April 30, 2020:
India continues to get criticized for its new citizenship laws. The basic problem has always been illegal Moslem migrants. This was most acute in the northeast (Assam) where four million Bengalis, most of them (or their ancestors) illegal migrants, are being denied citizen status. The tribal locals have long resented the illegal migrants, and more so than the legal migrants the government encouraged to settle in Assam because the area was thinly populated. India sees this citizenship crackdown as a way to reduce support for local tribal separatist rebels. What brought the Bengalis into Assam initially were Indian politicians, mainly from the ruling BJP party, who encouraged the illegal migration after 1948 so these new residents of Assam would show their gratitude by registering to vote and do so regularly for BJP candidates. This is an old problem and India passed a law in 1950 making it clear that these Bengali migrants were illegal and not to be considered citizens. Now another law has been passed to enforce the original 1950 “who is a citizen” act. Bangladesh considers this an unfriendly (to Bangladesh) act. What this really demonstrates is that Bangladesh has long been very poor and very overpopulated. Illegal migrants have long been a problem as Bengalis fled to more affluent neighbors. This problem persists. Efforts to enforce the new law ran into problems because of many Indians, especially in rural areas, lack IDs confirming their status as citizens. Few Indians pay their taxes and the government until recently, was not trying to deal with those problems either. Now the Bengali illegals are invoking “anti-Moslem persecution” to halt government effort to identify and deport illegals. The new law does make it more difficult for Moslems to become legal migrants but in this case, India is following the example of most Moslem majority nations that openly refuse to take Moslem refugees because such migrants often bring Islamic radicals and other troublesome types with them. Non-Moslem migrants are preferred. India ignores foreign criticism.
While Indian Moslems, about 15 percent of the population and the largest number of Moslems in any country, had some problems with Islamic terrorism beginning in the 1990s, that has largely diminished as distaste for Islamic terrorism grew among Indian Moslems, including the young men who were most likely to participate. Potential Indian Moslem recruits for Islamic terror groups found that their Moslem kin and neighbors were generally quite hostile to Islamic radicalism because that sort of thing always brought death and desolation for Moslems. Moreover, a Moslem had more economic and educational opportunities than in Moslem majority nations and why endanger that by attacking other Indians.
One part of India where Islamic terrorism is still a problem is in the northwest (Kashmir) where Pakistan continues to use border violence against Indian border guards and civilians living near the border. Pakistan-based (and supported) Islamic terrorists still come across the border armed with weapons with orders to kill as many non-Moslem Indians as possible.
Communist (Maoist) rebels are still a problem in eastern India, where the once radical political ideas have morphed into desperate efforts to survive or, increasingly, quit.
India suffered 621 deaths from Islamic, separatist and communist violence in 2019 and so far it appears that the number deaths will be the same in 2020. In other words about .5 deaths per million population. Pakistan managed to reduce terrorism related deaths by 90 percent since 2015 and in 2019 the annual total was less than India for the first time. This year the number of Pakistani deaths are on track to decline still more, but not as much. Even with that decline, the Pakistan deaths per million population is 1.6, more than three times what India suffers. Pakistan still has more religious and separatist violence than India and is not making much progress in eliminating these corrosive attitudes. Worse, Pakistan is still plagued by a military establishment that refuses to abide by civilian control. Such civilian control has always been the case in more affluent and less violent India. The Pakistani military has been trying to depict India as a threat to Pakistani independence and prosperity. India is neither. Worse, India considers Pakistan more of a nuisance than a threat and never considered Pakistan a glittering potential conquest. This enrages the Pakistani generals who have tried and failed, for decades, to make their illusions come true.
The Other Commies
The other communist problem, Chinese territorial claims on Indian border areas and much of northeast India, have been on hold for several years while China deals with economic and domestic problems. The longer China is distracted the better for India, which is desperately trying to close the economic and military gap between the two countries. China spends nearly four times as much on defense as India because China has an economy (GDP) that is nearly five times larger.
Indian emphasis on economic growth since the 1990s has paid off because that growth has been spectacular lately, with GDP nearly doubling in the last decade from $1.7 trillion to the current $2.9 trillion. This made India the fifth largest economy, recently surpassing Britain and France. The rest of the top five are the U.S., China, Germany and Japan. Chinese GDP growth is slowing although in the last decade it more than doubled from $6.1 trillion to $14 trillion. But for once the annual Indian GDP growth has been faster than in China, where GDP growth rates have been declining over the last five years.
April 25, 2020: The Pakistani military has continued its violence on the Indian border despite the covid19 pandemic. So far in April Pakistan has violated the ceasefire at least 250 times. That puts the year-to-date total at about 1,400. The total number of violations in 2019 was 3,168 and in 2018 it was 1,629.
In the northeast India (Assam) two NCSN (National Socialist Council of Nagaland) tribal separatists based in Kachin state crossed the Burmese border and were arrested by an Indian army patrol. Indian and Burmese Naga rebels continue to maintain bases on the Burmese side of the border. The Burmese Sagaing region has long been used as a refuge for Indian rebels but since early 2019 Indian and Burmese forces have been coordinating efforts to shut down the border camps for good, or at least for a long time. While this effort hurt the Naga rebels it did not destroy the rebel groups, who returned to the border area once the troops had ceased their activity. Most of the Naga people are Indian but some live in the Burmese far north (Sagaing Region). The NSCN which wants to form an independent Nagaland including Indian and Burmese territory and Naga people from both countries. Many of the camps being sought in Sagaing belong to the NSCN-K faction of the NSCN. At the start of 2019 there were believed to be about 5,000 active rebels in NSCN with about ten percent of them Burmese Naga. Operation since then sought to reduce the size of NSCN by a significant amount. These operations are not just going after the NSCN but also smaller groups like the Ulfa-I, NDFB and Manipur rebels. The Naga are actually about two million people from a collection of tribes that share many ethnic (Burma-Tibetan) characteristics and traditions. About ten percent of the Naga live in Burma but most of the rebel violence occurs in Indian Nagaland.
April 23, 2020: In Pakistan the military overruled the elected government and imposed a nationwide quarantine to deal with the covid19 virus. Yesterday the government had announced it would not continue to shut down the economy and put millions of workers, many of them barely surviving, out of work. Current thinking worldwide is that this is the way to go as covid19 has not been as lethal as feared. Nations that refused to institute an economically disastrous quarantine did not suffer sharp increases in overall death rates. Nations that did enforce widespread quarantine saw total deaths per week decline and then spike but never surpassing years in which the annual influenza was doing m0re damage that usual. These facts were hidden for a while as the media put the spotlight on deaths attributed to covid19. The Pakistani military has, in effect, staged another coup and replaced the civilian government while also doing great damage to the already fragile economy. Pakistan has been getting by with foreign loans for nearly a decade and that source of cash has disappeared along with Pakistan’s credit rating. Despite all these economic problems the military refuses to allow cuts in defense spending demanded by parliament and elected officials.
India has so far had 24 confirmed cases of covid19 per million population and 0.8 deaths per million. Pakistan had had 111 cases per million
and 2 deaths per million. Pakistan has the highe
infection and death rates because there are more Chinese in Pakistan, working on the
BRI (Belt and Road Initiative). This currently involves an $8.2 billion upgrade of key Pakistani rail lines that will allow freight and passenger trains to nearly double their safe speed to as much as 100 kilometers an hour. This allows more, and faster traffic on existing lines. Most of the work will be on 1,800 kilometer line from the port of Karachi to the inland city of Peshawar. China is financing the project and supplying much of the workforce. There will also be a lot of Pakistani laborers and technical personnel put to work alongside the Chinese. All this began in late 2019, just in time for covid19 to spread from Wuhan via Chinese workers travelling to places like Pakistan for BRI projects.
Elsewhere in the region Bangladesh has 39 covid19 cases per million and 0.9 deaths per million. In Burma it’s three cases per million people and 0.09 deaths. Thailand has 42 cases per million and 0.8 deaths. China, where the virus began, stopped releasing covid19 cases and deaths data as part of a government program to try and blame the U.S. for the virus. Few (Chinese or foreigners) believe that and it is taken for granted by neighbors of China that the “Wuhan Virus”, as it was first known, indeed came from China. By now it has also become known that covid19 is not much more dangerous than one of the deadlier annual influenza epidemics. The flu is taken for granted and it is unclear if covid19, which is genetically almost identical to the 2013 SARS virus, another Chinese corona (trans-species) virus, will be an annual event or disappear like SARS and similar diseases. Covid19 is unique in that it attacks the lungs and is often mistaken for pneumonia. As such it is particularly dangerous to the elderly or anyone with weakened immune system or other illnesses. Most healthy adults and children do not notice covid19 at all even if exposed to it.
April 22, 2020: The 2020 World Press Freedom ratings were released showing Pakistan at 145th place (out of 180 nations). This is largely because of a military effort to silence all criticism of corruption and political interference they are notorious for. While that was bad, some of the neighbors were worse. Bangladesh was 151, China 177 and Iran 173. Some were better as in Afghanistan at 122, India at 142 and Burma 139. In contrast, Britain was 35, France 34, United States 45, Canada 16 and Germany 11. The top five were Norway in first place followed by Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Netherlands. Bottom five were Djbouti, China, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea in last place. These rankings are mainly about professional journalists and play down the impact of the Internet and many non-professional, but often well qualified, individuals who are now supplying a lot of the news, especially accurate reports of what is actually happening. The conventional media, which employs most professional journalists, has lost more than half its staff in the last twenty years as more people prefer non-professional or semi-pro reporters on the Internet. Governments find it easier to restrict the professional journalists, leaving the Internet based reporters as the main source of accurate reporting in many countries, like Pakistan.
April 21, 2020: India became the third largest defense spender in 2019 with its $71.1 annual defense budget. That was notable for several reasons. For the first time, India had a larger defense budget than Russia, which had long been in the top three for nearly a century, usually in 2nd place. But after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 China was able to eventually move into second place. In 2019 China spent nearly $300 billion on defense, still far behind the American $732 billion. India’s most aggressive neighbor, Pakistan, spent $10.3 billion.
April 19, 2020: In Pakistan the government suffered another defeat in a dispute with conservative Islamic clerics. The government agreed to allow radical clerics to keep their mosques open to worshippers if the mosques followed 20 rules of conduct. The radical clerics will not follow the rules, even though they said they would. The “rules” were a face-saving way for the government to admit defeat. The majority of Pakistanis, including a majority of clerics, criticized the government for once more giving in to threats from radical clerics. In fact neither the government nor the military wanted to start a fight with the radical clerics over this. The radical clerics won a financial as well as political victory because mosques collect the most donations (to support the mosque and its staff) during the four weeks of Ramadan, which begins on the 24th.
In March Pakistan ordered a nationwide quarantine to deal with the covid19 virus. While Pakistan has, to date, recorded a low number of virus caused infections and deaths, China has warned that losses could be heavy, identified or not, if precautions were not taken. China also pointed out that the more covid19 infections there were the more likely that senior political, military and business officials were likely to get infected and die. Pakistanis can see how bad that can get next door in Iran. Retail and manufacturing operations are allowed to supply the nightly feasting after fasting during daylight hours. Restaurants will remain closed, along with schools and most mosques. The government does not want anti-government demonstrations by followers of the radical clerics.
April 18, 2020: In Northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) troops clashed with seven Islamic terrorists who had come from a base across the Afghan border in Khost province. All seven of Islamic terrorists were killed and found to be Pakistanis. Four soldiers were also killed. Much equipment and documents were seized. The seven men were planning attacks in Pakistan.
April 11, 2020: The Pakistani Taliban released a video honoring a former leader, Hakeemullah Mehsud, who was killed by an American missile in 2013. A member of the Mehsud clan, Hakeemullah Mehsud led the Pakistani Taliban at its peak, before the 2014 Pakistani military operation that shut down the Islamic terrorist sanctuary in North Waziristan. The video made some interesting points that are not usually emphasized in the media. For one thing, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban actually get along rather well, despite the Afghan Taliban being largely Afghans and beholden to the Pakistani military for sanctuary and support. Both Talibans are largely Pushtun and that counts for something in this part of the world. Both Talibans work with al Qaeda and both hate ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). Both Talibans also get along with the Haqqani Network, another Pushtun Islamic terror group from that formed during the 1980s Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Haqqani has since gone gangster and still works for the Pakistani military. That means that sometimes Haqqani hitmen are ordered to kill Afghan Taliban personnel. This is not frequent because both Talibans and Haqqani are Pushtun and the Pakistani military has found there are limits to what it can pay or coerce Pushtun to do to each other.
Most of the leaders of the Pakistani Taliban have come from the Mehsud tribe, which is largely in South Waziristan. This tribe was instrumental in forming the Pakistani Taliban. In late 2013 an
American UAV used a missile to kill Hakimullah Mehsud, the man
Mullah Maulana Fazlullah
succeeded as head of the Pakistani Taliban. That attack took place in Pakistan (North Waziristan) and in light of the subsequent (2014) Pakistani army offensive into North Waziristan the Pakistani Taliban moved their headquarters across the border into Afghanistan. At the same time, there was a civil war within the Pakistani Taliban over the selection of
Fazlullah as leader and strategy in general.
proved effective in reuniting the Pakistani Taliban and dispersing its operations after leaving North Waziristan. That worked despite the fact that some Pakistani and Afghan Taliban did not get along. Those antagonisms have mellowed since 2014 and that has been noted by the Pakistani military which now fears popular efforts to create a united Pushtun movement are a growing threat to Pakistan more than Afghanistan.
April 10, 2020:
In northwest Pakistan, an Afghan army raid across the border in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province, but near the main crossing from Pakistan, found and seized a recently arrived (from Pakistan) truck that was carrying ten tons of explosives. The two men on the truck said they were paid to deliver half the load to someone in Nangarhar and the rest to someone in Kabul. Meanwhile, Pakistan has closed most of its Afghan border crossings to prevent the spread of the covid19. The crossings are expected to remain closed for at least another week.
April 9, 2020: In southwest Pakistan, on the Afghan (Kandahar province) border Pakistani soldiers and border fence workers were forced to retreat from the Spin Boldak area where they were building the Pakistani border fence. Although guards stood watch as workers began building the fence and border outposts on what the Afghans consider the Afghan side of the border, armed Afghans opened fire on the workers. This attack took place south of Kandahar City, the original "home town" of the Taliban. Most of the construction work takes place at night but the construction sites are guarded day and night because local Afghans will sometimes attack.
About half the 2,500 kilometer long Afghan border fence has been completed. Many Afghans dispute where Pakistan draws the border and the need for a border fence itself. Gunfire from the Afghanistan side of the border regularly kills or wounds soldiers and workers building the fence. Construction has been underway since 2017 and the attacks from the Afghan side have become particularly intense at times. So far Pakistan has had over a hundred soldiers and workers killed or wounded. Most of the Afghan-Pakistani border is still called the “Durand Line.” This was an impromptu, pre-independence (1893) invention of British colonial authorities and was always considered temporary, or at least negotiable, by locals. The need for renegotiation was mainly about how the line often went right through Pushtun tribal territories. However, the Afghans are more inclined to demand adjustments to the Durand Line and fight to obtain what they want. Thus recent Pakistani efforts to build more fences and other structures on their side of the border was an attempt to make the Durand line permanent and no longer negotiable.
April 8, 2020: Pakistan had agreed to reopen Torkham and Chaman, the main border crossings with Afghanistan, three days a week starting April 10th. Afghan needs the cargo but Pakistan also wants the Afghans in Pakistan to go home. That was a problem because Afghanistan lacked the medical personnel to screen all those coming across. Pakistan has a lot of covid19 and Afghanistan has a lot less because it is so hard for anyone to get across the border.
April 6, 2020: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) the covid19 virus has not slowed down the local Baluchi separatists. For the first three months of the year, there were 26 violent incidents where the separatists attacked Pakistani security forces. There were even more incidents where these security forces attacked, arrested, kidnapped or murdered civilians during efforts to suppress the separatists. This Baluchi separatist violence has been going on for decades. To make matters worse there are also Baluchi separatists across the border in southeastern Iran. Pakistan keeps getting blamed by Iran for the continued presence of Iranian Sunni separatists in Pakistani Baluchistan. Pakistan tries but the Baluchis live on both sides of the border and Iranian and Pakistani Baluchis want to create an independent Baluchistan that includes a chunk of southeast Iran where most of the Iranian Baluchis live. One of the usual suspects, Iranian separatist group Jaish al Adl, is particularly hated by the Iranians. In late 2018 Iran threatened to send troops across the Pakistani border to find and destroy Iranian Jaish al Adl camps in Pakistan if the Pakistani security forces did not take action and neither did the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps). Keeping the peace between Iran and Pakistan over the Baluchi violence consumes a lot of effort by diplomats in both countries.