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The bombs' reverberations

November 01, 2005

GUERRILLAS SEEKING INDEPENDENCE for Kashmir, perhaps assisted by Pakistan, are the natural suspects in terror attacks in India, such as Saturday's bombings in New Delhi. India's government deserves credit for not reflexively blaming Pakistan and for not letting the attacks interfere with aid to victims of the earthquake that devastated Kashmir last month.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reportedly told Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Monday that there were unspecified hints of a foreign link to the bombings, and he reminded Musharraf of his promise to fight terrorism. But Singh stopped well short of blaming Pakistan, despite a shared history that includes three wars, two of them over Kashmir, a disputed territory that both nations occupy. Musharraf condemned the bombings as "a dastardly terrorist attack," and he said Pakistan would fully cooperate in any investigation.

A little-known group claimed responsibility for the bombings at two markets and on a bus, which together killed 59 people and injured 210. The claim has not been verified, but the group has ominous ties to a much larger terrorist organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba. Pakistan banned Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2002, a month after the group was blamed for an attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi that killed more than a dozen people, including five assailants. But an offshoot of the organization operates in Pakistan and has been providing medical treatment and supplies for survivors of the Oct. 8 earthquake that was centered near the capital of Pakistani-held Kashmir.

The earthquake killed at least 54,000 people in Pakistan and more than 1,000 in India. The United Nations has warned that thousands more will die unless money and supplies reach survivors in the Himalayan mountains, some of the world's most difficult terrain.

Despite the New Delhi attacks, the Indian and Pakistani governments have agreed to let people, starting next Monday, cross the border at five normally closed points in Kashmir to help provide food, shelter and medicine to victims of the quake, which left 3 million homeless, mostly in Pakistan.

It has taken much longer than it should have for India and Pakistan to put aside political differences and respond to the great need for humanitarian assistance after the earthquake. If Pakistan is found to have been involved in Saturday's attacks, New Delhi will find it impossible to open the border crossings. But if Musharraf's government is cleared, the bombings will be further evidence, as in London and Bali in recent months, that independent cells are able to wreak havoc on their own. Bombers freelancing from Kashmir also would demonstrate terrorists' desire to stop the peace process, such as it is, between India and Pakistan.

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