The February 13 terror attack on an Israeli embassy car in New Delhi has set off alarm bells for the Indian security establishment. Its circumstantial pattern suggests that the Iran-Israel conflict has had a significant spillover to India for the first time. After all, the New Delhi attack coincided with a much bolder attack in Georgia the same day, and a grenade attack in Thailand on Tuesday.
The Indian government, however, isn’t in the mood for any knee-jerk reaction, and has yet to point the finger of blame. The most probable perpetrator, and one Israeli officials have suggested, is the Iranian-backed militant outfit Hezbollah, though India can’t rule out the possibility of Iran outsourcing the planning and execution of the attack to the Indian Mujahideen (IM), a homegrown terror outfit. An operational advantage in using the IM option is the diminished chances of detection and arrest as IM operatives are known for using indigenous manpower and resources.
A flaw in the theory that Iran went the IM route, though, is that the bomb device used in the February 13 New Delhi attack was very sophisticated. In fact it was a magnetic device, used for the first time in India. The targeted sports utility vehicle only caught fire but did not explode.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
If Hezbollah is behind the attack, it would throw open a number of crucial questions and strategic possibilities. Hezbollah is a Shia body. India doesn’t have any known Shia terror outfit operating from its soil, in contrast with Pakistan, which has a vibrant network of Shia terror outfits. Years ago, several Shia terror modules were present in Jammu and Kashmir, but they were dormant for a number of years. Hezbollah’s involvement in the February 13 New Delhi attack, if proved, will have important strategic repercussions for India as it would show Iranian intelligence and its network have indeed made forays into India. No foreign entity – state or non-state – can do this without having local support.
Hezbollah’s entry into the Indian terror space, if proven, would be a game changer. The Indian intelligence and security outfits have so far been obsessed only with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and Pakistan-supported non-state actors.
Monday’s terror incident and the subsequent diplomatic offensive launched by Israel against Iran has far reaching strategic implications for India as the United States-led international community is expected to exert more pressure on New Delhi over its Iran policy. It’s no secret that the Indian government has made it clear to the West that it will continue to buy crude oil from Iran despite fresh West-supported sanctions imposed on Iran.
Indian security agencies need to flesh out the detail of the February 13 terror incident quickly. This attack must not be left long unsolved. With pressure coming from all sides, a quick and complete result can demonstrate India’s credibility to the international community and quickly move forward the issue of Iran and its relations with Israel and the United States.