Last week, many across the globe watched in abject horror as an armed band of terrorists, backed by radicals suspected to be operating out of Pakistan, attacked numerous landmarks across Mumbai, including the world-famous Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. While the final death toll is still unknown, it is estimated that at least 174 peopl-e, including several Americans, perished as a consequence of these cowardly and dishonorable attacks. We commiserate with the Indian people; this attack, like so many others perpetrated in India and elsewhere, was a horrible and reprehensible deed. Terrorism is not a legitimate political tactic, nor will it ever be.
The fact that the terrorists responsible for the attacks seem to be affiliated with groups located in the frontier areas of Pakistan adds a regional significance to this attack. For more than six decades, India and Pakistan have glared at each other over a heavily fortified and partially undefined border. Despite the alleged Pakistani origins of this terrorist group, the Indian government and its backers must realize that blaming the Pakistani state will never solve the real issues at stake. The political impasse over the disputed northwestern territories and Kashmir has led to an epidemic of lawlessness and an absence of effective governance in that region; it is imperative that both governments put their differences aside and build a lasting consensus on this territorial dispute. Most importantly, India must acknowledge that military action against Pakistan is not an acceptable solution to this problem.
However, while India should refrain from drastic measures against its western neighbor, the international community must realize that the Pakistani government must do more to guarantee its territorial integrity and internal security. Thanks to the lax policies adopted in Islamabad, radical Islamic groups have flourished in the frontier areas bordering Afghanistan, where they have attacked NATO forces and plotted terrorist attacks similar to the one that the world witnessed last week. If the Pakistani government wants to be taken seriously as a partner in the war on terrorism, it must secure its borders and stop Islamic militants from instigating violence in the region. Moreover, given the sheer volume of military aid that the United States has given Pakistan in recent years, Washington should make it clear that Islamabad should use its considerable military assets to fight terrorism, not mobilize in defense of a potential Indian attack.
As the world gets ready to welcome the Obama Administration, policymakers throughout the national security apparatus should realize the universal threat posed by terrorist cells and movements. Regardless of our geopolitical interests in the region—which are long overdue for a revision after the fall of the Soviet Union—Americans everywhere share a common cause with the Indian government in its effort to root out the groups responsible for this tragedy and bring them to justice. The new Administration can demonstrate its capacity for global leadership by combining the considerable anti-terror expertise of both governments. In particular, we see potential cooperation in counter-intelligence, military equipment, and training for Indian security forces.
Seven years ago, the world stood with America when it confronted the perpetrators of the devastating attacks on New York City. From Paris to Beijing, governments all over the world reached out to Washington to offer their support. Now that one of our fellow democracies is faced with a similar situation, we should reciprocate the Indian government’s generous support during the crucial weeks and months after 9/11. In the wake of this horrific tragedy, the United States has a unique opportunity to build, not burn bridges. It is high time that we do so.