The ruling Congress party faces national elections early next year and could be forced by popular anger to take a much more aggressive stance against Pakistan, Indian analysts say, than it normally would.
"They are trying these diplomatic moves to get Pakistan to cooperate: not merely in the investigation of this thing but closing these camps and coming down hard on these terrorists," says Brijesh Mishra, a former National Security Advisor and a current informal advisor to Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. "But the country is angry. And this government wants to survive. It has elections coming in four, five months time. How can it ignore public anger?"
The U.S. is leaning on India not to respond too aggressively in part because of a threat made by a senior Pakistani intelligence official: that the military would be willing to reduce its focus on fighting the war on terror.
Pakistani soldiers have been fighting the Taliban and its allies for months along the Afghanistan border -- a fight U.S. officials in Afghanistan say has saved American lives. But any move by India might prompt Pakistan to shift its soldiers from the western border to its eastern border.
"If they move more troops out of there," says Michael Scheuer, a former CIA agent, "basically, western Pakistan becomes a safe haven almost completely for the mujahideen, whether they're the Taliban or Al Qaeda or anyone else. That certainly bodes ill for the vastly undermanned force we have in Afghanistan."
In his visit, Admiral Mullen spoke to his Indian counterparts about help they might need, U.S. officials say, both in intelligence and in military hardware. The Indian media has roundly criticized the response time of the Indian commandos who ultimately freed the Taj Hotel, three days after the standoff began. They did not have a dedicated plan and they did not all have night vision goggles, media reports here say.
Rice used the word "prevent" or one of its derivatives half a dozen times during a press conference in New Delhi yesterday, saying, "The long pole in the tent here is prevention. And so any work that I hope to do with Indian officials is to talk about what we can contribute in terms of knowing how to use information, how to use leads toward prevention."
The Indian government is largely waiting for Pakistan to act, Indian analysts say. Vikram Sood, the former head of Pakistan's Research and Analysis Wing – the equivalent to the CIA – says the next step will be determined by how the Pakistanis react to Rice's message.
The reaction will also be dependent on politics. Immediately after the terror attacks, voters in New Delhi voted on whether to keep the current Congress party in power or give control of the capital's local government to the rival BJP, which has criticized the government for inadequately protecting the country.
If, when those results are released on Dec. 8, Congress has lost Delhi, it will be under even more pressure to act in order to save their hold on the federal government during next year's elections.