For India Maoist communist rebels, long the most common source of terrorist violence, continue their decline. In 2019 there were 65 violent incidents involving Maoists, compared to 75 in 2018. Also declining is tribal separatist violence in the northeastern tribal territories. A major cause of the tribal violence was anger over the government tolerating large numbers of illegal migrants from neighboring Bangladesh. Not only were these new residents unfamiliar with and often hostile towards the ancient tribal culture, but they were also of a different religion (Islam) and were slowly dominating the economy in the tribal territories. The Indian tribals saw these illegal migrants as a greater threat than the Indian government that had once encouraged Indians to migrate to the tribal territories because there was lower population density there.
India is particularly alarmed about Assam, where four million Bengali migrants, most of them or their ancestors entered illegally, are being denied citizen status. The tribal locals have long resented the illegal migrants, much more so than legal migrants. India sees this citizenship crackdown as a way to reduce support for local tribal separatist rebels. What brought the Bengalis into Assam initially were Indian politicians (mainly from the ruling BJP party) who encouraged the illegal migration after 1948 so these new residents of Assam would show their gratitude by registering to vote and do so regularly for BJP candidates. This is an old problem and India passed a law in 1950 making it clear that these Bengali migrants were illegal and not to be considered citizens. Now another law has been passed to enforce the original 1950 “who is a citizen” act. Bangladesh considers this an unfriendly (to Bangladesh) act. What this really demonstrates is that Bangladesh has long been very poor and very overpopulated. Illegal migrants have long been a problem and one that is not going away. Efforts to enforce the new law ran into problems because many Indians, especially in rural areas, lack IDs confirming their status as citizens. Few Indians pay their taxes and the government, until recently, was not trying to deal with that problem. Now the Bengali illegals are invoking “anti-Moslem persecution” to halt government effort to identify and deport illegals.
The Perils of Pakistan
Pakistan boasts of having greatly reduced Islamic terrorist violence since 2014 when the army shut down the Islamic terrorist sanctuary in North Waziristan. That decline was real and eliminated a major Islamic terrorism problem that Pakistan had created by adopting the use of Islamic terror groups to carry out attacks in Afghanistan and India. These were supposed to provide Pakistan with a degree of control (in Afghanistan) or influence (inside India). It didn’t quite work out as planned. Many of the Islamic terror groups who established themselves in Pakistan decided Pakistan was corrupt and could use an Islamic religious dictatorship to set things right. Few Pakistanis agreed with that goal and were even less accepting of the growing Islamic terrorist violence inside Pakistan. What Pakistan won’t admit is that it still, quite openly, maintains sanctuaries and financial backing for Islamic terror groups that do what they are told. The Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network both have sanctuary and continue to carry out attacks in Afghanistan. There are several other groups with very obvious sanctuaries in the Pakistani controlled part of Kashmir. These terrorist training camps do not allow unauthorized visitors but due to the wide availability of photos by commercial camera satellites, these camps are visible despite government denials. The graduates of these camps, most of them Pakistanis, try, often unsuccessfully, to cross the border into Indian Kashmir and carry out their orders (murder and mayhem). Decades of Pakistani denials and deceptions lost their effectiveness over time and now Pakistan is being called out by the UN and the world community about its unacknowledged support for Islamic terrorism, especially against its neighbors. Pakistan is facing severe economic sanctions and has already lost most of the American financial support it had enjoyed since 2002.
A Common Problem
For Pakistan and India, a major predictor of political and economic success is the amount of corruption the country suffers from. Pakistan ranks 120th out of 180 countries (compared to 117th out of 180 in 2018) while India ranks 80 (81 last year) and the U.S. ranks 15 when it comes to lack of corruption. By way of comparison in Americas one the most corrupt nations is Venezuela (173rd out of 180 countries).
Progress, or lack thereof, can be seen in the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index where countries are measured on a 1 (most corrupt) to 100 (not corrupt) scale. The most corrupt nations (usually Syria/14, South Sudan/12 and Somalia/9) have a rating of under 15 while of the least corrupt (New Zealand and Denmark) are over 85.
The current Indian score is 41 (same as it was in 2018) compared to 32 (33) for Pakistan and 26 (26) for Bangladesh compared to 20 (16) for Iraq, 71 (71) for the UAE (United Arab Emirates), 60 (64) for Israel, 69 (75) for the United States, 26 (27) for Nigeria, 44 (43) for South Africa, 16 (16) for Afghanistan, 39 (40) for Turkey, 53 (49) for Saudi Arabia, 14 (16) for Yemen, 30 (30) for Ukraine, 45 (44) for Belarus, 58 (60) for Poland, 80 (81) Germany, 65 (61) for Taiwan, 39 (40) for Turkey, 41 (40) for India, 28 (28) for Russia, 57 (54) for South Korea, 41 (39) for China, 14 (17) for North Korea, 37 (35) for Vietnam, 85 (84) for Singapore, 73 (73) for Japan, 40 (37) for Indonesia, 38 (38) for Sri Lanka, 29 (33) for the Maldives, 34 (34) for the Philippines, 32 (32) for Pakistan, 26 (28) for Bangladesh, 26 (30) for Iran, 29 (30) for Burma, and 28 (28) for Lebanon.
India's corruption score has changed for the better since 2012 when it was 36. Same with Pakistan, which was 27 back then. Bangladesh has not changed much as its score back then was 26.
February 18, 2020: Pakistan carried out a successful test of its air-launched Raad II cruise missile. The missile has a range of 600 kilometers, enabling aircraft to launch it outside the range of enemy air defense weapons and still hit targets inside India.
In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan), someone attacked a police checkpoint 30 kilometers from the Iranian border. Five soldiers were killed and no one took credit for the attack. Baluchi tribal separatists are known to operate in the area.
In northwest India (Kashmir) troops killed Pakistan-backed Islamic terrorists, including an experienced commander. In the last month, Indian security forces in Kashmir have killed 23 of these Pakistani Islamic terrorists. Pakistan continues to carry out unprovoked attacks on the border, firing machine-gun and mortars. The cause of this Pakistani violence is the obsession of the Pakistani military with portraying India as a threatening neighbor and illegally occupying Kashmir, something Pakistan has been disputing for over 70 years,
February 17, 2020: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan), a suicide bomber attacked a rally for Sunni Islamic radicals who frequently attack Pakistani Shia Moslems. The bomb killed eight and wounded over twenty, most of them not part of the rally because the car bomber was stopped at a checkpoint. Shia groups have been fighting back against this increasing threat from Sunni Moslems
February 14, 2020: Pakistan has enacted new laws that make it easier for the government to block Internet sources that do not cooperate in identifying who is posing material that Pakistani officials consider supporting or being "terrorism, extremism, hate speech, defamation, fake news, incitement to violence and national security". The new law makes it easier for the government to find and punish dissenting or critical voices. This is nothing new as the military has long been using illegal methods to deal with dissidents it could identify. These new laws enable the government to threaten Internet firms with being blocked from Pakistan if they do not cooperate. Some of these firms will not cooperate, knowing that the critical voices they host will still get through to some Pakistanis because no Internet block is completely effective. For that reason, Pakistan is eagerly accepting help from China to improve Internet censorship and blocking capabilities. Unfortunately for Pakistan to run Internet censorship like China’s is very expensive and Pakistan does not have the cash to fully implement a Pakistani version of the “Great Firewall of China”.
February 7, 2020: Ehsanullah Ehsan, a notorious Pakistan Taliban official was apparently allowed, by the military, to escape from custody. The government did not admit that this had happened until ten days later. Ehsan had surrendered in early 2017 and promptly cooperated in providing large quantities of information on how the Pakistani Taliban operated. The military admitted that his information was very useful and even allowed Ehsan to live in a guarded safe house and give interviews to Pakistani media. Ehsan was supposed to eventually go on trial and the government would have to deal with the enormity of his past crimes. It appears Ehan’s cooperation was expected to spare him the death penalty but still require some time in prison. So to encourage other Islamic terrorist leaders to emulate Ehsan the military allowed him to leave the country, apparently in early January, and got him to Turkey. His wife and children also “disappeared” at the same time. This “escape” angered a lot of Pakistanis because Ehsan was a notorious Pakistan Taliban and ISIL leader. Until 2014 Ehsan was the chief spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban but after the Pakistan army invaded North Waziristan, the main sanctuary for many Islamic terror groups hostile to the Pakistani government, he switched to ISIL and helped found Jamaat ul Ahrar, a small Islamic terrorist groups composed of many disgruntled Pakistani Taliban. That did not work out so well and by 2015 many of the former Taliban members went back to the Taliban, joined another ISIL group or abandoned Islamic terrorism entirely. The group disintegrated further as several factions emerged, one of them led by Ehsan. Jamaat ul Ahrar is still active inside Pakistan but suffered heavy losses (from combat, arrests, desertion and defections) as a result of the major anti-terror campaign he government launched in February 2017 after a particularly nasty attack inside Pakistan. Ehsan is considered responsible for the death of hundreds of Pakistani civilians, including over a hundred students at a school for the children of military personnel. Apparently the deal the military made with Ehsan involved a lot of conditions that could not be revealed without making the military look bad.
February 6, 2020: Taha Siddiqui, a Pakistani journalist in exile since 2018 revealed documents showing how the Pakistani government had applied to the UN for economic aid to support five Islamic terrorists that were on the UN list of known terrorists but were living in Pakistan under the protection of the Pakistani military. The Pakistan government is chronically short of cash and looks for relief anywhere it can. In this case, Pakistan wanted the UN to allow the five Islamic terrorists to access money in foreign bank accounts the UN had discovered and frozen. The UN is considering the request.
February 5, 2020: An Israeli firm (IAI) has signed a deal with Indian’s Hindustan Aeronautics and Dynamatic Technologies to jointly produce Israeli UAVs, including the new Heron 2, for the Indian and foreign markets. IAI is one of the major developers and manufacturers of large military UAVs. This deal is supposed to protect IAI patents and trade secrets, something that has always been a problem with Indian joint ventures. India will acquire a growing force of workers and managers able to build the most modern UAVs and similar technology.
February 4, 2020: In India, the current (2020-21) defense budget is $67 billion, which is about five percent larger than the previous year. This comes to 1.6 percent of GDP, which is the lowest since the early 1960s. Back then a brief war with China, which India lost, sparked growth in the military budget which at one point consumed 2.9 percent of GDP. The defense budget is not keeping up and the military has to scale back upgrade and expansion plans.
The government's emphasis on economic growth makes sense because that growth has been spectacular lately, with GDP nearly doubling in the last decade from $1.7 trillion to the current $2.9 trillion. This made India the fifth largest economy, recently surpassing Britain and France. The rest of the top five are the U.S., China, Germany and Japan.
Chinese GDP growth is slowing although in the last decade it more than doubled from $6.1 trillion to $14 trillion. But for once the annual Indian GDP growth has been faster than in China, where GDP growth rates have been declining over the last five years.
By concentrating on economic growth the government follows a long-range, more efficient strategy to improve military capabilities. Indian military leaders don’t like the defense spending reductions but do appreciate the economic goals, if they can be achieved.
February 2, 2020: In northwest Pakistan (Bajaur), a mortar shell fired from Afghanistan landed in a village, damaging a house and killing seven civilians. Such mortar fire, coming from fired into Afghanistan, has been a regular occurrence for over a decade. It is usually about Islamic terrorists or tribal feuds. Until 2009 this area was basically an Islamic terrorist stronghold but an army offensive that year returned the area to government control.
February 1, 2020: The United States has issued a travel alert to its citizens considering visiting Pakistan and warned that travel to southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan), the northwest (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and the Indian border areas (the Line of Control) where the Pakistani military was regularly firing into India and getting hit with return fire. Americans traveling to any of these areas risk being attacked or kidnapped and the Pakistani government has limited capability to provide protection.
January 31, 2020: In Afghanistan (outside Kabul) Khalid Haqqani, a senior Haqqani Network leader was killed during a clash with Afghan security forces. Apparently Haqqani was not looking for a fight but was, as the Haqqani Network later revealed, on Haqqani Network business. Pakistan backed Haqqani Network did not confirm the loss for over a week.
January 30, 2020: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) troops trapped five Islamic terrorists in a house. The troops attacked, killing the Islamic terrorists but losing two soldiers in the process.
In northwest Pakistan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), someone fired on a polio vaccination team, killing two of the female vaccinators. This comes a year after Pakistan launched a media campaign against those who oppose polio vaccination and vaccinations in general. Despite strenuous efforts, Pakistan has been unable to eliminate polio via vaccinations. For a long time, the main opposition were Islamic conservative clerics who called the vaccinations an attempt by Western nations to poison Moslem children. While few of those clerics remain, there are now more Pakistanis who are agreeing with Western anti-vaccination groups; who fear harmful side effects. Numerous controlled studies have not demonstrated any evidence of this but it has become a popular cause. There are other problems unique to Pakistan. For example, polio is making a comeback among refugees on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border. This came after another major effort in 2017 to vaccinate vulnerable Afghan and Pakistani children against polio. In 2016 there were 20 cases of polio in Pakistan and 13 in Afghanistan. There were four in Nigeria, a country that is expected to be free of polio this year or next. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, there are still religious problems with vaccination. The Afghan Taliban have openly supported the vaccination program but there still some rural areas where local Moslem clerics or teachers still denounce vaccinations. There is a similar situation in Pakistan, where some fringe Islamic groups will still try and kill members of the vaccination teams.
In Pakistan the situation is worse with 54 cases in 2015, 20 in 2016, eight in 2017, twelve in 2018 and at least 90 in 2019. Despite problems in Pakistan and Afghanistan the global vaccination effort has made much progress. In the 1980s, when the polio elimination effort began there were 350,000 cases in 125 countries. For the last several years there have been fewer than a hundred cases worldwide. In the last decade, the main obstacle has been Islamic terror groups who ban polio vaccinations and attack anyone trying to deliver the vaccine to vulnerable children. Islamic terrorists, in general, tend to believe the vaccination teams are spying for the government and that the vaccinations are a plot to sterilize or otherwise harm Moslems. Once there are no more active cases of polio the disease, like smallpox before it will be extinct.
January 29, 2020: In northwest Pakistan (Khyber Pass) the government closed Torkham, the main border crossing into Afghanistan for several hours because of two mortar shells fired from Afghanistan landing nearby.
January 27, 2020: In Pakistan, the government arrested the leader of the PTM
(Pushtun Tahafuz Movement or Pashtun Protection Movement) accusing him of criminal conspiracy and stirring up trouble and so on. In other words, the military objected to the PTM publicizing and documenting military misbehavior in the tribal territories and is trying to destroy or intimidate the PTM. This has proved difficult because there are pro-PTM Pushtun MPs (members of parliament) and unelected government officials. The military opposition to dissent is not deterred by this. Pushtuns are 15 percent of the Pakistan population and most live in the northwest. The Pushtun have long complained about poor treatment by the government. The PTM is mainly about the
Pakistani Pushtuns uniting to oppose the mistreatment of Pushtuns in general. While the PTM calls for peaceful demonstrations the military decided in early 2019 that the PTM was a threat and thus considered a hostile opposition organization. The main reason for this was that the peaceful demonstrations of the PTM were attracting more non-Pushtuns who not only agreed with the PTM complaints against the military but pointed out that the military is hostile to any Pakistani who speaks up and denounces the many misdeeds of the Pakistani military.