India can expect more terror attacks like the Mumbai carnage from Pakistan-based terrorist groups with high body counts and symbolic targets in an escalating terror campaign in South Asia, a study by a leading US think tank has warned.
"India will continue to face a serious jihadist threat from Pakistan-based terrorist groups, and neither Indian nor US Policy is likely to reduce that threat in the near future," said Angel Rabasa, lead author of the study and a senior political scientist with RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization.
"Other extremist groups in Pakistan likely will find inspiration in the Mumbai attacks, and we can expect more attacks with high body counts and symbolic targets.”
The Mumbai terrorist attacks suggest the possibility of a rise of a strategic terrorist culture, the study said.
The RAND study identifies the operational and tactical features of the attack, evaluates the response of Indian security forces, and analyzes the implications for India, Pakistan and the United States.
Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba has been blamed for the 26/11 strikes.
The report acknowledged that both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, making any military action a "dangerous course", but warned that if India does not respond, that "would signal a lack of Indian resolve or capability."
The selection of multiple targets —- Americans, Britons and Jews, as well as Indians — suggests that the terrorists intended the attack to serve multiple objectives that extended beyond the terrorists' previous focus on Kashmir and India.
Mumbai is India's commercial and entertainment center, and the attacks on landmark properties amplified the psychological impact, according to the report.
"The defining characteristic of the Mumbai attack, and what makes it so alarming, is not just the ruthless killing, but the meticulous planning and preparation that went into the operation,” said Brian Michael Jenkins, a leading terrorism expert and senior advisor at RAND.
Other authors of the study are former US Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill, now a senior fellow at RAND; Peter Chalk, Kim Cragin, C Christine Fair, Seth Jones, Nathaniel Shestak, all of RAND, and Ashley Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"The goal was not only to slaughter as many people as possible, but to target specific groups of people and facilities with political, cultural and emotional value. This indicates a level of strategic thought — a strategic culture — that poses a difficult challenge: not whether we can outgun the terrorists, but can we outthink them?".
One of the main lessons of Mumbai is that it exposed numerous weaknesses in India's counter-terrorism and threat mitigation structure, according to the report.
Without an appropriate response, Pakistan, or at least those elements of its military and intelligence leadership that are supportive of the activities of groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, are likely to conclude that these operations, in some measure, yield benefits that exceed the cost.
For these and a myriad other reasons, researchers say, India is likely to remain a target of Pakistan-based and indigenous Islamist terrorism for the foreseeable future.
The Mumbai attacks are significant in their audacity and ambition, as well as the complexity of the operation and the diversity of targets, according to researchers.
The report analyses key weaknesses in the country's general counter-terrorism and threat-mitigation structure, including gaps in coastal surveillance, inadequate "target hardening," incomplete execution of response protocols, response timing problems, inadequate counter-terrorism training and equipment for the local police, limitations of municipal fire and emergency services, flawed hostage-rescue plans, and poor strategic communications and information management.
The Mumbai terrorist attack has significant and potentially far-reaching implications for India, Pakistan, and the international community, according to the researchers.