Mumbai Bombs Complicate India-Pakistan Peace Efforts

Following the bombings of commuter trains in Mumbai that killed 200 people on 11 July 2006, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh scolded Pakistan on Friday for failing to rein in terrorism and warned that this could endanger the peace process. “These terrorist modules are instigated, inspired and supported by elements across the border without which they cannot act with such devastating effect,” Singh said. “I have explained it to the government of Pakistan at the highest level that if the acts of terrorism are not controlled, it is exceedingly difficult for any government to carry forward what may be called as normalization and peace process.”

There have been no claims of responsibility for the bombings. Indian officials said they suspected Pakistan-based extremists, Lashkar-e-Taiba, but the group denied any involvement. Pakistan was at pains to distance itself from the bloodshed in India.

India and Pakistan have been engaged in an effort to normalize their relations during the past four years, following a tense military standoff after the Indian Parliament was attacked by gunmen in December 2001. The Pakistani Foreign Office denounced Singh's allusion to Pakistani links as "unsubstantiated" and said it welcomed the continuation of peace talks. The next round, between the foreign secretaries of both countries, was scheduled to begin later in July.

The Indian government has come under intense domestic political pressure. Prime Minister Singh, a proponent of engagement with Islamabad, faces criticism from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and part of the Indian public for being too lenient on Pakistan.

If militant groups were indeed behind the attacks, their aim would have been to thwart improved relations between India and Pakistan. However, forensic tests indicated that lower-grade industrial explosives were used in the attack, which could mean that the bombs were planted by local groups, possibly organized crime.

Somini Sengupta, “Peace Talks in Peril, India Warns Pakistan,” International Herald Tribune, 15 July 2006.
Richard Beeston, “Muslim Militants Are Prime Suspects in Bomb Attacks,” Times Online (London), 11 July 2006.