India-Pakistan: Desperate For A Victory


August 27, 2021: Pakistan publicized the recent delivery of a list of Pakistan Taliban leaders to the Afghan Taliban leaders and requested that the Afghan Taliban “persuade” those Pakistan Taliban leaders to surrender. Demanding that the Afghan Taliban attack the Pakistan Taliban is a more difficult ask. The Pakistan Taliban, locally known as TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) are about a third the size of the Afghan Taliban and are opposed to the drug cartels that finance the Afghan Taliban. TTP also contains a lot of al Qaeda groups that joined because that appears to be the best way to overthrow the Pakistan government.

Operating from bases in eastern Afghanistan, the TTP have carried out about 40 attacks inside Pakistan so far in 2021. Initially Pakistan tries to blame India which usually prompts the TTP to correct the government and admit it was a TTP operation. The TTP have, since 2014, been a growing embarrassment and made the Pakistani military look bad. In 2014 the army openly declared war on the TTP, which took heavy losses and moved to Afghanistan. For several years after the 2014 army offensive, which continues at a lower intensity, the TTP was much less active. Over the last few years that has changed. The TTP was under constant attack in Afghanistan, but not by the Afghan Taliban, but by government and American forces. This effort was considered inadequate by Pakistan but there were other targets in the border area, like some surviving ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) personnel and other Pakistan-backed terrorists, like the Haqqani Group that were more of a threat to Afghans.

Earlier this year Pakistan admitted that twelve military personnel (a colonel, a major and ten subordinates) were responsible for TTP leader Ehsanullah Ehsan escaping from house arrests in January 2020. At first the military spread a rumor that Ehsan was allowed to escape as part of some secret strategy. That story did not hold up because thing both Afghan and Pakistani Taliban can agree on is that the Pakistani military exercises too much influence on Afghanistan as well as Pakistan. The Afghan and Pakistani Taliban have contacts with each other because they are all Pushtuns and share many goals and interests. The Pakistani military has been trying to get the Afghan Taliban to attack the TTP and so far, that has not happened. Pushtuns on both sides of the border are watching with great interest how this drama plays out.

Blame India

India is accused by Pakistan of providing the TTP with cash and other support but has never been able to provide any proof. Pakistan also expects the Afghan Taliban to help Pakistan take control of Kashmir, something Pakistan has lost several wars over and the violence there continues. Pushtuns, including both Talibans, see Kashmir as a Pakistani army mess and want nothing to do with it.

India still has much less of a terrorist problem than Pakistan. So far this year Indian terrorist related deaths are about 20 percent higher than in 2020. The low 2020 numbers, 299 dead, where evenly split between security forces and civilians, were attributed to covid19 restrictions. The 2020 losses were about ten percent less than 2019. Until recently the majority of India terrorist deaths were from leftist rebels in eastern India and tribal separatists in the northeast. Those threats have been reduced over the years but in the northwest (Kashmir) the violence is perpetuated by the Pakistani military. This consists of frequently firing on Indian border guards with machine-guns and artillery. Several Islamic terrorist training camps on the Pakistani side of the border have produced thousands of Pakistani Islamic terrorists willing to risk death getting across the heavily guarded Kashmir border and then face almost certain death eventually inside Indian Kashmir. While many Indian Moslems in Kashmir support the idea of more autonomy for Kashmir, most are not interested in being part of Pakistan and are fed up with three decades of Pakistani violence to liberate them from peace, prosperity and Indian rule. This trend became obvious over the last decade, as the overall deaths in Kashmir continued to decline and the portion of those dead who were Islamic terrorists increased while civilian or security forces deaths declined. The Pakistani military is obsessed over gaining possession of Indian Kashmir and actually winning a war against India. This expensive and lethal obsession is unpopular in Pakistan, Kashmir and India. It’s one the main reasons Pakistan is threatened with international financial sanctions for supporting terrorism. The 1990s decision by the Pakistani military to covertly (without taking credit) use Islamic terrorism to control Afghanistan (by creating the Taliban) and Kashmir has been a colossal failure that has killed hundreds of thousands, mainly Afghans and Pakistanis. While India could defend itself, Afghan and Pakistani civilians were more vulnerable and comprised nearly 90 percent of the victims. In Kashmir, nearly 70 percent of the deaths so far this year have been Islamic terrorists.

August 26, 2021: Despite Pakistan banning Afghan refugees from entering Pakistan, over 10,000 Afghans are getting in each day at the two main crossings and an unknown number getting through the new border fence. The 2,600-kilometer-long fence is costing Pakistan about half a billion dollars. The fence actually consists of two three-meter (ten foot) chain link fences topped with barbed wire and separated by a two-meter gap. Hundreds of new border posts, some of them the size of small forts, are being built to observe and patrol the fence. Fence construction began in mid-2017 and by mid-2021 was about 80 percent complete. Pushtun tribes on both sides of the border object to the fence and regularly fire on the workers, and their armed guards, building the fence. Most Afghans agree that in some areas the fence extends into Afghan territory. Pakistan hosted two-thirds of the seven million Afghans who fled their country to escape the Russians during the 1980s and civil war during the 1990s. After the Taliban were defeated in late 2001 about 40 percent of the Afghans went home. Most went voluntarily but over half a million were forced out of Pakistan and Iranian refugee camps. Most unregistered Afghan refugees are in Pakistan, where many live outside the tribal territories and are left alone as long as they behave. It appears that at least a million are trying to get out this time and that number will grow depending on how chaotic the situation is in Afghanistan this time. Pakistan got the Taliban to agree to limit illegal migration and they appear to be doing that. That only slows down the flow of refugees because over the last two decades a people smuggling industry developed. As incomes and aspirations rose many Afghans could afford the fees people smugglers charged to get people to Pakistan, Iran or the West. For the people smugglers, business is booming because many families who were not planning to leave have changed their minds with the return of Taliban and another civil war. These families have sold everything they have to get out of the country. The cheapest smuggler service is counterfeit border crossing documents, plus a bribe to dubious but greedy border guards. Afghans can legally enter Pakistan if they can prove they have kin in Pakistan they are visiting. Millions of Afghans have such family connections. Another valid reason is medical. With the right documents you can get in that way. The number of Afghans crossing the border with valid documents has more than doubled during August. Pakistan will tolerate those who are just passing through on their way to the West but many new refugees plan to settle down in Afghanistan, at least for a while. The Pakistan government does not want more of that because Afghans in general bring lots of crime and other problems with them. Since the 1980s many Afghan communities have developed outside the tribal territories, and these often host all manner of illegal activity, especially in big cities.

In northeast India (Assam) DNLA tribal rebels were apparently responsible for killing five truck drivers and burning their trucks.

August 25, 2021: India’s eastern neighbor Myanmar (Burma) is having serious problems with its military and adapting to democracy, unity and independence. There was another military coup in early 2021, a decade after the military government (since 1962) finally gave in to demands for freedom and democracy. By 2010 the army had failed at running the economy or dealing with the rebellious northern tribes. The military negotiated a deal with the democrats that left the military with some of their political power as well as immunity from prosecution or retribution for a long list of past crimes. Once elections were held, the generals realized they had underestimated the degree of popular anger at the decades of military misrule. After 2011, with Burma governed by a government answerable to the people, not a military caste, there were calls for cancelling the political privileges the military had retained as part of their agreement to allow peaceful transfer of power. The late 2020 nationwide elections put into power a government that finally had the votes, and determination, to cut the military down to size and make them much less capable of another coup. The generals moved faster than the new government and once more took control of the country on February 1st.

The generals found that it was not as easy as the early 1960s. This time there was much less compliance and a lot more defiance. In fact, most Burmese acted the way they voted, despite the greater firepower and, so far, resolve of the generals. The army has trashed the economy and put more and more Burmese out of work and without access to food, the Internet or the banking system. So far, the resistance continues. The generals have become more dependent on their business partners. China, who were also partners-in-crime with the generals, The Chinese connection may be the vital key to victory, or fatal flaw in the coup plan. It all depends on how much Burmese are willing to resist China. This is important in so many ways and the result of regional changes that have taken place over the last few centuries.

Six months after the coup, on August 1st the military declared themselves the provisional government. There were vague assurances of new elections but few voters believed the voting would be free and fair. China promptly recognized the provisional government and just called the generals “the government”. Meanwhile the supporters of the elected government organized themselves as the NUG (National Unity Government) and sought to gain foreign support, avoid capture (or death) by the military. Many Burmese diplomats outside the country at the time of the coup continued to support the elected government. Some Western countries reported that the Burmese military was seeking to kidnap or kill these “rogue diplomats”. Not to be outdone, in the north one of the tribal militias offered $3,000 to any Burmese soldiers who defected, with his weapon. In addition to the case the rebels promised safe passage out of the country. The military has refused to negotiate and refused UN offers to mediate negotiations. Unlike 2010, this time the military sees their situation as do or die. Too many Burmese now want the military leaders dead or in prison. The Burmese avoided civil war for decades after the 1962 coup and everyone seems to believe this was not the correct way to go about it. Now the Burmese have to see what, if any, military assistance they can obtain from foreign supporters.

The first thing the new military government did in February was assuring China that Chinese assets would be protected. China promptly used their veto powers in the UN to block UN actions against the new military rulers of Burma. Within two weeks Russia also proclaimed support for the military government. The response of the military was not unexpected, because the civilian government knew that the Burmese generals maintained their connections in China.

The Burmese Army has long been at the center of most illegal economic activity. Some estimates indicate that at least $20 billion has been illegally moved out of Burma during the fifty years of military rule and much more stayed in the country. Almost all of that was military personnel or their gangster and commercial allies. Military families still control a lot of the economy and most of the wealthy families in Burma have a military connection. The illegal cash leaving amounted (on average) to about six percent of GDP. The military may have surrendered much of their political power in 2010, but they held onto their considerable personal wealth.

The Burmese military is comfortable with a cozy relationship with China and Russia but most Burmese are not. This has led to Chinese businesses being attacked since the coup and a few have been set on fire. The military was forced to assign more troops and hire some armed guards to protect the Chinese businesses.

August 23, 2021: Pakistani diplomats are once more being called on to lie for their country. It’s become universally accepted that Pakistan has been supporting Islamic terrorism since the 1980s. In the 1990s it was an open secret that Pakistan created the Taliban and when Taliban rule in most of Afghanistan collapsed in late 2001 it was noted that there were a lot of Pakistani military transports taking Pakistanis out of areas the Taliban were about to lose control of. The Northern Alliance, which was still fighting the Taliban in 2001, regularly reported the importance of Pakistani military personnel and access to Pakistan that the Taliban depended on. Pakistan eventually gave up trying to deny this access and admitted that Taliban casualties were regularly treated in Pakistani hospitals but denied that some of those “Taliban” patients were actually Pakistani military or intelligence personnel. Inside Afghanistan local security forces and NATO troops regularly found Pakistanis among the Taliban dead and it was standard practice for Pakistan to admit the identity of these Pakistanis so their bodies could be returned to Pakistan for burial.

August 18, 2021: The recent success of Pakistan-backed Taliban in Afghanistan has African governments and media fretting about Islamic terrorism in Africa, especially the ISIL ultraviolence. One thing to keep in mind is that ISIL is at the top of the food chain when it comes to Islamic terror groups. That means ISIL is always at war with all other Islamic terror groups. In other words, the Taliban has long had problems with the local ISIL affiliate and even cooperated with government and American forces to greatly reduce, but not eliminate, the ISIL presence in Afghanistan. In Africa most of the local Islamic terrorists are affiliated with al Qaeda. Africa also has a multitude of small ISIL affiliates. Since 2018 there have been two ISIL “provinces” in central Africa. The smaller one is ISGS (Islamic State in Greater Sahara), which showed up in 2018. ISGS is currently active in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. The other, slightly older and larger, ISIL province was ISWAP, which is actually a faction of the Nigerian Boko Haram Islamic terror group, which sees itself as the “African Taliban” and has been around since 2004. ISWAP personnel are mostly in northeastern Nigeria as well as smaller numbers in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. ISWAP recently killed the Boko Haram leaders and is trying to absorb Boko Haram into ISWAP. That is encountering a lot of resistance. There is also ISCAP (Islamic State Central Africa Province) which is actually most present in southern Africa and only really active in the southeast African state of Mozambique. The problem with ISIL in southern Africa is that Moslems are a small minority there and the Christian and pre-Christian religions are the majority and fight back, often while ISIL is trying to get established locally.

Another tiny ISIL affiliate is ISS (Islamic State in Somalia) which was never popular with the local Islamic terrorists (al Shabaab). ISS spends most of its time and effort trying to survive in the northern mountains.

In Africa, corrupt local governments are a far greater threat but those same governments appreciate Islamic terrorists, especially ISIL, because it gives the local leaders something to blame all the economic and political problems on.

The Afghan ISIL faction is known as Islamic State Khorasan (ISK), which is the Central Asian province of ISIL Khorasan is named after the province of the first caliphate and included eastern Iran, part of Afghanistan and Central Asia. Khorasan also referred to a pre-Islamic portion of a Persian Empire. ISK is apparently willing to cooperate with the Afghan Taliban against mutual enemies. That sort of thing has worked in the short term elsewhere but long term ISIL is a threat to everyone.

August 17, 2021: Despite the Taliban occupation of Kabul, Turkish president Erdogan wants NATO (meaning the U.S.) to treat Turkish military presence in Kabul as a NATO mission and include Turkey in NATO decision making regarding Afghanistan. Pakistan agreed to use its diplomatic influence with the Taliban to aid Turkey’s efforts to secure Kabul’s airport but has not been much help. The Taliban have offered the Turks cooperation or conflict. Turkish media report Turkish military and paramilitary security forces are prepared to stop an expected wave of Afghan refugees fleeing to the West through Iran and central Asia. Then there is China, which has been pressuring Turkey to cooperate with Chinese foreign policy and has already recognized the Taliban as the new rulers of Afghanistan but could use Turkish cooperation to help safeguard Chinese economic investments in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan the Turks have no safe options and few positive ones.

August 16, 2021: The Pakistani prime minister, Imran Kahn praised the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. Most of the Afghan Taliban are controlled, as much as Afghans can be controlled, by the Pakistani military. The Pakistani generals also helped put Kahn into power and for the first time in Pakistani history can tell Kahn and the parliament what to do and these elected officials will comply (or die, apparently). For Pakistan, Taliban control over Afghanistan is a victory over India, which the Pakistani military has been feuding with since Pakistan and India gained independence after World War II. The main complaint against India at the moment is that India was a key factor in breaking the monopoly Pakistan long exercised over Afghan foreign trade. India can now trade freely with Afghanistan via a new sea/rail link in Iran and most Afghans prefer this to dependency on Pakistan for access to the rest of the world. Attitudes and alliances are changing and Pakistan and the Taliban they created are the big losers. Iran will allow access via the road and rail route they built with India into western Afghanistan (Herat province). Iran is in big political and financial trouble at the moment and is willing to sell access to this rail link for the right price. The Taliban resurgence is a problem for Iran as well as Pakistan because Iran sees the Taliban as a threat to the large Shia minority. Pakistan still has problems with a much smaller Pakistani Taliban, who want to do in Pakistan what the Afghan Taliban are again trying to do in Afghanistan. While Pakistan praises the Taliban comeback in Afghanistan, they have not recognized the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan. No country has done so yet, not even China which is willing to do business with the Taliban.

In the South China Sea Indian and Filipino warships carried out joint training exercises. Five days earlier the two Indian warships had carried out similar training with Vietnamese warships off the Vietnamese coast. India has become a more active part of the growing coalition of nations opposing Chinese claims on the South China Sea.

August 15, 2021: Despite Taliban assurances of safety and respect for diplomatic immunity, India sent two military transports that began flying out its embassy staff and some other Indian citizens, out of Kabul today. It took several more days to get them all out because one group of Indians was stopped by Taliban and robbed of all their possessions before being allowed to proceed to the Kabul airport. India maintains contacts with the Taliban via the Taliban delegation in the Persian Gulf state Qatar. While the Taliban leadership would prefer to maintain diplomatic relationships with India, there are Taliban factions that would prefer to kidnap (for ransom) or kill all the Indian officials they can.

August 14, 2021: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) tribal separatists attacked an army patrol, which returned fire. Three separatists and one soldier were killed while two soldiers and an unknown number of attackers were wounded.

August 12, 2021: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) Pakistani Taliban fired on an army outpost and killed three soldiers.

Pakistan test fired one of its Ghaznavi solid-fuel ballistic missiles successfully. Ghaznavi is basically a solid fuel replacement for older liquid fuel Scud missiles. Solid fuel makes it possible to quickly launch the missile, which has a range of about 300 kilometers and carried a nuclear warhead. The five-ton Ghaznavi is transported and fired from a large TEL (transporter erector launcher) truck. This makes it difficult for India to find and destroy before it can be used in wartime. About 40 Ghaznavi missile have been built since it entered service in 2004, along with about twenty TELs.

In the west African nation Congo, a mob attacked and looted Indian-owned businesses in the capital Kinshasa. Earlier this month a Congolese student in Bangalore, India died while in Indian police custody. The student had been arrested on drug possession charges. Sub-Saharan Africans have complained of discrimination against them in India.

August 11, 2021: In northwest Pakistan (South Waziristan) a group of Islamic terrorists were detected moving around at night and confronted by a nearby rapid reaction force. One terrorist was killed and another wounded and captured while others fled towards the Afghan border. The Pakistani Taliban maintain most of their bases on the other side of the Afghan border.

August 4, 2021: In northwest India (Ladakh State) Chinese forces pulled back their troops from Gorga, one of the key bits of disputed territory in Ladakh. Both nations had concentrated thousands of troops along the shore of Pangong Lake and in September 2020 both agreed to halt their operations on the Indian border and continue negotiations. The 12th round of these negotiations recently ended and China quickly carried out its agreement to pull back from Gorga. Both sides declared victory but China was the actual winner because now a thousand square kilometers of additional Indian territory along Panglong Lake is under Chinese control. By the end of 2020 the two sides had agreed to pull most of their forces back because of the frigid weather in the high mountains surrounding Pangong Lake. China has been slow to carry out all those withdrawals. These mutual withdrawal negotiations began in mid-2020 and China has regularly reneged on all or part of the withdrawal agreements. China would, however, agree to another round of negotiations. The 11th round of negotiations took place in April 2021 and China again refused to carry out all the agreed-on withdrawals. With the recent Chinese withdrawal these are still two positions that China had agreed to withdraw from but has not yet actually complied with yet. These numerous and often futile negotiations are standard tactics for China, which often end with China permanently in possession of some of the disputed territory.

This was not unexpected and was another example of the Chinese SSSN (Shove, Stop, Stand Fast, Negotiate) tactics, which have once again prevailed, as they have many times in the recent past. China initially expressed no interest in retreating but was willing to negotiate. These tactics are particularly when the cold weather season approaches, putting India under intense domestic political pressure to accept the Chinese offer. China believes they will prevail by repeating their SSSN and push Indian forces out of all the disputed areas along their common border. SSSN is slow and it would take decades to grab all the Indian territory claimed by China. As long as China maintains a stronger military than India and can keep more troops near the disputed border areas, India will not feel confident to defend forcefully and risk a large-scale battle on the border.

While China has been withdrawing troops from forward positions that have them within sight of Indian forces, there has been a continuing build-up of logistical capabilities. China is building more roads to the border areas and establishing more supply storage and distribution facilities. Since the Ladakh dispute is largely along the shores of Pangong Lake, China has increased its naval capabilities in this lake, which is largely in Tibet and connected to Chinese claims on Indian territory. This is the longest lake in Asia and part of the 134-kilometer-long lake extends 45 kilometers into the Indian Ladakh region. The portion of the lake shore in dispute has no native population. The only people who visit the area are soldiers from India or China. For that reason, China is moving more armed boats to the lake, some of them capable of carrying fifty troops and their weapons.

Indian efforts to get China to negotiate a more permanent settlement of border disputes are not working. This is again demonstrated as India tries to get negotiations going over the new dispute on the shore of Pangong Lake. The Chinese will issue vague press releases but they will not negotiate a final settlement. Even when they negotiate a deal the Chinese tend to see these “permanent” agreements are temporary ceasefires.

August 1, 2021: In the north India has established another hotline with Chinese forces across the border. India is having problems with Chinese territorial claims along most of their 4,000-kilometer border. In late 2018 China and India agreed to establish multiple hotlines along their border and also between the defense ministries of China and India. On August 1st the sixth of these hotlines was established. It connects military commanders in India (Sikkim) with their Chinese counterparts across the border in Khamba Dzong (Tibet). These new hotlines were a revival of a failed 2016 effort to work out and agree to details of a hotline for commanders on both sides of the LAC (Line of Actual Control). Also known as the MacCartney-MacDonald Line the LAC is the unofficial border between India and China. The LAC is 4,057 kilometers long and is found in the Indian States of Ladakh, Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal, and Arunachal. On the Chinese side it is mostly Tibet. China claims much territory that is now considered part of India. There have been several thousand armed and unarmed confrontations over the last decade as one side or the other accuses “foreign troops” of crossing the LAC. The 2016 agreement fell apart when India went ahead, despite Chinese protests, and expanded its military ties with the United States while also undertaking massive improvements to military infrastructure near the border in the areas where Chinese troops were a growing presence and a constant threat. China had taken the lead improving roads and stabling more military bases close to the border. India was catching up after 2016, building over three dozen new roads to the more remote border areas. New bases for ground troops and warplanes were built and training exercises now included tests of how well ground and air reinforcements could reach the contested border areas. China considered all this an act of aggression. The need for hotlines was now more urgent than ever and after two years China agreed to resume the hotline negotiations.

July 30, 2021: In the United States (New York City) Pushtun expatriates and members of PTM (Pashtun Tahafuz Movement or Pashtun Protection Movement) held a rally to protest Pakistani violence and political oppression of the Pushtun in Pakistan and support of the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan. PTM was founded in 2014 in Pakistan. By 2018 the Pakistani military declared the peaceful PTM a threat and used increasingly violent methods to make PTM disappear. What the military fears is that the PTM is more than just a Pushtun nationalist movement in Pakistan and is an increasingly popular idea in Afghanistan as well. Most Pushtuns live in southern Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan. Pushtuns are a small minority in Pakistan while in Afghanistan half as many Pushtuns are the largest minority in the country and a force to be reckoned with. Pusthtuns in Pakistan have long been a despised and mistreated minority. The PTM is mostly about addressing the persecution and discrimination Pushtuns face in Pakistan. To the Pakistani military that is a form of treason, at least when it comes from Pushtuns. One reason for that is most Afghan Pushtun agree that Pakistan is no friend of Pushtun on either side of the border and is the main reason why the heroin business operates in Pushtun-majority Helmand (southern Afghanistan) province rather than across the border in Pakistan Baluchistan, where the heroin production used to be.

July 28, 2021: T he majority faction of the Afghan Taliban sent a team of senior officials to China where they met with Chinese foreign ministry officials to follow up on the recent Taliban declaration that they considered China a friend and that the Uighur Moslems from northwest China would no longer be allowed into Afghanistan once the Taliban took over. This Taliban faction has its headquarters in Pakistan and has enjoyed sanctuary there since 2002. About a third of the Afghan Taliban do not trust Pakistan or any of their friends. One of these dissident factions actively allied itself with Iran. There is a Pakistani Taliban that wants to replace the current Pakistani government and actively attacks Chinese projects in Pakistan. The Pakistan-backed Afghan factions are eager to do business with China. The main Chinese demands are to ensure that Chinese investments are unmolested and that heroin and other drugs produced in Afghanistan are not smuggled into China. The Afghan could not work out a deal with China, at least until they actually controlled Afghanistan, especially the north, where the tiny (76 kilometer) border with China is.




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