India and Pakistan have resumed peace talks, the first time since the Mumbai terror attack in late 2008. While this is the first meeting of senior officials (the foreign secretaries) since then, there has been plenty of communication. India has been pressuring Pakistan to shut down the many Islamic radical organizations that were allowed to flourish there over the last three decades. In the late 1970s, Pakistani leaders got the idea that Islamic conservatism would solve the problems of corruption and disunity. It didn't work, and spawned Islamic radical groups that used terrorism to try and settle the dispute with India over who should control Kashmir (both nations control parts of it, the result of a dispute dating to the 1947 dissolution of British colonial India into independent India and Pakistan). Although the decision to embrace Islamic radicalism has backfired, and the Islamic terrorists are now at war with the Pakistani government (and any Pakistanis who refuse to submit to religious rule), the Pakistani government cannot afford to crush all Islamic radical groups. That's because about a third of the population still believes in Islamic radicalism (as a cure for all that ails Pakistan), and most Pakistanis support the use of terrorism to get all of Kashmir. That won't happen, because India has defeated (but not completely eliminated) the Pakistani Islamic terrorists in Kashmir. In light of all that, the foreign ministers from the two nations will talk, and talk, and talk. Both countries want a solution. The Pakistani leadership knows they have problems (chiefly religious radicalism, corruption and tribalism), but no one has come up with workable solutions. India has had many of the same problems, but the Indian solutions do not always fit in Pakistan.
As more and more Taliban and other Islamic terrorists flee the tribal territories, they are finding they have a hard time recruiting in the lowlands (Punjab and Sind). So the Islamic radicals have taken advantage of the high unemployment and are offering up to $400 a month. This is attracting recruits, for the dangerous business of carrying out terror attacks. But these kids are mercenaries, even if they are screened for loyalty when recruited.
Indians got a reminder of why the Maoists are a problem, when coal industry officials revealed that they are hampered from increasing production (and helping to deal with growing power shortages) because of growing Maoist activity. The Maoists are looking for extortion payments, along with some benefits for workers and others working in the coal producing areas. The coal companies resist Maoist demands, and the Maoists interfere with mining operations.
Despite the growing casualties from the Indian anti-Maoist campaign, Pakistan is still suffering about four times as many casualties (4,000 dead so far) this year. One difference is that in Pakistan, only about five percent of the dead are security forces personnel, while in India it is 20 percent. Indeed, both nations have lost about same number of police and soldiers this year (240 in Pakistan and 220 in India). South Asia (which includes India, Pakistan and adjacent areas like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan) appears headed for a bloody year, with terrorism and war causing over 10,000 dead and up to 50,000 casualties overall. Add in adjacent Central Asian conflicts (Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan), and you nearly double that. That makes this part of Eurasia the bloodiest on the planet, with the decline of violence in Congo.
June 23, 2010: In eastern India, Maoist violence left three policemen and two civilians dead, in two attacks.
June 22, 2010: In Indian Kashmir, an Indian army colonel, a regimental commander, was killed in an ambush. It's rare for such high ranking officers to be killed in Kashmir, but regimental commanders are often out checking on operations, and are at risk while doing so.
Pakistani troops, while hunting down armed groups of Taliban in the tribal territories, encountered a large group in Orakzai. During the subsequent battle, 43 Taliban and four soldiers were killed. This was yet another example of how the army superiority (air power and better weapons) results in a lopsided defeat for the Taliban. The tribal warriors depend on ambush and the support of local civilians to keep fighting. But in most of the tribal territories, they are no longer welcome, and the army has control of the air, and plenty of helicopters and F-16s to use for reconnaissance and attacks. It is not a completely one sided war, as today's battle was prompted by an ambush in the area yesterday, that left three soldiers dead. When the Taliban reveal themselves like this, the army knows how to promptly initiate a search. Often, the search is successful, and the ambushers are captured or killed.
June 21, 2010: On the Line of Control, separating the two parts of Kashmir, Pakistani troops opened fire on an Indian outpost. A gun battle went on for two hours, apparently to cover the movement of Islamic terrorists into Indian Kashmir. India hopes to convince Pakistan to halt this practice, during the peace talks that resume on the 24th.
In North Waziristan, an American UAV missile attack killed 15 Islamic terrorists. Several days later, details leaked out, and it was revealed that eleven of the dead were foreigners, including one (a Lebanese named Hamadi) who had a $5 million reward on his head. The reward may have prompted the tip that led to the missile attack. These attacks have severely hurt the morale of, and hampered the activities of Islamic terrorists in the tribal territories. Despite changing how they operate (no cell phones, travel on public transport, avoid meetings with each other), the Americans keep finding, and killing, them.
June 20, 2010: On the Line of Control in Kashmir, Pakistani troops opened fire, killing two civilians working for the Indian army. The shooting was brief, and the Indians did not return fire. But a protest was immediately made. The Pakistani and Indian forces can communicate with each other, and there is a drill to go through when the firing breaks out, to get it to stop.
In Karachi, Pakistan, Islamic terrorists attacked a court, where four other terrorists were appearing before a judge, and attacked the police escort. One policeman was killed, and another wounded, and the four terrorist prisoners escaped.
Indian police arrested a Maoist leader believed responsible for the attack on passenger trains in eastern India last month, which left 151 dead. The Maoists have tried to distance themselves from this attack, because of the large number of dead and the resulting public outcry. That's the downside of using terrorism to achieve political goals. If the terror is too terrible, it backfires.