For 2016 India spent $56 billion on defense, the fifth largest defense budget on the planet (behind the United States, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia). Pakistan barely makes the top 20 with $10 billion a year. Indian spending is 3.3 percent of GDP while Pakistan is 2.7 percent. In 2016 Pakistan boosted defense spending 15 percent. For the last five years Pakistan has, on average, increased its defense spending about 11 percent a year. Neighboring India spends more than five times as much. China’s defense spending ($215 billion) is the largest in the region and second largest in the world. Defense spending in South Asia has risen nearly 50 percent since 2001. The main cause is the aggressive territorial claims of China and the continuing belief in the Pakistani military that India is engaged in a well concealed plot to take over Pakistan. The large portion of government spending going to the military is under growing criticism inside Pakistan, mainly because Pakistan lags way behind India and China when it comes to spending on education, infrastructure and public health. The Pakistani government tries to justify the high defense spending by pointing out that since 2011 Pakistan has suffered $57 billion in economic losses because of Islamic terrorism. That is tragic but the neighbors (and the United States) point out that those losses are largely because Pakistan has supported Islamic terrorists since the 1970s and continues to do so even though many Islamic terror groups have declared war on Pakistan.
Pakistan Battles Local Islamic Terrorists
In Pakistan local Islamic terrorists seeking to bring down the government have reorganized after three years of heavy attack by the security forces and demonstrated their capabilities by being a lot more active in 2017. There was a spike in Islamic terrorism related deaths in February (114 civilians, 23 soldiers and police and 125 Islamic terrorists) for all of Pakistan. The total Islamic terrorism related deaths for all of 2016 was 1,803 (150 a month), compared to 3,682 for 2015. Islamic terrorism related deaths for March were 28 percent of what they were in February and about 20 percent more than for January. Until the wave of attacks in February Pakistan expected to have, for the first time since 2005, a year where there were under a thousand Islamic terrorism related deaths. Back in 2005 there were 648 dead and in 2003 only 189. Pakistan blames the Americans, India and non-Moslems in general for the growth of Islamic terrorism violence in Pakistan since 2003. Pakistan blames the usual suspects for the current resurgence. Yet India, with six times as many people, has kept annual terrorism (mostly not Islam related) to under a thousand a year since 2012.
In response to the February attacks Pakistan ordered a countrywide offensive against all Islamic terrorist groups. Several major Islamic terrorist attacks were disrupted and so far there have been over 4,500 arrests, over a hundred Islamic terrorists killed and the effort continues. This campaign is having some unexpected side effects. Many of those arrested turned out to be gangsters or businessmen who supplied gangsters and Islamic terrorists (it is often difficult to tell the two apart). It turned out that a number of those arrested (terrorists and non-terrorists alike) also worked for foreign governments. The most common ties were with Iran, but some had links to Afghan and Indian intelligence.
The 2014 counter-terror campaign was supposed to eventually cover the entire country but that never happened because the military believed it could control most of the Islamic terrorist groups outside of North Waziristan and keep terror attacks inside Pakistan down. That was working until February 2017. The military is again under pressure from Pakistanis and the neighbors to crack down on all Islamic terror groups. That is clearly not happening because there are still army supported Islamic terrorist camps in Pakistan (northern) Kashmir and from these camps come a steady flow of Islamic terrorists who attempt cross the Indian border. Most don’t make but enough do to replenish the ranks of Islamic terrorist groups in Indian Kashmir. More of these Pakistani Islamic terrorists are showing up in India because, thanks to adroit use of the Internet, there is a resurgence of popular support among Moslems in Indian Kashmir and the Pakistani Islamic terrorists are trying to use that to recruit locally and revive its revenge attack efforts, in which former Islamic terrorists and supporters in Kashmir are killed and prominent (or pro-government) Moslems threatened with the same if they do not actively support Islamic terrorism, at least as practiced in India against anyone who opposes Pakistan having control over all of Kashmir.
The Kashmir Front
The Pakistani problems with Islamic terrorism has had repercussions across the border in northwest India (Kashmir) where Indian security efforts have calmed down the 2016 spike in Kashmir violence due to the death of popular (in the Internet) local Islamic terrorist leader Burhan Wani. That spike in violence did not last into 2017 and the Pakistani effort to increase Kashmir violence is back to where it was a year ago. So far in 2017 33 Islamic terrorists were killed in Kashmir, compared to 149 in 2016 and 105 in 2015. Arrests of Islamic terrorists in Kashmir is 20 so far this year compared to 79 in 2016 and 67 in 2015. The violence by civilians (mobs of young men throwing stones or worse) has declined over 90 percent compared to late 2016. Pakistan appears to have realized that the spike was indeed temporary because border crossing attempts by Pakistan-based (and sponsored) Islamic terrorists have declined this year. Since the 1970s Pakistan has been trying to use Islamic terrorists from Pakistan to trigger a popular uprising in Indian Kashmir and use that to gain control over all of Kashmir. That strategy failed as seen by the fact that Pakistan sponsored terrorism deaths in Kashmir peaked in 2001. By 2011 India had reduced that violence 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 2016 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 nearly a hundred dead and over 6,000 wounded in 2016.
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 2016 increase in violence is faded 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 and by the end of 2016 the parents regained control of the situation.
India responded to the concerns of the parents (who are also voters) with increased efforts to revive the economy after three decades of Pakistan sponsored violence. The government is putting more effort into upgrading the schools in Kashmir as well as more investments in existing and new businesses. This is not headline worthy news but is what counts most in Kashmir.
April 24, 2017: In eastern India (Chhattisgarh State) some 300 Maoist rebels ambushed 99 CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) para-military police guarding and participating in a roadbuilding project. The attack left 25 police dead and six wounded. The Maoists used automatic weapons and grenades and fled before reinforcements could arrive from a CRPF camp two kilometers away. Apparently few if any of the rebels were killed or wounded. This was the largest loss of para-military police in a single actions since 2015 and the second such ambush in this area this year. This was embarrassing for the government which had been reporting that this area had been largely cleared of leftist rebels. The government is investigating the situation to discover what they got wrong.
Back in 2015 India responded to similar defeats by increasing (with 17 new battalions) its para-military CRPF for operations in Kashmir and eastern India. The CRPF is the principal national police organization dealing with terrorists and rebels. Founded in 1939, and retained when India became independent in 1947 by 2010 the CRPF had nearly 200,000 personnel. It deployed over 70 battalions of para-military police back then, including seven “rapid action” battalions that can be quickly sent to any part of the country to deal with outbreaks of violence. The CRPF is heavily involved fighting Maoists. Since 2010 the CRPF has been expanded 50 percent with 12 if the 17 new battalions (of about 1,100 men each) going to eastern India for use against Maoist rebels. This campaign has been successful because the CRPF now had enough personnel to clear Maoist groups out of most rural areas where the leftists had become a dominant factor in local affairs.
April 23, 2017: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) a roadside bomb hit a passing army patrol, killing four soldiers and wounding three. This happened near the Iranian border so it is unclear who planted the bomb (Islamic terrorists or local separatists).
April 20, 2017: China and Pakistan finally signed the agreement that grants China a 40 year lease on new facilities China is building in the southwestern port of Gwadar. The lease grants China most (over 80 percent) of the revenue brought in by port and free trade zone operations. Gwadar is a key part of the $55 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This project began in 2013 when China agreed to spend $18 billion to build a road from Gwadar 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 larger CPEC project. This will make it much easier and cheaper to move people, data (via fiber optic cables) and goods between China and Pakistan. India fears Gwadar will serve as a base for Chinese warships. Pakistan has no problem with Chinese warships using Gwadar as it helps keep local troublemakers out. The thousands of Chinese coming into Pakistan for this project are prime targets for Islamic terrorists and tribal separatists in Baluchistan. The people in Gwadar will benefit greatly from the construction and the expanded port but the lease agreement provides no payments to the government of Baluchistan. Because of the threats from locals and Islamic terrorists in general Pakistan has formed a special security force, currently 20,000 strong, dedicated to keeping the foreign (mainly Chinese) workforce safe. China has helped with security effort. For example in January the Pakistani navy put into service two 600 ton, Chinese built, patrol ships to help protect the newly expanded port. A third one of these arrived today. At the end of 2016 the Pakistani navy officially established Task Force 88 in Gwadar, a city of 100,000 and site of one of the biggest construction projects in the country. The new naval task force will use warships, maritime patrol aircraft and UAVs to guard the coastal areas from any Islamic terrorist attack against ships, especially Chinese ones. Pakistan has assured China that there would be no terrorist violence against Chinese working on upgrading the port of Gwadar and land links north to China. Pakistan is willing to pay a high price to get CPEC done because it means Pakistan has an ally against Iran and even Western powers that might have some violent disagreement with Pakistan.
April 19, 2017: In northwest India (Kashmir) Pakistan violated the ceasefire for the seventh time this month by firing at Indian troops with machine-guns and mortars. Kashmir border violence by Pakistani troops was way up during 2016, as it was along the entire Indian border. But half (268) of the nearly 600 ceasefire border violations in 2016 were in Kashmir. This was in violation of a 2003 agreement between India and Pakistan. In December 2015 Indian and Pakistani military leaders met on the Kashmir border to reaffirm efforts to reduce violence on the LOC (Line of Control) in Kashmir. Yet such incidents still occur despite the 20o3 ceasefire. Because of internal politics in Pakistan the Pakistani army revived the border violence in 2016. This was all about the continuing battle between elected Pakistani politicians and the military over the threat from India. The Pakistani generals justify their large budget and numerous other privileges by the need to deal with the Indian threat. But there is no Indian threat. The Pakistani military refuses to accept that and the border erupts once more as the Pakistani generals try to justify their privileges and powers. This is no longer seen as just a local issue. The Pakistani military is also under growing domestic (by elected Pakistani politicians) and international (especially American) pressure to cease all support for Islamic terrorism but has not shown any indication of changing. For example the new head of the Pakistani military, appointed at the end of 2016, spent much of his career working directly with forces (military and Islamic terrorist) causing violence on the Indian border and in Kashmir.
Raheel Sharif, a retired Pakistani general is now in Saudi Arabia to lead the IMAFT (Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism). He joins 1,200 Pakistani military personnel already there to train Saudi troops. Founded (in late 2015) IMAFT is largely funded by Saudi Arabia, as are the Pakistani trainers in Saudi Arabia. At first Pakistan was reluctant to participate in IMAFT but eventually joined the other 40 members. Raheel was selected to lead IMAFT in January 2017 but not everyone in Pakistan was comfortable with that and it took several months to get Pakistani government approval. When Saudi Arabia announced IMAFT it named 34 Moslem nations (Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Chad, Comoros, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Guinea, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Malaysia, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Qatar, the Palestinians, Pakistan, Senegal, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, the UAE, and Yemen) as members. Indonesia, largest Moslem nation on the planet, was described as considering joining. The nation with the largest number of Moslems, India, was apparently not invited to join. All the current members are largely Sunni. Some nations are not welcome, like Iran, Syria and Iraq. This is because the Sunni Gulf States (led by Saudi Arabia) are at war with Iran, which considers Syria and Iraq allies. Pakistan has not announced exactly what it would do as part of this new coalition but did make it clear it will not take part in any operations against Iran or Syria. Such compromises were required to get enough senior Pakistani politicians and generals to agree. The Saudis, and many senior Pakistani politicians and generals are backing a proposal that 5,000 Pakistani troops be leased to the Saudis to help guard their Yemen border.
April 17, 2017: In northwest India (Kashmir) Pakistani troops again opened fire on border posts. One soldier was killed by a sniper and dozens of farm animals were killed by machine-gun and mortar fire. Indian troops returned fire and this continued from before dawn through the day.
Pakistan has upgraded its March announcement that it had begun building a security fence along its Afghan border. Now Pakistan is speeding up construction along the entire 2,600 kilometers border. This is part of an effort to hinder the Pakistani Taliban, and other illegal groups (terrorists and smugglers) from easily moving back and forth. The initial fence construction was to be along the border with the Afghan provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar. These two provinces are where there has always been a lot of lawless activity and these days it is full of Islamic terrorists hostile to either Pakistan or working for Pakistan (against Afghanistan). The new plan will continue giving priority to areas where there are the most problems but will not stop there and eventually (by the early 2020s) have a fence along the entire Afghan border.
Most of the Afghan border is rural, thinly populated and lacking roads. The border violence has been going on for years and is more about unresolved border disputes than anything else. Most of the Afghan-Pakistani border is still called the “Durand Line.” This was an impromptu, pre-independence invention of British colonial authorities and was always considered temporary (or at least negotiable) by locals. This was mainly 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. Thus recent Pakistani efforts to build more fences and other structures on their side of the border was an attempt to make the Durand line permanent and no longer negotiable. Pakistan is following the example of India which announced in late 2016 that it would build a security fence along its entire 2,900 kilometer border with Pakistan and this effort would be completed by the end of 2018. The new fence design is called five layer because it uses multiple sensors (vidcams, night vision cameras, thermal imagers, ground surveillance radar, seismic sensors and laser barriers) to provide layers of surveillance that intruders have to penetrate to get into India undetected. All the sensors are linked to control centers which can deploy rapid reaction forces or aerial surveillance as needed. All this will make it still more difficult for Islamic terrorists to get into India. The Pakistani fence along the Afghan border will not be this complex but will include 420 small “border forts” that will house troops along with some sensors (like ground radar). Pakistan now plans to have 338 new border installations (mainly the forts) built by the end of 2018. Already 43 new border posts have been completed and another 62 are under construction.
April 16, 2017: In Pakistan Ehsanullah Ehsan a notorious Pakistan Taliban and ISIL leader surrendered. Until 2014 Ehsan was 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 has 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.
Nepal, which has long maintained close economic and political ties with India, held its first joint military exercises with China. Nepal has also had problems with communist (Maoist) rebels over the last two decades and China made itself useful in dealing with that situation. China is trying to increase its presence in Nepal.
April 14, 2017: In Pakistan (Lahore) police raided an Islamic terrorist hideout and captured a female suicide bomber who had come to the city with two male associates to attack a Christian church on Easter Sunday. The woman, a medical school student, was to be the suicide bomber and when captured she provided details of her group and her operation (which never happened.) It’s common for captured suicide bombers to talk freely, especially women, who are often coerced to carry out an attack.
April 6, 2017: In northwest India (Kashmir) near the Pakistani border, a rare April avalanche killed three soldiers in the same area where January avalanches killed 20 soldiers. All this took place near army camps that both nations maintain along the Kashmir border. Some of these camps are high up, at an altitude of 6,500 meters (20,000 feet) or higher. These are the highest military camps on the planet, the result of not precisely demarcating the 740 kilometer long border. One 75 kilometer portion is on the 6,500-7,000 kilometer high Siachen glacier. The reason for not precisely marking that part of the border was the inaccessibility of those 75 kilometers of ice and thin air. This bizarre situation developed in the late 1970s, when Pakistan began a campaign of Islamic terror attacks on Indian Kashmir. In response, India moved more police and troops to Kashmir and in 1984 moved troops onto the Siachen glacier to block Pakistan based Islamic terrorists from sneaking into Indian Kashmir. No terrorists appear to have ever used the glacier route into Indian territory but with the high levels of terrorist violence in Indian Kashmir, desperate measures seemed reasonable. Pakistan responded to the Indian action by moving troops up onto the glacier as well. Since then, over a thousand soldiers have died, and even more injured, while serving in those harsh conditions (thin air, intense cold, constant snow and ice plus frequent inaccessibility). After September 11, 2001, the two countries began negotiating a ceasefire, and one was signed in 2003. This ended the frequent gunfire on the glacier (usually initiated by the Pakistanis), but efforts to negotiate a withdrawal of troops from the glacier have so far failed.
India finally signed a deal to buy $2 billion worth of air defense systems from Israeli firms. The purchase is mainly about customized (for India) Israeli Barak 8 SAM (surface-to-air missile) systems. India wanted a modified naval version (LRSAM) and land version (MRSAM) of the Barak 8. Although this project has been in the works since 2006 it encountered problems, mainly on the Indian side, that held up completing the work, and getting everyone to sign off on the contracts..
April 5, 2017: In Pakistan (Lahore) a Taliban suicide bomber attacked a census team and killed six people, most of them soldiers guarding the census workers. Many groups oppose the Pakistani census which is supposed to be held every ten years. Islamic terrorists opposed to the census were a major factor in delaying the census and the current one if the first in 19 years. Opposition to the census is usually because many political and religious groups claim more supporters than they actually have and an accurate count (like the census) is not in their best interest.
April 4, 2017:
Afghanistan and Pakistan began using a new hotline established so that military commanders on both sides of the border could quickly contact each other to deal with an unexpected border incident. Britain helped Afghanistan and Pakistan negotiate some new security cooperation deals, including regularly exchanging details of people wanted for criminal activity along the border.