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Can bombings derail India-Pakistan peace?

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Police sifted through bombed train compartments and Mumbai residents went from hospital to hospital in search of missing relatives after the second-largest terror attack in India's recent history on Tuesday.

No one has claimed responsibility for the July 11 multiple bomb blasts, called 7/11 by news networks. But initial evidence points to the Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e Tayyaba and the India-based Students Islamic Movement of India, an organization that has been banned for its alleged terror activities.

The blasts in Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, come at a time of increasingly warm relations between India and Pakistan, two rival nuclear states that have fought four wars in their 57-year history.

Peace talks between India and Pakistan, begun in 2004, were due to resume this month, and security analysts now speculate that these blasts were intended to disrupt talks, or to punish India for its deepening US alliance. But now, as Indians struggle to understand why this attack has come at this time, the big question will be how India responds and what impact this has on peace and the continued economic growth of the region.

"Pakistan is a terrorist state; the only thing to do is neutralize it," says Ajai Sahni, director of the Institute of Conflict Management, a private think tank in New Delhi focusing on regional security. "India must give Pakistan an existential choice, between dismantling all the terrorist organizations on its soil and its continuation as a nation. After 9/11, the US told Pakistan that either you join us or become one of the states that we bomb. We have to inflict costs."

Under pressure to take aggressive action, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has thus far called for calm, and promised punishment for whoever is found to be responsible. "These elements have not yet understood that we Indians can stand united, that we will stand united," he said in a national address.

Pakistan quickly condemned the attacks as well. "Terrorism is a bane of our times and it must be condemned, rejected, and countered effectively and comprehensively," a foreign ministry spokesman said.


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