India - US President Barack Obama is likely to visit the places attacked by terrorists during the 26/11 assault on Mumbai, in what may strongly symbolize the burgeoning cooperation between the two countries against terrorism.
Official sources indicated that during his visit starting on November 5, Obama may visit places where “shootouts occurred” during the 26/11 attack.
There are indications that Obama, who has chosen to stay at the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel, which was ravaged by the 26/11 attackers but has since been restored, is likely to visit Chabad House, the Jewish centre also known as Nariman House, and Leopold Cafe. There is also a possibility of his going to see the Oberoi Trident, another Mumbai hotel targeted as part of a plot scripted by ISI and executed by the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Clarity on the details, including the possibility of his going to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus where terrorists struck first on the night of November 26, 2008, will emerge after a meeting that officials of central and US agencies are scheduled to have with Mumbai cops on October 25.
“His presence at the places attacked on 26/11 will be seen as a statement of solidarity,” said a source, adding that India was keen on Mumbai’s inclusion in the US president’s itinerary.
Obama’s visit takes place against the backdrop of growing conviction in the US that terror groups like Lashkar, reared by ISI, have moved beyond their India-centric focus to meld with the wider web of jihadi terror and pose a threat to other countries as well.
The Mumbai attack was crucial in sensitizing the global community to the danger facing India. The recognition, belated according to many counter terror officials here, was the reason the Obama administration agreed to give access to US-born Lashkar jihadi David Coleman Headley who receed targets for Ajmal Kasab and his companions.
The heightened awareness of Pakistan’s unwillingness and inability to rein in terror groups has also cleared the way for very close cooperation among the counterterror authorities, as evident during the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games.
Top sources in the government speak of a perfect tandem between Indian and foreign counterterror agencies, American as well as others, that helped nip the terror threat to the Games. Intercepts with domestic agencies had pointed to the anxiety of ISI-Lashkar combine to launch terror attacks on India during the Games.
Their desperation to stage a spectacular attack, intercepts showed, had led the plotters to seek to rope in a whole range of potential accessories — from the Mumbai underworld to Khalistani and Kashmiri terror groups to Naxalites and criminals.