India-Pakistan: Playing With Nuclear Fire


March 16, 2011: To the surprise of many, inside and out of Pakistan, the army is apparently actually going to invade the last Islamic terrorist sanctuary in the tribal territories; North Waziristan. This can be seen by the extensive preparations to house half a million civilian refugees expected to flee the fighting. The UN has been notified to mobilize their resources to help handle the refugees. There are currently 147,000 troops in the tribal territories, and nearly 40,000 surrounding North Waziristan (4,700 square kilometers, and 365,000 people). North Waziristan has been surrounded for a year, but Pakistani military leaders have refused to go in and take down this terrorist refuge. One reason for this change of attitude is the continued attacks by what the Pakistanis call "bad Taliban". These are mostly Pakistani Taliban who want to establish a religious dictatorship in Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban, who want to establish a similar government in Afghanistan, but not Pakistan, are considered "good Taliban" (along with the minority of Pakistani Taliban who don't want to overthrow the government.) In the last year, the Pakistani Taliban have also caused hundreds of casualties among pro-government tribesmen, and it's no secret that the army hires tribesmen and puts them in dangerous situations to minimize army casualties. The army cannot afford to lose the support of the loyal tribes up there. All this has put pressure on the army to eliminate the refuge the killers can flee to in North Waziristan.  

The Pakistani general in charge of the North Waziristan invasion force has also surprised everyone by being the first Pakistani official to publically admit that Pakistan is tolerating and supporting the use of CIA operated UAVs to make missile attacks on terrorist leaders in the tribal territories. This use of UAVs to hunt terrorist leaders has been around for five years, and has been an open secret. Pakistani cooperation included use of two Pakistani airbases for the UAVs to operate from, and Pakistani intelligence providing information on potential targets, and whether those attacked were actually killed. The Pakistanis have used this CIA operation to kill foreign, and Pakistani, Islamic terrorists who were seen as a threat to Pakistan. This became particularly urgent as Islamic terrorists began to target senior Pakistani leaders, and openly proclaim the goal of establishing a religious dictatorship in Pakistan (and Afghanistan and northern India). This recent Pakistani admission emphasized the high number of notorious Pakistani and foreign terrorists killed, and the small number of civilian casualties.

Even if North Waziristan is shut down, that still leaves the Taliban and al Qaeda with refuges in Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan, right across the Afghan border from the Taliban heartland in Kandahar and Helmand provinces), an area where the government will not permit American UAV missile attacks. Since the Taliban and other terror groups have not made terrorist attacks in Baluchistan, there has been an unofficial truce with the Pakistani government. That seems unlikely to change.

Private discussions between American and Pakistani officials are becoming increasingly ugly. That's because Pakistan has become the center of international Islamic terrorism. Islamic terror groups (like Lashkar-i-Taiba) that Pakistan has supported for years so that the militants could attack India, have now expanded their target list to include the West. Islamic radicalism, and impossible territorial claims on India (not just Kashmir, but much more), have painted the Pakistani establishment (the military and popular opinion) into a corner. Renouncing these claims means admitting that, since 1947, they have been living a lie. Then there's the religious angle, which was added in the 1970s, to maintain enthusiasm for the campaign against India. Pakistan has created a political and religious monster, and the potential foreign victims are threatening retribution if this nasty beast does international harm. India, the target of this terrorism for decades, knows that it is a few major Pakistani backed terror attacks away from irresistible popular demands for war with Pakistan. With both nations possessing nukes, that could go downhill very fast.

In the last week, American UAVs have made four attacks on Islamic terrorists in Waziristan (north and south). Although South Waziristan is supposed to be under army control, Islamic radicals still sneak through, to reach places like Karachi (the largest city and port in the country) and the outside world. The traffic goes both ways, despite the threat of American missile attack.

India sees its Maoist (communist) insurrection in the east as a larger problem than the Islamic terrorism based in Pakistan. The Maoists are killing more people than the Islamic radicals, and are present in much more Indian territory. The government has responded with reforms, as well as over 70,000 additional police. The Maoists are being pushed back, but the effort will take years, perhaps until the end of the decade. At least the Maoists don't have nukes.

March 15, 2011: Pakistan has agreed to provide specialist military training for military personnel from Kyrgyzstan.

March 14, 2011: A recent Swedish study concluded that, last year, India became the largest importer of weapons (with nine percent of the world total). For more than a decade, China was the top importer. But the Chinese defense industries have grown, and much Russian military technology has been bought or stolen, and China has cut back on imports. This pattern disturbs (as it should) many in India. With roughly the same size population and military, China has a GDP that is over eight times larger, and spends more than ten times as much as India does on defense.

In the eastern India state of Bihar, there was a gun battle between security forces and Maoists that left six rebels dead and ten under arrest.

March 13, 2011:  In the eastern India state of Jharkhand, highway traffic was much reduced as local Maoists declared a 48 hour shutdown. The communist rebels threatened to fire on any vehicles that were using the major roads, but some vehicles went out anyway. There were no attacks.

In the eastern India state of Bihar, there were two gun battles between security forces and Maoists.

March 11, 2011:  Bahrain, a small Persian Gulf nation with a Sunni minority ruling a Shia majority, has sent recruiters to Pakistan to hire retired military personnel to staff the Bahraini security forces. The recruiters are looking to hire a thousand or more men quickly. There will be no shortage of volunteers, as the money is good, even with the risk of death or injury. Pakistan has been supplying such mercenaries to the Arab Gulf states for centuries.

March 10, 2011:  In the eastern India state of West Bengal, a senior Maoist leader was cornered and killed in the subsequent gun battle.

March 9, 2011: Near Peshawar, the largest city in the Pakistani tribal territories, a suicide bomber killed 36 people attending the funeral of an anti-Taliban tribal leader killed the day before. Taliban took credit for this attack.

India has accused Pakistan of five ceasefire (along the Kashmir border) so far this year, and 44 since the two nations agreed to a ceasefire in the area back in 2005.

March 8, 2011: In Faisalabad, the third largest city in Pakistan, a suicide car bomber attacked a local headquarters for Pakistani intelligence (ISI) and killed 25 people. Taliban took credit for this attack.


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