In some ways, today's terrorist attacks in Mumbai (Bombay), India are unremarkable. India has been repeatedly attacked in recent years. Pakistani and Kashmiri based terrorist groups, as well as so-called homegrown terrorists, kill up to hundreds every year. But if the early reports are correct, then today's terrorist attacks seem unprecedented. As many as seven different locations (if not more) have been struck, with hostages taken. Most, if not all, of the targets are places that cater to westerners - restaurants, hotels, trains, etc. Moreover, the terrorists have laid siege to a couple of hotels and the terrorists are incredibly mobile, moving from location to location. The attacks are ongoing and the casualty count keeps rising. The result is a traumatized city and nation.
It is too early to tell with any precision who is behind these attacks. The smart money is on the multi-headed hydra of terrorist and extremist groups based in Pakistan and Kashmir. Indeed, Pakistan's intelligence service has waged a proxy war against India using terrorists for decades. The two nuclear powers have avoided a large-scale exchange, but the Pakistani ISI has repeatedly sponsored or aided terrorist groups targeting civilians in India. For example, Indian authorities were quite vocal in blaming Pakistan for the July 11, 2006 train bombings, which killed more than 200.
Today's attacks, if they are indeed a continuation of Pakistan's proxy war, threaten to destabilize relations between the two nations further. The contest for regional hegemony has played out across the region from Kashmir to Afghanistan. And terrorist groups have, once again, reminded India of their reach deep into the subcontinent. In the coming weeks, when the chaos has played out and authorities stabilize the situation, it will be crucial for American authorities to pay attention to the evidence accumulated by Indian authorities. It is possible that Pakistani intelligence played no role in this attack, but it is equally possible, if not likely, that they did.
All of the prime suspects have ties to Pakistani Intelligence: Kashmiri separatists, Pakistani extremists, and even the Taliban and al Qaeda. American authorities should, therefore, look not only for evidence of which specific terrorist groups are involved, but also evidence of ties to the ISI.