The Pakistani government describes the five days of military operations in North Waziristan as retaliation for recent Taliban terror attacks. Some Pakistani officials are describing the operation as directed only at those Taliban factions making the attacks and opposed to peace talks with the government. The senior Taliban leadership and most of the factions back the talks, which have been going on since February. The military leaders do not believe these peace talks are meaningful as the Taliban have violated several past peace deals and the Taliban speak openly about making peace for a while so the Pakistani Taliban can support the Afghan Taliban in taking over the Afghan government again. This is supposed to be possible once most of the foreign troops are gone by the end of 2014. To most Afghans this is a fantasy because less than 20 percent of Afghans support the Taliban in any way. But it is an article of faith for the Taliban on both sides of the border that Taliban domination of Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond is inevitable. It is God’s will and this belief cannot be debated or opposed within the organization. What disputes do exist (mainly within the Pakistani Taliban) have to do with tactics, not ultimate goals. Meanwhile the army operations in North Waziristan have killed nearly a hundred Islamic terrorists so far and appear to be limited in scope. Troops seem to be going after Chinese, Central Asian and al Qaeda factions. China has been pressing Pakistan to do something about Chinese Islamic terrorists (Turkic Uighurs from northwest China) based in Pakistan and this appears to be it. It appears that the air strikes and ground operations are concentrating on these “bad Taliban” and majority of the Islamic terrorists in the area alone. The military is proceeding very slowly and cautiously in an effort to minimize army casualties. The army is also trying to minimize civilian casualties by warning local officials up to day before of where the attacks are planned so civilians can get out. Refugees are then carefully screened to detect any disguised Taliban.
Islamic conservative groups are trying to get the largest TV station (Geo) in Pakistan shut down for criticizing the military and to do that has accused Geo of blasphemy. The military has been trying to shut down Geo for over a month, without success (or cooperation from the courts or other government agencies). The military is angry with the Geo’s TV news channel for accusing the military of being behind an April 19th attack against a prominent TV journalist (Hamid Mir) who frequently criticized the ISI and the army during his Geo show. Mir survived the attack and the army denied it had anything to do with it. Similar attacks have been traced back to the army and ISI in the past. In Pakistan it’s understood that openly criticizing the ISI or army can have unhealthy consequences. The army is using jammers to block Geo from being received on military bases and is also banning newspapers that are also making these accusations. The military is also mobilizing its political and media allies to back this attack on Geo, which has resulted in the blasphemy charges.
China and Pakistan are nervous about rhe newly elected Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi. The new Indian leader is expected to shake things up across the board. A long-time state governor Modi has a track record of economic growth and effective efforts to suppress corruption (the most common cause of economic stagnation). Modi is considered conservative and nationalist in his outlook. That means more support for the Indian military in opposing Chinese and Pakistani aggression. That combination of promoting economic growth and nationalism is also worrisome to China, which is currently leaving India alone (regarding border disputes) but is very concerned about India. That’s because India is the third country (after the United States and Russia) with nuclear armed missiles aimed at China. Corruption has long stalled economic growth in India while China found ways around the corruption and built an economy three times as strong as India’s. Modi might threaten that Chinese advantage.
May 24, 2014: In the Pakistani capital two bombs went off, killing one person and wounding another. No one claimed responsibility and the bombs were set off in areas that had few people nearby. In the tribal territories (Mohmand tribal district) a roadside bomb killed six soldiers.
Pakistan announced that, for the first time, the Pakistani prime minister will go to India to attend the inauguration of the new Indian prime minister.
May 23, 2014: The Pakistani offensive into North Waziristan continues. The military claims 71 Islamic terrorists have been killed so far and dozens captured. Four soldiers have died.
May 22, 2014: In Pakistan ground troops began advancing into North Waziristan.
May 21, 2014: After years of pressure from the United States and Afghanistan, the Pakistani military launched an offensive into the terrorist sanctuary of North Waziristan. The operation began with air strikes (using F-16s and helicopter gunships) and shelling by artillery and mortars. That was expected to be followed by an infantry advance.
May 20, 2014: In Kashmir Pakistani troops violated the 2003 ceasefire agreement for the fifth time this year by firing on Indian troops across the LOC (Line of Control) with rifles and machine-guns. Indians responded with similar type weapons and it appears there were no casualties on either side. The official Pakistani Army position is that India starts these incidents by firing first but there is little evidence of that and even the Pakistani government is at a loss as to why the military continues to allow these incidents to happen. The only reasonable explanation anyone can come up with is the attacks are used to distract Indian border guards to assist Islamic terrorists trying to cross the LOC. Yet many of these Pakistani attacks seem to occur when there is no such crossing attempt. That may be a tactic to confuse the Indian border forces by attacking randomly and not just when the firing is in support of Islamic terrorists. In any event the Pakistani military always denies everything. When Indian and Pakistani diplomats or political leaders meet to discuss the issue both agree that the attacks are made from Pakistan but Pakistani civilian leaders admit that they cannot really control everything their military does.
May 19, 2014: In Kashmir Indian troops were attacked by a group of armed men from Pakistan. During the ensuing fight one Indian soldiers was killed and three wounded. This was believed to be another operation by what India has come to call the Pakistani Border Action Team (or BAT). This group has been suspected to exist for some time but now India believes it has positively identified a Pakistani organization that uses a combination of special operations troops and volunteers from Islamic terrorist groups based in Pakistani Kashmir. BAT is trained and organized to carry out what often amounts to suicide missions just across the border into India. The BAT teams sometimes organize attacks that involve some men firing from inside Pakistan while others cross into India to attack from there. These attacks are increasingly directed at Indian patrols along the border and often involve planting some mines along the paths Indian patrols take. Pakistan denies the existence of BAT but India has interrogated enough captured Islamic terrorists from Pakistan to confirm that BAT is real and still in business.
May 18, 2014: In eastern Afghanistan (Kunar) four rockets fired from Pakistan landed in a populated area but there were no casualties. A similar attack in January killed four children. Afghanistan also complains that Pakistan has been shelling Afghan villages in the southern province of Helmand. There Pakistan is also accused of trying to set up border posts on the Afghan side of the border (which has long been a matter of dispute between the two countries.)
May 16, 2014: In Kashmir Pakistani troops again violated the 2003 ceasefire agreement by shooting into India. There were no casualties.
The Indian Election Commission declared the BJP (Hindu nationalists) had won the parliamentary election with a majority (282 of 543 seats). This means BJP leader Narendra Modi will be the 14th prime minister of India. Modi is regarded as being honest and an able administrator. He demonstrated his skills as governor of Gujarat state, which is now widely known for remarkable economic growth engineered by Modi. This was largely because of Modi’s free market policies and successful efforts to curb corruption. Modi is also very charismatic and most Indians are hoping he can do for all of India what he did in Gujarat. That may prove difficult, because despite Gujarat having a population of 60 million, India has over a billion people and lot of entrenched, and often corrupt, local groups that not eager to change. Pakistan will also be watching Modi with great interest, because a recent opinion poll revealed (no surprise) that 80 percent of Pakistanis believe corruption is widespread in Pakistan. This corruption is seen as a major obstacle to prosperity and other forms of progress.
May 15, 2014: Pakistan has made it mandatory for anyone from the northwestern tribal territories to have a polio vaccination certificate before they can travel outside the territories. This is to limit the spread of polio which still exists in the territories because of Islamic radicals opposing (often with violence) polio vaccination (seen as a Western plot to poison Moslems.)
May 14, 2014: The Afghan Taliban announced the appointment of Ibrahim Sadar as the new military commander of the Afghan Taliban. Sadar had been in a Pakistani jail (on terrorism charges) until earlier this year when he was released at the request of the Afghan government as a gesture meant to move forward peace talks with the Afghan Taliban. Those talks are not really going anywhere because militant Taliban factions violently oppose any peace deals (aside from complete surrender by the Afghan government).
May 11, 2014: In eastern India (Maharashtra) seven policemen were killed by a Maoist roadside bomb. This attack was believed to be retaliation for the arrest of a college professor in the capital for being a long-time recruiter for the Maoists. Elsewhere in eastern India (Jharkhand) a senior Maoist leader was arrested. He was carrying weapons and incriminating documents.
In the Pakistani tribal territories (the city of Peshawar) a suicide bomber trying to attack refugees fleeing fighting in North Waziristan was halted by security, but not before he set off his explosives, killing five people and wounding six. Elsewhere in Peshawar a bomb went off downtown, outside the home of a wealthy merchant, wounding seven.
May 10, 2014: In Kashmir Indian troops detected two Islamic terrorists trying to sneak in from Pakistan and killed them in a brief gun battle. The dead men were heavily armed and carrying lots of supplies.
May 9, 2014: Iranian and Pakistani warships held joint training drills off the coast. Pakistan has also been developing closer ties with Saudi Arabia, which is currently locked in a ideological battle with Iran over Iranian claims to be better qualified to manage Islam’s most sacred sites located inside Saudi Arabia.
In the Indian capital police arrested a college professor and accused him of being a Maoist recruiter.
Afghan military officials revealed that in the last week its troops had killed at least 14 Pakistani Islamic terrorists who had been living on the Afghan side of the border.
May 8, 2014: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) a roadside bomb killed eight soldiers. Further south another soldier was killed by gunfire directed at the checkpoint he was manning.
May 7, 2014: The Indian Navy declared its new aircraft carrier, the INS Vikramaditya, operational and deployed with the fleet. This was four months after Vikramaditya arrived from Russia, where it was built and refurbished to Indian specifications. That 39 day journey was the first long range (15,000 kilometers) cruise for the Vikramaditya and was not without incident. One of the eight steam boilers failed and the carrier proved unable to refuel at sea. The Indians feel they can deal with both problems.