In Bangladesh police have arrested 53 suspects in the October 30th mob violence against Hindus in eastern Bangladesh (Brahmanbaria). This began when some local Moslems decided a Facebook post by local Hindus was disrespectful of Islam and deserved punishment. That led to a mob of Islamic radicals attacking a Hindu neighborhood and destroying or damaging over a dozen Hindu temples and injuring at least a hundred Hindus. The reaction to that anti-Hindu violence was even greater (but much less violent) with large groups of Hindus and Moslems demanding that all those involved in these attacks be arrested and prosecuted.
Islamic terrorists are very much a tiny minority in Bangladesh and a very unpopular one at that. The current outbreak of Islamic terrorism reached a peak with the July 1st attack on a popular café in Dhaka that left 20 dead (including 17 foreigners). The local Islamic terrorists have been on the run ever since. Last month police raids left eleven, most of them members of JMB (Jamaat ul Mujahideen Bangladesh). While ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) took credit for the July 1 attack those who carried it out belonged to JMB, which has been around since 1998 and wants to turn Bangladesh into a religious dictatorship. JMB turned to violence in 2005 and has been at war with the government ever since.
According to Islamic radicals, Hindus are the worst kind of infidel (non-Moslem) because, unlike Christians and Jews, they have no common religious roots with Islam. Actually, Hindus do, as there was a lot of Hindu influence in Arabia before Islam appeared there 1,400 years ago, but the founders of Islam choose not to openly recognize their Hindu roots. Thus the harder line on Hindus, who are eight percent of the population of Bangladesh and 1.2 percent in Pakistan. There used to be a lot more Hindus in Pakistan but decades of violence against Hindus (and Christians and other religious minorities) have led a disproportionate number of Hindus to leave.
Bangladesh also blames Pakistan for supporting Islamic terrorism within Bangladesh. This goes back to a 1971 uprising in Bangladesh (then part of Pakistan as “East Pakistan”) that led to a war between Pakistan and India. Many Pakistani military leaders see this 1971 loss as a major reason for Pakistani obsession with India. Not only was the Pakistani army decisively defeated in 1971, but the Pakistan lost much territory (which actively sought to secede and became Bangladesh). Former Pakistani military commander and dictator (via another coup) Pervez Musharraf admitted in late 2014 that he started the 1999 Kargil border war with India as another attempt to avenge the defeat (and loss of Bangladesh) in 1971. Pakistani officers (and many other Pakistanis) have always attributed the loss of Bangladesh to an Indian conspiracy with traitorous politicians in Bangladesh (that used to be called East Pakistan). Bangladesh calls that conspiracy theory absurd and that the real reason for the rebellion was corruption and incompetent government imposed by troops from “West Pakistan” (which after 1971 was all that remained of pre-1971 Pakistan).
Since September violence in Indian Kashmir had left over a hundred dead and many more wounded. India blames Pakistan for the sharp increase in separatist and Islamic terrorist activity there this year. Many Pakistanis believe the Pakistani military is responsible because that is how the generals deal with bad press or elected officials determined to curb the independence of the military. This is nothing new because Pakistan has been sponsoring Islamic terrorism in Indian Kashmir since the 1980s. That efforts has never succeeded in doing anything for the Moslem majority in Indian Kashmir and that became more of an embarrassment for Pakistan. This can be seen in the way terrorism deaths in Kashmir peaked in 2001. By 2011 India had reduced Islamic terrorist related violence in Kashmir by over 95 percent. Despite that Pakistan kept recruiting, training and sending Islamic terrorists into India without anything to show for it.
Seeking an alternative method in the last few years Pakistan has been using cash (to buy more local support) and exploiting social media in an effort to encourage young Moslems in Kashmir to join Pakistani backed terror groups. That led to a popular (especially on social media) young (21) Kashmiri Islamic terrorist (Burhan Wani) becoming a local celebrity for his largely fictional efforts to make Kashmir an independent state. Then Wani got into a gun battle with police on July 8th and was killed. For an Internet celebrity getting killed unexpectedly can be a great career move, at least in the short term. In Kashmir this led to an outbreak of massive, and often violent protests that have left 80 dead and over 6,000 wounded so far. While alive Burhan Wani was seen as someone who could revive Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), which was once the most powerful Islamic terror group in Indian Kashmir. HM has been fading away since 2010 as more of its leaders were killed or captured and few local replacements came forward. HM is unique in that it came to be dominated by Indian Kashmiris and resisted control by Pakistan. While still receiving personnel and other aid from Pakistan, HM was more sensitive to Kashmiri needs and desires, not what Pakistani foreign policy demanded. As a result, when the Kashmiri population turned against Islamic terrorism after 2001 HM began to decline but still retained more local support than the groups that were basically Pakistani inventions. Thus HM maintained its position as the major Islamic terror group in Kashmir because increased Indian success at border security hurt the groups more dependent on personnel and aid from Pakistan. The current increase in violence is fading, in large part because older Kashmiri Moslems know that Pakistan is financing the violence but it is Kashmiri families that are paying the price in lost children, property and employment opportunities. While young Kashmiris have little respect for the past, their elders do.
Faced with unprecedented foreign and internal pressure (from politicians who are no longer afraid to challenge the Pakistani generals) Pakistan is putting pressure on the Afghan Taliban to negotiate a peace deal with the Afghan government and prepare to leave their sanctuaries in Quetta (capital of the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan). The Pakistani generals are more interested in preserving the independence and wealth of the Pakistani military than in appeasing furious foreigners. The Afghans make it clear that the key to ending decades of violence in Afghanistan is cooperation from Pakistan. The Americans and Indians openly agree with this and Iran does so more discreetly.
If the Taliban sanctuaries are shut down Afghanistan says it will cooperate (and the U.S. will finance) the expulsion of several million Afghan refugees from Pakistan. The Americans will no longer threaten airstrikes on Islamic terrorists based in Pakistan, something that the Pakistani military can’t even attempt to stop with risking even more embarrassment. Pakistan has reportedly told Afghan Taliban leaders to either begin serious peace talks with the Afghan government or face eviction from their Quetta sanctuary.
At the same time the Afghan Taliban is facing internal problems as the many semi-independent factions that comprise the Afghan Taliban continue to fight each other and the new leadership, which appears to really be the head of the Haqqani Network (not the figurehead officially installed recently). Since 2014 the Afghan Taliban has been unable to agree on who should run the organization and that has led to more of the factions going into business for themselves. The several dozen factions have territories and different Pushtun tribes and clans they depend on for recruits. To maintain those tribal connections the Taliban need cash to pay full time staff and attract new recruits each year. The tribal leaders and local officials also have to be bribed. The faction leaders have been sending less (increasingly no) cash to the senior leadership in Quetta. More of the faction leaders are responding to family needs and many of those kin want to get out of Afghanistan. That costs money and there is but one source.
Meanwhile there is growing pressure from an informal coalition (of the United States, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India) demanding Pakistan stop lying about its support for Islamic terrorists that are allowed sanctuary in Pakistan as long as they only carry out attacks elsewhere (especially in Afghanistan and India). Pakistan has been doing this since the 1980s and always denied it. This began in the 1980s when Pakistan provided a refuge for Afghans fleeing the Russian violence (similar to what the Russians are now doing in Syria) following a 1979 invasion. Pakistan, with cash and weapons from oil rich Arabian countries and America providing protection from Russian retaliation, allowed Afghan rebels to maintain bases alongside Afghan refugee camps. The problem was that after the Russians left in 1989 Pakistan has never stopped supporting Afghan rebels and interfering in Afghan affairs. Pakistan also encouraged Islamic terrorist attacks inside India. Pakistan admits they created the Taliban, but only to stop the 1990s civil war in Afghanistan. All the rest they have always denied.
The truth was that Pakistan expected the Taliban to ensure that whatever government was running Afghanistan would do whatever Pakistan needed done. That meant tolerance for the Afghan drug trade (which made many Pakistanis rich), no contacts with India and no criticism of the Pakistani military or its intelligence branch (the ISI). It was of little concern to Pakistan that the Taliban and the drug gangs have been tearing Afghanistan apart ever since. Only about ten percent of Afghans got any economic benefit out of the drug business and millions of Afghans, Pakistanis and people throughout the region have become drug addicts. Pakistan has been using Islamic terrorist groups against India as well and this turned India and Afghanistan into allies. It is telling that while Pakistan supports terror against India every other Moslem nation in the region (especially Iran and Bangladesh) regards non-Moslem India as someone they can get along with. Pakistan, despite sharing a long border with Iran, is considered more troublesome and less reliable than India. Bangladesh used to be part of Pakistan but rebelled in the 1970s and despite savage reprisals from the Pakistanis, achieved independence and continue to hold Pakistan responsible for those atrocities. Pakistan has always denied the Indian, Afghan and Bangladeshi accusations but now the United States is becoming more forceful in demanding that Pakistan stop lying and terrorizing its neighbors and threating the world. All this came to a head recently in the UN where many nations, especially Afghanistan, and India, openly demanded that Pakistan stop supporting Islamic terrorist groups, particularly those that specialize in terrorizing neighbors. The Pakistan military, which always portrays itself as a victim, responded by up increasing violence along the Indian border, blaming it all on India, and risking a nuclear war because India, unlike Afghanistan, has nukes. Meanwhile Afghanistan, Iran and India are developing new trade routes that will ignore Pakistan.
Afghanistan and the Americans also want Pakistan to include the Haqqani Group, another Afghan Islamic terrorist group the Pakistanis have long sponsored and sheltered, with the Afghan Taliban. That is because these two groups have, since late 2015, effectively merged (at least at the leadership level). The American pressure is particularly effective. Pakistan is facing a financial crises with its defense spending because the United States is gradually eliminating its generous military aid because of Pakistani refusal to stop supporting Islamic terrorism. Since 2001 American aid has accounted for about a fifth of Pakistani defense spending and provided access to world class military technology. Among other things this has enabled Pakistan to ten percent of its defense budget to nuclear weapons compared to four percent by India. Even with that Indian spends more than twice as much ($1.9 billion a year) on nukes. Without the American aid Pakistan will have a very difficult time keeping up. None of its other major allies (China. Russia, Iran) is willing or able to make up for the American aid and high tech.
Despite growing problems with taking control of the South China Sea Chinese troops continue cause problems along the border of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. These incidents are not supposed to happen at all because of agreements China and India negotiated in 2013 and 2014. Because of that China claims recent incursions were accidents and point out that their troops leave as soon as India contacts China (per the border agreements) and China is able to contact the border troops involved. There have been fewer of these incursions since 2014. There were 500 incursion in 2015, 350 in the last 12 months and about 200 so far this year. But sometimes the Chinese will refuse to move and that requires a high-level meeting to resolve. Still, it’s a welcome trend because in 2011 there were 213 of these Chinese border violations, followed by 426 in 2012 and 413 in 2013.
Meanwhile India continues to move more troops into the area and build facilities to support them. India recently activated the sixth of eight military airfields in the sparsely populated provinces. All eight of these bases are to be operational by the end of the year. Each can handle large transports (like the new American C-17s India bought) and has a control tower and room for rapid expansion.
China still claims to own Arunachal Pradesh. China has always maintained that the 3,500 kilometer long border between India and Chinese Tibet (1,126 of with Arunachal Pradesh) was only temporary and since 2010 China has been more aggressive about changing it. In 2014 China protested India building roads near the Chinese border in northeastern India. The roads were in an area that new (2014) Chinese maps showing Indian territory claimed by China as actually being part of China and within China’s borders. This is just another escalation in a long-running border dispute over who owns areas like Arunachal Pradesh. In this part of northeast India there are few, if any, ethnic Chinese. The locals know that a Chinese takeover would mean drastic changes because the first thing China does in places like this is move in a lot of ethnic (Han) Chinese and marginalize the natives. This rarely ends well for the locals. While these Chinese claims have been on the books for decades, since 2000 China has become more vocal, and physical, about it. That's one reason India has been rapidly increasing its defense spending. But since both nations have nuclear weapons, a major war over these border disputes is unlikely. Constant Chinese pressure is another matter. China is applying the same tactic in all its recently activated territorial claims. Constant pressure while avoiding anything that might trigger a war is seen by China as a slow but certain way to secure its claims.
Eastern India continues to suffer from Leftist rebel (Maoist) activity but after fifty years of this the revolution has lost its appeal. The Maoist movement has seen their membership decline 12,000 to about 8,000 since 2007. The senior leadership has suffered even heavier losses. The Politburo (the most senior leaders) went from 14 to seven (or perhaps six) while the next level of leaders (the Central Committee) went from 40 to about 20. Many of the missing leaders are in prison and there are not enough capable replacements to be found. The Indian Maoists have no outside support while the Islamic terrorists have long, and very visibly been based in Pakistan. Nevertheless the Maoists this year are reversing several years of decline (in Maoist related violence). In 2015 there were 251 deaths related to Maoist violence, the lowest level in over a decade. But so far this year it looks like Maoist violence will increased about 40 percent going back to levels not seen since 2014. This is mainly because of the failure to deal with the corruption that kept the Maoists popular enough for decades to keep them going. Despite these increases overall terrorism related deaths for India will be about the same in 2016 as they were when 722 died in 2015.
November 8, 2016: In northwest India firing between Indian and Pakistani troops on the border continued. This time an Indian soldier was killed. Pakistan says that three civilians died recently because of Indian return fire.
November 7, 2016: In eastern Pakistan (Karachi) police shut down several Shia and Sunni religious schools and arrested Shia and Sunni religious leaders in an effort to curb violence between Sunni and Shia. This violence, mainly in the form of attacks on Shia, has been more common since the 1990s. Over the last decade Pakistani Shia have increasingly fought back and since 2011 have openly blamed the Pakistani military. The main sponsor of Sunni Islamic terror groups has been the military, which has not done much to stop these attacks. Shia religious leaders are demanding that the military provide more security for Pakistani Shia. Nationwide, there has always been religious violence between Shia (20 percent of the population) and Sunni (most of the rest) radicals. There are dozens of Islamic terror groups in Pakistan, most of them Westerners never hear about, but many of them are more intent on fighting other Moslems than in going after infidels (non-Moslems).
In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) some 200 local tribal separatists accepted a new “reconciliation” plan and surrendered their weapons and pledged to cease attacking the government. While this has all the aspects of an amnesty it is not called one because a newly elected provincial government had made such a deal one of its campaign promises. While a step in the right direction, the main motivation for the separatist violence is the decades of political corruption, particularly at the national level.
November 6, 2016: In northwest India firing between Indian and Pakistani troops on the border resumed after two days of quiet. Two Indian soldiers were killed and one Indian civilian wounded. India claims that unprovoked firing from the Pakistani side of the border has killed 30 Indians (ten of them soldiers and police) since September 18th in attacks Pakistan either denies or say were in response to unprovoked attacks by the Indians. Pakistan has moved 50,000 additional troops to the border, most of them coming from North Waziristan where the army has been fighting Islamic terrorists since 2014.
In Bangladesh a man stopped by security at the main airport outside the capital responded by attacking security personnel and nearby civilians with a knife. One security guard died and another was wounded as was at least one civilian. The attacker was arrested but his identity is still unknown as are his motives.
November 4, 2016: In central Pakistan (Jhal Magsi) a feud between two tribes turned violent again leaving five dead. That makes over twenty killed so far in a feud over who murdered a woman several years ago. Tribal or clan feuds like this are common and are dangerous in rural areas where a lot of men own firearms and RPGs.
November 3, 2016: Pakistan accused eight Indian diplomats of espionage and actively supporting terror attacks in Pakistan. This comes days after India accused six Pakistani diplomats of the same thing.
November 2, 2016: In central Pakistan (Punjab) police raided a location reported to be an Islamic terrorist hideout. That tip proved accurate and the nine al Qaeda members in the house refused to surrender and were killed in a brief gun battle. Documents, weapons and other items found in the house indicated the nine were planning an attack on a nearby military compound used by intelligence personnel.
October 30, 2016: In Pakistan the Information Minister was fired (“forced to resign”) after he was accused of being the source of details on a recent meeting between elected government officials and senior military officers. The details of the meeting made it clear that the government was trying to gain control of the military and that the generals were fighting back.
October 29, 2016: In northwest India (Kashmir) Indian troops carried out a major attack and destroyed four Pakistani border posts and killed at least 40 Pakistani troops. This was in retaliation for a Pakistani operation the day before in which Pakistani troops fired on Indian border guards to provide a distraction for Islamic terrorists seeking to sneak across the border. In doing that the Islamic terrorists clashed with some Indian troops, killed one of them and beheaded him. Both sides were also accusing each other of deliberately killing civilians by firing across the border.
October 26, 2016: Burma accuses Pakistan of being responsible for many of the several hundred Islamic terrorists operating near the Bangladesh border (Rakhine State). Some of these Islamic terrorists are Burmese Rohingya Moslems who have left Burma and joined Islamic terror groups elsewhere. India has identified Rohingya Islamic terrorists trained in Pakistan who were killed once they crossed into Indian Kashmir. It is also known that Pakistan supported Islamic terrorist groups like LeT (Lashkar e Taiba) train non-Pakistanis in several of their camps in northern Pakistan. Bangladesh has arrested some of these Pakistan trained Rohingya who had come to reinforce the beleaguered Islamic terrorist groups in Bangladesh (which is majority Moslem and generally a hostile place for Islamic terrorists). But it would be unusual for four Islamic terror groups to get organized in the north without the Burmese military noticing. Like much of what goes on with the army in the tribal territories, something does not seem quite right.
October 24, 2016:
In the northwest Taliban gunmen just across the border attacked an Afghan police checkpoint near the Torkham border crossing and killed eight policemen. Torkham is the main border crossing with Afghanistan and where thousands of people and vehicles pass through each day. On the Pakistani side is the Khyber Pass which has always been the easiest way to get from northern Afghanistan to the lowlands (most of Pakistan and all of India) beyond.
In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) Islamic terrorists based in Afghanistan crossed the border and attacked a police training center and after five hours of violence left 71 dead and 170 wounded. The attackers were from a Pakistani Islamic terror group (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) that was forced to move its bases to eastern Afghanistan after 2014 because the Pakistani Army launched a major offensive on North Waziristan and other Islamic terrorist sanctuaries used by groups that made attacks inside Pakistan. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was mainly about killing “heretics” (especially Pakistani Shia). These attacks were often in Baluchistan Province.
October 20, 2016: Burma and India signed several economic cooperation agreements to make it easier for firms in both countries to more freely operate across the border.
October 19, 2016: In northwest India the first joint military exercise between Chinese and Indian troops took place. Earlier in the year there was a similar exercise on the Chinese side of the disputed border. In both cases thirty troops from each country spent the day doing joint disaster relief chores. The object of the drill (aside from the diplomatic benefits) was for both sides to discover and eliminate any differences in procedures that would disrupt future joint operations along the border area. Earthquakes are frequent in the area as are avalanches.
October 14, 2016: The Chinese leader visited Bangladesh and signed a loan agreement that provides Bangladesh with $24 billion for needed infrastructure projects. This is more than ten times what neighboring India was able to provide.
October 12, 2016: China confirmed that final details have been agreed to on the sale of eight Chinese S20 diesel-electric submarines to Pakistan. Four of these will be built in China while at the same time Chinese personnel will assist Pakistan in building another four in Pakistan. Final cost is expected to average somewhere between $500 million and $600 million each and the first one will enter service by 2023. Since early 2014 China and Pakistan have been negotiating prices and terms for the sale of more advanced Chinese Type 41 subs. At first it was believed that Pakistan wanted six subs, but the final deal specified eight. Currently the Pakistani Navy has five submarines and plans to use all of them against India (which is also considered a Chinese foe).