'Another terror attack in India will lead to war'
Washington: Another major terrorist attack in India of the magnitude similar to the 26/11 strike originating from Pakistan could easily escalate into a regional war, scholars, former diplomats and US officials have warned ahead of the 10th anniversary of the deadly Mumbai terror attack.
Some 166 people, including Americans, were killed in the attack carried out by Pakistan-based 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists. Nine of the attackers were killed by police while lone survivor Ajmal Kasab was captured and hanged after handed down death sentence by an Indian court.
Perpetrators of the 26/11 attack, including its mastermind and banned Jamat-ud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Speed, continue to roam freely in Pakistan, indicating that Islamabad is not serious in bringing them to justice. The US has offered a USD 10 million reward for information that brings Saeed to justice. The 26/11 attack case has entered into the 10th year but none of its seven suspects in Pakistan has been punished yet, showing that the case had never been in its priority list.
"The victims of 26/11 have yet to see the masterminds of the attack in the LeT and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) face justice; unfortunately, that is virtually impossible in Pakistan," former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official Bruce Riedel told PTI.
Riedel, senior fellow and director of Brookings Intelligence Project, believes that another terror attack in India of similar magnitude would result in a war between the two countries. "If another attack of this magnitude occurs, there will be war," he said. Pakistan's former envoy to the US Husain Haqqani said: "With US-Pakistan relations in a tailspin and hawkish attitudes dominating the subcontinent, one cannot predict if and how the situation would be controlled in the event of another major terrorist attack in India, with clear linkages to groups in Pakistan".
Currently a senior fellow and Director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute, Haqqani said Pakistan "must fulfil its promise of acting" against the masterminds of the 26/11 attack.
"That it has chosen to let them operate freely raises the justifiable concern that Pakistan's deep state does not want to deter or punish terrorists responsible for attacks in India.
"In 2008, Pakistan's promise of acting against the LeT and those involved in the Mumbai attack prevented escalation of India-Pakistan hostilities. The US also helped calm things down by sharing intelligence with both Pakistan and India," he said. Agreed a senior Bush administration official, who was inside the White House at the time of the 26/11 attack.
"That (India-Pakistan war) was a primary concern and a primary scenario that we wanted to avoid," Anish Goel, who was director of South Asia in the National Security Council of the White House at the time of the 26/11 attack, told PTI.
Noting that there was a lot of pressure on then Prime minister Manmohan Singh "to react kinetically", Goel said then US president George Bush and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice had to make a lot of efforts including several phone calls to New Delhi, Islamabad and leaders of several American allies to prevent such a scenario.