Indian and Pakistani governments' means of detecting, preventing and responding to Mumbai type incidents needs to be strengthened to reduce the vulnerability of their relations to them, two US analysts have suggested.
The Nov 26-29 terror attacks blamed on Pakistan based terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) ushered in a period of high tension between India and Pakistan, noted Teresita C. Schaffer and Sabala Baskar.
Schaffer is director of the South Asia Programme at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank, while Baskar is a research intern there.
Mumbai attacks also sparked the beginnings of an effort to reform India's internal security response, and may have opened a door to expanded cooperation between the US and India against terrorism.
But, more importantly, the attacks underscored how vulnerable India-Pakistan relations are to incidents of this sort, especially when governments are weak or elections loom, Schaffer and Baskar said.
"After the Mumbai attacks, caution prevailed during India's internal deliberations. However, analysts were convinced that another attack of this sort might push India's political leaders to a more forceful" and potentially more dangerous "response", the duo said.
"This possibility reflects the need for a democratic government, especially one facing elections, to show that it can defend its country," they said, suggesting "the argument that a stable Pakistan serves India's interest has little political resonance within the country".
While details of the forensic cooperation between India and the US have not been released, it is clear that US officials were impressed and sobered by what they found, and that the US conveyed this clearly to Pakistan.
This appears to have been a factor in facilitating a relatively constructive Pakistani response.
The 2008 Mumbai episode contrasts with several previous terrorist incidents in which US-India cooperation was clearly hamstrung by US inability to straightforwardly deal with the problem of actual or potential Pakistani involvement.
This may open the door to stronger anti-terrorism cooperation between Delhi and Washington, an important potential addition to the relationship the two countries have been developing, the two researchers said.
But the Mumbai attacks also demonstrated how quickly a seemingly stable India-Pakistan environment can deteriorate.
"Besides the familiar arguments for political leadership and persistent diplomacy between India and Pakistan, one factor in reducing this vulnerability is strengthening both governments' means of detecting, preventing, and responding to such incidents," Schaffer and Baskar suggested.