For India, the Chinese border has become an active confrontation zone again after several years of relative quiet. The increased activity it more theater than violence. “Quiet” is a relative term on this border because it still means over a hundred Chinese border incursions each year. Both countries have made an effort to make the border disputes better organized. As a result, in late 2018 China agreed to establish multiple hotlines along their mutual border and also between the defense ministries of China and India. This revived earlier efforts to establish a hotline. In 2016 China and India worked out and agreed to details of a hotline for commanders on both sides of the LAC (Line of Actual Control). Also known as the MacCartney-MacDonald Line the LAC is the unofficial border between India and China. The LAC is 4,057 kilometers long and is found in the Indian States of Ladakh, Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal, and Arunachal. On the Chinese side, it is mostly Tibet. China claims much territory that is now considered part of India. There have been several thousand armed and unarmed confrontations over the last decade as one side or the other accuses “foreign troops” of crossing the LAC. The 2016 agreement fell apart when India went ahead, despite Chinese protests, and expanded its military ties with the United States while also undertaking massive improvements to military infrastructure near the border in the areas where Chinese troops were a growing presence and a constant threat. China had taken the lead improving roads and stabling more military bases close to the border. India was now catching up, having built over three dozen new roads to the more remote border area, New bases for ground troops and warplanes were built and training exercises now included tests of how well ground and air reinforcements could reach the contested border areas. China considered all this an act of aggression.
Northwest India (Ladakh State) is the current hot spot now because India is building roads to the border and threatening to take back the portion of Kashmir Pakistan illegally, according to the agreement that established the India-Pakistan border after the British left in 1947, seized from India. Pakistan signed that agreement but had second thoughts as it was being implemented. Pakistan urged Pakistani Pushtun tribes in the area to “liberate” Kashmir from the Hindus and managed to grab about half of the disputed area. This dispute has remained unresolved ever since and led to several wars between India and Pakistan. Pakistan always lost but India never sent troops into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The current Indian leader is openly questioning the wisdom of that policy. India controlling all of Kashmir is a major economic threat to China, which has invested over $10 billion to build a highway and rail line from China to the Pakistani coast and it goes through Pakistani occupied Kashmir. This link is part of the Chinese
OBOR/BRI (belt and road project) which aims to revive the ancient Silk Road that for thousands of years was the main economic link between East Asia and the rest of Eurasia. In Pakistani portion is called CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic corridor) and is costing China over $62 billion. The Indian threats to the Kashmir road-rail link are minor compared to the problems China is having with Islamic terrorist and tribal violence against CPEC projects as well as the high levels of corruption in Pakistan which are also damaging CPEC projects. This is driving up costs while lowering quality and slowing progress. But China also claims ownership of much Indian territory so helping Pakistani keep what they have grabbed is considered something of a professional courtesy.
China is also annoyed that India is now using Chinese tactics and threaten to take back disputed border areas. Since 1999, when India officially became a nuclear power, Chinese options on the contested borders were reduced. With both nations possessing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, China could no longer rely on overwhelming non-nuclear forces to push India out of contested areas. That was bad enough but now the Indians are threatening to go Chinese on the Chinese.
June 4, 2020: Both India and Pakistan have imposed covid19 related quarantines in many areas to slow the spread of covid19. There has been growing popular resistance to that policy. The quarantine shut down many businesses and in both countries there are now unemployment rates between 20 and 30 percent. For many workers in both nations being out of work means going hungry and too long without work means starvation. Less quarantine is bad for the senior politicians, who tend to be much older and the group that most frequently die from covid19. Most Indians and Pakistanis have little access to medical care. Politicians and the wealthy do and have more to fear from the virus. The popular resistance to quarantine is growing and in some areas the government is relenting and allowing the economy to revive. It simply a matter that for most people unemployment is a greater risk the covid19. So far India has 218,000 confirmed cases and 6,100 covid19 deaths. Adjusting for population that comes out to 157 covid19 cases per million people and four deaths per million. For Pakistan its 86,000 and 1,800 or 387 cases per million and 8 dead. Elsewhere in the region Bangladesh has 335 covid19 cases per million and five deaths per million. In Burma it’s four cases per million people and 0.1 deaths. Afghanistan is 460 cases and 8 dead.
China, where the virus began, stopped releasing covid19 cases and deaths data as part of a government program to try and blame the U.S. for the virus. Few (Chinese or foreigners) believe that and it is taken for granted by neighbors of China that the “Wuhan Virus”, as it was first known, indeed came from China. By now it has also become known that covid19 is not much more dangerous than one of the deadlier annual influenza epidemics. The flu is taken for granted and it is unclear if covid19, which is genetically almost identical to the 2013 SARS virus, another Chinese corona (trans-species) virus, will be an annual event or disappear like SARS and similar diseases. Covid19 is unique in that it attacks the lungs and is often mistaken for pneumonia. As such it is particularly dangerous to the elderly or anyone with weakened immune system or other illnesses. Most healthy adults and children do not notice covid19 at all even if exposed to it.
June 3, 2020: The Indian and Chinese generals commanding forces confronting each other on the China/Ladakh border agreed to meet on June 6th to try and arrange a halt to the Chinese aggression. When the Chinese agree to these meetings it usually means they are willing to ease up on their “push and occupy” strategy for taking disputed border territory from neighbors. Indian media can describe that as a “Chinese retreat” but it isn’t. China is simply willing to pause their operations for a while.
In northwest India (Kashmir) three Pakistani Islamic terrorists were killed when Indian troops found them inside Indian Kashmir. The three would not surrender and were killed. One of the dead was a known Pakistani bomb builder Islamic terror belonging to JeM, a Pakistani Islamic terror group that maintains training camps in Pakistani Kashmir and not only trains Pakistanis and some Indian Moslems but also shows experienced Islamic terrorists who have already worked in Afghanistan, Syria and elsewhere how to operate on the Indian side of the border and how to survive crossing the border. These foreigners are particularly unpopular among local Kashmiris and it was a tip from a local civilian that led Indian troops to the bomb builder. Bomb builders tend to kill a lot of local civilians as well as soldiers and police.
June 2, 2020: In eastern India (Chhattisgarh State) police clashed with three Maoists (communist rebels) and killed them. One of the dead turned out to be a Maoist leader wanted for organizing several attacks that left dozens dead. As a result, the dead Maoist had a price on his head. It is unclear if someone provided police with information about where the wanted Maoist leaders would be. Information about informants is kept secret because Maoists will seek to retaliate by murdering those who collect such rewards. The Maoists are still active in eastern India but continue to decline as they have been doing for over a decade. Many Indian communists were slow to understand why all those East European communist governments, including Russia, collapsed between 1989 and 1991. Reality is catching up with them.
June 1, 2020: In northwest India (Kashmir) three Pakistani Islamic terrorists were killed when Indian troops detected and confronted the armed Pakistanis trying to enter India illegally via a remote portion of the largely rural border separating the Indian and Pakistani halves of Kashmir.
May 30, 2020: In northwest India (Kashmir) Pakistani troops again opened fire twice across the LOC (Line of Control) border in two different areas. Pakistan always blames the Indians for firing first but after decades of foreign observers were able to verify that the Pakistanis always fire first, such border violations no longer have any diplomatic benefit for Pakistan and are now used only to remind Pakistanis that India is a threat.
May 29, 2020: A UN investigation team estimated that there were at least 6,500 citizens in Afghanistan with Islamic terrorist organizations like JeM (Jaish e Mohammed), LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba), the Taliban (Afghan and Pakistan versions), Haqqani Network, al Qaeda and ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). The Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network work for and are protected by, the Pakistani military while al Qaeda has close ties to leaders of both Taliban organizations as well as Haqqani Network. JeM and LeT work for the Pakistani military but do not carry out attacks in Afghanistan, only in India. A few hundred JeM and LeT members are in eastern Afghanistan to help get Pakistani recruits into Afghanistan, train them and direct them to Afghan Taliban factions that accept Pakistanis. Many of the ISIL men in Afghanistan are Pakistani.
May 25, 2020: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) tribal separatists carried out six attacks in the last 48 hours leaving ten soldiers dead and many more wounded. There were some losses to the separatists but the attackers always managed to get away, taking any dead and wounded with them.
May 23, 2020: In northwest India (Ladakh State) India accused China of again trying to block the movement of Indian troops in an area along the Tibet border that both nations claim. This is the third such incident this month. This time there was no violence. China believes its strategy of constant unarmed pressure along the border will eventually persuade India to surrender disputed territory.
Until now that seemed to be working. What is different in 2020 is that the Indians are using Chinese tactics against the Chinese. This happened once before in 1962. Actually it happened by accident as Indian troops crossed the McMahon line, which India insisted was the border. The Indian troops set up a new outpost and refused to retreat. The Chinese attacked and inflicted an embarrassing defeat.
May 18, 2020: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) tribal separatists carried out two attacks leaving eight soldiers dead and many more wounded. These attacks were against construction projects that are part of the Chinese-backed CPEC.
May 16, 2020: Burma turned over to India 22 tribal separatists from northeast India. These separatists had been arrested on the Burma side of the border and this time Burma finally did what it had promised to do since 2015. In northeast India, Indian tribal rebels frequently establish camps on the Burma side of the border. These rebels refused to take part in an earlier peace agreement between tribal rebels and the Indian government and continue fighting. Despite years of cooperation between India and Burma to eliminate rebels and outlaws from both sides of the border, Burma refused to prosecute and return to India tribal rebels found to be in Burma illegally. In 2016 Indian and Burmese troops began joint patrols along parts of their mutual border. This was one result of a mid-2015 agreement to cooperate with India to prevent Indian rebel groups from establishing bases inside Burma. In mid-2015 the Burmese army sent several thousand additional troops to the 1,643 kilometer long Indian border. Burma admits it is responsible for detecting and expelling these illegal visitors but most of the border area is thinly populated forests and mountains and it is very difficult to get troops into the area and very expensive to support them as they seek out and deal with any intruders. India believed it was a matter of priorities. The cooperation with India went beyond sharing intelligence and coordinating security operations on both sides of the border. To help with this India also sent a few more battalions to areas the rebels seem to prefer to cross at and increased patrols on the Indian side of the border. This makes it more difficult for the rebels to move to their Burma sanctuaries but does not stop them. This intense interest in border security began with a June 4th, 2015 ambush inside India where Indian rebels operating from Burmese bases inflicted heavy casualties on Indian troops. This led to an Indian cross-border commando raid a few days later that destroyed the rebel camp Burma insisted did not exist. This was clear evidence that despite Burmese promises in 2014 to shut down such camps the rebels were still there. In mid-2015 India believed there were at least 25 such camps in northern Burma, with precise locations given for 17 camps. Some are as close as six kilometers from the border while others are up to 40 kilometers away. The rebels got the message and most packed up and moved back to Assam on the Indian side of the border. But the Indian rebels kept trying to hide out in Burma and decided to try returning the rebels Burma caught instead of escorting them to and across the border or simply trusting them to go back to India. The camps in Burma were destroyed and Burma thought this was sufficient. It wasn’t so Burma escalated.
May 9, 2020: In northwest India (Ladakh State) about 150 Chinese and Indian soldiers fought with fists and blunt instruments for the second time this week. Ten soldiers were injured. Four days earlier 250 Indian and Chinese troops had a similar battle, which involved more rock throwing as well. There were over twenty troops injured, most of them Chinese. For years Chinese troops have often crossed the Tibet border in the Indian state of Ladakh (northwest India). Chinese troops are seeking to halt the construction of a new road on the Indian side of the border. China claims the road is being built on territory claimed by China. China has often sent in troops and civilians to “protest” Indian activities on the Indian side of the border when anything happens on terrain China claims. The diplomats have been unable to settle the dispute and these latest clashes continue because neither side will back down.
May 8, 2020: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) tribal separatists used a roadside bomb to kill seven soldiers on a road 14 kilometers from the Iran border.
May 5, 2020: Covid19 is doing more damage in Pakistan than India and the main reason is the government's inability to get religious leaders to enforce covid19 restrictions for mosque use, especially during the current Ramadan period. Most mosques ignored the sanitary rules and carried on normally. As a result, more people came down with covid19 and allowing people over 50 into the mosques killed a lot of elderly worshippers. The mosque was one place where large groups of people assembled, packed closely together on a regular basis. This usually once a week but during Ramadan, which is from April 24 to May 23 this year.
May 1, 2020: In northwest Pakistan (South Waziristan) Sardar Arif Wazir, a PTM
(Pushtun Tahafuz Movement or Pashtun Protection Movement) leader was ambushed and killed outside his home. While the killing was apparently done by tribesmen, locals believed the killers were Islamic terrorists working for the army. This is an escalation of the army efforts to destroy or curb the PTM.
In late January the government arrested the senior PTM
leader, Manzoor Pashteen, accusing him of criminal conspiracy and stirring up trouble and so on. In other words, the military objected to the PTM publicizing and documenting military misbehavior in the tribal territories and is trying to destroy or intimidate the PTM. This has proved difficult because there are pro-PTM Pushtun MPs (members of parliament) and unelected government officials. The military opposition to dissent is not deterred by this. Pushtuns are 15 percent of the Pakistan population and most live in the northwest. The Pushtun have long complained about poor treatment by the government. The PTM is mainly about the
Pakistani Pushtuns uniting to oppose the mistreatment of Pushtuns in general. While the PTM calls for peaceful demonstrations the military decided in early 2019 that the PTM was a threat and thus considered a hostile opposition organization. The main reason for this was that the peaceful demonstrations of the PTM were attracting more non-Pushtuns who not only agreed with the PTM complaints against the military but pointed out that the military is hostile to any Pakistani who speaks up and denounces the many misdeeds of the Pakistani military.
Pashteen was released on bail three weeks after his arrest and now has to watch out for army deaths squads, in addition to troops armed with arrest warrants.