Madrid, London, Mumbai, Next?

The seven explosions that ripped through packed commuter trains during rush hour Tuesday in India’s commercial capital Mumbai killing close to 200 people and injuring scores, immediately conjures up images of the strike on Madrid’s train system in 2004 that killed 191 people and the London blasts on July 7, 2005, where four jihadist bombers detonated homemade explosives concealed in backpacks, killing themselves and 52 travelers on three subway trains and a double-decker bus. If one was to add the 9/11 New York terrorist attack in the list of similar incidents in the last five years, it points to only one thing—the intent of international terrorists desperate to destroy the citadels of peace and democracy in these countries. It is also too much of a coincidence that the timing of the Mumbai blasts, just ahead of the G-8 summit, also draws parallels with last year’s London bombings.

The July 11 series of explosions in Mumbai that ripped through packed commuter trains is an attempt by terrorists to recreate a fear psychosis similar to the one created in Post 9-11. Tuesday’s bombing had a surprise element to it not that there was no threat perception. A terror attack on India was inevitable - it was a case of when, not if. And this threat perception will remain for several obvious reasons; one of them being India’s political stand on the US led global war on terror. There are obvious similarities between the attacks in Mumbai with that of London and Madrid. All these countries are in the forefront of the war on terrorism along with the US. Countries that have lent support to this global campaign have been at the receiving end of terror groups. The Bali bombing targeting Australian citizens is a case in point. 

Whether it was Madrid, London or Mumbai, the other commonality has been that all the incidents so far have been well-coordinated attacks and the handiwork of no ordinary terrorists but those having global reach and influence. The sophistication of the Mumbai attack, suggests ties to international terror groups, perhaps working through a local militant outfit. Another interesting parallel is that the targets of all the above mentioned terrorist attacks have been the people who represent the face of a globalizing economy, the professionals and entrepreneurial workforce. The attacks were also timed to impose maximum carnage on the bustling cities and the rail network appears to be the target of choice for international terror groups. This emerging pattern has to be thoroughly looked into while reviewing security. If Mumbai’s suburban train network can be infiltrated and bombed so can Delhi’s Metro and New York’s subway. The advance in technology and communication has equipped global terrorists with an easy and convenient tool to mastermind damage on a massive scale. Therein lies the greatest threat to a country’s security and how best to neutralize this factor will remain a major challenge to safeguard global security.

In the backdrop of the Mumbai blasts, world leaders assembling for the G-8 Summit in Russia this week have a difficult task in hand on how to approach the global war on terror, the crisis in Iraq and Afghanistan without triggering further violence. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who will be present as a special invitee has an opportunity to spell out India’s suggestion on how to go about in the global war on terror. It has to be pointed out that a successful campaign against terrorism requires other non-military elements. One of them is resolving conflicts particularly in West Asia the breeding ground for discontent and hostile groups to emerge with a message of their own. The Mumbai bombing carries that same message—the need to address political problems in a fair and just manner. India must point this out with the G8 leaders this week. A world order that encourages grievances to linger will also be a world that will have many more of New York, Madrid, London and Mumbai.