India-Pakistan: Nasty Neighbors

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September 28, 2022: Pakistan continues to have problems with Afghanistan, where Pakistan controls several members of the new government. The largest Islamic terror group in Afghanistan is the TTP (Pakistan Taliban), which fights to establish an Islamic government (like IEA) in Pakistan. The second largest Islamic terror group in Afghanistan is ISK (Islamic State Khorasan), which is also the local ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) affiliate and has been very active in Afghanistan since the IEA took power in late 2021. The IEA told Pakistan it would go after ISK while telling the United States they would not cooperate with the Americans or Russians in suppressing ISK activity in Afghanistan. Now ISK is once more operating in Pakistan. ISK is growing rapidly because many Taliban factions oppose Pakistan’s domination of the IEA and continued discrimination against Pushtuns in general. Opposition to Pakistan is one thing that most Pushtuns can agree on. While ISIL doctrine calls for attacks to concentrate on heretics (mainly Shia Moslems) and infidels (non-Moslems), the growing number of Afghan and Pakistani Pushtuns joining ISK led to more attacks in general with a larger proportion against the IEA and Pakistani military and its ISI intelligence branch. This Pushtun war against Pakistan has been around for over a decade. Most current Islamic terrorist violence in Afghanistan is the work of ISK while the TTP maintains bases in Afghanistan from which they launch attacks inside Pakistan.

The Pakistan-backed Taliban dominates the IEA government and seems unable to control what they have created. That includes the sanctuary the TTP enjoys in Afghanistan. TTP wants to impose an IEA-like government on Pakistan. Tajikistan also noted that a similar Tajik group had received sanctuary in Afghanistan just across the Tajik border. Technically the TTP has a ceasefire agreement with the Pakistani military, which is seeking to work out a real peace deal with the TTP. These negotiations are stalemated because the TTP is willing to halt their war to establish an Islamic dictatorship in Pakistan only if Pakistan agrees to autonomy for the tribal territories and pays compensation for damage the Pakistani army did after 2014 remove Islamic terrorists from the tribal territories. To maintain its shaky ceasefire with TTP, the army pretends the TTP attacks on soldiers and border guards in Pakistan are the work of other Islamic terrorist groups based in Afghanistan. These include Al Qaeda and ISIL groups.

September 25, 2022: In Pakistan, the new (since April) prime minister Shehbaz Sharif was embarrassed by the release of audio recordings that had him discussing corrupt practices with staff members. Some of the recordings involved legitimate discussions about government administration. The source of the recordings appeared to be the work of hackers who gained access to the telephone system in the prime minister’s office.

September 24, 2022: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) a roadside bomb was used against a military patrol, killing two soldiers.

September 20, 2022: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) soldiers came under fire from Islamic terrorists across the border in Afghanistan. One soldier was killed. It was believed that the attackers were members of the TTP (Pakistani Taliban). Many TTP factions operate independently, often contrary to orders from TTP leadership. In contrast the Afghan Taliban was always more disciplined because they were dependent on the Pakistani military for and other essential aid. This included cash payments from the Afghan heroin cartels that also depend on the Pakistani military for essential supplies and services. The Afghan Taliban help protect cartel operations inside Afghanistan. Now that the Afghan Taliban once more, after 20 years in exile, control the Afghan government they find they have a lot in common with the TTP. Both Taliban’s see the Pakistani military as the enemy and that is causing major problems for the Pakistani military and Pakistan as a whole.

September 19, 2022: In Pakistan a court dropped terrorism charges against former PM (prime minister) Imran Khan for threatening a judge and two police commanders in a speech four weeks ago. Khan was arrested by police but released on bail. The arrest was another threat from the military which considers Kahn a threat to the military control over the government. Technically Khan was accused of terrorism, which is supporters fear the military will eventually use that to put Khan on trial and in prison. That would be a bold move for the military because Khan still has the support of many, if not most voters. The military sees Khan as a threat but not a serious enough threat to risk civil war over. Khan has been campaigning against the growing control the military has over the government as well as the media.

September 18, 2022: The Indian Army presented Indian defense firms with a list of weapons and equipment it wants to obtain within India, not from foreign supporters. While this was welcomed by some Indian firms, others saw it as another empty gesture in the government’s effort to create an Indian defense manufacturing industry as effective as those found in the West and especially in China. Since 2014 the government has been obsessed with making India less dependent on imported military technology. Increased efforts to develop a domestic weapons development and production capability have failed. In response to this the government made it more difficult to import needed weapons that Indian firms were unable to develop and build. Indian military procurement over the next five years is estimated to be about $130 billion and the government is trying to address the structural problems that have prevented commercial firms from developing military equipment. India is also trying to reduce the power of government weapons development and production operations that have never been able to compete with foreign defense manufacturers.

The major goals of local procurement are to decrease reliance on Russia, which is still the largest supplier of military equipment. At the same time India is the second largest (after Saudi Arabia) importer of weapons in the world and the largest customer for Russian military exports. India has been buying less from Russia since the 1990s. Since the 1960s Russia supplied more and more, often over 80 percent, of Indian weapons imports. In the last decade that has fallen to fifty percent and continues to decline.

The second part of the program to reduce weapons imports is to make it easier for Indian firms to meet the needs of the Indian military. The government issued a list identifying specific weapons and items of military equipment that must be procured locally. Making it mandatory to buy locally has been tried before and led to some spectacular failures, so much so that the government authorized the emergency FTP (Fast Track Procurement) procedures in 2004. With FTP the military could unilaterally buy some items from foreign suppliers. It was assumed that FTP would eliminate the most embarrassing problems with getting the military weapons desperately needed. It was also believed that government efforts to clean up the corruption and other problems with the military procurement process would soon make FTP unnecessary. That has not happened.

FTP is still around to allow the immediate purchase of essential military items without the usual political and procurement delays that can add years, sometimes a decade or more, to obtaining needed items. FTP is still needed because the current confrontation with better equipped Chinese forces on the northern border makes it obvious that all the Chinese weapons and equipment is Chinese-made and clearly more modern. The new “Made in India” mandates make it more difficult to use FTP. The Indian Air Force believes it will not be able to replace aging jet fighters with local designs in time. The air force will shrink while the politicians come up with more ways to block efforts to fix the problem. This refusal to face reality and actually solve procurement problems is crippling the Indian military.

Meanwhile more Indians ask why China developed a world-class weapons development and production capability in the last few decades while India has not? Mainly it’s about corruption and decades of India making it difficult for Indians to start and operate profitable firms that could produce consumer goods as well as military equipment. The United States became the largest economy in the world over a century ago by encouraging this entrepreneurship. Many other nations, including those in Europe and East Asia (Japan, South Korea and China) followed that example.

September 16, 2022: Indian leader Narendra Modi met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi at the SCO Shanghai Cooperation Organization) meeting Putin was told that using nukes was a bad idea and the Ukraine War and the sanctions on Russia was interfering with economic and other relations with China and India. Putin told his two trading partners that he understood their concerns but no other details were made public but Putin does not appear to be heeding the advice from India and China. Putin risks losing his position as Russian leader because of this crisis. He has held that job for two decades and success in Ukraine was supposed to help him keep that job. Modi and Xi also have serious domestic problems. Modi has been the prime minister since 2014 and is accused of not paying sufficient attention to the needs of minorities. On the plus side, Modi is praised for his anti-corruption reforms and streamlining the cumbersome government bureaucracy. These efforts have kept him in power for eight years and are still working. For example, the reduced corruption has led to less popular support for the Maoist rebels that have been active in eastern India since the 1960s. The government recently reported that the number of districts where communist Maoist rebels were a problem had declined from 70 in 2014 to 46 in 2021 and the decline was continuing. The half century old Indian communist Maoist (radical communist) rebel movement suffered accelerated losses in the last two years, with over a third of the senior leadership captured or killed. Since 2021 over a hundred of the Maoist leaders a year have died (from combat or disease), been captured or, increasingly just surrendering, often because they have lost faith in their cause or the possibility of ever succeeding.

The Maoists have been having personnel problems throughout eastern India for over a decade. Time and technology have caught up with these leftist rebels as tips from civilians about Maoist activity or specific Maoists with a reward offered for their death or capture. Rewards are also offered for hiding places where weapons or equipment are stored.

The Maoists are still active but are feeling pressure from over a decade of attacks by local police and paramilitary police battalions. The Maoists have seen reduced membership and a reduction in territory where they exercise any effective control. The downside is that the paramilitary forces are often operating in unfamiliar territory and more vulnerable to ambush or roadside (or trail side) bombs. Such attacks are less frequent as are the casualties the security forces suffer.

Civilians in Maoist infested areas are less afraid of providing police with information about Maoist movements. It has also become easier to recruit Maoist members to become active informants. These spies are paid monthly and the sudden affluence of their families often alerts Maoist leaders to the presence of police informants. While details about informants are kept secret, the losses suffered because police had inside information is often obvious. The Maoist decline has demoralized leftist leaders, who have not been able to come up with any way to halt or reverse the losses. Maoists are a radical faction of the once mighty Indian communist party. Many Indian communists were slow to understand why all those East European communist governments, including Russia, collapsed between 1989 and 1991. Despite that many Indians still support communism, but not the violent, ineffective and increasingly unpopular Maoists.

September 14, 2022: In northwest Pakistan (Kurram) Pakistani and Afghan troops exchanged fire troops agreed to move back from disputed territory on the Afghan (Paktia province) border. Afghanistan and Pakistan have long disagreed on exactly where the border is and that often leads to gunfire. Both sides suffered casualties this time but no one would reveal how many.

September 13, 2022: In northern India, on the Chinese border, China and India confirmed their mutual withdrawal of troops from portions of the LAC (Line of Actual Control) in India's Ladakh State. Also known as the Macartney-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 mutual troops withdrawal in Ladakh reduces tensions there but not along other LAC segments where there are still a lot of Chinese and Indian troops confronting each other.

September 6, 2022: The coalition of nations that formed to oppose Chinese claims on their territory includes India. While India is the largest member of this coalition. Much smaller South Korea is a key component in the coalition. This coalition exposed some harsh truths about the military balance in Asia. India is not considered a reliable ally nor is India as powerful as its population (second only to China) would suggest. Despite their equal populations, China’s GDP is over five times larger than India’s. Tiny Japan has a GDP twice that of India and the Japanese and South Korean fleets combined are more powerful than the ramshackle Indian Navy. At the same time India still cooperates with Russia and China in military and economic matters. India has nuclear weapons, and these are seen as a last resort against Chinese efforts to annex Indian territory. China is less impressed with India’s non-nuclear forces. South Korea and Japan are another matter. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed India’s position in the coalition because this was what the Chinese were trying to do to the coalition members. China criticized Russia, privately, for going about absorbing Ukraine the wrong way. China believes in patience and persistence. The Russian approach not only failed, but made China look bad because of the close economic and military ties between the two nations.

September 5, 2022: The United States has agreed to sell Pakistan $450 million in F-16 refurbishment for its aging F-16 fighters. There are no upgrades to the F-16s, just equipment to keep them operational. The U.S. blocked this sale in 2018 because of Pakistani support of Islamic terrorism and of failure to end that support for decades. The Taliban, with the help of Pakistan, regained control of the Afghan government in 2020 and Islamic terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan have increased because of that. Pakistan remains a major customer for Chinese weapons and supports Chinese claims on Indian territory and in other areas like the South China Sea. The Americans ignored Pakistan’s continued connections with China, Afghanistan and support of Islamic terrorism.

August 23, 2022: In southeast Pakistan (Baluchistan province) Pakistan is blamed for an attack across the border in Afghanistan (Kandahar province) where another TTP leader died under mysterious circumstances. The Afghan Taliban attributed the deaths to a roadside bomb while eye witnesses say it was a guided missile, which Pakistan UAVs use. All four TTP commanders dying this way since late July (when the TTP peace talks with Pakistan resumed) had opposed the Pakistani terms, which greatly weakened the TTP. The pro-Pakistan Haqqani faction in the IEA government is accused of assisting in killing the anti-peace deal TTP leaders. The TTP leadership has not yet responded to this interpretation of the recent TTP commanders’ deaths.

 

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