India-Pakistan: An Order You Cannot Refuse

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October 25, 2015: In Pakistan the crackdown on independent media, especially if they are critical of the military, has made any real peace deal with India less likely. If the Pakistan generals want India to become the primary threat to Pakistan (as far as most media consumers are concerned) they can simply order that the appropriate news stories and opinion pieces be published, which they have done recently. India has always had a more independent media and openly criticizes the military control of Pakistani media. But that makes little difference in Pakistan, where speaking out against the media, especially if you have an audience, can have fatal consequences. The Pakistani military needs India as a perceived threat in order to justify a large military budget that is not investigated for corruption. Finally, India must be seen as a threat to mask the fact that Pakistan has long supported Pakistani based Islamic terror groups that regularly operate against targets in India and Afghanistan.

Pakistani media are again under a lot of pressure (usually in the form of an order you cannot refuse) to praise the current head of the military (general Raheel Sharif). This is standard procedure for the Pakistani military after they have had any obvious success. This is rare but in the last year the military has done a lot of damage to the Pakistani Taliban and terrorist violence is way down in Pakistan as a result. So despite the coercion it’s not too difficult for a lot of journalists to say something nice about Raheel Sharif and his troops. That will eventually change, as it always does because most Pakistanis see the military as corrupt and incompetent. The corruption is pretty constant but at times the military manages to actually do something useful. Now the military has ordered more violence along the Indian border because the terrorist threat is reduced and the public must remain fearful.

Pakistan has executed 246 people since late 2014, most of them for terrorism offenses. The government reinstated the death penalty after a December 2014 Taliban terror attack that killed 153 people at a school. So far this year Pakistan has killed over 2,100 Islamic terrorists. That’s about the same number killed during the same period in 2014. More importantly deaths among civilians and the security forces are way down (by about half) compared to 2014. Security forces have arrested nearly 10,000 Islamic terrorist suspects in the last year including nearly two thousand radical clerics. Still, Pakistani terrorist and rebel related deaths are still much higher than in India. Pakistan is obviously a far more dangerous place, in large part because the Pakistani government has supported Islamic terrorism since the 1980s and continues to do so. 

Pakistan recently revealed its military losses for 2003-10 and among the statistics was confirmation of the heavy losses on the high (over six kilometers) Siachen glacier. From 2003 to 2010 Pakistan lost 213 soldiers on the Siachen glacier alone, all due to natural (avalanche, falls and severe cold) causes. After 2010 the situation got worse because it was known that 140 Pakistani soldiers were lost in a 2012 avalanche. With this many killed in one incident it proved impossible to keep the details secret. India has been more open with revealing losses on their side of the border and that may be one reason Pakistan kept the data secret. India, despite having positions a bit higher than the Pakistanis, has not only had lower losses but has reduced their losses over the years to a greater degree than Pakistan. In other words, India proved more capable of taking better care of its troops than Pakistan. India acted on its years of experience with troops living at high altitudes and developed or imported special equipment and clothing that made life more survivable at those high altitudes.

Lately many Indian rebels in the northeast have been staying out of their usual hideouts on the Burmese side of the Indian border. That’s only because in mid-2014 the Burmese army began actively seeking out and attacking the camps of Indian rebels. Often the rebels detect the approach of the soldiers and flee back into India. There the Indian Army is more active in going after the rebels. Because of a recent agreement, India and Burma are sharing intelligence on armed groups near their mutual border. This cooperation is not uniform all along the border. India believes that in one area at least two Indian rebel camps had been established three and five kilometers inside Burma and local Burmese troops were not cooperating. Apparently bribes, threats or whatever had been used to get some of the cooperation the Indian rebels long enjoyed. India is demanding that the Burmese high command act. So far there has been no action on this matter.

The EU (European Union) has reduced the piracy “high risk” area to exclude the west coast of India. Since 2010 shipping companies have been advised to take additional precautions while moving through the Indian Ocean between India and Africa. Now only the area off Somalia and Kenya are considered at risk. The EU recommendation carries a lot of weight because it influences maritime insurance rates and the legal liability of major shipping companies. Thus is was more expensive to operate in a high risk area and these higher costs were passed on to the customers of the shipping companies (Indian firms and consumers). There has been no known Somali activity off the west coast of India since 2012. There is a lot less piracy off the Somali coast as well, mainly because the international anti-piracy patrol has made it virtually impossible for Somali pirates to seize ships of any value.

China and Pakistan are heavily publicizing the revival of an ancient economic powerhouse; the 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 officially called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and is a much more 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.

In eastern India (particularly Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand states) operations against Maoist rebels continue. While Maoist deaths are about the same as 2014 (100 a year) losses among civilians and security forces are down by half. Maoist related deaths are on track to be about 30 percent lower than 2014. The government has been using a large (over 100,000 para-military police) force in the area since 2009 to try and eliminate the Maoist rebellion. It has been slow going because the Maoists are fighting against real problems (mainly corruption and bad government) in eastern India. The Maoists are a lot weaker now but still have local supporters.

Islamic terrorist violence in the northwest India (Kashmir) continues, although at much lower levels than a decade ago. This year terrorism related deaths appear headed for a 20 percent decline over 2014. As with the Maoists the Pakistan based Islamic terrorists still have local support because of continuing hostility at largely Hindu India ruling largely Moslem Kashmir. This is one of the unresolved issues from the creation of modern India and Pakistan in 1947.

The least publicized terrorist violence (from separatist tribal rebels) is in the northeastern tribal areas of India. There have been over 6,000 terrorism related deaths there in the last decade but the violence has been declining. Not as much as in Kashmir and eastern India, but there has been a decline of about 40 percent in the last year. Still, there will be more terrorism deaths in the northeast this year (about 300) than in Kashmir (about 180) or the east (about 220). Still, in neighboring Pakistan, with one-sixth the population there will be about four times as many terrorism related deaths in 2015.

October 24, 2015: In Pakistan troops on the Kashmir border fired several mortar shells into India, wounding two civilians.

In Bangladesh ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) claimed credit for the bombing of a Shia religious ceremony that left one Shia dead and several wounded. There has not been much ISIL activity in India and Bangladesh.

October 23, 2015: In Pakistan (Sindh Province) a Sunni Islamic terror group set off a bomb at a Shia religious event killing 24 people, a third of them children.

After operating in eastern India against Maoist rebels since 2010, the Indian Air Force has ordered its helicopters crews to be more aggressive firing back if they are fired on by Maoist gunmen. The air force helicopters have been assigned only for carrying troops and supplies over Maoist infested territory in eastern India. The government has been reluctant to allow the military to get involved with internal unrest, and in 2010 reluctantly allowed the armed air force helicopters to defend themselves. But until now the helicopters crews were extremely reluctant to open fire, even when attacked by Maoists.

In northeastern India Pakistani troops again fired into Indian Kashmir targeting nine Indian border posts and a civilian work crew. No soldiers were hurt but the attack on the workers killed one civilian and wounded two others. The three victims were repairing a culvert within sight of Pakistani border guards when the incident took place. Indian border guards fired back but there were apparently no Pakistani casualties. This was the first such border violence in over a month since yet another ceasefire agreement was worked out.

October 22, 2015: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) a male suicide bomber disguised as a woman attacked a Shia mosque and killed ten people, most of them children. To the north, in the tribal territories (Khyber) overnight air strikes killed at least 21 Islamic terrorists at four locations. The ability of Pakistani F-16s to use night-vision equipped targeting pods and smart bombs means the Taliban down below are at risk of air attack around the clock. Pakistani officials have been quite open about praising the American smart bombs and targeting pods as they have played a large part in destroying Islamic terrorist operations in the tribal territories and keeping army losses low.

In China 175 Indian counter-terrorism troops completed ten days of joint training with 175 of their Chinese counterparts. This is the fifth such joint exercise like this.

October 19, 2015: Pakistan admitted that it did have tactical nuclear weapons and had developed and manufactured these smaller (for short range missiles) warheads to discourage India from trying a surprise attack on Pakistan. Pakistani generals believe India can’t really do anything major because of the risk of nuclear war. But more and more Indians are turning that around and theorizing that if Indian troops crossed the LOC (Line of Control) and seized the Pakistani half of Kashmir and all the Islamic terrorist bases there they could at least get Pakistan to agree to shut down their “good” (only attack India) Islamic terror groups. The Indians believe the Pakistanis would not start a nuclear war over this and that sort of talk showing up in Indian media with increasing frequency has got Pakistani leaders concerned. Pakistan is now saying it would go sort-of nuclear with its tactical nukes and does not think India would escalate to all-out nuclear war.

October 18, 2015: Pakistan announced that all Uighur Islamic terrorists in Pakistan had been killed or driven from the country. In particular the primary Uighur Islamic terrorist organization, the East Turkestan Independence Movement (ETIM) was no longer operating in Pakistan. For several years China has been pressing Pakistan to do something about Chinese Islamic terrorists (Turkic Uighurs from northwest China) based in Pakistan and Pakistan finally began making some serious moves on that problem in early 2014. There followed the June 2014 offensive in North Waziristan concentrating on the “bad Taliban” and their allies (like the Uighurs).  Pakistan is still reluctant to admit it is the cause of so many regional Islamic terrorism problems but the neighbors were not being very understanding. China, who supplies a lot of Pakistan’s weapons and foreign investment, finally told its troublesome neighbor to fix the situation or see China go from being a helpful to a hostile neighbor. The other neighbors have had a similar reaction, but given China’s place as Pakistan’s most important ally, Pakistan could no longer ignore the problem. The other major military ally and weapons supplier, the United States, has been less insistent than China and generally been ignored. India and Pakistan have no economic pressure on Pakistan and their complaints about Islamic terrorism are dismissed or turned around with Pakistan accusing Afghanistan and India of supporting Islamic terrorism inside Pakistan.

October 17, 2015: For reasons that are still unclear Iranian border guard fired at least eight mortar shells into southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan). There was no damage or casualties and it is suspected that the Iranians were trying to discourage smugglers from crossing.

October 14, 2015: In central Pakistan (Punjab) a bomb went off outside the office of a senior conservative politician. Seven people were killed and nine wounded. The politician (Sardar Amjad Farooq Khosa) was somewhere else when the bomb went off.

October 13, 2015: Afghanistan accused Pakistan of helping plan and carry out the recent Taliban raid on the city of Kunduz. The Pakistanis deny any involvement, but they always do and have a long and proven record of interfering in Afghan internal affairs. Afghanistan also believes that a lot of the recent Taliban violence in Afghanistan was made possible by the thousands of non-Pakistani Islamic terrorists fleeing North Waziristan and moving to Afghanistan. There, many of these foreign Islamic terrorists have joined the Afghan Taliban and provided an infusion of very dedicated and dangerous fighters. Afghan intelligence believes that the Afghan Taliban leadership is still operating from a sanctuary in southwest Pakistan, something Pakistan continues to deny despite lots of evidence showing senior Taliban are in the area (Baluchistan). Pakistan says it is trying to get the peace talks with the Afghan Taliban restarted but many Afghans believe it was the Pakistanis who caused the talks to collapse before they could get started. That’s because the main reason for the collapse of the peace talks back in July was the unexpected revelation that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar had died in a Pakistani hospital in 2013. This revelation caused a split, still not healed, within the Afghan Taliban leadership. To most Afghans it is obvious Pakistan was behind all this. Currently the Afghan government is not willing to reconsider peace talks with the Afghan Taliban until Pakistan cuts its support of, and control over, Islamic terror groups (like the Taliban and Haqqani Network) operating in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani Air Force completed several days of training with their Chinese counterparts in Tibet. No F-16s were used, to avoid the ire of the United States, but the Pakistani pilots did get some experience against Chinese aircraft similar to the Indian Su-30s. China has long produced legal, and illegal, copies of the Russian Su-27 and the very similar Su-30.

October 12, 2015: Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, former Pakistani defense minister (2008-2012) admitted that senior members of the Pakistani military and government knew that Osama bin Laden was hiding out in Abbottabad and lied about that after American commandos raided the bin Laden compound in 2011, killing bin Laden and seizing a lot of embarrassing (for Pakistan) documents. Mukhtar has left Pakistan, where senior officials are accusing him of lying or of misunderstanding the question the journalist put to him that elicited the admission.

In eastern India (Bihar) Maoist threats failed to halt local elections. Maoist enforced travel and voting bans used to be quite effective but over the last few years, not so much.

October 11, 2015: In the Pakistani tribal territories (North Waziristan) air strikes killed at least 22 Islamic terrorists at six locations. Ground troops are often positioned to follow up on these air strikes in order to capture survivors and documents.

The U.S. revealed that in the last year it had given Pakistan $265 million to support local counter-terrorism operations. Interestingly Pakistanis living in the United States sent back ten times as much money to families in Pakistan. That was about 14 percent of the nearly $19 billion sent home in the last year by Pakistanis living and working elsewhere. That’s about 6.5 percent of Pakistani GDP.

October 10, 2015: Pakistan’s agreement to buy eight Chinese diesel-electric submarines for $625 million each includes the stipulation that four of the subs be built in Pakistan. Since mid-2014 China and Pakistan have been negotiating prices and terms for the sale. The high price indicates the sale is for Type 041s although there has been no official announcement yet about the details of this sale. Currently the Pakistani Navy has five submarines. The Type 041s have the most modern equipment including an AIP propulsion system that enables these boats to stay under water for more than a week at a time. This contract is the largest arms purchase Pakistan has ever made from China. Despite this sale many Pakistani admirals believe their combat capabilities are declining because there is not enough money to maintain the fleet and pay for training (which means lots of time at sea).

October 8, 2015: Despite the physical (and performance) similarities between Chinese and Pakistani UAVs Pakistan insists that they received no assistance from China in developing the UAVs the military is now using for surveillance and missile attacks.

 

 

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