Little comfort can be drawn from the formal charging of seven Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) members for masterminding the Mumbai attacks on the eve of the first anniversary of 26/11. If anything, the fortuitous timing of the court action leaves a sense that Pakistan’s legal action against the Lashkar members is political rather than process-driven. This is one reason why pressure from the United States continues to be the best hope India has that some form of punishment will be meted out to the terrorist leaders. The other hope had been that the Pakistani establishment would push the case out of a recognition that its long-standing support for terror was proving damaging to Pakistan. Sadly, outside a few individuals, there is little evidence this sentiment has taken hold anywhere in Islamabad. Worse, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged during his recent visit to the United States, the present civilian government in Pakistan has no authority to even negotiate with India — let alone take on the entrenched strength of the Lashkar.
This means expectations regarding what will happen in Pakistan should be low. The chances the LeT will be forced to shut shop are negligible. India can, at best, hope that the intensity of international pressure will force the Lashkar members to stay out of the terrorism business for a few years. This will give time for India to reform its domestic security system, improve its intelligence systems and strengthen its border defences. If Dame Fortune smiles, it is possible Pakistan’s mindset may also undergo a sea-change during this time and belatedly conclude Lashkar’s utility has reached its expiry date.
This is why the anniversary of 26/11 is as much a time of concern as it is a time of remembrance. The LeT is quite open in its desire to continue its war against India. The Pakistani state is even weaker than it was last year with its military distracted by its operations against the Tehreek-e-Taliban in Pakistan. The Obama administration has become increasingly consumed by fears about the costs of waging a war against the Taliban. Finally, India’s own domestic security reforms remain only half-implemented. Another Mumbai-type terrorist attack may never happen. But the news from Pakistan and the rest of the world does not give anyone grounds for optimism.