Bombings may threaten India-Pakistan relations
Islamic militants claim to be targeting Indian cities to stoke communal tensions.
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But analysts say that stoking communal tensions is not the sole objective of recent attacks. "These people want to hurt the country in any way possible," says Ajay Sahni, a terrorism expert at the Institute for Conflict Management in Delhi. "Causing communal tensions is a secondary objective to that. If I wanted to whip up communal riots I would ensure that only Hindus were killed whereas these attacks are occurring in areas with mixed populations." Indeed, Saturday's attacks occurred in Ahmedabad's old city, which houses many Muslims.Skip to next paragraph
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In recent years, there have been regular, fatal bomb blasts in cities across India. Many have targeted religious sites: a temple in the ancient pilgrimage city of Varanasi in 2006, a mosque near Mumbai (Bombay) later that year, and another mosque, during Friday prayers, in the southern city of Hyderabad in 2007.
Such accusations of cross-border terrorism are a legacy of the cold war between India and Pakistan, during which Pakistan has used militancy as a tool to destabilize India.
Many believe that Islamabad retains links to militant groups, although the degree to which it remains operationally in control is unclear, especially at a time when Pakistan itself is suffering from an upsurge of Islamic militancy. Pakistan, meanwhile, denies backing any Islamic militants, including those operating in the disputed Himalayan state of Kashmir.
The recent bomb attacks come at a time when the Pakistan-India peace process is under strain. Amid one of the sharpest exchanges between the neighbors since they launched peace talks in 2004, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said that "elements" in Pakistan were behind a resurgence in militant activities, including the recent bomb attack at the Indian Embassy in Kabul that killed 58 people, including two Indian diplomats.
"There have been statements by leaders of Pakistan, inciting terror," Mr. Menon said. "There are such statements from some government officials and this incitement of violence has culminated in suicide blasts.... All investigations point to Pakistan being behind the blast."
The involvement of home-grown Indian terrorists in such attacks is also of increasing concern here. "In the wake of 9/11 there was a lot of satisfaction that no Indian national was involved in terrorism in India," says Mr. Bhaskar. "I would be cautious in saying that was changing, but it may be that we are reaching some sort of tipping point."