The main objective was to attack US and British nationals.
That would certainly be the dominant view that has been expressed by the UK and US media, but it is not the main reason. Certainly the explicit targeting of UK and US nationals amongst other nationals, has Internationalized the situation. The objectives of the these terrorists are multi-dimensional, this is just one in a continued spate of attacks that have occurred in India over the last few years (one would argue 2 decades). Firstly, the idea is to split the secular line that has held India together for a Millenia, by creating a fault-line between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority the terrorists achieve their objective of creating civil disharmony across India. Secondly, it was meant to be an attack on Globalization, an attack on free-spirit, free market thinking, democracy and global commerce in a part of the country where foreigners like to do business. Places like the Taj Palace Hotel are where people "do business". In a country growing at 9% GDP, there is concentration of dynamic innovation and deal making that was happening in Mumbai. So by targeting Mumbai they wanted to fracture the heart of the financial a d business community at a time when the world economy was weak. Thirdly, it was an attack on foreign nationals to believe that India is not a safe place to do business and not a safe place to visit and a reminder to US/UK for their foreign policy in Afghanistan/Iraq, but it was not the main reason.
The name Al-Qaeda has become a very simple label to be used for the various factions and sub groups that operate across the globe on an International, State, inner-State level. As such Al-Qaeda may not be a command and control hierarchy that is involved in these attacks -- But what is left of the Al-Qaeda infrastructure is firmly situated in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That there are many separate offshoot groups in Pakistan (like Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammad) that are linked to Al-Qaeda should hardly be surprising.
Predictably India blames Pakistan.
Lets be clear hear. What India has been saying for the last 10-20 years is that they are not happy that Pakistan is turning a blind eye whilst terrorist organizations are freely allowed to recruit, train and carry out cross-border terrorist activities. India has been very clear about this in the many negotiations and dialogues, where they have asked Pakistan to 'remove the terrorist infrastructure which is within Pakistani borders'. The fact that Pakistan has not removed these groups is viewed by India with much mistrust and seen as tacit indirect approval from Pakistan.
Lashkar e-Tayibba (LeT) - based in Pakistan.
What needs to understood is that there have been many bombs and attacks on India's sovereignty over the last 20-years... In the last 30-years over 4000 people have died from terrorist bombs in India that is second only to Iraq! Lashkar e-Tayyaba were identified in the Mumbai blasts in 2006 (article i wrote in 2006). Lashkar-e-Tayyaba were involved in the Ayodha bombings in 2005, the Hindu holy city of Varanasi in 2005. Certainly the terrorist that was caught had admitted he was trained by the LeT in Pakistan and satellite phone communications was intercepted back to Karachi in Pakistan. Let us not forget the machine gun attacks in the India Parliment in 2001 which led to 1M Indian armed forces facing the Pakistan border, was also traced back to the LeT.
On final point India's Elite National Security Guard (NSG) commandos were dispatched to deal with the terrorist threat at the Hotels and it took them 3-days to secure the Hotel. It was a highly organized mission that took over 3-6 months to plan; the terrorists had detailed internal maps of the hotels; were expertly trained at short-fire burst shooting of the AK47. Were operating for 3-days without sleep which means that they had taken performance drugs (e.g. Adrenalin, LSD, Cocain). Contrary to what the press has said, this was a highly trained and organized outfit. So its quite reasonable to make the connection with the LeT and therefore for India to blame Pakistan for the origins of these terrorists.
This is a gross error -- Pakistan is not a secular country. Pakistan was created during the partition of India to be an Islamic Republic. They refer to it as the "Land of the Pure". When Pakistan was created, Hindus made up 20% of the population, today the Hindu population is 2%.
LeT - why would they deny involvement?
LeT have strong links with parts of the Pakistani Secret Service (ISI) which runs and operates within it own network separate to the state. This is a point that many people get confused about, Pakistan the State, the Army and the ISI Secret Service have had a long and independent / interdependent history. One would argue that the idea of Pakistan as a democratic state is a relatively new phenomenon. With the real institutional power and control being held through the ISI and Pakistan Army. The ISI were recipients of millions of dollars of funding from the Saudi's and the CIA which led to the creation of Madrassas (religious Schools) across Pakistan which was used to create the Taliban. Well when the Afghanistan war ended and Taliban took control of Afghanistan, what happened to the Madrassass and offshoots of the Taliban that stay in Pakistan. Well they are still in Pakistan fighting a proxy war with India over Kashmir. So organizations like the LeT have strong reasons to not admit anything because the links between LeT and ISI are far stronger and after the Mumbai attacks the pressure to reign them in will be stronger.
One final point, all the terrorists were supposed to kill to the death, it was not expected that any would be captured. But given that one was actually captured, why did he admit to being trained by LeT?
Why would Pakistan openly be involved in something like this?
I agree. It doesn't make sense for Pakistan "The State" to be involved in something like this. But please as i mentioned before there is a complex infrastructure made up of the ISI and the Pakistani Army that harbors Anti-Hindu, Anti-India ideologies that have fostered since the partition which then worsened under General Zia who Islamized Pakistan even further. Yes there is professional, educated middle-class buts its small, and has not had much voice so far. So to be clear here, when you talk about Pakistan you need to be clear which aspect you are talking about. By any standard Pakistan is a "failed state" and at risk of heading in the same direction as Somalia, this is not good for anyone to see happen. Only last month it had to borrow $7Bn from the IMF to ensure it didn't default on its debt liabilities. As i had mentioned there are parts of the ISI and the Pakistan Army that has an institutional memory which still even today cannot "get over" the fact that they lost India. You have to remember that the Mughals ruled India for 700-years when they invaded India and as such believe that they are the true rulers of India and the Hindus are their subjects. So after partition this has created a resentment that never really disappeared and a misguided insecure superiority complex which has defined Pakistani politics. This animosity is further worsened by the fact that when Pakistan looks at its economical growth in comparison to India which is seen as an emerging Super Power that will have the 3rd largest economy behind China and the USA by 2050. So there is much resentment and very little inertia to change current institutional thinking.
Pakistan - timebomb
As mentioned earlier, there is little inertia to change existing institutional thinking which hasn't evolved since the creation of Pakistan. So a country which was built around a Pro-Islam, Anti-Hindu, Anti-India ideology is still festering in many parts of the country and it will take time for that to change. But it cannot change unless its replaced with a new vision for the country, yet it has to do that whilst dealing with a Civil War which internally is eating up the country and with problems on both its borders while not being able to grow its economy. Yes its a failed state and it will unfortunately continue to be so for a long time. I am pretty sure that Barack Obamas No'1 concern is the safe keeping of the Nuclear Weapons in Pakistan (which were kindly donated by the Chinese).
What are the terrorists motivations?
India is not a country that had invaded another country in her 5000-year history, a reputation unequaled by any other civilization in history and based on the timeless deeply spiritual values of "Ahimsa", which means non-violence. The same philosophy followed by Mahatma Gandhi. In the last 2-years Islamic terrorists have bombed Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Assam, Orissa, Mumbai. Each one has been different and different number of people have died -- but yet India has not responded in a coordinated or directed response. It is a process of a thousand cuts that these terrorists intend to bleed India. Unlike 9/11.... Each attack is designed not to exceed a certain threshold, but as a total it is designed to test the limits and patience of the country. And the terrorists know that. They would not dare try something of the scale of 9/11, it simply doesn't make sense. But each individual attack is designed to push India further over the top.
And you may ask what is the point of this? -- Islamic Fundamentalism has moved beyond the issue of Kashmir. Kashmir is demarcated with a Line of Control and its borders will one day be remapped against those lines. There is more political alignment between India and Pakistan on this issue than most people realize. But Islamic Fundamentalism has already moved to Fascism and the only place left for it now is Anarchic Nihilism. You see the world is changing, people are getting wealthier, more educated, the internet is opening peoples eyes, telecommunication and media is making the world smaller, newer generations are giving up on the ideas of their parents generations and are learning at a much faster rate. They can see what is happening in India as a template of what could happen in Pakistan. That is why these attacks are designed to break India's resolve as they try and deal with Pakistan "The State" to ensure that both countries cannot move forward to second or third base.
Where did India go wrong?
Failure in Governance - the UPA Congress Party are a coalition government that needed to seek out other parties, minority parties to form a government. Each of these minority parties have their own expectations and motivations which need to be met. Which has made the Government very ineffective as it has to pander to everyone. Secondly with 15% of the population Muslim, that is a valuable vote that they cannot afford to disenfranchise, which has meant that targeting radical schools and groups within India has become impossible. In short the government has become limp through inaction at the risk of losing power, but general elections next May, it is a certainty that this current government will be out. To appease the minorities, when Congress came into power in 2004 the first thing they did was to dismantle and scrap Federal anti-terror laws. In short, the last 4-years of government has been viewed by most observers as spineless.
One final point -- Pseudo Intellectualism.
There is a pseudo intellectual view point common with many of intelligentsia press which likes to view that Pakistan is not responsible for these troubles and as such politicians and the press take a contrarian view from the most obvious answer. When you look at the mess that is in Kashmir, Pakistan, the Madrassas, the Taliban, Osama Bin Ladens hiding, its simply impossible to think that the problem is coming from somewhere else.