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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 30-Jul-2008
India is on high alert as synchronized bombs strike two cities

Web Log - July, 2008

India is on high alert as synchronized bombs strike two cities

Relations between India and Pakistan are coming under increased strain after terrorist bomb attacks in cities in India on Friday and Saturday.

India: Explosions strike Bangalore on Friday, Ahmadabad on Saturday <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: Pakistan Daily Times)</font>
India: Explosions strike Bangalore on Friday, Ahmadabad on Saturday (Source: Pakistan Daily Times)

46 people were killed in the two attacks. The southern city of Bangalore, a major Indian information technology (IT) hub was struck on Friday.

On Saturday the city of Ahmedabad, near the Pakistan border, was struck by an extremely sophisticated series of 17 synchronized bombs. The first group of bombs exploded in a crowded marketplace, and the second group exploded half an hour later at the crowded emergency rooms of two nearby hospitals.

A little known group calling itself "Indian Mujahideen" has claimed credit for the Ahmedabad bombings.

Although Indian Mujahideen is not a known terrorist group, it's thought to be linked to one or all of the following:

Many Indian analysts suspect the hand of Pakistani groups in these and other terrorist bombings in India, and possibly even Pakistan's government itself. According to one analyst, "The way in which the attack in Ahmedabad took place – the multiplicity of the bombs and the way in which they were coordinated – suggests a level of expertise not yet associated with any Indian group. It is reasonable to say this group has benefited from external involvement."

In fact, there's a kind of "attitudinal imbalance" on the Kashmir/Jammu issue between Pakistan and India; namely, India is satisfied with the status quo, and Pakistan isn't.

Kashmir and Jammu

Indian subcontinent, showing the disputed regions of Kashmir and Jammu.
Indian subcontinent, showing the disputed regions of Kashmir and Jammu.

Kashmir+Jammu (K+J) is an overwhelmingly Muslim area, but has been disputed by both Pakistan and India since Partition occurred in 1947. At that time, the Indian subcontinent was partitioned into two nations, India and Pakistan, but Partition led immediately to a massively bloody genocidal crisis war between Muslims and Hindus. K+J itself was partitioned by a boundary known as the "Line of Control," but the status was never settled.

In the years after Partition, it was the objective of both countries to gain control of all of K+J. The Pakistanis claimed that it should be Pakistani because the population was mostly Muslim, while the Indians claimed it should be Indian for historical reasons.

The 1971 war between India and Pakistan changed things somewhat.

(Aside: Prior to 1971, Bangladesh was part of Pakistan, and was known as East Pakistan. As a British colony, it was known as Bengal. The 1947 Partition also partitioned Bengal into (and here it's a bit confusing) West Bengal, which became the easternmost part of India, and East Bengal, which became East Pakistan.

The 1971 Pakistan-India was a non-crisis war in the east, between Pakistan and India, but Bengal was always on a different generational timeline, and the 1971 war was a generational crisis war for that region. One consequence was that East Pakistan broke away from Pakistan and became Bangladesh.)

Part of the agreement that ended the 1971 war was that the Line of Control would become a permanent international boundary, according to D. Suba Chandran in The Future of Kashmir. In the aftermath, that was satisfactory to India, but not to Pakistan, which insisted that the J+M people should determine control of the entire regions.

Things came to a head in May 1998 with the Kargil conflict, which was launched by Pakistan to gain some territory. (Kargil is a district within Kashmir.) An additional objective was to "internationalize" the conflict, gaining international sympathy for Pakistan's desire for a vote by the K+J people. The result was a humiliating defeat for Pakistan.

The Kargil conflict was launched just after Pakistan and India had signed, in February 1998, the Lahore Declaration, a peace agreement that provided a framework for resolving the K+J disputes. The agreement turned out to be meaningless, and so one byproduct of the Kargil conflict was that Indians are immediately suspicious of Pakistani involvement in any terrorist act. This suspicion usually focuses on Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

The suspicion applies to Afghanistan as well. Earlier this month, a suicide bomber drove a car into crowds of people outside the Indian embassy in Kabul. Afghan president Hamid Karzai said that "outsiders" wanted to "damage good relations between Afghanistan and India." There is no doubt that he was referring to Pakistan's ISI. Pakistan has denied the charges, but Karzai canceled a series of planned meetings with Pakistan whose purpose had been to reduce tension.

Sunni vs Shia

Almost all contemporary analyses of the relationship between Pakistan and India refer to it mainly as a conflict between Muslims versus Hindus.

Actually, the truth is quite different, as I've discovered doing this research. In fact, it's much more accurate to say that it's Sunni Muslims versus Hindus and Shia Muslims.

Pakistan claims the entire K+J region, and points out that the partitioning of Kashmir supposed to be temporary, and that the UN Security Council mandated an election in 1951 to permit Kashmiri self-determination. That election has never been held.

What is becoming increasingly significant, as illustrated by the latest wave of bombings in India, is that the various Muslim groups dissatisfied with the status quo in Kashmir are increasingly linking up and working with one another.

For years, the conflict in Kashmir has been a proxy for the larger conflict between Pakistan and India (i.e., between Muslims and Hindus). However, it's increasingly the case that militant Taliban terrorists now see the war in Afghanistan as an even more effective proxy for the Pak-Indian conflict, with the additional advantage of involving the United States and NATO. This became most apparent on July 7 when a car bomb exploded in front of the Indian embassy in Kabul, killing dozens.

When we talk about the Pak-Indian conflict as being between Muslims and Hindus, that's not the whole story. The Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the various terrorist organizations (SIMI, Lashkar, JuNI) are all Sunni terrorist organizations.

There's a "politically correct" tendency at this point in a generational Crisis era to assume that ethnic and religious differences really don't matter the way they used to. Thus, Palestinians and Israelis could live side by side in two states in the Mideast; the English and the French really can live together in a European Union; and Sunni and Shia Muslims are just two sides of the same Muslim coin.

Sometimes this belief leads to total craziness, as when Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose Shia Muslim beliefs are deep and mystical, arranges to give money to terrorist Sunni organizations like Hamas. His fantasy is that one day Iran will have hegemony over all Muslims, Sunni and Shia, throughout the Mideast - a concept as bizarre as Napoleon's belief that he could have ruled all of Europe, or Hitler's belief that he could have ruled the world.

If you're trying to figure out what's going on in the world, you're much more likely to be right if you assume that Sunni/Shia hatred runs very deep, and that Sunni/Hindu hatred also runs very deep. And when leaders of Sunni terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and the Taliban refer to "infidels," they aren't just talking about Christians and Jews -- they're also talking about Shiites, whom they consider to be "not Muslim."

(As an aside, Iraq has been an exception, as I've described many times. Sunni/Shia differences in Iraq run deep, but in their last two crisis wars, the Great Iraqi Revolution of 1920 and the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, Iraqi nationalism united the Iraqis, trumping the Sunni/Shia differences.)

Sunni/Shia differences do run very deep in Pakistan and Afghanistan, despite attempts by politically correct political leaders to pretend that they don't exist. A bizarre example of this is the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. When I was trying to analyze the consequences of the assassination right after it happened, I read dozens of news articles, and I don't recall that a single one mentioned that Bhutto came from a well-known Shia Muslim family, which she did.

The Sunni terrorist group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP or Taliban Movement of Pakistan), has taken credit for the assassination of Bhutto. There may be many reasons why TTP wanted to assassinate Bhutto -- her links with the West are always given as a major reason -- but Sunni hatred for Shias is certainly at the top of the list.

Shia militancy began to increase following Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979, and this led to the creation of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), an anti-Shia Sunni terrorist group. That gave rise to Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP), a Shia terrorist group.

The Taliban versus the Northern Alliance

People with memories may recall than when the Afghanistan war began after 9/11, it was a battle between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. For a lot of people (including me), it wasn't clear what either of these groups were, except that the Taliban was harboring Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda terrorists.

It's now possible to clarify the nature of these groups, starting with the following map, which I've modified from a map at

Afghan-Pak-India ethnic map
Afghan-Pak-India ethnic map

Let's touch on a few features of the above map:

Official map of Pakistan, with the addition of the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), highlighting Swat Valley <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source:</font>
Official map of Pakistan, with the addition of the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), highlighting Swat Valley (Source:

Recall that the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in the 1980s. That war was largely fought by the Soviets versus the Pashtuns, with the US supporting the Pashtuns against the Soviets. At that time, Turmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan did not exist, but were part of the Soviet Union.

Pakistan's  Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) form a safe haven for Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists. <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source:</font>
Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) form a safe haven for Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists. (Source:

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the ethnic groups in Afghanistan realigned. In the massive, bloody Afghan civil war that followed from 1992 to 1996, many Uzbek and Tajik fighters continued with the Northern Alliance, but many Sunnis joined up with the Pashtuns and the Taliban. The Taliban ruled Afghanistan until 9/11, when the Afghan war began and the Taliban were defeated.

Today, the Pakistan FATA region has to be considered the terrorism center of the world, thanks to the safe haven provided to Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists.

The FATA region provides for terrorist training camps for terrorists who act within both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The "al-Qaeda" name has become a brand name for young al-Qaeda terrorists around the world from southeast Asia through the Mideast to northern Africa.

India vs Pakistan in Afghanistan

When we talk about the conflict between Pakistan and India, we usually refer to it as Muslim versus Hindu (and Sikh). Actually, it's Sunni Muslim versus Hindu (and Sikh).

Hindus have a long historical relationship with Shia Muslims and, in fact, some histories show that a large Hindu family fought with the Persian Shias versus the Sunnis in the seminal battle of Karbala that created the Sunni/Shia split in 680 AD.

India sided with the Soviets in the 1980s Afghan war, with the result that India lost all influence in Afghanistan when the Taliban took over in 1996. However, after 9/11 and the defeat of the Taliban, India has worked hard to regain influence in Afghanistan, providing more than $500 million in assistance to Afghanistan.

For India, Afghanistan is an important strategic relationship, since it provides a link to the Shia Muslim community and Iran. In particular, India and Iran are proposing to build an the Iran–Pakistan–India (IPI) gas pipeline, although the US considers this proposal to be a security risk to US interests.

For Pakistan, India's increasing involvement in Afghanistan is somewhat threatening. Pakistan increasingly feels surrounded by its former (and future) enemy, India. Relations between the Afghan and Pakistan governments are becoming increasingly hostile. India and Afghanistan are blaming numerous terrorist attacks in their countries on Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

For its part, Pakistan is accusing India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Israel’s Mossad of working together to plan terrorist attacks within Pakistan. (To make clear what we're talking about, ISI, RAW and Mossad are all intelligence agencies, like the CIA in America, or Britain's MI5.)

Summary: The gathering storm

In a previous article, I promised to do a complete analysis of the Afghan war. With this article, we're about 2/3 of the way there.

What we see is a "gathering storm" of increasing tension and conflict in the entire region.

Basically, the Sunni terrorists (Taliban and al-Qaeda) are succeeding. They see the 1979 Iranian Shia Islamic Revolution as a model for achieving a Sunni Sharia state in Pakistan by precipitating a massive war (revolution).

Ironically, the success of the American forces in driving al-Qaeda in Iraq out of Iraq has made Afghanistan and Pakistan far more dangerous than they were. Thanks to the Anbar Awakening in Iraq, al-Qaeda had no safe haven, and was eventually driven out by Iraq's own Sunnis.

This has caused a strategy change for al-Qaeda. The safe havens in Pakistan's FATA give al-Qaeda the perfect home from which to pursue their objectives.

One result is that foreign fighters -- Sunni terrorists from Arab countries and North Africa -- have been traveling to FATA and Afghanistan to fight the jihad. This is making al-Qaeda a much more powerful fighting force, and they're becoming far more successful than they ever were in Iraq.

The most plausible scenario for a major war in this region is one that begins with a Sunni vs Shia ethnic fighting within Pakistan itself. With Pakistan and India in a generational Crisis era, such fighting would quickly spread into a civil war and then an international war -- and then a nuclear war, as both Pakistan and India are nuclear powers.

Paradoxically, such a war would NOT spread in a meaningful way to Afghanistan itself, because Afghanistan's last crisis war was recent -- the 1992-96 civil war. Afghanistan is in a generational Recovery era, and it's impossible for any Crisis war to start during a Recovery era. If any war begins, it will fizzle before long.

However, Afghanistan's immunity to a crisis war wouldn't make much difference. The United States and Russia would be quickly drawn into such a regional fight, on the side of India, and China and Bangladesh would be drawn in on the side of Pakistan. (30-Jul-2008) Permanent Link
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