New battlefield

On Monday, New Delhi became an unwitting site for the so-called terror strike in which a car with an Israeli ‘corps diplomatique’ registration plate was blown up by suspected terrorists.

Even before investigations could begin, allegations flew thick and fast that Iran was responsible for the strike, that the conspiracy was hatched in Teheran. It is after all Tel Aviv’s stated position that Teheran’s strategic goal is to wipe out Israel off the map. Associating Iran and its putative proxy, the Hezbollah, with the New Delhi ‘attack’ and the aborted attempt at blowing up another car the same day in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi appear to be cynical means to score populist brownie points at a time when both Israel and the United States have made bellicose postures over Teheran’s nuclear capability.

There is no doubt that an extremely sophisticated device was used to set off the explosion by one or more highly trained terrorists who acted in precisely the same way that Israel’s famed external intelligence agency, the Mossad, has for years on its soil and elsewhere. For the strike to have taken place in the heart of the national capital not far from 7, Race Course Road, the residence of prime minister Manmohan Singh is another prima facie evidence that Indian intelligence had no clue that terrorists could strike in the vicinity. But that is something that the Indian authorities have to investigate and answer for.

What New Delhi must be cautious about is not to get dragged into a diplomatic imbroglio between two implacable enemies, at least one of whom is militarily prepared to launch a unilateral attack on the other to cause sufficient damage to its capabilities to expand on its nuclear weapons programme.

Iran’s denial that it was responsible for Monday’s strike in New Delhi and the failed one in Tbilisi was aimed at discrediting Israel that was trying to ‘tarnish’ its friendly ties with India which has resisted pressure and defied United States and European sanctions against that country to import Iranian oil. It is well nigh impossible to even say with any degree of certainty that Iranian agents targeted the Israeli embassy vehicle because, if it was indeed an act perpetrated by Iranian agents, there is deniability in that act of terror. While security agencies must unravel who was behind the attack, the Indian establishment must be careful that it does not find itself trapped in a diplomatic minefield fraught with untold dangers.

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