The Pakistani military has increased its censorship of Pakistani media identified as potentially troublesome. It has reached the point where any criticism of the military or Islam (and especially Islamic terror groups protected by the military) is punished, often by kidnapping or murder of repeat offenders. At the same time the military is using the media to create a new image of the Pakistani military. There are more pro-military videos available to show on TV and in movies theaters. TV shows and movies that make the military look good have an easier time getting made while those that criticize the military are increasingly rare.
Pakistan has become more dependent on China for weapons as U.S. sales declined 76 percent in the last five years because the Americans are punishing Pakistan for supporting Islamic terrorism and not doing anything to change that. China has become the major supplier of weapons to Bangladesh and Burma as well although for those two countries China simply offers lower prices. India has in turn bought less from Russia, long the main supplier, and depended more on Western nations (mainly the U.S. and Israel.
Pakistan continues to reduce Islamic terrorist violence inside Pakistan. Terror related casualties are headed for a fourth year of sharply reduced violence. In 2014, when the army finally decided to shut down sanctuaries for Islamic terror groups not under military control, there were 5,496 Islamic terror related deaths. In 2015 that dropped to 3,682, then to 1,803 in 2016, 1260 in 2017 and so far in 2018 it looks like these deaths will fall to about 700. India, with six times as many people, has had terror related deaths under a thousand a year since 2012 and most of those have nothing to do with Islamic terrorism. Despite the growing popularity (among Moslems) of Islamic radicalism in the last three decades, Moslem majority Bangladesh has been largely free of it. Compared to Pakistan (with a ten percent larger population) Bangladesh still had only six percent as many terrorist deaths as Pakistan during 2017. So far it looks like Bangladeshi terror related deaths will decline even more in 2018, to about three percent of the Pakistani total.
While Islamic terrorist violence is fading away in Pakistan the same cannot be said for the Pakistan sponsored violence in northwest India (Kashmir) where the Pakistani Army defies its elected political leaders and a growing percentage of the population by continuing to support the violence in Indian Kashmir. A Kashmir peace deal could have been worked out decades ago had not the Pakistani military not decided to use Kashmir as a way to justify their existence and growing wealth. This scam held up in Pakistan far longer than it did with the Indians but now the Pakistani generals are under growing pressure from Pakistanis in general to back off in Kashmir. That is not happening. The problem here is that a lot more Indians are willing to risk war, even nuclear war, to halt the Pakistani military and Islamic terror operations in Kashmir (and less successful Islamic terror efforts throughout India.) A growing number of Pakistani allies are warning the Pakistani military that the violent theatrics and posturing in Kashmir are costing Pakistan a lot of credibility and sympathy. So far the Pakistani generals are not making any changes to their Kashmir strategy. Civilians on both sides of the border report that the violence, especially damage to civilian structures, is worse than the 1990s, when this border violence last peaked.
Frowns All Around
It came as no surprise that the recent UN sponsored World Happiness Index put India at 133rd place (out of 156 countries) but it was more interesting that neighboring Pakistan much better off, coming in at 75th place. This could have something to do
with India being a functioning democracy (where people can freely express their grievances) while Pakistan has become something of a military dictatorship and open dissent is strongly discouraged
. What was more interesting was how other nations in the region scored. The top ten are all the usual suspects (Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia)
neighbors had rankings similar to the corruption survey. Iran is at 106,
Israel at 11,
Bangladesh at 115, Burma at 130, Turkey at 74th, Afghanistan at 145, Jordan at 90, Lebanon at 88, Palestinian Territories at 104, Egypt at 122, UAE at 2o, Saudi Arabia at 33, Kuwait at 45, Russia at 59, the U.S. at 18, Japan at 54, South Korea at 57, Libya at 70, China at 86, Venezuela at 102, Somalia at 98, Yemen at 152, and at 156 (last place) Burundi. Communist dictatorships like North Korea and Cuba block access to data needed for the survey and were not rated.
April 2, 2018: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) there was an Islamic terror attack on a Christian family in the provincial capital Quetta, leaving four dead. These attacks have been occurring in Pakistan for decades but have bec0me more common as more radical Islamic terror groups became more common.
April 1, 2018: In the northwest, near the border in Afghanistan (Kunar province) nearly 150 rockets were fired from Pakistan into Afghanistan. This went on into the next day. There were no casualties but the rockets damaged some crops and started some forest fires. The Pakistani army was believed responsible but the government never takes credit for these attacks, which Afghanistan always protests.
The U.S. added two Pakistani organizations to its Foreign Terrorist Organization list along with seven Pakistanis affiliated with these groups. This was done to deal with Pakistan allowing Islamic terror groups to change their names and become political parties or charitable organizations.
March 31, 2018: In northeastern India (Arunachal Pradesh) China has built another base on their side of the border. In addition to several multistory buildings the base has a telecommunications tower and a surveillance tower with several sensors. To the west China has built a road into Bhutan to get around Indian efforts to halt a Chinese buildup on the Doklam plateau. On this section of the Tibet border China is building still up its military forces (especially air defense and warplanes) on their side of the frontier. India is doing the same on their side and both sides appear getting for another confrontation over conflicting claims on the Doklam plateau. A 2017 confrontation was settled in late August but the standoff continues. The two nations blamed each other for this confrontation that took place in a very inhospitable part of the world. The Doklam plateau is where the Tibet border meets India’s Sikkim State. China is also building new roads to this part of the Tibet/India border. China has most of the advantages here, with more roads and bases on their side of the border, 24/7 satellite surveillance of the area, better communications and electronics in general plus a track record of China winning and India losing. China has made it clear that it believes it owns the Doklam plateau and is determined to assert that ownership without starting a major war. There is a similar situation in the northeast, where India has increased patrols, particularly where the borders of India, China and Burma meet. India wants to detect new Chinese incursions as quickly as possible so the Chinese can be confronted before they can become too established (by erecting structures and building roads).
March 30, 2018: After seven years of effort and several signed, but never ratified, agreements India is still without a base in the Seychelles Islands. China, on the other hand proceeded with large investment project which give the Chinese a larger economic presence on the islands than India. This all began in 2011 when the island nation of Seychelles asked China to come in and establish a military base. It was hoped that would help keep Somali pirates away. The presence of these pirates hurt the local economy, and any help was appreciated. Seychelles had already sent about a hundred of its troops to China for training. In 2010 a Chinese hospital ship visited and treated over a hundred people. Chinese warships going to, or from, Somalia stopped for visits. But a base would be another matter, and something India wanted to avoid. Seychelles is 1,500 kilometers off the African coast and 3,000 kilometers southwest of India. The Seychelles islands have a total population of 90,000 and no military power to speak of. They are largely defenseless against pirates. By 2010 Somali pirates began operating as far east as the Seychelles. India has provided assistance to the Seychelles, as has NATO, but it apparently has not been enough. The Chinese considered the base request, declined but agreed to continue having the Chinese Navy use the Seychelles for resupply and shore leave. India provided patrol boats and reconnaissance aircraft for the Seychelles and after 2012 the international anti-piracy patrol off Somalia shut down the pirate threat in general and to the Seychelles in particular. India persisted with the naval base proposal and twice, in 2015 and 2017, deals were agreed to and signed. But because of local politics in Seychelles neither of the agreements was ever ratified and the current Seychelles government is not interested in negotiating another base deal. Meanwhile more Chinese investments in the Seychelles arrive and are welcomed.
March 29, 2018: China announced major upgrades for the joint Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 fighter. These “Block III” upgrades mainly involves replacing the mechanical radar with an AESA (phased array) radar and a general upgrade in electronics. The Chinese manufacturer (CAC) is doing this because it has found AESA to be an essential feature if you want export sales. CAC also builds the J10, which is similar to the JF-17, and installed AESA in the J10 in 2007 so China definitely has the tech. While there have been some export sales the JF-17 failed get more such sales because the aircraft was not considered competitive by potential customers. That doesn’t bother Pakistan. The first Pakistani JF-17 squadron became operational in 2010. Upgrading Pakistani JF-17s with AESA will be a first for Pakistan because none of the other Pakistani fighters have it (not even the F-16s.) So far Pakistan is the only user of the JF-17 although Burma and Nigeria have some on order. Pakistan has about a hundred JF-17s. The JF-17 was part of a project that began in 1992 and while it was a joint Pakistan-China development project China supplied most of the money and did most of the work. China, however, does not use the JF-17, only Pakistan. That’s largely because the JF-17 is assembled in Pakistan, although over 40 percent of the components come from China or Russia. The project has gone through several name changes (FC-1, Super 7). The 13 ton warplane is meant to be a low cost ($20-30 million) alternative to the American F-16. The JF-17 is considered the equal to earlier versions of the F-16, but only half as effective as more recent F-16 models. The JF-17 uses the same Russian engine, the RD-93 that is used in the MiG-29. The JF-17 design is based on a cancelled Russian project, the MiG-33. Most of the JF-17 electronics are Western. The JF-17 can carry 3.6 tons of weapons and use radar guided and heat seeking missiles. It has max speed of Mach 1.6, an operating range of 1,300 kilometers and a max altitude of 17,000 meters (55,000 feet).
March 28, 2018: India denied a media report (by a Japanese publication) that Indian and Chinese warships confronted each other on the 22nd off the Maldives Islands. This follows a Chinese news report in February indicating that there had been a similar confrontation, but there wasn’t.
March 27, 2018: South of India the Sri Lankan Navy commissioned the second Indian built AOPV (advanced offshore patrol vessel). The first one, the SLNS Sayural, was delivered in mid-2017. An Indian shipyard builds these warships, the first large warships built in India for export. These AOPVs are 105 meter (226 foot) long 2,500 ton OPVs (Offshore Patrol Vessel) customized for the Sri Lankan Navy. Sri Lanka is an island nation off the southern tip of India. The Sayural class is based on four OPVs already built for the Indian Navy. OPVs typically have fewer weapons than equivalent size warships and instead carry more gear needed for boarding and inspecting ships and dealing with search and rescue. India has been also been building smaller OPVs for itself and export for over a decade. Warships were the next step, even if they are OPVs.
March 25, 2018: In eastern India (Chhattisgarh State) the government released the contents of letters captured from a Maoist camp earlier in the year. The Maoists have their own mail system to deliver operational messages and this collection made interesting reading because the message was dire, with subordinates complaining of increase police pressure and declining morale, as well as less popular support for the communist rebels. Over the last few years the Maoists have had to disband more and more units and in one eastern state (Telangana) Maoists have all but disappeared. In other eastern states, like Jharkhand, a similar situation is developing.
March 22, 2018: Air India began flying, for the first time, direct flights between India and Israel that pass over Saudi Arabia. This cuts about two hours from previous flight time where aircraft heading for Israel could not fly over Saudi Arabia and had to detour around it (via the Red Sea). While the Saudis allow Indian airlines to pass over now they will not allow Israeli airliners. As a result Israeli airline El Al is suing to bar such shorter flights from landing in Israel because it puts El Al at an economic disadvantage.
March 21, 2018: China has sold Pakistan a high-tech missile tracking system that enables Pakistan to develop more accurate and destructive ballistic missiles. This system is key to developing an effective multi-warhead missile, one that can deliver two or more warheads accurately to different targets.
March 20, 2018: In India thousands of people demonstrated against a Supreme Court decision that made it more difficult to arrest people accused of discriminating against the 200 million lowest caste Dalits. Before the change any accusation had to be followed by immediate arrest. This rule was abused so the court agreed with a lawsuit to change it. Dalits saw this as another effort to go easy on those who persecute Dalits. These riots left at least nine dead and hundreds injured. The caste system is an ancient component of Hindu culture and religion. It separates all Hindus into four main castes, and many minor ones. Below that there is a fifth “caste” for Dalits. Tradition discourages relationships with Dalits, who are often called “the untouchables”. Caste is technically illegal now, but it still exists, and the government provides all sorts of aid to help the hundred million or so people in the lowest castes. This has caused increasing resentment by relatively poor but not “untouchable” castes. But for many Dalits the discrimination is still common.
March 19, 2018: The U.S. military in Afghanistan affirmed that its current policy was not to employ “hot pursuit” and allow its forces to cross the border into Pakistan when pursuing Islamic terrorists. In the past the U.S. did allow some degree of Hot Pursuit.
March 18, 2018: In Bangladesh the army is investigating another case of Chinese weapons (mostly small arms) being smuggled in aboard ships that were not intercepted by the coast guard or in cargoes not inspected at ports. The weapons were for black market arms dealers who sell to Islamic terrorists, gangsters and anyone who can pay.
March 17, 2018: In western India (Pune) police arrested five Bangladeshi men on suspicion they were Islamic terrorists. The five were in India illegally and were carrying forged documents and other items indications they were working for ABT (a Bangladesh branch of al Qaeda). As of the end of the month both Indian and Bangladeshi police were collecting more information about the five.
In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) someone fired four mortar shells from Iran into Pakistan. There were no injuries or damage.
March 16, 2018: The U.S. told Pakistan that there had been no efforts by Pakistan to shut down Haqqani Network and Afghan Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. In reply Pakistan repeats that those sanctuaries do not exist even though there is clear proof that they have long existed and still do. The U.S. has recently noted that Pakistan has been helpful in getting the Afghan Taliban to attend peace talks with the Afghan government.
March 13, 2018: Pakistan revealed how many military personnel it has in Saudi Arabia; 1,631. That is about what most estimates came up with. Pakistan also has 629 troops in Qatar and 66 in the UAE. It was revealed that Pakistan also has small contingents of troops serving in seven other countries. In one case, Australia, there is only one soldier. While there are fifteen in Bahrain, there are only six in Jordan and four in Brunei.
March 9, 2018:
In the east (Khost province, adjacent to North Waziristan) Pakistan reopened the third most active border crossing (Ghulam Khan) that had been closed since mid-2014 when Pakistan sent troops into North Waziristan to shut down Islamic terrorist sanctuaries there.
March 8, 2018: India hosted joint naval exercises with forces from Australia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand, Oman, Vietnam, Thailand, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kenya and Cambodia. Indian warships also frequently train with American warships, especially carrier task forces, as they move through the Indian Ocean from the Pacific to the Middle East.
At the UN Afghanistan again accused Pakistan of supporting Islamic terrorism inside Afghanistan and called on the UN to act more aggressively against this violation of international law. It was pointed out that there was growing evidence of Haqqani Network responsibility for the more frequent and violent Islamic terror attacks in Afghanistan, especially Kabul. At the same time Pakistani claims that they do not control Haqqani Network and no longer tolerate Haqqani in Pakistan is contradicted by Afghan police capturing Haqqani operatives who admit the existence of Haqqani operations in Pakistan.
March 7, 2018:
In the northwest, across the border in Afghanistan (Kunar province) an American UAV fired two missiles at a compound used by Pakistani Taliban killing 21 of them. The compound was used to train terrorists, in particular suicide bombers. Among the dead was the son of Pakistan Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah. The next day the U.S. announced a $5 million reward for Mullah Fazlullah, who often flees to eastern Afghanistan to escape Pakistani security forces. Two leaders of smaller Pakistani Islamic terror groups had $3 million rewards announced as well. This reward program has been around for a long time and works, but details are kept secret to protect the informants, who are often moved, along with family members, to some place where they can safely spend their reward. In addition to the occasional jackpot the program brings in a lot of useful intel.
March 3, 2018: The leaders of India and Vietnam met in Vietnam and signed several agreements that enable the two countries to more closely cooperate in opposing Chinese expansion plans.