AP/Mumbai Mirror, Sebastian D’souza
A gunman identified by police as Ajmal
Qasab in the Chatrapathi Sivaji Terminal
railway station in Mumbai, India, Nov. 26.

Indian Government Faces Tough Questions, Criticism After Mumbai Attacks

December 01, 2008 08:58 AM
by Emily Coakley
Shock and horror have given way to anger at politicians and the Indian government following the attacks in Mumbai.

Attacks Anger Indian Public, Politicians

Last week’s three-day siege of parts of Mumbai, which killed nearly 200 people, has led to the resignation of Shivraj Patil, India’s home minister, according to the International Herald Tribune. The Indian government’s failure to prevent the attacks and its actions during the siege have also been criticized.

“People are worried, but the key difference is anger. Does the government have the will, the ability to tackle the dangers we face?” said Rajesh Jain of the brokerage firm Pranav Securities, in an interview with the Associated Press.

All aspects of the situation, from the gunmen’s arrival by boat to the police response are being analyzed. Last year, a parliamentary report warned that the nation’s shorelines were vulnerable to people sneaking in.

The Herald Tribune said, “perhaps the most troubling question to emerge for the Indian authorities was how, if official estimates are accurate, just 10 gunmen could have caused so much carnage and repelled Indian security forces for more than three days in three different buildings.”

The Times of India asked why it took nine hours for an armed response team to get to the hotels under siege. In a step-by-step look at the security forces’ response, from the commandos being deployed to their arrival at the hotels, the Times said one of the delays was because a plane to carry 200 men had to be flown to New Delhi from another city. By the time the commandos were on their way to Mumbai, it had been more than four hours since the attacks began.

The Times said, “The obvious question is why is the NSG stationed only in Delhi. When Indian cities are vulnerable to terror attacks, why is there no commando force like the NSG, or its units, in every city?”

Newspapers and citizens are far from the only critics. The Hindu reported that the Bharatiya Janata Party originally called for national unity and an end to differences, only to begin criticizing the government less than 12 hours later. While the siege was still ongoing, Bharativa Janata unveiled a new ad campaign in New Delhi papers: “Brutal terror strikes at will, weak government, unwilling and incapable.”

On Sunday, the nation’s prime minister called a meeting of leaders from other political parties.

Other parties were quick to criticize BJP. Amar Singh, general secretary of the Samajwadi Party, told Express India “that it was extremely regrettable that BJP leaders were politicising the attack,” the paper said.

But Singh also said that security along the nation’s coasts is lax, and suggested that the security agencies be revamped.

Opinion & Analysis: What happens next?

Reuters looked at how the attacks in Mumbai might affect India’s politics, economy and stature in the region. Elections on the state and national level are scheduled early next year.

“The Congress-led government could be punished in the polls if voters blame the government for being soft,” Reuters said, adding that the BJP, whose antiterrorism stance has been a central part of the campaign, might benefit from the attacks.

Reuters said that it’s also possible that voters will stand by the government, seeking stability in a time of crisis.

The attacks could further intensify problems among India’s religious groups. Islamist militants have claimed responsibility for the attacks, and there could be a backlash against Muslims.

“There have been reports that Hindu militants have already carried out bombings this year in revenge for suspected Islamist attacks,” Reuters said.

On the economic front, India hasn’t been immune from the global credit crisis, and recent events could exacerbate the situation.

“Analysts say the attacks are likely to have a temporary effect on tourism and may shake investor confidence and that could hurt the economy. The government’s response to the rising threat of attacks is also seen as crucial to investor confidence, with a soft approach potentially damaging to foreign direct investment,” Reuters said.

There are also concerns about how the attacks could affect India’s already troubled relationship with neighboring Pakistan. Some have said Pakistan was involved in the siege, while Pakistan accused the Indian government of “playing politics” by pointing fingers, Reuters said.

Related Topic: Rising violence in India

Last week’s attacks on Mumbai were not the first incidents of terrorism the country has had to deal with this year. In October nine bombs went off in one province, and this summer was marked by frequent violence between Hindus and Christians. Before the attacks in Mumbai, there were questions about how the violence might affect local and national elections.

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