8 June 2015

Who rules cyberspace?

June 6, 2015 

A new architecture of social power and control is getting built with its core in the U.S. India should work through the BRICS group to develop an alternative to this Internet hegemony

The Internet evokes a deep dilemma of whether ‘to govern or not’. Few things work as well as the Internet does: it’s always on, always obliging, and consists of endless possibilities, routinely conjuring wonders that we have not dreamt of. On the other hand, it is difficult not to be troubled by how the Internet is everywhere, but without any clear means of accountability and political reaction to how much it is changing around us. But without sufficient clarity regarding the nature of the problems and the required solutions, mere general political scepticism cannot hold a candle to the populist governmental-hands-off-the-Internet sentiment. The latter is expectedly strongest among the richer classes, who trust the devices of the market to get the Internet to do their bidding. Other than routine knee-jerk reactions over people freely expressing themselves on the Internet, which could threaten various kinds of power elites, while also sometimes causing genuine security and cultural concerns, there exists no serious political conceptions around the Internet in India today, much less its appropriate governance in public interest.

This state of affairs is quite detrimental to society as the Internet is becoming closely associated with social power and control in almost all areas. It has become like a global neural system running through and transforming all social sectors. Whoever has control over this neural network begins to wield unprecedented power — economic, political, social and cultural. Two elements of this emerging system are the connectivity architecture and the continuous bits of information generated by each and every micro activity of our increasingly digitised existence — what is generally known as Big Data. Even a superficial scan of how the triple phenomenon of digitisation, networking and datafication is occurring in every area will suggest the nature of consolidation of power in the hands of anyone who can control these two elements.Every sector is impacted

Take the agriculture sector for example. Monsanto is now increasingly a Big Data company, as it holds almost field-wise micro information on climate, soil type, neighbourhood agri-patterns, and so on. Such data will form the backbone of even its traditional agri-offerings. It is easy to understand how data control-based lock-ins are going to be even more powerful and monopolistic than the traditional dependencies in this sector. Recently, John Deere, the world’s largest agricultural machinery maker, told the U.S. Copyright Office that farmers don’t own their tractors. Because computer code runs through modern tractors, farmers receive “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle”. There is a pattern of end-to-end informational controls.

Black money: pinning the shadow down

June 8, 2015 

The steps taken so far, and this includes the Black Money Bill, to bring back an estimated $1.5 trillion stashed abroad are completely ineffective. There are better and stronger solutions available.
Recently, on the suggestion of the eminent lawyer, Ram Jethmalani, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court allowed me to lead arguments on the effective steps to be taken to bring back black money, or undisclosed illegally held funds, estimated at Rs.120 lakh crore, stashed secretly abroad by Indians in numbered bank accounts. This amount is about 60 times the annual revenue from income tax in the Union Budget.

The media had reported during the 2014 Lok Sabha election, possibly with the usual dose of interpolation and dramatisation, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pledged in election speeches to bring back to the country all this black money. According to these reports, Mr. Modi had said the money belonged to the nation, and every citizen would receive Rs.15 lakh in his or her bank account when the money came in.
When or where Mr. Modi said this is not clear, but the nation, convinced after his speech that this would be done, now holds the government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) responsible for having failed to keep this promise.

It is a fact that despite the Modi government setting up, soon after coming to office, a Special Investigation Team under two former Supreme Court judges, there is no sign yet of black money having being brought back.
Does this mean that the BJP had underestimated the reality and complexity of the issue and that there are no quick fixes for retrieving the black money back? To understand this, it is important to recognise why eliminating black money is crucial to the nation’s strategy for high growth.

The black money issue should not be misunderstood as one of merely avoiding taxes. It is, in fact, a major systemic crime of denying the nation’s financial system the proceeds of wealth. Such denial should actually be declared as treason, where opportunities to share the wealth for the benefit of the poor are wilfully denied.The spreading cancer
Black money is a cancer in our economic system, not yet terminal or life-threatening. But we do not have much time left, possibly only a decade, before the economic system starts to unravel and contort.

Western callousness in Syria

June 8, 2015

ReutersRise of the extremist: “Pipelines of money and arms to rebels from the Gulf Arabs, Turkey and the West enabled them to persist in a war that seemed on the surface to be headed more towards a bloodbath than a clear result.” Picture shows a rebel soldier at what used to be a Syrian government military post in Idlib.

It is mystifying that a Western-led coalition should now be seen as the fire-fighters of the Syrian conflict, when it has actually kept the fires burning with diplomatic and military assistance

Two Ambassadors to Beirut, Lebanon, from major European countries, chastised me early last year for my reports for The Hindu andFrontline on Syria. They said that these reports exaggerated the role of extremists, notably al-Qaeda affiliates and the newly emboldened Islamic State (Daesh). Stalemate was the tenor of the Syrian civil war, and Daesh had not yet burst into public consciousness (that would happen when its forces seized Mosul, Iraq, in June 2014). These Ambassadors, well-informed in their own right, felt that the Syrian rebels would soon deliver the knockout blow against the government of Bashar al-Assad.

The policy implication of such a view is that the West, led by the United States, continued to provide diplomatic support to the Syrian opposition and to funnel arms and logistical support for the various fighters. Criticism of this strategy was met with the canard that the critic was an apologist for the Assad government. Pipelines of money and arms to these rebels from the Gulf Arabs, Turkey and the West enabled them to persist in a war that seemed on the surface to be headed more towards a bloodbath than a clear result. Massacres on all sides shattered the social landscape of Syria. Peace manoeuvres by the United Nations had few takers, and thus resulted in the resignation of two well-regarded envoys (Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi). War remained on the agenda, and peace was regarded as naïve.

Watch Out, China: Why the 'Asian Century' Might Just Belong to India

June 2, 2015 

With the conclusion of his three-nation tour of China, Mongolia and South Korea last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi capped a frenetic first year of diplomacy. It is becoming apparent that the emphasis on the Asian region will continue to be an imperative for the rest of his term. In this past year alone, the Indian Prime Minister has invested about twice as many days visiting the 'east' — Asia, the Indian Ocean Region and the Pacific — as against his 'westward' travels.

Is this a reinvigoration of India's Look East policy? Does it mean relatively less importance to the West? And, what are the drivers of this policy? Barring the notable absence of West Asia from his travel schedule, it is clear that 'Engage Asia' has been the predominant mantra of Modi's early days in office.

Why Pakistan is the problem and not any possible solution for Afghanistan

Ashok K Mehta 

The international community needs to take note of President Ashraf Ghani lambasting Pakistan for waging an undeclared state of war for 14 years in Afghanistan.

In a turnaround from his predecessor Hamid Karzai's anti-Pakistan and anti-Taliban policies, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani had staked all his political capital on Islamabad, hoping it would deliver a tamed Taliban for negotiations. Amidst unprecedented violence unleashed by the Taliban and domestic opposition to his policy of appeasement of the group, Ghani's patience seems to have snapped. Last week, he lambasted Pakistan for waging an undeclared state of war for 14 years and earlier wrote to Islamabad demanding a crackdown on the Taliban and the Haqqani network. These warnings will fall on deaf ears.

Until last year, Afghanistan was considered a success story compared to Iraq, with Kabul cruising towards an impressive transition: political, security and economic. Troubles erupted during the presidential elections resulting in a creaky national unity government which, nearly a year later, is minus several deputy ministers, provincial governors and ambassadors.

Proof That the War on Terror Is Far From Over: Al Qaeda Growing Once Again Outside of Pakistan

Hugh Naylor
June 5, 2015

BEIRUT — Al-Qaeda affiliates are significantly expanding their footholds in Syria and Yemen, using the chaos of civil wars to acquire territory and increase their influence, according to analysts, residents and intelligence officials.

The gains have helped the terror group’s affiliates become major players in the countries and have complicated efforts to resolve the conflicts. Al-Qaeda offshoots could also be gaining sanctuaries to eventually plan attacks against the United States and Europe, analysts say.

In Syria, al-Qaeda’s wing, Jabhat al-Nusra, plays a leading role in a new rebel coalition that has captured key areas in the northwestern part of the country. In Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has seized parts of the country’s largest province, territory that includes military bases, an airfield and ports.

“Al-Qaeda is becoming more deeply entrenched in Syria, and it is gaining significant momentum in Yemen, and the global focus on ISIS has distracted from the expansion of this other radical, transnational group,” said Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics, using an acronym for the Islamic State.

ISIS Now Threatening Taliban’s Status as Top Insurgent Group in Afghanistan

Joseph Goldstein
June 5, 2015

JALALABAD, Afghanistan — For nearly as long as the Taliban have been at war, Maulvi Abbas has been in the middle of it, leading a small squad of insurgent fighters in Nangarhar Province and demonstrating a certain talent for survival and success.

But in May, he was captured by the Taliban’s newest enemy, the Islamic State, said residents in one of the districts where Maulvi Abbas often stayed.

Throughout the month, fighters claiming allegiance to the Islamic State’s caliph had been attacking veteran Taliban units south and east of Jalalabad, the provincial capital. In one district, Islamic State loyalists have replaced the Taliban as the dominant insurgent power, and elsewhere they have begun making inroads in Taliban territory, one tribal elder, Mohammad Siddiq Mohmand, said in an interview.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Afghan Army corps responsible for the region said Islamic State fighters had captured and beheaded 10 Taliban who had been fleeing a military offensive, though that account has not been confirmed by other officials.

Could China's AIIB Be a Game-Changer for North Korea?

By 38 North/ Bradley O. Babson
June 04, 2015

This article was first published at 38 North, a blog of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS. It is republished with kind permission.

The surprisingly robust emergence of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) through its recruitment of 57 founding member countries has transformed prospects for economic cooperation in Asia. The AIIB promises to become a credible multilateral financial institution capable of funding significant infrastructure projects across the region. North Korea potentially stands to benefit if the bank’s forthcoming membership requirements allow Pyongyang a path to participation and if the government can someday clear transparency and other administrative hurdles.

Why China's Political Reforms Failed

By Wu Wei
The gunshots on June 4, 1989 in China signaled the failure of the political reforms sought by the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party during the 1980s. This failure wasn’t accidental – it was a result of a complex competition between different factions within the CCP.

For China’s political reforms during the 1980s, Deng Xiaoping was the crucial factor. From the late 1970s, Deng gradually established his own power with the Party. While not possessing the absolute power of Mao Zedong, Deng’s power grew with the successful implementation of reform and opening up. But even then, there was a conservative faction that tried to reverse Deng’s reforms. Within the Party, there were two main political factions: the pro-reform camp was represented by Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang and the conservative camp led by Chen Yun, Li Xiannian, Li Peng, and Yao Yilin. And Deng himself, who championed reform and opening even while insisting on the “Four Cardinal Principles,” became the deciding voice between the two groups.

The Big Story Behind China’s New Military Strategy

By Alexander Sullivan and Andrew S. Erickson
June 05, 2015
China is becoming “more willing and able” to stake and defend its interests overseas. 

As China reemerges as one of the globe’s leading powers, just what type of actor it will be on the world stage has become a subject of intense debate among China watchers and the broader public. With tensions rising to what one eminent China scholar has called a “tipping point” in U.S.-China relations, the Chinese government released its first-ever white paper on military strategy just before the fourteenth annual Shangri-La Dialogue was held in Singapore this past weekend. Since 2012, Beijing has indeed become more assertive in proximate waters, and the paper underscores determination to strengthen Chinese “strategic management of the sea.” Attention has rightly focused on expressions of Chinese resolve with respect to current points of contention such as China’s land reclamation on disputed features in the South China Sea. Most recently – following Pentagon predictions – a China’s Coast Guard appears to be increasing activity near Luconia Shoals, roughly 60 miles north of Borneo in Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone. But the strategic thinking just published also reflects a much larger story of profound changes in Chinese foreign policy.

New CFR InfoGuide Explores Emergence of the Kurds

June 4, 2015

June 4, 2015—As Kurds strive for a greater role in Turkey and continue to resist the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has released a new interactive guide examining the Kurds’ growing prominence in the region. 

An estimated 30 million Kurds live in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, and remain one of the world’s largest ethnic groups without a sovereign state. The destabilization of Iraq, the civil war in Syria, and the rise of the Islamic State present both challenges and opportunities for the Kurds. The latest InfoGuide in CFR's multimedia explainer series, "InfoGuide: The Time of the Kurds," outlines these dynamics, their historical underpinnings, and how they could reshape the Middle East. 

A dangerous modesty

IN THE white-marbled amphitheatre of Arlington National Cemetery, on the final Monday of May, Barack Obama delivered a short oration that said much about his view of the exercise of American military power. “Today”, the president said, “is the first Memorial Day in 14 years that the United States is not engaged in a major ground war.” America’s military presence in Afghanistan, which once stood at more than 100,000 troops, has dwindled to a tenth of that number. It has even fewer troops in Iraq (some of whom are pictured above), providing training and air support, not fighting.

On the day that America remembers its fallen soldiers, 7,000 of them lost in the conflicts that followed the attacks of September 2001, Mr Obama spoke from the belief that the country had had enough of wars. Little matter that Afghanistan is worryingly unstable. Or that Iraq and Syria are in pieces, their chaos filled by Sunni and Shia militias of all stripes. Or that Libya and Yemen are also torn by civil war. Or that America’s friends, Israel and Arab monarchies alike, feel abandoned.

5 Reasons the U.S. Cannot Defeat ISIS

June 6, 2015

On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama will sit down with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to talk about the strategy to fight the Islamic State. The president will lay out what he wants Iraq to do, including making good on promises to empower Sunni militias and tribes. Indeed, there are many things the United States can do to counter the Islamic State: It can increase the number of special forces deployed in the region; assign U.S. troops as spotters and coordinators with forward-deployed Iraqi units; supply weapons directly to vetted Sunni militias; and increase airstrikes.

But what it cannot do is defeat the Islamic State and eliminate it from Iraq and Syria. Even if we finesse the problem and use Obama's clever turn of phrase, to "ultimately defeat" ISIS, as our goal, we had better get used to a very long war. Even with such a war, victory as conventionally defined may still be elusive. Here is why.

ISIL wins support from Iraq's Sunni tribes

04 Jun 2015

A number of Sunni tribal sheikhs and tribes in Iraq's Anbar province have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

The sheikhs and tribal leaders made the pledge on Wednesday in Fallujah in a statement read out by Ahmed Dara al-Jumaili, an influential sheikh, after a meeting.

Al Jazeera's Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad, said it was not yet clear if the tribes had been forced to pledge allegiance by ISIL fighters, who control Fallujah and most of Anbar.

"If this is a willing move, then that is very worrying for the Iraqi government," he said.

Inside Story: Raising sectarian tensions in Iraq? 

"The statement they issued was very strong - it condemned the government.

"It said the only way that peace would come to Anbar province is if the tribes joined ISIL."

Our correspondent said the inclusion of the al-Jumaili tribe in the pledge was of particular concern for Iraqi authorities, given its influence in Anbar.

"The al-Jumailis command a number of fighters and they have a large amount of influence over other tribes [in Anbar]," he said.

Doubling Down on a Doubtful Strategy

JUNE 5, 2015

Why the current U.S. plan to win back Iraq only guarantees the Islamic State won’t be defeated.

In Paris this week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken gave us his vision of the war effort: It will be a long war, but the right strategy is in place, and Washington is going to “redouble our efforts.”

That last point is exactly the problem. The United States is constantly redoubling its efforts, because it’s drip feeding support to Iraq at a time when its enemy, the Islamic State — and its competitors, Iran’s militant proxies — are out-performing Washington by a long shot.

The U.S. campaign in Iraq since 2014 has been a study in too little, too late half-measures that do not actually save American resources in the long term.The U.S. campaign in Iraq since 2014 has been a study in too little, too late half-measures that do not actually save American resources in the long term. Instead, Washington just ends up needing to deepen its investment anyway – only, each time its allies trust it a little less, thousands more Iraqis have died, and irreplaceable communities and cultural artifacts have been lost forever.

Stratfor: How Islamic State Victories Shape the Syrian Civil War

June 4th, 2015 

In a display of considerable flexibility on the battlefield, the Islamic State managed to take rebel forces in northern Aleppo by surprise with a large-scale offensive aimed at securing more territory along the Syria-Turkey border. After drawing down its forces in the area, the Islamic State's sudden tactical shift resulted in considerable initial gains against the rebels.

Islamic State fighters seized Sawran and are advancing near Mare. But thanks to reinforcements from Aleppo city and other provinces, Syrian rebel forces have already begun to mount powerful counterattacks against the Islamic State. For now, the outcome of the battle hangs in the balance as both sides move to bolster their ranks.
The Battle for Aleppo

Qods Force Commander Soleimani in Anbar Province

June 4, 2015

Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commanding officer of Qods Force, the special operations branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, has reportedly been photographed in Iraq’s Anbar province alongside Shiite militiamen. Additionlly, Soleimani was photographed with the head of the Popular Mobilization Committee, who is listed by the US as a terrorist, and the leader of the Imam Ali Brigade, an Iranian-backed Shiite terror group.

The photographs of Soleimani in Anbar and Baghdad were published by Haidar Sumeri, an Iraqi who is supportive of Soleimani and the Iranian-suported Shiite militias that make up the Popular Mobilization Committee.

Obama Bets It All on the Mullahs

Jonathan Alter

The president looks to secure his legacy with a deal that would prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. But can he stave off the hawks both here and in Tehran?

The moment of truth for U.S.-Iranian relations—and for President Obama’s foreign policy legacy— is nearly upon us. With a June 30 deadline looming for the nuclear talks, we’ll learn soon enough whether Obama’s poker skills are good enough to keep the two countries off the path to war. 

Last week’s news was hardly reassuring: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports that Iran may have recently increased its nuclear stockpiles by as much as 20 percent since the 2013 Interim Agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. Whether that’s a late bargaining chip, a show of bad faith (though not a technical violation of the agreement) or both, it complicates the final deal. 

U.S. Considers Harder Line on Russia


Administration officials discussing new deterrence strategies to rein in Russian meddling in Europe

Obama administration officials are considering new deterrence strategies to rein in Russian meddling in Europe, in what some say would amount to an updated version of Cold War-era containment.

The proposed approach involves beefing up the militaries of allies and would-be partners and rooting out government corruption, which they see Moscow exploiting to gain more influence.

Some administration officials also want to expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to limit Moscow’s orbit. Membership for Ukraine or Georgia remains off the table, but some Pentagon and administration officials are advocating admitting the small Balkan country of Montenegro to solidify the country’s ties to the West and show that Mr. Putin doesn’t have a veto over alliance expansion.

International Military Observers Report Seeing Russian Combat Troops in the Eastern Ukraine

Damien Sharkov
June 4, 2015

International observers in eastern Ukraine have found what appears to be further evidence of Russian support for separatist fighters in the area, reporting that they spotted soldiers in Russian military garb in a car with Russian licence plates near a fenced-off camp area.

Russia continues to deny that it has sent troops to fight in eastern Ukraine, despite the Ukrainian government, Nato and media outlets reporting frequent evidence for the passage of Russian troops and equipment into Ukriane’s war-stricken Donetsk and Luhansk regions. However a report from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) which monitors the ceasefire signed between the two sides last February has published its clearest evidence for Russian presence in Ukraine yet, as tension continues to rise in the region.

The OSCE, which has a special monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine, has published a detailed account of meeting a group of armed persons in Russian military uniform near the village of Petrivske in separatist-held territory in the Luhansk region.

The observers had been directed there as locals had told them a local holiday camp was occupied by an unidentified armed group. The observers then spoke to “two women, both wearing military uniforms, with caps with Russian Federation Armed Forces insignia” also in the village. The women claimed to be from the Ukrainian town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk region, despite their attire.

Europe’s Last Act?


NEW YORK – European Union leaders continue to play a game of brinkmanship with the Greek government. Greece has met its creditors’ demands far more than halfway. Yet Germany and Greece’s other creditors continue to demand that the country sign on to a program that has proven to be a failure, and that few economists ever thought could, would, or should be implemented.

The swing in Greece’s fiscal position from a large primary deficit to a surplus was almost unprecedented, but the demand that the country achieve a primary surplus of 4.5% of GDP was unconscionable. Unfortunately, at the time that the “troika” – the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund – first included this irresponsible demand in the international financial program for Greece, the country’s authorities had no choice but to accede to it.

The folly of continuing to pursue this program is particularly acute now, given the 25% decline in GDP that Greece has endured since the beginning of the crisis. The troika badly misjudged the macroeconomic effects of the program that they imposed. According to their published forecasts, they believed that, by cutting wages and accepting other austerity measures, Greek exports would increase and the economy would quickly return to growth. They also believed that the first debt restructuring would lead to debt sustainability.

Defense Secretary Convenes Meeting on Ukraine, Russia

By Lolita Baldor
June 4, 2015

STUTTGART, Germany (AP) — Defense Secretary Ash Carter is summoning top American defense and diplomatic leaders to Germany Friday to map out a counterstrategy to Russia's military operations in Ukraine and reassure allies worried about Moscow's aggression.

The closed-door meeting of about two dozen generals, ambassadors and other leaders, is aimed at assessing how effective the current economic sanctions and U.S.-backed military operations have been in deterring Russia.

And Carter will seek advice on whether the U.S. needs to expand military exercises or beef up assistance to other countries in the region who watched Russia annex Ukraine's Crimea peninsula last year and worry about the threat to their own homelands.

A senior U.S. official traveling with Carter provided details about the summit on condition of anonymity but was not authorized to discuss the meeting publicly.

Russians looking for the exit

If Russia is alarming its neighbours with its actions in Ukraine and its anti-Western rhetoric, many of its own people are also uncomfortable with the prevailing atmosphere of bellicose nationalism. Some are preparing to leave, discovers the BBC's Caroline Wyatt, a former Moscow correspondent - and some have already left.

Moscow is at its loveliest in May, when the usually forbidding expanse of Red Square is bathed in sunshine, and the delicate scent of lilac fills the air around the crazy ice-cream spirals of St Basil's Cathedral. Tourists from across the Russian Federation take smiling family photographs in front of the church built to mark Ivan the Terrible's military conquests.

The rocket launchers and martial might on display to celebrate Victory Day in Europe have all gone. And instead of marching bands, the ethereal sounds of an Orthodox church choir fill the square, and visitors stop to listen. The only reminder that all is not quite as sunny as it seems is the shrine of flowers on the bridge, the fresh summer bunches left with handwritten notes - in memory of the Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, shot dead on this same spot just a few months ago.

Defence Offsets: International Best Practices and Lessons for India

IDSA Monograph Series No. 45

The Monograph provides a comprehensive roadmap for reforming India’s defence offset policy which despite having gone through several rounds of revisions in past decade or so, still lacks effectiveness. The roadmap is based on extensive study of offset practices followed by six countries: Canada, Israel, Malaysia, South Korea, Turkey and the UAE. The Monograph argues that in comparison to the offset policy followed by these countries, the Indian policy has inherent design flaws that needs a through overhaul for it to become effective. The Monograph also establishes a methodology for assessing the impact of the Indian offset policy on the domestic industry. 
About the Author

Dr Laxman Kumar Behera is Research Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), a premier think tank under India's Ministry of Defence. As a member of the IDSA's Centre of Defence Economics and Industry, Dr Behera has vertical specialisation on issues related to Arms Procurement, Defence Offsets, Defence Industry, Military Spending, and Defence Cooperation. He was closely associated with two high-level Committees set up by the Indian MoD on Defence Acquisition and Defence Expenditure. He was a Consultant to the Task Force on Self-Reliance and Defence Modernisation constituted by the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), Government of India. Dr Behera held the prestigious ICCR Chair, India Studies, at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The Guardian view on cyberwars: enter the trolls

Friday 5 June 2015

The great breach in the US government’s database is a classic case of informational smash and grab. But operations to plant misinformation are also worrying for states which care about truth 

Digital wars are being fought in many theatres around the world – and in many forms. In the light of the Snowden revelations, citizens who guard their privacy may already feel that it has been occupied by a hostile force. But on Thursday, the Obama administration conceded that the US federal government had itself fallen victim to a hack on an unprecedented scale, with the security of the details of up to four million former and present employees apparently breached.

The Chinese, who were initially considered the most likely suspects, hotly deny any responsibility for this data smash and grab. Nor is it immediately obvious what the perpetrators’ motives might be. It could be a fishing expedition to establish who has access to real secrets. It could be a more straightforward criminal enterprise, a prelude to identity theft. The initial hack probably happened months ago, for one of the distinguishing features of the digital age is its capacity to host the faceless along with the intimate. This is what lends a more sinister force to the familiar equation of information, truth and power. The ability to extract or insert information that may or may not be true is not new – but it is uniquely facilitated in a digital world.

China Hackers Got Past Costly U.S. Computer Security With Ease

June 5, 2015

The hackers who stole personal data on 4 million government employees from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management sneaked past a sophisticated counter-hacking system called Einstein 3, a highly-touted, multimillion-dollar and mostly secret technology that’s been years in the making.

It’s behind schedule, the result of inter-agency fights over privacy, control and other matters, and only about half of the government was protected when the hackers raided OPM’s databases last December.

It’s also, by the government’s own admission, already obsolete.

“Einstein 3 was state of the art two years ago,” said James Lewis, senior fellow in cybersecurity at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “It’s good, but it’s not enough, and we know that because the commercial security industry is already moving away from that kind of defense.”

The breach of OPM by hackers, linked by U.S. officials to the Chinese government, has focused attention on the shortcomings of Einstein 3, and by extension the troubled effort to secure government computer networks from sophisticated adversaries such as China and Russia.


June 5, 2015

Former al Qaeda Fighter Turned MI6 Spy Urges Effort To ‘Confuse’ Islamic State; “Problem Is Deep….And Difficult…Sowing Doubt Is The Key.”

Ian Black, writing on the June 5, 2015 website, The Guardian, discuss what a former jihadi and member of al Qaeda thinks would work in undermining and defeating the Islamic State. Aimen Dean [not his real name], a Bahraini and former al Qaeda operative, “discussed strategies for countering violent extremism at a conference this week in Qatar,” Mr. Black writes. Joined by “academics and security policy wonks,” Mr. Black noted that Dean’s “years in the jihadi world, and his extraordinary journey out of it,” make him uniquely qualified to discuss what really goes on in these groups; and, more importantly, what might negatively impact their movement and ideology.

“The first thing, is to realize the magnitude of the problem,” Mr. Dean urges. “It is deep, and difficult,” he contends. “The idea that there is a magic solution to convince these people just to turn around and come back and be good citizens is impossible. It is ludicrous. Sowing doubt is the key.”

Space Weapons And The Risk Of Nuclear Exchanges

May 27, 2015
Bharath Gopalaswamy

The Outer Space Treaty keeps weapons of mass destruction out of orbit. That’s not the same as prohibiting warfare in space. More than one nation has successfully tested destructive antisatellite weapons in space and many more are presumed to possess antisatellite capabilities. Meanwhile, important strategic capabilities such as early warning, secure communications, intelligence gathering, and command and control increasingly run through space. This raises the troubling possibility that the use of antisatellite weapons amid a crisis between nuclear-armed nations might lead to a nuclear exchange—indeed, US war games have repeatedly demonstrated that antisatellite weapons can cause crises to escalate in unpredictable ways. Below, experts debate this question: To what extent do antisatellite weapons increase the risk of nuclear war—and what can be done to moderate the risk?

China’s 2007 antisatellite test sparked considerable debate among policy planners in the United States regarding the potential vulnerability of US space assets. Many scholars and analysts believe that, over the last decade, China has slowly but steadily invested in a wide range of counterspace capabilities that are in fact capable of posing threats to the United States and its allies. Concern focuses on two issues.

USAF Used Militant Social Media Postings to Locate ISIS Headquarters for Airstrikes

Brian Everstein 
June 5, 2015 

OPSEC isn’t the Islamic State group’s strong suit. 

Airmen at Hurlburt Field, Florida, used social media posts by the insurgent group to track the location of an Islamic State group headquarters building. Twenty-two hours later, three joint direct attack munitions destroyed the target, said Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, at a June 1 speech in Arlington, Virginia. 

“The [airmen are] combing through social media and they see some moron standing at this command,” Carlisle said at the speech, which was sponsored by the Air Force Association. “And in some social media, open forum, bragging about command and control capabilities for Da'esh, ISIL, And these guys go 'ah, we got an in.’ 

"So they do some work, long story short, about 22 hours later through that very building, three JDAMS take that entire building out. Through social media. It was a post on social media. Bombs on target in 22 hours. 

"It was incredible work, and incredible airmen doing this sort of thing.” 

DNA Has Now Become an Intelligence Tool

June 6, 2015

U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) is testing two portable DNA analysis devices overseas. These two devices each cost about $250,000 and one weighs 55 kg (120 pounds) and the other 91 kg (200 pounds). Both require near constant power because some of the chemicals used for testing must be refrigerated. Most importantly these devices can analyze a tissue sample of DNA in 90 minutes. Previously the analysis had to be sent back to the United States or some other nation with classified DNA analysis facilities and this took over a week, sometimes over a month. This much speedier DNA analysis has made it possible to catch some bomb builders or others involved in terrorism because of the DNA samples (taken from bomb fragments or someplace just raided) could be analyzed and compared to suspected terrorists in the area (or not) and suspects could be captured (or killed) before they got away. The portable DNA analyzers were designed to be used by the usual SOCOM personnel found overseas (bright but few with training as lab technicians) and this was successful as well. 

Experts: NSA efforts part of the battle in cyber-proxy war

Elizabeth Weise

SAN FRANCISCO — The United States is engaged in a proxy war with its enemies, a war where cyber-space is the battlefield, cyber experts say.

Because of that, the National Security Agency's expansion of warrantless surveillance of American's international Internet traffic is necessary, said Tom Kellermann, chief cybersecurity officer with Trend Micro, a Texas-based computer security company.

"Let's be fair. The National Security Agency's role is to protect national security. This is not about violating American's privacy, this is about spy hunting," Kellermann said.

Cyber weapons: 4 defining characteristics

By Clay Wilson 
Jun 04, 2015 

Nations can take advantage of anonymity and deniability while conducting military campaigns in cyberspace, enabling a type of “clean coercion” warfare. The number and sophistication of cyberattack campaigns by nations will continue to increase because they minimize the need to risk military personnel or costly equipment. Unlike personnel and equipment, computer code may be instantly redeployed to any area, and because code is reusable, it offers a practically bottomless magazine for future attacks.

News reports now describe cyberattacks that can result in severe physical damage to facilities and equipment, and a tendency has arisen for the media to compare malicious cyber code to weaponry. But, what is the definition of a weapon, and how can we more clearly identify when a cyberattack should be correctly labeled as a “cyber weapon”?

Each U.S. military service has its own written definition for what comprises a weapon. However, a “weapon” must also meet international legal standards. The Hague and Geneva conventions describe how a “capability” that is called a weapon cannot legitimately be used by the military until after a legal review. These conventions are intended to protect the civilian population from unnecessary suffering during a war. The “Tallinin Manual on International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare” was developed after a series of cyberattacks were directed against Estonia in 2007, causing extensive disruption to civilian services. This manual defines a cyber weapon as a “cyber means of warfare” that is capable, by design or intent, of causing injury to persons or objects. So, if there is intentional injury, or if computer functionality is intentionally disrupted through a cyberattack, then we might be experiencing a cyber weapon.

Chinese Hacking of U.S. Data May Extend to Insurance Companies

JUNE 5, 2015 

SAN FRANCISCO — The same Chinese hackers who breached the records of at least four million government workers through the Office of Personnel Management appear to have been responsible for similar thefts of personal data at two major health care firms, Anthem and Premera, according to cybersecurity experts.

The multiple attacks, which began last year and were all discovered this spring, appear to mark a new era in cyberespionage with the theft of huge quantities of data and no clear motive for the hackers.

There is no evidence that the data collected was used for criminal purposes like faking identities to make credit card purchases. Instead, the attackers seem to be amassing huge databases of personal information about Americans. Some have high-level security clearances, which the Office of Personnel Management handles, but millions of others do not, and the reasons for their records being taken have puzzled investigators.

All of the attacks have one thing in common: The United States government has traced them to China, though it is unclear whether the attackers are working for the state.

Iran claims blockade of US cyberattack in post-Stuxnet furore

May 27 2015 

American officials are clearly worried about rival's cyber-war capacity.

Iran is claiming to have blocked a US-backed cyberattack on its oil ministry during the last two months, in the latest major dispute over cyber-war between the two countries.

Speaking at a cybercrime forum, the head of the country's cyber-police told reporters of the attempted attack which took place at the end of March, prompting diplomatic action from Iran's foreign ministry.

In remarks reported by Fars New Agency, Seyed Kamal Hadianfarm, the brigadier general who leads Iran's cyber-police (FATA), said: "The Cyber Attacks Emergency Centre in FATA has thwarted hackers' attack against the oil ministry.

North Korea is Developing a New Satellite

June 4, 2015

TOKYO — North Korean space agency officials say the country is developing a more advanced Earth observation satellite and are defending their right to conduct rocket launches whenever they see fit, despite protests by the United States and others that the launches are aimed primarily at honing military-use technologies.

The North launched its first and only satellite in 2012. The claim that it is working on another, made in an interview last week with an AP Television crew in Pyongyang, comes amid a flurry of attention to the country's fledgling space agency, including a visit by leader Kim Jong Un to a new satellite control center that was repeatedly broadcast on North Korean TV early last month.

General Eisenhower's D-Day Speech

On June 5, 1944, 150,000 troops were massed in Southern England waiting to begin the world’s largest amphibious assault.

The success of D-Day would open a new Allied front against Nazi Germany, leading to the downfall of Hitler and the Third Reich. On the eve of the assault, Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower sent the following statement to all troops taking part in the operation. To hear a recording of Eisenhower reading the statement to the troops, check out the video below the letter.

'The Indian soldiers adapted quickly and performed remarkably well'

June 05, 2015

Image: A nurse adjusts the blanket of a wounded Indian soldier, as the stretcher on which he is lying is lifted and placed into a motor ambulance somewhere on the Western Front, World War I.

It's a part of Indian history that glossed over, almost forgotten.

How many of us recall today that over one-and-a-half million Indian soldiers fought under the British flag or that nearly 60,000 to 70,000 of these brave, unnamed men lost their lives on the battlefront?

The result of Das's research is his most recent work, 1914-1918: Indian Troops In Europe (external link), a visual history based on rare archival photographs from Europe and India.

In this, the second part of his interview to Vaihayasi Pande Daniel/Rediff.com, Das talks about the important role of the Indian soldier in World War I, he describes how the sepoy felt about being parachuted into strange lands to fight for an shadowy cause.

Why South Korea is So Obsessed with Japan

June 4, 2015

Last month I wrote about the possibility that 'Korea fatigue' – a Japanese phenomenon arising from Korea's relentless criticism of Japan over its World War II conduct – might be coming to the US. It was one of my most-read posts on The Interpreter, and Ireceived a lot of comments and retweets regarding my suggestion that South Korea's 'anti-Japanism' flows from its debilitating national legitimacy contest with North Korea. So I thought I would flesh out that argument.

It is immediately obvious to anyone who has spent substantial time in South Korea that its people and its elites have an extraordinary, and negative, fixation with Japan. Korea's media talks about Japan incessantly, usually with little journalistic objectivity and in negative terms: as a competitor for export markets which must be overcome, as a rival for American attention, as an unrepentant colonialist, as a recipient of the 'Korean Wave' (watch Korean analysts triumphantly argue that Japanese housewives are learning Korean), as a lurking military imperialist just waiting to subdue Asia again, and so on.

Surviving the Military's Drawdown

By Phil Walter
June 4, 2015

The drawdown is upon us. Both the base budget and the overseas contingency operation funding lines are getting smaller. This is forcing Department of Defense (DoD) components to make hard decisions on which programs they want to fund. These hard decisions are informed and influenced by the efforts of strategists, cost assessors, budgeters, congressional affairs personnel, program evaluators, and others who do similar work. If DoD components want to survive, and possibly thrive during a drawdown, they need to invest in and reward the work of strategists, cost assessors, budgeters, congressional affairs personnel, and program evaluators as they are DoD’s Program Defenders.

Japan, Philippines to Talk About Military Trade

June 4, 2015

TOKYO (AP) — Japan and the Philippines agreed Thursday to start talks on transferring Japanese military hardware and technology to the Southeast Asian country trying to upgrade its defenses.

Tokyo eased restrictions on exports of military equipment and technology last year as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to expand Japan's military role abroad.

Under a strategic partnership agreement signed by Abe and visiting Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, the two countries will begin talks aimed at the export of Japanese hardware that may include anti-submarine reconnaissance aircraft and radar technology. The rules and details would still have to be discussed.

Japanese media reported that P-3C anti-submarine reconnaissance aircraft and radar technology are possible export items. A sale of the P-3C, originally designed by Lockeed Martin Corp. and produced in Japan by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, would be a more fully fledged military export than those currently being discussed under the new rules.