KOLKATA - Ever since the devastating terror attack on Mumbai by a group of
militants in November 2008, India has been living in fear of more. Few thought
it would take until February 2010 for the next strike - on Saturday a bomb
ripped through a German bakery in the western Indian city of Pune, killing 10
people and injuring more than 60.
Experts fear the attack signals the beginning of a new wave. "I am more
astonished by the fact that we did not have an attack in 2009. Given that India
remains as vulnerable today as it was on 26/11, we were expecting a serious
attack in 2009 as well," said Ajai Sahni, the founder-director of the
Delhi-based Institute of Conflict Management, a noted internal security
"It was an attack on a soft target and there will be many more to
come and the amazing thing is not that a local eatery was attacked; the amazing
thing is that there are a dozen other soft targets that have not been attacked
Sahni added that the state of Indian internal security is "deplorable". He said
that while the blast in Pune had some of the tell-tale signs of a terror attack
- targeting foreigners as well as Indians - that it was different. For one, he
said, it was directed solely at a soft target, and it did not have a suicide
element - a bomb was left in a backpack.
The bakery is located near the ashram of an international spiritual
organization, the Osho Ashram, which is visited mostly by foreigners. It is
also very near Chabad House - a center for disseminating orthodox Jewish
religious beliefs. In this way, the attack met the criteria of hitting
foreigners, including Jews, and Indians.
"The operation was conducted by persons with basic knowledge of explosives
which indicated that the terrorists who planted the bomb may not have had any
special expertise or training. But the attack was cleverly targeted and
implemented," said B Raman, an ex-Indian intelligence official and presently
the director of the Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai.
The attack was timed to derail a planned resumption of India-Pakistan peace
talks, said K Subrahmanyam, a noted security expert. "Jihadis and extremists in
the region do not want India and Pakistan to conduct any kind of reconciliatory
talks and thus carried out the attack at an opportune time in an effort to
jeopardize that move," he said.
Despite initial doubts, India has decided to go ahead with talks between the
foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan.
According to Subrahmanyam, the blast was also triggered by an ongoing offensive
against the Taliban in Marjah in Helmand province in Afghanistan by coalition
"As soon as the Americans started the attack on Marjah, Taliban sympathizers in
Pakistan needed a strategy that could facilitate an easy entry of the Afghan
Taliban coming from Afghanistan to Pakistan," he said. "By attacking India,
these sympathizers are hoping to increase tensions between the two countries,
which will force Pakistan to move forces away from the Af-Pak border to the
Indo-Pak border, thereby making the Af-Pak border a little more porous for the
fleeing Afghan Taliban," said Subrahmanyam.
M D Nalapat, director of the Department of Geopolitics at Manipal University,
believes that the Pune attack was carried out by Indian nationals trained by
Pakistan-based jihadis and that its mastermind is inside India.
"Ever since the Mumbai attacks, India has been preparing for another seaborne
attack; or a fresh attack that could land from abroad. The country has not been
paying equal attention to threats emerging from homegrown terror cells," said
India has a sizeable number of extremists within the country who are active in
planning and executing terrorist attacks. Nalapat reckons that despite large
numbers of arrests in recent years close to 200 domestic extremists are still
at large operating either as sleeper cells or in small groups planning other
Some Indian investigators suspect the Pune attack was the handiwork of a local
extremist group called the Indian Mujahideen, as part of the so-called "Karachi
Project". This involves fugitive Indian jihadis and sources from the Pakistani
army who are trying to keep an offensive against India alive.
"The objective of the attack was also to create a deniability that attackers
did not originate from Pakistani soil," said Nalapat. "We must accept that we
are now facing an entirely different tactic of an attack planned and carried
out by a homegrown terror outfit, and that has to be ruthlessly nipped in the
Indrajit Basu is a correspondent for Asia Times Online based in Kolkata.