Bloggingheads on Mumbai Attacks

by Henry Farrell on November 30, 2008

I have a Bloggingheads on the Mumbai attacks with Sumit Ganguly, an expert on Indian politics at University of Indiana. Since Sumit, unlike me, knows a whole lot about the background and likely consequences, the format is more like an interview than a dialogue. Click below to see it (or “here”: for the home site).



eric 11.30.08 at 4:13 pm

Sumit mentioned at the beginning of this interview that it was wrong to think of Pakistan as a Weberian unified state holding the monopoly of (legitimate–an important word) violence. If the elected Pakistani government does not have the monopoly of violence, and cannot effectively control the ISI, then what is the point of the pressure that Sumit would like the US and the UK to put on this elected government? what does he think will happen?


Ben 11.30.08 at 7:59 pm

Thanks for the discussion, I found it very informative and interesting. I would also, like eric above, welcome any insights people have on the extent of autonomy and independence the ISI has within Pakistan. How does Sumit know that it can, and does, act independently of central mandate?

It’s no secret that Pakistan is politically volatile, and extremely factional. Does the ISI pursue ideological aims markedly different to those of the elected government?


a. y. mous 11.30.08 at 9:05 pm

Yes it does. The ISI is an army operation and always is at loggerheads with any govt. that does not have an General at its helm. And such govt.s actually like it that way. Gives them an exit clause when things go wrong, like now.

The Pak. foreign minister was in Delhi when these happened. The Indian PM makes a public demand that the head of ISI come over to Delhi as clinching evidence was on hand to link ISI with this. Qureshi addressed a press conference and answered “Yes, m’am. He will come and will be supportive.” A few hours later message reached Delhi, “An ISI director will come over for investigative assistance. Not the Director General.”


So, there.


larry 12.01.08 at 12:25 am

extremely informative discussion/interview. there is so much about this situation that leaves us in such ignorance we’re not even in the position to buy a clue at the moment. thanks for this.

ps. it’s a small thing…but it’s indiana university, not the university of indiana. as an alumni, i am bugged by this every time i see/hear it.


john b 12.01.08 at 1:31 am

The ISI is an army operation and always is at loggerheads with any govt. that does not have an General at its helm

Not even. The ISI is under even less central government control than the army (it’s easy if you’re used to western/mideast politics to view armies as forces of moderation and sanity like the Turkish army, but Zia decided it’d be a good idea to turn the Pakistani army and secret service into fundamentalist jihadi strongholds, and it’s proved unsurprisingly hard to get rid of them since). Even Musharraf couldn’t keep it in hand.

And such govt.s actually like it that way. Gives them an exit clause when things go wrong, like now.

I don’t think that’s fair – the last thing the current Pakistan government needs is the threat of a war (which it would lose, fatally) with India. However, the prospect of such a war would be excellent news for the fundaloonies and their allies in the ISI, as it’d bring down the moderates and create opportunities for them. The problem is simply that while the government wishes the ISI weren’t fighting crazy wars in India, it can’t stop them from doing so.

(solutions to this problem which are better than the current outcome, and don’t involve the saffron wingnut plan of ‘Pakistan -> glass’, are challenging.)


MoXmas 12.01.08 at 1:42 am

Indiana University. IU.

There is no “University of Indiana”.


MarkUp 12.01.08 at 1:51 am

which it would lose, fatally …. and create opportunities for them

The fundaloonies, having big bombs, may well be able to keep the more advanced force at bay. If the last resort weapons are removed, it would be naive to think the initial and primary targets of that superior force would not in fact be the ISI.


sam leo 12.01.08 at 3:44 am

Today I heard on CNN Fareed Zakaria who was interviewing Ratan TaTa on the Mumbai terror. Mr.TaTa said the India authorities was told to reduce as much collateral damage as possible to properties. Therefore they did not use stronger force on the terrorists and possibly save many lives.

To me this is the final prove that Indians are probably the only race on earth who will put so much value into material rather than saving their own. What a fukkin shame!!! Oh by the way, I am Indian.

When I first knew about dowry’s, was shocked to find out that Indian parents will sell their daughters to basically the highest bidder but never in a million years I would think the government of India will put more importance on property vs human life.


Nur al-Cubicle 12.01.08 at 4:00 am

I hope that India keeps its collective head.

I seem to remember some rogue CIA assets (Gladio network) who blew up a railroad station in Italy in 1980, killing quite a few exchange students and tourists.

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