So much about the Mumbai tragedy was traumatic — from its excruciatingly long duration and cruel fixation on soft targets, to its ruthless efficiency and chillingly novel approach. Some Indians describe it as their 9/11.
One decade later, the Mumbai attacks continue to cast a long shadow over India — and the world.
The negotiations focused on Kashmir — the territorial dispute at the heart of India-Pakistan tensions.
Additionally, the Mumbai attacks intensified the anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan rhetoric often heard in India during electoral campaigns — and which the current ruling party, the Hindu nationalist BJP, may use to rally its base in advance of elections next year.
Mumbai also exposed India’s sea-based security vulnerabilities, prompting New Delhi to step up maritime security enhancements that now constitute a major component of its overall military modernization effort.
These maritime modernization efforts don’t only address sea-based security vulnerabilities. They also help further two key Indian strategic objectives: Keeping pace with rival China’s growing maritime power, and pursuing and protecting sea-based energy assets.
In 2013, militants stormed a shopping mall in Nairobi and bombers targeted the Boston Marathon. In 2015, gunmen besieged a concert hall, a sports stadium, and restaurants in Paris. And in 2016, assailants attacked the airport and a metro station in Brussels, and jihadists attacked a cafe in Dhaka. Additionally, potential Mumbai-style attacks in Copenhagen and Madrid were foiled in 2009 and 2015, respectively.
Still, anticipating Mumbai-inspired attacks doesn’t mean they’ll be averted, and especially when they involve simple weaponry and can exploit the open access afforded by major cities in the West and beyond.
Perhaps the biggest legacy of Mumbai is plain fear. No matter where in a city one may be — relaxing at the beach, taking in a ball game or concert, strolling on a downtown boulevard, sitting in a café, arriving at the airport — you can never assume you’re safe. In the post-Mumbai era, these venues have all been attacked — and could be again.
Fortunately, al-Qaeda and especially ISIS, the most potent practitioners of these Mumbai-modeled attacks, have become shadows of their former selves. Still, any ragtag group of unaffiliated radicals can easily muster the capacity to wreak havoc with handguns, crude bombs, or even vehicles — and in cities far from the one that spawned such a tragic precedent 10 years ago.