The unknown consequences

Published

James Porteous

Although Guardian sometimes does not have the resources to cover all the events that we would wish to report on as a news-led publication (usually in the case of news that is geographically difficult to reach), there are times when the scope of the paper must expand to encompass moments of worldwide significance. With at least 170 dead and hundreds more injured, the horrific attacks witnessed last week in Mumbai certainly fall within this category.

Already being referred to by many as ‘India’s 9/11’, the actions of ten armed men over three days of bloody violence have brought a city to its knees, and focused the attention of the world on India’s financial centre. All the while, the West has sat spectator, watching a country react to an act of terror on one of its greatest cities, the landmarks within it, and the people unfortunate enough to be caught up in the bloodshed.

Harrowing images of bloodstained station concourses, burning buildings, and the innocent dead dominate the press coverage of Western media outlets, making comparisons to the attacks on New York seven years ago simple enough to draw. The biggest concern when discussing the Mumbai attacks in this context stems from what will happen next, which in the case of 9/11, involved the disastrous ‘War on Terror’, which to this day is still leading to the deaths of many people.

Indian attention has now turned from the organisation that originally claimed responsibility (whose declaration has subsequently been dismissed as a hoax) to engaging its northern neighbour, Pakistan, in accusation and posturing over who is responsible for the massacre. The event has the potential to erupt into a much more damaging and far-reaching situation than the violence seen so far; both countries have a lengthy history of conflict and both are already discussing what possible military action they may take – most worrying of all, however, is the fact that both countries posses nuclear weapons.

With the attacks now over, the terrorists dead (or in one case, captured), and their victims now being treated or laid to rest, the attribution of blame is inevitable — but motives are unclear, and the backing of the gunmen is still the subject of intense speculation. In the next few days, possibly even before you have read this, it is likely that a degree of clarity will emerge in terms of what the political repercussions of last week’s events in Mumbai will be.

The world will have to wait to see whether the atrocities served as a rogue act punctuating a fragile peace, or the precursor to something far more serious.