18 April 2015

No more carrots, only sticks


Pakistan continues to support terror across borders. It is time for the U.S. and India to unleash economic sanctions and coercive diplomacy.

The release from detention of Lashkar-e-Taiba operations chief Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Pakistan’s failure to prosecute him for masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks is a travesty of justice. It is particularly galling when contrasted with the rapid proceedings against Shakil Afridi, the physician who helped U.S. intelligence agencies find Osama bin Laden.

But what is an even bigger scandal was the comfortable state of Lakhvi’s “incarceration”. In prison, Lakhvi had access to television, mobile phones, and the Internet. He had dozens of visitors a day; he held meetings unsupervised by prison guards. He was behind bars, but continued to direct LeT operations. All this and the clear lack of seriousness in prosecuting or imprisoning Lakhvi highlights the continuing cosy relations between Pakistan’s military and the terrorists that its generals find useful in pursuing strategic goals against India and Afghanistan.

The U.S. reaction

India has taken umbrage at Lakhvi’s release, but the U.S. should be equally appalled. Just a couple of days before Lakhvi’s release, the U.S. State Department had approved Pakistan’s request for $952 million in military equipment, ostensibly to be used to fight terrorism. In the Mumbai attacks, more than 160 civilians, including six Americans, were killed. The Americans were specifically targeted because they were Westerners. In this context, Pakistan’s decision to release a man who has American blood on his hands, just days after the U.S. agreed to provide the aid it had asked for, can be seen as a grave insult. Some Indians might even see it as proof of a double-faced U.S. attitude towards terrorism.

Besides this grant, the U.S. has given over $20 billion as military aid since 2002 and over $10 billion for development work. The aid was the carrot extended by the U.S. to encourage Pakistan to fight terrorism.

Instead, Pakistan has continued to be a leading source of terrorism worldwide. Besides the 2008 Mumbai attacks, terrorists linked to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have sponsored multiple attacks across India. Further, it effectively revived the Taliban insurgency with safe havens and equipment, furthering the instability in Afghanistan and costing the lives of over 2,000 U.S. military personnel.

Clearly, the carrots have not worked. It is now time for the U.S. to seriously consider wielding sticks. The U.S. has an enormous arsenal of sanctions that has been effective, for instance, against Iran. It is time for Pakistan to learn that there is a heavy price to be paid for misbehaving on the international stage. Terrorists are used to moving money illicitly but sanctions could prove painful to Pakistan’s generals and intelligence staff, who usually become quite wealthy in the service of their country.

If placing crippling trade restrictions on Pakistan and prohibiting all aid, except humanitarian, is too bold a step to be taken, there is a range of more targeted options that can be used.

Tools of restraint

The University of Maryland’s Laboratory for Computational Cultural Dynamics has developed a programme titled STONE or Shaping Terrorist Organizational Network Efficacy. The programme uses a combination of network analysis tools, unique properties of individuals in the network, and “big data” analytics to identify the most critical nodes in a network. It also finds out how networks adjust to the removal of a node or nodes. STONE has so far been applied to open-source data on Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and LeT. Using past instances when leaders of terrorist organisations were replaced, one of STONE’s top three predictions has been to accurately pinpoint the successor to a removed terrorist in over 80 per cent of the cases.

India does U-turn after deal with US on climate threatening refrigerant gases, HFCs


Nitin Sethi | New Delhi 
April 18, 2015 

Following the agreement between the US and India during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to that country, India has officially reversed its long-standing position to permit phase out of climate-warming refrigerant gases under the Montreal Protocol.

India has formally moved an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, originally meant to help countries move away from ozone depleting substances, to now also deal with the phase-out of this family of climate warming refrigerant gases – Hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs. This is a complete U-turn in India’s stance. The government had earlier internally assessed that such a move was inimical to the country’s economic interests, as well as its stake in the UN climate convention negotiations.

The early signs of an impending U-turn had become evident when the two heads of states, in their joint statements during the PM’s visit to the US, announced India would work to assess how a phase-down of HFCs could be achieved under the Montreal Protocol. Before this, India had drawn a red line on the matter or in other words decided that it would be a non-negotiable issue in the international environmental negotiations under different forums.

These gases are used in all kinds of refrigeration systems, from cold chains to cars. While developed countries have adopted these gases and the attendant technology, it was highlighted that these hold a high global warming potential and India and China are the growing market for these. Many developed countries and others pushed that India and China leapfrog from the use of HFCs and use the next generation of refrigerant gases that do not cause as much global warming.

Reviving the dead letter - Why liberals must support a common civil code

Thirty years ago this fortnight, the Supreme Court passed its famous judgment in the Shah Bano case. A Muslim man had divorced his wife and stopped providing for her maintenance. The brave woman fought the injustice all the way to the highest court of the land. Finally, on April 23, 1985, a five-judge bench headed by the chief justice endorsed her claim, upholding an earlier judgment of the Madhya Pradesh High Court that she be provided an allowance sufficient for her needs.
The Shah Bano case brought into conflict two sets of laws: Muslim personal law, which specified that a divorced wife need not be maintained by her husband after the elapse of a period of time (known as iddat); and the Criminal Procedure Code, Section 125 of which specified that "any person having sufficient means" was obliged to support his wife, even if she lived apart from him.
The Supreme Court held that Section 125 of the CrPC applied in this case. In their unanimous judgment, the justices deplored the fact that, under Muslim personal law, "the Muslim husband enjoys the privilege of being able to discard his wife whenever he chooses to do so, for reasons good, bad or indifferent, indeed for no reason at all. And, is the law so ruthless in its inequality that, no matter how much the husband pays for the maintenance of his divorced wife during the period of iddat, the mere fact that he has paid something, no matter how little, absolves him forever from the duty of paying adequately so as to enable her to keep her body and soul together?"
Having dealt with the specifics, the Supreme Court further observed that although Article 44 of the Constitution had called for a uniform civil code, there was "no evidence of any official activity" to bring this about. The court believed that "a common Civil Code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to laws which have conflicting ideologies".

Spirituality in technology – an Indian experience

Did you know that Steve Job’s inspiration to name his company ‘Apple’, was an Indian spiritual guru? According to legend, Neem Karoli Baba, Job’s spiritual guru, lived in the foothills of the Himalayas and loved apples. Imagine what would have happened if the baba had loved pineapples? I suppose we would be using Pineapple iPhone 6.

But humor aside, India is not only known for the export of IT services but also of spirituality. In fact, our spiritual past has been appreciated more by outsiders than Indians. Maybe reclaiming the spiritual space is going to be difficult? On the other hand, why should Indians try to reclaim something which now belongs to the universal brotherhood…

My particular spiritual journey began when I met Samir Dadia at a startup event where he was making an elevator pitch to attract investment. He approached me diffidently and enquired whether I would be interested in attending a summit on spirituality and IT. As it turned out, I was lucky to have accepted, otherwise I would have missed a fascinating interactive session. 

The CXO dialogue was enabled by SPIR-IT (Spirituality in IT) and was held in Pune. The organizers dubbed it as an inspiring conference aimed at merging the crossroads of deeper human health, wellbeing and technologization. Perhaps the discussion which followed went deeper than the stated objective. We began the dialogue with a few questions – Is spirituality compatible with the dog-eat-dog world of technology? Can spirituality enhance productivity in a highly charged tech environment? Are we now moving up the human value chain - from IQ to EQ and now SQ? What can we do in our own corporate work environment to facilitate spiritual quest?

India-Pakistan: Anything Is Possible For A Price

April 9, 2015: In northwest Pakistan most of the fighting has shifted from North Waziristan to nearby Khyber where, in the last few months the army has killed nearly 300 Islamic terrorists and lost 35 soldiers. This battle has become more intense of late as the army sought to block the Tirah Valley, which was the main route the Islamic terrorists used to get into and out of neighboring Afghanistan. The ferocity of this campaign is in part because of continued anger at the Taliban attack on a school in December that left over 140 (mostly kids) dead. The fighting in North Waziristan has left over 2,200 Islamic terrorists dead since mid-2014, as well as over 200 soldiers and police.

Pakistani intelligence (ISI) and the army have apparently ordered the Islamic terrorists they support in Kashmir to avoid attacking civilians and concentrate on members of the security forces. This is a result of increased ISIL violence against Moslems (which is unpopular with Moslems in general) and the failure of the use of coercion by Islamic terrorists to change the minds of Moslems in Indian Kashmir who have lost faith in the three decades of Pakistan sponsored violence. Pakistan has been trying to use Islamic terrorism to defeat India, expel all non-Moslems from the area and unite all of Kashmir under Pakistani rule. For many of these civilians that is no longer seen as a desirable option. Independence is popular but unlikely as both Pakistan and India oppose it. The Kashmiri Moslems know that most of the violence and civilian casualties is the result of Pakistan sponsored Islamic terrorists. In the last few years the Islamic terrorists have been using force to try and persuade Kashmiri Moslems to more actively support the use of terrorism in the area. But the civilians have, after three decades of this, grown tired of the constant violence and resulting economic disruption and poverty. So the ISI decided to try to reduce civilian casualties. That will be difficult to do as attacks on soldiers and police often have to be carried out in urban areas where there are lots of civilian bystanders. 


April 16, 2015

The British Army in Afghanistan 2006-14 is the latest in the “Elite” series of books from Osprey, a specialist publisher of military history. The “Elite” series is focused on “a single army or elite unit,” and a quick glance at the back catalogue puts the British Army in some pretty impressive company — other titles, for example, include the French Foreign Legion, the Israeli Defense Force and even the Vikings. According to the website blurb, the main aim is “to provide a valuable resource for history enthusiasts, model makers, re-enactors, and wargamers,” which implies a heavily factual structure, and so this is the context by which it is only fair to judge the book.

Running at just 60 pages long, the book offers a quick, yet very complete, snapshot of the British Army during the evolution of Op HERRICK, Britain’s military operation in Afghanistan. The book follows a natural rhythm of looking at each six-month brigade deployment, from HERRICK 4 in the summer of 2006 to HERRICK 20 in the summer of 2014. It goes to great lengths to detail each brigade’s formation, the key areas of operations, the main objectives for that brigade and a short factual guide through the events of that tour. As you might imagine from an Osprey publication, there is a lot of focus on things like the type of kit, equipment, vehicle capabilities, etc., most of which is presented through heavily annotated paintings and/or photographs. The attention to detail is impressive and, as a veteran of two HERRICK tours in 2007 and 2010, I was particularly pleased to see the author, Leigh Neville, acknowledge that a great deal of servicemen’s personal kit in the early HERRICK tours was privately purchased (e.g. Oakley gloves, Lowa/Altberg Boots, even knee-pads). Moreover, the soldiers’ enduring need to look “cool” while at war by subtly modifying their kit is also illustrated with various references to things like the lavish application of sniper tape to helmets, wearing t-shirts under body armor (the pre-cursor to the UBACS), and the fairly undesirable penchant for unit in-house designed patches (one of which makes it on to the front cover photograph — tut tut tut).

China's Next Super Weapon Revealed: Satellite Destroyers

April 15, 2015 

China will soon be able to destroy every satellite in space, a senior U.S. military official has said.
According to Breaking Defense, Lt. Gen. Jay Raymond, commander of the 14th Air Force, said this week that China’s amassing formidable anti-satellite capabilities. Raymond claimed that Beijing is already capable of holding every low-orbit satellite at risk, and “soon every satellite in every orbit will be able to be held at risk” by China’s anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities.

Speaking at the 31st Space Symposium in Colorado Springs this week, Raymond also confirmed that China’s anti-satellite missile test last July was a success.

As I reported elsewhere, last July, China claimed it had successfully tested a ballistic missile defense system. However, a week later, the U.S. government revealed that the test was actually of an anti-satellite missile.

“We call on China to refrain from destabilizing actions—such as the continued development and testing of destructive anti-satellite systems—that threaten the long term security and sustainability of the outer space environment, on which all nations depend,” the State Department said at the time, Space News reported. “The United States continuously looks to ensure its space systems are safe and resilient against emerging space threats.”

Revelations on China’s Maritime Modernization

By Andrew S. Erickson
April 16, 2015

The U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence offers a wealth of new information on the PLA Navy. 

To its first unclassified report on China’s navy in six years, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) has just added sophisticated posters detailing Chinese ships and aircraft, equipment, and leadership structure. ONI’s main document, “The PLA Navy: New Capabilities and Missions for the 21st Century,” already offers a cornucopia of new insights and highly vetted data points. But it is with the supplementary reference materials that the Suitland, MD-based agency is going where no publicly released U.S. government report has ever gone before. This article reviews key findings from ONI’s latest set of publications and assesses their significance.

Unprecedented Offerings

Perhaps most exciting, for the first time ever, ONI is making available publicly 148 carefully labeled silhouettesand 89 photos of China’s myriad People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and maritime law enforcement ships and aircraft. This enables systematic open source analysis to a degree simply impossible before.

Why China's Numbers Are Worse Than They Seem

APR 15, 2015

If ever China needed to serve up a decent GDP report, it was today. With stocks booming, global growth uncertain, India catching up and Beijing's Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank coming online, now isn't the time to betray weakness. So, like any good command government, China reported gross domestic product grew 7 percent in the first quarter, exactly as expected.

The number is a mirage. Other data show China limped out of the first quarter: Industrial output slumped to 5.6 percent and retail sales climbed just 10.2 percent in March. Fixed investment growth slowed to 13.5 percent in the first quarter, while property sales fell 9.3 percent between January and March. Meanwhile, money supply is contracting. There's no doubt the People's Bank of China must act assertively to avoid a much-feared hard landing. The real question is whether even additional stimulus will work this time.

Much of the exuberance pushing mainland and Hong Kong stocks into the stratosphere recently has been based on faith that PBOC governor Zhou Xiaochuan is about to loosen monetary conditions on the mainland. If Zhou doesn't slash his 5.35 percent lending rate soon, China could see equities collapse along with property. But there are at least three reasons to wonder how much impact additional rate cuts are likely to have.


April 16, 2015

The Chinese government is scared of the Internet. They are scared of the foreign ideas that it brings into China; they are scared of how it enables the Chinese people to spread knowledge about government corruption; and they are especially scared of how it was used during the “color revolutions” and the “Arab Spring.” For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Internet is a clear threat to its legitimacy, its monopoly on power, and its survival.

The leadership fears the United States and its allies use the Internet as a strategic weapon. This is compounded by fears of other existential threats such as a potential failing economy and foreign intervention in Chinese sovereignty and territoriality issues. Paradoxically, the solution to these other threats is the rapid development of the Internet and Internet technologies. How the Chinese leadership is addresses these competing aspects — controlling the Internet, while also expanding its development and use — is having a major impact on the United States.

China: What the Uighurs See

An apartment complex in Kashgar for Uighurs displaced by development projects, 2009 

Xinjiang is one of those remote places whose frequent mention in the international press stymies true understanding. Home to China’s Uighur minority, this vast region of western China is mostly known for being in a state of permanent low-grade conflict, with terrorist attacks and a ferocious government crackdown, even against moderate Uighur academics. To the outside world, Xinjiang conjures up a series of stock adjectives or phrases: “restive,” “Muslim,” “oppressed,” and—as the misleading titles of more than one recent book have it—China’s “Wild West.” 

And yet few outsiders spend much time there. Foreign academics have largely been barred from research, with several prominent scholars of Xinjiang banned from entering China. Foreign journalists tend to fly in and out for a dateline and an interview. The American photographer Carolyn Drake is an exception. 

Drake has been traveling to Xinjiang since 2007, when she began photographing Central Asia from her base in Istanbul. Over the years, she has come to know the region well, and struggled to break free from its clichés. The summation of her work is Wild Pigeon, an ambitious, beautiful, and crushingly sad book. 

China’s New Airstrip in the South China Sea Is Almost Completed

APRIL 16, 2015

China is close to completing the construction of an airstrip on a tiny outcrop in the South China Sea, heightening its ability to project power regionally from the disputed waters and further raising the stakes in an increasingly tense showdown between Beijing, its neighbors, and the United States.

New satellite images provided to Foreign Policy show advances in the construction of a strip of pavement on the Fiery Cross Reef, which sits near the southern end of contested waters in the South China Sea, several hundred miles from the Philippines. Fiery Cross is part of the Spratly Islands, an archipelago whose territory is claimed in part or in whole by China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Brunei. The photos, the most recent of which is from April 11, show approximately 3,000 feet of completed runway in various shades of green, blue, and gray.

The photos were provided by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative(AMTI), a research arm of the Washington-based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

“The ability to land any kind of plane on the reef significantly improves China’s ability to patrol the area and enforce its claims on the South China Sea,” said AMTI Director Mira Rapp-Hooper.

What Sanctions? The Russian Economy Is Growing Again

APRIL 13, 2015

An employee works at a hot rolling workshop of the Novolipetsk (NLMK) steel mill in Lipetsk, about 500 km southeast of the capital Moscow, January 30, 2014. Not only is Putin still standing, but the Russian economy, against most expectations, is actually recovering. 

Six months ago, the price of oil—the lifeblood of the Russian economy—began to crater, and U.S.-led sanctions, implemented in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in Ukraine, were biting. Russia’s currency, the ruble, buckled, and capital flight began to accelerate as rich but nervous Russians moved more and more money out of the country. It seemed plausible then to wonder: Could Vladimir Putin be losing his grip? Might economic pressure be enough to rein him in, or even lead to his downfall?

Today, the answer is becoming clear—and it’s not the one the West was hoping for. Not only is Putin still standing, but the Russian economy, against most expectations, is recovering. Its stock market is one of the best performing globally this year; the ruble, after losing nearly half its value against the dollar over the course of a year, is rebounding; interest rates have come down from their post-sanctions peak; the government is taking in more revenue than its own forecast expected; and foreign exchange reserves have risen nearly $10 billion from their post-crisis low.

Ruble on the Rebound Russia’s currency has strengthened more than any other this year. What does that mean for the West’s plan to pressure Moscow out of Ukraine?

APRIL 15, 2015J.

Ruble on the Rebound

The Russian ruble is rebounding, outpacing all other world currencies against the dollar this year. The 20 percent recovery this month alone stands in stark contrast to last year, when U.S. officials smugly pointed to Russia’s plummeting currency as proof that Western sanctions against Moscow for meddling in Ukraine were working.

That doesn’t mean the sanctions no longer have teeth. But it does add another complication to Western leaders’ already difficult task of trying to forge a lasting peace in Ukraine.

Some analysts have ascribed the ruble’s upward march — it took almost 70 rubles to buy a dollar at the end of January, compared to 52 now — to the tenuous cease-fire agreement reached between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists in February. Others see the recovery hinging on events outside of Ukraine: Rising oil prices could be giving the ruble a boost, since the Russian government is dependent on money coming in from the country’s state energy giants. And yet another theory is that the ruble is not really strengthening, but just recovering to a reasonable level after plummeting too far last year.

The dramatic turnaround has prompted some investors to scramble to get back in. Bond investors, who had steered clear of Russia, are now returning in droves, according to Bloomberg. The move is a little counterintuitive because bond yields have actually dropped as the ruble has gotten stronger, which means investors are demanding less of a premium to hold Russian bonds, as Russia seems like less of a risky bet.

Is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Good for India?

APRIL 15, 2015

Coal power looks to get a boost, but New Delhi might not be thrilled signing on to the China-dominated lender.

Is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Good for India?
A symbolically important deadline passed on March 31, 2015, and with it a new world order might just be taking shape. It was the date that the Chinese had set as a deadline for those countries wishing to sign up as founding members of the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The AIIB aims to supplant or at least challenge the hegemony of the Bretton Woods institutions, in particular the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). For India, in particular, AIIB may have a significant impact on the energy choices available, by lifting Western-imposed constraints on how the World Bank lends.

The AIIB also represents an important symbolic defeat for the United States, which had made no secret of its opposition to the new body. Bucking pressure from Washington, some of America’s major allies including Britain, India, and several other European and Asian countries have signed on or signaled they wish to join. India was one of those countries present when the initial Memorandum of Understanding was unveiled by Chinese President Xi Jinping. In fact, Japan is the only major country besides the United States that thus far has opted out, and that has far more to do with Japan’s apprehensions about the rise of China in a region it has long dominated than any pressure that might have emanated from Washington.

Decentralize or Perish To beat Russia, Ukraine must give its local governments a chance to flourish.

APRIL 14, 2015 

Decentralize or Perish

Russian aggression against Ukraine is undeniable. It has been successful in part because Kiev’s botched post-Soviet transition to democracy has made the country vulnerable to its neighbor’s revanchist designs. The best way for Kiev to “win” in the current conflict against Putin’s Russia is to fulfill the goals of the Maidan revolution by turning Ukraine into a successful, modern, European country. Amid the endless lists of measures that Ukraine must take to get there, a particularly important reform stands out: decentralization.

Make no mistake: Decentralization — the devolution of central government powers to local authorities — is not the same as the version of federalization that has been advocated by the Russian government and separatist leaders in the Donbas. Unlike that intentionally destabilizing vision, it would not allow the provinces to veto the central government’s decisions on foreign policy, international trade, or other national issues. Instead, it would empower local leaders to use locally collected tax revenue to address issues of local development, such as where to build a bridge or how much to pay their schoolteachers. Combined with an administrative overhaul, a new round of local elections, and a greater focus on transparency, devolving certain powers away from the central government would allow local leaders to more effectively address the needs of their communities. This, in turn, would enable Ukraine to grow into a stronger, more modern state that can more effectively resist internal and external destabilization.

Andy Marshall: I Had No Idea Who Yoda Was

APRIL 15, 2015 

Andy Marshall is a legendary figure in Washington defense circles. For 42 years until his retirement this January, he ran the Office of Net Assessment at the Pentagon, a sort of internal think tank for the Department of Defense. He has been variously described as the best strategic thinker in the U.S. government and the military’s “futurist-in-chief.” Now 93, his best-known nickname only becomes more fitting with the years: Yoda.

On Wednesday, Marshall made a rare public appearance at the a conference hosted by the think tank the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, where he picked up the George P. Shultz Award for Distinguished Service. But in an interview with Samantha Ravich, a former Bush administration official, the man who has been all but sainted for his contributions to American defense thinking made a surprising admission: “I had no idea who Yoda was.”

Asked what he thought of the comparison, Marshall said he was “puzzled by it” and that he had only seen one or two of the Star Wars films. Ravich helpfully filled him in on the basis of that comparison: “Through the force, things you will see, other places, the future, the past.”

What would a Greek default look like?

14 Apr 2015

While Greece has denied it is about to default on its debt obligations, there are growing concerns the country will not be able to make a slew of onerous loan repayments to its international creditors—prompting analysts to debate what form a future default could take.

These analysts are unconvinced that further negotiations, due to take place on April 24 between Greece and the Eurogroup of finance ministers, will be fruitful. This could see further aid withheld from Greece, leaving the country struggling to make upcoming repayments and potentially liable to default.

Robert Kuenzel, director of euro area economic research at Daiwa Capital Markets, warned on Tuesday that Greece's cash buffers were "increasingly thin" and that a default could be "very nasty."

"There are different sequences of events that could happen if Greece defaults, all of which might end up in a very nasty scenario - especially, when Greece is no longer able to access ECB (European Central Bank) funding facilities, such as its Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) provision – as solvency is a requirement for ELA," Kuenzel said.

US and Russia: Axes of expediency

15 Apr 2015 

What is going on between Moscow and Washington beyond malaise in Ukraine and missiles to Iran?

The rapport between Kerry and Lavrov has helped the way for cooperation between the US and Russia
Last week, the US media reported that the United States and Russia are involved in a "dangerous game of military brinkmanship in Europe", one that "raises the spectre that either side could misinterpret a move by the other, triggering a conflict between two powers with major nuclear arsenals despite a sharp reduction from the Cold War era".

But in the real world, the US has conducted a four-week war games stretching from Estonia to Bulgaria, to reassure its East European allies that it takes Russian threats seriously.

So is the operating word here "war" or "games"?

Russia has been a helpful partner - or at least not a spoiler - during the P5+1 negotiations with Iran that culminated in what the Obama administration refers to as a historic nuclear deal.

Since the Ukraine crisis, conservative ideologues and so-called strategists on both sides have dwelled on the dangers of new Cold War, citing the occasional recrimination between the White House and the Kremlin.

How Make in India leaves defence manufacturing sector hanging


The call given by PM Modi has raised new questions about defence production without addressing the old ones.

Speaking at an interactive session organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) at Bangalore in February this year, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said we need "implementation and action" and not "little-little" changes in policy.


While that is true in a general way, one policy that requires not just implementation and action but also more than "little-little" changes is the "make" procedure, a curious mix of policy and procedure. Introduced in 2006, it was intended to provide an opportunity to Indian industry to undertake research, design and development of high-technology complex systems, with government funding up to 80 per cent of the cost of prototype development and assured purchase order for the predefined quantity of the equipment so developed. Sadly, not a single project has taken off under this category so far.

The question then is what does past experience show and what needs to be done now. In 2011, MoD came out with a Defence Production Policy whose objective was to achieve "substantive self-reliance" through indigenisation. The next year, MoD promulgated a new look "offset" policy which requires foreign companies to plough back at least 30 per cent of the contract value into the Indian defence sector, if the contract is for Rs 300 crore or more, through one of several permissible modes, including transfer of technology or equipment to the Indian offset partners.

Why Yemen could be a turning point in India’s geopolitical rise India’s success in Yemen opens several geostrategic doors.


As anecdotes go, this one’s as good as any: An Indian woman sporting a bindi walked up to the checkout counter of a store in London. The sales girl looked at the bindi, smiled, and said: “Good job in Yemen.”

India’s rescue mission in Yemen was front page news in Japan for two consecutive days, reported senior journalist Ayaz Memon on a visit there. Media worldwide – television, newspapers, the internet – are still full of stories of how India’s navy and airforce, backed by Air India, rescued more than 6,000 people belonging to more than 40 nationalities in Yemen.

Enough has been written, spoken and filmed about India’s Yemen operation and this piece is not intended to add to that. More crucially, events of the past week in Yemen raise two questions: One, why has India over the years never punched at its true geopolitical weight? And two, does Yemen represent an inflection point in India’s growing geopolitical clout?

In 2011, we created the Geopolitical Power Index (GPI). The index ranks countries on 11 parameters: economy, military, development and so on. Each parameter is further based on five quantitative and qualitative sub-criteria. For example, the economy parameter has these five sub-criteria: per capita income, GDP, competitiveness, forex reserves and fiscal deficit.

The chart below shows rankings for the period January-June 2014 based on each nation’s global projection of hard and soft power.

Ukraine: Inside the Deadlock

Galya Malchik, a resident of Karapyshi, Ukraine, who told Tim Judah that a local man with a truck had asked for donations of food for Ukrainian troops in the east, but that he received so much that he left before she could give him her contribution, March 2015

Last September, a few weeks before Ukraine’s general election, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, then as now prime minister, issued a pamphlet listing his aims. One was stark: “To get through the winter.” Given that rebel soldiers in the eastern part of the country paint “To Kiev!” on their tanks, that Ukraine relies on Russia for much of its energy, and that its economy is in dire straits, it is nonetheless safe to say that he has succeeded. The rebels, despite inflicting two major recent defeats on the government forces, have not advanced significantly. Winter power cuts in regions unaffected by the war were short and survivable. Also, while the current cease-fire, agreed to on February 12, is not expected to last, Ukraine and its government have not collapsed, nor do they show any signs of being on the brink of doing so, as some of the Russian media keep saying hopefully. 

The U.N. Security Council. What’s Up With That?

APRIL 7, 2015 

Those of us who work on foreign policy like to think of ourselves as hard-headed, rational people who don’t easily succumb to myths, fables, or delusions. If only that were true! In fact, foreign-policy mavens as just as vulnerable to blindered thinking as any other human beings, and our community has its own set of odd beliefs and practices that are rarely questioned or criticized.

In fact, if one moves outside the bubble of mainstream discourse and takes a hard look at some familiar elements of contemporary world politics, they begin to look rather peculiar, even absurd. What do I mean by that? I mean an unusual, bizarre, risible, and hard-to-justify state of affairs whose dubious nature is no longer questioned, mostly because we’ve grown accustomed to it and no longer notice how weird it really is. These situations are like the discarded oddities of a bygone era — like phrenology, corsets, powdered wigs, binding feet, etc. — or like the bad habits that we sometimes acquire without noticing how strange or damaging they might be.

Some of these absurdities persist because they’ve been around a long time, or because powerful interests defend them vigorously, or because they align with broader social prejudices. Some of them may in fact be defensible, but we should still bring such oddities out into the open air on occasion and ask ourselves if they really make sense.

Andrei Ravkov: Cyber wars are no longer launched by lone hackers

16 April 2015

Andrei Ravkov: Cyber wars are no longer launched by lone hackers

MOSCOW, 16 April (BelTA) – Cyber wars are no longer started by lone hackers but countries. Belarusian Defense Minister Andrei Ravkov made the statement during the international security conference Global Security: Challenges and Prospects in Moscow on 16 April, BelTA has learned.
“Challenges and threats now exist in the virtual space. I mean the so-called cyber wars. As we evaluate threats in this area we understand perfectly well that attacks launched by lone hackers are a thing of the past. These days countries battle in the cyber space. Such wars can provide a discriminatory effect with pinpoint precision while being comparatively cheap. All the factors make battles in the cyber space a powerful instrument for reaching strategic and political goals. When combined with other instruments as part of military operations, cyber wars can greatly improve success chances in the war on the whole,” said the Belarusian Defense Minister.

Fighting for dominance over people's minds is another challenge of the modern world, noted Andrei Ravkov. “Directed towards discrediting the external and internal policy of the targeted country, information resources are now a mandatory component of interstate conflicts,” he said. “In modern conditions a country can be exploded from within by winning the minds of a larger part of the population and provoking a domestic military conflict. We believe it is a serious challenge to military security.”

A Game of Votes: The Lowdown on the United Kingdom's May Election

April 16, 2015 

The United Kingdom goes to the polls on May 7, 2015. Opinion polls indicate that neither of the country's two major parties, the Conservatives (also called Tories) and the Labour Party, is likely to command an outright majority. Complicating matters, the Tories' coalition partner in the last government, the center-left Liberal-Democrats, are trailing in the polls, fourth place behind the anti-immigration United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). In the north, the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) appear on the verge of obliterating Labour and capturing a clear majority of Scottish seats.

The UK 2015 elections are exceedingly messy, the outcome very uncertain and the consequences could lead to greater political instability in the country having the “mother of all parliaments.” British historian Simon Jenkins in hisA Short History of England (2011) warned "...the asymmetric nature of the Westminster parliament, with England's government in partial thrall to MPs from the semi-autonomous Celtic fringe, cannot be sustainable in the long term." Indeed, the 2015 election could be dubbed the “Revenge of the Celtic fringe,” since what happens in Scotland and, to a lesser extent, in Wales and Northern Ireland will be critical to the shape of the British nation.

On the surface, the "big" election issues are the economy, income inequality (which touches upon the issue of better management of the National Health Service, or NHS) and immigration. The UK is currently enjoying moderate economic growth, and inflation is under control. However, the sharp economic downturn in 2008-2009 made income inequality painfully more evident.

The Global Arms Trade and the ‘Hyundaization’ Threat

By Richard A. Bitzinger
April 15, 2015

Rumors of the demise of U.S. arms trade dominance are exaggerated. 

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (“The ‘Hyundaization’ of the Global Arms Industry”) makes a provocative argument, namely that “new defense exporters are joining the global game with advanced and well-priced offerings, creating potential threat to the U.S. and its allies, and weakening Western influence.” In other words, the proliferation of “good enough” weapons by neophyte arms exporters such as Brazil, South Korea, and Turkey, offered at rock-bottom prices, will cut into the United States’ sizable predominance in the global arms trade. The emergence of such new supplier-states will have grave economic repercussions for U.S. arms producers, and negative ramifications for Washington’s global sway.

An interesting argument, if not a particularly novel one. For decades many in the West have been fearful of – and many arms producers in the newly industrialized world have been yearning for – the possibility that the global arms trade could be inundated by new, ambitious supplier-states who would aggressively flog their weaponry to all comers. This would not just cut into the profits of those U.S. and European defense mega-firms – the Lockheed Martins, Northrop Grummans, BAE Systems, and Airbus SAS’s – that have traditionally dominated the global arms business; it would also complicate efforts to control the proliferation of advanced conventional weapons and the enabling technologies behind them.

Pentagon Says U.S. Still Not Ready to Wage Cyber War

April 15, 2015

WASHINGTON — The US military is well equipped to defend the country against cyber attacks but is not yet ready to wage digital warfare, a senior defense official told lawmakers on Tuesday.

The military’s Cyber Command, created in 2009, lacks the means to lead an offensive campaign in a fast-moving digital conflict, said Eric Rosenbach, the Pentagon’s principal adviser on cybersecurity.

Asked by Sen. Bill Nelson if the command lacks the computer network infrastructure to carry out a cyber offensive “effectively,” Rosenbach said: “Yes, they currently do not have a robust capability.”

But when it comes to defending US networks, “we are in good shape,” he told a Senate Armed Services subcommittee on emerging threats.

His comments were unusual because officials previously have suggested the military was ready to lead an offensive digital campaign if necessary.

Rosenbach told senators there was no shortage of resources or funding for Cyber Command but there were technical and manpower problems that had to be tackled.

Pentagon chief Ash Carter was following the issue closely and was ready to support more investment in Cyber Command as needed, he added.

Why We Can’t Just Read English Newspapers to Understand Terrorism

APRIL 15, 2015

Why We Can’t Just Read English Newspapers to Understand Terrorism

And how Big Data can help.
A few weeks ago, the White House convened the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), a three-day event intended to “discuss concrete steps” that the United States and its allies can take to mitigate violent extremism around the globe. Yet, the sobering reality is that despite 75 years of monitoring the world’s media and spending hundreds of millions of dollars on global monitoring over just the last few years, much of the U.S. government’s understanding of patterns of violent extremism comes from reading Western English-language newspapers. Meanwhile, its intelligence agencies hoover up extremist communications, but find their archives of little use: it’s hard not to shake one’s head upon reading that analysts assigned to the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba complained that “most of [the intercepted communications] is in Arabic or Farsi, so I can’t make much of it.”

How can Washington hope to counter violent extremism when the analysts assigned to monitor extremist communications can’t even understand a word of what they are reading?

Helping to kick off the CVE summit was a presentation by William Braniff offering an overview of global terrorism trends from a dataset known as the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). The GTD dataset, created by the University of Maryland, is supported by the U.S. Department of Defense and is widely cited in government reports and the news media, from the New York Times to the Washington Post to CNN. Yet, while GTD is heavily utilized as a definitive source of information on global terrorism, it is actually based nearly exclusively on English-language news sources.

Hackers’ Newest Target: Airplanes

APRIL 15, 2015

The newest terrorist threat to planes? Wi-Fi.

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report has concluded that cyberthreats are the latest risk — and potentially the hardest to find — to airlines. That’s because hackers increasingly may be able to access air traffic control systems and avionics that operate and guide planes that use Wi-Fi to fly.

“Internet connectivity in the cabin should be considered a direct link between the aircraft and the outside world, which includes potential malicious actors,” the new report found.

In other words, passengers sitting 35,000 feet above the Earth are surrounded by computer systems — from the program managing altitude to the one controlling cabin pressure — that are vulnerable to hacks. And if one system is hacked and a pilot or other program subsequently gets bad information, it could begin a cascade of errors that end in tragedy.

GAO didn’t specify what a cyberattack on an airline could look like. The reason why, according to John Knight, a University of Virginia professor of computer science who was consulted by GAO, is that modern airliners have so many vulnerable systems that it’s impossible to predict what a cyberattack would look like.