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Bombed but unbowed

July 12, 2006

MUMBAI, LIKE LONDON, IS A bustling center of finance and culture that looms larger in its countrymen's imaginations than any other city. On Tuesday, as London did almost exactly a year ago, Mumbai suffered a carefully coordinated, rush-hour attack on its commuter trains, killing at least 190 passengers and injuring hundreds more. And, just as London has, Mumbai can be expected to endure and thrive, not just as a symbol of India's promise but of its resolve.

Because of its stature in India, Mumbai -- formerly known as Bombay -- has long been a tempting terrorist target. The last time the city suffered such a large-scale attack was in 1993, when gangs retaliating for the destruction of a mosque ignited bombs and riots that killed and injured hundreds of people. The stock exchange was the central target. Three years ago, car bombs hit close to a prime spot for Indian tourism, the monumental Gateway of India (from which the last British ships departed in 1948) and the adjacent, five-star Taj Hotel. The years between and since have been punctuated by smaller-scale attacks.

Tuesday's blasts come at a time when the Indian economy -- which has excited investors in the country and around the globe for months -- is starting to falter, if only slightly. After three years of strong growth, India fears high inflation, a rise in interest rates and a flight of foreign investment, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has worked hard to attract. Privatization and liberal economic policies since the 1990s have fueled India's growth, which has pressed on despite terrorist attacks intended to give investors the jitters.

India remains as committed to economic reform today as it was Tuesday. And it should also remain committed to the peace process with Pakistan, as tension between the two countries also affects their economies. Tuesday's attack displayed the skillful planning that is a hallmark of Kashmiri terrorist groups, which India accuses Pakistan of backing or at least condoning. Even if such a group is responsible, India and Pakistan should maintain confidence-building measures, such as cross-border bus routes, and avoid unnecessary military escalation, as they largely have since 2002. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's quick condemnation of the attacks was a welcome sign that the bombs, devastating though they were, need not change the region's positive course.

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