Behind the timing of the Jaipur bombings

Why did terrorists carry out attacks in Jaipur yesterday?

Some hypotheses:

1. It’s just part of a long series. They struck when they were ready. Tactically, they set the bombs off on a day and at a time when they would do maximum damage. The venues were chosen to have another go at the “communal fabric”. The weakness of this argument is that by now, everyone knows that they are attempting to spark the communal tinder, and hence, are unlikely to allow it to spark.

2. Like B Raman has argued, the bombing was related to the tenth anniversary of Pokhran-II. That’s why they chose Rajasthan state. This was their way of sending a message that “you might have nukes, but you can’t stop us”. Such a message would be strategically pointless, because everyone knows that. Just like everyone knows that nuclear weapons have not stopped Naxalites, rapists, snatch thieves or drug smugglers either.

3. The bombing is related to the coming round of foreign minister level talks between India and Pakistan, scheduled for next week. It is aimed at disrupting the ‘peace process’. This works to the Pakistan’s disadvantage though, putting Islamabad on the defensive. (Going one level deeper, this might be the ISI’s way to put pressure on the uppity civilian government). But terrorists should surely know that India is unlikely to call off the talks, the prevailing mantra being “we won’t let terrorists disrupt the peace process”.

4. The bombing is related to elections in India. Al Qaeda, for instance, did this at Madrid. But the blasts are too far away from any election to make an electoral difference.

5. It’s back to the bad old days of Pakistan: border firing, infiltration in Jammu & Kashmir, escalation of jihad elsewhere in India. The new civilian government is the good cop and has plausible deniability, and the ISI/Army establishment is the bad cop. It’s a plausible explanation, but it’s a bit too early for this routine to start. One possible explanation is that Pervez Musharraf is demonstrating his usefulness. And he needs to demonstrate his usefulness to Washington for reasons of job security.

6. From an entirely different angle: they were meant to disrupt Indian Premier League cricket. It has already spooked Shane Warne, who plays for Rajasthan, was hundreds of miles away in Goa when the bombings occurred, but is considering the “real option of getting on the plane and getting out of here”.

Update:
7. SIMI and its related outfits were demonstrating that despite recent arrests of some of their leading operatives, their organisation and capabilities are intact.

Any more?

Update: Praveen Swami’s report supports hypothesis five

20 thoughts on “Behind the timing of the Jaipur bombings”

  1. I find these developments ominous because it just reinforces the fact that terrorists don’t just hit “hard” targets of strategic and economic importance. When it becomes too difficult to carry on operations on such targets, they will surely hit softer ones. Consider the terrorist at IISc for example. The terrorists want to spread terror, and they will do it in whatever way they can, wherever they can. If they cannot do it in a big way, they will still do it.

  2. Added even more later:

    Nitin’s very first possible reason covers the one I made….

    So my words above stand redundant.

    Nitin, pls delete my posts above. Tks.

    Ed – deleted as requested

  3. Nitin: doesn’t seem important to figure out the “why yesterday” part. Of far more consequence is the response. Given our spineless establishment, though, all our theorizing about a response is just that, I’m afraid. Seems we’re stuck with a eunuch-like response of comforting the next of kin of the dead and admiring the bravery of the living for “defying evil designs”.

    So I suggest we cool our rhetoric, cut the theorizing, get back to work and grow our economy as fast as we can. When we have a lot more money, we’ll have much more testosterone, and will need an outlet. Then we put out the flames in the neighborhood by liberally pi$$ing all over it.

  4. Not sure I understand Musharraf’s utility argument. One simple (also far fetched) argument – even if the blasts do not interrupt the ‘peace process’, they foul up the rhetoric. Not just in the foreign secretary talks, but also the media, tv channels, etc.

    If the atmosphere is vitiated, Pakistani army is a beneficiary. However, even if the army benefits, Musharraf’s gain is minimal.

  5. I agree with libertarian , its kind of pointless to try and track anniversary dates, there are too many of them anyway. But a combination of reasons 3 and 5 is what came up in the discussion here.

    And yes, some comments on these 2 posts do show that reason 1 is not entirely to be ruled out either. You dont need to be able to spark the tinder always but if you can keep fanning you can keep fires raging internally, polarizations alive.

    regards,
    jai

    PS: I can even come up with some reasoning for 6: its good for Indo-Pak peace and hence bad for jihadis to have these mixed cricket matches, Indian and Pakistani players playing together against other Indian and Pakistani players, with all this team spirit and camaraderie, over such a sustained length of time across so many Indian cities (its not some one-off friendly joint match somewhere).

  6. Manu,

    It is quite openly being said that President Musharraf will be shown the door after a decent interval…perhaps a year at most. Now if you are Musharraf and want to stay on as president, and recover some influence in Washington, what is the lowest cost option you have?

  7. Libertarian & Jai,

    The response is important.

    But the timing yields a clue to the strategic intent, and hence, allows the more accurate pinpointing of the parties that gave it the green signal. I’ve characterised this as a multi-player tit-for-tat game in a noisy environment; accurate targeting is important.

  8. No. 5.

    (Link) Excerpts:~
    Gillani: no compromise on Kashmiri cause

    Mr. Gillani called for an end to human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir and said his government was seeking “result-oriented” talks with India.

    He reminded them that it was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who had declared that Pakistan was ready to wage a 1,000-year war for Kashmir.

    Lauding the “supreme sacrifices” made by the Kashmiris to achieve self-determination, he said these would not be allowed to go waste. “Their struggle is not directed against anyone but is aimed at achieving the right to self-determination that was promised by the United Nations,” Mr. Gillani said. “This is a question of their rights and Kashmiris should get these rights.”

    Mr. Gillani said Pakistan would continue to extend “political, moral and diplomatic” support to the Kashmiri cause and continue efforts for the resolution of the dispute according to the aspirations of its people.

  9. Hello Nitin,

    What has paralysed the Indian establishment to inaction is pakistani nukes and their willingness to strike first. One of the ways out is to negotiate with the US for a strictly quid pro quo strategy. This is
    Co – Operation against iran, china and north korea for cutting up pakistan.

    Terrorism is not going to stop unless we attack the enemies plan. Only a comprehensivley defeated, demobilized and dismembered pakistan would end terror for all times.

    The incentive for americans is that they never have to look over their shoulders, and neither do they have to lose anything in terms of arms or men to eliminate a country that is a source of all terror.

    This is an achievable goal if Mccain succeeds Bush. On the Indian side, we need someone like Mr. Jaswant Singh or Mr. Arun Shourie to negotiate this. Not the wooly headed Mr. Advani.

  10. A thought. Would an encounter killing somewhere have prevented this massacre? Whose human rights are important: of the eighty plus people killed in the bombing or ofthose who rob innocent people of their right to life?

  11. You forgot this –

    8. BJP and its communal allies are igniting “communal passions” for electoral gains.

    I am so cynical these days that I actually believe this might be possible.

  12. More reasons:

    The bomb was actually meant for another occasion or another place but the activators of the bomb didnt know enough geography- or they waited so long for the right occasion and were frustrated. Many people think that the iisc bomb was meant to target the IT industry but the level of education of the bombers was so low that they didnt know the difference.

  13. #2
    “This was their way of sending a message that “you might have nukes, but you can’t stop us”. Such a message would be strategically pointless, because everyone knows that”

    But there’s no denying that it is an effective talking point. Its strategic value lies in systematic and slow demoralization and reinforcing (our) vulnerability.

  14. Terrorist incidents outside of Kashmir may be motivated by both local and global objectives:

    (1) Locally, the venue and timing may have been chosen to create chaos and strife – stoking communal passion, confusing the political dynamics ahead of elections, and the like.

    (2) Globally, these may be attempts by the pan-Islamic jehadi outfits to develop and maintain skills and cells – designed to be a low cost, low profile strategy (unlikely to invite much attention from or the involvement of international counter-terrorism outfits). This is like what the Japanese companies do, when they introduce, test, and hone new technologies and products in their domestic markets before they enter the foreign markets.

    The likely involvement of both SIMI and Al Quaida/Pakistan/Bangladesh based outfits in Jaipur and other recent incidents is indicative of these twin objectives. Exclusive focus on either one of these would be a mistake.

    The suggested formation of a federal counter-terrorism agency in India is a step in the right direction. It’s a tacit acknowledgment by the center that these incidents are much more than just “criminal” acts perpetrated by thugs. India must go beyond this. It should shed its doubts and inhibitions, and seek the active involvement of counter terrorism agencies from like-minded countries abroad, and simultaneously demand the involvement of its own agencies in terrorism on foreign soil, whatever the Left may say.

    The shadow of the crescent, part green and part red, is lengthening over India, I am afraid. It’s time to act now, before it’s too late.

  15. 8. Taslima Nasrin. Bangladesh based groups selected this target to signal their displeasure over the RJ govt hosting and giving refuge to Taslima for a while , and BJP leaders for defending her and making a plank out of it.

    rgds,
    Jai

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