30 April 2015

Supreme Court irked over Army following two promotion policies

29 April 2015 

The Supreme Court on Wednesday took strong note of the Army following two promotion policies saying how could the Chief of Army Staff defy government order. 

The court's observation came when the counsel for Ministry of Defence said that the Centre had approved the new "command exit promotion" policy but all the vacancies were not filled up by Army under this policy and some were done under pro rata basis also. "Whether the government took any exception to it? How could the Chief of Army Staff defy the government order," a bench of justices T S Thakur and R Banumathi asked. 

"What exceptions you took," it further asked, adding how can the Army, on its own, fill up certain vacancies under pro rata basis. Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, appearing for the Defence Ministry, said that the Centre had approved the new promotion policy, which has been quashed by the Armed Forces Tribunal, meant for officers of the rank of Colonel and above from January, 2009. "Where is the government order? Where is the acceptance of the government. Show us the letter or acceptance of the Prime Minister or 'Raksha Mantri'," the bench said, adding, "we want to satisfy ourselves. We will give you the fullest opportunity". 

In defence, time for tough decisions

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Opting to drastically downsize 17 Corps and buy Rafale fighters were two bold, but not necessarily good, moves. Now, it’s time for the Defence Minister to create a unified services chief.

Arun Jaitley and Manohar Parrikar, the government’s first and incumbent Defence Ministers, respectively, perhaps hoped that the pitiful record of their predecessor A.K. Antony, India’s longest continuously serving Defence Minister, would make their task easier. Instead, it’s been quite the opposite. Mr. Parrikar seems to have spent the last several months cleaning up what he insists is a fiscal and policy mess bequeathed to the government and overlooked by Mr. Jaitley, who was, for a brief period, wearing two hats as Finance and Defence Minister. But is Mr. Parrikar leaving the place tidier than he found it, or laying down an unhelpful legacy of his own? Three areas are worth looking at more closely: the slashing of the much advertised 17 Corps, the country’s first mountain strike force; the sudden re-jigging of a deal to purchase France’s Rafale fighter aircraft; and, most importantly, the vexed question of reforming India’s military command.

Pakistan must open Wagah for trade: Ghani


Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani during a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday Says it should allow Afghan trucks to cross over to Indian checkpoint at Attari.

Signalling that Afghanistan is upset with Pakistan over its refusal to allow direct trade with India via the Wagah border, President Ashraf Ghani says that if the deadlock continues, “We will not provide equal transit access to Central Asia [for Pakistani trucks].”
Mr. Ghani, who was in India on his first state visit, told The Hindu in an exclusive interview that it was a question of “sovereign equality”, and Pakistan must accept the “national treatment” clause agreed to in the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit and Trade Agreement (APTTA), signed in 2011, which gives each country equal access up to the national boundaries of both.

At present, Pakistan allows Afghan trucks carrying goods meant for India only up to its last checkpoint at Wagah, and not to the Indian checkpoint at Attari, less than a kilometre away. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India was keen on a trade agreement with Afghanistan that would include India in the APTTA. On Wednesday, Mr. Ghani met representatives of Indian chambers of commerce and leading businessmen, who expressed similar problems with land trade.

Saying no to a friend

April 30, 2015

The implications of the Pakistani refusal to help Saudi Arabia in Yemen should not be underestimated. If China is Islamabad’s “all-weather friend”, former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki bin Sultan once said that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have “one of the closest relationships in the world between any two countries”. And Wikileaks revealed that in 2007, the Saudi ambassador to the US had boasted that his authorities were not “observers in Pakistan, we are participants”.

The recent rebuff, therefore, came as a shock to Riyadh. Certainly, this decision is the result of a series of circumstances. First, the Pakistani army is conducting a military operation in North Waziristan. To open another front would have been a dangerous distraction. Second, taking Saudi Arabia’s side could have alienated Iran at a time when Islamabad wants to engage Tehran in talks about a post-Nato Afghanistan. 

But the Iran factor needs to be seen in a larger context. Islamabad has signed an agreement with it on building a gas pipeline that Pakistan badly needs. While Iran has moved on building its segment, Pakistan has not yet started because of external — Western and Saudi — pressures. Iran also matters because of sectarian tensions that have acquired a transnational dimension. The Jundallah, a Sunni militant group, has been launching attacks on Sistan-Baluchistan from Quetta, where it allegedly has a safe haven. This had resulted in tensions between Tehran and Islamabad, till Pakistan arrested Jundallah leaders in March. 


30 April 2015

The incumbent Afghan President may be more pro-Pakistan than his predecessor, but even India acknowledges that there can be no peace in Afghanistan without Pakistani support. Also, where India cannot help militarily, it should make up with economic and political support 

In the run-up to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s maiden trip to this country, which concluded on April 29, the big question was: Has India lost Afghanistan? President Ghani was coming to India a full six months after he had taken office, during which time he had already visited the US, China, Iran and, importantly, made not one but two trips to Pakistan. Also, unlike his predecessor Hamid Karzai or, for that matter, even his Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, Mr Ghani neither has close personal ties with India nor had he previously expressed any special interest in or support for India’s role in Afghanistan. 

As such, a revision in Kabul’s foreign policy priorities was expected, and this was not just with regard to India. For example, the Ghani-Abdullah administration is nowhere close to being as anti-America, as Mr Karzai had been, particularly in the later years of his presidency. However, what came as somewhat of an unpleasant surprise for India was the extent to which Mr Ghani was tilting towards Pakistan. 

India’s Prowess and Disaster Diplomacy

29 Apr , 2015

On the April 25, 2015 Nepal was hit by a deadly earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter’s scale killing and maiming thousands. A worst tragedy in 81 years for Nepal. In the last decade we have seen India executing complex humanitarian missions. Be they in South Asian region post 2004 tsunami or the recently conducted rescue of 4000 odd people from Yemen. India continues to grow in power and capacity. With each passing year she is getting stronger and more effective. Today India has emerged as an effective first responder, to be relied upon, in the region stretching all the way from the Gulf of Aden to Strait of Malacca.

Ability of any country as in this case what India has displayed has enhanced her geo strategic relevance; mustering various civilian and military resources at a short notice and literally deploying them before the world gets to know of the calamity. It reflects upon the sophisticated capability that we have developed in carrying out humanitarian and disaster response activities.

Is India Finally Getting Modern Artillery?

April 28, 2015

Yesterday, New Delhi announced that it has successfully tested an upgraded howitzer for use in the Indian Army. “The indigenously designed and manufactured 155mm x 45mm caliber artillery gun, Dhanush, has successfully met all technical parameters during the winter and summer trials,” a press release said.

This announcement came somewhat as a surprise since Dhanush howitzer prototypes suffered repeated barrel bursts during firing trials last August and during the winter of 2013, after which India’s state-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) had to change the metallurgy of the barrels.

India’s Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar noted that the Dhanush incorporates many improved features in comparison to the guns which the Army possesses at present. The Dhanush is an improved version of the FH-77B 155 mm/39-caliber towed howitzer manufactured by the Swedish defense contractor Bofors (now BAE Systems) and of which India acquired 410 between 1987 and 1991.

Ghani’s India visit: A new chapter in Indo-Afghan relations?

29 Apr , 2015

Post-2001 New Delhi has invested in various infrastructure, capacity building, health, education and economic reconstruction in Afghanistan. Having pledged US$2billion, India is the largest regional donor and Afghanistan is the second largest recipient of Indian aid. India’s aid and development assistance has accrued significant ‘good will’ among the Afghans. While Afghanistan makes domestic and regional alignments in the transformation decade (2015-2024), whether President Ashraf Ghani’s visit can mark the beginning of a clear road map of India’s engagement strategy to protect its key national interests and help in the long term stabilisation of Afghanistan remains to be seen.

Increased LeT influence could further complicate implementation of Indian-funded aid schemes.

Pakistan's Neutrality in the Yemen Crisis: Brought to You by China

April 28, 2015

Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan to a warm welcome. He left having signed scores of agreements that commit, over several years, billions in Chinese financing and support for various Pakistani infrastructure projects. Beset with a range of problems, Pakistan lacks the indigenous capacity to invest adequately in its own power and infrastructure needs, despite facing major shortfalls in these areas. China and Pakistan enjoy a special relationship by their own admission: they refer to their partnership as an “all weather” one and Xi, prior to arriving in Islamabad, remarked that he felt as if he was “going to visit the home of [his] own brother.”

Still, despite the warm rhetoric toward China and years of positive ties between the two countries, when it came to backing Pakistan, both financially and politically, Islamabad had always found support flowing in from the Arabian peninsula to its west. 

China Gambles Big In Pakistan


On the eve of his visit, Xi Jinping recited an Urdu couplet in an article: "My friend's lovely image dwells in the mirror of my heart; I tilt my head slightly, and here it comes into my sight." For decades, such hyperbole has substituted for a meaningful China-Pakistan relationship. But Xi's visit marks a turning point. Since 2001, China has played second fiddle to Pakistan's primary benefactor — America. Keeping their head down as Deng Xiaoping instructed, Chinese policymakers steered clear of assuming any burden in the US-led mission in Afghanistan and its concomitant policy in Pakistan. Over a decade later, Afghanistan and Pakistan are in deep turmoil, and, Deng's dictum has given way to a stronger and extroverted China. Xi's China, however, has not evolved into a great power in the classical European sense seeking adventure and expansionism everywhere. The Chinese define their interests carefully and pursue them with resilience but with flexible means and via complex statecraft. Is China changing the way it defines its interests in Pakistan?

Ghani's first state visit to New Delhi must focus on clearing up the mixed signals Kabul has been sending.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is due to begin his first state visit to New Delhi this Monday. Almost seven months after becoming president, the three-day visit is a chance for Ghani to win hearts and minds in New Delhi.

Over the last few months, Kabul has sent confusing signals to New Delhi by its dramatic shift in foreign policy and efforts to appease Islamabad in an unprecedented way.

It is imperative that during this important visit, Ghani convince the Indian leadership that ameliorating relations with Pakistan will never undermine New Delhi's unique and historic role in Afghanistan. His message must be clear: India will remain Afghanistan's historic and strategic partner.

Tragedy in Nepal

April 29, 2015

Four days after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake shook the Himalayan nation of Nepal, the rubble of most collapsed buildings in Kathmandu remains untouched. With debris, scattered across Kathmandu valley, a pall has descended over the normally lively capital. Most heartbreaking though, is the knowledge that bodies are still buried beneath the rubble.

At least 8 million people have been affected by the disaster and at least 1.4 million people are in need of food and clean water.

The death toll from Nepal’s worst earthquake in eight decades has already crossed 5,000, and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has said it could rise to 10,000, even as hundreds of thousands remain homeless. The emotional toll will be far worse, as survivors strive to rebuild their lives in this nation of 28 million people.
As frenetic attempts are being made to rescue those still buried under piles of debris, choppers can be seen flying over the numerous houses and other structures that have been destroyed.

Who Landed a Radioactive Drone on Shinzo Abe's Roof?

April 27, 2015

A drone carrying a small amount of radioactive cesium was found on the roof of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office on April 22. When exactly the drone landed was unclear. The last time the helipad on the roof had been used was on March 22, when Abe flew to Kanagawa Prefecture for the National Defense Academy’s graduation. However, because the drone was dry when discovered, and it had rained in Tokyo on April 20, authorities believed it had landed on April 21 or 22.

Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant –which experienced three reactor-core meltdowns after the March 2011 tsunami and earthquake — may be the source of the radioactive material found on the drone.

Nepal Quake: Governance Matters

April 25, 2015
Several years ago, I went on an “Earthquake Walk” in downtown Kathmandu, a walk designed to raise awareness about the city’s vulnerability to a major earthquake. As we ducked into a traditional courtyard, winding our way through a low narrow corridor before emerging into an open square surrounded by high traditional homes, we saw a big stick propping one edge of a building up against another. I’ve thought a lot about that stick today—its inadequacy, its fragility—as news of Nepal’s quake poured in. 

Nepal has been waiting for the quake of April 25, 2015 for some years, conscious that it was “overdue” for another. The U.S. Geological Survey has called Nepal “one of the most seismically hazardous regions on Earth.” It sits at the intersection of two tectonic plates, the India and Eurasia, colliding together quickly in geological terms—forty to fifty millimeters each year. That pressure eventually gets released as earthquakes. 

With Abe in US, Chinese Media Warns Obama to Be Wary

April 28, 2015

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in the United States on Sunday, beginning his visit with astop in Boston. With a major goal of the visit to expand U.S.-Japan defense cooperation (including through the newly revised defense guidelines), China is paying close attention to the visit.

China has natural concerns about a strong alliance between its neighbor to the east and the United States, particularly as both parties aren’t shy about expressing their opposition to Chinese moves in the region (especially its attempts to shore up its claims to sovereignty over islands in the East and South China Seas). Interestingly, however, China often doesn’t frame its objections through the lens of present-day security concerns, opting instead to mount an attack on Abe’s attitude toward history. In the Chinese line of argument, Abe’s refusal to fully apologize or face up to atrocities committed during World War II makes the prospect of a stronger Japanese military today a threat to global peace.

China, Thailand Eye Deeper Defense Ties

April 28, 2015

From April 23 to April 27, Xu Qiliang, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China, traveled to Thailand for the weekend to discuss improving defense ties between the two countries.

Xu’s trip, his second to Thailand in six months, is part of an uptick of visits between defense officials from both sides over the past few months. Following a coup last May and amid strained relations between the United States and its oldest Asian ally, China has been looking to opportunistically coddle Thailand’s non-democratic rulers, while Thailand, for its part, has been going out of its way to show Washington and the world that there are partners willing to do business without fretting about regime legitimacy. As I pointed out in a previous piece, with all this signaling, it is important to look at the actual substance of Sino-Thai military cooperation before concluding that advances have been made.

Learning from Beijing; Tackling Delhi’s Air Pollution Challenge

April 27, 2015

As recent data shows, Delhi has the worst air pollution among all the world capitals.1 Delhi had earned this dubious distinction at the start of the 21st Century as well, when air pollution reached a peak. However, judicial intervention, a quick overhaul of the public transport system, improvements in the road network, establishment of the subway network and accelerated implementation of fuel and emission standards had helped the city to achieve cleaner air in a relatively short span of time. But these gains have been offset in less than two decades by a number of other factors. First, higher rates of economic growth and greater disposable income, the availability of easy credit and the resultant onset of consumerism, and better roads have also led to Delhi emerging with the highest concentration of motor vehicles in the country. Second, a frenzy of construction activity, often in violation of the ecological norms set by the National Green Tribunal has considerably contributed to growing levels of air pollution. Third, the non-completion of roads that allow trucks to bypass the city has meant that nearly 80,000 trucks cross Delhi every night.2 Put together, all these have led to a considerable worsening of the city’s air pollution once again.

4 Ways China Can Become a Global Governance Leader

April 28, 2015

Chinese President Xi Jinping just concluded a visit to Indonesia commemorating the 60th anniversary of the historic 1955 Bandung Conference. Clearly, Xi Jinping was the center of attention as he laid outChina’s vision for the future of Asian-African cooperation. While China used to be the leader of the third world during the Cold War era, China’s overall capabilities meant that it could not provide an alternative model of development for other developing countries. But things are changing now. Today’s China is marching (slowly) toward superpower status and this means that it is in a much better position to help other developing countries achieve their own national dreams.

How will China do this exactly? There are four things China should make great efforts to promote.

Is This Dalai Lama the Last?

For Buddhists who follow his teachings, or to those who are simply drawn to his public message of kindness (“My religion is kindness,” the popular bumper sticker reads), the Dalai Lama has approached sainthood. He instantly sells out public appearances, and he’s featured on the “Top 10 influential figures” lists (or some form thereof) that appear regularly in periodicals or on websites.

He represents a triple threat rarely seen in contemporary culture: spiritual guru, head of the Tibetan government in exile and international ambassador. Today, the plight of his people is known around the world: the Tibetan flag, often accompanied by the slogan “Free Tibet,” has become one of the iconic symbols of our time.

China’s Credentials in Indian Subcontinent Anti-Indian: A Strategic Audit

By Dr Subhash Kapila

India’s natural power pre-eminence in the Indian Subcontinent has always been a strategic eyesore for China as it emerged as a Communist monolith in 1949 and commenced flexing its military muscles.

Academics have been prone to surmise wrongly that China relations with India took a turn for the worse only after the China-India armed conflict of 1962.

China’s Grand Strategy towards India right from the beginning was determined by three main considerations. The first was to hem-in India within the subcontinental confines by removing Tibet’s strategic significance as a buffer state keeping China away from the Indian borders. The second was to keep India militarily busy in tackling insurgencies fomented by China in India’s North Eastern States. The third was to play ‘balance of power’ politics in the Indian Subcontinent by building up Pakistan as the regional spoiler state and creation of Chinese military client states on India’s remaining peripheries.

Saudi Arabia’s Air Attacks on Yemen

29 Apr , 2015

Saudi Arabia informed the Obama Administration in the fourth week of March 2015 of their intention to commence a ‘military operation’ against neighbouring Yemen. The situation in Yemen, from the Saudi perspective, was grave: the Saudi supported elected government of Abou Rabbou Mansour al Hadi had been defeated in an armed insurrection by Yemen’s opposition Shi’ite Houthi tribesmen, President Abou had fled to the main southern port of Aden from the capital Sana’a and Aden itself was under threat of falling to the Houthi tribesmen.

The Saudi air attack, functioning under the aegis of an Arab coalition, comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman, in addition to Saudi Arabia), Turkey and Egypt, followed on the early hours of March 26. Pakistan, eager to be associated with the causes of the mainline Sunni States of the Gulf and the Middle East, also made the cosmetic gesture of offering to join the bandwagon against the Houthis.

ISIS on the Move: Russia's Deadly Islamist Problem

April 29, 2015
Killings of leaders of the ongoing insurgency in Russia’s North Caucasus no longer make front page news in either Moscow or foreign capitals, and therecent violent death of Emirate Caucasus’ emir Aliskhab Kebekov is no exception. But regardless of whether such deadly news is buried in the inside pages or not, the North Caucasus insurgency, whose representatives not only regularly target “mainland Russia,” but also travel to fight in countries of the Greater Middle East and raise funds in Europe, won’t go away.

Few recall it today, but when the North Caucasus’ then most notorious warlord Shamil Basayev was blown to pieces in 2006, his violent death was thoroughly covered by media both in Russia and the West, with even business dailies like the Wall Street Journal running front-page stories. 

Military Spending and Arms Sales in the Gulf

APR 28, 2015

There are many ways to measure the Gulf military balance, but one key indicator is to look at the relative size of Gulf military expenditures and the size and nature of Gulf arms imports and transfers of military technology. The Burke Chair has prepared a detailed comparison of key estimates of both military spending and arms transfers, drawing upon official sources as well as the work of key research centers like the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

This report is entitled Military Spending and Arms Sales in the Gulf: How the Arab Gulf States Now Dominate the Changes in the Military Balance, and is available on the CSIS web site here. It provides a wide range of tables and charts describing the patterns in military spending and arms transfers both in comparative dollar terms and by major weapons system and transfer of military technology.


April 29, 2015 

Der Spiegel recently published a blockbuster article that chronicles the activities and personal papers of Haji Bakr, a high ranking member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) who led the effort to seize territory in Syria between late 2012, and his death in 2014 at the hands of a rival Syrian faction. Analyzing first hand documents, such as captured organizational charts and battle plans, is a rare opportunity and very helpful in gaining an understanding of the organization — something that policymakers desperately need to develop an effective strategy to defeat ISIL. Unfortunately, the same investigative excellence that unearthed the documents does not reflect in the analysis, as Christoph Reuter makes highly speculative conclusions about the nature of Ba’athist influence on ISIL, Haji Bakr’s role in its success, and the impact Haji Bakr’s Syria operation had on Iraq. Lost in this headline-generating exercise is the real value of the article — its description of ISIL’s tactics in infiltrating new territory and implementing a program of discriminate violence designed to establish control over desired areas.

Explained: How to Save Syria and Destroy the Islamic State

April 28, 2015

Recent tactical setbacks by Assad regime forces in northwestern Syria are reviving—for the first time since early 2013—fin du régime hopes and speculation. Reporting from the region suggests that arms transfers from Gulf powers and Turkey are enabling rebels to overcome exhausted and exposed Syrian Arab Army units. Although it is tempting to view these developments in the context of the ebb and flow of an unending conflict, the United States should take no chances. It should use the battle against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) to take the diplomatic and operational lead in stabilizing Syria. It should channel regional energies in ways that defeat ISIL, isolate the Assad regime, and give Syrians a shot at legitimate governance.

Russian-Backed Militants Have This City in Their Sights Mariupol would give Russia an overland supply route to Crimea


I met Alina Podpovetnaya in a park in downtown Mariupol. There’s a war going on to the east of this Ukrainian port city, and I wanted to know what she thought of the situation.

“It’s fucking crazy,” Podpovetnaya said.

An 18-year-old student at Zaproskie University, Podpovetnaya said she fears the Russian military will attack her hometown in order to create a corridor from Russia to Crimea.

The Ukrainian government, the British government and others predict that Mariupol will be the next city that the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic will attempt to seize from Ukrainian control.

The front line is about 10–15 kilometers to the east — and everyone here is acutely aware of that fact.

The Real Obama Doctrine Exposed

April 28, 2015 

"We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk. And that's the thing people don't seem to understand."
- Barack Obama, April 5th, 2015

More than six years into his presidency, people continue to debate the core priorities of President Obama's foreign policy. What is the Obama doctrine? Some say it's soft power. Others say it's a directed economy of force. Still others say it's pragmatism—doing whatever works.

Obama himself answered this question a few weeks ago in a New York Timesinterview with Thomas Friedman, declaring: "We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities." As always, Obama seemed a little bored or even exasperated by the question of strategic and doctrinal priorities.

Fixing Obama's Iran Disaster

After over a year of negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran on a final nuclear deal, the announcement of agreement on the parameters of a “Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program” on April 2 elicited initial reactions of both elation and dismay, both basically ignoring the fact that nothing had actually been signed (due to Iran’s refusal to do so). Those that received the news as positive drew on U.S. President Obama’s proclamations of an historic achievement, whereas Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately and resolutely rejected the “deal” as very dangerous, one that would enable Iran to develop nuclear weapons in the future.

Neither assessment was warranted, because there was no deal. Indeed, the ensuing days and weeks have been characterized by a heated debate over what, if anything was actually agreed among the parties, and over the implications of the joint statement and the more detailed White House fact sheet, as well as Iranian reactions to it all.


April 26, 2015

Mehreen Kahn, writes in the April 26, 2015 edition of London’s TheDailyTelegraph, that “there’s a new theory doing the rounds in the ‘Grexit, Or No Grexit,’ debate. Unlike the wildly-held conjecture that a default would lead inexorably to Greece’s ejection from the Euro Zone, analysts and economists now think there are a number of ways the debt-addled country can retain its membership of the Euro — while stiffing its international lenders.”

“With the country’s bail-out drama continuing into another month, even Berlin has reportedly begun drafting plans to deal with Athens failing to make its obligations without a ‘Grexit,’ Mr. Kahn writes. Moreover, “a default within the Euro is not is not as unprecedented as it sounds,” he adds. “Greece effectively defaulted on lenders when it underwent the largest private sector bond restructuring in history, in 2012. “The actual cost of severing Greece will prove equal to that of dismantling the Euro Zone itself, painfully, slowly, catastrophically,” wrote Yanis Varoufakis, wrote in his blog three years ago.

Nuked: Does 'Napoleonic War' Have a Future?

April 28, 2015

Across much of the globe, the First World War—“the war to end all wars”—still exercises a fierce hold on popular imagination. And many aspects of the war remain a subject of debate, more so than the Second World War, for example, where the revisionist agendas of Germany, Italy and Japan were more fully exposed. Some of the flavor of that debate runs through the tranche of historical studies produced over recent years as the war’s centenary approached, including Hew Strachan’s The First World War, Margaret MacMillan’s The Year that Ended Peace, Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers, and Paul Ham’s 1914: The Year The World Ended. I’m not proposing to explore those debates here. Rather, I want to consider where the First World War stands in relation to the Napoleonic model of war, and what that means for us today.

Need to Take a More Confident View of Kabul

April 28, 2015

Seven months into his presidency, Ashraf Ghani is finally visiting New Delhi. His perceived tilt towards Rawalpindi and Beijing in an effort to find a negotiated settlement to the conflict with Pakistan’s proxy the Afghan Taliban, including some unilateral confidence building measures to fundamentally transform Afghanistan’s traditionally strained ties with Pakistan, has probably been blown out of proportion. That it has taken so long for the new Afghan president to put India on his travel itinerary - a country which was the first to commit itself to a long-term strategic partnership with Afghanistan, immediately following the US/NATO decision to drawdown troops, and one which has been the largest bilateral donors from the region – has led many to speculate about the possible outcome of Ghani’s visit to New Delhi. Where exactly does India figure in Ghani’s vision of Afghanistan and what steps India need to take to secure its interests?

After being sworn-in as president in September 2014, Ghani’s first official visit was to Beijing in October and immediately thereafter to Pakistan in November. In an unprecedented move, Ghani had straightaway dashed to the Pakistan Army’s General Head Quarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi before meeting the civilian leadership in Islamabad. Ghani has since visited several other countries including the US, the UK and Saudi Arabia twice, as well as Azerbaijan, Belgium, Turkmenistan, UAE, Germany and, very recently, Iran.

Power to the People: How Smart Grids Can Change the Way We Live

Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 2012: A powerful storm thundered toward the city, darkening the summer-blue skies and then snapping branches, rattling power lines, and bending old willow trees toward the ground.

Warning alarms chimed inside the control room of the regional power company as the storm hit. Soon, the clamor of beeping alerts was constant as system maps flickered red and green with downed wires, blown circuits, and lights going out all across the city.

Just three months before the big storm hit in Chattanooga, Tennessee, EPB technicians connected high-voltage electric wires to a smart switch that would help EPB reduce power outage durations by 40 percent.

And then the system began to restore itself, sensing where the breaks were and automatically flipping switches to isolate them and reroute power back into homes. Nearly 80,000 customers lost power that evening; the power company, EPB, estimates that half of them got it back within a second or two.

Preparing for Warfare in Cyberspace

APRIL 28, 2015 

The Pentagon’s new 33-page cybersecurity strategy is an important evolution in how America proposes to address a top national security threat. It is intended to warn adversaries — especially China, Russia, Iran and North Korea — that the United States is prepared to retaliate, if necessary, against cyberattacks and is developing the weapons to do so.

As The Times recently reported, Russian hackers swept up some of President Obama’s email correspondence last year. Although the breach apparently affected only the White House’s unclassified computers, it was more intrusive and worrisome than publicly acknowledged and is a chilling example of how determined adversaries can penetrate the government system.

The Unfortunate Growth Sector: Cybersecurity

In 2012, a computer virus known as Shamoon wiped the hard drives on tens of thousands of computers belonging to Saudi Aramaco, Saudi Arabia’s oil & gas behemoth, and left a burning American flag on screens of the infected devices. It’s widely believed that attack was carried out by Iran as retaliation for the 2010 destruction of Iranian nuclear centrifuges by a computer program known as Stuxnet. Deployed by American and Israeli software experts, the Stuxnet worm was secretly authorized by President Obama to slow Iran’s nuclear progress.

Similar to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand that triggered World War I, perhaps someday we’ll view Stuxnet as the catalyst that sparked the first cyber war. Admiral Michael Rodgers, an NSA director, expects a major cyber-attack against the US within the next decade, with China and “one or two” other countries capable of knocking out the electric grid and other critical infrastructure. Rodgers warned in late 2014: “It’s only a matter the ‘when,’ not the ‘if,’ we’ll see something dramatic.


April 28, 2015

Ever since the Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu outlined principles required for the conduct of war in the fifth century B.C., military strategists have opined on what those principles are, and whether currently accepted principles need revision. A strong case exists for the principles laid by the 19th century Prussian military theorist Karl von Clausewitz: mass, objective, offensive, surprise, economy of force, maneuver, unity of command, security and simplicity. Although there is a realization that Clausewitz’s principles do not cover every situation a modern military must face such as humanitarian crisis or counterinsurgency – the actions of ISIS to date – demonstrate Clausewitz was right.

It is unlikely that a group of renegade jihadist extremists would abide by the principles, or even be aware of them; however, the invasion of Iraq by ISIS is a textbook example of the timelessness of the principles and a worthy example of their effectiveness. ISIS’ successes demonstrate how adherence to the principles can lead to success on the battlefield. Denying ISIS the ability to adhere to the principles will likewise lead to their defeat.