In northwest India (Kashmir) Internet service was restored after being largely unavailable for a week. This was another effort to curb local Islamic terrorists and separatists and their Pakistani sponsors from using the Internet to promote violence. The Indian government has experimented several times this year with different approaches to dealing with the problem and apparently some of the efforts work, but usually not for long.
Meanwhile Pakistan continues violating the ceasefire agreement while loudly insisting that India is the instigator of any violence. These violations currently occur several times a week. Usually Pakistani troops open fire on Indian police, soldiers or even civilians with machine-guns and mortars (82mm and 120mm). Some artillery (shells or rockets) are used and often the fire is a distraction for nearby attempts to sneak Pakistan based Islamic terrorists into India. Many, if not most of these illegal crossings are detected and stopped. India has lots of evidence (dead bodies of men tracked back to Pakistan who died carrying weapons and equipment from Pakistan) and improved use of border sensors and UAVs has become another form of useful evidence.
While casualty details are published on the Indian side, it is difficult to get reliable data on Pakistani losses. On both sides of this border the land is thinly populated, mostly by farmers and such. But the increased violence has led to nearly a hundred schools being closed, interrupting the education of a growing number of students. Several hundred civilians, on both sides of the border, are having their lives disrupted by the continuing border violence.
Kashmir border violence incidents were way up during 2016, as it was along the entire Indian border. But half of the nearly 600 ceasefire border violations in 2016 were in Kashmir. This was in violation of a 2003 agreement between India and Pakistan. 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. Yet such incidents continued to occur despite the 20o3 ceasefire and subsequent pledges to behave. It was internal politics in Pakistan involving the Pakistan army that revived the border violence in 2016. This was all about the continuing battle between elected politicians and the military over the non-existent threat from India. The Pakistani generals justify their large budget and numerous other privileges by the perceived need to deal with the Indian threat. But there is no Indian threat. The Pakistani military refuses to accept that and the border erupts whenever the Pakistani generals need to justify their privileges and powers.
This is no longer seen as just a local issue. The Pakistani military is under growing domestic (by elected leaders) and international (especially American) pressure to cease all support for Islamic terrorism and that includes the border incidents with India. The Pakistani generals have not shown any sign of changing. For current head of the Pakistani military, appointed at the end of 2016, spent much of his career working directly with forces (military and Islamic terrorist) causing violence on the Indian border and in Kashmir. The growing LOC violence is hailed as a major victory for the Pakistani military against Indian aggression.
For India this means Islamic terrorist and separatist violence in Kashmir has been increasing since 2015 although the growth seems slower this year. In 2016 there were about twenty terrorism related deaths a month in Kashmir and it is about the same so far in 2017. It varies depending on how much Pakistan increases its efforts to send in Islamic terrorists, finance more violence and attack border guards. Because of that the border violence could increase 10-20 percent over 2016. Attempts by Islamic terrorists to cross the border in India are down by nearly half in 2017. That appears more related to better equipment (sensors, night vision and some new weapons) and tactics. These improvements have been underway for several years and the Pakistanis have not been able to respond other than to depend more on Internet based activities.
The Pakistan Solution
In Pakistan the priority is reducing local Islamic terrorism activity directed at overthrowing the government. That effort is having continued success and terrorist related deaths appear headed for a 30 percent reduction this year. The local Islamic terror groups have reorganized after three years of heavy attack by the security forces and demonstrated their capabilities by remaining active in 2017. There was a spike in Islamic terrorism related deaths in February (114 civilians, 23 soldiers and police and 125 Islamic terrorists) but that has since declined. The total Islamic terrorism related deaths for all of 2016 was 1,803 (150 a month), compared to 3,682 for 2015. Until the wave of attacks in February Pakistan expected to have, for the first time since 2005, a year where there were under a thousand Islamic terrorism related deaths. Back in 2005 there were 648 dead and in 2003 only 189. Pakistan blames the Americans, India and non-Moslems in general for the growth of Islamic terrorism violence in Pakistan since 2003. Pakistan blames the usual suspects for the current resurgence. Yet India, with six times as many people, has kept annual terrorism (mostly not Islam related) to under a thousand a year since 2012.
In response to the February attacks Pakistan ordered a countrywide offensive against all Islamic terrorist groups. Several major Islamic terrorist attacks were disrupted and so far there have been over 6,000 arrests, several hundred Islamic terrorists killed or captured and the counter-terrorism effort continues. This campaign is having some unexpected side effects. Many of those arrested turned out to be gangsters or businessmen who supplied gangsters and Islamic terrorists (it is often difficult to tell the two apart). It turned out that a number of those arrested (terrorists and non-terrorists alike) also worked for foreign governments. The most common ties were with Iran, but some had links to Afghan and Indian intelligence.
The 2014 counter-terror campaign was supposed to eventually cover the entire country but that never happened because the military believed it could control most of the Islamic terrorist groups outside of North Waziristan and keep terror attacks inside Pakistan down. That was working until February 2017. The military is again under pressure from Pakistanis and the neighbors to crack down on all Islamic terror groups. That is clearly not happening because there are still army supported Islamic terrorist camps in Pakistan, like those in northern Kashmir that produce a steady flow of Islamic terrorists who attempt crossing the Indian border. Most don’t make it but enough do to replenish the ranks of Islamic terrorist groups in Indian Kashmir. More of these Pakistani Islamic terrorists are showing up in India because, thanks to adroit use of the Internet, there is a resurgence of popular support among Moslems in Indian Kashmir and the Pakistani Islamic terrorists are trying to use that to recruit locally and revive its revenge attack efforts, in which former Islamic terrorists and supporters in Kashmir are killed and prominent (or pro-government) Moslems threatened with the same if they do not actively support Islamic terrorism, at least as practiced in India against anyone who opposes Pakistan having control over all of Kashmir.
China Makes An Entrance
China has a grand strategic plan involving Pakistan and it’s no secret. But now the Chinese are going the overall effort a name and lots of publicity, For the last few years Chinese officials have been describing their economic and military expansion plan internally as Obor (One Belt, One Road). A new PR campaign for Obor describes it as a revival of the ancient “Silk Road” but that’s not accurate as the ancient Silk Road was only partially run by the Chinese. Most of it was operated by other major powers (Iranian, Indian and Arabs) and was largely put out of business after the 16th century by European innovations in ship building and management of sea routes that provided a safer and cheaper way to move goods worldwide. Moreover, until the late 20th century Chinese leaders never encouraged (and often banned) foreign trade. For most of Chinese history the leaders believed China had all it needed (largely true) and considered all non-Chinese and their products as inferior. The big change now is that China needs international trade and Obor is the Chinese plan to control as much of it as possible. This is essential for a prosperous economy because without that the communists are in big trouble. Obor means China owning or otherwise controlling as many of the new roads, railways, ports, pipelines and sea routes as possible. China is investing nearly $200 billion in Obor construction. This includes land routes through Central Asia to Europe and the Middle East, another through the Himalaya Mountains to the Indian Ocean (soon to be under new management if China has its way) and new land connections into Southeast Asia. The key to China’s new sea routes is asserting ownership of the South China Sea.
Another feature of Obor is that it offers business relationships that are more acceptable (than Western ones) to most of the nations Obor is investing in. The Chinese can, as they like to put it, be more flexible and respectful of local customs. In other words the Chinese don’t see bribes and corruption as a defect but an opportunity. This is great for the foreign political and business leaders but less so with most of the others and this is causing problems. Africans and Asians living near many Chinese foreign operations complain that China is the major investor in illegal extraction of raw materials and keeping local gangsters and corrupt politicians in business. The Chinese also violate local labor laws with impunity and often hire their own armed security personnel who will shoot to kill if threatened by angry workers or local residents. Keeping local tyrants in power serves Chinese interests when it comes to things like establishing new military bases or preventing other nations from doing so. Corrupt locals also make it easier to carry out espionage operations (locally or in nearby areas). Helping to keep unelected leaders in power also serves to maintain the legitimacy of the current Chinese government which is basically a communist police state and the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) wants to keep it that way. All this is nothing new. For example once China got its seat in the UN back (from Taiwan) in 1971 it has been notorious for encouraging and using corrupt practices in the UN. Many nations play along and as China became wealthier they were willing and able to buy whatever they needed inside the UN. The latest example of this is how Chinese pressure has caused the UN to withdraw investigators (responding to local complaints of serious crimes) looking too closely at Chinese owned operations in Africa.
China and Pakistan are heavily publicizing the revival of this new Silk Road. In Pakistan the city of Peshawar, on the eastern end of the Khyber Pass, was a major gateway of the ancient Silk Road between China and the Middle East. But that version of the road went through the pass and into Afghanistan. The new Silk Road is not just Obor, in Pakistan it is officially called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and is a complex piece of work. In 2013 China agreed to spend $18 billion to build a road from Gwadar and 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 $46 billion 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. This is how China would like all of Obor to be but the rest of the world does not always cooperate.
June 19, 2017: In the southwest (Baluchistan) Iranians apparently helped to find and kill Jalil Qanbar-Zahi, the leader of a local Sunni Islamic terrorist group called Ansar al Furqan which had recently pledged allegiance to ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). Zahi had replaced Abu Hafs al Baloushi, who died in the same way in August 2016, by the end of 2016. This group has been around since 2013 and was involved with drug smuggling and working with Iranian Baluchi separatists. Iran declared that men like Zahi and Baloushi are actually mercenaries working for an unnamed foreign government. Iran portrayed Ansar al Furqan as paid killers rather than religious fanatics. No proof was presented but in this part of the world no proof is needed because many, if not most Moslems in the Middle East believe that groups like al Qaeda and ISIL were created and are controlled by Israel and the West as a means to attack Islam. In southeast Iran the reality is that the local Baluchis are Sunni and never got along with the Shia Iranians. Armed Baluchi groups often base themselves across the border in Pakistan, which has been unable to halt this sort of thing.
June 16, 2017: In northwest India (Kashmir) ten Islamic terrorists ambushed a police patrol killing six policemen and three civilians. Return fire killed three of the attackers.
June 13, 2017: In northwest Pakistan an American UAV used missiles to destroy a building used by the Haqqani Network. This attack killed two senior Haqqani commanders. The Pakistani military criticized the U.S. but cannot do much more. The Pakistanis criticized the U.S. for not sharing intel with them about Haqqani activity in the tribal territories of northwest Pakistan. The U.S. does not share intel with the Pakistanis because that intel will often be passed on to Haqqani.
June 12, 2017: Saudi Arabia told Pakistan it had to choose a side in the current Saudi feud with Qatar. Pakistan said it was remaining neutral.
June 11, 2017:
After going back and forth a few times to clarify who said what at recent peace talks in Astana, Afghan and Pakistani political leaders agreed that both nations would cooperate in attacking Afghan Taliban who refuse to take part in peace talks. This cooperation would include regular meetings in Afghanistan and Pakistan by officials from both countries to discuss problems and opportunities. These arrangements are mainly for civilian officials, especially from Pakistan. That’s because the key problem many fear to even speak about openly is the fact that the Pakistani military (and ISI, its intel branch) continue to offer sanctuary for the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network. ISI is also trying to gain control of local ISIL leadership. The Afghan sanctuary has long been obvious to anyone visiting Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan) while the Haqqani Network has always been more concerned with concealing its operations in Pakistan.
The Pakistani military not only denies the sanctuaries exist but insists the main foreign sponsor of Islamic terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan is India. The Pakistani military has supporters in many government ministries that ensure that the Pakistani government does what the military requires (like official condemnations of India for supporting Islamic terrorism in Afghanistan). No one in Afghanistan believes that, viewing it as yet another Pakistani lie while many in Pakistan agree with that assessment but fear to speak out openly because the Pakistani military continues to threaten or even murder those who do. What these new agreements are doing is allowing the civilian leaders in both Afghanistan and Pakistan do what they can to deal with the rogue Pakistani military.
June 9, 2017: Pakistan will increase defense spending by about seven percent (to $8.8 billion) in the next annual defense budget. The army gets 47 percent of the defense budget, the air force 20 percent and the navy 11 percent. American military aid accounts for about ten percent of the annual budget but the U.S. has been cutting that support to pressure Pakistan to stop supporting Islamic terror groups. Pakistan is depending more on an alliance with China than its own defense spending. That’s because in 2016 India spent $56 billion on defense, the fifth largest defense budget on the planet (behind the United States, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia). Pakistan barely makes the top 20 with $10 billion a year. Indian spending is 3.3 percent of GDP while Pakistan is 2.7 percent. In 2016 Pakistan boosted defense spending 15 percent but was unable to sustain that growth rate. For the last five years Pakistan has, on average, increased its defense spending about 11 percent a year. Neighboring India spends more than five times as much. China’s defense spending ($215 billion) is the largest in the region and second largest in the world. Defense spending in South Asia has risen nearly 50 percent since 2001. The main cause is the aggressive territorial claims of China and the continuing belief in the Pakistani military that India is engaged in a well concealed plot to take over Pakistan. The large portion of Pakistani government spending going to the military is under growing criticism inside Pakistan, mainly because Pakistan lags way behind India and China when it comes to spending on education, infrastructure and public health. The Pakistani government tries to justify the high defense spending by pointing out that since 2011 Pakistan has suffered $57 billion in economic losses because of Islamic terrorism. That is tragic but the neighbors (and the United States) point out that those losses are largely because Pakistan has supported Islamic terrorists since the 1970s and continues to do so even though many Islamic terror groups have declared war on Pakistan.
June 8, 2017: In southwest Pakistan ISIL revealed that they had kidnapped the Chinese couple that was taken on May 24th. The two Chinese were then murdered for being non-Moslem. Pakistan later found that the two were actually Christian missionaries who entered Pakistan without revealing their intentions. The killers were actually from Lashkar e Jhangvi al Alami, a Sunni Islamic terror group that had been around for a while and regularly carried out terror attacks against Pakistani Shia. Iran has been pressuring Pakistan to crack down on these groups. That crackdown was more of an emergency once it became apparent that that Lashkar e Jhangvi al Alami recently joined ISIL, a group that has had a difficult time establishing itself in Pakistan (and an even harder time in India and Bangladesh). Pakistan quickly shut down Lashkar e Jhangvi al Alami and declared it another victory over ISIL efforts to establish itself in Pakistan. Pakistan had assured China that the thousands of Chinese coming to Pakistan to build roads, a new port and other improvements, would be protected. As embarrassing as this incident was, the two victims were not part of the construction effort and China did not make a lot of it. Pakistan tracked down the group responsible and appears to have killed or captured most of them. Pakistan also said it would work more closely with China to improve the visa process for Chinese wishing to enter Pakistan.
June 7, 2017: In Pakistan the military is ignoring demands from elected officials for details on recent casualties suffered on the Indian border in Kashmir. On the Indian side the free press there makes it impossible to hide such casualties. But in Pakistan the military is allowed to terrorize (or even murder) journalists and Internet based critics and can lie to the civilian officials with little fear of contradiction. But apparently the border violence has been so intense for the last year or so that members of the national legislature are getting more complaints from parents wanting to know what happened to their deceased son who was serving along the Indian border. Meanwhile a side effect of the long-tolerated censorship by the military is tolerance of similar activity by criminals of all sorts (corrupt officials, terrorists, gangsters, government agencies).
June 6, 2017:
In Afghanistan (Kabul) an RPG rocket landed in the Indian ambassador’s residential compound and exploded. There was minor damage and no casualties.
June 5, 2017:
The Afghan government revealed that analysis of the explosives used in recent Kabul terror attacks had come from Pakistan and that Pakistani intelligence (ISI) appears to have been involved. Moreover the tanker truck carrying 1.5 tons of explosives appears to have gone through Kabul without being inspected at any checkpoint. That may have been because the large tanker truck was used to collect human waste and remove it from the city. Then again perhaps key checkpoint commanders had been bribed.
June 4, 2017: In northern India two Chinese army helicopters flew across the border into Uttarakhand State and remained for about five minutes before flying back to China. India protested and China said it wasn’t intentional and was no big deal. The Indians disagreed, largely because China has been sending troops across the border with increasing frequency. The border is actually called 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 hundreds of armed confrontations over the last few years as one side or the other accuses “foreign troops” of crossing the LAC.
June 3, 2017: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) a three day operation outside Quetta city came upon what appears to have been an ISIL (Lashkar e Jhangvi al Alami) base. Troops killed twelve ISIL fighters and six explosive vests and lots of ammo were found along with ISIL documents. Five soldiers were wounded in what was part of a search for two Chinese kidnapped in the area in May.
June 2, 2017: Pakistan announced that it had frozen the bank accounts (containing a total of $3 million) of 5,000 suspected Islamic terrorists in Pakistan. A close look at the list of account holders revealed that none of them were major figures in any Islamic terrorist group and some Islamic terrorist groups Pakistan claims to have shut down recently are still quite active on the Internet, including places like FaceBook. When it comes to pursuing questionable activity on the Internet the Pakistan military tends to ignore Islamic terrorist groups (particularly the ones on its payroll) and instead concentrate on Pakistanis who criticize the military via the Internet.
May 27, 2017: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) Iranian troops fired five mortar shells into Pakistan killing one Pakistani civilian. Elsewhere in Baluchistan Pakistan reopened the Chaman border crossing, which had been shut for three weeks because of border violence. The Chaman crossing is on the main road between Quetta (capital of Baluchistan) and the capital of Kandahar province in Afghanistan.
May 24, 2017:
The U.S. admitted that it views the Pakistani military supporting Islamic terrorism in Afghanistan as part of an effort to ensure that India does not gain economic and military presence in Afghanistan. The Pakistani strategy is backfiring because many Afghans would rather work with Indian infidels (non-Moslems) than with Pakistan. In any event it is no secret that India has more Moslems than Pakistan and much less trouble with Islamic terrorism carried out by Indian Moslems.
In southwest Pakistan a Chinese couple was kidnapped near Quetta, the provincial capital. The two were operating a Chinese cultural center and learning how to speak the local language (Urdu). Local Islamic terrorists saw the two as Christian missionaries operating in an area full of groups that go after non-Moslems or Moslems considered heretics (usually everyone who is not Sunni). It was later revealed that the two were there to do missionary work.
May 23, 2017: In northeast India (Arunachal Pradesh) an Indian Su-30 fighter went missing while on a training flight near the Chinese border. The wreckage was found three days later, less than 65 kilometers from the base it took off from and a hundred kilometers from the Chinese border. As of late June the two pilots have not been found as they ejected and landed somewhere in the hills and forests near the crash site.