In northwest India (Kashmir) the border violence continues. The Kashmir separatists, who have cooperated with the Pakistan backed Islamic terrorists and the Indian government as needed, are now calling for tourists to return, including Indian Hindus who for centuries have come here to worship at the many Hindu shrines in the area. The separatists, who have the support of many, if not most, Moslems in Kashmir say tourists will not be harmed. But that has not been the case in the past. While most Kashmiri Moslems would still like to live in an independent Kashmir, that is unlikely to happen. The main reason why is because of those Hindu shrines, and majority Hindu India does not trust a Moslem government to safeguard them, or guarantee safe access for Hindu pilgrims. The Moslem independence groups continue to be active in Kashmir, organizing demonstrations and strikes. These activities are unpopular with many Kashmiris because they interfere with the returning tourists. In the early 1990s, before the Pakistani Islamic terror campaign got into high gear, Kashmir was quite prosperous because of tourism. Older Kashmiris want to get that back but it is unlikely to happen as long as Pakistan sponsors Islamic terrorist groups across the border in Pakistani Kashmir.
Meanwhile the Kashmir border violence by Pakistani troops was way up this year, as it was along the entire Indian border. But half the 500 ceasefire border violations in 2016 were in Kashmir. These incidents escalated in mid-August and that ended a ceasefire arranged in April when two days of cross border shooting ended when commanders from both countries met and agreed to resume the 2003 ceasefire. Until April it had been over six months since the last such incident. There were 405 incidents like this in 2015. In December 2015 Indian and Pakistani military leaders met on the Kashmir border to reaffirm efforts to reduce violence on the LOC (Line of Control) in Kashmir. Such incidents still occur despite a 20o3 ceasefire. The current LOC negotiations have kept things pretty quiet on the LOC since a September 2015 meeting in which India threatened a major military response to almost daily Pakistani attacks. Apparently convinced (especially by the Indian politicians and media calling for war) this was serious the Pakistanis reduced the border violence although not the efforts to get Islamic terrorists across the LOC and into Kashmir. Because of internal politics in Pakistan the Pakistani army revived the border violence. This is all about the continuing battle between elected Pakistani politicians and the military over the threat from India. The Pakistani generals justify their large budget and numerous other privileges by the need to deal with the Indian threat. But there is no Indian threat. The Pakistani military refuses to accept that and the border erupts once more as the Pakistani generals try to create a threat.
Eastern India experienced an unexpected reduction in Leftist rebel (Maoist) terrorist activity in the wake of the surprise November 8th announcement that all 500 and 1,000 rupee notes were worthless and people had until December 30th to turn in the old notes for the new ones. The 1,000 rupee note is worth about $15 and the favorite form of currency for terrorists, corrupt politicians and criminals of all sorts. The government was criticized for how they handled the currency exchange but after two weeks the initial chaos largely subsided and it was possible to note the impact on terrorist operations. Overall terrorist activity was down, especially in eastern India (Maoists) and the northwest (Kashmir Islamic terrorists). The Maoists were hit hardest and surrenders hit record levels with the former Maoists reporting that for many of their fellow revolutionaries the massive loss of cash was very demoralizing and more Maoists can be expected to surrender. This accelerates a trend that has been under way for several years and has led the Maoists to spend most of their time raising cash via extortion and other schemes. The basic problem for the Maoists is that after fifty years of futile fighting the revolution has lost its popular appeal. The Maoist movement has seen their membership decline from 12,000 to about 8,000 since 2007. The senior leadership has suffered even heavier losses. The Indian Maoists have no outside support while the Islamic terrorists have long, and very visibly been based in Pakistan. Nevertheless the Maoists this year are reversing several years of decline (in Maoist related violence). In 2015 there were 251 deaths related to Maoist violence, the lowest level in over a decade. But so far this year it looks like Maoist violence will increased about 40 percent going back to levels not seen since 2014. This is mainly because of the failure to deal with the corruption that kept the Maoists popular enough for decades to keep them going. Despite these increases overall terrorism related deaths for India will be about the same in 2016 as they were when 722 died in 2015.
Outside of India a lot has not changed when it comes to terrorism. Five nations (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria) continue to account for most of the terrorism related deaths in 2015 (72 percent), as has been the case since 2013. Four Islamic terrorist organizations (ISIL, al Qaeda, Boko Haram and the Taliban) account for nearly 70 percent of all terrorist deaths. Many of the lesser terror groups are also Islamic. In fact, of the top ten nations by terrorist activity (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria, India, Somalia, Yemen, Philippines and Thailand) only India and the Philippines had a significant minority of terrorist deaths that were not carried out by Moslems. In those two countries the minority terrorists were leftist rebels who had not noticed the collapse of radical socialism in 1989.
Pakistan reduced Islamic terrorist activity inside Pakistan for the second year in a row. In 2016 terrorist related deaths were down nearly 40 percent and experienced the lowest number of terrorism activity since 2008. Pakistan carried out all this counter-terrorism activity mainly in self-defense. The military, which tolerates or supports many Islamic terror groups, is under growing pressure to shut down all Islamic terrorists in the country. Many military officers resist that because they believe, for religious or economic reasons that some Islamic terrorists must still be protected (so they can attack India and Afghanistan.) It is getting harder and harder to defend that position. America, India and Afghanistan are leading that effort and Pakistani government denials no longer work at all. American officials have bluntly told the Pakistanis recently that unless all the Islamic terrorists were targeted there would be no resumption of American military aid. The U.S. has provided Pakistan with $33 billion in aid since 2001 and is fed up with Pakistani refusals to shut down Islamic terror groups that operate against Afghanistan and India but not Pakistan. The campaign in North Waziristan has reduced Islamic terrorist activity (1,800 dead) to levels not seen since 2006 (1,500 dead). Yet that is still much higher than India, a nation with six times the population but half the terrorism (most of it non-Moslem) deaths suffered by Pakistan. In other words, adjusted for population size there is still twelve times as many terrorism deaths in Pakistan.
In what used to be the other half of Pakistan (Bangladesh) 2016 has been a bad year for Islamic terrorism. Compared to 2014-15 Islamic terrorism deaths doubled in Bangladesh. Yet compared to Pakistan (with a ten percent larger population) Bangladesh still had only ten percent of the terrorist deaths suffered in Pakistan. The spike in Islamic terrorist activity for Bangladesh this year has been traced back to external sources. The most obvious one was Pakistan but police have concluded that the largest Islamic terrorist attack of 2016 (in July) was also largely triggered by external events. It was initially though that this attack was entirely a local operation by JMB (Jamaat ul Mujahideen Bangladesh). While ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) took credit for the July 1 attack those who carried it out belonged to JMB, which has been around since 1998 and wants to turn Bangladesh into a religious dictatorship. JMB turned to violence in 2005 and has been at war with the government ever since. As police interviewed more JMB members it because clear that ISIL was a major factor in making the July attack happen. Bangladesh also blames Pakistan for supporting Islamic terrorism within Bangladesh. This goes back to a 1971 uprising in Bangladesh that led to a war between Pakistan and India. Many Pakistani military leaders see this 1971 loss as a major reason for continued Pakistani hostility towards India. Not only was the Pakistani army decisively defeated in 1971, but the country lost much territory (which actively sought to secede and became Bangladesh). Former Pakistani military commander and dictator (via another coup) Pervez Musharraf admitted in late 2014 that he started the 1999 Kargil border war with India as another attempt to avenge the defeat (and loss of Bangladesh) in 1971. Pakistani officers (and many other Pakistanis) have always attributed the loss of Bangladesh to an Indian conspiracy with traitorous politicians in Bangladesh (that used to be called East Pakistan). Bangladesh calls that conspiracy theory absurd and that the real reason for the rebellion was corruption and incompetent government imposed by troops from “West Pakistan” (which after 1971 was all that remained of pre-1971 Pakistan).
Bangladesh is also having a problem with its eastern neighbor Burma as over 22,000 Burmese Moslems have fled to Bangladesh since October. Bangladesh borders Burma’s Rakhine State which contains a lot of Burmese Rohingya Moslems. While Bangladesh has arrested a few Pakistan trained Rohingya Islamic terrorists the Rohingya have largely avoided Islamic terrorism. But in Burma the Rohingya, who trace their origin to Bangladesh, have suffered increased persecution in Burma since the 1980s, and especially since the 2011 Burmese elections that restored democracy. There are already over 200,000 Burmese Rohingya in Bangladesh, most of them illegal migrants.
Despite growing problems with taking control of the South China Sea Chinese troops continue cause problems along the border of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. These incidents are not supposed to happen at all because of agreements China and India negotiated in 2013 and 2014. Because of that China claims recent incursions were accidents and point out that their troops leave as soon as India contacts China (per the border agreements) and China is able to contact the border troops involved. There have been fewer of these incursions since 2014. Meanwhile India continues to move more troops into the area and build facilities to support them. India recently activated the sixth of eight military airfields in the sparsely populated provinces. All eight of these bases are to be operational by the end of the year. Each can handle large transports (like the new American C-17s India bought) and has a control tower and room for rapid expansion.
China still claims to own Arunachal Pradesh and has always maintained that the 3,500 kilometer long border between India and Chinese Tibet (1,126 of with Arunachal Pradesh) was only temporary. Since 2010 China has been more aggressive about changing it. In 2014 China protested India building roads near the Chinese border in northeastern India. The roads were in an area that 2014 Chinese maps depicted as within China’s borders. This is just another escalation in a long-running border dispute over who owns areas like Arunachal Pradesh. In this part of northeast India there are few, if any, ethnic Chinese. The locals know that a Chinese takeover would mean drastic changes because the first thing China does in places like this is move in a lot of ethnic (Han) Chinese and marginalize the natives. This rarely ends well for the locals. While these Chinese claims have been on the books for decades, since 2000 China has become more vocal, and physical, about it. That's one reason India has been rapidly increasing its defense spending. But since both nations have nuclear weapons, a major war over these border disputes is unlikely. Constant Chinese pressure is another matter. China is applying the same tactic in all its recently activated territorial claims. Constant pressure while avoiding anything that might trigger a war is seen by China as a slow but certain way to secure its claims.
December 4, 2016: In northwest Pakistan (Khyber) the air force carried out its first airstrikes in months. This was in response to criticism from Afghanistan that Pakistan was ignoring Islamic terrorist camps near the Afghan border. So Pakistani F-16s hit five of the camps the Afghans had identified and killed at least a dozen people on the ground. This was technically part of the massive anti-terrorism campaign that began in mid-2014 in North Waziristan and was scheduled to end this December 31st. For the last year most of the air and ground action has been in adjacent tribal areas like Khyber. The campaign that began in North Waziristan involved heavy use of F-16s, helicopter gunships and army artillery. The air force also provided pretty good aerial reconnaissance. To keep friendly casualties down ground troops did little attacking and spent most of their time manning checkpoints on the borders of North Waziristan and mounted regular patrols along those borders. Despite this those borders still provided many opportunities for people to sneak past the troops. Most of the North Waziristan border is with Afghanistan and that was not as tightly guarded, which made it relatively easy for Islamic terrorists to hike across the border to villages that are hospitable to Pakistani Islamic terrorists. Pakistan was mainly interested in clearing out any Islamic terrorists hostile to Pakistan and that has largely been accomplished. About 5,000 people died in the 30 month campaign, 90 percent of them Islamic terrorists (although some of these were civilian bystanders) and the rest the security forces, mainly soldiers. Over a million civilians fled the fighting and only 30 percent have returned home so far.
November 29, 2016: In northwest India (Kashmir) four Islamic terrorists, dressed in police uniforms, got onto an army residential compound and took 14 people (including four civilians) hostage. By the end of the day the four attackers and seven soldiers were dead and the hostages rescued. .
November 26, 2016: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) two Chinese engineers were murdered and it is unknown who did it. This is an embarrassing incident because since early 2016 Pakistan has been sending additional police and soldiers to the area to provide more security for the growing Chinese workforce in Gwadar, a city of 100,000 and site of one of the biggest construction projects in the country. Pakistan has assured China that there would be no terrorist violence against Chinese working on upgrading the port of Gwadar. This is a key part of the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This project began in 2013 when China agreed to spend $18 billion to build a road from Gwadar into northwest China. This will require drilling long tunnels through the Himalayan Mountains on the border (in Pakistani controlled Kashmir.) The road and a natural gas pipeline are part of the larger CPEC project. This will make it much easier and cheaper to move people, data (via fiber optic cables) and goods between China and Pakistan. China also gets a 40 year lease on much of the port facilities at Gwadar, which India fears will serve as a base for Chinese warships. The thousands of Chinese coming into Pakistan for this project will be prime targets for Islamic terrorists and tribal separatists in Baluchistan. The people in Gwadar will benefit greatly from the construction and the expanded port. Because of that Pakistan is recruiting another 700 local policemen, whose intimate knowledge of the area will be key in keeping the peace. These new police will serve in a unit dedicated to keep the foreign (mainly Chinese) workforce safe.
November 25, 2016: In northwest Pakistan (Mohmand) four Pakistani Taliban suicide bombers tried to attack a mosque on an army base. The attackers were stopped in the courtyard of the mosque, where two of them were shot dead and two managed to detonate their explosive vests. Two soldiers were killed and 14 wounded.
November 22, 2016: In northwest India (Kashmir) three Indian soldiers were killed in a clash with Islamic terrorists sneaking in from Pakistan. One of the dead soldiers was beheaded.
November 20, 2016: In northwest Pakistan
Afghan police just across the border arrested three Haqqani Network operatives seeking to cross the border pretending to be returning refugees. The three were carrying smart phones, laptop computers and flash drives containing enormous amounts of data on Haqqani Network operations and that data indicated the three were part of an effort to expand Haqqani operations in eastern Afghanistan. Pakistan claimed that this incident was proof that they were driving Haqqani out of Pakistan but the Afghan intel officials pointed out that earlier this year Haqqani leaders had taken control of the Afghan Taliban and were bringing in experienced Haqqani operatives in from Pakistan to help with that. Afghan police have reported more known Haqqani personnel showing up in eastern Afghanistan. Some of this was apparently to deal with rebellious Haqqani factions in eastern Afghanistan and there have been reports of gun battles between some Haqqani groups as a result. This is connected with the Afghan Taliban internal problems. Many Taliban want to concentrate on getting rich (by working with the drug gangs) while other point out that the strict form of Islam the Taliban (in theory) adhere to forbids the use of opium and heroin or profiting from the production and distribution of this stuff. The Taliban has long tolerated the drug gangs because they were a source of needed cash. But now many Taliban factions are seeing that relationship as a permanent one and that has contributed to the current disagreements over who should run the Taliban. Many of these conservative dissidents are joining ISIL, which is uncompromisingly anti-drug. Many Afghan Taliban factions are willing to fight other Taliban over the decision to allow the organization to be run by the head of the Haqqani Network. Since 2014 the Afghan Taliban has been unable to agree on who should run the organization and that has led to more of the factions going into business for themselves. The several dozen factions have territories and different Pushtun tribes and clans they depend on for recruits. To maintain those tribal connections the Taliban need cash to pay full time staff and attract new recruits each year. The tribal leaders and local officials also have to be bribed. The faction leaders have been sending less (increasingly no) cash to the senior leadership in Quetta. More of the faction leaders are responding to family needs and many of those kin want to get out of Afghanistan. That costs money and there is but one major source.
November 19, 2016: In northwest India (Kashmir) Pakistan troops say they shot down an Indian quad-copter UAV that had flown at least 60 meters into Pakistani territory.
November 16, 2016: In northwest Pakistan (South Waziristan) the army is denying repeated accusations that they recently destroyed a large marketplace in Wana City because the tribal leader who ran it had refused to continue selling weapons to Islamic terrorists (especially the Taliban and al Qaeda) and had stopped selling weapons entirely.
November 15, 2016: In Afghanistan t
he government revealed that so far this year over 900,000 Afghan refugees have returned home, most from Pakistan and about a third from Iran. Not all of these returning refugees went voluntarily. Since 2014 there has been increasing anti-Afghan feelings in Pakistan. This led to another effort to persecute and expel several million Afghans living (often illegally) in Pakistan. Many refugees returning from Pakistan complain of being forced out. Since 2002 over four million of refugees in Pakistan have returned to Afghanistan. There are still about two million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and only about half of these are registered (there legally).
November 14, 2016: A Pakistani diplomat in Nigeria admitted that Nigerian pilots and technicians were working for the Nigerian Air Force. This announcement is apparently in response to vague media accusations that the government has been hiring foreign mercenaries to help with the war against Boko Haram. It’s no secret that the government has brought in thousands of foreign troops to help with the fight against Boko Haram. It’s not so bad if the foreigners are African but the media report imply that some of the mercenaries are from outside Africa and that would include Pakistanis.
Two Chinese submarines were handed over to the Bangladesh Navy. In 2013 Bangladesh ordered two Type 035G subs for $103 million each. The Type 035Gs are so cheap because they are an old design that actually goes all the way back to World War II. The Chinese, with their typical persistence have kept tweaking and improving that design. India is alarmed that neighboring Bangladesh has bought Chinese submarines, especially since Bangladesh has never had subs before. Bangladesh is the largest customer for Chinese arms exports. India also suspects that Chinese subs have been operating in the Bay of Bengal.
November 12, 2016: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) ISIL took credit for a bomb attack at a Sufi shrine that left at least fifty dead over a hundred wounded. ISIL believes any Moslem who does not adhere to the ISIL version of Islam is a heretic. Many conservative Sunni Moslems believe that as well. Nearly all Islamic terrorists are Sunni Islamic radicals that believe anyone who is not their type of Sunni is not really Moslem and must comply with Sunni religious practices or die. This sort of violence has been a problem in Pakistan even before Pakistan was created in 1947. The Sufi sect of Islam used to be dominant in Pakistan, but since the 1980s more militant forms of Islamic have proliferated with the support of the military. This was fostered by missionaries and money from Saudi Arabia, who preached intolerance and violence against non-Moslems and Moslems who are not extreme enough. This extremist form of Islam has been a major factor in preventing India and Pakistan from making peace. According to Islamic radicals, Hindus are the worst kind of infidel (non-Moslem) because, unlike Christians and Jews, they have no common religious roots with Islam. Actually, Hindus do, as there was a lot of Hindu influence in Arabia when Islam was founded 1,400 years ago, but the founders of Islam choose not to openly recognize their Hindu roots. Thus the harder line on Hindus.
India recently ordered another 464 T-90MS tanks. This follows a 2013 order for 235. The MS model is the latest upgrade of the T-90 designed for export customers. The MS has improved electronic and mechanical (especially the engine) components. These Russian designed tanks are built in India (using Indian and Russian made components). India is not only the largest export customer for the T-90 but the largest user of a tank that the Russian Army has not been able to buy in large quantities. India has some equipment problems early on, especially with heat related issues. These were taken care of and the users are confident their T-90s can handle the threats from Pakistan or China.
November 10, 2016: Pakistan is again accused of making possible another Islamic terror attack in Afghanistan. This one took place i
n the north (Kunduz province) when a suicide car bomber got to the front of the German consulate compound in Mazar-e-Sharif and exploded. Six people were killed and 129 wounded. The consulate was wrecked and subsequently abandoned. Another suicide bomber who was to have participated on foot during the attack was captured and admitted he was trained for two months by Pakistani officials in northwest Pakistan (Peshawar) and he was told that the attack had been planned back in May 2016.
India is again invoking its emergency FTP (Fast Track Procurement) procedures which enable 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. In this case the FTP is being invoked to purchase a billion dollars of ammunition (mostly), small arms and replacement parts for some weapons. The urgency was triggered by the increasing possibility of a border war with Pakistan.
November 9, 2016: The Chinese government announced that India would definitely see Chinese investment and trade deals disappear if India openly sided with Japan and other nations embroiled with China over Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea and elsewhere. This aggressive stance, especially in the South China Sea and the Indian border, is popular inside China where the government has increasingly been playing the nationalist card. All Chinese know their recent history. In the 19th century the corrupt and inept imperial government lost control of much of China (Hong Kong, Manchuria, and so on) to better armed and aggressive foreigners. Then the communists took control in 1948 and began to win China some respect. Now China (still run by the communists) is asserting its ancient claims on adjacent areas, like the South China Sea. But those ancient claims also include control of Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines and much of the Russian Far East. Asserting ancient claims is how the two World Wars began but China insists it is merely protecting itself. This was frequently heard before both World Wars began.