The view from the sixth floor suites at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai is breathtaking.

At sunrise, looking out on the Arabian Sea, one can see the majestic Gateway of India on the left, the red sun emerging across the bay, and boats of all colours coming into harbour, while the crowds start to gather on the street below.

the sheer magnificence of the tableaux, replete with history - the Indo-Saracenic Gate was built to celebrate the 1911 visit to India of King George V; the grandiose hotel with its signature domes dates from 1903 - is overwhelming, part and parcel of the fascination that Mother India exercises.

This is the point from where the last British troops left old India in 1948; today, it is the point of entry for many foreign businessmen and women drawn by the allure of the new India.

Haunted by violence

As I watched on the television screen the smoke coming out of the windows of one of these suites, where I stayed many times, I could not but reflect on the tragedy and wanton destruction brought about by jihadi terrorists on today's India, the one country in South Asia with a vibrant democracy, a prosperous economy and stable institutions.

Surrounded by a rocky neighbourhood - one only has to go through the list of some of India's neighbours (Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) to realise how daunting the challenge of securing India's borders is - India has been a bastion of stability in a region haunted by violence and fanatic extremists. It is precisely for that reason that jihadists have taken it on.

Mumbai, the old Bombay, 'Maximum City', with its 14 million population, its condition as India's financial and commercial capital, headquarters of the Stock Exchange and of India's Reserve Bank, as well as of its largest economic groups - the Tatas, the Ambanis, the Birlas - is today one of the terrorists' favourite targets.

Since March 12, 1993, when 15 nearly simultaneous bomb explosions killed 257 and left more than 1,000 injured, the terrorists have not looked back.

In August 2003, 46 people were killed in two separate bomb blasts. In July 2006, they targeted commuter trains at peak time, killing 200 and leaving 700 injured.

Another level

But November 26, 2008 took this to another level. Although the number of fatalities - close to 200 so far and some 300 injured - may in the end be lower than on previous occasions, the ante has been upped.

Rather than anonymous bombs, this is hostage-taking, grenade-lobbing, machine-gun spraying with AK-47s at emblematic sites such as the fabled old Victoria Terminus railway station, the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Oberoi Hotel, the Café Leopold and others.

The professional training of the 'militants' (as the Indian media refers to them, in an awkward linguistic concession to their power) can be gauged from the fact that some of India's top, bullet-vest clad cops were killed while fighting them - anti-terrorism squad chief Hemant Karkare, as well as Additional Commissioner Ashok Tempte and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar.

Mumbai has not been the only terrorist target in India. So have New Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Jaipur, among others. From January 2004 to July 2007, India had 3900 fatalities from terrorist attacks, a higher toll than any country in the world after Iraq, and more so than Afghanistan and Pakistan ('the world's most dangerous country').

But Mumbai, Urbs Prima in Indis, as the Gateway of India proclaims, embodying Indian capitalism, remains the favourite, the 'bull's eye'.

The sources of jihadi terrorism in India are many. Much of it is of foreign origin; Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee referred directly to Pakistan in his speech after November 26 events.

In fact, the mastermind of the 1993 Mumbai attacks, Dawood Ibrahim, is happily living in Karachi.

The Indo-Pakistani dispute over Kashmir is widely described as another cause. Al Qaeda's involvement cannot be discarded.

On the other hand, Muslims in India, which number 140 million, have for long been at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, and been the targets of political attacks by the Hindu right.

External assistance

Yet, the overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims are peaceful. The complex operation that took place in Mumbai from November 26-28 (including the setting up of 'control centres' for several months in each of the hotels) could not have been initiated domestically.

The singling out of Americans and Brits, as well as of the Jewish centre, unprecedented in terrorist acts in India, betrays the modus operandi of Islamic fundamentalist groups based in Pakistan, like Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Muhammad. The one terrorist captured by Indian police, Amjad Amir Kamaal, a Pakistani national, is reportedly a member of the former, traditionally funded by Pakistani intelligence.

It has been confirmed the 10-man terrorist team arrived by sea, most likely from Karachi, on a fishing boat hijacked on the high seas.

Telephone calls made by the terrorists during the operation have been traced back to Pakistan, as has been the email address from which the bogus 'Deccan Muhajadeen' claiming authorship of the dastardly deed was made.

This comes only a few months after the bomb attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul which killed 60, in which Pakistani intelligence was involved, according to leaked United States government reports.

Stop coddling

India has been, after the US, the major target of Pakistani-based jihadi terrorism for the past 20 years, ever since the Muhajadeen, having forced the Soviets out of Afghanistan, moved on to Kashmir.

To have prominent Western observers like Peter Bergen say, like he did on CNN, that the only way to stop terrorism in India is by "solving the Kashmir problem" (i.e., giving in to Pakistani demands on the Valley) plays directly into the hands of those who make Mumbai burn.

The time has come to stop coddling Pakistan and the mayhem it is spreading in Central and South Asia.

The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.