A year ago this week, the world was horrified by the scenes unfolding on 24-hour news channels in the heart of one of Asia’s great cities. Those who were there, or who witnessed it on television, will never forget those images — especially those from the Taj Mahal Hotel on Mumbai’s waterfront. The cold-blooded killers who planned the attack had deliberately sought to make it as public and horrifying as possible, in the hope of terrorising all who saw it.
It is hard for rational, civilised people to understand what could drive young men to carry out such atrocities -- or what sort of people could dream up such macabre plans. But, a year on, it seems clear that this was an effort to spark conflict in the region -- and that it failed in this aim.
The reason why it failed was the way India reacted to the attacks. While the people of India were understandably furious that such events should take place on Indian soil, the calm restraint and steadfast resolve shown by the Indian government was the best possible riposte to those who were trying to create havoc and heighten tension around the region.
Huge impact on U.K.
As my Prime Minister made clear during his visit to India shortly after the attacks, the U.K. was — and is — determined to stand shoulder to shoulder with India in the fight against terrorism. Over the last year, we have been true to our word, and U.K. and Indian authorities have worked closer than ever to stop further attacks from happening.
It was quickly recognised that the Mumbai attacks emanated from Pakistan. The British government has been working with the Pakistani authorities over the last year to try to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice, and further such attacks do not happen. I don’t say this simply through empathy for the victims and their families of bombings and shootings across South Asia -- of which there are far too many -- but because terrorism with roots in this region also has a huge impact on my country. As I have said before, three quarters of the most serious terror plots being investigated by U.K. authorities have links to South Asia. Unless and until this threat is dismantled, people in Europe and Asia will continue to face the sort of indiscriminate killing that we saw in London in 2005 and in Mumbai last year.
Despite these regional security problems, this is a hugely exciting moment in India’s history. The economy is booming despite the global downturn; it has a huge workforce; and India is educating more of its young people than ever before. We have long argued for India to be a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, and India’s leading contributions in recent G20 meetings and in discussions in the run-up to the Copenhagen Summit have shown that India deserves a place at global top tables.
I see it as part of my job as High Commissioner to ensure that the U.K. does whatever it can, in partnership with India, to make sure that India’s enormous potential is not held back by murderous and utterly misguided terrorists. The British High Commission here in Delhi, and the British government more widely, will do what it can to support India in its efforts to eradicate this scourge of terrorism.
(Sir Richard Stagg is U.K. High Commissioner to India.)