March 21, 2023:
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 in current dollars to over $3.5 trillion now. This made India the fifth largest economy, surpassing Britain ($3.2 trillion) and France ($3.2 trillion). The rest of the top five are the U.S ($21 trillion), China, Germany ($4.1 trillion) and Japan ($4 trillion). Chinese GDP growth is slowing although in the last decade it more than doubled from $6.1 trillion to $18.3 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 its 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 enrich themselves from all the additional money now available for spending. China notices this and is encouraged to push ill-equipped and supported Indian troops back from the border.
India also backs Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. Other nations that support the Russian invasion have a lot in common with Russia as they tend to be aggressive and warlike dictatorships or those with ideological or economic reasons to back Russia. These supporters also include Belarus, Eritrea, China, Iran, Mali, Myanmar, Nicaragua, North Korea and Syria. All these supporters agree that the West is a problem for them and Russia. Even before the 2022 invasion, Russia insisted that its operations in Ukraine were part of an effort to defend Russia from growing NATO efforts to destroy Russia.
Afghanistan Resists Pakistani Control
Disagreements between the Pakistani and IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) governments over how to deal with the TTP (Pakistani Taliban) have resulted in the TTP remaining safe in their Afghan camps while launching attacks across the border in Pakistan. This is mainly because of political surprises in Afghanistan. Pro-Pakistan officials in the IEA government complain about how they have lost control of government policy. Pakistan believed that once the IEA took over the pro-Pakistan members of the IEA government would give Pakistan their long-desired control over the Afghan government.
That might have happened except for the fact the official leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Hebatullah Akhundzada, is unpopular with many Taliban faction leaders, in part because Akhundzada was seen as a figurehead and his chief deputy, the head of the Haqqani Network, is actually in charge. That was true but the secret was that Akhundzada only acted as a figurehead because he had to operate from the Pakistan sanctuary in Quetta, a city just across the border from the Afghan province of Kandahar, where many of the original Taliban came from. Kandahar was where Akhundzada went after the IEA replaced the IRA (American backed-Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) in mid-2021. Once back in Afghanistan, Akhundzada could exercise his power as the official head of the Taliban and do so without potentially lethal pressure from Pakistan.
The Pakistanis underestimated how widespread the hatred of Pakistan was in Afghanistan, even among the many Afghan Taliban who seemed to maintain a pro-Pakistan attitude. Pakistan believed this would neutralize the many Afghan Taliban factions who had openly expressed their opposition to Pakistan interference in Afghanistan. Mullah Akhundzada was a highly respected Islamic scholar who rarely commented on his political beliefs. The Pakistani ISI (military intelligence service) that created the Taliban in the mid-1990s and “managed” them ever since misjudged Akhundzada’s silence on his attitude towards Pakistan. This was seen as agreement with or neutrality towards the ISI and Pakistan in general. Akhundzada had widespread support in Afghanistan while the pro-Pakistan IEA officials who were appointed while the Taliban were still in Quetta had little such support.
When Akhundzada overruled Pakistan-backed IEA officials, it was clear he was no longer a figurehead. Akhundzada was not a rigid religious fanatic either. When he imposed a ban on women’s higher education in December 2022, he paid attention to the reaction of most Afghans and agreed to lift most of the restrictions. Akhundzada understands he is responsible to what Afghans, not the ISI, want.
This revelation means a lot of problems for the ISI and the Pakistan military, who are in trouble with Pakistan voters and elected officials who are closing in on curbing the independence of the Pakistan military. The military’s policy towards Afghanistan played a minor role in this but the revelation that the Afghans hate the Pakistani military as much as most Pakistanis do will have implications for the future of the Pakistan military. Inside Afghanistan, the pro-Pakistan Haqqani government officials are being told to not criticize IEA leader Akhundzada openly because that might lead to more anti-Pakistan violence inside Afghanistan.
Another Afghan problem with Pakistan is that 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. Their radical attitudes were the result of the Taliban being created by the Pakistani military in the mid-1990s. This left a lethal legacy as clashes in northwest Pakistan between Pakistani troops and Islamic terrorists continues. To a lesser degree, violence occurs in the southeast (Baluchistan) with Baluchi separatists. Afghans and Pakistani elected officials blame the Pakistani military for causing the separatist and religious violence and the resulting economic problems. While Pakistanis complain of their “Afghan problem” the Afghans are more justified complaining about a much more active and damaging “Pakistani problem.”
Inside Pakistan the major problem is the excessive power of the Pakistani military. Even though Pakistan military spending, at $11 billion a year, is the lowest in the region, the Pakistani military is a major political power, with veto power over any decisions the elected government makes. This contributed to the current economic problems and that has Pakistan facing bankruptcy. While the Pakistani military budget is only four percent of GDP, that is the highest percentage of GDP for military spending in the region. Active duty and retired military officers have a lot of control over the national economy and exercise a form of corruption that aims to take care of the military first and anything else second. This arrangement has been under attacks since the Pakistani debt crises began in 2019. The generals can, literally, blame it all on “foreign bankers” and largely infidel (non-Moslem) ones at that.
The IMF (International Monetary Fund) is reluctant to loan Pakistan any more money because of its excessive defense spending and lack of progress in getting wealthy Pakistanis to pay taxes. There are also accusations of financing Islamic terrorism. The IMF warned that if charges that Pakistan is allowing Islamic terrorists to raise and move cash out of the country are verified, Pakistan would have more problems obtaining foreign loans. The terrorism funding charges are evaluated by the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) which threatened to put Pakistan on the gray list and will escalate to the black list if Pakistan does not make effective efforts to block Pakistan based terrorist groups from using the international banking system to finance their violence. Pakistan reduced the illegal financing activity coming out of Pakistan and by 2019 FATF took Pakistan off the gray list. Being on the gray list leads to being put on the black list and that would mean Pakistan would have some financial problems because of the resulting international banking restriction. Without IMF assistance Pakistan would slide into financial collapse. That would hurt all Pakistanis, including the military.
Indian Communist Violence Fades
For 2022 India’s communist Maoist rebels ranked 12th out of 20 terrorist groups worldwide. Total deaths caused by the Maoists in 2022 were 98, which is down from 147 in 2021. There were 414 terrorism related deaths in India during 2022.These included Islamic terrorists in northwest India (Kashmir) and tribal rebels in the northeast. The Maoists operate in eastern India, and the areas where they are active have shrunk considerably over the last decade because of energetic government efforts to eliminate them.
In 2020, there were 588 deaths in India from all forms of terrorism, compared to 621 in 2019 and 940 in 2018. In 2020 54 percent of the dead were in Kashmir, which was 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. The decline in Maoist activity began in 2009 when India assigned 75,000 additional police to deal with the Maoists. Initially this did not increase Maoist losses, but did result in more dead policemen. The Maoists did lose many of their rural camps and, in general, were forced to devote more time to security and less to attacking the government or extorting money from businesses. As always, the government has failed to effectively address the social and economic problems in the countryside, where feudalism and corruption are rampant. These problems provide the Maoists with recruits, and support from many of the locals.
Eventually the government did address the local social and economic problems and this is what deprived the Maoists of areas where they could operate. The police efforts continued and now the Maoists are only active in a small portion of eastern India, where they are more concerned with surviving than expanding or attacking the police. Civilians in Maoist infested areas are less afraid of providing police with information about Maoist movements or joining pro-government militias to resist Maoist operations. It also became easier to recruit Maoist members to become active informants. These spies are paid monthly and the sudden affluence of their families often alerts Maoist leaders to the presence of police informants. While details about informants are kept secret, the losses suffered because police had inside information is often obvious. The Maoist decline has demoralized leftist leaders, who have not been able to come up with any way to halt or reverse the losses. Maoists are a radical faction of the once mighty Indian communist party. Many Indian communists were slow to understand why all those East European communist governments, including Russia, collapsed between 1989 and 1991. Despite that many Indians still support communism, but not the violent, ineffective and increasingly unpopular Maoists.
Pakistan has been fighting India for eighty years in an undeclared war 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 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 but 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. In the last few years Pakistan has increasingly attacked Hindus living in southern Kashmir. There are several Hindu shrines in this area and Hindus continue to live there because of that and the continued visits by Indians from all through India visiting these shrines. Most of the Kashmir population is Moslem and the Moslems are tired of all the Pakistan sponsored violence. Economically, India is much better off than Pakistan and Indian Moslems want to preserve that situation in Kashmir. Pakistan can still recruit some young Indian Moslems in Kashmir to the cause of “defending Islam”, but that does not provide enough manpower to threaten Indian rule. In the end, economics prevails and the Pakistani economy is getting weaker while India visibly prospers, even in Kashmir.
March 20, 2023: Pakistan accuses the IMF of delaying agreement on a new financial bailout loan because Pakistan refuses to spend less on their nuclear weapons program. The IMF didn’t put it that way but did point out that the IMF loan would not work as intended unless Pakistan reduced spending on the military, and that includes the nuclear weapons program.
March 19, 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 Imran Khan, the military is now going after powerful politicians who support Khan. Major opposition to military political power is coming from Imran Khan and his many followers. Khan was 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 last November and a growing list of accusations; mainly about corruption or terrorism. 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 coalition that replaced Khan is trying to get Khan imprisoned for corruption or terrorism. The corruption charges are suspect because Khan was wealthy before entering politics and got elected in part because he wanted to reduce the corruption in government. This usually brings accusations of corruption from political opponents who are obviously and notoriously corrupt. There are fears that all this may escalate into a major revolution.
The military is not an innocent bystander in all this because the military is one of the most corrupt government entities in Pakistan. It was the military that was responsible for Pakistan encouraging Islamic terrorism and seeking to control neighboring Afghanistan. At this point the military is seen as a curse upon Pakistan. While the military is willing to use force to maintain its position, a growing number of military personnel recognize the military as a major part of the problem.
Dismantling the toxic legacy of the military won’t be easy. 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.
Meanwhile, Pakistan is bankrupt and considered a terrible credit risk. The IMF is trying to arrange a last-chance financial rescue package but many of the nations that supply the cash for IMF loans are hesitant to trust chaotic Pakistan with more IMF money.
March 18, 2023: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) police raided a location intelligence indicated was where munitions were stockpiled by local terrorists. This proved to be accurate and a large quantity of weapons, ammunition and bomb making materials was seized. There were als0 some completed bombs, apparently for use in the growing number of attacks in the province.
March 16, 2023: India has approved the purchase of $8.5 billion in new weapons for the army, navy and air force. All of these weapons must be made in India. This could be a major problem because many Indian developed and manufactured weapons are considered substandard or even unusable by the military. Despite this, since 2014 the government has been obsessed with making India less dependent on imported military technology. Increased efforts to develop a domestic weapons development and production capability have failed. In response to this the government made it more difficult to import needed weapons that Indian firms were unable to develop and build. The new $8.5 billion procurement package is the first in a five year program that will obtain about $130 billion of new weapons and equipment. The government is aware of the problems with Indian made weapons and is trying to address the structural problems that have given government organizations a monopoly on weapons development and prevented commercial firms from developing military equipment. India is also trying to reduce the power of government weapons development and production operations that have never been able to compete with foreign defense manufacturers.
A major goal of local procurement is to decrease reliance on Russia, which is still the largest supplier of military equipment. At the same time India is the second largest (after Saudi Arabia) importer of weapons in the world and the largest customer for Russian military exports. India has been buying less from Russia since the 1990s. Since the 1960s Russia supplied more and more, often over 80 percent, of Indian weapons imports. In the last decade that has fallen to fifty percent and continues to decline.
The second part of the program to reduce weapons imports is to make it easier for Indian firms to meet the needs of the Indian military. The government issued a list identifying specific weapons and items of military equipment that must be procured locally. Making it mandatory to buy locally has been tried before and led to some spectacular failures, so much so that the government authorized the emergency FTP (Fast Track Procurement) procedures in 2004. With FTP the military could unilaterally buy some items from foreign suppliers. It was assumed that FTP would eliminate the most embarrassing problems with getting the military weapons desperately needed. It was also believed that government efforts to clean up the corruption and other problems with the military procurement process would soon make FTP unnecessary. That did not happen.
FTP is still around to allow the immediate purchase of essential military items without the usual political and procurement delays that can add years, sometimes a decade or more, to obtaining needed items. The new “Buy Indian” policy slows down the use of FTP even though FTP is still needed because the current confrontation with better equipped Chinese forces on the northern border makes it obvious that all the Chinese weapons and equipment is Chinese-made and clearly more modern. It was understood that the new “Buy Indian” mandates would make it more difficult to use FTP. The Indian Air Force believes it will not be able to replace aging jet fighters with local designs in time. The air force will shrink while the politicians come up with more ways to block efforts to fix the problem. This refusal to face reality and actually solve procurement problems is crippling the Indian military.
Meanwhile more Indians ask why China developed a world-class weapons development and production capability in the last few decades while India has not? Mainly it’s about corruption and decades of India making it difficult for Indians to start and operate profitable firms that could produce consumer goods as well as military equipment. The United States became the largest economy in the world over a century ago by encouraging this entrepreneurship. Many other nations, including those in Europe and East Asia (Japan, South Korea and China) followed that example. India has a hard time catching up because its bad procurement procedures are considered useful by a lot of politicians and senior government officials.
March 15, 2023: In northwest Pakistan (South Waziristan) soldiers attacked a TTP safehouse near the border and killed the eight TTP Islamic terrorists inside. Two civilians also died in the crossfire.
March 14, 2023: In eastern Pakistan (Lahore) police were prevented from arresting former prime minister Khan, because a crowd of 200 Khan supporters surrounded the home and prevented police from entering. Police used tear gas and a water cannon in an effort to disperse the crowd. That failed, even though four of the protesters were injured.
March 10, 2023: Pakistan has been shipping weapons (including 44 T-80UD tanks) and munitions (mainly 155mm artillery shells) to Ukraine. All this is paid for by NATO nations. Since the 1990s, Pakistan has been a regular purchaser of weapons from Ukraine. Pakistan is also donating non-military aid to Ukraine.
March 6, 2023: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) a suicide bomber on a motorcycle exploded next to a police truck, killing ten policemen and wounding twelve.
February 23, 2023: In northeast India (Arunachal Pradesh) police located and aided a camp near the Burma border used by local tribal rebels. The rebels escaped but weapons, ammunition and other equipment was seized and the camp burned down. The rebels belonged to ENNG (Eastern Naga National Government), which operates on both sides of the border. Operations against ENNG are complicated by China, which backs the current military government in Myanmar (Burma). India has a 1,4oo kilometer border with Burma in the northeast and long had problems with tribal separatist rebels there, on both sides of the border. India finally worked out peace deals with all their rebels before the pro-India elected government in Burma was ousted in February 2021. The Burmese army war with northern tribes resumed because the army is seen as the main reason for all the corruption and illegal Chinese economic activity in the north. Since then, there has been a lot more fighting in northern Burma and a lot of refugees fleeing to India. The Indian government has ordered border police to turn away or forcibly return such refugees to Burma. Local state governors refuse to enforce those orders, if only because so many of the refugees have kin in India. Many of the refugees belong to the same tribe that straddles the border. A lot of non-tribal Burmese entered as well and India sought to stop those refugees to avoid more trouble with China. The state governors protected these refugees as well. In some cases, separatist tribal gunmen in India used force to block Indian government efforts to curb the flow of refugees. The federal government has not escalated this dispute, in part because the local resistance is an adequate excuse for allowing the Burma refugees in despite protests from China. The Myanmar military government is sustained by China, which provides all the fuel, bombs, shells and other munitions needed to keep the fight going. Burmese troops are reluctant to fight when they encounter armed resistance, which continues in the tribal areas. The urban rebels are slowly arming but still depend on a lot of demonstrations by unarmed protestors. So far the army and police have killed over 2,000 people and imprisoned over 15,000. Aside from China, most nations in the region want the military government to free the elected and appointed officials of the overthrown government. Without Chinese support the Burmese generals could not have sustained their coup and might not even have attempted it without assurances of Chinese support. India and other nations bordering China see the Burma coup as a threat.
February 22, 2023: An Indian firm has purchased the port operations at the Israeli coastal city of Haifa. The Indian firm will invest in improving the port infrastructure and operations. This Indian investment is part of the growing economic activity between India and Israel. This includes a free trade agreement between Israel and India. In 2021 trade between India and Israel totaled $6.3 billion and keeps growing. Israel has become a major supplier of modern weapons to India and has a lot more non-military tech to offer. A lot of trade deals regarding tech involve a lot of negotiations because of the Indian bureaucracy. Free trade agreements eliminate a lot of those hassles, especially those that involve tech transfer to India or establishing manufacturing operations in India for Israeli products. That has led to the ability of Israeli firms to open manufacturing operations inside India that produce the most modern Israeli weapons. These are used by Israeli forces as well as the Indian military and export customers approved by India and Israel. India is a huge market for all manner of Israeli advanced tech and new trade agreements allow new Israeli civilian and military goods to be manufactured in India. In the past Indian law made it difficult for foreign manufacturers to operate in India without surrendering some patent rights. Changes in those laws have eliminated some of those problems.
February 20, 2023: Pakistan is facing growing competition from China as Afghanistan’s largest trading partner. China is increasing its trade with Afghanistan. In December 2022 China imported $9.1 million worth of Afghan goods while selling Afghanistan $59 million worth goods. At this rate China will become Afghanistan’s second largest trading partner, after Pakistan.
February 19, 2023: In northwest Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) at the Torkham border crossing near the Khyber Pass, there was gunfire that caused the busy border crossing to be closed for at least five days, and maybe more because of the inability of IEA and Pakistan agreeing on who is allowed to travel from Afghanistan to Pakistan.
February 9, 2023: India was warned by UN security experts that in Afghanistan, ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) affiliate, ISK (Islamic State Khorasan) is planning attacks on the embassies of India, China and Iran in the Kabul Green Zone. This is part of the ISK effort to prevent the IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) from establishing diplomatic and economic relations with foreign nations. Most nations are still reluctant to establish an embassy in the IEA controlled Kabul.