After Mumbai Attacks, Tensions With Pakistan Loom

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India says terrorists who killed nearly 200 people last week were from a Pakistani militant group. Pakistan, in turn, says there's no evidence of that. Freelance journalist Graham Usher, who is based in Islamabad, Pakistan, says people on both sides are worried the rivals are on their way to another war.


From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Robert Siegel. India says the attacks in Mumbai were carried out by elements from Pakistan. That was what the Indian foreign ministry told Pakistan's representative in New Delhi today.

That conclusion is evidently based in part on the interrogation of the one surviving gunman who is in police custody. He is said to have identified himself as Ajmal Amir Kasab, a Pakistani citizen, and he is reported to have said that he belonged to Lashkar-e-Taiba, that's a Pakistani group that's been blamed for attacks in the contested region of Kashmir, which India administers.

So far, there's no indication of a diplomatic rupture between the two states, which have often been at war, and both are nuclear armed. But as some Indian ministers have offered resignations for their failure to prevent the attack, people are asking the Pakistanis to own up to their responsibility, whatever that might be. Secretary of State Rice has urged the Pakistanis to follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Well, joining us now is freelance journalist Graham Usher, who is based in Pakistan, and, Graham Usher, what do you think of the implication that if the gunmen were Pakistanis and at least one belonged to a group that's Pakistani, then somehow, what happened is Pakistan's responsibility? What do the people there make of that?

Mr. GRAHAM USHER (Freelance Journalist; Contributing Editor, Middle East Report): Well, I think the general view in Pakistan is that India was engaging in a blame game. The initial response to the carnage that occurred in Mumbai by most Pakistanis was one of empathy.

However, in the wake of the attacks and particularly given the very belligerent statement, as they are read here, at least, from the Indian government that Pakistan elements are somehow involved in this has met with a degree of resentment. Even if Pakistan elements are involved or a Pakistani group were involved, it's difficult to see why the Pakistani government or, indeed, the Pakistani army should be implicated in some way.

SIEGEL: When the group is named, the group Lashkar-e-Taiba, what does that connote for Pakistanis? What might their view of that group be?

Mr. USHER: It will connote two things. First of all, Lashkar-e-Taiba is a group that is actually in Indian-administered Kashmir. It's been involved in the anti-Indian insurgency that has been raging there for over a decade. Amongst the more knowledgeable, they will be aware that Laskhar-e-Taiba was set up by the Pakistan intelligence agency, the ISI, in the late 1980s to fight a proxy war with India for Indian controlled Kashmir. Now, that policy was stopped after 9/11, and in 2002, Lashkar-e-Taiba was banned by the Pakistani government.

There is a degree - a history of collusion between the ISI and Lashkar-e-Taiba, but there is no evidence of collusion between the intelligence agencies in Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba in Mumbai. In fact, there has been no evidence presented yet other than the testimony of the arrested government extracted while under arrest that Lashkar-e-Taiba are involved in this act.

SIEGEL: And people call the area that you cover, I mean, the whole subcontinent the scariest place on earth. We've got two countries that have fought several wars, and they both have nuclear arsenals. Are people worried about another Indo-Pakistani war right now?

Mr. USHER: Yes. I mean, certainly, the fear of the villages that I visited to in the last few days, and these are relatively close to the border with India and would literally be the front line if another war broke out, are terrified. The last thing most people want in Pakistan is a conflict on their eastern borders, not only because it would be unwinnable because both countries are nuclear armed, but because they already have a raging insurgency on the western border with Afghanistan.

For the last four years, there has been a peace process between the two armies, and both sides would admit that relations between Pakistan and India have never been better because of that peace process. Very few people in Pakistan want it to end.

SIEGEL: Freelance journalist Graham Usher in Pakistan. Thank you very much.

Mr. USHER: Thank you.

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