Maximum City, the writer Suketu Mehta called it. Mumbai's courage in the face of unimaginable horror is epic in scale, like the carnage it experienced on Tuesday. No other metropolis in the world has had to deal with serial bombings on the scale Mumbai has had to over the past decade-and-a-half. Tuesday's tragedy was preceded by the Gateway of India bombings of August 2003, in which 52 people were killed and more than 150 injured; and that attack was preceded by the worst terrorist atrocity in the history of independent India the serial bombings of 1993, which claimed more than 300 lives. Yet few cities anywhere have demonstrated the special kinds of fortitude and resilience Mumbai residents showed in the minutes and hours after the latest attacks. At no small risk to life and limb, given the prospect of secondary explosions, they pitched in to move the several hundred injured in the bombings to hospitals. Others offered stranded commuters what help they could. Mumbaikars showed a stoic willingness to accept delays in making relief available, ensuring that stretched doctors, emergency staff, and police officials did not have to waste time dealing with protests and complaints. Within hours Mumbai's suburban train system was restored to a functional state; and most offices opened for business as usual the morning after. Most important, Mumbai's residents denied the perpetrators of terror their strategic objective: a major communal riot that would have torn apart India's Hindus and Muslims, and gifted the terror groups hundreds of new recruits to their poisonous cause.
What lies ahead now? Tuesday's tragedy makes it imperative for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to engage with two separate policy challenges. India's domestic intelligence service, the Intelligence Bureau, needs to be given the kinds of resources its counterparts across the world have discovered to be essential to combating modern terrorism. While the Intelligence Bureau has demonstrated its professional skills by interdicting several terror modules in recent months, its capabilities need to be enhanced and modernised. Plans to upgrade the country's communication-intelligence capabilities and to create an efficient national counterterrorism database have been mired in bureaucratic disputes over expenditure and procedure. The Prime Minister must also push State government and city administrators to put proper crisis management protocols in place. Despite the repeated demonstration of the vulnerability of our cities to terrorist strikes, not one urban centre has the resources to deal with the fallout from major attacks. Mumbai's doctors, police officers, administrators, and commuters all had to improvise solutions. While they demonstrated commitment and enterprise, dozens of lives might have been saved had the system invested in highly skilled emergency response teams of the kind London has. Just how chaotic official responses to the terror strike were is evident from the fact that Mumbai's police force proved unable to stop television teams from gaining access to the bombing sites and posing the risk of inadvertently contaminating or destroying forensic evidence.
Dealing with the second challenge will be even harder for its solutions lie far beyond India's borders. Prime Minister Singh has repeatedly made clear his unhappiness with Pakistan's failure to act against terrorist groups based on its soil. Islamabad has responded with flat denials of credible charges that terror training camps exist on its soil, and that it harbours criminals like Dawood Ibrahim Kaksar, the architect of the 1993 bombings. Such denials have begun to wear thin and not just for Indian audiences. Shahzad Tanweer, one of the men who bombed the London underground system in July, 2005, is reported to have been trained at a Lashkar-run facility. Further, Assem Hammoud, a Lebanese national arrested in Beirut this April for planning to bomb New York City, told his interrogators that he intended to acquire the specialist skills needed for the operation at a camp in Pakistan. According to a press release issued by Lebanon's counter-terrorism organisation, the Internal Security Forces, Hammoud "was intending to travel to Pakistan in the near future to undertake a training course [which was] to last for four months." United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has made no secret of her unhappiness over the continued failure of Pakistan's military regime to act against jihadist groups operating in Afghanistan. Ms. Rice chose not to address a joint press conference with Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, at the end of his recent visit to the United States a gesture of disapproval that left little to the imagination.
This is the moment for the Prime Minister to leverage growing international outrage to compel Pakistan to deliver on its repeated promises to end terrorism directed at India. Indeed it can be argued that the future of India-Pakistan détente will depend on his ability to do this, for each terrorist strike diminishes the reservoir of public goodwill underpinning the détente process. The External Affairs Ministry has done well publicly to urge Pakistan to "dismantle the infrastructure of terror and act resolutely against individuals and groups who are responsible for terrorist violence"; to fulfil its commitments enshrined in the India-Pakistan Joint Press Statement of January 2004; and to draw back from making any links between a lack of resolution of bilateral disputes and the terrorist bombings. Judging by the evidence so far available, it is probable that the Mumbai bombings were by the same terrorist group that has carried out a series of high-profile attacks across India in recent months the Lashkar-e-Taiba. While both the Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami and the Jaish-e-Mohammad have executed major attacks, most experts believe neither organisation has the capability to carry out a terrorist operation of the scale Mumbai experienced on Tuesday. The police investigators should be able to track down fairly swiftly at least some of the Lashkar operatives behind the strike, but their Pakistan-based leadership will remain untouched. India must demand an end to this longstanding impunity by ensuring that the Mumbai Police builds a solid body of evidence. It is possible that no level of international pressure will deliver the results India seeks. Pro-jihadist elements in Pakistan's military establishment might believe that the defiance of United States edicts by Iran and North Korea demonstrates that there are limits to the West's coercive powers and that in any case the jihad against India can be pursued at no great strategic cost. Dealing with the Lashkar's maximum terror poses tough challenges, but hard decisions based on a rigorous analysis of India's options in the face of recurrent acts of terror can no longer be deferred.