Official Quits Amid Public Anger at India's Leadership

After a wave of coordinated terrorist attacks turned parts of Mumbai's financial district into a combat zone, officials in New Delhi, India, and Islamabad, Pakistan, grapple with the political and diplomatic fallout of India's deadliest terror attack in 15 years.
By Rama Lakshmi
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, December 1, 2008

NEW DELHI, Nov. 30 -- India on Sunday began grappling with the political and diplomatic fallout from one of its deadliest terror attacks in years, with the nation's top domestic security official resigning under pressure and the government struggling to fashion a response amid mounting evidence that the attackers who killed at least 174 people in Mumbai last week had ties to an outlawed group in Pakistan.

The resignation of Home Minister Shivraj Patil came amid a growing chorus of public criticism over intelligence failures in the lead-up to the attacks and delays in the security response in the hours after it began. Public anger toward the government spilled onto the streets as protesters held up signs in front of the burned-out Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel that read: "India has woken up. When will the politicians?"

More than 24 hours after the siege ended, authorities were still removing victims' bodies from the landmark hotel as distraught family members gathered. When politicians tried to express their condolences and give checks to the families of two of those killed -- a security commando and a police officer -- they were snubbed.

The public discontent is casting a shadow over India's fragile relations with its neighbor Pakistan. Preliminary Indian investigations have revealed that the gunmen were trained there and came to Mumbai on boats via the Arabian Sea. Indian security officials said Sunday that the only survivor among the 10 attackers was a member of the Kashmiri guerrilla group Lashkar-i-Taiba, which remains active in Pakistan despite having been banned nearly seven years ago.

"We are a nation outraged right now. And such incidents are always a grave setback to the peace process between India and Pakistan. This time our response will be very serious," Anand Sharma, India's deputy foreign minister, said in an interview Sunday.

Sharma said Pakistan had reneged on a promise made in 2004 not to allow its territory to be used for attacks against India by any groups. "We have strong evidence that the men came from Pakistan. We know how they were trained and how they came. Now it is up to Pakistan to deliver on its commitment."

Pakistani officials have steadfastly denied culpability.

"I don't think that this is the time for India or anybody in India to accuse Pakistan. It's time to work with Pakistan," said Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, speaking on the ABC News program "This Week." "Pakistan is now a democracy. India is a democracy. And as two democracies, we need to strengthen each other, rather than fall into the trap of the terrorists, who want us to fight with each other so that they can get greater strength."

As tensions rose Sunday, the Bush administration said it would dispatch Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to India on Wednesday. Among the dead in Mumbai last week were six U.S. citizens.

In upcoming meetings with President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon is expected to share findings from the investigation of the attacks. An FBI team landed in Mumbai on Sunday to assist in the probe, and Bush has pledged U.S. support for India's counterterrorism efforts.

Indian government officials said that although they had ruled out military action in response to the attacks, they were considering calling off the ongoing dialogue with Pakistan or suspending the five-year-old official cease-fire on the border. They also said they would consider slimming down the size of the Indian Embassy in Islamabad.

"The mood in the government towards Pakistan is definitely very hostile right now, but a military mobilization is unlikely," one official said. "We may go for a gradual, calibrated diplomatic offensive. But a lot will depend on how Pakistan responds in the coming days."

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