`Another Mumbai type attack possible to provoke India-Pakistan conflict’

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : A leading US strategic think tank has suggested the possibility of another Mumbai type attack, saying “there is a strong jihadist strategic intent to launch a major attack against India in order to trigger a conflict between India and Pakistan”.

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“Such an attack would redirect Pakistani troops from battling these jihadists in Pakistan’s west toward the Indian border in the east,” Stratfor, which calls itself a global intelligence company, said in its annual forecast for 2010.

“Since the November 2008 Mumbai attack, India and the United States have garnered better intelligence on groups with such goals, making success less likely, but that hardly makes such attacks impossible,” it said.

Noting that as US implements its new Afghan strategy, “Islamabad is near a breakpoint both with Washington and the jihadists operating on Pakistani soil,” Stratfor said: “Thus it is here, not Afghanistan, where the nature of the war is shifting.”

“The bulk of the Al Qaeda leadership is believed to be not in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan. Increased cross-border US military activity – mostly drone strikes, but also special forces operations – will therefore be a defining characteristic of the conflict in 2010,” it said.

Even a moderate increase will be very notable to the Pakistanis, among whom the US efforts in Afghanistan (to say nothing of Pakistan) are already deeply unpopular, Stratfor said.

The US’ increased military presence and increased proclivity to operate in Pakistan would induce Islamabad to find a means of containing the military fallout, it said.

“US actions will force Pakistan’s military to expand the scope of its counter-insurgency offensive, which will turn heretofore neutral militants against the Pakistani state,” Stratfor said, noting “The consequence will be a sharp escalation in militant attacks across Pakistan, including deep into the Punjabi core.”

Pakistan also needs to find a way to manage US expectations that does not rupture bilateral relations, Stratfor said.

“Allowing or encouraging limited attacks on NATO supply lines running through Pakistan to Afghanistan is one option, as it sends Washington a message that too much pressure on Islamabad will lead to problems for the effort in Afghanistan.”

“But this approach has its limits. Pakistan depends upon US sponsorship and aid to maintain the balance of power with India,” the intelligence company said.

“Therefore a better tool is to share intelligence on groups the Americans want to target,” Stratfor said. “The trick is how to share that information in a way that will not set Pakistan on fire and that will not lead the Americans to demand such intelligence in ever-greater amounts.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])