India had less terrorist violence in 2017 (11 percent fewer deaths) compared to 2016. The decline in 2017 would have been greater had not Pakistan (or, more precisely, the Pakistani military) used increased violence in Kashmir as a way to deal with growing calls for less corruption in the Pakistani military, fewer coups and meddling in elections and press freedom. Deaths in northwest India (Kashmir) were up 34 percent during 2017. Meanwhile rebel (communist and tribal) related deaths were down again in 2017. As in the past Islamic terrorism was not the major cause of the violence, accounting for 45 percent of the 2017 deaths even with the increased Pakistani aggressiveness. For the second year in a row Kashmir was the source of all the overall increase for India. During 2015 India suffered 722 deaths from terrorism and that was down 26 percent from 2014. In 2015 the biggest source (35 percent of deaths) was communist rebels in eastern India. Islamic terrorism accounted for only 24 percent of deaths in 2015, most of them in Kashmir. This violence had been declining for years while Islamic terrorism in Pakistan only began to shrink after the Pakistani army was forced (by public anger) to attack a notorious Islamic terrorist sanctuary in North Waziristan (on the Afghan border) and cracked down on Islamic terrorists in Karachi. But once the Pakistani military had reduced Islamic terrorism violence inside Pakistan they resumed instigating more such violence against India.
As a result Kashmir border violence by Pakistani troops was way up this year, as it was along the entire Indian/Pakistan border. This was in violation of earlier ceasefire agreements that the elected Pakistani officials wanted observed but they were overruled by their military commanders. Increasingly India threatens major military response to almost daily Pakistani attacks in Kashmir. There has been growing use of Indian commandos and talk of using non-nuclear ballistic and cruise missiles as well as airstrikes. Because of internal politics in Pakistan the Pakistani army controls the levels of border violence. This is all about the continuing battle between elected Pakistani politicians and the military over the “threat from India”. The Pakistani generals justify their large budget and numerous other privileges by the need to deal with this “Indian threat.” But there is no Indian threat. The Pakistani military refuses to accept that and the border erupts once more as the Pakistani generals try to justify their many privileges and powers. This is no longer seen as just a local issue. The Pakistani military is also under growing domestic (by elected Pakistani politicians) and international (especially American, Afghan and UN) pressure to cease all support for Islamic terrorism but the Pakistani generals have not shown any indication of changing. For example the new head of the Pakistani military, appointed at the end of 2016, spent much of his career working directly with forces (military and Islamic terrorist) causing violence on the Indian border and in Kashmir. This new leader was also expected, by his fellow generals, to deal with the increased threat (to Pakistani military privileges) by the elected politicians. This has led to more violence or threats of violence by the military against judges, journalists and politicians who are too active in their criticism of the military
Pakistan And Terrorism
Pakistan reduced Islamic terrorist activity inside Pakistan for the third year in a row. In 2017 terrorist related deaths were down 30 percent (to 1,260), another record low. They declined 51 percent (to 1,803) in 2016 and that was the lowest number for terrorist activity since 2006. Pakistan carried out all this counter-terrorism activity mainly in self-defense, to reduce Islamic terrorist activity directed at Pakistan. Such was not the case with Islamic terrorists in Pakistan who leave Pakistanis alone and concentrate their attacks in India, Afghanistan and other foreign targets designated by the Pakistani military. The 2014 campaign in North Waziristan has reduced Islamic terrorist activity by 77 percent since 2014. That campaign continues but was supposed to officially end in 2017. Yet Pakistani terrorism related death rates are still much higher than India, a nation with six times the population but nearly half the terrorism (most of it non-Moslem) deaths suffered by Pakistan. In other words, adjusted for population size there is still ten times as many terrorism deaths in Pakistan.
The Pakistani military, which tolerates or supports many Islamic terror groups, is under growing pressure to shut down all Islamic terrorists in the country. The military refuses to do that because they believe, for religious or economic reasons that some Islamic terrorists must still be protected (so they can attack India and Afghanistan.) It is getting harder and harder to defend that position. America, India and Afghanistan have lead a successful effort to publicize this scam and the Pakistani denials no longer work at all. By the end of 2017 American leaders made good on their threat to cut military aid and told the Pakistani leaders that unless all the Islamic terrorists were targeted there would be no resumption of American military aid. The U.S. has provided Pakistan with $33 billion in aid since 2001 and was fed up with Pakistani refusals to shut down Islamic terror groups that operate against Afghanistan and India but not Pakistan.
The official line in Pakistani media controlled (or intimidated) by the military is that Pakistan has suffered greatly from Islamic terrorism instigated by the West. Pakistan has suffered economic losses of over $100 billion from Islamic terrorists since 2002 and more than 50,000 Pakistanis died from that violence. The Pakistan military insists that India is behind most of the Islamic terrorist violence inside Pakistan and the United States has been stingy (only $14 billion in aid since 2002) in helping Pakistan cope. The Pakistani military has made matters worse by allowing Islamic terror groups it still supports (despite being considered international terrorists) to form political parties and exercise even more control over Pakistanis. This move is not popular inside Pakistan but the Pakistani military has, in effect, declared an unofficial war on any Pakistanis that oppose them.
Pakistan remains the primary source of Islamic terrorism in the region. It is becoming increasingly difficult to deny this as more and more evidence surfaces. This has led to open discussions about how to deal with the mess these lies have gotten Pakistan into. Some of these public discussions feature Pakistani officials saying that to move against all Islamic terrorists in Pakistan too aggressively would mean more Islamic terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. While that makes sense to many Pakistanis it simply angers Afghanistan and India (and now Bangladesh as well) because they have long suffered from Pakistan based Islamic terror groups that had (and still have) sanctuary in Pakistan and until recently any Pakistani openly admitting that would be called a traitor and risk prison or death. What changed Pakistani attitudes towards this official denial was the growing evidence that the Pakistani position was most definitely all a lie. This became embarrassing when Pakistani Islamic terrorists would get on the Internet and provide evidence that they, not India, carried out a particular attack. The Afghans and Americans also lost their patience with years of Pakistani promises that “they were working on the problem” when, in fact, that was all for show.
The American decision to cut military aid to Pakistan is a big deal because over the last decade that aid has accounted for nearly 20 percent of the Pakistani defense budget. The U.S. aid has declined since 2010 (when it was $2 billion) but is still significant because the current annual Pakistani defense budget is nearly $9 billion. So an extra billion or so from the Americans makes a difference. While Pakistan can turn to China or Russia for all its weapons needs it won’t have access to the best nor will it get any gifts. China and Russia expect to be paid for military goods. Meanwhile the Pakistani army gets 47 percent of the defense budget, the air force 20 percent and the navy 11 percent. Pakistan talks about the “Indian Threat” and in terms of numbers there is one because India spends nearly $60 billion on defense, the fifth largest defense budget on the planet (behind the United States, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia). Pakistan barely makes the top 20. Indian spending is 3.3 percent of GDP while Pakistan is 2.7 percent. In 2016 Pakistan boosted defense spending 15 percent but was unable to sustain that growth rate. For the last five years Pakistan has, on average, increased its defense spending about 10 percent a year. Neighboring India spends more than five times as much. China’s defense spending ($215 billion) is the largest in the region and second largest in the world. Defense spending in South Asia has risen nearly 50 percent since 2001. The large portion of Pakistani government spending going to the military is under growing criticism inside Pakistan, mainly because Pakistan lags way behind India and China when it comes to spending on education, infrastructure and public health. The Pakistani government tries to justify the high defense spending by pointing out that since 2011 Pakistan has suffered $57 billion in economic losses because of Islamic terrorism. That is tragic but the neighbors (and the United States) point out that those losses are largely because Pakistan has supported Islamic terrorists since the 1970s and continues to do so even though many Islamic terror groups have declared war on Pakistan.
The American suspension of military aid to Pakistan has not caused the Pakistani military to make any changes, other than increasing pressure on Pakistani journalists that report anything the military does not like. The Pakistani military continues to portray itself as a victim of American and Indian schemes. The U.S. and Pakistan have maintained diplomatic relations while both wait to see how the aid halt will work out.
Pakistan fears the United States and India will carry out more air strikes and commando operations in Pakistan against Islamic terrorist targets. Pakistan is particularly concerned with protecting the Haqqani Network, an Afghan led group that has prospered under Pakistani protection since the 1990s and is now believed to control the leadership of the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan has long denied any connection with Haqqani, much less control of the group, but there is much evidence that ISI (Pakistani Intelligence) works closely with Haqqani. Growing American (and international) pressure has forced Pakistan to say it is acting against Haqqani. There is little evidence of that. It is clear that the Pakistani military manages (successfully so far) to run the government without actually being the government. Power without responsibility plus generous retirement benefits, immunity from prosecution for most crimes and all those nifty uniforms and parades. No wonder a military career is so popular among the best families.
Since 2011 the Pakistani military has fewer secrets. That’s because of the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in his Pakistani hideout and left with the bin Laden corpse and massive amounts of documents, many of them detailing how the Pakistani military had lied to the world about secret support for al Qaeda and many other Islamic terror groups. After 2011 the military made a few changes like going to war with Islamic terror groups that carried out unauthorized (by the military) attacks inside Pakistan. There is still Islamic terrorist violence inside Pakistan but most of it is done without permission from the military. What Islamic terrorism the military still used inside Pakistan had a specific purpose. Case in point is the growing use of blasphemy charges by Islamic religious parties against those who threaten military power. Most of these parties are either allies of the military or literally on the army payroll. This program includes the new Islamic political parties formed by Islamic terror groups that have long worked for the military to carry out attacks inside India. The Pakistani military wants to protect these Islamic terror groups and turning them into political parties is the latest ploy. The covert violence against foreign (Afghan and Indian targets) is against Pakistani and international law and the Pakistani military continues to claim that it is not involved.
The Tibetan Threat
Chinese troops still cause problems along the Indian border but the level of such activity has continued declining. They peaked in 2014 at about 500 incidents. That was double what it had been in 2010. But since then the incidents have declined. Most of these border violations have occurred on the border with the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. These incidents are not supposed to happen at all because of agreements China and India negotiated in 2013 and 2014. Because of that China claims recent incursions were accidents and point out that their troops leave as soon as India contacts China (per the border agreements) and China is able to contact the border troops involved. Despite fewer incursions since 2014 India continues to move more troops into the area and build facilities to support them. China still claims to own Arunachal Pradesh and has always maintained that the 3,500 kilometer long border between India and Chinese Tibet (1,126 of with Arunachal Pradesh) was only temporary. Since 2010 China has been more aggressive about changing it. In this part of northeast India there are few, if any, ethnic Chinese. The locals know that a Chinese takeover would mean drastic changes because the first thing China does in places like this is move in a lot of ethnic (Han) Chinese and marginalize the natives. This rarely ends well for the locals. While these Chinese claims have been on the books for decades since 2000 China has become more vocal, and physical, about it. That's one reason India has been rapidly increasing its defense spending. But since both nations have nuclear weapons, a major war over these border disputes is unlikely. Constant Chinese pressure is another matter. China is applying the same tactic in all its recently activated territorial claims. Constant pressure while avoiding anything that might trigger a war is seen by China as a slow but certain way to secure its claims. Meanwhile India recently announced it is creating fifteen new border guard battalions (of about a thousand men each). Nine will be for the Tibet border while the other six will mainly go to the Bangladesh border.
The Other Chinese communist Threat
Maoist rebels in eastern India continue to lose ground. In 2017, for the first time since 2008, there were fewer (about 800) than a thousand violent incidents caused by the communist rebels. Until 2008 India’s Maoist rebels were “protected” because most ruling government coalitions included Indian communists. But after 2008 that was no longer the case, largely because communism had been declining as a political force within India. This particular bit of parliamentary maneuvering was critical for the Maoists, because for decades the legitimate Indian Communist Party, and some leftist allies, had forced the government to use restraint in dealing with Maoist violence. This enabled the Maoists to spread, and become an even bigger threat. After 2008 the government went to war with the Maoist rebels and has been winning.
Bangladesh Breaks Bad
In what used to be the other half of Pakistan (Bangladesh) 2017 was a return to normal as Islamic terror related deaths dropped 45 percent. That was important because 2016 had been a bad year with Islamic terrorism related deaths doubling. There were 80 Islamic terror related deaths in 2017 and that is closer to normal for Bangladesh. Compared to Pakistan (with a ten percent larger population) Bangladesh still had only six percent as many terrorist deaths as Pakistan during 2017. The 2016 spike in Islamic terrorist activity for Bangladesh was traced back to external sources. The most obvious one was Pakistan and police concluded that the largest Islamic terrorist attack of 2016 (in July) was largely triggered by external events. Bangladesh blames Pakistan for supporting Islamic terrorism within Bangladesh. This goes back to a 1971 uprising in Bangladesh that led to a war between Pakistan and India. Many Pakistani military leaders see this 1971 loss as a major reason for continued Pakistani hostility towards India. Not only was the Pakistani army decisively defeated in 1971, but the country lost much territory (which actively sought to secede and became Bangladesh). The lower (and more normal) Islamic terrorist activity in 2017 shows that, unlike Pakistan (or India) Islamic terrorism has never really established itself in Bangladesh and when someone else tries to bring it in, it does not last.
January 29, 2018: In Afghanistan ISIL took credit for an attack on Afghan Military Academy in Kabul. Some of the attackers were using British night vision goggles used by the Pakistani military and not available to the public. Moreover other Islamic terror groups operating in Afghanistan have been caught with these night vision devices as have Pakistan based Islamic terror groups that carry out attacks in India and are known to work for the Pakistani military and enjoy sanctuary in Pakistan. It isn’t just the night vision goggles. India and Afghanistan have been comparing notes and finding many similarities like that. Pakistan, as usual, denies any involvement.
January 26, 2018: Iran is calling for a military coalition with Iraq and Pakistan to oppose American expansion in the region. Iraq is not interested and Pakistan quietly pointed out that it is on very good terms with Saudi Arabia, an ally of the United States and now Israel as well.
January 25, 2018: The United States added six more Haqqani Network and Afghan Taliban officials to a list of international terrorists. Being on the list means the United States believes it has enough evidence to arrest and prosecute and being on the list makes it difficult for the accused to travel or use the international banking system.
January 24, 2018: In northwest Pakistan (Kurram) two missiles (apparently from a UAV) hit a house known to be used by the Haqqani Network and killed two Haqqani men. One of the dead was a Haqqani official who worked with the Afghan Taliban. He apparently died while taking a shower. The United States denied it was responsible. A similar attack earlier this month only wounded the man it was aimed at. A month ago a similar attack was made on Jamil ud Din, a Haqqani Network leader and several of his associates. They all died when their vehicle was hit by two missiles as it drove near the Afghan border (Paktia province). If this latest attack was an American UAV it would be the first inside Pakistan since October (when two attacks hit Haqqani targets). Pakistan threatens retaliation for such illegal attacks, which the U.S. will not comment on and Pakistan has not yet acted on.
January 23, 2018: Afghan officials accuse Pakistan of firing more shells and rockets into Nooristan and Kunar provinces. Pakistan has been firing into Kunar since 2010 in an effort to hit real or suspected Pakistani Taliban bases in Afghanistan. This sort of thing disrupted economic activity, especially farming. Pakistan often denies the attacks, even though the Afghans have plenty of evidence (in the form of fragments of Pakistani made rockets and shells). Some Afghans believed the Pakistanis were often firing their artillery to provide cover for Pakistan based terrorists to get into Afghanistan without being detected by Afghan security forces. The firing might also have been to provide cover for smugglers, especially drug smugglers. The fact is this has always been a strange place and the local tribes see the border (still disputed by both Afghanistan and Pakistan) as part of the problem. Most of the shells land in uninhabited areas and do not harm crops or herds. But the farms and domesticated animals are hit often enough to keep the locals angry at the Pakistani government. This latest round of firing destroyed one farm building, wounded one farmer and killed some cattle along with tearing up some farmland.
January 22, 2018: In Bangladesh the government cancelled a contract for a major Chinese company to build a road. The cause was corruption as officials from CHEC (China Harbor Engineering Company) sought to obtain the “cooperation” of a Bangladeshi official (for $60,000) to ignore illegal financial activities by CHEC as it did business in Bangladesh. CHEC is a major Chinese firm and has (and is still) worked on major overseas construction projects (like the Gwadar port in Pakistan).
January 19, 2018: The Pakistani military ordered that Radio Free Europe close its Pakistan office (in the capital, Islamabad). The official reason for this was because Radio Free Europe was reporting on things the military does not like (corruption in the military, using Islamic terrorists to carry out attack in Afghanistan and India). All media in Pakistan, be it local or foreign, are required (informally, not by law) to report only what the military approves of. Local journalists can be kidnapped or murdered for not complying. Since 2001 this custom has become more visible in Pakistan and most news organizations inside and outside Pakistan admit (openly or privately) that the situation exists.
January 17, 2018: The U.S. will continue providing some military aid for Pakistan. This is mainly about military education in which Pakistani officers attend American military schools. There they take the same courses as the American students and other foreign officers. This is seen as a good way to obtain mutual understanding, if not agreement. This type of training is a tiny (a fraction of one percent) part of the American military aid to Pakistan.
In Bangladesh a U.S. financed Coast Guard maintenance facility opened. This makes it easier and cheaper to maintain the 25 ‘Defender’ and ‘Defiant’ patrol boats the U.S. has donated to Bangladesh since 2009. These river and coastal patrol boats are popular worldwide and the U.S. Coast Guard is a major user.
January 16, 2018: In Pakistan nearly 2,000 Islamic clerics and scholars agreed with a fatwa (religious opinion) forbidding suicide bombing. This is not the first time such a fatwa has been issued in Pakistan but this one is more forceful in condemning suicide bombing. In 2007 a meeting of some 2,000 clerics in northwestern Pakistan agreed on a fatwa condemning suicide bombing. Clerics who support the Taliban and al Qaeda had been on the defensive lately, because their efforts have not succeeded, and have brought only violence and misery. There have been an increasing number of anti-terror demonstrations, and street battles between pro and anti-terror gangs. Eleven years later the Islamic terrorist violence is still around as are the suicide bombings.
India successfully tested an Agni V ballistic missile for the fifth time. The first test was in April 2012. Agni V is a solid fuel, three stage missile that had been in development since 2007 and was supposed to enter production in 2014 but has not yet been put into service. The fifty ton Agni V has a maximum range of at least 5,000 kilometers and a payload of 1.5 tons. This missile can hit targets in Russia, China, Europe (Italy and points east), Japan and Africa. Most Agni Vs will apparently be aimed at China. Because it is a solid fuel missile, Agni V can be fired on short notice and is compact enough to be moved around on a truck to avoid surprise attack. Regular service for Agni V means sitting in a silo for decades, tended by a small crew of technicians.
January 15, 2018:
In Kabul, Afghanistan the Indian embassy compound was hit by a rocket, causing some damage to a building but no injuries. Several times a year Pakistan-backed groups attempt to attack embassies in Kabul, especially the Indian compound.
January 10, 2018: The Indian military reports that in 2017 they killed 138 Pakistani military personnel (and wounded another 155) along the LoC (Line of Control) in Kashmir, while losing 28 Indian troops killed and 70 wounded. These losses were on the LoC itself as Pakistan continued to violate the 2003 ceasefire and then accuse India of starting it when the Indian troops shoot back. This was the result of nearly 800 ceasefire violations in 2017, compared to 430 in 2014.
January 7, 2018: The United States appears to have informally warned Pakistan that senior Haqqani Network leaders, especially top leader Jalaluddin Haqqani (also the Afghan Taliban “Minister for Tribal Affairs”) and his son Sirajuddin, are believed to have hideouts in Pakistan and if the U.S. finds either of these men in one of those Pakistan locations action might be taken to kill or capture the Haqqani officials. This was no secret to the Haqqanis or the Pakistani military. The U.S. has stepped up its reward program for information on where senior Haqqani personnel are, offering large cash payments for such information, as well as other benefits (like help in getting the informant and immediate family out of the region). The Haqqanis have to be careful on either side of the Afghan-Pakistan border. While the Pakistani military and ISI (Pakistani CIA) can provide some protection in Pakistan the Haqqanis have many enemies on both sides of the border and since the Haqqani leaders now run the Afghan Taliban they have to spend more time in Afghanistan.
January 4, 2018: Pakistan denied reports that China was building a military base near the port of Gwadar. Chinese warships will have access to some of the new Chinese built port facilities in Gwadar.
January 1, 2018:
The U.S. openly accused Pakistan of providing the U.S. with mostly “lies and deceit”, especially since Pakistan has been a major recipient of U.S. aid since 2002. The Americans said they would withhold $2 billion in aid until Pakistan shuts down the sanctuaries it provides for Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban. The Americans followed through on their threat to halt nearly all military aid. The new (since 2016) commander of the Pakistani military (Qamar Javed Bajwa) denied the accusations, as the Pakistanis always do and insisted there was nothing Pakistan could do. Bajwa is also seeking replacement aid from other sources (China, Iran, Qatar, Russia and Saudi Arabia) but none of these is willing to be as generous as the Americans have been. Within a week Pakistan had suspended all military and intelligence cooperation with the United States.
December 31, 2017: At the end of 2017 Pakistan reported it had completed 150 kilometers of its new security fence along the Afghan border during the first six months of construction. The fence consists of two three-meter (nine foot) high chain link fences running parallel, two meters apart, with three rolls of barbed wire in that two meter gap. Construction began in South Waziristan (which borders Afghanistan’s Paktika province and Pakistan’s Baluchistan, where the Afghan Taliban still maintain a sanctuary). The fence construction was announced in March 2017 and will eventually extend along the entire 2,600 kilometer border with Afghanistan. This is part of an effort to hinder the Pakistani Taliban, and other illegal groups (terrorists and smugglers) from easily moving back and forth. After the Paktika portion of the fence is completed construction will continue along the border with the Afghan provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar. These provinces are where there has always been a lot of lawless activity and these days it is full of Islamic terrorists hostile to either Pakistan or working for Pakistan (against Afghanistan). The new plan will continue giving priority to areas where there are the most problems but will not stop there and eventually (by about 2025) have a fence along the entire Afghan border.
December 30, 2017:
Afghanistan revealed that in 2o17 over 8,800 shells and rockets have been fired from Pakistan into Afghanistan. This is part of a dispute between Pakistan and Afghanistan about where the border is and how it is supposed to be guarded.