On the explosive situation in South Asia

Featured image: march of hundreds of workers in the clothing industry in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Source: Munir uz Zaman, AFP.

The situation in some South Asian countries is unstable for the imperialists and local ruling classes. The bureaucratic-capitalist states of the region are challenged by several conflicts and popular uprisings.

In 2022 the Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan, was ousted after a vote of no-confidence by the National Assembly. According to a leaked document the US State Department and the Pakistani ambassador to the US had a meeting together on the 7th of March 2022, one month before the vote of no-confidence. In the meeting the US officials objected the position of the Pakistani government on the war in Ukraine and Khans recent visit to Moscow. According to the document a US official directly brought up the vote of no-confidence, and threatened with consequences if it did not go through: “I think if the no-confidence vote against the Prime Minister succeeds, all will be forgiven… Otherwise, I think it will be tough going ahead” and “honestly I think isolation of the Prime Minister will become very strong from Europe and the United States”.

Following the ousting there has been protests and rallies around the country. The protests have increased further due to Khan being arrested several times. It is reported that there are over 100 charges against him, including terrorism and corruption. Khan is currently imprisoned, serving a three-year sentence. New national elections have been delayed until February, however the candidacies of Khan and former members of his Cabinet have been rejected by election officials.

There are also increasing attacks near Pakistan’s border to Afghanistan. After Pakistan Taliban (TTP) ended their ceasefire with the state of Pakistan in November 2022, there has been a 93 percent increase in attacks in the Pakistani provinces bordering Afghanistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the northwest and Balochistan in the southwest. During the first 11 months of 2023 it is reported that 664 attacks took place. In one of the attacks, in January 2023, at least 100 people, mostly police officers, were killed by a suicide bomber.

The Pakistani military has responded to the attacks with the large scale military operation “Zarb-e-Azb”. The operation has been accused of adopting scorched earth tactics and forced disappearances.

The state of Pakistan has also started mass deportations of Afghans. Around 2 million Afghans thought to be living in Pakistan without documentation were given a deadline to return to Afghanistan before the 1st of November 2023. At least 200,000 are reported to have returned before the deadline. After the deadline the State of Pakistan started forceful deportations. Sarfraz Bugt, the acting interior minister of Pakistan at the time, stated the following: “There will be no compromise against illegal refugees. We have the data on who are staying illegally in Pakistan. We are going door to door, and we have done geofencing. We will detain and deport them. We have arrested dozens across the country so far, including in the capital”. He also said that Afghans would be put in buses, trucks or whatever was available to them, and that the authorities would be tracking them to ensure they did not return.

There has also been reports of attacks near the border to Iran. In April four Pakistani border patrol soldiers were killed. In January four security officials were reported to have been killed along the border, and in another attack at least 13 people were wounded after an explosion in a passenger train.

Pakistan is also going through an economical crisis. It is reported that around 1,600 textile factories, a third of the country’s textile factories, have closed in the recent years. 700,000 workers are estimated to have lost their jobs. The textile industry accounts for 60% of Pakistan’s exports. Inflation in the country reached a peak in June at 38%, and some essential food items have at times more than doubled in cost.

Facing the situation in Pakistan, some leave the country out of desperation, hoping for a better life for themselves and their families, only to be met by the genocidal immigration policies of the imperialists. We have previously reported on the drowning of up to 600 refugees, including more that 300 people from Pakistan, who were likely killed by the Greek costal guard.

The unrest in Pakistan is not uncommon in the region. The old Indian State is threatened by several large internal and external conflicts.

For more than half a century revolutionary armed struggle has been waged in the country, today as a People’s War under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). In 2006 the Indian Prime Minister at the time, Manmohan Singh, called the People’s War the “biggest internal security threat” in India. We regularly report on new actions in the People’s War in India. 2023 saw an electoral boycott campaign called for by the CPI (Maoist) in several federal states. The old state is reported to have deployed 1,700 companies of central security and state police forces, making up around 150.000 troops, in the federal States which were holding elections. The boycott campaign lead to several casualties for the forces of the old State and serious disturbances for the election process.

Another large-scale conflict we have regularly reported on is the conflict in India’s state of Manipur. Intensified armed conflict has been waged in Manipur since May of 2023, but the struggle in Manipur is not new but it has been present there during decades, being a long struggle for the national liberation there and in the surrounding areas against imperialism, the old Indian State and the Manipuri ruling classes. Framed by the media and politicians as an religious and ethnic conflict, the conflict is in reality mainly a struggle for land, with the old Indian State trying to take advantage of contradictions between different people’s groups to put masses up against masses and isolating the struggle of sections of the peasants from each other. The ruling classes try to criminalize parts of the peasantry, claiming they are illegal immigrants who are occupying land, and militias made up of peasants from other tribes as well as state forces are used against them to take their land, to concentrate wealth and create growth for the big landlords. The struggle of the masses in defense of their land and against the repression have grown to large for the old State to handle. There have been many attacks and protests against the State and there have even been attacks against the houses of politicians. Several repressive measures such as curfews and blocking of the internet have been applied over long periods of time. Despite the government frequently announcing that they have brought the situation under control it is again and again shown that they are failing to do so. In the last days of 2023 and the first days of 2024 the situation has again escalated.

The Muslim population of India has also been struggling against the increased repression against them, as we have previously reported on. The more than 170 million Muslims in India make up over 14 percent of the country’s population. Again a case of putting masses up against masses, the old State is using Hindu nationalism to increase violence and discrimination against Muslims.

There have been several attacks against Muslims as well as clashes in the recent years. In 2020 there were large clashes in New Delhi following a new discriminatory law against the Muslim population in India, causing strong riots and massacres of Muslims. According to the old Indian State 53 people died, most of which were Muslims, and more than 200 people were injured. In 2021, in Gurugram in the federal state of Haryana, reactionary Hindu groups attacked Muslims who were trying to pray in public

Just like with the situation Manipur the State and reactionary media describes the repression against and the struggle of the masses as religious violence or religious clashes, in this case between Hindus and Muslims. The violent repression of some of the poorest sections of the masses serves to enable continued growth for the ruling classes by destroying or stealing property from the poor peasants. An example of this is that the old State allows reactionary militias to steal cattle from poor shepherds, seizing the profit of the poor peasants and increasing the concentration of wealth in the hands of the big landlords. As many Muslims peasants are shepherds, the State and the big landlords uses Hindu nationalism and hate towards Muslims to further their interests and increase their wealth.

In July of 2023 there were riots in Haryana after reactionary Hindu nationalist groups made an armed demonstration in the Nuh distinct, where the population is mainly Muslim. The masses of Nuh, mostly poor peasants and workers took the to streets and rejected the reactionary mobilization by throwing stones and also confronting the forces of the old Indian State which were collaborating with the reactionary groups. After the clashes the state applied measures such as blocking access to the internet and restriction of assembly. Thousands of paramilitary and police forces were deployed in the area. After the riots, the old State demolished 1,208 structures, primarily owned by Muslims, in the span of five days.

India also has several open border conflicts with its neighboring countries. The territory of Jammu and Kashmir is claimed by both Pakistan and India. Several wars have been fought between the countries over the territory and there have been constant conflicts of varying intensity there. Currently the largest part of the territory is under control of India, while some is under control of Pakistan as well as some under control of Chinese social-imperialism. It is reported that the conflict has recently started to become more tense in the Indian controlled area. On the 22nd of December, 2023, four Indian soldiers were reported to have been killed, and three were wounded after an ambush. At this point a total of 34 Indian soldiers were reported to have been killed in Kashmir since 2021, 19 of which were killed between April and December of 2023. India has accused Pakistan of funding the rebellion in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

In 2023 the old Indian state has also carried out attacks against democratic rights organizations and there is increasing repression against journalists. In October we reported that at least eight journalists were behind bars and under trial at the time, facing charges under the “anti-terror” law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The true number of journalists charged and imprisoned under this law is not known, and the State claim they have no data on it. We have republished several statements from the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) on this issue. In one of the statements, CASR denounce that students from Kashmir were charged under the UAPA and arrested for allegedly celebrating the loss of the Indian men’s cricket team loss in the World Cup finals. The editor of the Kashmir Walla was imprisoned for 21 months for writing an article against the brutalities of the Indian state in Kashmir. There has also been arrests made after social media posts in support of Palestinian national liberation. These are just some examples of the current situation of repression in India.

The old Indian State is finding itself in a situation of great instability, with the People’s War continuing to develop despite all its attempts at crushing it, in addition to multiple large conflicts it is not able to keep under control. The only measure of the ruling classes and their old State is to increase the repression of the masses, which only serves to increase the struggle.

In Bangladesh there has been mass uprisings for months. In July of 2023 there were protests against the government with tens of thousands of people participating. At the first protest the police opened fire at protesters, killing at least one person. At a later protest there were large clashes with the police. The protest were called for by the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), but the masses went beyond the limit of the “peaceful” protests it had called for. Protests have continued after this. Especially the poorest masses of the country have continued to go out in the streets to protest against the rising costs of living and increasing repression in the country. This is a sharpening of the contradictions which were already present in the area, as there were also large protests of the masses which unleashed a brutal repression from the old State in 2022 and it shows how the situation in the region is developing into more conflict and instability for the local ruling classes and imperialism.

At the end of October and start of November there was again huge clashes. The BNP called for a three day blockade of roads, railways as well as water transport across the country. Again going beyond the limits of the BNP, there was riots in several parts of the country, with burned vehicles and injured police officers. The State responded with hard repression and militarization of the streets. 300 police patrols were mobilized and in the capital, Dhaka, 22 border guard platoon were deployed. Several people were killed by the forces of the State and several thousand were reported to have been arrested.

During the struggles, thousands of workers in the textile industry went on strike, demanding an increased minimum wage. The workers blockaded the entrances to industrial areas and burned factories. Two of the workers were killed by the police and dozens were injured. The textile industry is an important part of the economy of Bangladesh, the second largest clothing producer in the world. There are more than 3.500 clothing factories in the country, which employs more than 4 million people. 500 factories were closed for days, and there were demonstrations with thousands of workers. The protests continued to grow and in the middle of November, 25 thousand workers joined the protests. The State also increased the repression and militarization. The amount of border guard platoons that was deployed increased to 44. Two more workers were killed by the police. The workers fought back against the forces of the State by throwing bricks. The ruling classes and the imperialist clothing monopolies also tried to stop the struggle of the workers by a 50 percent increase of the minimum salary, but the worker maintained their demand for a higher salary and continued the struggle

Protests against the government has continued leading up to the election, which was held on the 7th of January. At least 19 polling stations were burned, as well as dozens of schools, buses and public infrastructure

US imperialism is the main imperialist oppressing the country. It has the most direct investment in the country and is also heavenly involved though the US dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF). Both US and Russian imperialism have been accusing each other of interfering with the elections and sent observers to monitor ut.

With the BNP boycotting the elections, the party of the previous government, the Awami League (AL) was more or less uncontested in the elections. The AL got more than 200 of the 300 deputies that were up for elections, and the president was reelected for five more years. To secure the unpopular and discredited elections the state deployed 800,000 agents of its repressive forces in an attempt at getting control of the situation during the election day. Voters were also offered free travel and meals. Despite all the special measures of the State, 60 to 72 percent of eligible voters abstained from voting, according to official numbers. Despite achieving a major electoral victory, the government failed at legitimizing their rule.

Myanmar have gone though several coups and insurgencies since it’s formal independence in 1948. The country have had multiple military regimes established with the help of different imperialists, and there are several national minorities struggling for their independence. In 2021 there was a new military coup in Myanmar leading to a civil war that is still ongoing. There are many armed groups involved in the civil war with the main being the military junta, which deposed the government and dissolved the parliament in the 2021 coup, and the National Unity Government (NUG), an opposing government by those who were ousted in the coup. The armed forces of the resistance are strongest in the territories of the national minorities, specifically Kachi, Chin, Sagaing, Kayah, Kayin, Mon and Tanintharyi.

There have been reports that the military regime is having problems finding new recruits while thousands of soldiers and police have defected, some even joining the forces of the resistance. In October and November of 2023 major offensives, which are still ongoing, were initiated by the the forces of the NUG and The Brotherhood Alliance.

Trying to face the growing popular resistance the military regime is applying terror against the people and committing massacres. Since 2022 it has increasingly carried out attacks against civilians with artillery bombardment, airstrikes as well as drone strikes. The attacks against the people have only strengthened the resistance, which increases its struggle with greater public support.

An article posted by the US think tank Council on Foreign Relations in June of 2023 already stated that the Junta was losing the war. The article claims that since the coup, the forces of the military regime have gone from 3-400,000 to 150,000, only 70,000 of which are combat soldiers, as a result of deaths desertions and defections. It is pointed out that the military regime keeps loosing territory, and is not able to regain any. It is claimed that the military regime only had stable control of around 20 percent of the country’s townships. The situation of the military junta seems to have weakened further since this point in time.

Map of the civil war in Myanmar as of the 1st of January 2024. Red areas are under control of the military junta or its allied groups, green areas are under the control of the NUG or its allied groups. Source: Wikimedia/Ecrusized

The NUG has representative offices in the US, UK, Norway, France, Czech Republic, Australia, and South Korea. The official Head of Government of the NUG is Aung San Suu Kyi who in 1991 received the “peace price” of Norwegian imperialism. The policy of US imperialism on the civil war in Myanmar is defined in the BURMA Act. The act calls for supporting those who oppose the military junta, particularly the NUG. The act authorizes funds from 2023 to 2027, which among other things includes “non-lethal assistance” to armed groups fighting the military regime. In Syria and Ukraine “non-lethal assistance” has included things like provision of uniforms, protective armor, armored military vehicles, radar equipment and medical equipment and supplies. The act also calls for accountability for China and Russia for allegedly supporting the military junta.

China has stated that its has good relations with the military regime, as well as good relations to several of the armed groups. China has facilitated dialogue between the junta and parts of the opposition, but this has only lead to short ceasefires. An analysis by The Economist, claims that China is backing the military regime for its long term economic plans while it is also backing some of the armed resistance groups to deal with immediate security issues. China is reported to have sold over 250 million US dollars in weapons to the junta, including fighter jets. During the civil war, China has continued its plans for building a network of roads, railways, pipelines and ports through the country to gain access to the Indian Ocean. China has pledged to invest 35 billion US dollars to this project.

One issue that has been central for Chinese social-imperialism is a network of scam centers along the Myanmar-China border. 120 thousand workers, tens of thousands of which are Chinese have been trafficked to Myanmar and are forced to work with scamming people online. The operations earn billions of US dollars yearly, much of which comes from Chinese victims. China has urged the military junta to take action against the scammers, but they are not able to handle the situation and it has been reported that officials of the military regime have taken bribes from the scammers. When launching their new offensive in October, the Brotherhood Alliance stated the elimination of the scam network as one of its goals.

On the 3rd of January, during fighting along the border, it was reported that an artillery shell detonated in the Chinese side of the border, leading to Chinese casualties. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry condemned the clashes and stated that “China will take all necessary measures to safeguard the security of its citizens’ lives and property,”

This short overview of the situation in some South Asian countries shows that the region is a hotspot in the confrontation between imperialism and oppressed nations. The oppressed nations being the storm centers of the world proletarian revolution, and excellent objective conditions for development of the revolutionary movement at hand, the call of the day is the development of the revolutionary struggle, in its highest form the People’s War, lead by the Maoist Communist Parties.

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