India, Israel and the Bomb (Extract)

Extract from a story in Issue 20, January 19, 2009 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. When Israel looks at India after November's terror attacks in Mumbai, it should see a cautionary tale. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, Israel could find itself staring into a subcontinental mirror. Just as it is for Israel, terrorism is sadly a familiar problem for Indians. Mumbai suffered its first bombings in March 1993 and a series of train blasts in July 2006. In December 2001, the Muslim Lashkar-e-Taiba, the same group blamed for the recent outrages, struck India's Parliament building in New Delhi and killed seven. Since then, terrorists have struck in the Indian cities of Ayodhya, Jaipur, New Delhi and Mumbai and killed hundreds. The main motive for groups like Lashkar is bringing about the expulsion of India from the southern and central parts of the border region of Kashmir, claimed by neighboring Muslim Pakistan. India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the territory and an active insurgency there is tying down the Indian Army. Like the Palestinian terror groups and the IRA, Lashkar-e-Taiba has extended its campaign from the disputed territories to the heartland of its enemy. The main sanctuary for anti-Indian terrorism is Pakistan. That country has allowed terror groups to maintain training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and other areas. Moreover, Lashkar and groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed (Army of Mohammed) maintain close ties with Pakistan's military intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Like Lebanon or the Palestinian Authority (PA), a sovereign government has allowed private armies to operate in its territory and even aided their activities. The European Parliament declared after the Mumbai attacks: "Despite having a democratic government, there is confirmed evidence of Pakistan hosting several terrorist groups and using them as an instrument of terrorism, particularly against India." The Pakistani government has mimicked the PA's often half-hearted efforts at suppressing terror groups. A month after the attack on the Indian Parliament, Pakistani authorities arrested and soon released several Lashkar-e-Taiba members. Despite international sympathy being on the side of India and the clear evidence of a problematic Pakistani role, Islamabad's possession of nuclear weapons has hamstrung New Delhi's capacity to respond. After the December 2001 attack, India massed troops on its western border, but fearing an escalation that might lead to nuclear war, it pulled its army back and refrained from attacking terrorist sites in its neighbor's territory. At the time of writing, India's only response to the recent Mumbai attacks has been to lodge diplomatic protests and hand Pakistan a list of 20 terror suspects for extradition. In contrast to India, Israel has followed a policy of retaliation against terrorist attacks for decades. But in the very near future, when it confronts Hamas or Hizballah, it may have to take into account the specter of a nuclear Iran with extensive ties to terror. Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, based in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, provide Hizballah with tactical assistance for attacks against Israel; the Iranians give hundreds of millions of dollars to the organization each year; and Iran has also supplied Hamas with significant financial support since its electoral victory in 2006 over Fatah. Naim M. Peress is a lawyer and writer living in New York. Extract from a story in Issue 20, January 19, 2009 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.