9 April 2016

BrahMos Block-III is India's answer to China's DF-21D Anti-Aircraft Carrier Missile

Monday, April 04, 2016
By: Darshil Patel
India has one of the world's most lethal weapon system in its arsenal. A missile that travels at supersonic speeds and is hard to detect and impossible to intercept. It is as we all know the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile jointly developed by India and Russia.
Hundreds of BrahMos missiles have already been inducted into the Indian Army and almost all Indian front-line warships now boast of this supersonic cruise missile. But what we don't know is that the BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited has developed a different variant than the ones inducted with the Army and the Navy.
This variant of BrahMos is designed to take on floating airfields like aircraft carriers. It was first tested in March-2012 and the missile gained the capability to attack Aircraft Carriers using the supersonic vertical dive with extremely high precision and can travel upto a distance of 290 kms. The missile will fly at speeds of Mach 3. 

Its penetration capabilities had been impressively demonstrated in the past at sea when a single BrahMos cruise missile was able to effectively pierce the hull of a free-floating ship, destroying it entirely. The deep penetration Block-III variant expands this capability greatly, allowing the BrahMos to destroy reinforced targets like Aircraft Carriers.
Upon impact with a warship or an aircraft carrier, the BrahMos Block-III with its sheer velocity / kinetic energy clubbed with an extremely high explosive warhead will literally tear apart something as large as China's 'CNS Liaoning' aircraft carrier in one strike.

The DF-21D Carrier Killer Missile ::
China has developed the world's first carrier-killer missile. The latest DF-21D is said to be the world's first anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). The DF-21 has also been developed into a space-capable anti-satellite weapon/anti-missile weapon carrier.
Though the launcher itself is mobile to reduce vulnerability, an actual launch unit requires support vehicles that can cover a 300×300-meter area, making it hard to move quickly and easier to detect. Also, the launcher is not made to travel off-road and requires solid ground when firing to prevent backblast and debris damage due to the hard launch, restricting its firing locations to roads and pre-made launch pads.

Countermeasures against the DF-21D ::
American countermeasures against the DF-21D is to use electronic countermeasures that jam the active radar homing capabilities of the warhead causing the warhead to not hit the carrier or ship. Spoofing can also be used to trick the warhead into hitting somewhere else besides the ship or carrier.
BrahMos Hypersonic Version Under Development ::
BrahMos Mark-II (not Block-II) is a hypersonic cruise missile currently under development. The BrahMos-II is expected to fly at speeds of Mach 7. The planned operational range of the BrahMos-II has been restricted to 290 kilometers as India is not a signatory of the MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) which prohibits us from acquiring missiles from other countries that have ranges above 300 kilometers.
The Hypersonic version of the BrahMos is expected to be ready by 2017.

*** The dirty bomb

For India, the threat of nuclear terrorism is real. There is growing concern that extremists are attempting to breach institutions that have radiological materials.
Raj Chengappa, April 6, 2016 | 

As the lights in the hall dimmed and the film started playing on the large overhead screen at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the 50 heads of state, including Prime MinisterNarendra Modi, who had assembled for the fourth Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC on April 1, watched with rapt attention. Just before that, US President Barack Obama had shooed the media out of the hall and informed the leaders that the film simulated a possible nuclear attack by terrorists and its aftermath. It was similar to a war-gaming session where leaders were expected to react to a developing nuclear terror attack.
A collective gasp went up at the scenes of terrorists flying a crop duster, spraying deadly radioactive material extracted from radiological equipment found in medical institutions over a densely populated area, causing horrific sickness and death among the citizens. The film ended with the grim message of how the world will have to combat terrorists intent on causing mass casualties by afflicting population centres with radiation sickness, as the film depicted.

The ingredients of a radiological dispersal device, or dirty bomb as it is called, are the same isotopes that make cancer treatment and blood transfusion possible. When these are packaged along with explosives and detonated in a city centre, those in the immediate vicinity will be killed by the blast. But the radioactive fallout will cause fatal radiation sickness to thousands in an area of 3 sq km-the size of Connaught Place in New Delhi-leaving behind a smouldering radiological ruin. Worse, the area would have to be cordoned off for years till disaster management forces, wearing protective gear, scrub the area clean of contamination. It is a nuclear Armageddon that the world can ill afford-the psychological, political and economic aftershocks could be felt for years after such an attack.

A senior Indian official, who was present in the hall, told India Today that, after the movie ended, Modi, who was among the first to offer comment, told the gathering, "The only way to reduce the scope of terrorists using such weapons of mass destruction is greater international cooperation and action including information sharing, intelligence exchange and developing human resources on a mass scale to tackle the threat." Leader after leader who spoke after the Indian prime minister agreed that only their collective action could stem what Obama described as "one of the greatest threats" the world had ever faced-of terrorists using nuclear devices to cause havoc. The attacks in Mumbai, Paris and, more recently, in Brussels and Lahore, are clear indications that terrorists are looking for far bigger and more dramatic strikes which imbued the summit its sense of urgency.

Just how serious the danger of a nuclear attack by terrorists is comes from information collated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which maintains an Incident and Trafficking Data Base (ITDB) of nuclear and radioactive materials. As of December 31, 2014 (the latest figures available), the ITDB reported a total of 2,734 confirmed incidents of either unauthorised possession and related criminal activities, including theft of sensitive nuclear material and radioactive sources across the world since 1993. As the IAEA observed, "Incidents reported to the ITDB show that problems persist with regard to illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive material, and with thefts, losses and other unauthorised activities and events."
For India, the threat of nuclear terrorism is frighteningly real. It has a vast nuclear complex encompassing the full spectrum of capabilities -making nuclear weapons (it now possesses around 120 nukes), 22 reactors that generate power including some that produce weapons-grade nuclear materials, large amounts of radioactive nuclear waste (spent fuel) stored in special containment areas, and over 7,000 institutions that use radiological devices, particularly hospitals, for both diagnosis (X-rays) and treatment (cancer). While a majority of the nuclear complexes are safeguarded and agencies tasked with monitoring the movement of nuclear material in the country regarded as thorough, there are growing concerns that terrorists are employing increasingly sophisticated means to penetrate these institutions and facilities.

There are three mains ways terrorists could stage nuclear attacks in India and the rest of the world:

1. Detonate a nuclear bomb-either a weapon stolen from a state's arsenal or an improvised nuclear device made from weapons-grade nuclear material that they smuggled out
2. Sabotage a major nuclear facility and cause it to release large amounts of harmful radiation
3. Detonate a dirty bomb or radiological dispersal device in a city centre

In India, it is extremely difficult for terrorists to either steal a nuclear weapon or carry significant amounts of weapons-grade nuclear material from the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) complexes and use it to build a bomb. India's nuclear weapons reportedly lie dispersed in several sites across the country and are preserved in reinforced concrete vaults that can survive a nuclear attack from an enemy country or bunker-busting missiles. These sites are heavily guarded and accessible to only a chosen few.

Given India's no-first-use doctrine (which means it will use its nuclear weapons only if another country employs atomic bombs to attack it), the vast arsenal remains recessed in guarded silos. Only if the threat of war escalates are these removed and mated with missiles. India has a strong command-and-control system that goes right up to the prime minister (who has the codes to give the order) and the Nuclear Command Authority, which controls all movements of nuclear weapons. It is a tightly closed loop, which operates behind an extra-thick curtain of secrecy, and has remained impenetrable not just to other wings of government but also any terrorists who plan to lay their hands on them.

China launches new attack on the Dalai Lama

April 08, 2016 
'The first time that China alleged the Dalai Lama was 'anti-national' and 'unpatriotic' was after he affirmed that Arunachal Pradesh and Tawang are part of India,' points out former RA&W official Jayadeva Ranade.
Weeks before the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Obama at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC -- where human rights and Tibet were among the issues on the agenda -- Beijing signalled a definitive, more critical, shift in its stance towards the Dalai Lama.
This was discernible from remarks by senior leaders attending the 4th plenary session of the 12th National People's Congress, China's version of a parliament, that concluded in Beijing on March 15.
China also utilised the sessions of the Chinese People's Consultative Conference and NPC -- popularly called the 'Big Two' -- to continue efforts to subtly drive a wedge between the Dalai Lama and the various Tibetan Buddhist sects, so as to isolate him and undermine his influence.

Meanwhile, delegates from the Tibet Autonomous Region attending the 'Big Two' sessions made clear there would be no relaxation in the tough policies enforced in Tibet.
Indication of the important shift in the Chinese government's stance towards the Dalai Lama was given by Padma Choling (Baima Chilin), the Chinese Communist Party's deputy party secretary for the Tibet Autonomous Region. Choling categorically told journalists on the sidelines of the NPC session on March 7, that the Dalai Lama was 'no longer a religious leader after he defected his country and betrayed its people.'
'If the Dalai Lama wants to return to China, he must give up 'Tibet independence,' and must publicly acknowledge Tibet and Taiwan are inseparable parts of China and that the People's Republic of China is the only legitimate government,' Choling declared.
Choling's remarks are significant and, as observed by Zhang Yun, a researcher at Beijing's Research Centre on Tibetology, show that 'the legitimacy of the Dalai Lama's status as a religious leader was no longer acknowledged by the central government as he has failed to fulfill his obligation to inherit and spread Buddhism and continued his separatist activities.'

Expanding US-Japan-India Cooperation in the Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean is featuring more prominently in discussions among the three Asian giants.
By Jessie Daniels, April 08, 2016
One of the focus areas within the growing trilateral cooperation between the United States, Japan and India is the Indian Ocean.
Covering one-fifth of the water on the Earth’s surface, the Indian Ocean generates vital long-term trade flows and energy interests, particularly for Asia. However, tensions between China and India in their waters are increasing as New Delhi grows concerned about the expansion of PLA Navy submarine deployments in what it considers its backyard.
These Chinese submarine deployments have ramped up since a 2013 Indian Defense Ministry report warned that they constituted a “grave threat.” In the past three years, developments like the docking of Chinese submarines in Colombo and Karachi and Air Independent Propulsion technology upgrades to the Yuan-class of submarines have sparked continued questions about China’s ulterior motives in the Indian Ocean. Despite China’s claims that its submarine deployments are part of its counter-piracy missions, many of its actions suggest a desire to establish an expanded undersea presence in the Indian Ocean.
India, in turn, is responding with a stronger hand in the space, emerging from its so-called “maritime blindness” with hopes of being more than just a continental power. On a trip to the Seychelles and Mauritius in March 2015, prime minister Narendra Modi fashioned a far-reaching vision for the space, in which he put the Indian Ocean at “the top of our [India’s] policy priorities” and promised to defend India’s maritime interests.

India’s ASEAN Approach: Acting East

By Sampa Kundu, April 08, 2016
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has a population (600 million) larger than North America or the European Union; its total merchandise exports stand at $1.2 trillion. Stephen Groff, vice president of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), noted in a 2014 speech in Berlin that if ASEAN were one economy, with a combined gross domestic product of $2.3 trillion, it would have ranked as the seventh largest economy in the world by 2013. He added that it would become the fourth largest economy by 2050 if the existing level of growth continues. Fittingly, ASEAN is considered to be a growing hub for consumer demand and occupies a significant position in global trade flows.
Presently, ASEAN is taking the process of economic integration into serious consideration, though with some limitations and constraints. No other regional trading bloc in Asia is talking about a single currency at this moment, which sets ASEAN apart. Plus, ASEAN already has six trade agreements with its neighbors, which includes China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and India.
India is one of the strategic partners of ASEAN. With a total population of 1.8 billion and a combined GDP of $3.8 trillion, ASEAN and India together form an important economic space in the world. Besides an economic partnership, India expects to benefit geopolitically as well from its rejuvenated affinity with ASEAN and other regional countries. In order for India to gain a substantial position in East Asia, New Delhi has moved to an Act East Policy (AEP) now, an update to the 25-year-old Look East Policy (LEP). As ASEAN remains central to India’s AEP, India’s achievements from this strategy are worth watching. It is crucial to observe whether the Modi government will be able to overcome the challenges and give the Act East Policy a much-needed push.

Steering into troubled seas with eyes wide open


As anticipated some weeks back (“India in America’s coils”), the Modi government seems bent on having the three foundational agreements — logistics support agreement (LSA), Communications Inter-operability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) in some form for signing when US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter is here next week. We are told MEA and MOD negotiators have been hard at work with their American counterparts to obtain draft accords tailored to specific Indian needs that also serve US purposes. There are fundamental problems even with the India-specific content of these agreements.

Consider LSA: For many years now, Indian and the US warships at sea have had a “barter” arrangement in place whereby an Indian ship with fuel excess to its mission needs transfers a fuel quantum to an US warship on the basis that a passing American warship can be tapped mid-ocean by an Indian ship at low tank for the exact quantum of fuel. So there’s some kind of a running account between the two navies. There is no exchange of monies — because the different accounting systems make for a mess, making reimbursement in value, rather than in kind, difficult. This was an expedient stop-gap arrangement arrived at by the two navies over the course of the Malabar and other naval exercises, joint piracy patrols, etc. This working scheme is operational. Other consumables — food items, potable water, servicing tools, naval maintenance kits, etc. can likewise be accommodated by simply enlarging the barter arrangement that has so far worked well. Why does India need a formal LSA for these things, especially on a “reimbursable” basis? This last, whether any one in the Indian govt concedes it or not, will do two things: (1) Place India in a position similar to Pakistan vis a vis US ISAF presence and military operations in Afghanistan, and (2) make reimbursements for materials offtaken by US forces in the region from Indian military stores subject to financial subventions from Washington. This will bring India under Congressional scrutiny which, in turn, will create its own difficulties. New Delhi, in effect, will have to account for the quality of every item or service rendered, and be compelled to respond on pain of non-payment. This is the punishing procedure all US’ formal allies undergo. Does it help the country’s cause even a little for India to be thus ensnared by the United States? And if high-technology is the big deciding issue: Is the US willing to TOT the EMALS (electromagnetic aircraft launch system) for the two Indian-built carriers, following Vikrant? Of course, not. But the Americans will happily part with technologies considered advanced in the 1970s — F-18 Super Hornet! Boy, are we dumb. Even Pakistan has not proved itself so naïve and gullible and is keeping its arms supply lines to China open. Why is the Modi govt so enamoured of US-sourced military technology when Russian topend hardware available to the Indian armed forces is tech-wise, generationally superior?

In a discussion on this topic, a former naval chief had no answer to the kind of objections I have raised above, or why the Navy in particular would rather rely on US warships or the base at Diego Garcia for mid-oceanic resupply and replenishment than speedily invest in and build-up the naval and air bases on North and South Agalega Islands offered by Mauritius, or on shore in a base in northern Mozambique offered by that country.

CISMOA: news reports portray Indian negotiators being satisfied with something called the “pre-bid guarantee” in case India chooses to manufacture an US armament system here — a combat aircraft, for instance. This “pre-bid guarantee: is supposed to require the US govt to guarantee the full transfer of technology. One can foresee how this will pan out. Such a guarantee is given but the supplier companies keep to the old way of doing things with India, namely, merely exporting first SKD kits, followed years later, by CKD kits while claiming there is full TOT. If questioned, they’ll point out that it is not their responsibility to ensure Indian firms, DPSUs, ingest and innovate the technologies passed on to them — which will be an irrefutable case. And hand over the full tranche of contracted funds, please! This guarantee, in the Indian context, is worth nothing.

The more significant issue is why the Modi PMO is going down this route. And shouldn’t it have been advised better, asked to temper their enthusiasm, not go full out, without being aware of booby traps down the supposed primrose path? The trouble is those in MEA advising the PM have long since jumped on to the American bandwagon. Foreign Secretary S, Jaishankar — his father K Subrahmanyam’s son alright — is in the van on these accords. Recall it was Subrahmanyam during the previous BJP govt’s tenure who persistently advocated buying peace with the US — sign the CTBT he said in 1996 along with his acolytes, such as Air Cmde Jasjit Singh, and for making the sorts of concessions his son first negotiated (as Joint Secretary, Americas) in the 2008 nuclear deal with the Congress party apparatchik Manmohan Singh as PM, and now as head of the foreign service, is configuring these foundational ags for an ideologically different, supposedly “nationalist”, BJP regime.

Modi’s Visit to Saudi Arabia

Prasanta Kumar Pradhan, April 06, 2016

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two day visit to Saudi Arabia on April 2-3, 2016 further bolsters India’s engagement with the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia has remained an important partner for India in the Gulf region. Modi’s visit brings the India-Saudi relationship further closer from where it stood when the Delhi Declaration of 2006 and Riyadh Declaration of 2010 were issued. The visit of King Abdullah to India in 2006 and the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Saudi Arabia in 2010 had laid strong foundations for the India-Saudi relationship. Modi’s visit, while intending to take the relationship to a new level, has laid emphasis on important issues such as trade, investment, terrorism and strengthening strategic ties. Saudi Minister for Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al Jubeir, while visiting India on March 7-8, 2016, had stated that India is a “very important partner” for Saudi Arabia and expressed his desire to broaden bilateral engagement, indicating a growing commonality in how each country perceives the other including as key players in their respective regions.

In the past, the relationship has been inhibited by a number of historical factors such as the Kashmir issue, Pakistan factor, regional and global politics. In recent decades, with India’s rise as a major player in world politics and economy, Saudi Arabia came to realise the importance of maintaining strong ties with India. India has been a natural choice for an economic and developmental partnership in Saudi Arabia’s efforts to diversify its relationships by engaging various Asian countries.
Saudi Arabia’s ties with Pakistan and India’s links with Iran have remained two important factors affecting the India-Saudi Arabia relationship.During his recent visit to India, Saudi Foreign Minister Al Jubeir stated that while “India is a strategic partner, Pakistan is a strategic ally and will remain so.” While Riyadh feels uncomfortable with India’s growing relationship with Iran, India expects the Kingdom to restrain its ally, Pakistan, from allowing its territory being used by terrorists targeting India.

* Surveillance In The Information Age

-- this post authored by Fred Burton
Those who conduct surveillance - either for nefarious or protective security reasons - frequently have used available technology to aid them in their efforts. In earlier times, employing such technology might have meant simply using a telescope, but in more recent years, surveillants have used photographic and video gear, night vision aids and electronic equipment such as covert listening devices, beacons and programmable scanners. These efforts have been greatly enhanced by the advent of personal computers, which can be used to database and analyze information, and the Internet, which has revolutionized information gathering.
Doubtlessly, modern technology has radically altered the surveillance process. What it has not done, however, is render physical pre-operational surveillance obsolete. Despite innovative Internet tools, a person sitting in an Internet café in Quetta, Pakistan, cannot get everything he or she needs to plan and execute a terrorist attack in New York. There are still many things that can only be seen in person, making eyes-on surveillance vital to pre-operational planning. And, as long as actual physical surveillance is required, countersurveillance will remain a key tool for proactively preventing terrorist attacks.
The Internet as a Tool

The Internet has proven to be an important asset for those preparing a surveillance operation. If the target is a person, open-source Internet searches can provide vital biographical information, such as the target's full name, address, occupation, hobbies, membership in organizations, upcoming speaking engagements and participation in charity events. It also can provide the same information on the target's spouse and children, while image searches can be used to find photos of the target and related people.
In most instances, public records checks performed on the Internet also can provide a vast amount of personal information about a potential target, including property, vehicle and watercraft ownership, voter registration data, driver's license information, criminal history, professional license information and property tax data. The property tax data can be especially revealing because it not only tells the surveillant which property the target owns, but in some jurisdictions can even include photographs of the front of the home and even copies of the floor plan. In addition, many commercial services will, for a fee, provide an extremely detailed public records dossier on a desired subject - often with little regard for how the information will be used.

World military spending up in 2015, India in sixth position

April 8, 2016 
India is also ahead of countries like France, Germany and Israel who happen to be among its top arms suppliers.
India is the sixth largest military spender in 2015 having spent $51.3 billion even as the world spent $1,676 billion reversing a global trend which was on the decline since 2011., as per the latest report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

India moved one rank up from last year accounting for 3.1 percent of global military expenditure. Over a ten-year period from 2006-15 this represents a 43 per cent jump. India is also ahead of countries like France, Germany and Israel who happen to be among its top arms suppliers.
World military expenditure rose by 1 per cent in 2015, the report noted said it reflects continuing growth in Asia and Oceania, Central and Eastern Europe, and some Middle Eastern states.

Sam Perlo-Freeman, head of SIPRI’s military expenditure project said that the military spending in 2015 presents contrasting trends. “On the one hand, spending trends reflect the escalating conflict and tension in many parts of the world; on the other hand, they show a clear break from the oil-fuelled surge in military spending of the past decade,” he said in the report.

The U.S. remained by far the world’s largest spender in 2015 despite its defence expenditure falling by 2.4 per cent to $596 billion followed by China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and U.K.

China’s expenditure rose by 7.4 per cent to $215 billion.

BIMSTEC, BCIM, BBIN - & ‘BCIN’ A fresh look at the map will show how Bangladesh-China-India-Nepal could now be connected

Kanak Mani Dixit in Dhaka

The railway to the sea roadway. (Research for map by: dipesh khanal)
The acronyms that have invaded the diplomatic and Track Two discourse hold the promise of converting ‘connectivity’ from a goal to reality. BIMSTEC, BCIM and BBIN represent efforts to link the northeastern quadrant of South Asia through transport, energy grids, services and seamless commerce, all of which would lead towards economic growth and social justice.
While some may be wary or skeptical of the bilateral steps taken by Nepal recently with India and China, they could be a trigger for regional commerce. Despite geopolitical and practical obstacles, we may finally be seeing the energising of societies through efficiencies and economies of scale made possible by bilateral, trilateral and multilateral trade in goods and services.

BIMSTEC is 20 years old, and was evolving like the ponderous SAARC, but now it has new energy with the democratic evolution of Myanmar, and the grouping has just opened its secretariat in Dhaka, the city that would be fulcrum to this particular sub-region. BIMSTEC holds the prospect of linking Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar and Nepal, but first we need the tension between Kathmandu and New Delhi to subside.
Started as the Kunming Initiative, BCIM is an effort to bring China (mostly Yunnan) into collaboration with Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar. A look at the map shows why this is geographically sensible: Beijing would find it more convenient to connect to the sea via Chittagong than reaching all the way to Gwadar in Pakistan.

The BBIN motor vehicle agreement (for passenger, personal and cargo transfer) has unexpectedly emerged these past two years as a possible catalyst. It would boost commerce between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal, and also pave the way for future BIMSTEC-wide and SAARC-wide connections.
The breakaway moment came when Indian PM Narendra Modi told SAARC’s Kathmandu summit in November 2014 that sub-regionalism was the answer if all eight member countries could not agree on strategy and action: “either all of us or some of us”. Pakistan had reservations on the SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement then under negotiation, and, under India’s urging, the other countries moved with unexpected speed. The BBIN agreement was signed in Thimphu in June 2015.

Imagining a neighbour’s turbulence

April 8, 2016
Rakesh Sood
Given the strained civil-military ties in Pakistan, Prime Minister Modi needs to develop a more centred policy before heading out for Islamabad later this year for the SAARC summit. Scenario-building could be a start.
The following op-ed appeared on December 31, 2016 under the title ‘Political uncertainty in Pakistan’.
Looking back, it is clear that 2016 will be remembered as a year marked by political turbulence in Pakistan; these processes of change are still churning and will further unfold in 2017. In hindsight, the catalysing event for the changes was the suicide attack in Lahore in March on Easter Sunday in the park Gulshan-e-Iqbal which claimed more than 70 lives. It strained the rather fragile civil-military balance that had been established after the Azadi March in 2014 led by Imran Khan (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) and Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri (Pakistan Awami Tehreek). Allegations of widespread corruption against the Sharif brothers and behind-the-scenes political manoeuvrings led to their eventual exit. A technocratic government was sworn as an interim measure and Chief of the Army Staff General Raheel Sharif’s term was extended by a year in November. The National Security Council (NSC) assumed greater responsibilities for governance. Elections are likely to be held in 2017 once law and order is restored though no time frame has been set. 
Since Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched in June 2014 in North Waziristan against elements of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), more than 3,500 militants are reported to have been killed but terrorist attacks have not ceased. Strikes against military installations have come down though there was an audacious attempt to hijack a Pakistani naval vessel from the base at Karachi in 2014 and a terrorist attack at the Peshawar airbase in 2015 claimed 29 casualties. However, the majority of the strikes have been against minorities and soft targets — Shia mosques and buses carrying Shia pilgrims, churches, and educational institutions.

Infographic Of The Day: Reported Cases Of Zika Virus Worldwide

Top Zika investigators now believe that the birth defect microcephaly and the paralysing Guillain-Barre syndrome may be just the most obvious maladies caused by the mosquito-borne virus.
Dr. Carlos Pardo-Villamizar, a neurologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is studying Zika complications with colleagues in five Colombian research centres. They have seen cases of encephalitis, myelitis and facial paralysis associated with Zika and want to understand what is triggering these complications.
They also want to study whether prior infection with dengue or chikungunya - two related viruses - are contributing to neurological disorders seen in patients with Zika.

Scientists are turning their attention next to Puerto Rico, where Zika is expected to infect hundreds of thousands of residents by year-end.
More cases hold the potential for "a better sense of the full spectrum of disease that Zika is capable of causing," said Dr. Amesh Adalja of the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

[click here to enlarge infographic]

Source: http://www.livescience.com/53541-reported-cases-of-zika-virus-worldwide-infographic.html

** Lincoln, Brexit and Geopolitics

By Jacob L. Shapiro
April 7, 2016

Understanding a nation’s strategy requires an unbiased view of its objectives and constraints.

The first principle of Geopolitical Futures is an unswerving devotion to objectivity. There are two elements of objectivity. The first is the honest admission that perfect objectivity is impossible. But the second is more important: though you may be unable to achieve complete objectivity, neither are you free to desist from the attempt. The lesson to learn from the punishment given to Sisyphus is not that ceaselessly pushing a boulder to the top of a mountain is torture. It is that there is a nobility in continuing to try. The endless cycle is not merely for the entertainment of the gods; it is a warning about and cure for the dangers of hubris. 

Objectivity also does not mean apathy, or a willful ignorance about the moral quality of political action. One of the defining principles of Hans Morgenthau’s articulation of political realism – a methodological lens that is innately bound up in our own writing – is that the student of power should be aware of the questions of moral significance that are intrinsically involved in political decisions. One who studies politics and does not care about the outcome is a sociopath. But the more relevant point for us is that such a person is also a mediocre analyst.

Shelby Foote (an American historian of the Civil War) once said of former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln that one of his eeriest qualities was his ability to think objectively about his position and the executive office. One of the most striking supports of this description is found in a written fragment preserved by one of Lincoln’s White House secretaries, words that Lincoln wrote for himself and, in an age without technology constantly recording every mundane thought we have, could have reasonably expected to remain private. But these words did not, and Lincoln’s private musings prove more insightful than most people’s carefully reasoned public thoughts: “In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.”

One Belt, One Road, One Singapore

Boh Ze Kai
In the 14th century, Mongol dominance in Asia resulted in the Pax Mongolica, a framework of peaceful trading relationships straddling the Maritime and Overland Silk Roads, allowing the Kingdom of Singapura to flourish into a wealthy entrepot trading port. Today, the two roads are severed, and trade between Central Asia and Singapore is tiny, much more so for non-oil merchandise. The low volume of trade is evident considering Central Asia’s landlocked position presents a significant barrier of trade to the maritime trading hub that is Singapore. Today, China’s One Belt-One Road (OBOR) initiative promises to direct international attention to regional infrastructure development, effectively resurrecting a new Pax Sinica. This new economic paradigm could well create exciting new opportunities for Singaporean trade and investment in an untapped region. This report will focus on Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and the ways Singapore can capitalise on its unique expertise in the OBOR initiative.

In 2015, Singapore exported US$61.3 million worth of goods and services to Central Asia, while importing US$6.1 million, representing 0.015 percent of Singapore’s total exports and 0.002 percent of total imports[1]; and 0.07 percent of Central Asia’s total exports and 0.009 percent of total imports[2]. While Singapore is a global trading and investment powerhouse, business experience and exposure in Central Asia has never been strong. In 2014, only 32 enterprises in Uzbekistan operated with Singaporean capital[3], and Singapore contributed only US$50 million of direct investment to Kazakhstan over the last ten years in contrast to US$604 billion of total foreign direct investment in 2014 alone[4]. Central Asia is not directly connected to Singapore, and land routes to ports in the region are scant. However, as the One Road-One Belt Initiative links Central Asia to China’s eastern seaboard, Gwadar port and even the impending sanction-free Iran; inter-regional trade is awash with new connections and opportunities.

The OBOR scheme is an immense supply-side policy centring around two distinct routes that connect China to Europe. The first route, the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB), is essentially the original Overland Silk Road through Central Asia. The cornerstone of the Belt is a motley of infrastructure projects, which will connect Urumqi to Central Asia and on to Europe. These include the Yiwu-Madrid Line completed in 2014[5] as part of the New Eurasia Land Bridge and also the Central Asia-China Pipeline, which is expected to reach operational capacity of 65Bcm/year in 2016[6](other projects detailed in Figure 2). In this way, the SREB aims to overcome the greatest challenges to trade in the region, namely skeletal transport infrastructure, crippling bureaucracy, and low levels of economic development.

The second route, the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR), is also an ancient trading system bridging China and Europe through Southeast Asia into the Suez Canal. The Road places deep emphasis on the development of ports and shipping capacity at key terminals along China’s Eastern Seaboard and the Indian Ocean. Projects including the Southeast International Shipping Centre in Xiamen, the construction of the Colombo Port City by the China Harbour Engineering Company and Gwadar Port by the China Overseas Port Holding Company aim to develop a string of international container shipping trunk hub ports radiating from South East Asia with Singapore as its lynchpin.

(Figure 1: Map of the One Road-One Belt Initiative (SREB in yellow, MSR in blue, Prepared by the author)

Going Global? Indian Businesses Must First Learn From Tata Steel

By Rajrishi Singhal

April 7, 2016
Source Link

Tata Steel’s fate in the UK underlines the need for India Inc to consider geopolitical and geoeconomic realities before going global.

Tata paid over $12 billion to purchase Corus, most of it debt, around the same time as the subprime mortgage crisis in the West.
Tata also suffered due to dumping of Chinese steel in Europe, which the EU was loath to counter, fearing a standoff with China.

An epochal event, that should resonate for every globalised Indian business, brought down the curtains on an eventful 2015-16. In the last fortnight of March, Tata Steel declared that it will sell off or mothball its UK steel plants. The event contains a lesson for every Indian business aspiring to go global; it also has immense geoeconomic and geopolitical repercussions.

Tata Steel’s momentous decision is in keeping with the general trend of Indian companies selling off overseas assets to either repay debt or exit low-yielding assets. Tata Steel’s decision seems to be a combination of both. Here are some other examples of Indian companies selling overseas assets:
Reliance Industries sold its Eagle Ford shale oil field in the US for $1.07 billion in June 2015.

Panama Papers Signal Beginning Of End Of Tax Havens

April 7, 2016

Panama papers have named and shamed people across the globe with heavy political consequences like in case of Iceland’s PM 

Henceforth, anybody with linkages to tax haven countries will be viewed with suspicion 

Like the OECD countries especially US, India also needs to take steps to protect its tax revenues especially those collected from MNC’s and high net-worth individuals. 

The publication this week of the Panama Papers, a deep probe into the kind of people with companies incorporated in that tax haven, could, in retrospect, be seen as a turning point in the global fight against tainted money and/or money fleeing taxation in home countries. 

Tax avoidance - if not evasion - is big business the world over. Countries want big taxpayers within their jurisdiction, while the latter like to shop around for low-tax places to keep more of it back. The reason why Vodafone bought Hutchison’s India assets through an offshore deal from British Virgin Islands, a tax haven, was primarily to avoid Indian taxes. Ditto for Pfizer, which proposed a merger with Ireland-based Allergan so that it could lower its effective tax rate from around 25 percent payable to Uncle Sam to around 17-18 percent in lower-tax Ireland. With the US tightening the screws on such “inversions”, Pfizer has now called off the Allergan deal. Other “inversion” deals involving Johnson Controls and some other US companies, could also be reworked if Uncle Sam piles on the pressure. 

Even though the Pfizer-Allergan deal had nothing to do with the disclosure of the Panama Papers, the common link is the corporate quest for lower taxes. Wealthy individuals and crooks also seek lower tax (or zero-tax) havens to pay less or evade income disclosures altogether. 

China Puts an Emergency Stop on Coal Power Construction

China’s energy sector is lumbering under the weight of a coal power glut, prompting the central government to step in.
By Feng Hao, April 07, 2016
China’s central government has ordered local authorities to delay or cancel construction of new coal-fired power plants as regulators attempt to reduce a glut in capacity, just one year after decisions were delegated to the provinces.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the National Energy Administration (NEA) have ordered a halt to construction of coal-fired plants in 13 provinces where capacity is already in surplus, including major coal producers such as Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, and Shaanxi. A further 15 provinces will be required to delay construction of already-approved plants.
Harsh punishments have been threatened for construction that goes ahead in breach of the new regulations. Operating licenses will be denied, connection to the power grid blocked, and financial institutions will halt lending to transgressors.
The curbs come as Chinese government departments are asked to make rapid policy adjustments in response to slowing electricity demand, as the country shifts toward a less wasteful and less energy-intensive economy and aims to reduce the amount of coal power generation.

Data source: Energy Observer / China Southern Power Grid Company. Graphic by chinadialogue.

How Mao Zedong Benefited From the Cuban Missile Crisis

The Chinese role in Cuba during the Cold War paid dividends domestically for Mao Zedong.
By Robert Farley, April 08, 2016

Though they might not appear to be connected at first glance, the Cuban Missile Crisis coincided with the end of the long Sino-Soviet break during the early years of the Cold War. China and the Soviet Union had sparred ideologically since the mid-1950s, and the Soviets had broken off much technical, military, and economic support by the early 1960s. Chinese and Soviet proxies waged a brutal ideological war for the soul of the international Communist movement.
Under the leadership of Mao Zedong, China developed a critique of Soviet foreign policy that suggested the unfitness of Moscow for leadership of the socialist sphere. The Russians, enjoying the security and comfort of their position atop the Communist bloc, would not take the risks necessary to winning the war against the capitalist West. Soviet caution in Europe and in the developing world tended to support this critique. In particular, the Soviets showed little interest in stirring up genuine revolution in European colonial possessions and third world client states, whereas China could play a key leadership role in this area.
New research in the Chinese archives by Enrico Fardella tends to confirm that fractures in the Chinese leadership helped drive the Maoist critique of the Soviet Union. The apparent failure of the Great Leap Forward, coming at the same time as the withdrawal of Soviet economic and technological experts from China, drove a wedge between Mao Zedong and practical-minded leaders such as Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. Mao sought to associate the practical faction with the Soviet revisionism of Nikita Khrushchev, especially on the foreign policy front. The more practical factions sought to avoid confrontation with either Washington or Moscow, especially during China’s period of acute weakness.

China’s One Belt One Road Initiative Gathers Momentum

Swarajya Staff April 8, 2016,
The new silk road connectivity to West Asia would help China take forward its economic and commercial interests while helping strengthen its geopolitical influence in this oil rich part of the world.
The end goal of One Belt and One Road initiative is to efficiently link the commercially vibrant Eurasian and African markets that would, in turn, serve to reinforce Chinese quest to emerge as the manufacturing hub of the world.
India has neither the resources nor the political commitment to undertake a connectivity project on par with One Road One Belt initiative.
Economic imperatives in China as much as the keenness of the Chinese political leadership to strengthen its geopolitical influence across Asia and Europe seem to be the engine that drives the mammoth “One Belt One Road” Initiative.

By Radhakrishna Rao
In a major boost to China’s overambitious One Belt One Road Initiative, a train from the traditional hub of Yiwu was fagged off to Tehran earlier this year. This container train covered a distance of more than 10,000 km in fourteen days across the New Silk Road Economic Belt forming a part of the multi billion dollar One Belt One Road initiative.
As envisaged now, the new silk road connectivity to West Asia would help China take forward its economic and commercial interests while helping strengthen its geopolitical influence in this oil rich part of the world. As it is, China has already inked a strategic partnership pact with the sanction free Iran to take care of military and security cooperation as well as intelligence sharing.
According to Chinese media reports, more than 4,000 businessmen and entrepreneurs of West Asian origin are now located in the city of Yiwu, which, last year, set a record of exporting goods and commodities worth more than $8-billion to West Asia.
By all means, the striking advantage for China is that it has deep insight into the dynamics of Iranian market as a consequence of its association with many of the Iranian development and infrastructure projects during the days Iran was under sanction.
As pointed out by Li Shaoxian, an expert on West Asian studies at Ningxia University, the reopening of the Iranian market would boost competition between China and West in a big way.

Alawite Identity in Syria

April 6, 2016
By H.A. Hellyer  
 Earlier this month, the BBC reported that representatives of the Alawite community in Syria released a document of ‘identity’—in summation, a declaration of Alawism and its place and relevance in Syria. The role that sect plays and has played within the domain of Syrian and regional politics is tremendous, and is perhaps one of the major obstacles in moving forward in the Syrian conflict. The declaration is an effort to reposition the Alawite community nationally and regionally, and to distance it from Bashar al-Assad and his brutal tactics against Syrians opposing his rule.

Since the beginning of Hafez al-Assad’s rule in 1970, the Alawite community, to which the family belongs, has dominated leadership of the Syrian state. The top brass in the Syrian army, intelligence services, and security establishment were also drawn from the Alawite community. As the Syrian uprising gained momentum in 2011, Bashar al-Assad’s regime was content to fan the flames of sectarianism, changing the narrative around the revolutionary uprising (which included Alawite figures) against a tyrannical dictatorship, into one that was a sectarian war between different religious sects. In 2016, one of the fundamental fears of many in and out of Syria is that the victory of anti-Assad rebels could spell the end of the Alawite community more generally, as Sunni Syrians have at least perceived the Alawite community as uniformly lining up behind Assad’s brutality.

* How French Secularism Became Fundamentalist

A militant form of laïcité has taken hold in France, backed by everyone from intellectuals to government officials. Is this what the republic’s founding fathers envisioned?
By Robert Zaretsky, April 7, 2016

Last week, the headline of an editorial in the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo asked a provocative question: “How did we end up here?” it read. By “here,” the weekly meant, of course, staring at the blood-stained rubble of airport terminals and metro stations. But by the end of the piece, “here” had also broadened into something bigger: “How the hell did I end up having to wander the streets all day with a big veil on my head?” they asked rhetorically. “How the hell did I end up having to say prayers five times a day?” “Here,” in other words, was some kind of unrecognizable, Islamized vision of France, where “the very notion of the secular” had been “forced into retreat.”

Seeking the reasons behind the Brussels terrorist attacks, the paper, which was itself the target last year of Islamic terrorists, offered an answer. It was neither the Keystone Cop antics of the Belgian police; nor the barriers, linguistic and territorial, which prevented European governments from sharing vital intelligence; nor the festering despair in places like Molenbeek, the Brussels neighborhood that is home to scores of unemployed youths of mostly North African background.
Instead, Charlie Hebdo declared, we must look at the role played by liberal societies. Does not France’s passivity when faced with attacks on French culture — and specifically on laïcité, or secularism — pave the way for the extremists? Does not one’s acceptance of, say, the local Muslim baker — a very nice and fully integrated fellow, who nevertheless refuses to sell ham sandwiches — comprise a form of collusion with Islamism? In the end, Charlie Hebdo warns, the only defense against terrorism, the only defense against ending up in a France of veiled women and daily prayer, is a form of militant secularism: one that doesn’t flinch at making the leap from pious baker to radical bomb-maker.

The Europe Harakiri

Jay Bhattacharjee
April 6, 2016,
After the ISIS attacks in Brussels, it is high time Europe introspects on its political correctness. Maybe it should read a bit of history also, especially about Cordoba and the Battle of Tours.
FOR MILLIONS AROUND the globe whose ancestors have been subjected to the unspeakable horrors and cruelty of Western European colonialism, imperialism, exploitation and genocide for the last 700 years or so, it would be quite appropriate to watch the recent events in the northern continent with a certain amount of glee and satisfaction. The one word that comes nearest to describing these feelings is appropriately a German one, schadenfreude, that has wormed its way into common English parlance in the last 70-odd years, as humankind came to grips with the conduct of the Germanic people. This is a word that sums up an entire mindset and needs two to three lines to spell out its ramifications. The most acceptable rendering would be “deriving pleasure from the misery, sorrow, pain or unhappiness of others”.
More on the German connection later.

The queries that rise in our minds are the following. Is it divine retribution that is striking the sahibs after so many centuries ? The gods in heaven are finally dispensing justice? Neither of these explanations, of course, even gets to the basics. A certain historical backdrop may give us more insight.
For centuries, the world of Islam has suffered from the Cordoba syndrome, a nostalgia for the good old days when the Moors ruled the Andalusian city of Cordoba and its surrounding regions. From its initial capture in 711 by the Moors who made it the capital of the Islamic Caliphate, till its recapture in 1236 by the Spaniards during the Reconquista, the city marked the northernmost extension of the Islamic world. The loss of Cordoba was symbolised by the conversion of the Great Mosque into a cathedral, although the artwork of the original mosque is still preserved. In the world of Islam, there is a mystique about Cordoba that always resonates in the minds of Muslims everywhere.

The other two events that have similar significance in the Muslim psyche are the Battle of Tours (between the two towns of Poitiers and Tours in southern France) in 732, when the Frankish king Charles Martel put paid to the ambitions of the Moors to invade France. We are in the good company of eminent historians like Gibbon (of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire fame) and Creasy who have asserted that a defeat of the Franks in Tours would have permitted Islam to capture the whole of Gaul (present-day France) and possibly the remainder of Western Europe.
Gibbon went so far as to say that the Umayyad armies would have even captured England, had not Charles Martel won. Creasy was even more eloquent: “The great victory won by Charles Martel decisively checked the career of Arab conquest in Western Europe, rescued Christendom from Islam, and preserved the relics of ancient and the germs of modern civilization.”

Britain plans to build cybersecurity center

Michael Peck, C4ISR & Networks April 6, 2016

Britain plans to build a cybersecurity center, tentatively located at a British military base in Corsham, England.
The Cyber Security Operations Center (CSOC) will cost £40 million (US $56.6 million), according to a Ministry of Defence news release.
"The CSOC will be a dedicated facility staffed by experts that utilizes state-of-the-art defensive cyber capabilities to protect the MOD’s cyberspace from malicious actors," the Ministry of Defence said. "It will enhance our ability to secure defense networks and systems against cyber threats and bring together our defensive cyber activity which will enable us to continue to operate safely and securely."
The British government plans to spend £1.9 billion over the next five years on cyber defense.
''Britain is a world leader in cybersecurity, but with growing threats this new Operations Center will ensure that our armed forces continue to operate securely," Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said. "Our increasing defense budget means that we can stay ahead of our adversaries in cyberspace while also investing in conventional capabilities.''

US DoD releases new network strategy for 2025-2040

6 April 2016

The US Department of Defence (DoD) has revealed the US Army's new 15-year strategy for modernising its enterprise network.

Titled 'Shaping the Army Network: 2025-2040', the new guideline will focus on key areas affecting networks and systems to meet operational information requirements and sustain technological asperity by 2040.

The areas include dynamic transport, data to decisive action, robotics and autonomous operations, computing and edge sensors, cybersecurity and resiliency, and human cognitive enhancement.
"The intent is to guide development of science and technology requirements to get to 'what's next' in the evolution of the army."

US Army chief information officer / G-6 lieutenant general Robert Ferrell said: "Shaping the Army Network: 2025-2040 provides the long-term strategic direction for army enterprise network modernisation within the context of the Army Operating Concept.

"Using the IT baseline described in the Army Network Campaign Plan as a starting point, the intent is to guide development of science and technology requirements to get to 'what's next' in the evolution of the army."

Leadership: The Death of Command and Control

Command and control systems were designed in ages when information was considered key to controlling the universe. In Newton’s physics, if you knew a few key pieces of information, you could predict the future. Over time command and control systems were refined to give commanders more and more information in the belief that more information meant more control over a battlefield. Inherent in command and control is the assumption that information must be fed up to a commander, refined and calculated, then decisions fed down to subordinates. But modern experiences in warfare are invalidating the traditional command and control model of leadership.

For answers to how create adaptive, creative, and resilient leaders I turned to two military thinkers. The first is Colonel (retired) John Boyd and his presentation “Organic Design for Command and Control.”[1] The second is General (retired) Stanley McChrystal’s Team of Teams, based on the lessons he learned and changes he made to a command and control structure that was being defeated in the cities of Iraq.[2] Interestingly, without reference to each other both come to very similar conclusions.

John Boyd: Leaders must “suppress the tendency to build up explicit internal arrangements that hinder interaction with the external world.”

Boyd’s fundamental worldview was that organizations had to be externally facing, organized to interact with the external world and the enemy. He taught that you cannot defeat the enemy unless you are prepared to act against them. Consequently, leaders must “suppress the tendency to build up explicit internal arrangements that hinder interaction with the external world.”[3] His historical analysis indicated that winning organizations have insight and vision, focus and direction, adaptability, and security.