India is becoming more aggressive towards Pakistan because of the continued Pakistani support of Islamic terrorists operating in northwest India. The Pakistan based Islamic terrorists have not been very successful expanding their operations to the rest of India, but they keep trying. The Pakistani backed Islamic terrorism is denied by Pakistan, which cynically has its troops regularly open fire on their Indian counterparts then try to claim the Indians fired first. This sort of thing has been going on for three decades and there are few nations that go along with the Pakistani fantasies. International condemnation has not slowed Pakistan down so India is increasingly sending commandos and warplanes across the border to attack the Pakistani Islamic terrorists before they can attempt a crossing (which some of them succeed at). The major complication in all this is that for the last two decades both nations have had nuclear weapons. Pakistan now insists it would only use its nukes if there were a major non-nuclear Indian attack/invasion of Pakistan. At the same time, the Pakistani military (which currently controls many senior elected officials) insists any such conventional attack would fail. That is debatable but India prefers to go through the “surgical strike” playbook first. This involves attacking the well-known Islamic terrorist bases just across the border in Pakistani Kashmir and adjacent areas. While difficult for civilians, especially foreigners, to approach on the ground these bases have long been monitored by space satellites. Pakistan tries to hide some of the bases from satellite surveillance but with limited success. Despite the Pakistani military exercising tight control over local media details of what goes on in and around these bases eventually gets out.
India is the world’s largest democracy and has a much more independent mass media than Pakistan. So the popular anger, and pressure on politicians has created a situation in India where politicians who advise caution lose elections. Major attacks in Kashmir, like a February 14th one that left 40 paramilitary police dead, generated popular outrage and Indian media calling for a suitable response (like an airstrike or commando raid). Pakistan threatens similar retaliation with conventional forces but has not yet tried that. Instead, Pakistan orders its Islamic terrorists to increase the violence as much as possible. This is especially the case now that Pakistan has gotten its own Islamic terrorist violence problem under control. Yet while the Pakistani military continues to suppress local Islamic terrorist violence, it seeks to increase Islamic terrorist activity in Afghanistan and India. The Afghanistan meddling is relatively risk-free while the violence against India is becoming increasingly dangerous.
Both Pakistan and India had about the same number of deaths in 2018 from rebels and Islamic terrorists. For both countries, it was just under a thousand such deaths. That was good news for Pakistan, which has greatly reduced their losses from local Islamic terrorist violence since 2014. India has seen deaths increase over the last few years as Pakistan increased its attacks on Indian border guards (and any civilians in the immediate vicinity) along with sending more Pakistani based Islamic terrorists into Kashmir and encouraging more local violence there. Thus deaths in Kashmir were about 450 in 2018, up a bit from 2017 and because of increased Pakistani activity not likely to decline. Meanwhile, the usual causes of deaths for India, leftist rebels in eastern India and tribal separatists in the northeast, continue to decline. Yet so far this year India has kept overall deaths below 2018 levels, despite the February attack that killed 40 policemen. India has made great progress in reducing the tribal separatist and communist rebel violence in eastern and northeastern India. These two have always been the major causes of internal violence and resulting deaths. In Pakistan, it was always Islamic terrorism, most of it Moslem against Moslem.
In 2014, when the Pakistani army finally decided to shut down sanctuaries for Islamic terror groups not under military control (like the ones in Pakistani Kashmir), there were 5,496 Islamic terror-related deaths in Pakistan and the Pakistani public was enraged at the military over this. In 2015 that Islamic terror-related deaths in Pakistan dropped to 3,682, then to 1,803 in 2016, 1260 in 2017 and throughout 2018 it looked like these deaths would fall under a thousand and they did just that. These are low casualty levels not seen in Pakistan since 2003. The military is under a lot of pressure to keep it that way.
India, with six times as many people, has had terror-related deaths under a thousand a year since 2012 and most of those have nothing to do with Islamic terrorism. That trend continues, despite increased Pakistani efforts in Kashmir. For 2018 India had more terror-related deaths but the overall total was still under a thousand. In 2017, for the first time in many years, India had more fatalities from Islamic terrorism than from leftist rebels in eastern India. But if you added deaths from tribal separatists in the northeast the Islamic terrorism only accounted for 45 percent of deaths. That trend has reverted to the traditional one in 2018, with Islamic terror-related deaths lower. This is mainly because Islamic terror-related deaths will not increase much for 2018 while deaths related to the leftist rebels (Maoists) in eastern India are up (mainly among the Maoists and their civilian victims).
The big difference between the Kashmir casualties compared to everything else (communist rebels in eastern India and the tribal separatists in the northeast) is that only the Kashmir Islamic terrorists have outside help. Pakistan has been supporting violence in Kashmir for over 60 years and added Islamic terrorism support in the 1980s. That failed to make much difference but it did ruin the Kashmir economy and Pakistan continued to get enough Islamic terrorists (recruited and trained in Pakistan) across the LOC (Line of Control) into Indian Kashmir to keep the area “dangerous” for tourists or investment.
Then Pakistan realized that a new generation of Kashmiri Moslems had access to the Internet and Pakistan created a local fan (of Pakistan ruling Kashmir rather than India) that eventually achieved celebrity status. When this young guy ( Burhan Wani) got himself killed in 2016 he was elevated to martyr status and suddenly made Kashmiri street violence a regular thing and Islamic terrorism fashionable once more. At that point, economic recovery became even less likely and casualties increased. For the first time in many years, local recruits for Islamic terror groups were higher than trained ones able to get across the LOC from Pakistan. In the last decade, Indian border security has greatly improved but the LOC is largely in rugged terrain that is thinly populated. So it is not a certain death to make the crossing. But with a larger number of active Islamic terrorists on the Indian side of the LOC, those getting across from Pakistan have a longer life expectancy. This means more Islamic terrorist violence in Kashmir. While the Islamic terrorists try to confine their attacks to the security forces there are still civilian bystanders getting killed and with more Islamic terrorists active there is more opportunity to murder locals who support the government and don’t want to be part of Pakistan.
This Pakistani aggression in Kashmir is pushing the two nations towards war, despite the possibility of both sides using nukes. This has brought more pressure on the Pakistani military to behave but so far the Pakistani generals are resisting the popular pressure inside Pakistan for less violence on the Indian border. The Pakistani generals see Kashmir as a victory for Pakistan, but one that Pakistan cannot take proper credit for because supporting Islamic terrorism and sending those Islamic terrorists into India (and Afghanistan) is a violation of international law. While the Pakistani military denies culpability the evidence has piled up to the extent that most of the world is convinced that the Pakistani military is, indeed, violating international norms and supporting Islamic terrorism.
The Chinese Arrangement
Pakistan told China that, for the right incentives, Pakistan could control and manipulate their local Islamic zealots. That proved more difficult than anticipated and while the 2014 campaign against the local Islamic terrorists (the extremists among the Islamic conservatives the Saudis created) reduced the number of Pakistani Islamic terrorists seeking to replace the current government (a democracy dominated by the military) with a religious dictatorship, those zealots have become a permanent part of Pakistani society. This has caused problems with neighbors like Iran (Pakistani zealots kill Pakistani Shia), China (Pakistani zealots attack Chinese investments and the Chinese running them) and India (Pakistani zealots seek to terrorize India and seize control of Kashmir and eventually all of India). These neighbors have become increasingly forceful in their demands that the Pakistani government do something about this. Pakistan placates the Iranians by refusing to provide military assistance to the Arabs in Yemen, or against any Iranian military operation directed at the Gulf Arabs. Now Pakistan has to deal with increasingly angry Arabs who threatened to halt the cash infusions that the Pakistani economy increasingly depends on. The Chinese demand quick and effective action against Pakistan supported Islamic terrorists who threaten Chinese investments. This was one of the reasons for the 2014 campaign against many of the Islamic terror groups operating from Pakistani bases. Pakistan had hoped the Chinese would replace the Arabs as a source of cash support but the Chinese don’t operate that way. China makes investments and does not provide cash gifts like the Arabs and, until recently, the Americans did. The United States has halted all cash support for Pakistan because the Pakistanis would not shut down Islamic terror groups that attacked American interests. Now the Pakistanis know that if the Chinese feel they are being played, like the Americans were, the Chinese will not be patient or forgiving. The Americans are no longer as accommodating as they used to be and the Iranians never were. India is a nuclear power with a larger army and economy than Pakistan. India is also losing patience and threatening war. Pakistan has to worry about too many past mistakes catching up with them at once. China has told Pakistan openly that China is not an ally or protector of Pakistan. China is a business partner and as long as business continues there will be a Chinese presence in Pakistan. The same rules are applied to everyone else. China does business with Iran and the Sunni Arab states Iran is at war with. Same with Russia and Ukraine. China will make some efforts to protect its investments but is reluctant to send in troops, or free money.
India has not been forgotten by the Chinese. Recently Chinese customs officials discovered a shipment of 30,000 world maps being exported by a Chinese printer to a foreign customer. The maps were seized and destroyed when it was discovered that the maps showed the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of India. China demands that all maps used or produced in China show Arunachal Pradesh as “Southern Tibet” and part of China. Same with Taiwan, which is also considered another prodigal province.
March 26, 2019: Afghanistan recalled its ambassador to Pakistan in protest to the Pakistani prime minister suggesting that the elected government of Afghanistan be replaced by an appointed one approved by the Afghan Taliban. The Afghan Taliban refuses to negotiate with the elected government of Afghanistan regarding a peace deal because they consider that government a “puppet of the United States” and the Taliban believe democracy is un-Islamic. Thus the suggestion that a more acceptable (to the Taliban) Afghan government somehow be created so it could negotiate a takeover by the Pakistan sponsored Taliban. Most Afghans believe the current American peace talks with the Afghan Taliban are actually nothing more than an effort by Pakistan, which created and continues to control the Afghan Taliban, to gain more control over Afghanistan.
Because of the air battles in Kashmir between Pakistan and India in late February Pakistani airspace has been closed for a month now and it is costing Afghanistan a lot of money and costing people flying to or from Afghanistan a lot more cash and time as well. Afghanistan gets a $500 fee for every commercial aircraft that passes through Afghan air space and in a normal month there were over 400 such flights a day. But because of the Pakistani flight restrictions, the Afghan international air overflights are down to 20-30 a day. In the last month alone that has cost Afghanistan over seven million dollars. Flying from Afghanistan to India became more difficult. For the first time Iran allowed Afghan transports to reach India via Iranian air space (to the Indian Ocean and then east to India.) This took a lot longer (and was more expensive in terms of fuel and other operating expenses). Via Pakistan, the flights take 90 minutes. Via Iran, the same flights take 300 minutes. Thus passengers had to pay $300 to fly to India versus the usual rate of $160. The air space closures have no end date because Pakistan called the air space closure indefinite, at least until the Pakistani government changes that.
March 25, 2019: Pakistan, responding to the United States over Indian accusations of using an American built F-16 to shoot down an Indian MiG-21 on February 27th, Pakistan insisted it had used a Chinese designed JF-17. India presented evidence that American AMRAAM long-range air-to-air missiles were used in bringing down the MiG-21. Indian radars and electronic intercepts also indicated what appeared to be F-16s rather than JF-17s in the area. The Americans are still checking out the evidence to determine what actually happened. At the moment the American manufacturer of the F-16 is trying to sell India over a hundred of the latest model F-16, which has been renamed the F-21.
China has provided Pakistan with an emergency $2.1 billion loan to help maintain foreign exchange levels. In January the UAE (United Arab Emirates) transferred $3 billion to help Pakistan deal with this financial crises. In late 2018 Saudi Arabia loaned Pakistan the same amount and also deferred another $3 billion worth of payments for oil. In addition China agreed to provide a $6 billion loan to Pakistan to help avert a crippling shortage of foreign exchange. Pakistan is resisting painful reforms and trying to get loans to put off the eventual reckoning.
March 24, 2019: India considers the Pakistan based JeM (Jaish e Mohammad) Islamic terrorist group responsible for the February 14 Kashmir attack that left 40 police dead, as well as many smaller attacks. Jaish e Mohammad began operations in 2000 but only became a major Islamic terrorist threat in the last few years. Because of the February attack, India has launched a major intel and search effort to identify and capture or kill as many key JeM personnel as possible. This soon led to finding JeM cells outside of Kashmir.
March 23, 2019: In northwest India (Kashmir), Pakistani troops again fired on Indian border posts across the LOC. India returned fire and this went on for several hours. There were no casualties. The LOC violence has not abated. At the same time, Indian troops in Kashmir also noted the Pakistanis were using mortars more often, especially against the new border bunkers India has been building to protects troops stationed along the LOC.
March 22, 2019: In the southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan), Pakistan turned over four Iranian soldiers who had been taken in October 2018 by Iranian Sunni Baluchi separatists. Pakistani troops found the four were being held in an area where the borders of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan met and was able to rescue the Iranian troops. This Baluchi border violence has been going on for decades. Pakistan keeps getting blamed 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).
India is still headed for nearly seven percent GDP growth in 2019, despite some economic turmoil and the threat of war with Pakistan. Pakistan makes much of its efforts to match Indian military capabilities but where Pakistan is not competitive, even by Pakistani reckoning, is economic growth. India has always had a larger economy (mainly because it has six times as many people) but since the 1990s, when India made it easier for new businesses to get going and for existing ones to expand, economic growth has accelerated. India also ditched most of the socialist concepts it had been using for half a century. Such enterprise is not allowed in the military and that is the primary edge Pakistan has because it prevents the Indian military from becoming as effective as the economy.
March 21, 2019: In the southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan), an army convoy was ambushed by local separatists leaving nine soldiers dead and more than a dozen wounded. The Balochi Republican Army claimed responsibility.
March 20, 2019: In the southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan), Pakistani Taliban attacked a checkpoint and killed six policemen.
March 16, 2019: India insists its Israeli SPICE 2000 smart bombs hit their intended targets at the Balakot Islamic terrorist training base in Pakistan during a February airstrike. But as high-resolution satellite photos became available (from commercial sources) it became clear that three smart bombs all missed their targets by the same distance and that was apparently due to the GPS data being entered into the SPICE 2000 bombs incorrectly. India does not have a lot of experience using smart bombs and that would explain the error.
March 13, 2019: On the coast near the Pakistan-Iran border, the Iranian port of Chabahar has proved to be another major economic loss for Pakistan. Because the port and the road/rail line to Afghanistan provides an alternate trade link for Afghanistan it is exempt from the U.S. sanctions on Iran. That exemption was granted, in part, because an Indian firm is managing the port for the next ten years. Afghans have been quick to shift import/export trade to Chabahar, and most of the truck traffic that used to go through Pakistan to the port of Karachi is now using the new route via Iran to Chabahar (built by India and Iran mainly for traffic to Afghanistan and Central Asia). At least $5 billion worth of trade to and from Afghanistan will use Chabahar each year. Pakistan has already seen its Afghan trade fall by nearly 70 percent. For a long time, Pakistan took advantage of Afghan dependence on the road/port link Pakistan provided to the outside world. Tariffs and fees at the border kept going up and since 2017 Pakistan has frequently closed the main border crossings for goods leaving Afghanistan while Pakistani goods were allowed into Afghanistan. Chabahar has changed that and now if Pakistan wants to hold onto what little Afghan trade they have left they have to play nice. Another side effect of Chabahar is India being viewed much more favorably than Pakistan or Iran.
March 11, 2019: Pakistan is launching a media campaign against those who oppose polio vaccination and vaccinations in general. Despite strenuous efforts, Pakistan has been unable to eliminate polio using vaccinations. For a long time the main opposition were Islamic conservative clerics who called the vaccinations an attempt by Western nations to poison Moslem children. While few of those clerics remain, there are now more Pakistanis who are agreeing with Western anti-vaccination groups; who fear harmful side effects. Numerous controlled studies have not demonstrated any evidence of this but it has become a popular cause. There are other problems unique to Pakistan. For example, polio is making a comeback among refugees on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border. This comes after another major effort in 2017 to vaccinate vulnerable Afghan and Pakistani children against polio. In 2016 there were 20 cases of polio in Pakistan and 13 in Afghanistan. There were four in Nigeria, a country that is expected to be free of polio this year or next. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, there are still religious problems with vaccination. The Afghan Taliban have openly supported the vaccination program but there still some rural areas where local Moslem clerics or teachers still denounce the vaccinations. There is a similar situation in Pakistan, where some fringe Islamic groups will still try and kill members of the vaccination teams. Despite this continued resistance polio cases in both nations continues to decline, except in Afghanistan (where there were 14 cases in 2017 and 21 in 2018). In Pakistan, the situation is similar with 54 cases in 2015, 20 in 2016 and eight in 2017. But in 2018 there were a dozen cases, eleven of them on the Afghan border. The sharp drop in polio cases was largely a result of the four year campaign to shut down Islamic terrorist groups who had long enjoyed in North Waziristan, which is on the border of eastern Afghanistan. That campaign lasted four years but had an impact on vaccination opponents after the first year because most civilians in North Waziristan fled (with encouragement from the Pakistani army) to refugee camps in Pakistan or to stay with kin across the border in Afghanistan. Either way, the refugee children could now be treated by the vaccination teams, especially those in Pakistani refugee camps. The Afghan side of the border is not the Islamic terrorist sanctuary North Waziristan was but it is a sparsely populated and little policed region where any outsider requires an invitation or an armed escort to enter safely.
It was easier to ensure vaccination at the major (and legal) border crossings. An example of Afghan-Pakistan cooperation was several vaccination teams stationed at the Khyber Pass (the Torkham border crossing), which is the busiest crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan. There the vaccination teams operated 24 hours a day to offer polio vaccinations for all children under age ten. This not only catches children who missed the regular vaccination teams in either country but prevents infected children from carrying polio from one country to another. Despite problems like this in Pakistan and Afghanistan the global vaccination effort has worked. In the 1980s, when the polio elimination effort began there were 350,000 cases in 125 countries. For the last several years there have been fewer than a hundred cases worldwide. In the last decade the main obstacle has been Islamic terror groups who ban polio vaccinations and attack anyone trying to deliver the vaccine to vulnerable children. Islamic terrorists in general tend to believe the vaccination teams are spying for the government and that the vaccinations are a plot to sterilize or otherwise harm Moslems. Once there are no more active cases of polio the disease, like smallpox before it, will be extinct.
March 10, 2019: The Indian Army has received permission from the government to proceed with long sought reforms. The most notable will be the elimination of 12 percent of current army personnel, all of them in support services. This would save the army about a billion dollars a year. The money could be used to increase the pay for soldiers doing high tech jobs. Troops with these skills tend to leave the army because of better paying civilian jobs for doing the same work.
March 6, 2019: In Pakistan, the government has launched another crackdown on illegal religious schools or madrassas. So far 182 of these schools have been taken over by the government and at least a hundred people associated with them were arrested. These schools are often used as a cover for training Islamic radicals and terrorists. Pakistan regulates these schools to ensure that none of them go rogue and teach their students that the government of Pakistan is an enemy of Islam.
March 4, 2019: The FATF (Financial Action Task Force) has warned Pakistan that it does not appear to be making much of an effort block Pakistan based terrorist groups from using the international banking system to finance their violence. Pakistan was warned a year ago that unless Pakistan reduced the illegal financing activity coming out of Pakistan the FATF would put Pakistan back on the “gray list” and this time it would be more likely to make it to the blacklist and that would mean Pakistan would have some financial problems because of international banking restriction. FATF pointed out that in 2018 there were 8,707 STRs (Suspicious Transaction Reports) generated by Pakistan versus 5,548 in 2017. In the first two months of 2019, Pakistan generated 1,136 STRs. The FATF meets again in June to review Pakistani progress and so far there isn’t any. Pakistan had been on the gray list from 2012 to 2015 and that was bad for businesses that import or export or need to get loans or sell bonds. After 2015 Pakistan was still on the FATF list but not designated as dangerous. Being on the gray portion of the list makes it more expensive to do business and is very bad for the reputation of Pakistan and Pakistanis. China played a major role in keeping Pakistan off the gray list in early 2018 but the odds were against Pakistan staying off the list because it has long been an open secret that Pakistani support for its own pet Islamic terrorists included making it easier for Islamic terrorists, in general, to do business in Pakistan. The United States has been gathering evidence to justify the FATF to put Pakistan back on the gray list (along with Ethiopia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Vanuatu and Tunisia). FATF meets every three months to consider new evidence to get nations on, or off, the list. Next review is in June and the Americans are continuing to gather more evidence. The U.S. now considers Pakistan a problem in the war against terrorism and not a reliable partner. India and Afghanistan share that view as do a growing number of UN members.
March 3, 2019: In the southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) and the northwest (tribal territories), locals report that hundreds of soldiers have suddenly left their usual jobs (manning checkpoints, patrolling roads) and sent off to the Indian border. Apparently, this unannounced troop movement did not involve any of the 17,000 soldiers assigned to guard Chinese construction projects in the same areas.
March 2, 2019: In northeast India on the Burma border, Indian troops moved in to assist Burmese troops in shutting down a dozen AA (Arakan Army) camps the tribal rebels had established in Burma on the border with Indian Nagaland. This operation took about a month. The Burmese troops coordinated their operations with Indian forces on the other side of the border. The Indians blocked their side of the border when the Burmese troops were searching for or destroying a camp. The Burmese troops also shut down a major base camp established by Naga rebels in the Sagaing Region. Most Naga live on the Indian side of the border but the Naga rebels set up their camps on both sides of the border. The Indian troops stayed in India throughout this operation.
March 1, 2019: Bangladesh has stopped accepting refugees from Burma. Over a million Burmese Rohingya Moslems have fled to Bangladesh since the anti- Rohingya violence began in 2012. Only 16,000 arrived in 2018 and in 2019 the number of Rohingya seeking to enter Bangladesh has dwindled to nothing some weeks. Bangladesh has told the UN that any additional refugees will be stopped at the border and at that point Burma and the UN can work out where the refugees will go. Efforts to persuade refugees to return to Burma have largely failed as the anti- Rohingya attitudes still exist in Burma.
As a peace gesture, Pakistan released the India Air Force pilot of the MiG-21 shot down two days earlier on the Pakistani side of the LOC. The Indian pilot ejected and landed safely in Pakistani territory.