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Paris attack invokes Mumbai memories in U.S.

The terrorist attack on Paris has invoked memories of Mumbai 2008 yet again in the Western world, but its impact on Pakistan and its relations with the U.S. may not be to India’s liking. Six Americans were among the 164 killed by LeT terrorists in Mumbai.

Pakistan Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif, who arrived in Washington even as the Paris terror was unfolding, had meetings with a wide range of U.S. officials, including Vice-President Joseph Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter over five days.

Gen. Sharif’s meeting with Mr. Biden, who had U.S. Special Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Olson, and Special Assistant for South Asia affairs, Peter Lavoy, and defence and national security representatives as part of his delegation, lasted for more than two hours. Statements from the U.S. officials and lawmakers underscored Pakistan’s importance – in their scheme of things – in dealing with Islamist terror and the Afghanistan situation.

But Congressman Brad Sherman, who is also Chairman Emeritus on the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade – highlighted the irony of it all in a letter to Mr. Biden, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Carter on November 17. “I urge you to indicate (to Gen. Sharif) that continued American military aid to Pakistan is dependent upon good faith efforts by Pakistan to crack down on terrorist organisations,” he wrote, attaching an expert article that compared Paris and Mumbai.

In the article cited by Mr. Sherman, former CIA official and now Director, The Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institution Bruce Ridel wrote: “The horrific terrorist attack in Paris was likely modeled on an earlier terrorist horror, on November 26-29 in Mumbai….(that) set a gold standard for how a small group of suicidal fanatics can paralyse a major city….It was supported by the Pakistani intelligence service ISI and al-Qaeda….Lashkar-e-Taiba paid no penalty for its attack, nor did its Pakistani patrons. The group’s senior leadership operates freely in Pakistan and enjoys the support and protection of the Pakistani Army. LET is more dangerous today than ever.”

But the series of recent statements from administration officials and senior lawmakers, starting with the joint statement by President Barack Obama and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in October lauded Pakistan’s counterterrorism initiatives, indicating a different understanding.

In the latest, Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said after his meeting with Gen. Sharif on Friday: “We value our relationship with Pakistan during these very challenging times. ..Under the leadership of General Sharif, the Pakistani Army has inflicted losses to the enemy at great sacrifice. I thanked General Sharif for his leadership and expressed my appreciation for the sacrifice of so many brave Pakistani soldiers in the fight against terrorism.”

Mumbai and LeT appear as minor footnotes in the big picture of the anti-Islamist campaign, from U.S. perspective. Pressed for details on Gen. Sharif’s interaction with Mr. Kerry, State Department spokesperson John Kirby said: “…I’m well aware of the lives lost in the Mumbai attacks. Look, I don’t have great detail in terms of every item discussed.. This is an important relationship (with Pakistan). It’s a complex relationship, and it’s one we want to continue to improve.

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