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India, Pakistan Relations Hurt By Mumbai Attack


And the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last week have again highlighted how national security issues will be among the biggest challenges for the Obama administration. And one of the most volatile of the relationships that President-elect Obama will be dealing with is between India and Pakistan. When gunmen attacked a number of targets in Mumbai, they were well-armed and well-trained. And authorities say they arrived on boats from Pakistan. The only gunman who was captured turned out to be Pakistani. The attacks have put improving relations between the two nuclear powers at risk. NPR's Philip Reeves reports on what's at stake.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

PHILIP REEVES: This is where two worlds meet, and this is how they bid each other goodnight.

(Soundbite of man calling out a long-drawn-out note)

REEVES: On one side stretching westwards lies the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, on the other, India. The sun's going down at Wagah, along the border between the two.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering and whistling)

REEVES: On this evening a few weeks ago, the border guards lower the flags and close the gates just as they do every evening. Soldiers strut and goosestep and glower, watched by enthusiastic crowds on either side. Yet the mood's more like a ballgame than a military ceremony. The Indian onlookers cheerfully root for their side.

(Soundbite of crowd chanting)

REEVES: And the Pakistanis root for theirs.

(Soundbite of crowd chanting and applauding)

REEVES: If you peer beyond the gate, you'll see a wide, new highway stretching into Pakistan. The Indians are widening the road on their side, too. They've been getting ready for increased trade. Now, once again, their relationship's in trouble. A senior Indian government minister has directly linked the Mumbai attacks to Pakistan. India's TV news channels are expressing outrage.

(Soundbite of Indian TV news channel)

Unidentified Announcer: The evidence - a detailed route from Karachi to Mumbai and back.

REEVES: So are the newspapers. One of Mumbai's leading dailies, DNA, says Pakistan should be isolated diplomatically. Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, has appealed to India not to punish his country. Remember, his wife Benazir Bhutto is thought to have been assassinated by Islamist militants. Zardari told The Financial Times newspaper the actions of rogue non-state actors could provoke a war. Saber rattling's common in the relationship between India and Pakistan, but that relationship is now at its lowest point since 2002 when these nuclear-armed neighbors massed their armies along the border after an attack on India's parliament.

(Soundbite of bells jingling and a horse trotting)

REEVES: An empty silver carriage glides along Mumbai's waterfront towards the battered hulk of the Taj Mahal Hotel. It's scouting for tourists, but there aren't many around. The few dozen people who are here have come to gaze at a scene they're still struggling to believe happened. Jaldeep Bajwah(ph) and his wife, Sonja(ph), plant a candle next to dozens of others that are now lighting up the night in memory of the dead. He's an IT executive. She's a fashion designer. Like many here, they're less willing to jump to conclusions about the Mumbai attacks than some of India's politicians and pundits.

Ms. SONIA BAJWAH (Indian Fashion Designer): We don't know who's doing it. They say it's the ISI or the other jihadists.

REEVES: That's the Pakistani intelligence agency.

Ms. BAJWAH: Yeah, that's what they say. But, you know, what they say and what is are always different things.

Mr. JALDEEP BAJWAH (Indian IT Executive): This thing has stemmed from Pakistan. I mean, clearly the problem is related to the Kashmir issue. That's what we believe. Also, it's related to the fact that our economy is doing well even in a downturn. And these guys just want - these terrorists want to create a very bad impression of India.

REEVES: In what way would it be in the interest of Pakistan to orchestrate an attack like this? I mean, I'm trying to figure out what the reasoning would be if someone from there, if they were to...

Ms. BAJWAH: See, the point - I don't believe we have to raise issues about Pakistan and India. What is more important is to address the problem, not to start playing a blame game.

Mr. BAJWAH: Like, she's right. I don't think it's, you know, Pakistan who they should really hurt. These terrorists were trained in Pakistan, but this probably goes back to Saudi or, you know, whichever. These Taliban and, you know, al-Qaeda, these are all part of a big terrorist group.

REEVES: A global...

Ms. BAJWAH: It's a global problem. Like, again, I said, we don't want to address Pakistan.

Mr. BAJWAH: Probably the Pakistanis were not even aware.

REEVES: A small crowd's gathered to listen to the debate. People begin to argue about whether Pakistan should be blamed and to what extent. Fund manager Sudir Changiani(ph) joins in. He says Pakistan's government is responsible, even if it had nothing to do with the attack. Your point, sir.

Mr. SUDIR CHANGIANI (Indian Fund Manager): Every government has a responsibility for what's happening on its turf. That's what governance is. A government governs its turf, its people, and the actions of them. And you say, oh, their government do that, so we can't do anything. You have a responsibility to ensure that your turf is not used for all that stuff. Otherwise, don't govern. These guys who've got the camps there, you've got to go after them. You've got to go and single them out and get them.

REEVES: And if they don't, India should act.

Mr. CHANGIANI: Yeah. Of course.

REEVES: By doing what?

Mr. CHANGIANI By whatever means necessary.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Mumbai. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.