24 May 2015

India's New Aircraft Carrier May Face Further Delays

May 23, 2015

Progress on India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier is steady, but will it be ready in time?

India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, will be re-launched next week according to local media reports.

The vessel was officially launched in August 2013 with the completion of phase I of construction. The re-launch on May 28 at Cochin Shipyard Limited in Kochi will mark the successful completion of the most critical stage of phase II.

“All major equipment has gone into the vessel, which has now acquired the shape of an aircraft carrier, with a finished hull. Barring a bit of ongoing work on the super structure, structural work is all over and the internal compartments have all been welded in,” a shipyard official was quoted as saying.

After One Year, India Expects Modi to Deliver

By Sanjay Kumar
May 22, 2015

Narendra Modi’s first year in office showed a sharp disconnect between expectations and reality.

One year is a long time in politics. No one understands that better than India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi. In 2014, he won with an historic landslide at the polls, decimating the Congress Party, which was left with just 44 of the 545 seats in the Lok Sabha. In the first few months after that triumph, the country was in complete awe of Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and it looked as though Congress didn’t have much of a future.

Twelve months later, Modi’s aura of invincibility has disappeared. The BJP has not won a single by-election since coming to power last May, suffering its biggest humiliation in Delhi elections in February, conceding defeat to the upstart Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). In Uttar Pradesh, a crucial state, where the party won 71 out 80 parliamentary seats, it has failed to win even a single seat in 16 by-elections. It’s the same story in West Bengal, the eastern Indian state, where the BJP was crushed in civic elections last month.

Rebooting the Indian Army: Metamorphosing Dandaman to eMAN

22 May , 2015

Blaze the way to far flung goals

Addressing the Combined Commanders of Defence Services on 17 Oct 2014 at New Delhi, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi said: “When we speak of Digital India, we would also like to see a Digital Armed Force and the Services to give serious thought to upgrade technological skills for effective projection of power by men”.[1]

The Prime Minister has outlined his vision for Digital Armed Forces.

Those familiar with the Army parlance would understand the term ‘Dandaman’. For the uninitiated a little explanation is called for. ‘Dandaman’ was a term used for a soldier, responsible to sit at the tail end of Army vehicle with a wooden stick (danda). His primary responsibility was to look out for approaching vehicles from rear, asking for a pass to overtake. On spotting one, the ‘Dandaman’ was required to strike the tailboard with danda thus making sound to draw attention of the driver to allow overtaking. Discerning mind would question as to why the driver cannot look in the rear and side view mirrors or a rear view camera for such rudimentary driving courtesies. Why waste a soldier for this irrational task which can be otherwise easily fulfilled. Soldier of the yore would give a spirited defense of this now generally faded practice. However the fact remains this practice existed for many decades thereby exposing certain drilled mindsets and may even today be prevalent in isolated pocket burrows.

Sino-Indian Relations: An Approach for 21st Century Developments

23 May , 2015

The present century belongs to two powers of Asia viz China and India. China because of being world’s largest and strongest economy and a budding military power to be, and India because of a growth oriented economy and a democratically elected majority government hell bent on growth and economic progress. Also because of Indian military power which is next to Chinese and Russian military only in Asia.

Sardar Patel had warned Jawahar Lal Nehru about Chinese intentions in 1950 only but unluckily no heed as paid to this warning. Chinese imperialistic designs were clear when it annexed Tibet.

Demographically China is the largest country followed closely by India. Militarily, USA is as much worried about Chinese military expansion as of Russia. With emergence of China on military horizons USA has to be doubly cautious of Russian military powers. Both being communist countries are closer to each other than others. Chinese have emerged ahead of Japan and old method of encircling Russia and China with an ally like Japan does not seem feasible. The growing Chinese influence in south and south-east Asia is another cause of concern.

Watch Out, Pakistan: Israel to Sell India Mobile Missiles

May 22, 2015
Israel and India on the verge of signing a new “mega” defense deal, that would include Israel helping India develop a new mobile missile system.

On Thursday the Times of India reported, citing unnamed officials within India’s Ministry of Defense, that India and Israel have “now virtually sealed the joint development of a medium-range surface-to-air missile system (MRSAM) for the Indian Army.”

The first tranche of the deal will be worth over 9,000 crore (roughly $1.67 billion), however, Indian officials that the Times of India spoke with said that more missiles could be bought at a later date. "More orders might later follow since the Army's air defence capabilities are relatively weak," the official was quoted as saying. Earlier, an Indian army official said that Delhi could purchase over $6 billion worth of the medium-range surface-to-air missiles and related systems from Israel by the end of the deal.

Ghani's Gambit is Failing, Afghanistan is Unravelling

Lt General R K Sawhney, PVSM, AVSM

The spring of 2015 was always going to be ‘hot’ in Afghanistan. The Taliban had already made clear their intention to bring the Ashraf Ghani government to its knees. It was also going to test the mettle of the Afghan National Army (ANA) which for the first time was going to face the Taliban without the support of the US-led ISAF. And if truth be told, things haven’t quite gone the way of the Afghan state. Even though there has been no major reverses for the Afghan army, the Taliban have through their unrelenting attacks managed to shake the confidence in the ability of the Afghan state to survive. Not only have the Taliban managed to strike, practically at will, in the heart of Kabul, they have also managed to significantly shift the theatre of war to the North, an area which was supposed to be safe from them.

For India, the situation in Afghanistan is both a cause for concern and consternation. Although India had reconciled itself to the President Ashraf Ghani throwing in his lot with Pakistan, there was a sense that sooner rather than later he would realise his folly (much like his predecessor) and reach out for support to India, which was now ready to provide the military assistance that Afghanistan had been seeking for so long. But increasingly, it seems that not only has Ghani got stuck in the quicksand of Pakistan out of which he seems unable to extricate himself, India too has not moved out of the mode of ‘strategic pause’ that Ghani’s gambit had forced on it. By now it should have been clear in New Delhi which way things are moving in Afghanistan. But so far India like other countries doesn’t seem ready to give up on Ghani. Instead of taking the lead to build up the anti-Taliban forces for the inevitable fight that is staring everyone in the face, India remains in a wait and watch mode even as the grounds is slipping not just from under Ghani’s feet but also under the feet of those who intend to stand up to the Taliban.

Who’s Part of the Islamic State? Depends Whom You Ask.

MAY 21, 2015

A U.S.-led coalition is grappling over how to fight the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed allies in Libya and beyond without taking its eyes off Iraq and Syria.

Who’s Part of the Islamic State? Depends Whom You Ask.

A violent extremist group in Libya has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and kills in the name of the Islamic State, but U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration is torn on whether it is, in fact, part of the Islamic State.

Declaring a brutal branch of the Libyan militant group Ansar al-Sharia to be an official offshoot of the Islamic State could potentially compel reluctant nations to use military force against extremists in Libya, further weakening the already faltering fight against the network. Washington is sharply divided, with U.S. officials describing a debate over the extremists’ growth in Libya as recent intelligence shows Islamic State leaders and fighters heading there from strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

Allies in Europe and the Mideast are similarly conflicted. As the Islamic State’s reach continues to spread, some countries now feel more threatened by the outcropping of extremists across Asia and in North Africa than by those based in Iraq and Syria.

In Pakistan, Playing the Blame Game

MAY 21, 2015

On May 13, six armed men on motorbikes carrying 9 mm pistolstargeted a bus carrying minority Ismaili Shias to their place of worship in Pakistani city of Karachi, killing 45 people, including 16 women.

Hours later, while the Pakistani investigators were busy searching the scene for clues as to the perpetrators, and layer upon layer of government and state functionaries were releasing statements of condemnations with the proverbial resolve of tracking down the culprits, a telephone caller introducing himself as spokesman for the proscribed Jandullah groupclaimed responsibility for the attack.

The same day, Karachi police officials said they had found pamphlets of the Dawlat-e-Islamia, the Pakistani version of the Islamic State or ISIS, claimingthat the killing was “revenge for what is happening in Iraq and Syria.”

In Bangladesh, BNP Is Derailing Democracy

By Mohammad Ziauddin
May 22, 2015

Bangladesh’s ambassador to the U.S. on the recent elections in Dhaka and Chittagong. 

Bangladesh has suffered through two successive years of intermittent violence and disruption perpetrated by its leading opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the BNP’s extremist ally, Jamaat-e-Islami. In January of last year, the BNP-Jamaat combine tried to undermine the national elections by boycotting them and engaging in months of strikes, coupled with arson attacks and petrol bombing that killed more than 100 people.

On the one-year anniversary of the 2014 elections, the BNP-Jamaat alliance launched a three-month spate of strikes and violence, resulting in an additional 100 deaths.

Industrial Disputes in Cambodia: Beyond Strikes

By Phoak Kung
May 22, 2015

Can the country resolve its ongoing clashes between labor and management? 

Discussions of Cambodia’s 2013 election tend to revolve around the violent clashes that took place between protesters and the armed forces. The widely cited reason for such widespread discontent is that many people, especially the poor, have been unable to see significant improvements in their living conditions, notwithstanding the rapid pace of Cambodian economic growth in recent decades, which has lifted millions out of extreme poverty.

What took place in the aftermath of the 2013 election was a clear signal that the status quo needed to be re-examined. Emboldened by the government’s refrain from the use of force to disperse the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s (CNRP) protests, labor unions and other groups came out en masse in the hope of forcing the government to accept their terms. Although some might have been affiliated with the opposition, many were simply trying to make their voices heard.

What Japan's 'Proactive Contribution to Peace' Looks Like in Nepal

By Yuki Tatsumi and Hana Rudolph
May 22, 2015

Japan’s aid to Nepal has gone largely unnoticed by the international community. 

On April 25, Nepal was hit by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake. Less than a month later, a second, 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck on May 12, followed (as the first quake had been) by numerous aftershocks. As of Sunday, May 17, Nepal’s Home Ministry has confirmed a death toll of at least 8,583, making this the most devastating and deadly disaster of Nepal’s history. As the rescue effort continues, the numbers of those who perished will no doubt continue to climb.

Is China’s Environmental Tide Turning? 4 Things to Watch

By Elizabeth Economy
May 23, 2015

Four barometers for gauging the progress of China’s “war on pollution.”

After decades of stalled or blocked reforms, China’s environmental protection effort may finally be gaining traction. There are scores of new initiatives; some positive indicators, such as falling levels of coal consumption; and a brand new minister of environmental protection, Chen Jining, who brings actual environmental expertise to the table. Still, as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has noted, the country’s environmental challenges were a long time in the making and will be a long time in the fixing. So before touting China as an environmental success story, here are four indicators to watch over the next 12 to 18 months:

Is China’s Environmental Tide Turning? 4 Things to Watch

May 23, 2015

Four barometers for gauging the progress of China’s “war on pollution.”

After decades of stalled or blocked reforms, China’s environmental protection effort may finally be gaining traction. There are scores of new initiatives; some positive indicators, such as falling levels of coal consumption; and a brand new minister of environmental protection, Chen Jining, who brings actual environmental expertise to the table. Still, as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has noted, the country’s environmental challenges were a long time in the making and will be a long time in the fixing. So before touting China as an environmental success story, here are four indicators to watch over the next 12 to 18 months:

A Big Step Forward for China's AIIB

By Shannon Tiezzi
May 23, 2015

Member countries have agreed on a charter for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

In March, a flurry of counties (including U.S. allies like the U.K., South Korea, and Australia), applied to join China’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) before the March 31 deadline for joining as a founding member. The new bank will have authorized capital of $100 billion, to be used in infrastructure projects throughout Asia.

Being a founding member means having a say in the AIIB charter – especially important for countries that had expressed concern about governance issues related to the new bank. Today, China’s Ministry of Financeannounced that the 57 founding members of AIIB have agreed upon the bank’s charter, which will be signed in a ceremony in Beijing at the end of June.

Would America Really Go to War with China to Save Taiwan?

Hugh White
May 22, 2015

Deterrence is a beguiling concept. It offers the hope that we can prevail over our opponents without actually fighting them because our mere possession of military power will be sufficient to compel them to our will.

This seductive idea seems to be the basis of Michael Cole's view that deterrence will allow America and its allies to defend Taiwan from China without incurring the costs and risks of conflict, and that they should therefore commit themselves to doing so. This view is set out in Michael's most recent contribution to an exchange between us about this issue, and I'd like to thank him for his thoughtful part in our exchange on this sensitive topic.

Provoking Beijing in the South China Sea Will Only Backfire on Washington

MAY 21, 2015

Provoking Beijing in the South China Sea Will Only Backfire on Washington

Bizarrely, the United States military is trying to assert freedom of navigation by dispatching U.S. ships to sail within 12 nautical miles of China-controlled territories in the South China Sea, and by flying military aircraft over those territories. On May 16, during his visit to Beijing, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly claimed that this plan is not official U.S. policy. Yet, according to a May 20 CNN report, the Pentagon is flying the P8-A Poseidon, America’s most advanced surveillance aircraft, over the artificial islands Beijing is constructing on Chinese-controlled reefs and shoals in the South China Sea. Publicizing the mission by allowing CNN onboard shows that the Pentagon is serious about their plan — and wants to shame China by exposing it to international castigation.

China and Russia Conclude Naval Drill in Mediterranean

May 22, 2015

The joint Sino-Russian maritime exercise included live-fire drills, underway replenishment and escort operations. 

Russia and China concluded their first-ever joint naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea this morning,Sputnik News reports.

The naval drill code-named “Joint Sea 2015” was held from May 17 to 21 and involved nine ships from both countries.

On the Russian side, ships participating in the exercise were the Moskva, the leadship of the Atlant-class of guided missile cruisers, the Burevestnik-class frigate Ladny, the Bora-class hoverborne guided missile corvetteSamum, the Ropucha-class landing ship Alexander Shabalin (designed for beach landings and capable of carrying a 450-ton cargo), and an older ship of the same class, the Alexander Otrakovsky, as well as a MB-31 tugboat.

How Will China React to Indonesia’s Sinking of a Chinese Vessel?

A look at what we might expect from Beijing. 

As I reported previously, on Wednesday Indonesia destroyed a Chinese vessel caught fishing illegally in Indonesian waters near the South China Sea, the first since President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo declared war on illegal fishing when he came into office late last year (See: “Indonesia Sinks First Chinese Vessel Under Jokowi”).

How might we expect Beijing to react?

So far, the only publicly-confirmed reaction from China has come from Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei, who said that Beijing was concerned about the reports and was seeking clarification with Jakarta.

“China is gravely concerned about relevant reports, and is asking the Indonesian side to make clarifications,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei reportedly said.

4 Reasons Why China Is No Threat to South China Sea Commerce

By Greg Austin
May 22, 2015

US diplomacy is not served by exaggerating or inventing military threats, such as threats to commercial shipping. 

The heat being generated outside China about its putative threat to commercial shipping in the South China Sea because of activity in the Spratly Islands is becoming tiresome. (Note: The term “sea lines of communication” (SLOC) is often used in these debates as a substitute for “commercial shipping,” though in normal parlance the two are not completely synonymous.) It is not clear who invented the “China SLOC threat” thesis but it does not stand close scrutiny. Here are a few considerations that may stimulate a re-think.

China: A Bump in the Silk Road

By Cory Bender and James Chen

China’s grand plans for the region could be derailed without a change in approach. 

Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a highly public trip to Islamabad to cement Pakistan’s place in his Silk Road Economic Belt. He also used the opportunity to highlight the importance of counterterrorism to the success of these plans. In doing so, Xi is acknowledging that China’s biggest obstacle in constructing the Silk Road might not be mountains or rivers. Instead, it is ethnic and religious tensions across Central Asia that threaten to scuttle the project – and China doesn’t seem to know what to do about it.

China is well aware of these tensions, and it fears them. In fact, many argue that China’s Silk Road strategy is partly a security measure meant to combat extremism and terrorism, the idea being that economic development will quench these forces. This, combined with iron-handed security measures, has been Beijing’s approach to governing Xinjiang and Tibet. And it seems now that China is trying to extend that model across post-Soviet Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Japan Approves Disclosing Secret Sub Info to Australia

May 22, 2015

The game is on! Japan officially announces that it will bid for a contract to build 12 submarines in Australia. 

This week, the Japanese National Security Councilapproved sharing technical data on Japan’s submarine technology with Australia.

This Monday, Tokyo also officially announced that it will join the competitive bidding process for a $39 billion contract to build Australia’s new submarine fleet in partnership with Australian industry.

Australia’s defense minister, Kevin Andrews, had invited his Japanese counterpart, Gen Nakatani, to participate in the competitive process during a teleconference on May 6.

The Only ISIS Strategy Left for America: Containment

Dov S. Zakheim
May 23, 2015

The Obama administration's strategy (or lack thereof) has been exposed; now containment is the only option.

By now it should be clear to everyone that the current American policy for dealing with ISIS is failing badly. Numerous commentators have pointed out that administration evaluations of the situation on the ground seem to change with ever increasing frequency, yet retain a tone of optimism that seems increasingly divorced from reality. Just as the Bush administration held on too long to the fallacy that opposition to the American presence in Iraq was limited to what we're at the time termed "Former Regime Elements," so today the Obama administration seems to believe that ISIS is on the run thanks to American air power supplemented by an increasingly well-trained Iraqi army and Syrian rebel forces.

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its South Asian Connection: An Indian Perspective

Today, one of the most serious threats that have engulfed a large portion of the Middle East is the emergence of the Sunni Muslim extremist group, infamously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). After capturing a sizeable territory in Iraq and Syria, the group changed its name to Islamic State (IS).

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Stop ISIS from Establishing a State

Ronald Tiersky
May 21, 2015
There is a larger context that must be considered if we are to understand the struggle with the Islamic State for control of Ramadi. That context is geographical in part and involves the group's control over Fallujah and Mosul, its designs on Anbar Province, and all of the Islamic State's Syrian holdings. The larger issue does not concern only territory, however. It is of vital importance to prevent the Islamic State from establishing an actual, recognizable state to give substance to its declared religious-political caliphate. A state is a government, but a government is not necessarily a state. The Islamic State has established several city, town, and village governments, but these in combination do not constitute a state.

Introduction To Middle East Sectarian Wars – Analysis

By Hasan Afif El-Hasan
May 22, 2015

The actual religious requirements of Islam are quite simple, but no religion can lead society down a common path to worldly happiness or to the here-after heavens when the religious are at war with themselves.

Today, the most rigid religious Islamic states in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Iran could be on the brink of an all-out war. Saudi Arabia and its partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have been waging daily air attacks on Iran-backed Yemeni Huthi rebels’ targets for some time. The perception in the Sunni-Arab World today is that Shiite Iran is meddling in the affairs of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, interfering militarily and spreading its tentacles via proxies like Hizbullah in Lebanon and Syria, and al-Huthis in Yemen. The Yemen civil war or the wars in Syria and Iraq or any war between Saudi Arabia and Iran are not just new conflicts like other confrontations that pop up suddenly in the headlines, only to fade into the background after a short time.

65 war

Is ’65 forgotten because it was a damp squib of a war?

A war often defines a nation. Long after it’s over, it continues to dominate a nation’s narrative and shape its relations with the country it went to war with. “The sense of national identity is never stronger than when countries are at war with each other, at imminent risk of war, or remembering war,” observes former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans.

Since independence in August ’47, India has fought five wars. Four were with Pakistan, mostly over Kashmir. The fifth, fought in 1962 with China, was over the disputed boundary, which till date remains unresolved.

China to US: South China Sea Recon ‘Irresponsible and Dangerous'

May 23, 2015

Plus, a landmark court case in China and a treasure trove of historical Chinese documents. Friday China links.

It’s Friday, and that means it’s time for your China links roundup:

It should come as no surprise to our readers that China was not happy by the a U.S. P8-A surveillance planeflying over a Chinese-controlled reef in the South China Sea – particularly as the U.S. had invited CNN on boardto record the whole encounter. When asked about the incident, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said that Chinese soldiers “acted upon the rules and asked the aircraft to leave through radio.” Hong added that such U.S. surveillance “is irresponsible and dangerous and detrimental to regional peace and stability.” He warned that such operations are “highly likely to cause miscalculation, or even untoward maritime and aerial incidents.”

America’s Next Top Fearmonger

Robert Golan-Vilella
May 22, 2015

The presidential candidates compete to scare the daylights out of the U.S. public.

American political life is suffused in fear-based rhetoric. This is not a new development, and it’s not likely to change anytime soon. But presidential campaigns provide a particularly potent venue for it. Candidates are all vying to get attention from voters and the media, and they have none of the actual responsibilities that the sitting president does for making policy. Unsurprisingly, this leads some of them to make extreme statements that are intended to stoke public fears.

Below are a few of the things that have been said over the past week by some of the people who are currently running for president or in the process of deciding if they are going to run:

Is America Fulfilling Its NPT Commitment?

Graham Allison
May 22, 2015

"Despite its disparagers, the United States continues to reduce its weapons stockpile and provide global leadership to prevent a nuclear catastrophe."

At the UN today, this year’s Review Conference will conclude its assessment of the performance of member-states that signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which became international law in 1970. Among the central issues the parties debated was whether the United States and Russia have been fulfilling their commitments under the treaty. To no one’s surprise, there was no agreement on this point.

In the negotiations that led to the NPT, a central issue was the divide between the “haves” (the five declared nuclear weapon states) and the “have-nots” (those pledging to forgo nuclear weapons development). Part of the bargain for the “have-nots” was a commitment from the “haves” to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures related to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

Revealed: Why a Clean Energy Revolution Won't Be Easy to Achieve

Michael Levi
May 22, 2015

Had you asked most analysts a year ago what it would take to decarbonize the transportation system without aggressive new policy you’d have got an answer something like this: You need low-carbon technologies that can beat $100 oil on its own terms. And if you ask the same question today about electric power, you’ll usually hear that zero-carbon technologies need to come in at costs under the ever-rising cost of grid-distributed, fossil fuel generated electricity, a rather fat (and growing) target.
Both answers are wrong. The fundamental problem is that substantial initial success in displacing fossil fuels with zero-carbon energy will drive down the price of the remaining fossil fuel energy. (The supply-driven fall in oil prices hasn’t helped either.) This means that, absent policy, clean energy will face an ever-tougher economic challenge as it increasingly succeeds.

Dr. Strange-oil Four slightly insane -- but not entirely unrealistic -- ways that Vladimir Putin could spike the price of oil to save Russia's economy.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has been acting with supreme confidence and relative impunity in Ukraine, but one looming vulnerability is bound to be making him nervous: the price of oil. It’s the key to regime stability, and in both the near term and the run-up to the 2018 elections, it’s going to dictate Putin’s political fortunes.

In the past six months, the price of oil has dropped more than 50 percent from slightly above $100 per barrel to the mid-$40 range, with a small recent rebound. Analysts are split on whether this decline is temporary, but no one is predicting a rapid return to the sustained high prices that had buoyed Russia’s economy since the end of the Yeltsin period. While EU antitrust actions against Gazprom and other sanctions on the Russian energy sector exacerbate Russia’s current position, the key fundamental is the global price of oil per barrel and the centrality of oil to the Russian economy. Everyone understands that Putin can’t snap his fingers and diversify the economy; it’s all about distribution of shrinking rents. It is lost on no one that the collapse of oil undermined Mikhail Gorbachev’s government in 1986.It is lost on no one that the collapse of oil undermined Mikhail Gorbachev’s government in 1986.

We need a smart urban revolution, and Asia is just the place to do it

Peter C. Doherty

Nobel Laureates met recently in Hong Kong to sign a memorandum calling for cities to help guard against climate change. As the most creative places on the planet, big cities are the perfect place to meet this challenge.

Back in the 1950s, the number of people living in cities was about 750 million. That rose to 2.9 billion by 2010 and is predicted to hit 5 billion by 2030. As more of the world’s people call cities home, the challenge is to transform urban areas so that they offer a safe and sustainable place to live for generations to come.

Much of this growth will be in Asia, so the way Asian cities are designed, constructed and powered will clearly have a major influence on global efforts to moderate greenhouse gas emissions and diminish the impact of global warming.

Nuclear disarmament talks struggle to reach action plan

By Carole LANDRY
May 20, 2015

A month-long conference at the United Nations to decide on an action plan for nuclear disarmament headed into a final stretch on Wednesday with no agreement in sight.

More than 150 countries are taking part in the conference ending Friday on reviewing the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a landmark document that seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and technology.

Talks have been deadlocked over demands by non-nuclear states for concrete steps from nuclear powers to reduce their arsenals and provide annual reports on the state of their stockpiles.

An Austrian-led initiative backed by 159 states to ban nuclear weapons altogether has come up against strong resistance by the declared nuclear powers: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

SpaceX cargo ship returns to Earth in ocean splashdown

May 21, 2015

SpaceX's unmanned Dragon supply ship left the International Space Station Thursday and hours later splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California, NASA said.

The Dragon began its journey back to Earth at 7:04 am (1104 GMT), when the US space agency broadcast images of the white capsule floating away from the space station's robotic arm.

The vessel, aided by parachutes, splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Long Beach, California at 1642 GMT, SpaceX said.

The Dragon is the only supply ship capable of returning to Earth intact. This time it carried some 3,100 pounds (1,400 kilograms) of cargo back from the orbiting outpost.

The spaceship launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on April 14 and arrived at the space station three days later with a load of food and supplies.

UK to host biggest ever Soviet space show outside Russia

May 21, 2015
A new exhibition on the Soviet Union's space programme opening in London this year will be the biggest of its kind ever held outside Russia, organisers said on Thursday.

Among the artefacts on display will be the Vostok-6 capsule which carried Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, safely back to Earth in 1963.

It will also feature an original 1957 model of Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite, which triggered the space race with the United States when it was launched into orbit that year.

The Soviet Union followed the global success of Sputnik by launching the first animal, man and woman into orbit in just six years before being beaten to the Moon by US astronauts in 1969.

Visitors to "Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age" at the Science Museum will also be able to see exhibits from the Soviet manned Moon programme, details of which were kept secret for decades.

America’s Virulent, Extremist Counterterrorism Ideology Forget the long war; we’re now in the thick of perpetual war.

MAY 21, 2015

Throughout the 13-plus years of the war on terrorism, one line of effort that everyone in Washington agrees on is the necessity to counter the ideology put forth by terrorist groups. Unfortunately, everyone also agrees that U.S. government agencies have done a terrible job at achieving this. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) recently derided the State Department’s counter-ideology efforts as “laughable” compared with the propaganda of the Islamic State. Whether termed “strategic communications,” “counter-messaging,” or “countering violent extremism,” there is a rare Washington consensus that this essential task is also the one that the United States has been the worst at accomplishing. But it’s not just about building a less-pathetic State Department Twitter feed. By extension, “success” mandates changing how terrorist groups think and communicate, and influencing individuals deemed susceptible to terrorists’ messaging.

Focusing on terrorists’ ideology is attractive because it requires altering the brains of enemies and neutral third parties, while, more importantly, requiring no change in America’s own thinking. Yet in the past six months there has been a little noticed, but significant, shift in America’s own counterterrorism ideology.

5 BIG Decisions That Will Decide the U.S. Military's Fate

Robert Farley
May 23, 2015

"The United States no longer has the luxury to make the procurement mistakes that it has enjoyed over the past two decades."

Over the next decade, the United States has some enormous decisions to make about the future of its military establishment. The technological and resource advantages that the United States had enjoyed since the end of the Cold War are waning, narrowing the margin of error for the U.S. military.

These decisions go beyond questions of military necessity; they require a level of national deliberation that has become sorely lacking. The post-Cold War glow, followed by the desperate efforts to piece together victory in Iraq and Afghanistan, have made long-range procurement planning difficult, and have put off big decisions that need to happen as part of a national conversation, rather than a technocratic debate between the Pentagon and the services.

Watch: Air Force plane lands in the heart of Calcutta during World War II

History repeated itself on Thursday as a jet landed on the Yamuna Expressway as part of an emergency training exercise.

On Thursday, Twitter and Indian TV channels were all agog as an Indian Air Force Mirage-200- jet landed on the Yamuna Expressway as part of a exercise in emergency preparedness.

"The aircraft made a practice approach on the highway, coming down to a height of 100 metres before landing off the next approach," the Indian Air Force said in a press release. "All facilities like make-shift Air Traffic Control, safety services, rescue vehicles, bird clearance parties and other requirements were set up by IAF personnel from Air Force Station Agra."


Lauren Katzenberg
May 22, 2015

In honor of Memorial Day, I wanted share a passage from a War on the Rocks article we published last year. Even as a publication largely focused on warfare, it’s easy to forget that behind our analysis, commentary, and criticisms of war strategy are the fallen who offered their lives for a greater cause. Managing editor John Amble reminded us of this when he wrote:

Memorial Day is a blank canvas, ours to commemorate in whatever way we see fit. Old men might tell stories about their buddies to children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. Young vets might send around emails to recall stories about ‘that one time’ that a certain friend did something great or funny or crazy before he was gone. Some will visit cemeteries, others will spend some time alone, and still others will take a moment amid a chaotic and happy day with family or friends to remember what today is. It doesn’t matter how we do it. It’s just important that we do it.


Mark Stout
May 22, 2015 

Ever since the United States went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. government has been struggling to gain an advantageous position in the information environment in the Middle East. It has tried to counteract the propaganda coming from terrorists and insurgents and struggled to get its own message out in what it has often viewed as biased mainstream media in the Arab world. It has started its own radio station and a Twitter feed to battle terrorists and reportedly paid to place articles in Arab papers.