- - Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Just what the civilized world needs, a new front in the war against radical Islamic terrorism: Two terrorists were killed this week in an attack on the Pathankot Indian Air Force Base, a critical installation on the India-Pakistan border, near the troubled Himalaya state of Kashmir.

It was the second terror attack in Punjab, a border state, in less than a year, and only a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi stopped in Lahore to confer with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. It was the first face-to-face meeting of two heads of government in 12 years.

The 172 million Muslims represent only 14 percent of India’s billion, but the Muslims have important historical roots. The Muslims, in fact, began the ultimately successful agitation for independence from British colonial rule. Their numbers approach neighboring Pakistan’s 192 million, cut out of India for a Muslim state for independence in 1947. With a higher birth rate than either the Hindus or Christians, the Muslim community of India is expected to become the largest in any nation by 2050.

Indian Muslims are quite diverse, representing a disproportionate number of the country’s poorest and endowed as well with several regional elites. They’re noteworthy for becoming adept at information technology, and many of the immigrant technicians in Silicon Valley and throughout the United States are Indian or Pakistani Muslims.

Radical Islam has erupted in the community, as when it supported a Communist insurrection in the Indian state of Hyderabad in the years just after World War II. The state, with a Hindu majority, was nevertheless ruled by a Muslim prince.

There’s considerable apprehension in official circles that the current wave of radical Islamic terrorism could spread into the Muslims of India. The Indian-Pakistani feud continues apace; the two nations have fought four declared wars since independence, and minor clashes are frequent. Pakistani authorities accused the late longtime Indian leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, of violating the terms of the division of the country by refusing to relinquish control of Kashmir, the Himalayan state between the two new countries.

In November 2008, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, based in Pakistan, carried out a series of 12 coordinated attacks of four days duration across Mumbai (formerly called Bombay). India accused Pakistan of colluding with the attackers. But as the international radical Islamic terror has spread, the Indians appear ready now to recognize that such events have local roots.

Prime Minister Modi’s unscheduled visit to Pakistan is seen in the region as Indian acknowledgment that Islamic terrorism is a threat beyond Pakistani government manipulation, and a danger to both regimes. There’s new hope that the visit signals collaboration of the two governments against the terrorists.

But the rising tide of “lone-wolf terrorism” is a new problem for India as well as for the United States and Israel, which have been expanding military cooperation in New Delhi. Their strategy must take into account the growing effort by China to expand its influence in Pakistan, where it has long been a counter to India’s superior size and strength. Pakistan’s collaboration with China to build a new port on the Pakistani-Iranian border at the entrance to the Persian Gulf troubles American naval strategists. If, as now seems likely, Muslim terrorist outbreaks become routine there’s trouble for everyone.

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