Indian Army soldiers patrol near Ujh River of the Ghati area, about 85 kilometres southeast of Jammu, India, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2003. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Are its militants behind the Mumbai bombings?
Last Updated July 21, 2006
The July 11, 2006, attacks on packed commuter trains in Mumbai, India's main financial centre, had all the hallmarks of Kashmir's Muslim militants, according to India's media.
In particular they pointed to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan- and Kashmir-based group whose remote training camps have been linked to al-Qaeda, the Taliban and even some of Canada's recent terror suspects, according to recent news reports here and abroad.
No one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the rush-hour attack, which claimed more than 100 lives and followed by a day a similar attack in Srinagar, the capital of the Indian-controlled portion of disputed Kashmir. Only three formal arrests have been made in connection with the bombings, but hundreds of people have been detained for questioning.
Police have detained the three suspects they claim are linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba, according to the Indian media. And, investigators have said the powerful military explosives used in the bombings, called RDX, are a hallmark of Islamic militants fighting in India's part of Kashmir. But the Indian government has only said the Mumbai attacks were the result of terrorists; a spokesman for Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan has denied the organization was involved in either of the incidents. Mind you, the group stopped claiming responsibility for its attacks in 2002 after it was officially barred by the Pakistan government.
Still, Kashmir figures strongly as a rationale for this latest series of attacks. It has been called the world's most dangerous border and the likeliest place for nuclear war to erupt between its two long-standing rivals, India and Pakistan, with each claiming it as their own.
It has also become a prime exporter of urban terror, according to Indian and U.S. intelligence.
The Kashmiri connection
Lashkar-e-Taiba — the name means Army of the Pure — is particularly well known for its co-ordinated attacks and its ability to attract to its cause educated, middle-class students who can blend in easily in urban centres.
It is said to be responsible for the almost monthly bus and commuter train bombings that rocked Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) through most of 2003 as well as the attack on the Indian parliament in New Delhi in December 2001.
The granddaddy of those attacks was the infamous attack in Bombay in March 1993 — a co-ordinated same-day assault that destroyed parts of the stock exchange building, the Air India headquarters, the central bazaar and a number of major hotels. It left more than 230 dead and is said by some to be the model for the 9/11 attacks on the United States eight years later.
For jihadists, the fight to establish a fundamentalist Muslim state in Kashmir has become a particularly symbolic cause, not unlike what Afghanistan represented in the 1980s when the former Soviet Union tried to control it.
A land of imposing mountains and fertile valleys on the northern reaches of the Indian subcontinent, mainly Muslim Kashmir is effectively controlled by its two dominant and, in the past, warring neighbours — (Hindu) India and (Muslim) Pakistan. Though China has an interest as well because it has come to a border agreement with Pakistan that India doesn't recognize.
A disputed land
India regards all of Kashmir as being part of its territory, while Pakistan views the region as a disputed land whose borders are to be negotiated. Neither country has been willing to seriously entertain the idea of an independent Kashmir.
Fighting in Kashmir has been going on for decades, but resolving the dispute — or at least ensuring it doesn't get any worse — has taken on added importance in recent years.
Both countries successfully tested nuclear weapons within weeks of each other in May 1998, significantly raising the stakes in the long-simmering feud for the entire region.
In addition, Pakistan sits next door to Afghanistan, one of the main theatres in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. American forces say Taliban fighters are using Pakistan and possibly Kashmiri bases as a launching pad for attacks on southern Afghanistan, the part of the country Canadian forces are trying to subdue.
Although both India and Pakistan have expressed their support for the war on terrorism, reports of continuing cross-border attacks only add to the instability in the region.
A fragile peace
The announcement of peace talks between the two nuclear powers in January 2004 (the first in nearly three years) raised hopes that relations would finally improve. After all, the countries had come close to all-out war in the months following an attack on the Indian parliament in Delhi in December 2001 by Kashmiri separatists, and word the new talks would deal with Kashmir was seen as a hopeful sign.
In April 2005, during a visit to India by Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the two governments issued a statement calling the peace process "irreversible."
But the March 2006 visit to India by U.S. President George W. Bush may have put a small spanner in the works. Bush appeared to ignore Musharraf, an early ally in the war against terror while aligning himself more directly with India and even its nuclear ambitions.
The conflict between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and other areas of disagreement goes back more than 50 years.
While Mahatma Gandhi and his followers were spreading non-violent resistance against British rule, another movement was making headway in India. Muslims in India were demanding greater say in government. Hindus were the majority and therefore held most of the political power.
In August 1947, a solution came for both causes. India won independence from British rule, and a new state, a Muslim state, was created. This new state was given the name Pakistan, which means "land of the pure."
A history of war
The old country was split, with various regions holding votes to decide whether they wanted to be a part of India or of Pakistan. The results came in and the new borders drawn up. But the transition had more than a few problems.
For one, the announcement of the new borders caused the greatest migration in human history as millions of Muslims left India for Pakistan while millions of Hindus left Pakistan for India. Secondly, the new nation of Pakistan consisted of two separate chunks of land, which sat at opposite sides of India, a problem that would later lead to the creation, following a bloody war, of yet another new country, Bangladesh.
Then there was Kashmir. With the deadline for the vote passed, Kashmir had failed to choose whether it wanted to be part of India or Pakistan, leaving the issue unresolved. It didn't take long for Pakistan and India to begin fighting over it.
Only two months after independence was won, tribesmen from Pakistan's North West Frontier province invaded Kashmir. At the time, the population of Kashmir was about 80-per-cent Muslim.
The invasion caused Hari Singh, the Maharajah of Kashmir, to sign an accord joining Kashmir with India. Indian troops were sent in to defend what was now Indian territory.
The war ended on Jan. 1, 1949 with the United Nations creating a ceasefire line, known as the "line of control." Azad Kashmir, a region in northwest Kashmir, was given to Pakistan.
In 1965, war broke out again in Kashmir and continued until both governments signed a ceasefire agreement negotiated by the British.
But Kashmir remains a contentious issue. In the last 10 years, fighting in Kashmir has claimed the lives of between 30,000 and 60,000 people.
- Canadian Consular Affairs bureau
- Pakistan Special Weapons Guide (Federation of American Scientists)
- India Special Weapons (Federation of American Scientists)
- CIA World Factbook Facts and figures on countries
- The Story of Pakistan
- Virtual Bangladesh
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