August 27, 2019:
Pakistan is trying to turn the August 5
Indian decision to revoke the autonomy granted to Kashmir 70 years ago into something it is not. That pretty much sums up the attitudes of India and Pakistan over Kashmir. That autonomy was meant to make it easier for Kashmiris to make the most of their local economy, which was already prosperous and poised for above average growth 70 years ago. The autonomy deal, brokered by the UN, also allowed the Moslem majority of the province to decide if they wanted to be Indian or Pakistani. Most sided with India, feeling (accurately, it turned out) that Moslems had a better future in Hindu majority India than Moslem majority Pakistan. While Moslems (and everyone else) suffered religious persecution in Pakistan and India, the situation was far worse in Pakistan. There Moslems persecuted other Moslems for a large number of reasons and still do. India was already known to be more tolerant of many different religions and reliably hostile to persistent offenders. India was also less corrupt and more economically successful than Pakistan.
The Kashmir autonomy worked for a few decades, despite Pakistani violence and aggression from the beginning. Eventually, Pakistan decided that sponsoring Islamic terrorist operations inside India (especially Kashmir) was the key to gaining control over all of Kashmir. That brought decades of terror, violence and economic decline to Kashmir. Pakistan denied all responsibility and that worked for a while until, during the last two decades, more and more evidence of Pakistani responsibility and complicity and deceit piled up. In the last decade, more nations condemned Pakistan and now the UN and other international organizations have joined in that criticism. It was hoped this would persuade Pakistan to engage in serious peace negotiations. It has not.
The Pakistani denials about their support for Islamic terrorism in Indian Kashmir have long prevented serious peace negotiations between the two countries. Increasingly more Pakistanis are opposed to this deception which deceives no one. Senior officials in the military are publicly coming clean about army support for the Kashmir terrorism. Peace negotiations in the past eight years have addressed the need for less Pakistani support of Islamic terrorists who cross the border and carry out attacks in Indian Kashmir (and, less successfully, elsewhere in India). Pakistan has reduced Islamic terrorist activity on their side of the Kashmir border, but not eliminated these terrorists completely. Gaining control over Indian Kashmir (because of its mostly Moslem population) has been a big issue in Pakistani politics since India and Pakistan became independent (of British colonial rule) in 1947. Pakistan has lost several wars trying to seize Kashmir and began the Islamic terrorist campaign in the 1990s because it seemed like a good idea at the time. But the army has created a monster that was killing thousands of Pakistanis a year and threatening the ability of Pakistan to function as a country. This eventually led to a major military campaign against hostile domestic Islamic terror groups. After two years that greatly reduced the Islamic terror-related deaths in Pakistan and, for a while, reduced the Islamic terrorist violence directed at India. But once the internal Islamic terror threat was reduced the Pakistani army announced that India was again the main threat. What the Pakistani army did not mention was the fact that this last change was due to Pakistani civilian calls for more civilian control of the military, something there has never been very much of in Pakistan. Those calls were answered with a major military crackdown on Pakistani media and Pakistani politicians hostile to military control of the economy and government in Pakistan. With that accomplished the Pakistani generals are now turning their attention of the use of their primary, if unacknowledged, weapon, Islamic terrorism.
More Shouting, Less Killing
Both Pakistan and India have about the same number of deaths in 2018 from rebels and Islamic terrorists. For both countries, it was just under a thousand such deaths. That was good news for Pakistan, which has greatly reduced their losses from local Islamic terrorist violence since 2014. India has seen deaths increase over the last few years as Pakistan increased its attacks on Indian border guards (and any civilians in the immediate vicinity) along with sending more Pakistani based Islamic terrorists into Kashmir and encouraging more local violence there. Thus deaths in Kashmir were about 450 in 2018, up a bit from 2017 and because of increased Pakistani activity not likely to decline. Meanwhile, the usual causes of deaths for India, leftist rebels in eastern India and tribal separatists in the northeast, continue to decline.
So far this year India has kept overall deaths below 2018 levels, despite a February attack that killed 40 policemen. By late August deaths in Kashmir were well below 2018 levels despite energetic Pakistani efforts to generate more violence. Worse, for Pakistan, civilian deaths in Indian Kashmir are lower than in 2018. In response to that Pakistan has increased the violence along the border, called the LOC
(Line of Control). This created more mayhem on the border but did not increase violence inside Kashmir.
India has made great progress in reducing the tribal separatist and communist rebel violence in eastern and northeastern India. These two have always been the major causes of internal violence and resulting deaths. In Pakistan, it was always Islamic terrorism, most of it Moslem against Moslem. So far in 2019 Maoist related deaths are, as they usually are, more than the Islamic terrorist-related deaths in Kashmir.
In 2014, when the Pakistani army finally decided to shut down sanctuaries for Islamic terror groups not under military control (like the ones in Pakistani Kashmir), there were 5,496 Islamic terror-related deaths in Pakistan and the Pakistani public was enraged at the military over this. In 2015 that Islamic terror-related deaths in Pakistan dropped to 3,682, then to 1,803 in 2016, 1260 in 2017 and in 2018 these deaths were not only under a thousand but way under at 700. These are low casualty levels not seen in Pakistan since 2003. The military is under a lot of pressure to keep it that way and so far in 2019, the Islamic terror-related deaths appear headed down to 500.
India, with six times as many people, has had terror-related deaths under a thousand a year since 2012 and most of those have nothing to do with Islamic terrorism. That trend continues, despite increased Pakistani efforts in Kashmir. For 2018 India had more terrorism-related deaths but the overall total was still under a thousand. In 2017, for the first time in many years, India had more fatalities from Islamic terrorism than from leftist rebels in eastern India. But if you added deaths from tribal separatists in the northeast the Islamic terrorism only accounted for 45 percent of deaths. That trend reverted to the traditional one in 2018, with Islamic terror-related deaths lower. This is mainly because Islamic terror-related deaths will not increase much for 2018 while deaths related to the leftist rebels (Maoists) in eastern India are up (mainly among the Maoists and their civilian victims).
The big difference between the Kashmir casualties compared to everything else (communist rebels in eastern India and the tribal separatists in the northeast) is that only the Kashmir Islamic terrorists have outside help. Pakistan has been supporting violence in Kashmir for over 60 years and added Islamic terrorism support in the 1980s. That failed to make much difference but it did ruin the Kashmir economy and Pakistan continued to get enough Islamic terrorists (recruited and trained in Pakistan) across the LOC into Indian Kashmir to keep the area “dangerous” for tourists or investment.
This Pakistani aggression in Kashmir is pushing the two nations towards war, despite the possibility of both sides using nukes. This has brought more pressure on the Pakistani military to behave but so far the Pakistani generals are resisting the popular pressure inside Pakistan for less violence on the Indian border. The Pakistani generals see Kashmir as a victory for Pakistan, but one that Pakistan cannot take proper credit for because supporting Islamic terrorism and sending those Islamic terrorists into India (and Afghanistan) is a violation of international law. While the Pakistani military denies culpability the evidence has piled up to the extent that most of the world is convinced that the Pakistani military is, indeed, violating international norms and supporting Islamic terrorism.
The Taliban Tragedy
The Taliban and Afghan government have agreed to begin negotiations after the September 28 presidential elections. There are twenty candidates and the Taliban seems to be attacking all of them; verbally and physically. The Taliban believes democracy is un-Islamic. Meanwhile the American-Taliban peace talks in
Qatar expected to have a “roadmap” by September 1st but this appears to be more aspirational than practical. The most powerful participant in the Afghan violence, Pakistan, is not directly involved in the Qatar talks. Yet Pakistan has to sign off on any final deal for the agreement to have any chance of success. Pakistan is negotiating with the Americans about the restoration of aid (which a bankrupt Pakistan needs badly) and help with resolving the Kashmir dispute with India.
Pakistan believes it will come out ahead if the Americans do pull their troops out of Afghanistan. Losers will be democracy and Afghans in general. The majority of Afghans oppose Pakistan, the Taliban and the drug gangs and those three are the loose coalition (or triad) that seeks to reestablish a Taliban government in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Pakistan has lots of internal problems. These include corruption (the cause of the bankruptcy) and a military that now controls the elected government by force. The military is also a major source of corruption and the support of Islamic terrorism in Afghanistan and India. Islamic terrorism support includes the drug gangs in Afghanistan, which have always had a symbiotic relationship with the Taliban. That is, the Taliban protected drug operations and got paid. When the Taliban was in power during the late 1990s they called the drug gang income a tax.
Most Afghans hate Pakistan, mainly because of the decades of Pakistani troublemaking in Afghanistan. The Afghans at the Qatar negotiations are mainly Pushtuns (40 percent of Afghans) representing a minority of Pushtuns who support the drug trade and their Taliban “security associates” (hired guns). The drug gangs and Afghan Taliban are seen as the work of Pakistan and in the late 1990s, that majority got organized as the Northern Alliance and prevented the Taliban from ever controlling all of Afghanistan.
Not represented at the Afghan peace talks is the Northern Alliance. This non-Pushtuin coalition represents the Afghans who will fight the drug gangs and Taliban and have done so, successfully, in the past.
The Taliban had been unable to conquer all of Afghanistan (especially the north) because of the Northern Alliance. The northern willingness to unite and defend the interests of the non-Pushtun majority in Afghanistan still exists. The Northern Alliance is no longer a military coalition or even much of a political one. It is more the continued potential for the Northern Alliance to once again become an armed force opposing Pushtun tyranny (especially Pakistan supported Pushtuns). Al Qaeda once more has sanctuaries in Taliban controlled territory in southern Afghanistan.
History frequently repeats itself in Afghanistan. The triad (Taliban, Pakistan, drug gangs) believe they can overcome the northern opposition this time. First, the Taliban have to overcome their own factionalism, something they did not have to deal with back in the 1990s when the Taliban was a new organization. In addition to several tribal factions, there is a major split between pro-Pakistan and anti-Pakistan Taliban. The pro-Pakistan Taliban are now run by the leaders of the Haqqani Network. This is another 1990s era Afghan fighting faction that is more gangster than Islamic terrorist and is now a subsidiary of the Pakistani military and the main conduit for getting Islamic terrorists and their weapons (including large vehicle bombs) into Afghanistan. Haqqani and the pro-Pakistan Taliban still have sanctuaries in Pakistan, something that the Pakistani military denies but it not hidden in Pakistan and something of an open secret.
Then there is ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), a radical al Qaeda group that is at war with everyone. Al Qaeda is again in Afghanistan and allied with the Taliban or at least some of the Taliban. Pakistan considers both al Qaeda and ISIL hostile but that is just another aspect of this bizarre situation.
When the Americans intervened in October 2001, their cash and air support enabled the Northern Alliance to defeat the Taliban in less than two months. This was humiliating for Pakistan and the Taliban. Both made plans to avoid a repeat defeat. Northern Alliance and American military and political leaders realize that as soon as there is another Islamic terror attack in the West, traced back to an Afghan-based group, it will be October 2001 all over again. Why should that be such a certainty? Because Islamic terror groups do not agree with one another and never maintain alliances. There has been ample evidence of that during the last two decades, not to mention the last thousand years of Moslem history. Thinking it will be different this time, because enough negotiators are willing to believe anything to get the deal done, will not work.
Some factions in Pakistan (mainly the military) think that this deal would give them enough power to actually control what goes on in Afghanistan. The reality is that the Pakistani generals are losing support and political power in Pakistan. The military effort to control everything in Pakistan is now more visible than ever before and more Pakistanis see clearly who the enemy is here. China, Pakistan’s major trading partner, lender and military ally has turned on the Pakistani generals, at least the ones who depend so much on Islamic terror groups to gain victories in Afghanistan and India.
Cox’s Bazaar Calamity
The Burmese Rohingya refugees have overstayed their involuntary presence in Bangladesh. Already a crowded country, most of the refugees are in an area called Cox’s Bazaar and their presence tripled the local population. At first, the locals were eager to help fellow Moslems, for a few months at least. But that expected short visit has gone on for two years and there is no end in sight. These situations are increasingly common worldwide. First, there is a strain on local resources in an already overpopulated area. The locals grow resentful and then angry. This is accelerated by the loss of jobs to refugees who are willing to work, illegally, for less. The refugees have food and medical aid which is more than many of the locals have, especially those who lost their jobs to refugees, who are forbidden to take jobs, and got them anyway. Complaints to local police often become another opportunity for the police to enrich themselves with another bribe. Many of the idle refugees seek solace in drugs, usually cheap Burmese methamphetamine pills. Production of this stuff is a major regional problem that is worth billions of dollars a year to the northern Burmese tribes and that is a tremendous incentive for tribal drug gangs and corrupt Burmese government officials to help keep it going, The meth (usually in pill form) is called yaba locally and is the most popular drug in Southeast Asia and China. Most (nearly half) of yaba goes to China, followed by Thailand. Burmese meth has become hugely popular in China, which is pressuring the Burmese government to do more about the problem and that has resulted in more police activity up there, but not enough to put a dent in the drug business while the United Wa State militia, which dominates meth production, is basically untouchable. Bangladesh is seen as a new market opportunity and entrepreneurs among the refugees organized meth smuggling operations. Rohingya refugees are hired to smuggle the yaba in and distribute it to refugees and locals. Police efforts to curb the yaba trade leads to gun battles, arrests and more reasons to want the refugees gone. The refugees have nowhere to go and situations like this rarely end well.
August 25, 2019: In eastern India (Kolkata), police arrested Ejaz Ahmad, a wanted Bangladeshi Islamic terrorist. Ahmad, a chemical engineer, is a senior leader in the Bangladeshi Islamic terror group JMB. Ahmad and the numerous documents (mainly electronic) seized with him will be turned over to Bangladesh.
In eastern Afghanistan (Nangarhar province) a bomb went off outside the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad, wounding three people. No consulate staff were injured. Back in 2017 ISIL gunmen shot dead an employee of this Pakistani consulate. Jalalabad has long been the scene of this kind of violence because it is close to the Pakistan border. It is 140 kilometers east of Kabul and Islamic terrorists have operated here regularly because it is the first major city encountered when entering Afghanistan via one of the two major border crossings. The city of 250,000 has long been a base area for American and Afghan troops. Many of the bases are around the airport.
August 22, 2019: In northwest India (Kashmir), Pakistani troops fired mortars and machine-guns, for the third day in a row, at Indian border guards. The mortar shells were fired beyond the border and in this case damaged several civilian structures and wounded one civilian.
August 21, 2019: Bangladesh, unlike many other Moslem majority nations, did not criticize India for revoking the autonomy Kashmir had long enjoyed. Bangladesh declared that such a decision was an internal matter for India. Bangladesh and Pakistan do not get along. Earlier this year Bangladesh halted issuing visas to most Pakistanis, especially those who are government employees, in particular, diplomats. Bangladesh accuses Pakistan of supporting Islamic terrorism in Bangladesh and has a growing body of evidence to back this up. Pakistan makes matters worse by denying any involvement in Islamic terrorism. Pakistan has long refused to pay attention to the successful anti-terrorism measures implemented in Bangladesh. Pakistan does not like to be reminded of anything to do with Bangladesh, which used to be East Pakistan and part of a much larger Pakistan. But the Bangladeshis rebelled in the early 1970s and West Pakistan (all that is now left of the original Pakistan) was unable to put down the uprising, despite killing over a million fellow Moslems as part of the “pacification” effort. After that defeat, Pakistan adopted Islamic radicalism as a new policy and Islamic terrorism as a weapon. Bangladesh made peace with India (which supported the rebellion) and discouraged Islamic radicalism. Despite the growing popularity (among Moslems) of Islamic radicalism in the last three decades, Bangladesh has been largely free of it.
Al Qaeda went public with accusations that Pakistan has captured the wife of al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri in late 2018 while she, and other al Qaeda wives, were leaving Waziristan for Afghanistan to avoid the growing number of Pakistani airstrikes. The women were apparently being held hostage as part of some negotiation Pakistan wanted to have with al Qaeda. At the same time the Pakistani Taliban, who were driven out of Waziristan by a major army offensive in 2014, have returned to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, which is north of Waziristan. The Pakistani Taliban has established themselves in a remote, 46 square kilometer area near Elam Mountain and the Afghan border. Pakistani security forces have been attacking the Elam Mountain but so far the Pakistan Taliban seem determined to stay.
August 20, 2019: The UN began, in mid-2018, issuing ID cards to Rohingya refugees from Burma and so far have issued the IDs for two-thirds of the 740,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. These IDs make it easier for Rohingya to return to Burma because the ID is proof that they were pushed out of Burma by the army and vigilantes in the first place. Despite that few Rohingya are going back, even with the ID card. Their homeland in northern Burma (Rakhine state) is still too dangerous for most Rohingya. The Burmese government was threatened with sanctions but the army dominated Burmese government was not impressed enough to move faster to make the areas where the Rohingya refugees came from safer and more receptive to returning refugees. The military knows that China is eager to be Burma’s main ally, to the exclusion of Western nations making threats. India still works with Burma, to deal with tribal rebels who operate along their common border. Thailand is another neighbor not bothered by the Rohingya situation. Yet the international pressure to act is having an impact. Burma and Bangladesh have screened a list of 20,000 Rohingya refugees willing to return and agreed that 3,500 of these volunteers are acceptable to both countries. This group is to be allowed back in Burma soon, probably before the end of the year or sooner. How that works out will determine how many more Rohingya refugees return. It’s not much, but it’s progress, no matter how slow. The major obstacle to getting the Rohingya back to Burma is assurances that it is safe. That can be accomplished if the first group back finds it is safe. Even then there is another obstacle. Most Rohingya refugees refuse to return until they receive citizenship. That was the dispute that triggered the current anti-Rohingya violence in Burma and the majority of Burmese are opposed to granting citizenship. Situations like this are common worldwide and they predate the modern nation-state with its strict border and immigration controls.
August 18, 2019: In northwest Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province), the Pakistani Taliban took credit for a bomb that killed a pro-government tribal leader and four others, while also wounding six others.
August 17, 2019: In northwest India (Kashmir), four days of Pakistani troops firing mortars and machine-guns across the border and Indians firing back, left one Indian and four Pakistani troops dead.
August 16, 2019: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan), a bomb went off in a mosque frequently attended by Haibatullah Akhundzada, the leader of the Afghan Taliban. The mosque has tight security and the bomb, as reconstructed, as hidden and set off by a timer. The Afghan leader was not there when the bomb went off but his brother was and the brother and four others were killed and more than twenty were wounded.
Despite, or because of, the recent visit of the Pakistani prime minister to the U.S. to meet with the American president, the U.S. is going ahead and cutting another $440 million in economic aid that was due to be delivered soon as part of a past pledge to deliver $4.5 billion over a number of years. Rather than cut the entire program the U.S. is canceling each installment as it comes due. This gives Pakistan the opportunity to change its policy of supporting Islamic terrorism. The Pakistani prime minister visiting the United States was an opportunity for the two leaders to try and work something out and that did not happen.
August 12, 2019: In Pakistan, the media censorship is getting worse and is often done in real-time while offending news shows, usually long interviews with people who oppose the current military-backed government, are on the air. The government denies such censorship exists but more and more Pakistani journalists and others come forward with fresh details of such censorship incidents.
August 8, 2019:
Despite India now having access to a road/rail link to Afghanistan via an Iranian port, Pakistan still refuses to allow such trade via land routes from India via Pakistan to Afghanistan. Part of this is because the Pakistani military does all it can to portray India as an enemy, one that plans to invade Pakistan. So any “cooperation” with India is regarded by the military as a collaboration with the enemy.
August 5, 2019: India revoked the special autonomy granted to Kashmir 70 years ago as part of an effort to encourage Moslem Kashmiris to side with India in the dispute between India and Kashmir over which country Kashmir should be a part of. The partition agreement that turned colonial India into two nations (India and Pakistan) made Kashmir part of India. Pakistan would not accept that and still does not. India prepared for the expected violence reaction of Pakistan by ordering all tourists out of Kashmir and shut down all phone and Internet service.
August 3, 2019: Israel warned its citizens visiting Kashmir to leave the area immediately because of the increased threat of Pakistan-inspired Islamic terrorism. The local government of Kashmir had earlier issued a similar warning to all foreign tourists in Kashmir. The southern portion of Kashmir (Jammu) is considered safe because it is more (65 percent) Hindu and has not seen violence similar to northern (majority Moslem) Kashmir in about fifteen years. Pakistan tried to expand its Islamic terrorism efforts into Jammu but found it to be more trouble than it was worth. Far fewer civilians in Jammu (even the Moslem ones) want anything to do it Islamic radicalism or Kashmir becoming independent or part of Pakistan. Kashmir, particularly Jammu, contain a lot of tourist attractions for pilgrims. Indian Hindus have, for centuries come here to worship at the many Hindu shrines. The Kashmir 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.
July 31, 2019: The United States announced the death of Hamza bin Laden, the 30 year old son of Osama bin Laden. Hamza was being presented by al Qaeda as the future head of the organization and the Americans had offered a million dollar bounty for the death or capture of Hamza. Time and place of the death was not given but was believed to have been several months earlier during an airstrike against someone else. Hamza happened to be along and among the dead who were eventually identified. Hamza was believed to have been moving between Iran and Pakistan.
July 30, 2019: India is giving neighboring Burma a used Kilo-class submarine. Indian has recently refurbished the boat. This will be the first submarine the Burmese Navy has ever operated. India is upgrading its own submarine force and the two decades old, Russian built Kilos still have a decade or more of regular use in them. This gift is part of an effort to counter Chinese influence in Burma.
July 27, 2019: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan), Pakistani Taliban based in Afghanistan attacked a Pakistani army patrol, killed six soldiers, they returned to Afghanistan
The United States announced that $125 million in military aid had been granted to Pakistan, in order to keep the 54 Pakistani F-16s operational. This was meant to be a goodwill gesture to the Pakistani prime minister who had recently visited the U.S. in the hopes of seeing more aid restored. That did not happen and the F-16 aid came with an unwelcome catch. The F-16 aid included American contractor personnel monitoring Pakistani F-16s at all times and noting what missions they were used for. This was “an offer you can’t refuse” because of Pakistan will not allow the monitors to do their job all support for F-16s will halt and soon so will the Pakistani F-16s.
July 26, 2019:
In southwest Pakistan, near where the Iranian, Afghan and Pakistani borders meet, Pakistani border troops found an Iranian UAV. They brought to their base and sought to find out who was using it. The UAV had no national markings, as Iranian military UAVs normally do.