Pakistan is under growing pressure, even from allies like China, to stop providing support and sanctuary for Islamic terror groups that, in effect, work for Pakistan to regularly carry out attacks on targets Pakistan selects. While China continues to use its veto to protect Pakistan from the growing number of counterterrorist measures directed at Islamic terrorists who operate openly in Pakistan, it recently reminded Pakistan that China is not an “ally” but a “friend” making it clear that these favors in the UN come at a price and the price is Pakistan giving up the state-sponsored Islamic terrorism.
One of the more recent embarrassing incidents that prompted this Chinese warning was the revelations about Pakistan, Saudi Islamic terrorism sponsors and radicalized Burmese Rohingya Moslems. One thing China and India can agree on is that Burma has a legitimate problem with its Rohingya Moslem minority, although all concerned wish Burma would have handled this matter without resorting to nationalist violence. Then again India and China have done the same thing, unofficially of course, but with similar results. Thus China is using its UN veto to protect Pakistan from punishment for supporting Islamic terrorism while China is also protecting Burma from UN punishment for tolertating mob violence against Moslems suspected of supporting Islamic terrorism.
India and China also backed the response of Burmese political leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who won international praise for her decades of efforts to get Burmese democracy revived in 2011 (with the removal of a military government). Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticized for not speaking out more forcefully against the treatment of the Burmese Rohingya. But all politics is local and Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese Buddhist who sympathizes with the plight of the Rohingya but recognizes that most Burmese feel less certain about who is at fault here.
But the most embarrassing revelations came after the August 25th Rohingya attacks in northwest Burma. During September it ecome clear that there was a Pakistani, and Saudi, connection with the growing violence in Burma against Moslems, particularly the Rohingya that Burmese associate with Bangladesh. The Pakistan connection is via the ARSA (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army), its founder and why much of the cash came from Saudi Arabia. Burma prefers to call groups like ARSA Islamic terrorists but until ARSA and the Saudi cash showed up there had not been much, if any, religious aspect to the armed Rohingya resistance. ARSA is now openly calling for Rohingya worldwide to support a war against Burma for the bad treatment the Rohingya have received since 2012. The ARSA leader; Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi (or just Ata Ullah) has received more attention now that Islamic terror groups like al Qaeda are calling for its members to help ARSA and the Burmese Rohingya any way they can. In Pakistan government-backed Islamic terror groups are now admit that Rohingya Ata Ullah was born in Pakistan (Karachi) in the 1980s but that his the family moved to Saudi Arabia where there was more work and Ata Ullah did well in school, particularly when it came to religious studies. Ata Ullah’s father was also a popular Islamic cleric and his son was noticed by Saudi clerics who saw to it that Ata Ullah got a good education in Saudi Arabia. Eventually Ata Ullah became an Islamic cleric and the religious leader for the 150,000 Rohingya living and working in Saudi Arabia. This was largely because Ata Ullah was popular with many wealthy Saudis and their families. Ata Ullah always condemned the poor treatment of Rohingya in Burma and after 2011 called for extreme measures (Islamic terrorism) to enable Burmese Rohingya to defend themselves. While that attracted financial support from wealthy Saudis and charities that supported Islamic terrorism, Ata Ullah says he was treated poorly when he went to Pakistan in 2012 to try and obtain assistance from government supported Islamic terror groups there. Saudis who support Islamic terrorism take it for granted that the best place for someone like Ata Ullah to get started was with Islamic terror groups in Pakistan that have been supported financially by Saudis and politically by the Pakistani military since the 1980s.
What Ata Ullah encountered in Pakistan was a reluctance to get involved with a long-shot Moslem expatriate who had grown up in Saudi Arabia and while pleasant came off as clueless. Ata Ullah apparently also ran into the rampant Pakistani corruption that is particularly active in the military and associated Islamic terror groups. Ata Ullah was deceived and had much of his Saudi cash stolen. After that Ata Ullah then went into hiding and sought to recruit Rohingya wherever he could find them in Burma and Bangladesh who were willing to help build the ARSA. While most Rohingya are in Bangladesh and Burma there is a large overseas community who over half a million in Pakistan and the Persian Gulf (mainly Saudi Arabia) where there are jobs and educational opportunities for able, ambitious and religions Rohingya. Via these expatriates Ata Ullah was able to establish contacts in Burma that were more reliable and less larcenous than those in Pakistan.
Ata Ullah is one of these overseas Rohingya but of the generation born in exile and under the influence of some very conservative Islamic ideas. In Saudi Arabia local religious groups and clerics are encouraged to help these foreign workers become more religiously conservative and eventually return to where they are from to spread the conservative form of Islam (Wahhabism) predominant in Saudi Arabia. Moslem majority nations like Pakistan have learned to be wary of this sort of thing since when transplanted to places like Pakistan Wahhabism tends to create local Islamic terror groups who want to establish a religious dictatorship in Pakistan. That is apparently why Ata Ullah received such a hostile reception when he first returned to Pakistan looking for help in forming an Islamic terror organization in Burma to support the Rohingya there. But now these same Pakistani Islamic terror groups are offering help and Ata Ullah is turning it down, apparently because he figured out that the Pakistani Islamic terrorists now see an opportunity to establish themselves in Bangladesh and Burma and do so at the expense of the Rohingya and their self-proclaimed Rohingya-exile turned leader. If this sounds like Syria, Libya and numerous other revolutions in Islamic nations it is. Islamic conservatives see situations like this as attacks on Islam, not just another ethnic dispute.
Ata Ullah will have a hard time finding a safe hideout in or around Burma. Neighboring Bangladesh is not only very hostile to Islamic terrorist groups but also very effective in dealing with persistent efforts by Islamic terrorists to establish themselves in Bangladesh. There are practical reasons for this assessment. Recently Bangladesh released details on an August 24th assassination against the prime minister (Sheikh Hasina). This effort involved seven members of the special unit assigned to protect senior officials. The government, with the help of Indian intelligence, managed to detect the plot (which apparently involved Pakistani Islamic terrorists) and the seven Bangladeshi troops were arrested before they could carry out their plan (which came very close to succeeding). Now Bangladesh is seeking more information on foreign support or Islamic terrorist activities in Bangladesh. This sort of support has been more noticeable in the last few years, which is why the Bangladeshis were already working with Indian intelligence. This is not the first time Islamic terrorists have tried to kill Sheikh Hasina, who has survived 11 assassination attempts since she took office (as prime minister) in 2009. Bangladesh is not a safe place for anyone connected with Islamic terror groups or “defending Islam” by any means necessary.
Meanwhile Afghanistan and India are more aggressively cooperating against the Pakistan sponsored terrorism sent their way. What is happening in Bangladesh is no surprise to India and Afghanistan and all three nations have created an informal intelligence-sharing network to keep track of what Pakistan-supported Islamic terror groups are up to. This has turned India and Afghanistan into allies, which infuriates the Pakistani military. That means India has to deal with more Pakistani-backed Islamic terrorist and separatist violence in Kashmir. This has been increasing since 2015. In 2016 there were about twenty terrorism related deaths a month in Kashmir and because of increased Pakistani aggression this is it is about 40 percent higher so far in 2017. Because of the increased Kashmir violence popular support in India (the largest democracy on the planet) for pressuring Pakistan (and risking a nuclear war) has increased. The problem with the Pakistani generals is that they place personal safety and security above doing what is best for Pakistan and that makes them very difficult to negotiate with. Elected Pakistani leaders have been struggling with that since the 1950s but at least now everyone (except the generals) are willing to discuss the situation as it is not as the Pakistani generals prefer to portray it.
Afghanistan, more so than India or Bangladesh, has experienced first-hand the problems Pakistan often has with the Islamic terror groups it sponsors. For example since early 2017 a growing number Afghan Taliban leaders (or former leaders) and their families have left sanctuaries in Pakistan and returned to Afghanistan. This isn’t a long trip as it usually means goring from Taliban headquarters in Quetta (the capital of Baluchistan province in Pakistan and near the border with Helmand and Kandahar provinces) to safety in Kandahar city. It’s a four hour drive (239 kilometers) from Quetta to Kandahar city. These people are related to or were associated with Mullah Omar, one of the Taliban founders and until 2015 the leader of the Afghan Taliban. The problem is that Mullah Omar had died in a Pakistani hospital in 2013 and that was kept secret by the acting head of the Taliban; Mullah Akhtar Mansour. That revelation led many Afghans to wonder if you could trust the Taliban if the Taliban don’t trust each other. But Mansour had been Omar’s chief deputy for many years and knew his way around the organization as well as traditional allies like the Haqqani clan, an even more murderous bunch who eventually took control of the Taliban. Because of that anyone close to Mullah Omar now fears their sanctuary guarantee may be revoked at any time so that Pakistan can turn them over to the Americans as part of some deal that restores American aid or prevents stronger American moves against Pakistan. Despite enjoying Pakistani protection (even from American UAV attacks) since 2002 the Mullah Omar group came to mistrust the Pakistanis and the favorite Afghan Islamic terror group of the Pakistanis; the Haqqani Network.
The Taliban refugees in Kandahar spoke freely of their years in Pakistan and admitted, as have a growing number of retired Pakistani generals and senior government officials, that the army and its intel organization (ISI) have indeed provided sanctuaries for helpful (to the army) Islamic terror groups. The Pakistani military officially denies these accusations and usually blames India, Israel, the United States or all three for inventing and spreading lies. That excuse doesn’t have the potency it once possessed and many Pakistanis quietly mock their own military for it. Mocking the generals in public is risky and doing in the media can get you killed, kidnapped (and released after you recant) or disappeared (for those who won’t recant).
The Haqqani Network is a group of Islamic terrorists operating in the Pushtun tribal areas along the Afghan border. Founder Jalaluddin Haqqani was a major player during the 1980s battle with the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. He joined the Taliban in 1995, and became a senior official. But after 2001 he gradually grew apart from Taliban leader Mullah Omar. The Haqqani Network has survived by being the most obedient Afghan ally of Pakistan. That means no terror attacks in Pakistan and, when called on, carrying out specific attacks that Pakistani intelligence (ISI) wants carried out in Afghanistan. Jalaluddin Haqqani died in 2o14 and his successor continued to cooperate with the Taliban and maintain subservience to ISI. Because Jalaluddin Haqqani helped Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders escape Afghanistan in 2001 there has always been a sense of mutual dependence. For that reason Haqqani leaders were able to help fix the 2015-16 power struggle within the Taliban and thwart (but not stop) the recruiting efforts of ISIL. Given that Haqqani works for ISI, Pakistan is believed to have played a role the growing Afghan Taliban willingness to negotiate a peace deal with the Afghan government.
With Mullah Akhtar Mansour clearly in power he implemented some policies his predecessor Mullah Omar opposed or was not enthusiastic about. This included no interest at all in peace talks with the Afghan government and active support for al Qaeda. Then, in May 2016, an American UAV missile killed Mullah Akhtar Mansour in southwest Pakistan, an area that has always been off-limits to U.S. UAVs. A Pakistani general called this a violation of Pakistani sovereignty that must stop. It did, while the Haqqani Network quietly took over the leadership of the Afghan Taliban. It is now believed that that Pakistanis tipped off the Americans about where Mansour would be and indicated a UAV missile attack would be protested but go no further and the loss of Mansour might be beneficial to all concerned (except Mansour and his loyalists).
Meanwhile the Pakistan government quietly took care of the embarrassing revelation that Mansour was living in Pakistan when Pakistan always insisted they were not providing sanctuary for the Taliban. Yet when the wreckage of the car Mansour was killed in was found it became public knowledge that Mansour had been carrying one of the new “forgery proof” Pakistanis Ids that depicted him as someone else. In an effort to placate (by deception) the angry Americans Pakistani police diligently followed the evidence and arrested six government employees who had supplied Mansour (and apparently other Taliban) with authentic new IDs and fake names. But by mid-2017 those six government employees had been bailed out of jail and disappeared as had others who had been close to Mansour in Quetta. All this angered the Americans, who had seen the same sort of behavior in the wake of the 2011 U.S. raid into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. The Pakistani military went to a lot of effort to try and hide their connections with bin Laden but it was an obvious cover up and the Americans (and the rest of the world) is accusing the Pakistani military of that along with the continued support for Islamic terrorists.
September 24, 2017: Saudi Arabia is going to become a major investor in the new Pakistani Gwadar port facilities. Pakistan favors Saudi involvement because it makes Gwadar less Chinese dominated operation and assures the Saudis of better access to Chinese export and delivery of Saudi oil via the pipelines that are part of the Gwadar project. Earlier this year 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. 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. The Saudis are interested not just because of the economic opportunities but also because over three million Pakistanis work in Saudi Arabia and have been there for some time.
September 23, 2017: In northwest Pakistan (Kyber) a soldier was killed when someone just across the border in Pakistan fired on a newly established border post. Pakistan blamed this on Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan while the Afghans pointed that a lot of Pushtun tribes on the Afghan side of the border object to Pakistan building new border posts.
India has ordered its border police to use “forceful” measures to stop Burmese Rohingya Moslems trying to enter India. There are already 40,000 Rohingya India is trying to send back to Bangladesh, where nearly half a million Rohingya refugees from Burma have arrived since 2012. Economic prospects for Rohingya are better in India but only the most determined Rohingya, with access to some cash, can move on from Bangladesh to enter India illegally.
September 21, 2017: In northwest Pakistan someone fired 37 mortar shells into Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. Two civilians were killed and three wounded.
In Mumbai, India, the first of six Scorpene submarines was turned over to the navy by the Mazgaon shipyard. The Indian effort to build six French designed Scorpene submarines under license has been delayed numerous times. The delivery of the first sub comes after dealing yet another delay in 2015. The previous delay was in late 2014 when India said the first Scorpene would enter service in late 2016. Before that (2012) it was announced that the first Scorpene sub would not be ready until 2015. The 2015 delays (caused by problems procuring components) were fixed on schedule and the first Scorpene was ready by 2017. The problem is mainly poor management by the Indian firms building the Scorpenes. One of the worst examples of this occurred in 2013 with the abrupt departure of ten Spanish technical advisors essential for getting the Scorpenes built. Their contract expired at the end of March 2013 and, despite the expiration date being well known, Indian bureaucrats were unable to get a new contract in place on time. Similar avoidable delays have occurred several times already and the price has gone up with each delay.
September 20, 2017: Senior Pakistani and American officials met in New York and Pakistan continued to blame India for continued Islamic terrorist violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Americans have openly sided with India and Afghanistan on this issue and now Pakistan is being forced to decide. The U.S. threatens to cut off all military aid to Pakistan and treat Pakistan as a hostile nation if Pakistan continues providing sanctuary for Islamic terror groups it controls (and attacking those it does not control). Some Pakistani military leaders want to push back on this but this is another issue where Chinese advice gets in the way.
September 18, 2017: In Pakistan the new prime minister (Shahid Khaqan Abbasi) agreed that three of the four Islamic terrorists who carried out a major attack in Afghanistan during May (that killed 150) came from Pakistan. The Afghans determined that early on but Pakistan denied it until now. Abbasi admitted that the Haqqani Network and Afghan Taliban were still a problem but denied (despite ample evidence going back to 2002) that Pakistan was providing sanctuary for these two groups. Abbasi got his job when his predecessor was removed from the job by a Supreme Court decision that confirmed the previous prime minister was involved in corrupt practices. The military denies that they had anything to do with that court decision but few Pakistanis (or anyone outside the country) believe that. Meanwhile the military is pressuring the courts to allow Pakistani Islamic terrorists (as recognized internationally but not in Pakistan) to run for seats in parliament and, in effect, obtain another layer of protection from extradition and prosecution for their past (and often ongoing) terrorist activities.
September 15, 2017: In northwest Pakistan (Kurram) an American UAV used missiles against a compound where Islamic terrorists are known to use. Three men were killed and two wounded but their identities were not revealed. This was the second such attack this year. The previous one, in May, destroyed a building used by the Haqqani Network and killed two senior Haqqani commanders. The Pakistani military told the U.S. this was an illegal attack (the Americans did not have Pakistani permission) but cannot do much more. The Pakistanis criticized the U.S. for not sharing intel with them about Haqqani activity in the tribal territories of northwest Pakistan. The U.S. does not share intel with the Pakistanis because that intel will often be passed on to Haqqani. Since June the U.S. announced that it would increase these attacks inside Pakistan and respond accordingly if Pakistan tried to defend Islamic terrorists from these airstrikes. Pakistan has threatened to halt American military supplies from moving through Pakistan to landlocked Afghanistan and the U.S. said it would deal with that, without going into much detail (aside from a complete cut off of military aid and cooperation).
August 29, 2017: The Indian Navy took delivery of the first customized (for India) Israeli Barak 8 SAM (surface-to-air missile) systems. This is the LRSAM, a modified naval version of Barak 8 that was jointly developed by India and Israel. 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 the missile into production.
In Pakistan, two years after the order was placed, Russia delivered four Mi-35M helicopter gunships. This is the export version of the most recent upgrade of the Mi-24. Back in late 2014 Russia offered to sell Pakistan up to twenty Mi-35s. The Pakistani army has been calling for all the helicopter gunships it can get, as these aircraft have proved a key weapon in the battles against Islamic terrorists in the tribal territories. The government, however was short of cash in 2015. The Russians are not known for offering generous credit terms like they did in the Cold War, but deals can be made if the long term benefit is attractive enough. The Russian offer to sell Pakistan weapons came as a surprise. That’s because India has long been the largest export customer for Russian weapons. But India is becoming disillusioned with Russia as a weapons supplier. Late deliveries, quality problems and inadequate support are all complaints that India finds Russia has no solutions for. So Russia apparently feels free to sell to India’s archenemy Pakistan. After all, Russia has long been the major weapons supplier to the other Indian archenemy; China.
August 28, 2017: China and India agreed to pull back their military forces on the Doklam plateau, near the Tibet border and negotiate terms to avoid another such incident. This confrontation has been going on since June when, for the first time since 2008, another ancient and unresolved border dispute between China and India escalated. The two nations blamed each other for this confrontation in a very inhospitable part of the world. The Doklam plateau is where the Tibet border meets India’s Sikkim State and is near Bhutan and Nepal. Sikkim is small (7,100 square kilometers) and has a population of less than 700,000. East of Bhutan is the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims most of. China claims smaller bits of Bhutan and Sikkim. The problem with Sikkim is that it was an independent monarchy until 1975 when the king allowed a referendum on joining India, which won. China protested Sikkim becoming part of India because of the border disputes China long had with independent Sikkim. The current incident began when China began building a road into Bhutan that was seen as part of a Chinese effort to threaten the Siliguri Corridor (a 22 kilometer wide strip of land between China and Bangladesh that connects northeast India to the rest of India). India had agreed to help Bhutan oppose Chinese efforts to just grab the disputed area (which is 3,000 meters up on the Doklam plateau and has no real value to anyone). China and India had signed an agreement in 2012 to respect the existing Bhutan border. But like most Chinese territorial claims revived recently incidents like this serve to make the Chinese government look like it is “serving the (Chinese) people” and are carried out at little cost in lives or money. So thousands of Chinese and Indian troops have been moved to this inhospitable part of the world because the Chinese government wants some good publicity inside China. There has not been much violence aside from some fistfights and rock throwing.
Meanwhile China is very obviously carrying out military training exercises nearby. These exercises in Tibet have become a regular event and get larger each year as more Chinese troops learn how to cope with the problems of high altitude operations. Most of Tibet is a high (over 3,000 meters/10,000 feet) plateau and that causes unique problems for people and equipment not prepared for it. Altitude sickness afflicts over 90 percent of lowland Chinese, but hardly any native born Tibetans. Equipment also has problems, as many mechanical and hydraulic items operate differently at the higher altitudes of Tibet. The pilots and maintenance personnel gain valuable experience each time they spend a week or two in Tibet for training. If the border dispute with nearby India ever got hot, China would have to rapidly fly in additional warplanes and operate them from Tibet.
China has, since 2011, very openly (lots of TV coverage) brought more lowland military personnel to the Tibet highlands to train and remain for extended periods. While India has lowlands close by on its side of the border China has no such advantage and on their side of the border must be capable to operating on a sustained basis at high altitude. China has turned a disadvantage into an advantage.
August 23, 2017: In northwest India (Kashmir) Indian and Pakistani officers met to try and arrange a lasting peace on the border. That seems unlikely but these meetings calm civilians on both sides of the border and garner some good press for both sides. So far this year there have been 280 Kashmir border violence incidents. This is nothing new, just worse. Incidents were way up during 2016, as it was along the entire Indian border. But half 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 continued to occur despite the 20o3 ceasefire and subsequent pledges to behave. It is generally understood that it is internal politics in Pakistan involving the Pakistan army that revived the border violence in 2016. This was all about the continuing battle between elected politicians and the military over the non-existent threat from India. The Pakistani generals justify their large budget and numerous other privileges by the perceived need to deal with the Indian threat. But there is no Indian threat. The Pakistani military refuses to accept that and the border erupts whenever the Pakistani generals need to justify their privileges and powers.