India-Pakistan: Fragile States



January 14, 2021: Both India and Pakistan are new (created since World War II) nations that could have done better. India is a functioning democracy but crippled by epic corruption. The British colonial government suppressed the worst of the pre-conquest corruption but independent India tolerated a revival as a necessity to make the world’s largest democracy work. Pakistan also allowed corruption to return to pre-colonial levels but was hurt more the most by eventually accepting and trying to manipulate Islamic radicalism and terrorism. Both nations, independent for over 70 years now, are recognized as having major problems. Pakistan is recognized, and shunned, as a supporter of international Islamic terrorism. India is more infamous for sliding into so much dysfunction that it may become a failed state. There is an international survey to measure that. Although the term “Failed State” was recently rebranded as “Fragile State” the degree of change is measured annually. Currently the nations deemed to suffer the most from this problem are; Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Sudan, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Syria, South Sudan and Somalia with the worst being Yemen. Over the last decade India has been sliding further towards the ten worst. While India is currently 68th out of 178, Pakistan is worse off at 25. India was always expected to flourish eventually and since economic reforms in the 1990s, that seemed to be happening. Over the last decade the corruption and government mismanagement caught up is dragging India down.

Pakistan has had some spectacular successes. The most obvious one is its decade long effort to reduce Islamic terrorist violence inside Pakistan This progress can be seen in several ways. The Global Terrorism Index shows how Pakistan has gone from the top three to number seven. Pakistan is catching up with India in reducing Islamic terrorist violence but still has aways to go.

India suffered 621 deaths from Islamic, separatist and communist violence in 2019 and unexpectedly saw a reduction in 2020. In other words, about .3 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. That did not last. Even with that 2019 decline, the Pakistan deaths per million population was 1.6, more than three times what India suffered in 2019. 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.

Pakistani violence on the Kashmir border reached record numbers in 2020. There were over 350 incidents a month along the 740-kilometer border, which is only 22 percent of the 3,300 kilometer India-Pakistan border. Despite that increase in border violence India saw another decline in terrorist related deaths in 2020, with 588 dead, compared to 621 in 2019 and 940 in 2018. In 2020 54 percent of the dead were in Kashmir, while is higher than usual. Most years non-Islamic terrorist violence accounts for most of the violence but in 2020 leftist (Maoist) rebels in eastern India only accounted for 41 percent of the deaths with the five percent caused by tribal separatists in the northeast.

Pakistan had 506 terrorism related deaths in 2020, which was a 38 percent increase from the 365 recorded in 2019. That broke a trend in which Pakistani terrorism related deaths, which peaked at 11,317 in 2019, fell every year over the next decade. And then came 2020 when the numbers were up again. Pakistan suffered few deaths in its portion of Kashmir and most of the deaths were in the northwestern tribal territories, but a larger number were throughout Pakistan.

Even in the record low year 2019, Pakistani terrorism-related death rates were still much higher than India, a nation with six times the population but nearly twice as many terrorism related (most of it non-Moslem) deaths in 2019. In other words, adjusted for population size there were still three times as many terrorism deaths in Pakistan in 2019 and in 2020 it was over five times. Not included in the Pakistani totals are the many terrorism related deaths in India and Afghanistan that are a direct result of Pakistani support for Islamic terrorist organizations that are based in, and supported by Pakistan. These groups enjoy that Pakistani support as long as they attack targets designated by the ISI (Pakistani military intelligence). Pakistan is currently under major diplomatic and financial pressure over this terrorism-support policy which Pakistan still denies.

India has brought most of its separatist, leftist and Islamic terrorist activity under control. But in Kashmir Pakistani is still waging a border war by having its troops fire across the border and claim it is self-defense because the Indians almost always fire back. Then there is three decades of Pakistani support for Islamic terrorism in Kashmir, which has not accomplished much except to ruin the local economy and get a lot of Kashmiris, and Islamic terrorists from Pakistan, killed.

Coping With The Covid Recession

Pakistan and India are both suffering covid19 related economic recessions. There was GDP contraction in both countries. In Pakistan GDP shrank less than one percent in 2020 and is expected to grow 1.5 percent in 2021 and over four percent in 2020. India has a larger and more robust economy and covid19 related lockdowns caused more damage, with GDP shrinking nine percent in 2020, but 11 percent growth is expected in 2021 and then slow to 6-7 percent a year for the rest of the decade.

In Pakistan GDP problems, especially the lack of growth compared to India has led to more popular anger because the standard of living in Pakistan has been visibly shrinking compared to India. The Pakistani government is unable to collect enough taxes to meet its budget and Pakistan received its last financial bailout in early 2020 just before covid19 arrived. There are no more financial bailouts for Pakistan because Pakistan has failed to comply with the terms of too many past bailouts. This reflects poorly on how the Pakistani economy has been managed, especially compared to India. One way to measure the divergence is now per-capita GPD in the two nations has steadily widened since the 1990s. Back in 2005 the per-capita GPD was about the same but since then it has widened and the gap has grown enormously since 2010, when India had 11 percent more per capita, to 2019 when the average per-capita GDP in India was 63 percent more than in Pakistan. That gap is now so great that more Pakistanis notice and Pakistani government explanations for such heretical developments ring false.


One major complication with the current Afghan peace negotiations is that a major faction, Pakistan, cannot officially be acknowledged. Pakistan officially maintains that this is not true. Technically that is correct because it’s not the government of Pakistan but the Pakistani military and its ISI intelligence service that supports and maintains Pakistani interference in Afghan affairs. It is important to note that when Britain dissolved its Indian (including what is now Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Sri Lanka) colonial government, the new nations that emerged were quite different. One major difference was how these new nations handled their armed forces. India ensured that the military remained subservient to the elected government. That did not happen in Pakistan or Burma which resulted in their militarys frequently taking control of the government. While Pakistan is technically run by an elected government, that government cannot do anything the military disagrees with. With regard to Afghanistan the Pakistani military has a foreign policy towards Afghanistan that supersedes anything the politicians come up with or agree to.

The Pakistani military have always seen Afghanistan has an unstable region that posed a potential threat to Pakistan. Historically this was true. Massive invasions and tribal raids have been coming out of Afghanistan and into India (and Iran) for thousands of years. While India was always a potential (and unlikely) invader of Afghanistan, the threat from Afghanistan was real and constant. Most Pakistanis recognized this threat and there was never a lot of popular opposition towards the Pakistani military’s actions towards Afghanistan. That continues to the present. For the Afghan Taliban it means they are very dependent on the good will of the Pakistani military to survive.

The drug gangs and Taliban survive because of support from the Pakistani military. That support included allowing essential chemicals (for converting opium into heroin) into Afghanistan and allowing most of the heroin to be exported via Pakistani ports (naval and air) to world markets. The Taliban provides the muscle while Taliban leaders maintained their 1990s relationships with the drug gang leaders and the Pushtun tribes.

January 12, 2021: In northwest Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) someone fired on a polio vaccination team, killing a policeman escorting the female vaccinators. This comes two years after Pakistan launched a media campaign against those who oppose polio vaccination and vaccinations in general. Despite strenuous efforts, Pakistan has been unable to eliminate polio via 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 agreeing with Western anti-vaccination groups and insisting there are 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 came 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 was declared free of polio in 2020. 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. Since 2008 over a hundred vaccinators and police escorts have been killed. This year there are a quarter million vaccinators and nearly as many security personnel seeking to vaccinate 40 million young (under five) children.

January 11, 2021: Pakistani military officials met in Azerbaijan to discuss further cooperation after Pakistan provided aid and advice in the recent campaign that pushed Armenian forces out of disputed territory. Turkey provided the most visible and effective foreign help by providing Turkish made UAVs armed with laser guided missiles. These UAVs are based on the American Predator UAV armed with Hellfire missiles and have proved effective in Syria and Libya. Pakistan can provide pilot training and other essential, but not headline worthy, services and the Azseris welcomed that. Both Turkey and Pakistan expect to receive contracts to rebuild the former Armenian controlled areas and sell more military equipment to Azerbaijan.

January 10, 2021: In northwest India (Ladakh State) China began withdrawing about 10,000 troops it had brought up to the India/Tibet border in early 2020. The departing troops did not take all their heavy equipment with them, an indication that they would be back. Both India and China brought up about 50,000 troops to a border area where China is aggressively claiming Indian territory. This withdrawal is probably weather related and the Chinese troops will return with the warm weather.

January 9, 2021: In Afghanistan an airstrike on Afghan Taliban in Nimroz Province, which borders Iran and the southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan), killed 14 of the Islamic terrorists. Afghan troops were able to follow up and identify the dead, discovering that most (nine) of them were Pakistani. This is increasingly common. The Afghan Taliban have always contained some foreigners, most of them from Pakistan but the percentage of Pakistani members has been increasing.

In northwest India (Kashmir) troops patrolling the border fence discovered an entrance to a tunnel from Pakistan. The tunnel was about 150 meters (480 foot) long and apparently used to smuggle Pakistani based Islamic terrorists and weapons into India. Two similar tunnels were discovered in 2020 and nine in the last decade. Most were poorly built and either left depressions in the ground, which alert border fence patrols noticed or, in another case a tunnel under construction collapsed because of heavy rains. Captured Islamic terrorists also revealed the existence of the tunnel project. Between 2014 and 2019 India did not detect any more tunnel building activity and has been using new tunnel detection equipment to aid with that. If the tunnel construction escalates India may seek the latest tunnel detection tech from Israel, which already supplies India with many border security devices. In addition to the tunnels India has also detected Pakistan using UAVs to deliver small quantities of weapons and other supplies to Islamic terrorists operating on the Indian side of the border. The use of tunnels and UAVs is a response to the heavy casualties the infiltrators suffer because of the improved border security.

January 8, 2021: Pakistan has lifted all restrictions on Bangladeshis obtaining visas to visit Pakistan and hopes Bangladesh will reciprocate. That is not a sure thing because Bangladesh and Pakistan do not get along. In early 2019 Bangladesh halted issuing visas to most Pakistanis, especially those who are government employees, in particular diplomats. Bangladesh accuses Pakistan of supporting Islamic terrorism in Bangladesh and has a growing body of evidence to back this up. Pakistan makes matters worse by denying any involvement in Islamic terrorism. Pakistan has long refused to pay attention to the successful anti-terrorism measures implemented in Bangladesh. Pakistan does not like to be reminded of anything to do with Bangladesh, which used to be East Pakistan and part of a much larger Pakistan. But the Bangladeshis rebelled in the early 1970s and West Pakistan, now all that is now left of the original Pakistan, was unable to put down the uprising, despite killing over a million fellow Moslems as part of the “pacification” effort. After that defeat Pakistan adopted Islamic radicalism as a new policy and Islamic terrorism as a weapon. Bangladesh made peace with India, which supported the rebellion, and discouraged Islamic radicalism. Despite the growing popularity among Moslems of Islamic radicalism in the last three decades, Bangladesh has been largely free of it.

January 7, 2021: In Pakistan an anti-terrorism court sentenced three men to death for posting comments on the Internet deemed anti-Moslem. Another man, a college instructor, was sentenced t0 ten years imprisonment for making similar comments while teaching. The death sentences are appealed and usually overturned but that process takes years. Since the 1980s about a hundred of these accused blasphemers have been murdered by Islamic vigilantes before the courts were done. Pakistan has severe blasphemy laws that are mostly used by Moslems against innocent Christians or other non-Moslems. Efforts to repeal these laws, or at least limit their misuse, are violently resisted by Islamic political parties. When Pakistani blasphemy laws are used against Moslems it is usually for revenge or political reasons. The laws are unpopular with the majority of Pakistanis. But the minority who do support the laws, are willing to use lethal force to keep the laws on the books. These blasphemy laws were enacted in the 1970s at the behest of the military. The opposition to repealing these laws is violent and fearless. In 2011 the Punjab province governor Salman Taseer was shot dead by one of his own bodyguards because Taseer had openly opposed the blasphemy laws. While no one had ever been executed because of these laws, many are accused and jailed each year, and often condemned to death and later reprieved. But over 30 of those acquitted “blasphemers” have been murdered by Islamic fanatics, who are a large, and violent, minority of the population.

January 6, 2021: Pakistan suffered a nationwide power blackout after sundown. This lasted a few hours in places like the capital Islamabad but in much of the country power was not restored until the next day. This was not the first widespread failure of the electrical power system, but it was the worst. A week later the exact cause of the most recent failure is not yet known, but the fundamental cause certainly is. Electricity production and distribution are one aspect of infrastructure that is very obvious when it fails. Pakistani politicians have allowed corruption to cripple the power system and prevent needed maintenance and upgrades.

In eastern Pakistan (Punjab province) police arrested seven members of Sipah e Mohammad, a Shia Islamic terror group that exists mainly to attack the more numerous Sunni Moslem Islamic terror groups that regularly attack Pakistani Shia. Since 2006 Pakistani Shia have increasingly fought back and since 2011 have openly blamed the Pakistani military for the attacks on Shia. The main sponsor of Sunni Islamic terror groups has been the military, which has not done much to stop these attacks. Shia religious leaders are demanding that the military provide more security for Pakistani Shia. Nationwide, there has always been religious violence between Shia (20 percent of the population) and Sunni (most of the rest) radicals. There are dozens of Islamic terror groups in Pakistan, most of them Westerners never hear about, but many of them are more intent on fighting other Moslems than in going after infidels (non-Moslems).

January 5, 2021: An Israeli firm revealed that a test of the Israeli-Indian MRSAM anti-aircraft system had been successful. In early 2017 an agreement was finally reached for t he Indian purchase of a customized variant of Israeli Barak 8 SAM (surface-to-air missile) systems. India wanted a modified naval version (LRSAM) and land version (MRSAM) of the Barak 8. Although this project has been in the works since 2006 it encountered problems, mainly on the Indian side, that held up completing the work, and getting everyone to sign off on the contracts. Israel is favored by India for these kinds of projects because the Israeli firms work well with the Indian firms and procurement officials, who often create problems that delay joint projects. The Indian DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organization) is notorious for failure and slowing down efforts to import foreign weapons or do joint development deals. DRDO is not popular with the Indian military. The Barak 8 has been in service with Israeli forces for years.

January 4, 2021: The U.S. and India both recently banned widely used Chinses apps like TikTok, WeChat and finance related apps like AliPay. India and a growing number of Western nations are doing likewise. The reason is that Internet security analysts are discovering more and more evidence that these Chinese apps, usually at the order of their government, are used for espionage and worse. Chinese telecommunications companies, including suppliers of 5G cellphone equipment, are being banned in many countries. In Pakistan there is a different situation with the government moving to ban Western social media sites like Facebook and Twitter unless these sites either block all material deemed “anti-Islamic” or pay Pakistan billions of dollars in fines.

January 3, 2021: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) Sunni Islamic terrorists killed eleven Shia Moslem miners and wounded ten others.

January 2, 2021: In eastern Pakistan (Lahore) police arrested Zaikur Rehman Lakhvi, the head of Lashker e Taiba, a notorious Pakistani Islamic terror groups and accused him of financing local and international terrorism. This is part of the ongoing to keep Pakistan from being blacklisted by the FATF (Financial Action Task Force). Lakhvi will eventually be released, once the international pressure has subsided.

December 30, 2020: In northwest Pakistan (near Peshawar) over a thousand Moslems gathered to destroy a Hindu temple. There was a similar incident here in 1997. About two percent of Pakistanis are Hindu most of those that remain do so to tend Hindu shrines and holy places, which attract foreign tourists. That brings in much needed cash and most Moslems and government officials try to protect the Hindus from Moslem zealots.

December 27, 2020: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) seven border patrol personnel were killed on the Afghan border when their checkpoint was attacked by Baluchi separatists.

December 24, 2020: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) Pakistan is building 30 kilometers of three-meter-high security fencing near the two main entrances to the Chinese controlled port of Gwadar. In addition, the Chinese are installing 500 security cameras within the perimeter of the port. Pakistanis fear the entire port area will eventually be fenced off to protect what is described by locals as a Chinese naval base guarded by Chinese and Pakistani troops. Since early 2019 Pakistan has been responding to Chinese complaints that about lack of security, and agreed to add more troops to the security forces already assigned to guard over 300 Chinese projects in Pakistan and the 15,000 foreigners (mainly Chinese) who work on them. The existing force has over 15,000 personnel with 9,000 being soldiers and the rest local para-military forces. This will be in addition to the special naval force that protects navy facilities in Gwadar and the waters off Pakistan.

This force has blunted threats of violence against the Chinese but have not prevented nearly a dozen attacks on Chinese projects and personnel since late 2018. The Chinese are running out of patience. In mid-2017 Pakistan also agreed to build a walled and restricted residential area near the port of Gwadar to house up to half a million Chinese that will eventually be working in Pakistan. The Chinese construction work on the new Pakistani Gwadar port facilities are visible to anyone on the ground or flying by and in 2017 it was noticed that some features of the new port and airport facilities are clearly intended for military use. India has long claimed China (despite denials) was planning to use Gwadar as a base for Chinese warships and naval aircraft. Pakistan never had a problem with Chinese military using Gwadar as it helps keep local troublemakers out. Pakistan has assured China that there would be no terrorist violence against Chinese working on upgrading the port of Gwadar and land links north to China. Pakistan is willing to pay a high price to get CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) done because it means Pakistan has an ally against Iran and even Western powers that might have some violent disagreement with Pakistan. Best of all China is picking up most of the $60 billion cost. In early 2017 China and Pakistan finally signed the agreement that granted China a 40-year lease on new Chinese built facilities China at Gwadar. The lease grants China most (over 80 percent) of the revenue brought in by port and free trade zone operations. China usually imports its own workers from China to do most of the work on projects like this. By 2022 China expects to have about half a million Chinese in Pakistan, some of them with their families. The easiest way to provide protection is to have most of them live in a heavily guarded and restricted access area. Gwadar is a key part of CPEC and it has the misfortune of being in a province (Baluchistan) that does not want to be part of Pakistan. China and the Pakistanis try to ignore this by not reporting on non-Islamic terror attacks on CPEC construction projects. The government has long been accused of suppressing news of tribal separatists in Baluchistan attacking government targets and especially those related to CPEC. The separatists claim they regularly carry out attacks on CPEC construction projects, but most of their attacks are still directed at Pakistani security forces and government facilities.

December 11, 2020: In Pakistan a contingent of Chinese warplanes arrived for several days of joint air exercises with Pakistani jets. This is the ninth year these exercises have taken place. The location of the exercises rotates between the two countries.

December 6, 2020: India has gone public with its support for Burmese army leaders complaining about “foreign support” the tribal rebels are receiving. The Burmese generals won’t come right out and name China but the Indians will. For several months now India has been accusing China of tolerating an Indian tribal rebel group ( Ulfa-I) basing themselves in Yunnan province. While China has tolerated some Burmese Wa State rebel activities in China (Guangxi province), those are mostly of a commercial nature. Burmese rebels buy a lot of weapons and other stuff in China and ship (or smuggle) it into Burma. Guangxi does not border India, Yunnan does and China has claims on large portions of India that border Yunnan.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close