10 October 2015

Recommended Reading: All You Need To Know About Digital India


27 Sep, 20151
Prime Minister Modi is heavily promoting the Digital India program in Silicon Valley. But what does the program consist of? How will it change things for the ordinary citizens? Swarajya presents you a four part explanatory series to help you understand.

Swarajya contributor Aashish Chandrokar’s series on Digital India is perhaps the only detailed attempt at explaning the contours, pros and cons of the program available today. The series is in four parts:

– The first part deals with the overall context of the Digital India program and explains the organisation of its constituents. It dwells on the nine pillars that together make up the Digital India vision and how they will be implemented. Read part one here.

– Part Two: How do the buildings blocks of Digital India look? How easy or difficult is the execution of the national optic fiber network program? This is the toughest and most intricate part of Digital India, and things still don’t look very good. Read more here.

– Part Three: If creating infrastructure appears to be a problem getting various central and state governments to adopt e-governance seems like an even bigger challenge. How will the many dozens of government services be rationalised for digital delivery? All this is part of the National e-governance project which is one of Digital India’s pillars. Find out how this segment of the Digital India is doing in part three.

– Part Four: Will Digital India help deliver more employment opportunities? With more than 12 million Indians joining the workforce every year will this program help them find, create and fill new jobs?Read in the last part.

Should India Join the TPP?


In the wake of this week’s historic agreement, what should India do now?
By Rachit Ranjan
October 09, 2015
The international trade regime witnessed a historic moment on Monday, with the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries announcing the conclusion of successful negotiations on what has been touted as a mammoth free trade agreement covering more than 40 percent of the global economy.

Over the course of the past couple of years, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been in the news for a variety of reasons that touch on foreign policy maneuvering and provide a teaser of the new age of economic diplomacy that is upon us. In the U.S., opponents of the trade deal have lambasted the Obama administration for conducting the negotiations in secrecy and have consistently advocated against the deal, citing reasons such as a loss of jobs and export revenue. However, the rhetoric that has developed elsewhere is premised on the strategic considerations of the U.S and its traditional allies. Considering the rise of Sino-centrism in Asia and the corresponding diminishment of the sphere of influence enjoyed by U.S. and its traditional allies, the TPP has been perceived as a strategic maneuver, part of Obama’s larger pivot to Asia, and has been pursued seemingly to create a set of market access standards that advance the interests of U.S. industries. It is believed that these standards will invariably favor industries in developed countries, as developing countries are yet to reach that level of sophistication in their international trade dealings.

A recent study conducted by Peterson Institute’s C. Fred Bergsten observed that India’s international competitiveness is in shambles. To support this point of view, Bergsten provides India’s export data in the manufacturing and services sector, which suggest that it has stagnated for more than three years. The merchandise trade deficit is at an all-time high.

The figures certainly suggest weakness. As a forewarning, Bergsten also points out that India’s annual export losses could very well touch $50 billion if China and the rest of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) bloc decide to join the TPP in a second stage. As such, Bergsten makes the case for India to join the TPP, and other plurilateral arrangements that are being pursued under and around the aegis of WTO, claiming that integration would lead to massive export gains and raise India’s national income by an estimated 4 percent. Although Bergsten appears very sanguine about the benefits that would accrue through India’s integration with TPP and other agreements, it is unclear what sort of compromises India would have to make to achieve this target, particularly in the case of the TPP.

Kunduz Frontline Report: 10 Days After the Taliban Siege

The Diplomat’s Sanjay Kumar speaks to Afghan journalist Shershah Nawabi 10 days after the fall of the city to the Taliban.

October 10, 2015 
It has been almost ten days since Kunduz , a strategically located northern city in Afghanistan, fell to the Taliban. Despite repeated efforts, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have not yet been able to completely recapture the city.

Shershah Nawabi, a Kabul-based Afghan journalist, is embedded with the Afghan special forces in Kunduz. To get a sense of the situation on the ground, The Diplomat’s Sanjay Kumar spoke to Nawabi to get a take on the latest news from the front.

Q: Where are you now and what’s happening at the ground?

A: Right now, I am with the Afghan Special Forces in the centre of Kunduz. You can still hear sporadic gunfire throughout the city. Some Talibs are still holed up inside the residential areas. They are keeping the Afghan troops busy. No doubt these insurgents want to keep people on edge. But from what I see in large parts of the city, the local population is gradually going back to their daily lives. However, some are leaving the city and are heading to neighboring provinces for safety.

Credit: Shershah Nawabi

Q: How is the situation?

A: Right now we have two kinds of troops fighting on the ground right now. There are a small number of commandos as well as Special Forces currently fighting the Taliban inside the city. There are also a large number of Afghan National Army (ANA) and police forces waiting outside the city. They are providing an outer security perimeter. The Special Forces are gradually clearing the city in order to avoid civilian casualties.

Q: Is there still fighting going on in the city itself?

A: You can’t say it’s a real battle. There is still some sporadic resistance from the Taliban. Their idea is to keep the troops engaged and to be a nuisance to the Afghan government. Today, the commandos killed six Talib fighters in the city. According to reports, a group of insurgents tried to capture the city square today but the government forces were able to defeat them.

Q: How secure is the civilian population feeling now?

A: People are feeling a sense of relief after the recapture of most of the city by the security forces. They are more worried now about the scarcity of food and medicine in the city. To avoid these difficulties many are migrating to neighboring provinces like Takhar and Mazar-e-Sharif. But those who are poor have to stay in the city and fend for themselves until the government can bring in aid.




Once again, Russia has turned to the counterterrorism card to seek a way out of its precarious situation at home and in the international arena. During his address to the UN General Assembly, President Vladimir Putin stressed the importance of fighting against terrorism: “Relying on international law, we must join efforts to address the problems that all of us are facing, and create a genuinely broad international coalition against terrorism.” Two days later, Russian forces in Syria began airstrikes against a panoply of anti-Assad groups. While Russian strikes have targeted the Islamic State and Putin continues to justify the campaign on the basis of fighting that group, most strikes have hit other rebel groups that had been advancing on the Alawite heartland.

The timing of the strikes could not have worked better. Floods of Syrian refugees in Europe, growing contradictions among anti-Assad groups, and the indecisiveness of Western powers have allowed Putin the upper hand. At the United Nations, the Russian president pointed out the gross miscalculations of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State. Referring to the transfer of weapons between the Syrian oppositional groups, Putin declared: “It is hypocritical and irresponsible to make declarations about the threat of terrorism and at the same time turn a blind eye to the channels used to finance and support terrorists.”

Predictably, Putin offered his own solution for resolving the situation in Syria. In his vision, Russian airstrikes will continue until the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are ready to once again go on the offensive. Triumphantly, the Russian government declared that unlike the actions of the anti-Islamic State coalition, the Kremlin’s response fully adheres to international norms. Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matvyenko explained that “interference into the territory of a sovereign state can only be carried out on authorization of UN Security Council or on request of official legitimate authorities.” Accordingly, Russia is acting in response to President Assad’s letter requesting help. Lastly, Russia’s Federation Council unanimously voted in favor of Putin’s initiative to further legitimize the involvement of the Russian forces, just as it did in 2014 in Crimea.

This isn’t the first time Putin is banking on counterterrorism to advance his interests, a strategy he used to overcome the challenges he inherited from the Yeltsin era, too. After the terrorist attack on 9/11, Putin was the first foreign leader to reach out to President George W. Bush to assure him of Russia’s commitment to fighting terrorism. Counterterrorism became instrumental for the Kremlin to subdue domestic criticism about the lack of security and stability in Russia. Counterterrorism also secured a green light for Putin’s regime to continue military action in Chechnya. As a sign of approval, then-U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice stated: “We know that there are terrorists in and around Chechnya and we urge Chechen leaders to disassociate themselves from the criminals who might be found in their ranks. We cannot fight international terrorism in Afghanistan and welcome it in Chechnya.”

Beware China’s Political Warfare Campaign Against US, Allies: Experts


U.S.Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus is rendered honors by Chinese sailors during a visit to the People's Liberation Army (Navy) ship in Ningbo, China.

A recent conference surveyed Beijing’s efforts against Washington and its allies.

By Prashanth Parameswaran, October 10, 2015 
China is actively waging political warfare against the United States and its allies, a group of experts told a conference in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.
While Chinese actions are usually viewed through a military lens, some have stressed that they should be examined as part of a broader effort to influence the thoughts and actions of foreign governments, groups and individuals in a manner favorable to Beijing’s own objectives – activities known as political warfare or influence operations.

“The objective here is to shape how things are perceived,” Dean Cheng, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, the co-host of the conference along with the Project 2049 Institute.

Chinese political warfare, said Mark Stokes, executive director of the Project 2049 Institute, is deeply rooted in Chinese history, with origins from both Chinese strategic thinkers like Sun Tzu as well as Marxist-Leninist influences. While the practice is not illegal and Beijing is hardly the only one employing it, Stokes argued that the degree to which Beijing has been distorting objective reality and the lengths to which it has been willing to go to do so has been particularly striking.

The practice also enjoys high-level bureaucratic support within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Political warfare – known euphemistically in China as “PLA military liaison work” – is supported by an elaborate organizational structure that includes elements of the PLA’s General Political Department as well as the CCP’s Central Propaganda Department.

The priority countries for Chinese political warfare, according to Stokes, are Taiwan, followed by Japan and then the United States.

Is This China’s Eurasian Century?


China’s response to the U.S. pivot to Asia — a “march west” — faces serious hurdles.
October 10, 2015 

In October 2011, Foreign Policy magazine published an article by then-U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Titled “America’s Pacific Century,” the subheading of the article reads: “The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action.” This article is widely viewed as the manifesto of the Obama administration’s Asia policy — originally stated as the “pivot to Asia” but subsequently rephrased as the “rebalance to Asia.”

For most Chinese officials and analysts, this rebalance to Asia is a thinly-disguised U.S. attempt to “encircle” a rising China. Indeed, considering the chain of U.S. military deployments and defense alliances in the Western Pacific, it is impossible for Washington to refute such an interpretation of its rebalance.

So how did Beijing respond?

Some Chinese analysts propose that China should instead “march west,” looking for potential geopolitical allies and new economic opportunities in the vast Eurasian continent. They also point out that this “march west” has the additional benefit of boosting economic development in China’s underdeveloped western regions.

When the Silk Road Economic Belt (the Belt for short) was announced in September 2013, it seemed that advocates of the “march west” had won the full endorsement of China’s top leaders. The Belt is an ambitious Chinese initiative that aims to enhance interconnectivity and economic cooperation among Eurasian countries located along what used to be the ancient Silk Road. China’s Eurasian century dawns, if only because it is unable and unwilling — at least for the moment — to compete with the United States for predominance over the Pacific century.

Minsk Breaks Silence on Russian Airbase Issue

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 12 Issue: 181

October 7, 2015 

Protesters in Minsk opposing the establishment of a Russian air base in Belarus (Source: rbc.ru)

As the presidential campaign in Belarus nears its end, the initially marginal issue of a prospective Russian airbase on Belarusian territory has grown ever louder (see EDM, September 23). On October 4, members of the Belarusian opposition held an unsanctioned rally, in the center of Minsk, against foreign military bases (BelaPAN, October 4). The event gathered only about 500 participants (Nasha Niva, October 4), but attracted considerable media attention. The authorities kept silent on the issue until October 5, when President Alyaksandr Lukashenka made an unexpectedly tough statement.

“We do not need a base these days, especially military air forces. What we need are certain types of weapons. This is what I told [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and, before that, [Prime Minister Dmitry] Medvedev,” said Lukashenka. He explained: “We need aircraft, not bases. We have great pilots and excellent schools of military and civil aviation. Why would I want to create a base? Why would I want to bring foreign aircraft and pilots here? What would ours do then?” (BelTA, October 6).

Lukashenka’s statement presents a new twist to a story that has the potential to become another protracted project (like the single currency or the Union State’s constitution, for example) in Belarus-Russia relations. However, unlike other long-standing proposals, this one infringes on what has always been a “sacred cow.”
The story began in 2013, when Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told the press, after his meeting with the president of Belarus, that a Russian airbase would be established on Belarusian territory within two years. Only a few days later, however, Lukashenka carefully denounced the statement, saying that the discussion was about supplementing the Belarusian army with Russian fighter jets rather than opening a fully-fledged airbase (Gazeta.ru, May 5, 2013). Those interpretations caused an immediate wave of resentment in the Russian media; but soon, the issue mainly disappeared from the headlines. Yet, it reappeared from time to time, with new, often controversial details, which pointed to an uneasy negotiation process occurring behind closed doors.

How the Current Conflicts Are Shaping the Future of Syria and Iraq


PDF file,  0.6 MB 


Continued fighting has seen the diminishing strength of Syria's secular rebels and the ascent of its most extreme jihadist component, represented by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Despite open warfare with other rebel formations in Syria, ISIL was able to seize control of much of eastern Syria and western Iraq, which prompted American bombing. This soon expanded into a broader bombing campaign by a coalition of Western and Middle Eastern nations. As a result, ISIL has suffered some military setbacks and lost territory, but it also has been able to capture several more key cities in Iraq and Syria, and it continues to attract a large number of foreign fighters. The threat they pose, along with ISIL's continued exhortations to its supporters abroad to carry out terrorist attacks, has increased pressure on the United States to deploy American ground combat forces. This essay examines how the dynamics of continuing conflicts will shape the future of Syria, Iraq, and the broader region. The conclusions point to a substantial gap between American national objectives and a realistic appreciation of the situation.

China’s Search for a “Strategic Air Force”

 China Brief Volume: 15 Issue: 19
October 2, 2015

Central Military Commission Vice-Chairman Xu Qiliang has stated that the Chinese air force rapidly evolving from a “supporting, subordinate force into a decisive strategic force.” (Image: Chinese internet)

Note: This piece is based on a longer article published in The Journal of Strategic Studies that is available for download here and will appear in the print version of the journal in early 2016.

On September 10, People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) spokesman Shen Jinke stated that some PLAAF systems displayed to the public during the “9-3” military parade, including the H-6K bomber, the KJ-500 airborne early warning and control plane, and the H-9 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system testified to the quickening pace of China’s drive to transform the PLAAF into a “strategic service” (战略性军种) (Liberation Daily, September 10). Once dismissed by many outside observers, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has undergone an impressive transformation over the past two decades, emerging as one of the world’s premier air forces. As it continues to modernize, it is focused on becoming a “strategic air force” (战略空军). PLAAF strategists suggest this means the air force should play a decisive role in protecting Chinese national interests, field modern capabilities commensurate with China’s standing as a major power and enjoy the institutional status befitting its role as a “strategic service,” an important consideration given the historical dominance of ground forces in China’s military.

Becoming a “Strategic Air Force”

Through the 1990s, the PLAAF faced daunting obstacles on its path to becoming a more modern and operationally capable air force, including a relatively narrow set of missions and capabilities that lagged behind other regional air forces. By the late 1990s, however, tremendous changes were underway across the Chinese military. The reform of China’s defense industry and dramatic increases in defense spending enabled China to begin developing and deploying the hardware that PLA leaders viewed as essential to building a more modern and operationally capable military, including a more technologically advanced and powerful air force. The PLAAF’s doctrine and force employment concepts also evolved in line with a broader transformation of doctrine across the PLA that followed the issuance of new campaign guidance documents (战略方针) in 1999. Additionally, according to the China Air Force Encyclopedia, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, in a 1999 speech to commemorate the PLAAF’s 50th anniversary, called for the PLAAF to “prepare struggle to build a powerful, modernized air force that is simultaneously prepared for offensive and defensive operations” (攻防兼备). [2] In 2004, this idea was incorporated into the PLAAF’s first ever service-specific strategic concept, which called on it to “integrate air and space and be simultaneously prepared for offensive and defensive operations.”

Chinese Rocket Launches Point to Robust, Expanding Capabilities


Publication: China Brief Volume: 15 Issue: 19
October 2, 2015 

A Long March 6 rocket preps for launch at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (Source: Chinese internet)
In late September, China conducted the first launch of two new types of rocket, the Long March 6, and the Long March 11 (China Military Online, September 20; People’s Daily Overseas Edition, September 26). While much of the media attention in September focused on the intercontinental and intermediate range missiles on display during the September 9 parade, the almost mundane regularity of space launches from Chinese satellite launch centers such as Taiyuan, Jiuquan and Xichang, herald China’s rapid expansion as a space power. The ability to launch a wide variety of satellites and spacecraft is important to China’s continued economic growth and national defense.

Chinese military analysts recognize space as an “information center of gravity” (China Brief, April 16). Strategically, it is a capability that they simply cannot live without and where they cannot afford to rely on another for launch capability. The United States, by contrast, remains reliant on Russian rockets for manned missions and many of the resupply missions to the International Space Station, including a launch on October 1 (NASA, August 25;ROSCOSMOS, October 1). Satellite technology is a vital component in the Chinese military’s ability to “win informatized local wars.” China will continue to focus on improving the ability of its military forces to communicate with each other over long distances and to detect threats and provide targeting data to missile systems.

Russia's intervention in Syria compels Obama to act or yield


By Karen DeYoung , The Washington Post
Published: October 8, 2015
Source: Institute for the Study of War, Janes.

Russia's military moves in Syria are fundamentally changing the face of the country's civil war, putting President Bashar al-Assad back on his feet, and may complicate the Obama administration's plans to expand its air operations against the Islamic State.

So far, the administration has not budged in its two-fold strategy – direct airstrikes against the Islamic State and significant aid for those fighting against it, and a push for negotiations to end what has been the largely separate Syrian civil war.

Senior administration officials acknowledge that Russia has already made some tactical gains in the civil war, even as they insist President Vladimir Putin will ultimately pay for what they describe as a strategic blunder that will undercut his already-tenuous reputation in the world, and will encourage the spread of the militants.

If Putin's goal was "to get attention," one senior official said, "then it was brilliant . . . if it was to end the fighting in Syria, that's where we think it's a strategic error." At the same time, the official said, "Russia is now going to be viewed as being anti-Sunni . . . attracting the ire of extremist groups," including the Islamic State.

But others within the administration, and many outside experts, are increasingly worried that if President Obama does not take decisive action – such as quickly moving to claim the air space over northwestern Syria and the Turkish border, where Russian jets are already operating – it is the United States that will suffer significant damage to both its reputation and its foreign policy and counterterrorism goals.

Bottled risk


Posted on September 15, 2015

BRAHMA CHELLANEY,  A column internationally syndicated by Project Syndicate.

Over the last 15 years, the bottled-water industry has experienced explosive growth, which shows no sign of slowing. In fact, bottled water – including everything from “purified spring water” to flavored water and water enriched with vitamins, minerals, or electrolytes – is the largest growth area in the beverage industry, even in cities where tap water is safe and highly regulated. This has been a disaster for the environment and the world’s poor.
The environmental problems begin early on, with the way the water is sourced. The bulk of bottled water sold worldwide is drawn from the subterranean water reserves of aquifers and springs, many of which feed rivers and lakes. Tapping such reserves can aggravate drought conditions.

But bottling the runoff from glaciers in the Alps, the Andes, the Arctic, the Cascades, the Himalayas, Patagonia, the Rockies, and elsewhere is not much better, as it diverts that water from ecosystem services like recharging wetlands and sustaining biodiversity. This has not stopped big bottlers and other investors from aggressively seeking to buy glacier-water rights. China’s booming mineral-water industry, for example, taps into Himalayan glaciers, damaging Tibet’s ecosystems in the process.

Much of today’s bottled water, however, is not glacier or natural spring water but processed water, which is municipal water or, more often, directly extracted groundwater that has been subjected to reverse osmosis or other purification treatments. Not surprisingly, bottlers have been embroiled in disputes with local authorities and citizens’ groups in many places over their role in water depletion, and even pollution. In drought-seared California, some bottlers have faced protests and probes; one company was evenbanned from tapping spring water.

Dancing On The Heads Of Snakes

-- this post authored by Scott Stewart

Yemen's fractured militant landscape is becoming more complex as groups vie for influence on the battlefield. On the morning of Oct. 6, armed assailants launched a complicated attack involving multiple vehicle bombs against the al Qasr hotel and resort in Aden province. The hotel, which housed senior Yemeni officials as well as Saudi and Emirati military officers, is located in a large compound just across the bay from the city of Aden. It was probably chosen to serve as the government's temporary headquarters precisely because it is situated outside the city and was likely spared the ravages of the monthslong street war that has plagued Aden.

The resort is a hardened target that would have been difficult for most potential aggressors to attack. It resides in a spacious compound that has a fixed perimeter, making it more defensible and less vulnerable to vehicle bombs than most buildings inside the city. The hotel is also protected by Yemeni and coalition troops, posing another challenge for any potential assailants.

And yet, despite these deterrents, militants not only attacked the resort but also used sophisticated tactics to breach its perimeter and target the hotel's main building with vehicle bombs. The assailants reportedly deployed additional vehicle bombs against two other hardened facilities used by the coalition's military forces. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack and has published photographs of four young men the group says were the suicide bombers involved in the assault. If the Islamic State's claims are true, then its newly showcased capabilities will ensure that the threats of insurgency and terrorism will linger long after Yemen's conventional conflict is over.
A New Faction Asserts Itself

It’s Time for the United States to Start Worrying About a Saudi Collapse


As if there weren’t already enough problems to worry about in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia might be headed for trouble. From plummeting oil prices to foreign-policy missteps to growing tensions with Iran, a confluence of recent events is mounting to pose some serious challenges for the Saudi regime. If not properly managed, these events could eventually coalesce into a perfect storm that significantly increases the risk of instability within the kingdom, with untold consequences for global oil markets and security in the Middle East.

Here are some of the percolating problems that could throw the country off kilter.

Fissures Within the Royal Family. Last week, the Guardian published two letters that an anonymous Saudi prince recently circulated among senior members of the royal family, calling on them to stage a palace coup against King Salman. The letters allege that Salman, who ascended to the throne in January, and his powerful 30-something son Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have pursued dangerous policies that are leading the country to political, economic, and military ruin. In an interview with theGuardian, the prince insisted that his demand for a change in leadership not only had growing support within the royal family but across broader Saudi society as well. “The public [is] also pushing for this very hard,” he claimed. “They say you have to do this or the country will go to disaster.” The article, which includes the letters, written in Arabic, has been shared more than 15,000 times.
The Yemen War. The longer it drags on, the greater the risk that the Saudi intervention against Houthi rebels could become a serious source of internal dissension. In its story on the prince’s letters, the Guardian reported that “many Saudis are sickened by the sight of the Arab world’s richest country pummelling its poorest.” Particular blame is attached to Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who also serves as the kingdom’s defense minister and by all accounts has been the driving force behind the war effort. Tagged with the unofficial nickname “Reckless,” Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been accused of rushing into Yemen without a clear strategy or exit plan, resulting in mounting costs in blood and treasure, an ever-expanding humanitarian crisis, and growing international criticism.

When Womenomics Meets Reality

The Japanese government can make structural changes, but cultural attitudes are proving stubborn.
By Emily S. Chen,  october 06, 2015

“Abenomics is womenomics,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reasserted at the 2015 World Assembly for Women in Tokyo in August. Since taking office in December 2012, Abe has been pursuing a strategy that aims to revive Japan’s stagnant economy by promoting the participation and advancement of women in the Japanese workplace.

Nearly three years later, is womenomics working in Japan? The latest data released by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) suggests progress on at least some fronts. The statistics have shown that Japan’s female labor force participation rate in 2014 has risen to 66 percent, its highest level in 15 years. The female unemployment rate has also dropped to a low of 3.5 percent. Indeed, Abe’s cabinet has introduced policies to address two structural issues that hold Japanese women back from working: lack of government and company support to balance career with motherhood, and the absence of a women-friendly work environment. The OECD data show that the government’s strategies have helped improve gender equality in Japan.

However, Abe’s womenomics is still bumping up against the stubborn realities. Social expectation of gender roles in patriarchal Japanese society remains a strong reason why women stay out of the workforce, and is likely to compromise the effectiveness of the government’s policy.

Structural Reforms

At the United Nations General Assembly in 2014, Abe pledged to increase women’s participation in the workforce by creating a favorable environment for balancing motherhood with career, and to eradicate biases about the traditional female roles that exist in society. Abe’s statement points to the structural and cultural factors that both discourage Japanese women from working. Recognizing this, his administration has focused on two pronounced structural problems that prevent Japanese women from working.

The science of organizational transformations


New survey results find that the most effective transformation initiatives draw upon four key actions to change mind-sets and behaviors.

September 2015
When making large-scale organizational changes, the design of a transformation’s initiatives is not a matter of guesswork. Rather, the results from a new McKinsey Global Survey on the topic1 suggest that companies that design their initiatives to support desired shifts in mind-sets and behaviors see the most successful transformations.2

Prior McKinsey research on transformations confirms that change efforts are hard work and that implementation is critical to overall transformation success.3 The latest findings suggest that investing time and effort up front to design a transformation’s initiatives also matters. According to the new results, the most effective initiatives involve four key actions: role modeling, fostering understanding and conviction, reinforcing changes through formal mechanisms, and developing talent and skills. These actions are critical to shifting mind-sets and behaviors.
But it’s not enough to design a portfolio of initiatives based on one, or even two, of these actions. When executives report that their companies used all four, the odds of a successful transformation are much higher than if just one were used. The process of howinitiatives are designed is critical too. When companies take a systematic approach to prioritizing initiatives and involve input from a range of company stakeholders, executives are more likely than average to report successful transformations.

Changing mind-sets and behaviors through the ‘influence model’
Effective design is not guesswork
Psychological research and McKinsey’s experience point to four specific actions that drive changes in mind-sets and behaviors—the very changes that underlie successful transformations.4 We asked executives about the use of all four at their companies (see sidebar, “Changing mind-sets and behaviors through the ‘influence model’”).5

The Antique Lands

2 October 2015

Srinath Raghavan is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi 
A majestic narrative on the Silk Roads retells global history where West and Central Asia form the axis of power play. The historian as a captivating storyteller is less convincing when he turns prophetic. The roads may not rise again

The Sultan of a Muslim dynasty is shown surrounded by his courtiers, from a manuscript of the Persian epic poem The Shahnama by Firdawsi 

Speaking in Kazakhstan in the autumn of 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping noted that for over two millennia the people that had lived in Central Asia had bridged the East and West, and flourished despite “differences in race, belief and cultural background”. It was a “foreign policy priority for China,” he asserted, “to develop friendly co- operative relations with the Central Asian countries.” Indeed, the time had come for a new “Silk Road Economic Belt” that would tie China with its Central Asian neighbours as well as the rest of Eurasia.

Since then, Beijing has elaborated on its vision of ‘one-belt one-road’ consisting both of overland connections and of a ‘Maritime Silk Road’. The Chinese plans have evoked a sense of opportunity as well as threat, especially in other regional powers such as India. It is interesting to note, however, that President Xi’s grand design draws on terminology that originated in Europe and only came into vogue in the late 19th century. The sprawling web of connections in Eurasian history was given a name by a famous German geologist, Ferdinand von Richthofen: ‘Siedenstrazen’, the Silk Roads. While the idea of Silk Roads has had some purchase on popular imagination, there have been few attempts at tackling their history over centuries. Peter Frankopan’s The Silk Roads (Bloomsbury, 620 pages, Rs 799) could not have been timelier.

The Cyber Activists Who Want to Shut Down ISIS

In a dreary European city, a man who goes by the name “Mikro” spends his days and nights targeting Islamic State supporters on Twitter.
Reuters / Paul Spella / The Atlantic
In August 2014, a Twitter account affiliated with Anonymous, the hacker-crusader collective, declaredfull-scale cyber war” against ISIS: “Welcome to Operation Ice #ISIS, where #Anonymous will do it’s [sic] part in combating #ISIS’s influence in social media and shut them down.”
In July, I traveled to a gloomy European capital city to meet one of the “cyber warriors” behind this operation. Online, he goes by the pseudonym Mikro. He is vigilant, bordering on paranoid, about hiding his actual identity, on account of all the death threats he has received. But a few months after I initiated a relationship with him on Twitter, Mikro allowed me to visit him in the apartment he shares with his girlfriend and two Rottweilers. He works alone from his chaotic living room, using an old, battered computer—not the state-of-the-art setup I had envisaged. On an average day, he told me, he spends up to 16 hours fixed to his sofa. He starts around noon, just after he wakes up, and works late into the night and early morning.

Why It's So Hard to Stop ISIS PropagandaNo state intelligence agency assigned Mikro this work. He answers to no one and uses methods that are not only ethically ambiguous, but also beyond any kind of democratic oversight and accountability. Nobody even knows what he’s doing except for his girlfriend and a motley crew of dedicated operatives. His neighbors just think he’s a recluse. To his friends, he’s a computer nerd and a stoner. During a mid-afternoon break, he showed me his stash: a fragrant block of compressed weed the size of a large brick. “If the feds caught you with that in your hand, you’d go to prison,” he told me proudly.
Mikro’s side-business as a drug dealer supports his non-paying work. He’s the “operations officer” for GhostSec, a group with the self-declared mission of targeting “Islamic extremist content” from “websites, blogs, videos, and social media accounts,” using both “official channels” and “digital weapons.” The group claims to have disrupted or taken down more than 130 ISIS-linked websites by overwhelming their servers with fake traffic from multiple sources. (This is called a Distributed Denial of Service, or DDOS, attack.)

India’s Newest Gun: Fast and Deadly

A new self-propelled howitzer will finally be able to keep up with the Indian Army’s tank columns.

October 09, 2015Defense has selected South Korea’s Samsung-Techwin and its local Indian private-sector partner Larsen & Toubro to supply the Indian Army with 100 K-9 Vajra 155 mm/52 caliber self-propelled tracked howitzers, IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly reports.

The selection came in late September after the completion of maintenance acceptability, high altitude, and desert trials, which took place in 2013 and 2014. A final contract is expected to be signed within the next six months. Total procurement costs for the 100 guns are estimated to be around $ 800 million.

During repeated army trials, the K-9 Vajra — a variant of the K-9 Thunder — outperformed its Russian competitor, the Russian self-propelled 2S19 Msta-S howitzer, which had been specifically modified with a 155mm/52 caliber gun to fit Indian Army requirements.

The K-9 Vajra is specially designed for arid lands such as the desert areas bordering Pakistan. Mounted on a tracked vehicle, the K-9 Vajra is ideally suited for mobile tank warfare. According to the Business Standard, the Indian Army wants to induct this new howitzer into its mechanized strike corps to offer close fire support during deep thrusts into enemy territory.

“The strike corps’ T-90S tanks currently outpace their artillery guns, which are towed by wheeled vehicles. This constrains the tank spearheads to fight without artillery support at key moments in the advance. With the K-9 Vajra mounted on a tracked vehicle that keeps up with tanks, the armor spearheads would be assured of heavy fire support,” the Business Standard notes.

The overall number of K-9 Vajra required by the Indian Army will be around 250. This is based on the creation of at least three K-9 Vajra regiments for each of the army’s three armored divisions, as well as another three regiments for the independent armored brigades within the army’s three strike corps.

Half of the parts for the guns will be built in India, despite the K-9 Vajra falling under the “Buy Global” procurement category, which allows over-the-counter sales of military hardware. The Business Standardexplains:

L&T [Larsen & Toubro] plans to build 13 major sub-systems of the K-9 Vajra at its facilities in Pune, Talegaon, and Powai. This includes the fire control system, ammunition handling system, muzzle velocity radar, and the nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) system.

In addition to the K-9 Vajra, the Indian military is also expected to receive 114 out of a total of 414 Dhanush 155mm towed howitzers by 2017, which would be India’s first new artillery pieces since the 1980s. The military also plans to acquire 180 wheeled self-propelled howitzers over the next few years.

As I reported previously, the Indian army’s 1999 Field Artillery Rationalization Plan aimed to acquire 2,800-3,000 155 mm/52 caliber guns of all kinds and 155 mm/39 caliber lightweight howitzers by 2027.

Smaller, Faster, Cheaper, Over: The Future of Computer Chips



Max Shulaker, a graduate student at Stanford, working in 2011 on a new kind of semiconductor circuit. As chips continue to shrink, computer scientists are seeking new technological breakthroughs. CreditLianne Milton for The New York Times
At the inaugural International Solid-State Circuits Conference held on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1960, a young computer engineer named Douglas Engelbart introduced the electronics industry to the remarkably simple but groundbreaking concept of “scaling.”

Dr. Engelbart, who would later help develop the computer mouse and other personal computing technologies, theorized that as electronic circuits were made smaller, their components would get faster, require less power and become cheaper to produce — all at an accelerating pace.
Sitting in the audience that day was Gordon Moore, who went on to help found the Intel Corporation, the world’s largest chip maker. In 1965, Dr. Moore quantified the scaling principle and laid out what would have the impact of a computer-age Magna Carta. He predicted that the number of transistors that could be etched on a chip would double annually for at least a decade, leading to astronomical increases in computer power.

Is India Ready to Share Its Civil Airspace with Drones?


By Manmohan Bahadur
Published: 08th October 2015 
The world is engrossed in integrating Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) into their national airspace. In yesteryears, it was the sole preserve of the military and was flown in segregated airspace. However, with the burgeoning civil market, where UAVs would conduct crop survey, electric transmission line checks, deliver Blue Dart parcels, medicines, pizzas et al, civil and military airspace would have to be shared. Major work to draft rules and regulations is underway in the US where UAVs will transit civil airspace by end-2015. Transit on international air routes is the next logical happening and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is deep into framing Standard Operating Procedures to ensure safe, mixed, manned and unmanned aerial traffic. Weapon carrying unmanned vehicles would also share the common airspace, bringing a host of safety issues to be addressed.

Where does India stand in the world-wide thrust for integrating UAVs with civil passenger traffic? While the first baby steps towards Flexible Use of Airspace (FUA) by manned civil and military aircraft have been taken, the issue of UAV integration is infinitely more complex and requires urgent attention of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

ICAO has clarified in unambiguous terms that, “UAVs will operate in accordance with ICAO Standards that exist for manned aircraft. In order for UAVs to integrate into common airspace and aerodromes, there shall be a pilot responsible for the UAV operation.” Thus, as of the present, humankind is not willing to have a truly autonomous machine co-inhabiting in the same airspace as a manned one due to flight safety reasons. Only those with a man in the loop will be able to integrate into the international civil aviation system.

Pentagon and U.S. Cyber Command Block Use of Equipment Produced by Chinese Telecom Company Huawei Technologies

Pentagon, Military Block Use of Chinese Telecom Gear

Bill Gertz

Washington Free Beacon, October 9, 2015

The Pentagon and U.S. Cyber Command have blocked the use of telecommunications equipment produced by the global Chinese company Huawei Technologies over cyber spying fears, according to congressional testimony last week.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work was asked if the Pentagon employs Huawei equipment during an appearance before the House Armed Services Committee.

“Absolutely not,” Work said. “I don’t believe we operate any [Huawei] systems in the Pentagon.”
Adm. Mike Rogers, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, also said Huawei is not used by his command and agency.

“For us, I think it’s a broader conscious decision as we look at supply chain and we look at potential vulnerabilities within the system that it’s a risk we felt was unacceptable,” Rogers said.
Works said he agreed with the four-star admiral about the security risks.

However, the deputy secretary said he could not say if U.S. defense contractors are using Huawei equipment.
U.S. intelligence agencies and congressional investigators have said Huawei equipment has been found to have electronic back doors and other electronic features that allow remote access to networks.

Strategies for Defending U.S. Government Networks in Cyberspace


PDF file,  0.2 MB 


Document submitted on July 31, 2015 as an addendum to testimony presented before the House Homeland Security Committee, Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies on June 24, 2015.

The Army's pressing electronic warfare needs

Barry Rosenberg, Editor

COL Jeffrey Church is the Army's Electronic Warfare Division chief in the G-3/5/7 Operations Directorate. He is the first EW division chief from the MOS 29 EW career field and is currently the senior EW officer for the Army. He has deployed to Iraq as the U.S. Forces Iraq electronic warfare officer, and to Afghanistan as the ISAF joint command chief of counter-IED.

He spoke to C4ISR & Networks Editor Barry Rosenberg about the lack of material solutions for EW soldiers, a key EW program of record, and the need to conduct EW training in a contested electromagnetic spectrum.

C4ISRNET: With support of the war fighter a given, what's at the top of your to-do list?

COL JEFFREY CHURCH: My first and foremost priority is getting electronic warfare material solutions into the hands of the EW soldiers out in our units and in the field. What are we at, 13-14 years of war now? After all of that time, if you go to an electronic warfare officer or soldier in the field and say, "let's go to your wall locker and see your military issued EW equipment," he is going to open up that wall locker and there is not going to be anything in there.

C4ISRNET: So what should be in that wall locker?

CHURCH: He should have the ability to conduct electronic attack. He should have the ability to conduct electronic warfare support. And all of our equipment should have electronic protect capabilities and features built into them. Mostly we haven't done that because of the need to get equipment into the field rapidly. We are very good at doing QRCs, the quick reaction capability.

The problem with that technique is it does not become a program of record. There is no sustainment funding, no improvement funding, none of the logistic tail that goes with it.

Climate Crisis in Bangladesh


Climate change has particularly profound implications for Bangladesh.
By Probal Rashid,  October 08, 2015
Of all the countries in the world, Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The regular and severe natural hazards that already batter the country – tropical cyclones, river erosion, flood, landslides and drought – are all set to increase in intensity and frequency as a result of climate change. Rising sea levels will increasingly inundate Bangladesh’s coast, and dramatic coastal and river erosion will destroy land and homes. These and the many other adverse effects of climate change will have profound repercussions for the economy and development of the country.

One of the most dramatic impacts will be the forced movement of people throughout Bangladesh as a result of losing their homes, lands, property and livelihoods to the effects of climate change. While it is impossible to predict with complete accuracy how many people will be displaced by climate change, the best current estimates state that rising sea levels alone will displace 18 million Bangladeshis within the next 40 years. The vast majority of these people will be displaced domestically – not across international borders – presenting the government with enormous challenges, particularly when it comes to finding places to live and work for those who have been displaced.

Probal Rashid is a documentary photographer and photojournalist working in Bangladesh. He is represented by Zuma Press.
A flood-affected man stands on high land, waiting for a boat.
Image Credit: Probal Rashid

PBS Cyber War Threat Video

All Things Old are New Again The U.S. Army and the Changing Operating Environment


It is no secret that the U.S. Army is in a time of change and disruption. It is desperately seeking to emerge from an era unprecedented in Army history: fourteen uninterrupted years of direct conflict in a counter-insurgency (COIN) environment in two theaters, with mobilizations of Reserve Component forces to augment Active Army forces. The Middle East and Southwest Asia have not stabilized by any means, but the U.S. seeks to slowly minimize its involvement there in order to focus on the rest of the world, which is still pretty messy.

During the fourteen years of war, the Army has, in a sense, turned inwards on itself, seeking to crack the nut that is the non-State insurgency. The wars, for the most part, have been fought at the brigade, battalion, and company level, with coordination from division and corps headquarters. It has been a time of small-unit actions, dominated by counter-improvised explosive device (IED) tactics and technology. They have been wars where there were no clear front lines, as nearly every road or base was vulnerable to some type of attack. Normal combat multipliers such as heavy armor and artillery have largely not been used, because of the terrain and the fear of collateral damage. In short, it has been a confusing, uncertain, and different war.

U.S. Army route clearance package, designed to defeat the IED threat (U.S. Army photo)

The Army emerges from these wars to face a world that has changed a lot since 2001. Russia has come out of its shell and is taking brinkmanship to a whole new level in Ukraine and Syria, where the raw combat power of artillery and armor is being seen again. China is asserting itself militarily and economically in the Pacific. The so-called Islamic State has taken Al Qaeda’s ideology, given it steroids, and is now rampaging around the Middle East like a drunken, sex-deprived teenager with a psychotic killing streak. In short, the world is a scary place.

Wouldn’t it be nice if history offered some solace?