India is having major problems with its southern neighbor, the island state of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in office since 2019 has fled the country and found temporary refuge but not political asylum in Singapore. India would not grant asylum, in part because of the close ties Rajapaksa and his family have had with China. Rajapaksa literally ruined the Sri Lankan economy with a series of disastrous decisions that ended with economic collapse, national bankruptcy and massive protests against him and his government. He fled the country on July 13th after resigning earlier. It took a few days to find a country that would let him in.
Rajapaksa belongs to a prosperous Tamil family based in the capital. He joined the army as an officer cadet in 1971 and when the Tamil civil war broke out in 1983, he served with an infantry regiment, eventually becoming commander of one of its battalions. The Tamil insurrection seemed to be ending in 1990 and Rajapaksa took early retirement and enrolled at a local university to study computer science. That led to emigration to the United States for graduate studies, post graduate employment and U.S. citizenship. He returned to Sri Lanka in 2006 at the request of his older brother Mahinda, who was running for president. The older brother won and served until 2015, with Gotabaya as his Secretary of Defense. Gotabaya oversaw the end of the Talil civil war by 2009. The Tamils realized that Gotabaya was the key man in the government supervising the defeat of the rebels and made several attempts to assassinate him. One such attempt in 2006 almost succeeded, had not the car carrying the army commander swerved into the path of the Tamil suicide car bomber. The army commander and another officer died.
With the end of the civil war in 2008 Gotabaya shifted his efforts as a government minister to urban development. At the same time Gotabaya and Mahinda were on bad terms with the West over allegations they had won the civil war via the use of murder, deception and corruption. This led Gotabaya to renounce his U.S. citizenship, run for president of Sri Lanka in 2019 and win. These accusations of criminal behavior led Gotabaya to develop good relations with the Chinese as his relations with India and the West declined. Once he was president, he sharply cut taxes so that much of the government budget had to be covered with loans. When all the debts came due, China would not bail him out. This may have been because ten percent of the national debt was owed to China.
In another effort to regain solvency he banned many imports. A 2021 order halting imports of fertilizer and insecticides for famers, who were told to switch to organic farming, failed. Gotabaya had brought his older brother Mahinda into government as his prime minister, along with several cousins in lesser posts. Most of these kin quit as Gotabaya’s decisions destroyed the economy. Mahinda remained, trying to convince Gotabaya to change direction. Gotabaya was the first Sri Lankan elected to office with no previous elected office experience.
Sri Lanka continued to collapse and by 2022 there was not enough money to pay for all the imported fuel needed to keep the power plants operating full time. Unemployment was rising and so were popular protests that drove Gotabaya to resign on July 9th and discover that no nation would grant him political asylum. Sri Lanka is still a mess but the main cause of the catastrophe is gone. The solution is another matter. Sri Lanka now finds itself in a situation similar to that afflicting Pakistan; too much debt caused, in part, by Chinese investments. In both cases China is now being asked for more loans so that debt-crippled Sri Lanka and Pakistan can avoid further economic and political damage. The initial Chinese response was to offer some money but not nearly as much as was asked. A similar disaster has been developing in Pakistan for over a decade while normally prosperous and stable Sri Lanka became an economic disaster in a few years.
When Britain dissolved its Indian (including what is now Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Sri Lanka) colonial government in 1947, the new nations that emerged were quite different and remain so, each in their own unique way. Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, is very distinct from India, with a native population that is 75 percent Sinhalese. This is an ethnic group similar to northern Indians but speaking a different language and using a different alphabet. Most Sinhalese are Buddhist while the Tamil minority is about 25 percent of the population. The Tamils originally came from Southern India (Tamil State) are Hindu (like most Indians) and generally appear and act differently than the Sinhalese. The two groups never got along well, in part because the Tamils got there first, about a thousand years before the Sinhalese showed up as part of the Central Asian Indo-European invasion of India. The Indian Tamils developed northern Ceylon, especially the coastal areas while the rest of the island remained sparsely populated by tribal groups. The Sinhalese went after the less populous and defended south but never absorbed the Tamil north. This was similar to what happened in India where the Tamils kept the Central-Asian invaders out of the south. After the British departure Ceylon was an independent state. Now known as Sri Lanka, its people became more prosperous, better educated and healthier than average Indians. Sri Lanka GDP per capita was nearly twice the Indian average.
Since the 1950s Sri Lanka developed tense relations with India because many Indians believed that Sri Lanka should have been part of post-British India. In response to that Sri Lanka developed better relations with the West and China to avoid being absorbed into India. Sri Lanka became the beneficiary of substantial Chinese economic and military aid over the last decade and has become very friendly with the Chinese. Sri Lanka received crucial military aid from China during the war with Tamil separatist rebels that began in the 1980s. The Tamils received a lot of aid from Tamils in southern India until they were finally defeated in 2009. India can't become too friendly with Sri Lanka without causing political problems with its own Tamils, many of whom still support the defeated Tamil rebels of Sri Lanka, where Tamils remain a troublesome minority.
Pakistan continues to have major problems with its western neighbor; Afghanistan. Despite the unpredictable IEA (Islamic Emirate) government, some countries continue to send some aid. The best example of this is a rare Pakistani agreement with India that enables Indian food aid convoys, each carrying several thousand tons of wheat to enter Afghanistan at northwest Pakistan’s Khyber Pass. The UN supervises the distribution of the wheat inside Afghanistan. So far the Indian grain convoys have delivered 36,000 of the 50,000 tons promised. The IEA has been unable to attract much foreign aid because they refuse to allow foreigners to supervise distribution. The food shortage situation has become desperate and the IEA made a rare exception here. Before the IEA took over in 2021, India was a major donor of aid to the previous IRA government. India pledged this food aid in January but Pakistan had banned Indian traffic since 2019 and it took several weeks to negotiate terms (no customs or other charges for security) before regular transit was allowed for the wheat. The UAE also sends medical aid and China sent tents and other disaster relief after a recent earthquake.
Natural disasters like earthquakes and droughts kill more Afghans each year than rebels or Islamic terrorist violence. The two largest Islamic terror groups in Afghanistan are the TTP (Pakistan Taliban) who fight 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.
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 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.
The TTP is the least of the army’s problems. The survival of the current military leadership depends on finding a way out of the current economic crisis in Pakistan. The country is bankrupt and foreign lenders are unwilling to provide much help until Pakistan does something about its armed forces. The generals have demanded, or strongly encouraged the elected government to provide the military with more money than the economy could sustain. The deficits were made up with loans. Accumulate too much of that debt and you find yourself in major trouble that often becomes a civil war between the military and supporters of democracy. Burma had a similar problem with its military while India and Sri Lanka did not, India made sure that the feudal landowners and military leaders could not get out of control. The post-British Indian government bought out the feudal landlords and outlawed any efforts to rebuild such enormous family land ownership. The new Indian government was organized with rules prohibiting retired officers from serving as senior government officials, especially in the defense ministry. This worked in Sri Lanka and India but failed to take hold in Pakistan and Burma. Too much political power for the military eventually causes economic collapse and chaos, or the very real threat of a disaster.
July 23, 2022: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) soldiers clashed twice with Islamic terrorists, killing three terrorists and wounding several others. One the wounded terrorists was captured and identified as a leader in the Hafiz Gul Bahadar faction of the TTP. The Bahadar faction is, like many TTP factions, more inclined to 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 Talibans see the Pakistani military as the enemy and that is causing major problems for the Pakistani military and Pakistan as a whole.
July 15, 2022: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) Baluchi separatists who had kidnapped an army colonel and his young cousin, were tracked to their rural camp by army commandos and attacked. Nine Islamic terrorists were killed along with one soldier. Two days earlier the army was pursuing a group of the Islamic terrorists moving the colonel to another location. The Islamic terrorists escaped after killing the colonel with a shot to the head.
July 13, 2022: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) soldiers clashed with Islamic terrorists in two different locations. Ten Islamic terrorists were killed as well as one soldier.
July 11, 2022: In eastern India (Bihar State) a commando battalion of the para-military CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) deployed to eliminate leftist rebel activity seized many cached Maoist bombs, bomb making materials and weapons but no Maoists rebels. The Maoists have been under constant attack in Bihar for two decades and in 2016 suffered major defeats. The political reforms had eliminated most of the popular in Bihar and since the CRPF operations against the Maoists have been more police work than violent encounters. At this point apparently all that is left is caches of material hidden by Maoists who were killed, captured or surrendered. In nearly a week of searching, often based on information provided by Maoists who had surrendered, 612 bombs, 495 detonators, some assault rifles and ammunition were found. Bihar State is one of the eastern India states that destroyed the Maoist rebel presence with political reforms in addition to CRPF activity. The Maoists were often armed and attacked government officials and CRPF forces as well as civilians who wound not cooperate with them. This left nearly 9,000 local civilians dead since 2000. That violence declined sharply after 2016.
The CRPF forces were the key to defeating the armed Maoists. This was something the CRPF had been doing since colonial times. Founded in 1939, and retained when India became independent in 1947, by 2010 the CRPF had nearly 200,000 personnel. It deployed over 70 battalions of para-military police back then, including seven “rapid action” battalions that could be quickly sent to any part of the country to deal with outbreaks of violence. The CRPF is heavily involved in fighting Maoists. Since 2010 the CRPF has been expanded 50 percent with 12 if the 17 new battalions (of about 1,100 men each) going to eastern India for use against Maoist rebels. This campaign has been successful because the CRPF now had enough personnel to clear Maoist groups out of most rural areas where the leftists had become a dominant factor in local affairs and increasingly unpopular. But the CRPF is criticized for not being able to finish the job and that is often because there was not enough political reform, and support, in the Indian state where they operated. India is a federation of 28 states and eight territories administered by the central government. The states resist interference by the central government that means large differences between how states are governed. This has caused problems with establishing nationwide standards for counter-terrorism efforts, against both Islamic terrorists, tribal separatists and leftist (Maoist) rebels. As a result, each state implemented different solutions. Bihar State has a population of 104 million, much of it rural and poor. Bihar contains about 7.5 percent of the national population but the per-capita GDP is about half of the national average.
July 10, 2022: In Pakistan the self-inflicted economic crisis has caused Chinese firms to leave or cancel plans to move some of their operations to Pakistan to take advantage of lower labor costs. The lack of security for foreign firms as well as the growing corruption made Pakistan an increasingly risky area to set up manufacturing operations.
July 9, 2022: Ukrainian president Zelensky fired the Ukrainian ambassadors to India, Germany, Czech Republic, Norway and Hungary. Replacements were not immediately announced. Zelensky was dissatisfied with Ukrainian diplomatic efforts to obtain more foreign support for the fight against the invading Russians and Russian efforts to evade economic sanctions. For example, Russia and China have already organized a method for conducting trade in Russian rubles and Chinese yuan. A few other nations are willing to join this network, but none of them can help with the Russian airliner spare parts problem. China sees the situation as a useful and low risk challenge while for Russia it's more a matter of life and death for airline passengers facing lower flight safety levels and Russian officials responsible for the war crimes in Ukraine. Substitute spares can keep the airliners flying for a year or so but then the need for more difficult to counterfeit components will make this massive improvisation more difficult and unsafe. China is involved but Russia is committed to making this work and willing to risk lives to make it happen.
June 30, 2022: In Pakistan problems with the TTP and other separatist or Islamic terror groups have been causing more casualties this year compared to 2021. At the moment it appears that Pakistan will suffer twice as many terrorism related deaths in 2022 and that trend is largely because of the new Taliban government in Afghanistan which was supposed further reduce terrorism activity in Pakistan. In contrast, India is trending in the other direction and expecting a slight reduction in 2022.
June 29, 2022: Pakistan is complaining that the IEA has added weapons smuggling to the drug smuggling tolerated by the Pakistan military as long as the heroin was for export and the generals were paid for their services, which included allowing chemicals needed for turning opium into heroin to get into Afghanistan. The weapons are being smuggled into Pakistan hidden in truckloads of fresh fruits and vegetables. Trucks carrying these perishable items are often delayed at the border until large bribes are paid. Sometimes the bribes demanded are higher than the transportation company can afford but it is paid anyway to avoid losing the cargo to spoilage. The trucks carrying weapons under the fresh produce don’t appear to have any problems because the border guards have been paid well in advance to let certain trucks go through without inspection. This sort of thing doesn’t happen without Pakistani military cooperation. These weapons are something the Pakistani military would not tolerate if they were for local markets. This is where criminals and Islamic terrorists get their arms and ammunition that are often used against Pakistani security forces. It is unclear if this is another dispute between elected Pakistanis officials and the military or a case of Afghan officials managing to pay off Pakistani border guards who also work for the Pakistani military. Border guards at the three main crossings have a lucrative job because if the bribe is right the border security personnel cooperation can be rented. This sort of freelancing is dangerous because the border guards have long-term deals with the Pakistani military. Violating this contract can be fatal but if you are careful and alert you can flee across the border if your scam is detected by the wrong people. This sort of thing is common along the border where smuggling, bribery and power struggles have been the norm for a long time.
June 26, 2022: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) Islamic terrorists based across the border in Afghanistan (Khost province) clashed with a Pakistani troops. Two soldiers and seven terrorists were killed. The Islamic terrorists were probably TTP but the Pakistan military preferred to just describe the enemy as Islamic terrorists. Incidents like this are often caused by TTP Islamic terrorists based in Afghanistan. That is less likely now because the government and TTP agreed to a ceasefire. That leaves the growing number of al Qaeda and ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) affiliated groups that have found sanctuary in Afghanistan and frequently carry out attacks in Pakistan and are doing it more often as relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to deteriorate.
June 22, 2022: In the southeast (Paktika and Khost province) several earthquakes in a mountainous area near the Pakistan border left over a thousand dead and many more injured or homeless. The first quake was 5.9 magnitude followed by several less powerful ones. The area is often hit with such quakes.