TNR special correspondent Joshua Kurlantzick examines the root causes of the increase of terrorism in India.
In the wake of the coordinated terror attacks this week in Mumbai, many Indian and Western observers seemed shocked by the brutality and skill of the attackers. But the terror strikes should not have come as such a surprise. After years of largely avoiding the kind of sophisticated Islamist terror that has been the hallmark of Al Qaeda, in the past year India has become, as much as Europe or the United States, a frontline in the global war on terror.
Until the past year, India, though often wracked by communal Muslim-Hindu violence, mostly had escaped coordinated terror attacks by groups like Al Qaeda offshoots--attacks that were highly sophisticated and also specifically targeted foreigners, the calling cards of Al Qaeda and its offshoots. (To be sure, Mumbai suffered attacks, like bombs placed in railway stations and trains in 2006, but none that targeted foreigners or involved sophisticated planning.)
In part, this was because there had been little radical infiltration of most Indian mosques. India's Muslims historically practiced a moderate, syncretic form of the faith, and for years Persian Gulf-based radicals groups found little welcome in the Indian Muslim community. Indian terror experts I know did not, until recently, believe Al Qaeda had established any kind of footprint in the country.
That has changed.