February 3, 2023:
Change comes slowly to South Asia, which is mainly India and Pakistan. As Europeans in general and British colonial officials in particular observed, “you can’t hustle the east.” Despite over a century of ruling all of what is now India and Pakistan, British officials realized that the locals would move at their own pace no matter what you tried to coerce them to do. For centuries Europeans had come to dominate South Asia because of their superior weapons, organization and administrative skills. The locals preferred to do things their own traditional ways. The British learned this when they left in 1947 and noted how the former South Asian colonies frequently reverted to their pre-colonization attitudes.
That explains why India is largely at peace and prospering while neighboring Pakistan continues struggling with the Islamic terror groups it created and supported for so long, plus the internal corruption and mayhem that policy has sustained. Pakistan also has a problem unique to the region; armed forces that have long (since the 1950s) dominated the political process and become very wealthy, corrupt and politically powerful as a result. Islamic terrorist violence inside Pakistan has sharply declined since 2014 when public outrage forced the military to shut down the last sanctuary (North Waziristan) for Islamic terrorists that were not under the military’s control and, worse, trying to turn Pakistan into an Islamic dictatorship. That would have threatened the Pakistani military and could not be tolerated. Islamic terrorist violence did not completely disappear in Pakistan after 2014 and the military blamed that on outsiders like India, Afghanistan and the United States. In mid-2021 a decade of support for the Afghan Taliban resulted in the overthrow of the elected government and a halt to two decades of economic growth, plus it increased Islamic terrorist violence in Pakistan because more Islamic terrorists have sanctuary in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani generals continued sheltering and supporting Islamic terror groups that only attacked foreign nations, especially India. This contributed to growing hostility towards the military within Pakistan and escalating international criticism. In 2018 the U.S. became more public about the fact that Pakistan was dishonest and unreliable. The Americans pointed out that they had foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and Pakistan gave back nothing but lies and deceit. Meanwhile India “disrespected” the Pakistani military by continuing to consider China, rather than Pakistan, as its main security threat. India has to deal with some internal unrest, which does far less damage than what Pakistan has to deal with. Islamic terrorist violence, mainly in Indian Kashmir, is less of a problem than tribal rebels in the northeast and Maoist (communist) ones in eastern India. Both these threats are being slowly diminished while Pakistan continues to make unofficial war on its neighbors.
Another Pakistani problem is that its economy is becoming more dependent on Chinese investment as well as Chinese diplomatic support and arms exports. Pakistan’s pro-Islamic terrorist policy has left it with few allies besides China, Iran and North Korea. Pakistan needs help, but mostly from Pakistanis as the ills that torment Pakistan can only be resolved from within. That is happening despite opposition from the military because the defense budget is unusually high and a lot of it goes to support the lavish lifestyles and foreign bank accounts of senior officers. This has caused a financial crisis that other nations, especially Arab oil states, the United States and international lenders like the IMF and World Bank, have kept from becoming a catastrophe.
These financial problems are now so great that all the usual sources of emergency cash insist that defense spending be curbed or there will be no more financial aid. Currently unemployment (over 25 percent) and inflation (25 percent and rising) and a collapse of the local currency to a record 255 rupees per dollar are the result of endemic corruption and excessive military spending. The house of cards Pakistani generals built and maintained since the 1970s is collapsing, not because of religious or military issues but because the nation the generals have plundered for so long is bankrupt and no one will bail them out any more. Last week’s collapse of Pakistan’s electric grid is the beginning of this end. The generals must now either give up power or face a revolution holding them responsible for destroying Pakistan’s economy. Either way, the military loses. It is just a question of whether the generals take the economy down with them.
February 2, 2023: In Pakistan the military continues trying to weaken the growing political opposition to the political power the military has amassed since the 1950s. Failing to kill or imprison former prime minister Khan, the military is now going after powerful politicians who support Khan. The center of the opposition to military political power is Imran Khan, a popular prime minister, who was ousted from power because of failure to solve the economic problems and for not getting along with the military. Khan blamed the military for most of the economic problems and organized major protests against the military after he was ousted from office. That led to a failed assassination attempt on Khan. He was wounded and soon back on his feet organizing and leading protests. There are national elections in mid-2023 where Khan is a candidate and currently appears to have a good chance of regaining his job as prime minister. The military is not pleased with this but is kept busy trying to contain the growing violence with the new Taliban dominated Afghan government and Islamic terrorists based in Afghanistan.
For decades the military and its ISI (Inter-services Intelligence) promoted Islamic terrorist groups and the enacting of the harshest blasphemy laws found in any Moslem country. ISI is supposed to be mainly about military intelligence but also performs like the CIA, FBI and KGB. ISI has a department that handles domestic terrorism against anyone considered troublesome to the army. These people are threatened or killed. The military using the ISI in this way is a major reason for growing opposition to the military.
February 1, 2023: In northern India, on the Chinese border, China and India have a ceasefire that suits China more than India. The ceasefire involved both sides moving most of their troops from portions of the LAC (Line of Actual Control) in India's Ladakh State. Also known as the Macartney-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 mutual troops withdrawal in Ladakh reduces tensions there but not along other LAC segments where there are still a lot of Chinese and Indian troops confronting each other. China is slowly winning this border war because it uses largely non-violent tactics. China pushes its troops, often while unarmed, across the border and forces the Indians to try and stop them. This has led to casualties, but not from the use of military weapons. If the Indians fire on the unarmed Chinese troops, then India is the aggressor and China can shoot back. Often China does not and shames India into backing off. India realizes that China has a more powerful military and will not feel confident to defend forcefully and risk a large-scale battle on the border. India is still haunted by the last battle between Indian and Chinese forces back in 1962. In a month of fighting that began on 20 October 1962, India lost 7,000 troops (57 percent prisoners, the rest dead or missing) compared to 722 Chinese dead. China declared a ceasefire that India accepted. China actually advanced in two areas, a thousand kilometers apart and ended up taking 43,000 square kilometers of Indian territory.
The source of the 1962 war and current border disputes are a century old and heated up again when China resumed control over Tibet in the 1950s. From the end of the Chinese empire in 1912 up until 1949 Tibet had been independent. But when the communists took over China in 1949, they sought to reassert control over their "lost province" of Tibet. This began slowly, but once all of Tibet was under Chinese control in 1959, China had a border with India and there was immediately a disagreement about exactly where the border should be. That’s because, in 1914, the newly independent Tibet government worked out a border (the McMahon line) with the British who then controlled India. China considers this border agreement illegal and wants 90,000 square kilometers back. India refused, especially since this would mean losing much of the state of Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India and some bits elsewhere there and all along the new northern border.
India feels more capable in opposing China because of growing Indian economic power. Indian GDP nearly doubled in the last decade; from $1.7 trillion to the current over three 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 $15 trillion. Over three decades of spectacular economic growth in China resulted in the Chinese GDP becoming over fourteen times larger than it was in 1989. In that same period the U.S. GDP doubled. After World War II India had a larger GDP than China and never felt the same urgency as China to modernize and expand the economy. But India has not been as effective in keeping up with the Chinese military in terms of modernization. Indian threats to oppose Chinese military moves carry little weight with the Chinese or anyone else who analyzes the situation. Actions have consequences and, in this case, it means China can push India around on their mutual border. China intends to keep pushing until it regains its claimed lost territories. Currently the Indian GDP growth rate is increasing faster than China’s. The Indian defense budget does not benefit and military modernization plans remain on hold as the politicians try to figure out how to spend all the additional money not available to them. China notices this and is encouraged to push ill-equipped and supported Indian troops back from the border.
January 30, 2023: In northwest Pakistan (city of Peshawar) the TTP was accused of carrying out a bombing inside a police compound that killed over a hundred people and wounded many more. The bomb went off in a mosque and was carried and detonated by a suicide bomber. TTP leadership insisted they had nothing to do with it
Afghanistan backed the TTP denial of responsibility and pointed out that there are other terror groups carrying out attacks inside Pakistan. Since the ISI-backed IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) government took power in late-2021, Afghanistan has become a safer place for Islamic terror groups. The most active include the TTP (Pakistani Taliban) and ISK (Islamic State Khorasan), which is also the local ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) affiliate. The more immediate problem is the TTP. Many TTP factions operate independently, often contrary to orders from TTP leadership. In contrast the Afghan Taliban was always more disciplined because they were dependent on the Pakistani military for a sanctuary in Baluchistan province and other essential aid. This included cash payments from the Afghan heroin cartels that also depend on the Pakistani military for essential supplies and services. The Afghan Taliban have long helped protect cartel operations inside Afghanistan. Now that the Afghan Taliban is back in power, after 20 years in exile, they find they have a lot in common with the TTP. Both Taliban’s see the Pakistani military as the enemy and that is causing major problems for the Pakistani military and Pakistan as a whole. So far TTP still has sanctuary in Afghanistan and is regularly sought out and attacked by Pakistani UAVs rather than IEA security forces. TTP tends to be blamed for all terror attacks but subsequent events often show another group was responsible.
Pakistanis tend to take their Islam very seriously. This is part of a larger problem because since the founding of Pakistan in 1947 there has been frequent and continuing sectarian, religious and ethnic violence. Religion continues to be a major cause of violence. Attacks are carried out between different sects of Islam, primarily Shia and Sunni but there are other sects that attract violent attention. There is even violence between identical religious/ethnic groups because those who lived in Pakistan before 1947 don’t get along with those who fled Indian anti-Moslem violence in 1947 and settled in Pakistan. Most Moslem Indians stayed in India in 1947 and India currently has more Moslems than Pakistan. There is religious violence on both sides of the border but it is worst in Pakistan, whose name translates to “Land of the Pure.” Afghans, in contrast, tend to be more tolerant. The exception is radical Afghan Moslems like the original Taliban that was created by the Pakistani military in the mid-1990s. Clashes in the northwest between Pakistani troops and Islamic terrorists continues. To a lesser degree, violence occurs in the southeast (Baluchistan) with Baluchi separatists. Elected officials blame the Pakistani military for causing the separatist and religious violence and the resulting economic problems. The military has been fighting India for eighty years to gain control over Kashmir. This led to the use of Islamic terrorists in Kashmir and India in general. The Pakistani military adopted this approach in 1979 when the military leadership decided that nothing else would work and perhaps the military created and controlled Islamic terrorism would be the solution. It wasn’t and it led to more Islamic terrorism inside Pakistan. The Islamic terror groups based in Pakistan continue to create violence in Indian Kashmir. Since then, Pakistani terrorist training camps have proliferated just across the border in the third of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan since 1948. Back then the newly created nations (India and Pakistan) disagreed over who should get Kashmir. By the terms of the agreement that created the two new nations, Kashmir belonged to India. In the first of many pointless disputes with India, Pakistan attacked, seeking to grab all of Kashmir using tribal warriors. The Indians responded and halted the Pakistani advance and did not escalate the war further by trying to push the Pakistanis out of the third of Kashmir they had taken. For over 70 years Pakistan has continued fighting to take all of Kashmir. This effort has backfired with chronic Islamic terrorist violence in Pakistan and the military demanding, and getting, more money to handle the Kashmir crisis they created. The elected Pakistani officials kept resisting the control the military exercised over the government and the economy. This resistance to the Pakistani military kept growing and the current Pakistan economic crisis can be blamed on the depredations of the military. Pakistan is financially bankrupt and foreign lenders agree that the Pakistani military is the most to blame for this. A major mistake the founders of Pakistan made was not to eliminate feudalism or ensure political control over the military. When Bangladesh became independent of Pakistan in 1972, it kept the military under control of the elected government. After the 1970s Bangladesh was peaceful and more prosperous than Pakistan. Even before the civil war with East Pakistan, the Pakistani military saw itself as free of government control and often took control of the government. The Indian military has never done this and that made a difference. In Pakistan the military always resisted persistent attempts by elected officials to make the military subordinate to the electorate. Popular hostility to the Pakistan military has increased substantially in the last decade and even many of the generals are backing the” Indian Model”. Making the switch without a lot of violence is preferred by all involved but sufficient will to make it happen has not yet developed.
January 27, 2023: While India has supported Russia since the Ukraine War began a year ago, Pakistan has maintained its good relations with Ukraine. This has caused friction between Pakistan and Russia and is stalling a joint effort to build a pipeline to supply Pakistan with Russian oil. Officially, Pakistan is not seeking discounted Russian oil or still selling military equipment to Ukraine. That reality is that Pakistan is very interested in getting some of this cheap oil. The price is low because Russia must deliver most of it by smuggling it to customers via tankers. Pakistan is no longer shipping military items to Ukraine, instead they go to Poland, and then across the border into Ukraine.