India-Pakistan: Muddle Management

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May 25, 2021: Pakistan is burdened with a lot more problems than neighboring India, most being self-inflicted. Pakistani military support and use of Islamic terrorism to gain more control of Pakistan has worked, but it also created a lot of unwelcome side effects. Trying to keep this Islamic terror tactic a secret eventually failed and now Pakistan is openly accused of behavior that justifies economic sanctions and sharp cuts in foreign aid from countries that believed or pretended to believe the lies for a long time. The Pakistani military adopted this policy over 40 years ago. By the 1990s it was widely known and acknowledged privately by most foreign intelligence agencies. Then came September 11, 2001 and Pakistan promised to change its Islamic terrorism policy. That was a lie, but one that worked for nearly a decade. Anti-military sentiment grew inside Pakistan, to the point where the military quietly took control of the current government without a military coup. Technically that control is an “understanding” but current elected officials believe that legislation to curb military power is no longer an option. The military now dictates what laws are passed. A recent example of that is a new law making any public criticism of the military a crime. While China and Russia could understand the need for such a law, because both already have them, most of the world saw this law as a clear sign that the Pakistani military was out of control and must be stopped. Worse, most Pakistani voters and politicians also agree that the new law is unacceptable. The senior military officers tell themselves that all this is being done to defend Pakistan and any attempt, internal or external, to diminish Pakistani military control of the government is an attack on Pakistan. There are no easy solutions to this sort of thing. The more difficult solutions usually include violence, even civil war.

The Pakistani military has its own foreign policy and that is undergoing changes. Pakistani military leaders support a change to how it has deals with the Afghan Taliban. Put simply, Pakistani generals no longer support the Taliban establishing a government that would control the entire country. Pakistan acknowledged the widespread anti-Pakistan and anti-Taliban sentiment in Afghanistan. These attitudes were present in the late 1990s, when the Pakistan military created and supported Taliban were still fighting to gain control of the entire country. That support continued until the present. But now the Pakistani generals recognize that their Taliban effort cannot take control of the Afghan government, but believe it has a realistic chance of becoming part of the Afghan government. That may optimistic because the Taliban obtains most of its income from the drug gangs which are hated by most Afghans and Pakistanis and all the local governments, except Pakistan, which pretends to care but actually cooperates (via the Pakistani military) with the drug gangs in return for large bribes.

The Pakistani military hopes the new Afghan policy will encourage the Americans to restore military aid. Pakistan needs this, because despite their new “locally assembled “ JF-17 jet fighter, Pakistan realizes its current fleet of F-16s is easier and cheaper to upgrade than the JF-17, which was a joint development with China that resulted in an expensive variant of early models of the American F-16. Upgrading the JF-17 to current F-16 standards is too expensive and risky. The F-16 already has lots of proven and affordable upgrades available, but only if the Americans are willing to provide this kind of military aid to a nation that supports Islamic terrorists.

Pakistani generals have also been holding unofficial negotiations with their Indian counterparts to discuss ending the decades of border violence against India and drop the Kashmir claims. The Indians are amenable but Pakistani generals and politicians realize that agreeing with this privately is one thing, doing so publicly can get you killed by the small minority of Pakistanis who have become fanatic supporters of the anti-India foreign policy the Pakistani generals created and backed for decades.

Some things can be changed. Pakistani Kashmir policy is becoming more expensive and dangerous to sustain. Until now the military solution involved more violence, but not enough to trigger another war with India. Pakistan has lost all its previous wars and no longer calls for another. Unofficial violence is another matter. Despite a 2003 border truce agreement, 2020 was a record year for Pakistani violations. There were 4,645 of them. That is more than ten a day. Pakistani military has broken the 2003 truce repeatedly whenever it needed to generate some news of “Indian Aggression”. India would nearly always fire back and that enabled Pakistan to claim that India fired first. Independent observers noted that it was always the Pakistanis who fired first.

Recently Indian has been making convincing threats of eliminating the problem by ignoring the Line Of Control and moving troops into Pakistani Kashmir and eliminating the Islamic terrorist bases Pakistan has long maintained there. Pakistan reminded India that both nations had nukes but India didn’t flinch. Restoring the 2003 ceasefire is something Pakistan periodically accepts to avoid a nuclear war. According to India there have been 11,424 ceasefire violations since 2004 (when there was only one) and 40 percent were committed in 2020. The prospect of nuclear war no longer frightens India because the Pakistani military controls the nuclear weapons and is becoming more violent and unstable. Given the increasing number of border attacks, the Pakistani military is no longer just an internal Pakistani problem. As a result of this there was another ceasefire agreement this year. It went into effect February 24th. Pakistan violated it ten weeks later (May 3rd) but insisted this was an accident and would not be repeated.

The Indian Muddle

In contrast to the multiple crises hammering Pakistan, India is making steady progress in its reforms of the military, the economy and upgrading the national health infrastructure to better deal with future pandemics like covid19. Indian leaders mismanaged the national vaccine program and misjudged the ability of the virus to quickly spread through unvaccinated populations. In contrast to Pakistan, India does not try to hide and avoid fixing mistakes, but confronts them and finds solutions. This is something many Pakistani politicians privately admire but cannot comment or act on openly because the military has poisoned relations with India and made it illegal to criticize them for it. India learns from its mistakes; Pakistan tends to repeat them.

This pattern is not unique to Pakistan. India’s neighbor to the west, Burma (Myanmar) has been under a military government again since February and the popular resistance to this is making the Pakistani military and China, which backs the military in Burma as well, nervous. In both Pakistan and Burma, the military has acquired ownership of large portions of the economy, often with the help of China. Efforts to prosecute the military in both countries over these economic crimes is moving slowly towards reality. While the military leaders would face financial ruin and possible jail time, China would take a major hit in the economic credibility department. Chinese investment efforts are already causing more nations to back away from working with the Chinese.

May 21, 2021: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan province) a motorcycle bomb went off at a demonstration organized by a local religious leader to denounce Israel for defending itself against Palestinian rocket attacks. Six were killed and twelve were wounded. No one took credit for the attack but the Taliban and ISIL are known to carry out attacks like this against religious leaders who will not cooperate with a particular Islamic terror group's methods or objectives. This sort of fatal feuding has been common in Moslem majority countries for centuries. In Pakistan, religious disputes are not the only major cause of terror attacks. Baluchistan province is named after the Baluchi people, who are similar to the other ancient tribal groups in the region, like the Pushtun and Tajiks. The Baluchis are Moslem but they are fighting for independence or at least autonomy. Pakistan refuses to negotiate and the Baluchi attacks have continued for decades. Currently the violence is more intense. In April there were twenty attacks that killed one or more soldiers or others who supported the fight against Baluchi separatists. There were even more attacks that were not fatal. Some of the attacks are against foreigners working on government projects. This is a major problem when the victims are Chinese. That’s the main reason why the military has increased its efforts against the separatists.

May 9, 2021: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan province) Baluchi separatists were apparently responsible for two attacks on soldiers that left three dead and four wounded.

May 7, 2021: The Chinese military delivered the second of three batches of CanSino covid19 vaccine to the Pakistani military. This is the only instance of the Chinese military, which has its own sources for the vaccine, supplying a foreign military. The Pakistani government has a separate program to obtain and distribute vaccines to the general public and that process is taking longer. Pakistani troops and their families will all be vaccinated long before all Pakistanis have an opportunity to get the vaccine.

May 5, 2021: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan province) soldiers working on the new Afghan border fence were fired on from inside Afghanistan by about twenty Afghan tribesmen who opposed the fence. Four soldiers were killed and the Afghans fled back into Afghanistan. The fence is 75 percent complete and tribes on both sides of the border object to it and the Afghan government claims that in some areas the fence extends into Afghan territory. The 2,600-kilometer-long fence is costing Pakistan about half a billion dollars. The fence actually consists of two three-meter (ten foot) chain link fences topped with barbed wire and separated by a two-meter gap. Hundreds of new border posts, some of them the size of small forts, are being built to observe and patrol the fence. Fence construction began four years ago (mid-2017).

Further north, in the Pushtun tribal territories, a military patrol was ambushed by unidentified attackers, who fled after killing three soldiers.

April 29, 2021: Britain confirmed that at some point during its carrier task force deployment in the western Pacific and South China Sea it expects naval forces from the UAE, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Israel, India, Oman and South Korea, to participate in exercises with the task force.

 

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