage in “PLAUSIBLE DENIAL” tactics. This means, we don’t have knowledge or control of things, or someone else like Mosad or CIA or CID performed the terrorism.

You Pakistan and your leaders and politicians have no more credibility. Everytime you speak, you make conspiracy stores, lie, deflect blame, don’t take responsibility for your actions. Pakistani nationals, always try to create or fabricate stories to muddle or deflect blame, when Pakistanis are clearly to blame, even with evidence staring you in the face. This is what is called “Plausible Denial”. The epicentre for this type of pathologically deceitful behavior is learned from the Quaran. Lieing to non-muslims, or Kaffirs is justified in the Quaran.

Oh and by the way your useless aging military is no match against the might of the Indian Military, as they have far superior Planes, Tanks, equipment and soldiers.

Pakistan has provided or built nothing productive for the world except terrorism. Is it any wonder, why so many educated Pakistani’s leave to other countries for a better way of life?

A country built on hate and surviving barely, on food bank handouts cannot survive. Internal collapse and disintegration is unavoidable and guaranteed.

Posted by Indian Sovereignty | Report as abusive

Myra, I noticed in your comment on an earlier post that you are puzzled as to why Pakistan would attack Jewish people and Westerners in India when they risked reprisals from Israel and the US. Having observed the manner in which the Pakistani government (legislative branch) has played tightrope with diplomacy, terror outfits that it helped create and its own peoples’ sentiments, aside from satisfying its Executive branch, especially the army and the spy agency ISI, I do not find this a tough nut to crack.

Of course, the motive needs to be established in the face of evidence, not the other way around. And India has not wasted any time in pointing to Pakistan. Many in the media are clamouring for evidence. There are emails by the terrorists traced to Pakistan whose encryption FBI is helping India to crack (if this gives it any legitimacy), phone calls traced to Pakistan, contact names of LeT associates on the phones themselves, and the confessions of the captured terrorist that he was indeed recruited, trained and equipped for this task in Pakistan by the ISI. The equipment was sophisticated enough to be supplied by a state military, the accent of the terrorist was Pakistani.

I’m puzzled as to what more may constitute evidence.

Another troubling question is, what constitutes the Pakistani government? Is it the legislative branch, as represented by Mr. Zardari’s smiling face? Or is it the grim reality of Ayub Khan, the ISI and the army that sets its own budgets? Does the ISI care about US interests, or even that of the legislative branch? Perhaps the answer is so obvious that it will hurt to twist it. Sadly Pakistan is a country where the divergene interests of the sections of the government and the people have created trouble in India, and of course on its own soil.

Posted by Vijai | Report as abusive


I agree with you that India may not take any actions. Nor will our so-called friends support us. As usual India will swallow the pain, alone.

Samuel Huntington was so right. The Indic civilization is the only isolated major power in the world- with no allies, left to fight its battles alone. It is time for India to forge its own path.

Posted by Vijai | Report as abusive

Prosperous Pakistan!!!! sounds ironic.With the kind of economy at hand i’m sure your leaders will shudder at the word war.No wonder they started their act by arresting members of Let.and don’t think that Muslims in the whole world supports you.Please solve the issues you have at home and then venture out.India is now a world player.Please do remember that.

Posted by reejan | Report as abusive

Many of the intriguing questions you raise are answered in this interview with B Raman, former head of the R&AW. 814315

Whether you believe him or not, you will find these to be accurate representations of the reasons behind India’s skepticism toward Pakistan’s statements and actions.

Posted by Vijai | Report as abusive

reejan wrote
“India is now a world player.Please do remember that.”
Yeah, it took only 10 men to bring the whole country to its knees for 60 hours.
Before venturing into the vast world, just meet the challenge next door.

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive


Agreed that we are a developing country or a country of thrash. Why should terrorist think of attacking us, we have been slaves earlier to British now we are bonded labors to Americans.I don’t feel ashamed about that because that is the karma of this country. Are you guys any better of than us honestly ???.


India may never be able to forge anything of its own. You have a president who is 80 years old & you also have a primeminister who is 73 years old & an opposition leader who is 80 years old. Even if you are a patriot & want to give your life for this country you still need to pay bribe, this is the ugly fact.

Your bureacracy & politician is completely anti science,they do not have any innovative programe which incorporates science & technology to counter terrorism.We just got to drift along & hope for next 10 years we pray to god that Americans & israelis continue to be our friends. If you want to change india ensure you kick all these idiotic politicians & hand the charge of this country to a benign autocrat or the military with a politboru similar to china.Democracy is a failure for countries like India, china,Pakistan,Bangladesh others.A country which produces 5000 doctorates every year cannot think of a manhattan project also.In war it is said a army of sheeps led by tigers win not a army of tigers led by sheeps.

Posted by Vijay | Report as abusive


If only it were so simple to hand power to a benign autocrat and everything would turn out all right. The fact is, if we cannot have scrupulous elected officials, neither will we have scrupulous autocrats or a scrupulous military. Power in the hands of a few is far more treacherous than that in the hands of many. An autocratic country like China is prospering in the eyes of the world, but I’m skeptical about placing power in the hands of a superman to ensure the wellbeing of the others.

On the other hand I agree with you that our leaders, regardless of political affiliation, have let us down abominably. They have played us quite well. I do not know your views on these things, but a large section of our intelligent middle-class are myopic about political leaders’ attempts to divide us by ethnicity, religion and other fault lines. They do it by means of controversy. How have we become so ignorant as to focus on issues like conversions in Orissa to justify killing when there are criminals to be apprehended? There is no shred of hope to be found in the online chatterati whose views are childish to say the least.

It is not surprising to find one section bemoaning terror by another, while justifying its own terror. Why do we feel the need to distinguish between criminal acts? It may be time to look at our own hearts and wonder if we have any prejudice in there that keeps us from being good citizens.

Posted by Vijai | Report as abusive


Posted by J.P.GAJREE | Report as abusive

I am unable to comprehend why an Indian Brain proves world over except inside his own country. Its nation which is full of talent yet its so weak that every time Pakistan SLAPS us we go and show the finger prints on our cheek to world community. This is sheer weakness of character. Why do we seek world’s affirmation that “yes you were hit hard”.

Why can’t we act on our own and prove that we also have spine. At one stage you send spaceship to moon and at the same stage you have the audacity to tell the world that some body is pulling your pants down. You compete with world super powers, have the capabilities of fighting pirates in (Somalia) a different part of the world, send IPKF to Srilanka to fight other country’s rebels, but when it comes to defending your own country you have to develop “world opinion”.

You piggy-back on US & ISRAEL to initiate action, you are so naive that why would they act, they have their own interest and their own game plans. Did US waited to after 9/11, NO, they were capable and did not bother or wait for a “yes”.

To summaries India is a powerless country, led by powerless and just BOASTS. Just think how many friends India has developed in the world, what to talk of world, see our neighborhood even a country like Bangladesh, NEPAL, Sri Lanka are there any friends. What sort of diplomacy we have ?

Posted by Devesh Misra | Report as abusive

Devesh mishra.. India will definately act when its time to act.India is not yet a super power like US to act on its own when there are so many players in the region like pakistan. US did not act alone when it attacked afganistan..It took UN and NATO in to confidence. I call US a super power because the UN would be nothing with out the backing of US and its $$$..
This is not the time to show we have a spine but to show we have brain. There is no trophy that we can possibly win by hitting pakistan which is already half dead..and it would be a spoil sport to simply nullify the 8000 soldiers of UN fighting on afgan side of pakistan for 7 years..

Posted by Om | Report as abusive


Whether it is Brain or Brawm, The dirty manipulation of enemy Politics has costed Indian Life.I do not think our bloods are so cheap that any body can come spill & go unscathed.Unless a strong response is made it may result in more indian bloods being spilled. We need to stand up with or without international support.It is not a trophy we are after,but about punishment for crimes committed on our nation we are after.

Posted by Vijay | Report as abusive


Posted by Peace | Report as abusive

Vijay..everybody is frustrated and you said our blood is not so cheap, which is more the reason why India should not act in anger and out of shear frustration..Am not saying India should just forget the whole thing and stay quite..but should strike but at the right time, when it causes maximum pain..

Posted by Om | Report as abusive

Rightly pointed out by every one, India must act with Caution and at the right time, but this time India must not let it go without driving the whole affair to a logical end and making our dear neighbors understand well that this time the public is backing its leaders to take all necessary action to weed out the rats hiding in the hills of POK.

Posted by Rajesh kapila | Report as abusive

How sure are you guys that Usa and Israel are not behind the recent attack on Mumbai? i assume they have been seeking for support to keep the so called “war on terror” everywhere. someone of you might heard what the elect-president Obama mentioned while in his campaign ‘attack on Pakistan, a terror feeder’. now they got stonger reason to wage another war. my friend has been to Agganistan and saw there things. it happened a lot that american troopers setting up the bomb attacks there, accusing some terrorists, for justifying their presence on the land. so here we go…

Posted by Alan | Report as abusive

Alan, US or Isreal do not have to be doing something like a terror attack in mumbai to get Indias support to wage a attack on pakistan..and Obama or anybody in US and Isreal know that verywell..dont open a another can of worms..

Posted by om | Report as abusive

[…] more so given how much attention has has been focused on what the United States has been doing to lean on Pakistan to curb militant groups blamed by India for the attacks on Mumbai.  So what has been going on? Has […]

Posted by China, Pakistan and India « Defencedebates’s Weblog | Report as abusive

I don’t see why Pakistan would support these so called ‘islamist’ militant organizations given the trouble it is itself facing in its own land by these very groups.

Posted by muslim | Report as abusive

To Umair,

Umair, you exemplify the delusional Pakistani mindset. Your suicidal “bring it on” comments look out of touch when Pakistan is being whipped mercilessly; militarily, economically & politically.

Posted by Nikhil | Report as abusive

[…] more so given how much attention has has been focused on what the United States has been doing to lean on Pakistan to curb militant groups blamed by India for the attacks on Mumbai.  So what has been going on? Has […]

Posted by Webcastr News » Blog Archive » China, Pakistan and India | Report as abusive


Well, there you go again maam. Do you know HOW VERY difficult it is for our 2 nations to establish any credible milestone towards peace, and how LONG it takes for us to get there and then a few choice words from your varied and illustrious columns and in an instant we forget about ALL that protracted effort and pull out our swords! Only YOU would know if you’re contributing to peace in the Subcontinent. I would suggest – NOT.

HOW ABOUT you get to the ROOT of our mutual dissent? Confused aye?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, and please pardon my borrowing a line from the 1st Clinton run, allow me to remind you – that it is INDEED:


Instead of posting your wonderful spark ready catalysts all over the web, do you suppose you could come to the root of our mutual anguish? (thanks a LOT Lord Montbatten, how can we ever forget you!)

In fact the sooner India, the world’s biggest democracy, shakes off it’s positive allergy to SERIOUSLY discussing this important issue fully and finally (remember reading about the Kashmiri PLEBISCITE Ms. Mcdonald?) the sooner that WHOLE region and by extension, the West can feel safer. Our courageous Musharraf and his multi one-way unanswered gestures (how unfortunate) may have left the scene, but our Indian friends PLEASE understand this:

Cosmetic and mere lip service CBM’s, stubbornly refusing to include a chorus of near impatient 3rd party mediators (US PRES. OBAMA being the latest) with the real hope that the issue will somehow be swept under the rug by the passage of time are a waste of both time and money. Ain’t going to happen, and neither is Pakistan going anyplace.

HEEEELLLLLOOOOO???? Is the Indian government listening?

There Ms. Mcdonald, let’s see if you can rattle your ever ready pen on that one. Or should we continue to put the cart before the horse?

Posted by N. Javed | Report as abusive

[…] on this blog, in the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, India’s response was to look to the United States to put pressure on Pakistan. It also appears to have won some support from Russia, whose officials […]

Posted by Webcastr News » Blog Archive » India – aiming for diplomatic encirclement of Pakistan? | Report as abusive

sorry, its not the kashmir problem now,
its the terror from pakistan , stupid
kashmiris are realising that thay are better of in a growing india than in a religion crazed pakistan

Posted by pat | Report as abusive