Indian efforts to get China to negotiate a more permanent settlement of border disputes are not working. This is again demonstrated as India tries to get negotiations going over the new dispute on the shore of Pangong Lake. The Chinese will issue vague press releases but they will not negotiate. Even when they negotiate a deal the Chinese tend to see these “permanent” agreements are temporary ceasefires.
Today marks day 100 of the current clash in Indian Ladakh along the shore of Pangong Lake. China has shown no interest in negotiating anything. China seems to believe they will prevail and push Indian forces out of area
Earlier this year China revived its border war with India over Pangong Lake, which is largely in Tibet and connected to Chinese claims on Kashmir territory. This is the longest lake in Asia and part of the 134-kilometer long lake extends 45 kilometers into the Indian Ladakh region. China is using its usual “sneak, grab and stay” tactics to slowly move the border into territory long occupied by India. The portion of the lake shore in dispute has no native population. The only people who visit the area are soldiers from India or China.
Pakistan feels it is close to victory in Afghanistan as the Afghan government and the Taliban agreed to begin peace negotiations. There will be no peace and any Pakistanis with knowledge of what has gone on in Afghanistan since the 1970s can see how this will end. Worst case if all foreign troops leave and foreign aid is withdrawn (because of the corruption) is that Afghanistan returns to its traditional condition over the last few thousand years. That means the country/region we call Afghanistan gets picked apart by more powerful neighboring states. Traditionally this has meant Persians and Indians. Now its Iranians and Pakistanis (who are basically Indian Moslems who demanded their own Moslem state). Pakistan is broke and economically dependent on China. The Chinese don’t want their numerous investments in Pakistan attacked by Islamic terrorists, tribal separatists or anyone else. Pakistan justifies (to China) the expense of meddling in Afghanistan because it is necessary to control the Pushtun minority in Pakistan. There are twice as many Pushtun in Pakistan as in Afghanistan but Pakistan has a much larger non-Tribal (Punjabi and Sindi) population so the Pushtuns are only 15 percent of all Pakistanis. The Baluchi tribes account for another four percent. That makes about 19 percent of Pakistanis tribal and not particularly happy with the Chinese presence or the brutal treatment of tribal people in Pakistan.
Iran, which historically controlled, when it was profitable to do so, much of western Afghanistan did so just as the northern Indians controlled eastern Afghanistan and Kabul. This foreign occupation was expensive because the tribes were constantly fighting the foreigners. When the once lucrative Silk Road trade route between China and the Middle East/Europe fell out of use because of cheaper travel via new European ship designs armed with cannon the Chinese, Iranians or Indians lacked, Afghanistan went back to being a region without a unifying government. That changed in the 18th century when the various tribes agreed to declare a kingdom of Afghanistan mainly to keep the foreigners out. A Pushtun king in Kabul kept his job by negotiating with foreigners and providing a neutral space for quarreling tribes to send leaders to try and negotiate an end to a mutually destructive tribal feud. Taliban leaders say they want to unite Afghanistan as a caliphate (Islamic religious dictatorship). That fact that caliphates have never worked well or maintained any unity for long is seen as irrelevant. It is God’s Will that Afghanistan become a caliphate. It’s one of those non-negotiable things that kaffirs (non-Moslems) simply cannot comprehend.
Neither Pakistan nor Iran see any profit in annexing adjacent portions of Afghanistan. While Pakistan, or at least the Pakistani military, is content to “tax” Afghan drug operations that need access to Pakistan, the Iranians, like most civilians in the region, see the opium and heroin coming out if Afghanistan as something evil that much be fought. That means the Afghan/Iran border has long been a combat zone between Iranian security forces and armed Afghan drug smugglers.
India and Pakistan are eliminating the several months of covid19 related quarantines they imposed in some areas to slow the spread of the virus. There was growing popular resistance to that policy. The quarantine shut down many businesses and that led to unemployment rates between 20 and 30 percent. For many workers in both nations being out of work means going hungry and too long without work means starvation. Less quarantine is bad for the senior politicians, who tend to be much older and the group that most frequently die from covid19. Most Indians and Pakistanis have little access to medical care. Politicians and the wealthy do and have more to fear from the virus. The popular resistance to quarantine grew quickly and government had to relent and allow the economy to revive. It simply a matter that for most people unemployment is a greater risk the covid19. The quarantines are ending.
Both nations saw their economic growth decline or even go negative. There was some GDP contraction in both countries. In Pakistan GDP growth was near zero but is expected to be over five percent in 2021. The Pakistani government is unable to collect enough taxes to meet its budget and Pakistan received its last financial bailout earlier in the year just before covid19 arrived. There are no more financial bailouts for Pakistan because Pakistan has failed to comply with the terms of too many past bailouts.
India has a much larger, more robust and faster growing economy than Pakistan. Indian GDP shrank by at least five percent in 2020 and that might double or triple before the end of the year. Despite that it is expected that India will quickly (2021 or 2022) return to pre-covid19 GDP growth rates of 8 percent a year.
So far India has, adjusting for population, 1,737 covid19 cases per million people and 34 deaths per million. For Pakistan its 1,300 cases per million and 28 dead. Elsewhere in the region Bangladesh has 1,616 covid19 cases per million and 21 deaths per million. In Burma it’s seven cases per million people and 0.1 deaths. Afghanistan is 859 cases and 35 dead. Burma and Afghanistan don’t really know how many have died from covid19 because so many deaths are reported with little explanation.
August 11, 2020: In southern India (Bangalore) there was an outbreak of Moslem violence because of a Facebook comment by a local Hindu that was deemed disrespectful of Islam. Large protest riots followed. Three people were killed and 60 injured before the angry mobs could be dispersed. Bangalore is known mainly as a tech hub, sort of a Silicon Valley for south India. Fourteen percent of eight million city residents are Moslem and that has produced some support for Islamic terrorism, which is largely gone. It is still easy for local Moslem clerics and politicians to generate a deadly mob of local Moslems seeking vengeance for some insult to their religion. This often leads to Moslems and non-Moslems getting killed as well as considerable property damage. In this case the man who made the offensive post was arrested after a Moslem mob attacked and set fire to the home of his uncle, a local Hindu politician.
August 10, 2020: In southwest Pakistan ( Baluchistan) a bomb went off in the border town of Chaman. The explosives, hidden in a motorcycle, were apparently intended for a vehicle belonging to the anti-drug taskforce. The bomb went off at the wrong time and killed six and wounded ten civilians. No one took responsibility for the attack. Chaman is a major transit hub as is the second busiest border crossing into Afghanistan. The Chaman crossing is on the main road between Quetta (capital of Baluchistan) and the capital of Kandahar province in Afghanistan. This road carries vital supplies for the Afghan drug gangs, including chemicals necessary for converting opium into heroin. These are smuggled in by truck, often with the cooperation of bribes for border guards in both countries. Also smuggled in is ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that can also be used as an explosive. Ammonium nitrate is banned in Afghanistan because of its widespread use for Islamic terrorist bombs. Ammonium nitrate is still legal in Pakistan.
August 9, 2020: In eastern India (Chhattisgarh State) and other areas where Maoists (communist rebels) are still active the pressure of the paramilitary police battalions continues to reduce the number of Maoists active and the territory they exercise any effective control. It is increasingly the case that civilians in Maoist infested areas provide police with information about where wanted Maoist leaders are or report the activities of groups of armed Maoists in rural areas. Information about informants is kept secret because Maoists will seek to retaliate by murdering those who collect such rewards. The Maoists continue to decline as they have been doing for over a decade. Many Indian communists were slow to understand why all those East European communist governments, including Russia, collapsed between 1989 and 1991. Despite that many Indians still support communism, but not the violent, ineffective and increasingly unpopular Maoists.
August 7, 2020: Pakistan is publicizing a proposal that Pakistan, with the help of China, take control of all of Kashmir (unlikely) and create another direct land-link with China. That is unlikely to happen unless China backed Pakistan wins a war to push India out of Kashmir. That might cause India to use its nuclear armed ballistic missiles against China. The geopolitics of all this is that Pakistan is the only military ally China has and most countries that border China have border disputes with China. Most of these disputes are dormant now, but as China has demonstrated in the South China Sea, northeaster and northwestern India, the claims are there for the exploiting.
Pakistan has become even more dependent on China because Saudi Arabia has withdrawn considerable its financial support. This was triggered by Pakistan openly criticizing Saudi Arabia and the Saudi-led OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) for not supporting increased violence against India over Kashmir. In addition to halting further cash assistance the Saudis called in a billion-dollar Pakistani loan and halted deliveries of cut-rate oil. The Saudis were also angry at Pakistani efforts to be an ally of Iran, even while Iran is at war with the Arab oil states. The Saudi also want to maintain good relations with India. This is an Arabian tradition going back thousands of years. During all that time Iran was always a threat while India was a trading partner. Islam has always been hostile to Hinduism but the Indians have treated their Moslem minority (which is larger than the entire population of Pakistan) well. In short India is more dependable and less threatening than Iran. Pakistan has chosen its friends poorly.
August 6, 2020: In northwest Pakistan, Pakistani Taliban gunmen based just across the border in the Binshahi region, which borders the Afghan province of Kunar fired mortars and machine-guns at six border posts, killing one Pakistani border guard and wounding three others. It is far more common to have Pakistani troops firing mortar and artillery shells into Kunar province.
This border violence has been going on since 2014, when a Pakistani army offensive into North Waziristan forced the Pakistani Taliban to move their headquarters across the border into Afghanistan. At the same time there was a civil war within the Pakistani Taliban over the selection of a new leader, a new strategy and how much Pakistani interference in the operations of the Afghan Taliban should be tolerated. One thing the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban agree on is that Pakistani influence in Afghanistan is bad for the Pushtun people, who are 40 percent of Afghans. There are twice as many Pushtuns in Pakistan and most of them back more autonomy for Pakistani Pushtuns and less Pakistani backed terror in Afghanistan, which often kills Pushtun civilians.
Pakistan is building a border fence along portions of its 2,600 Afghan border that are most often used by Pakistan Taliban and smugglers. These fence sections are supposed to be completed in late 2021. The new fence will slow down the illegal crossers but won’t stop them.
August 5, 2020: In northwest India (Kashmir) Pakistan violated the recent ceasefire by having its troops fire into India, killing several civilians and soldiers. It’s been a year since India revoked the special autonomy granted to Kashmir 70 years ago as part of an effort to encourage Moslem Kashmiris to side with India in the dispute between India and Kashmir over which country Kashmir should be a part of. The partition agreement that turned colonial India into two nations (India and Pakistan) made Kashmir part of India. Pakistan would not accept that and still does not. India prepared for the expected violence reaction of Pakistan by ordering all tourists out of Kashmir and shut down all phone and Internet service. The new status of Kashmir is as just another part of India. This enraged Pakistan and the Pakistan supplied Islamic terrorists in Kashmir were ordered to concentrate on making the new political status of Kashmir painful for everyone. That meant a lot of threats against any local political activists. If threats did not work, assassinations were used. These murders made the Islamic terrorists even more unpopular. The three decades of Pakistan sponsored Islamic terrorism in Kashmir, especially the Moslem majority northern part of Indian Kashmir, has destroyed the economy and created a generation of Kashmiris who blame everyone for their plight and see no way out. The Pakistani military uses the chaos it has created in Kashmir to justify growing border violence. This means opening fire on Indian border guards and any civilians who might be nearby and using this to justify demands for a larger military budget. More money is needed to defend against the Indian threat and some of that money is spent for more violence in Kashmir and along the border to sustain the illusion of the “Indian Threat”.
July 31, 2020: In northwest Pakistan Afghanistan accused Pakistan of firing nine rockets into Afghanistan and killing nine civilians and wounding fifty others near the town of Spin Boldak in Kandahar province. Nearby Kandahar City is the original "home town" of the Taliban. Pakistan claims the Afghans fired first.
A lot of this border violence is caused by the Afghan-Pakistani border also being called the “Durand Line.” This was an impromptu, 1893 era invention of British colonial authorities and was always considered temporary, or at least negotiable, by locals. The need for renegotiation was mainly about how the line often went right through Pushtun tribal territories. However, the Afghans are more inclined to demand adjustments to the Durand Line, and fight to obtain what they want. Recent Pakistani efforts to build more fences and other structures on their side of the border was an attempt to make the Durand line permanent and no longer negotiable.
July 30, 2020: In southwest Pakistan ( Baluchistan) Pakistan reopened the Chaman border crossing, which had been shut for most of this year because of covid19 and violence on both sides of the border against Pakistani soldiers and police. Recently the crossing was being opened for a few hours each day so that Pakistanis and Afghans could cross to be with their families for a major Moslem religious celebration. This time the violence began on the Pakistani side as civilians, angry at Pakistani soldiers, began attacking some of them. The Pakistani troops opened fire on the civilians and Afghan troops opened fire on the Pakistani troops, who then fired in both directions. Before the shooting could be halted there were about a hundred casualties, with fifteen of them fatal.
July 29, 2020: India received the first five French Rafale jet fighters. In 2016 India finally signed a contract for 36 Rafale fighter jets with an option to buy 18 more in three years. This deal has been pending since 2012 when Rafale won a competition to provide the new India medium fighter aircraft.
In northeast India an army patrol was attacked by tribal rebels using a roadside bomb and gunfire. Three soldiers died and four were wounded. The attack took place near the Burma border.
July 28, 2020: In the southwest (Tibet border with India) China and India are not withdrawing their forces before the six-month deep freeze descends on the region. Both sides are providing cold-weather shelter for their troops and stockpiling food, fuel and other supplies. Earlier in 2020 China revived the border war over Pangong Lake, which is largely in Tibet and patrolled by a small Chinese naval force. Commercial satellite photos (something China has not managed to censor yet) showed what was really going on. Throughout July China spread out its forces on the lake coast and did not withdrawn any of them as they had assured India they would.
Satellite photos show a floating dock that had been towed to one location, making it easier for China to being in supplies and more troops. By September the cold weather will begin freezing over the lake surface. This freeze usually lasts from October to March or April. For at least three months the ice is thick enough for light vehicles (SUV and pickup truck size) to move across the ice.
By the end of June Chinese troops have occupied about eight kilometers of Indian territory along the north coast of Pangong Lake. Chinese troops have erected large signs on the shoreline indicating the newly occupied area is now Chinese territory. China has moved another 20,000 troops, including light tanks and other armored vehicles to the Ladakh sector. Another 10,000 troops are kept about a thousand kilometers away, in Chinese lowland territory where altitude sickness is less of a problem. China has most of the high ground and that limits the number of combat capable troops it can bring to its side of the border. Both sides have moved more warplanes and helicopters to nearby airbases and these aircraft are regularly flying over Pangong Lake.
July 25, 2020: Major investors in China, like Japan, Taiwan and the United States, are encouraging manufacturing operations to either return home or move to another country in Asia. Apple is moving iPhone manufacturing to India. Japan is spending over a billion dollars to help Japanese firms move their operations out of China. Taiwan is doing the same. China is seen as an increasingly hostile and unpredictable place to do business and the move out of China, which began a few years ago, is accelerating.
July 21, 2020: In Pakistan (the capital Islamabad) Matiullah Jan, a local journalist critical of the military and the way it corrupts anyone it works with, was kidnapped early in the day. Jan was scheduled to defend his criticism of military corruption in court. Jan had dropped his wife off at the school where she teaches and that was caught on video. Once it was clear Jan had been taken the school video was released and all Pakistanis were asked to identify where Jan was. Other video was found that showed five men, two in black uniforms, stopping Jans car and pulling him out. Twelve hours later Jan’s brother received a phone call and the unidentified called gave directions to where Jan could be picked up, alive,
July 20, 2020: Indian Navy ships trained together with a U.S. Navy carrier task force in the Indian Ocean between India and Iran.
July 19, 2020: In northwest Pakistan troops fired dozens of rockets and mortar shells at targets inside Afghanistan (Kunar province) over the last week. There were some casualties. The national government contacted Pakistan and the Pakistan apologized and said they would halt the attacks. Back in early 2019 the Afghan government sent the UN a letter complaining about nearly a decade of similar Pakistani border violence. The Afghan letter detailed incidents from 2012 to early 2019 in which Pakistani troops fired 28,849 rockets, mortar or artillery shells into eastern Afghanistan . Much of this firepower is directed at Kunar province and has been going on since 2010 in an effort to hit real or suspected Pakistani Taliban bases there. These incidents increased to the point where the Afghans began keeping track of them in 2012. Since then this violence has killed or wounded nearly 300 people that the Afghan government knows about. The shelling occurs against rural areas that are often unpopulated so it is unclear if the Pakistanis have hit many Pakistani Taliban. The Pakistani government propaganda insists that these Taliban Islamic terrorists are based in eastern Afghanistan and regularly cross into Pakistan to carry out attacks. The letter details how the situation is getting worse and that since in the previous year alone there had been 161 of these incidents that involved at least 6,025 Pakistani projectiles landing in Afghanistan. The letter pointed out that several elected Pakistani leaders have pledged to halt these border violations but those pledges are ignored by the Pakistani military. There was a large scale (neatly 200 shells and rockets) Pakistani attack in late 2019 but since the UN was notified and the Pakistani habit of cross border attacks became news, there have been fewer of these Pakistani attacks.
July 18, 2020: Bad news for Pakistan; Nigeria has been officially declared polio free. This comes after three years with no new cases of polio. That means all of Africa is now free of polio, along with Europe, the Americas and most of Asia. Only Afghanistan and Pakistan still suffer from polio. In those two nations the same Moslem intolerance and paranoia that delayed Nigeria becoming polio-free are still in play. Another complaint was that the organization mainly responsible for the “polio free” movement, Rotary International, is an American fraternal organization/charity whose members are largely responsible for the $5 billion effort to eradicate polio by vaccinating enough children so that the polio virus no longer has a human host and, like smallpox, becomes extinct. This polio free effort began in the 1980s and a decade ago ran into problems with conservative Islamic clergy who spread the rumor that the polio vaccine was actually a plot to poison Moslem children. This has delayed eradication of polio in Nigeria for nearly a decade and still delays it in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
July 17, 2020: The UN has declared Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban, an international terrorist and subject to arrest if he shows up in an area where that is possible. Otherwise Mehsud is subject sanctions and any other restrictions that can be imposed on him.
July 16, 2020: India ordered more (number unspecified) Israeli SPICE (Stand-Off Precision Guidance Munition) 2000 smart bombs, for about $420,000 each. The new batch of SPICE bombs was ordered, like the similar 2019 order, using the EPP (Emergency Purchasing Powers) of the Defense Ministry. These emergency powers enable to Defense Ministry to order $67 million worth of weapons or equipment without parliamentary approval. The $67 million limit is for each purchase. The 2019 SPICE 2000 purchase cost $42 million. Parliament allowed EPP to save itself a lot of political problems with buying essential military equipment that the troops definitely needed. Such purchases, especially if the item had to be imported, created a lot of political opposition and delay. Imported items are the most difficult because that causes many politicians to insist that the item be procured in India, even it if that would take years and even then, the Indian manufacturer would probably deliver an inferior to the foreign alternative.
July 15, 2020: In southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan) tribal separatists carried out an attack on soldiers near Gichak Valley. Three soldiers were killed and eight wounded. This took place where the borders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran meet.
July 12, 2020: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) near the Afghanistan Pakistan troops surrounded an Islamic terrorist hideout and when he four men inside would not surrender, killed all four. Four soldiers were also killed in the gun battle.
July 9, 2020: China has become the ultimate fiscal lifeline for Pakistan. Decades of deficits, growing corruption, excessive defense spending and military domination have left Pakistan broke and few willing to give or lend enough cash to keep Pakistan solvent. A recent example of how this works was seen when despite economic recession and a public debt crisis (no one will lend to Pakistan anymore), the Pakistani defense budget was increased twelve percent for 2020, with annual spending now $7.85 billion. Spending on dealing with covid19 has averaged about $100 million a month and by the end of the year military spending will be at least five times what was spent on covid19. The India defense budget is also up (13.6 percent more) in 2020 to $66 billion.
The only economic relief available to Pakistan is China and CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic corridor). CPEC is a vast Chinese investment and construction effort that depends on vigorous support of the Pakistani military to succeed. China needs the Pakistani military to keep Islamic terrorists and tribal separatists from attacking the Chinese construction projects. Pakistan also helps China by keeping Indian forces occupied in Kashmir and the northwest Indian portion of the Pakistani border.
July 8, 2020: In the first half of 2020 India reported that there were over 1,200 Pakistani border (and ceasefire) violations in the northwest (Kashmir). This is part of a trend because these ceasefire violations had doubled in 2018 (c0mpared to 2017) and were the highest in the last ten years and are continuing to increase in 2019. The 2018 Pakistani violence on the LoC that serves as the border left 38 Kashmiri civilians and 257 Islamic terrorist (infiltrators from Pakistan) dead as a result of 614 incidents. Most of the violence did not involve casualties. On the LoC there were 2,140 ceasefire violations on the LoC in 2018, up from 971 in 2017 and 449 in 2016. The 2018 violations led to 30 Indian civilians killed along with 20 military personnel. Pakistan has urged young Kashmiri Moslems to carry out violent (often just throwing rocks) attacks against Indian security forces in Kashmir. There were 664 of these attacks in 2018 compared to 342 in 2017 and 222 in 2014. So far this year, and for most of the last two years, the violence in Kashmir has caused the most terrorism related deaths in India.
July 7, 2020: In Iran a draft of a 25-year economic/political/military agreement with China was leaked. Some details of the agreement are still being worked on, but the draft document indicated Iran was willing to make a lot of concessions to become a close economic partner of China. That would mean China would have an incentive to protect Iran diplomatically and militarily. The document makes Iran the major supplier of petroleum to China and China the major source of foreign investment as well as becoming Iran’s largest trading partner. It also included Iran reducing economic cooperation with India. In effect China is willing to finance the creation of China-Iran-Pakistan alliance that could cause all sorts of problems in the Middle East and South Asia as the Grim Alliance.