The attacks in Bombay likely were carried out by Hindi-speaking, homegrown Islamists with possible links to elements within the Pakistani intelligence community who have built their careers and personal fortunes around the Kashmir issue. These elements are serving notice that they would resist Zardari's dramatic departure from a long-established policy of enmity against India.
While the attacks, which claimed more than 100 lives, may have been addressed to Zardari, their primary target was India.
India is home to nearly 200 million Muslims, making it one of the world's largest "Muslim" countries. Until recently, however, a majority of Indian Muslims have steered clear of radical politics. Apart from the issue of Kashmir, which has at times turned them against the authorities in New Delhi, most Indian Muslims have been loyal to the Indian republic, appreciating its secular and democratic nature. India is the only country that allows its Muslim minority to apply the rules of Sharia (Islamic cannon law) to a range of issues of private life.
That India may now face a homegrown Islamist terror movement operating far beyond Kashmir is certainly bad news. This may be an indication that pan-Islamism is gaining ground among the younger generation of Indian Muslims. The key feature of pan-Islamism is its goal of "liberating" all lands that once were ruled by Muslims - from India to Spain and southern France, passing by parts of China and Russia, as well as the Balkans.
That the Bombay attackers wish to advertise their Indian identity is indicated by the name of the group that has claimed responsibility. Unless it is a cover for other groups, the name Mujahedeen (Holy Warriors) of Deccan is clearly designed to underline the group's ambition to strike throughout India. Deccan, a region in south-central India, has been the cultural heart of Indian Islam for centuries.
India is targeted for a number of reasons. Its recent close ties to the United States, symbolized by a nuclear-cooperation accord signed in Washington recently, has angered the Islamist movement all over the world. Jihadists also hate India for the financial support it provides to the government of President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, while also helping train the new Afghan army and police.
The Bombay attacks had two other messages. The first was that India's recent economic boom is fragile and vulnerable to pressure from radical elements. The second was that India is no longer hospitable for Western citizens, especially Jews and other non-Muslims. The fact that US and British citizens were specifically targeted to be taken as hostages and that one group of the terrorists raided Bombay's largest Jewish center was meant to discourage non-Indians from visiting, let alone working, in the mega-city of 12 million.
One reason that Islamists may be looking for bases within their own homelands is the loss of training sites and safe havens in Afghanistan, while Pakistan has also become inhospitable territory.
Meanwhile, part of the media has tried to link the Bombay attacks to al Qaeda. This may be saying too much or too little. As an organization capable of exercising operational control over any group, al Qaeda is all but dead. The best information available, plus the buzz in Jihadi circles, indicates that al Qaeda is still collecting some funds, especially in the Persian Gulf, and funneling part of it to militant groups across the globe. Beyond that, however, al Qaeda is more of a brand, a kind of franchise, and a source of inspiration rather than command and control.
In Bombay, the Jihadis used a new style of attack, consisting of a range of operations that are traditionally used one by one. They have seized control of territory, carried out suicide operations, conducted military-style attacks and seized hostages, all in the context of a single multiform campaign of terror.
This new style, a kind of smorgasbord of terrorist tactics served at one go, confused the Indian counterterrorist units and army elite. Terrorism is a mutating monster, and Bombay's experience could be repeated in other big cities across the globe. Counterterrorism doctrine needs to readjust itself for what is a major tactical change in the way Jihadism works. Amir Taheri in the New York Post