China recently released an unclassified analysis of the Indian military situation. This is a first for China, which has, in the last decade, increasingly come into conflict with India over where the Tibetan border should be and whose fleet should be dominant in the Indian Ocean. The last time China and India fought was in 1962, when China won a brief battle to decide a dispute over where the Tibetan border really should be. All has been quiet since then, mainly because of Cold War politics (Russia and China began feuding and India became a Russian client while still maintaining ties with the West). After 1991, with the Soviet Union gone, Russia and China became the best of pals (despite dormant Chinese claims on Russian territory) while India drew closer to the West and remained the largest customer for Russian weapons. The big change has been the huge growth in the Chinese economy, which is now the second largest in the world. China spends three times as much as India does on defense. Chinese leaders are not elected (the country is still a communist police state) and have used nationalism (rebuilding the old Chinese empire) to maintain power. This means adjusting the Tibet border (which a temporarily independent Tibet adjusted in India’s favor in 1914) and moving the rapidly growing Chinese fleet into the Indian Ocean (to safeguard vital Chinese trade routes). Despite all this, the Chinese analysis still sees Pakistan as India’s major military threat, despite India officially shifting its effort to confront China in the last few years. Pakistan has attacked India several times in the last half century and lost every time. The Pakistani military is poorly equipped and really only good for fighting Pakistanis. It’s not very good at that either and India has decided the Chinese are more of a threat. The new Chinese study is apparently an effort to make the Pakistanis feel better, if only because Pakistan is a major customer for Chinese weapons.
In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) a terrorist truck bomb was used against a police station, killing five policemen.
May 11, 2013: National elections were held in Pakistan, despite Islamic terrorists and tribal rebels trying to halt the process. Over a thousand casualties (including at least 200 dead) were suffered by candidates, voting officials, and civilians in the last month. There’s always some of that, but it was worse this time because each new government is expected to do something about Islamic terrorism and tribal unrest and they don’t.
Nawaz Sharif and his party (the Moslem League) won the election. This returns Sharif to power after being ousted by the military in 1999. Five years ago Nawaz Sharif, who tried to remove Pervez Musharraf as head of the armed forces in 1999, and was himself removed by the army in turn, tried to return Pakistan (from exile) and overthrow Musharraf. He was arrested at the airport. Many of Sharifs followers had been rounded up earlier. Sharif had earlier agreed to stay out of the country for ten years (until 2010). This was partly to avoid going to prison for corruption. Sharif eventually got in and established himself and his party as a viable contender.
While Musharraf was disliked for being a dictator, the political parties don't offer much of an alternative. The Islamic parties fear they are losing support because of the continuing Taliban and al Qaeda violence. Musharraf had ordered elections when he saw rising popular anger against him and the military. He lost power in the 2008 elections. He has since been arrested for corruption and abuse of power. Musharraf is unlikely to make a comeback. Nawaz Sharif, on the other hand, belongs to a powerful family from Punjab and has temporarily made the corruption charges go away. The wealthy feudal families dominate the economy, politics, and the military in Pakistan, and less than a hundred of these clans control about half the economy. They are very powerful and determined to keep things that way.
The corruption is still there but Sharif, who got his start working for military dictator Muhammad Zia (who ruled from 1977 until his death in 1988). Zia was notable for establishing Islamic terrorism and Islamic radicalism as official state policy, along with being the longest lasting military dictator in Pakistani history. In effect, Zia is most responsible for the mess Pakistan is currently in but is considered a national hero because he was in charge during the 1980s, as billions in American and Saudi money poured in to sustain Afghan refugees from the war with Russia in neighboring Afghanistan. Those refugees supplied tribal warriors who kept fighting the Russians, until the Russians tired of the enterprise and left in 1989. Pakistanis officers and officials stole a lot of that money and infected the refugees with Islamic radicalism, which led to Pakistan creating the Taliban in the 1990s. With that as a background, Nawaz Sharif now has to deal with the growing threat (to Pakistan) of Islamic radicalism and the Pakistani military (to depose him once more). The corruption in the economy and politics makes it difficult to rule Pakistan but there is the hopes that Nawaz Sharif might get it right the second time around. That’s no guarantee of success, especially since Sharif and his clan still wallow in corruption, but in Pakistan hope is often the only thing you’ve got.
Sharif’s party did surprisingly well, gaining 46 percent of the seats in parliament. Sharif has said nice things about Islamic radicalism and advocates, yet another attempt to make peace with the Pakistani Taliban (which has been at war with Pakistan for most of the last decade). With all that, Sharif says he wants to maintain good relations with the United States while reducing Pakistani efforts against Islamic terrorism. That is something that is unpopular with America, India, and China. Many Pakistanis see the Islamic radicals not as potential saviors but as another bunch of criminals plundering the country. It is a fact that the Taliban often steal and have made a lot of money extorting ransoms and protection money from the military. The Islamic terrorist assassins know where officers and their families live and have powerful branches in major cities (especially Karachi). While many Taliban are intent on turning Pakistan into a religious dictatorship, many others have tasted the good life all this extortion cash can bring. This terror campaign has caused the military to back off on its efforts to shut down the Islamic terror groups (mainly the Taliban) at war with Pakistan. Can Sharif turn this around? Probably not, but the hope is that he can. In one sense that hope has been fulfilled because this election marks the first time in Pakistani history that one elected government has followed another, without being interrupted by a period of military dictatorship.
May 10, 2013: A long time British reporter (Declan Walsh) in Pakistan (who has worked for major British and American newspapers) was expelled. This was apparently the military expressing its displeasure at his stories, revealing how the military tried to blame some of its air strikes on American UAV operations. Walsh was lucky, for his Pakistani counterparts are often murdered for saying things the military does not want said.
May 9, 2013: In northeast India (Assam) police arrested a senior Maoist leader (Anukul Chandra). Police are not sure if Chandra (and two less senior Maoist leaders arrested in the area last month) are simply trying to escape the increasingly effective anti-Maoist campaign in eastern India, or are in the northeast to help with the Maoist effort to expand their operations into the tribal territories of the northeast. There, tribal separatists have been fighting the government for decades but in the last few years most of them have made peace.
May 7, 2013: For the first time since the Taliban declared war on polio vaccination a year ago, there has been a case of polio in the tribal territories. It occurred in North Waziristan, an unofficial (but very real) sanctuary for Islamic terrorists where resistance to vaccination has been most effective. Polio can only exist in a human host and one case means there will be others.
In Bangladesh two days of violence by Islamic religious (madrassa) students, demanding the imposition of Islamic law, led to 28 deaths, most of them Islamic radicals. Islamic radicalism is growing in popularity in Bangladesh but is still very much a minority activity. Incidents like this, and the mess Islamic radicals have made in Pakistan, make it difficult for Islamic radicals to expand their base of popular support.
May 6, 2013: More gunfire on the Afghan border, although this time Pakistan insists the Afghan’s fired first. Last week an Afghan policeman was killed in a similar incident. This violence is all about an ongoing dispute about exactly where the international border is. Recently Pakistan built some new border posts forward of previous ones but still, according to Pakistan, on Pakistani territory. This has led to shooting between Afghan and Pakistani border guards. There’s also a tribal rivalry element to all this. Most of the Afghan-Pakistani border is occupied by Pushtun tribes. This frontier, still called the “Durand Line” (an impromptu invention of British colonial authorities) was always considered artificial by locals because the line often went right through Pushtun tribal territories. However, the Afghans are more inclined to accept the Durand Line and fight to maintain it. The Pakistanis believe absolute control of the border is impossible, and their attempts to stop illegal crossings cause additional trouble (as tribesmen do not like excessive attention at border crossing posts). This recent violence is also linked to years of anger over Afghan Taliban and other terrorists hiding out in Pakistan and Islamic terrorists (fighting the Pakistani government) hiding out in Afghanistan. This has led to regular Pakistani shelling of suspected terrorist camps in Afghanistan, which often kills innocent (or semi-innocent) Afghan civilians. The Afghans protest, and the Pakistanis refuse to halt the shelling and rocket fire or even admit that they are doing it.
May 5, 2013: Indian and Chinese officers met to resolve yet another border dispute and a bit of Chinese aggression. China agreed to withdraw its intruding troops while India agreed to remove some border posts that had annoyed the Chinese. Both nations declared victory, but the Chinese got more out of the deal. It was all about twenty or so Chinese troops who have been camped out 19 kilometers inside Indian Kashmir since April 15th. China said their troops were not inside India, something India disputed. Neither country seemed eager to escalate this or resolve it. China said it would withdraw if India would abandon an observation post in the mountains that overlooked Chinese positions. The Indian outpost was in Indian territory but the Chinese don’t like being watched. The Indians refused and pointed out that there had been three other Chinese incursions recently, but these troops did not linger. India sees all this as the Chinese way of applying pressure on India to withdraw from territory claimed by India. Once more, this tactic worked.
Heavy fighting continues in the Pakistani tribal territories (near the Khyber Pass). The most recent battles today left 16 Islamic terrorists and two soldiers dead in the Tirah Valley. This time troops overran a major camp and captured a lot of weapons, ammo, and equipment. Pakistani troops have spent six weeks fighting Taliban gunmen there. The army has been using regular troops as well as SSG commandos and pro-government tribesmen. So far nearly 150 terrorists have been killed along with about 40 soldiers and tribal allies. The army has been trying to clear the Taliban from this border area since 2009, but have been unable to keep the Taliban from returning. When pressed hard enough, the Taliban retreat across the border into camps and villages in Afghanistan. They are sometimes attacked there but because the Pakistani Taliban are not attacking anyone in Afghanistan, the local security forces concentrate on those who do (mainly the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, which is based in North Waziristan, an official terrorist sanctuary the Pakistani government refuses to shut down).