August 21, 2013: Pakistani politicians are caught between Indian officials (civil and military) enraged at the growing number of border incidents (Pakistani troops firing on Indians) and their own generals who insist it’s all the fault of the Indians. Some Pakistanis see this as another army ploy to pressure the civilian politicians to let the military select the new Chief of Staff (commander of the military) when the current one retires later this year. In theory, the elected leaders have the right to select the new Chief of Staff but in practice the military has always intimidated the politicians to allow the generals to do the choosing. The military needs continued military and diplomatic tension with India to justify all its economic and political privileges and to discourage the politicians from prosecuting serving and retired officers for past crimes.
The Pakistani generals believe that, since Pakistan got nukes in 1999, it can torment the Indians with these unprovoked border attacks without fear of escalating retaliation turning into a major war. Indian diplomats are reminding their Pakistani counterparts that nukes are not an absolute guarantee that the border incidents and continued Pakistani army and ISI support for Islamic terrorists working to attack inside India won’t lead to a nuclear exchange. India would be badly hurt, but Pakistan would be destroyed. So far Pakistani diplomats are officially supporting the story that this is all the fault of India. By Indian count Pakistan has violated the border 65 times this year, which was nearly twice as often as last year. Since 2009, when Pakistan began regularly breaking the 2003 ceasefire, India has counted over 250 ceasefire violations.
Pakistani troops on the LoC (Line of Control which separates Indian and Pakistani held Kashmir) have violated the ceasefire regularly all this year. Before that the LoC had been quiet for the last ten weeks of 2012. The Pakistanis never admit to being the aggressor and continue to insist they have justification for firing across the border. They don’t, but continue to do it anyway. This is all in violation of a 2003 peace agreement. Before that, Pakistan even more frequently fired across the border, often to assist Islamic terrorists trying to sneak into India.
The increased Pakistani Army violence on the Kashmir border has been accompanied by an increase in separatist and terrorist violence inside Kashmir. After several years of declines, this year has seen a sharp increase in such violence, all apparently with the encouragement and support of Pakistan. India has responded with more curfews and increased patrols.
A growing number of senior Pakistani government officials, both serving and retired, are openly saying that someone in the Pakistani government must have known Osama bin Laden was living in Abbottabad for six years, within shouting distance of the Pakistani Military Academy. None of these officials will admit to knowing anyone who knew, which may be the result of the army and ISI running the bin Laden sanctuary operation without letting any civilian officials know, or none that will now admit it.
In eastern India (Jharkhand) Maoist violence and death threats have halted a $2 billion project to build two electrical generating plants. The same threats have halted work on a coal mining operation that would fuel the plants. The Maoists are demanding more money for the locals in the thinly populated rural area, as well as some cash for themselves as well as fewer police. The government has been unable to provide enough police to halt the assassinations, which have convinced the contractors that it is unsafe to work in the area. The government is also investigating political corruption associated with these large projects, with accusations that local politicians were paid off to allow the projects to go forward. That is fairly normal throughout India.
August 20, 2013: A Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant for former president Musharraf, in connection with the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto six years ago. The usual suspects, the Taliban, took pleasure in the murder but denied they were responsible, and it increasingly appears that is the case. It’s now believed the ISI or Pakistani Army were behind the killing, and the Pakistani police helped cover this up. Three years ago similar warrants were used for two senior police commanders, in connection with an investigation into who was behind the Bhutto attack. There have been more arrests since then, apparently leading to Musharraf (the former head of the army, which has long supported Islamic terrorists and used these fanatics for “special jobs”).
Police in Lahore, Pakistan raided a Taliban safe house that was used as an international call center to handle ransom negotiations with the families of people kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The “call center” contained communications equipment, weapons, and five people (including at least one woman), and all of these were arrested and are being interrogated.
In the Pakistani tribal territories (Quetta, Baluchistan) police seized a hundred tons of bomb making materials (mostly phosphate fertilizer). A tip led police to a warehouse. The seized material apparently belonged to a Sunni terror group that has been attacking Shia Moslems in Baluchistan with large car and truck bombs.
The U.S. sanctioned the Ganj Madrassa (religious school) in Pakistan’s tribal territories (Peshawar). The U.S. charged the madrassa of supporting terrorism activities by al Qaeda and the Taliban. The sanctions will make it more difficult for the madrassa to raise money or for its staff to operate internationally.
India and China began their fifth round of negotiations to work out a new border treaty that will prevent more border incidents. India accuses Chinese troops of being caught on the Indian side of the LAC (Line of Actual Control) in Kashmir much more frequently this year and blocking Indian troops from using Indian built trails and roads that Indians have patrolled for decades. China says all these incidents were misunderstandings, but in the GPS age this is not as convincing as it used to be. India is accusing China of violating a March agreement that was supposed to halt the Chinese practice of sending troops to follow each other’s infantry patrols along the LAC and sometimes sending troops into Indian territory. The LAC is also known as the MacCartney-MacDonald Line and 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 a lot of territory that is now considered part of India. The practice of monitoring each other’s patrols has led to hundreds of armed confrontations over the last few years, as one side or the other accuses “foreign troops” of crossing the LAC. China has become less vocal about its claims on Indian territory recently but has not abandoned these assertions. The Chinese troops, when confronted by Indian soldiers or border guard, will claim they are really in Chinese territory but back off rather than open fire over the issue. This is a big relief to India, which has a defense budget one third that of China’s. India fears that the Chinese troops are becoming bolder and more stubborn and that this could lead to shooting incidents.
In the Pakistani tribal territories (North Waziristan), 2 more cases of polio were reported, making 14 in the territories so far this year. A Taliban ban on polio vaccinations has left over 250,000 young children vulnerable to the disease. Polio should have been eliminated entirely by now, but there has been resistance from Islamic clergy in some countries, who insist the vaccinations are a Western plot to harm Moslem children. This has enabled polio to survive in some Moslem countries (especially Nigeria, Somalia, and Pakistan). The disease also survives in some very corrupt nations, like Kenya and India, because of the difficulty in getting vaccine to remote areas and tracking down nomad groups.
August 18, 2013: Responding to Taliban threats of assassinations and terror attacks, the Pakistani government has delayed the resumption of executions. In the last week a Taliban faction began distributing pamphlets outside the tribal territories warning of retaliation if the government went forward with the plan to resume executions of terrorists at the end of the month. Pakistan has over 7,000 people on death row, most of them Islamic terrorists. For five years such executions have been suspended, as part of an effort to get a peace deal out of the terrorists. That has not worked and the executions were supposed to resume at the end of August. One reason for this was that the Taliban have been increasingly effective at busting convicted terrorists out of jail.
In Indian Kashmir troops detected a group of Islamic terrorists trying to sneak across the border, in the ensuing gun battle the terrorists fled back into Pakistan.
In eastern India (West Midnapore) villagers angry at continued Maoist violence beat to death a local Maoist leader who came to their village.
August 17, 2013: In Pakistan’s largest city (Karachi) a feud between the leaders of two Taliban factions left one of the leaders dead. The two terrorists leaders had actively been trying to kill each other for weeks.
August 14, 2013: Pakistan claimed that unprovoked Indian firing across the LAC had killed a civilian and wounded another (the dead victim’s daughter). India denied the accusation.
In India a Russian built Kilo class sub belonging to India (INS Sindhurakshak) seemed to catch fire and explode while docked near Mumbai. The 16 year old submarine had recently returned from Russia after an $80 million refurbishment. Eighteen sailors were killed as the sub sank at dockside. The cause appears to have been an accident, but a thorough forensic investigation will eventually determine if it was caused by human error or equipment failure.
August 13, 2013: In eastern India (Chhattisgarh) a clash with Maoists left one of the leftist rebels and three paramilitary police dead. A tip had brought the police to the area but the leftist gunmen saw the police coming and opened fire first. The Maoists took more casualties but took these men with them as they retreated.
August 12, 2013: An Afghan group calling itself the Afghan Cyber Army has hacked over 300 Pakistani websites, leaving behind a new home page showing Afghan soldiers and a warning that Pakistan must cease firing across the Afghan border and allowing their troops to cross that border. The problem here is that there is no general agreement on where that border is. That causes all manner of problems. For example, earlier this year Pakistan built some new border posts forward of previous ones but still, according to Pakistan, on Pakistani territory. This has led to shooting between Afghan and Pakistani border guards. There’s also a tribal rivalry element to all this. Most of the Afghan-Pakistani border is occupied by Pushtun tribes. This frontier, still called the “Durand Line” (an impromptu invention of British colonial authorities) was always considered artificial by locals because the line often went right through Pushtun tribal territories. However, the Afghans are more inclined to accept the Durand Line and fight to maintain it. The Pakistanis believe absolute control of the border is impossible, and their attempts to stop illegal crossings cause additional trouble (as tribesmen do not like excessive attention at border crossing posts). This recent violence is also linked to years of anger over Afghan Taliban and other terrorists hiding out in Pakistan and Islamic terrorists (fighting the Pakistani government) hiding out in Afghanistan. This has led to regular Pakistani shelling of suspected terrorist camps in Afghanistan, which often kills innocent (or semi-innocent) Afghan civilians. The Afghans protest and the Pakistanis refuse to halt the shelling and rocket fire or even admit that they are doing it.
India launched its first locally made aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant. There is still much work to do and the Vikrant will not enter service for another five years. The largely completed hull will now be moved to another dock so that the flight deck and some internal work can be completed. The current schedule calls for sea trails to begin in 2016, followed by needed modifications and then, in 2018, commissioning.
August 11, 2013: In northern Pakistan the army has sent more troops into an area where Taliban gunmen have been attacking (and often killing) police investigating the June attack on foreign mountain climbers. This killed nine of them (including American, Chinese, Lithuanian, Nepali, Slovakian, and Ukrainian victims) along with a Pakistani cook. A Taliban faction took credit for the attack and said it was revenge for a fatal UAV attack against one of their leaders in May. The rest of Pakistan was outraged at this attack on foreign guests (and very lucrative ones at that). The additional troops are meant to hunt down and finally kill or capture the murderers and any other Islamic terrorists in the area. Northern Pakistan contains some of the highest, and most difficult to climb, mountains in the world. The area had always been quiet and safe and the government encouraged the development of tourism. Foreign climbers were particularly attracted to the remote area and their visits have become a major part of the local economy. For a while, at least, that is all gone. Even Pakistani tourists have cancelled visits. Many non-climbers, especially Pakistanis, came to the area for its cooler weather in Summer and reputation for safety from terrorism and crime. After this attack soldiers and police searched the area for the attackers, who were able to get away. For now, and the next few years, the economic damage is done and the locals will suffer a sharp decline in living standards until tourists return. That can take a few years, or longer, if the Taliban continue operating in this area. The locals, including Moslem clergy, have cooperated with the soldiers and police, but there are some terrorist sympathizers in the region who appear to be giving the killers some protection.
India revealed that it had purchased 25,000 Invar anti-tank missiles from Russia. The average cost will be about $2,000 per missile, largely because 60 percent of the missiles will be built in India under license. Invar is fired from the 125mm main gun of the T-90 tank and is highly accurate out to 5,000 meters (over three miles).