7 February 2017

*** Defence Primer 2017

As India actively aspires to shape its security environment in South Asia and beyond, the future set of demands on the Indian military will be heavily influenced by its evolving global and regional environment. India is situated in a difficult neighbourhood where security threats are expected and predictable but can also be unexpected and unforeseen. Combined with the increasing need to project power in the extended neighbourhood, this extended threat spectrum posits a new challenge.
Read all the chapters here.

*** UFOs, H-bombs, new religion: CIA cables reveal an era of intrigue and assassination plots in India

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Manu Balachandran

While the US saw India tilting towards the Soviet Union, India viewed with suspicion America’s support for Pakistan. It is only in the late 1990s, after the Cold War ended, that Indo-US ties began improving.

However, all through the troubled relationship, the US took a keen interest in India. While this is understandable considering the Cold War dynamics, some of the 13 million pages of documents declassified by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on Jan. 18 reveal the extent of this interest.

Quartz looks at what these documents say about India.
An assassination foretold

Five years before former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 1991, the CIA had prepared a detailed “brief” of such an eventuality.

Mikhail Gorbachev with Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in November 1986. (Reuters/Arthur Tsang PN)

“Prime minister Rajiv Gandhi faces at least an even chance of assassination before his tenure in office ends in 1989,” one of the CIA documents says. “We believe Indo-US relations could also suffer as a result of domestic political changes following Rajiv’s assassination.”

Gandhi, it seems, was viewed as being favourably disposed towards the US, in a marked departure from India’s traditional stand, with the prime minister even sacking a US-baiter foreign minister. “His (Gandhi’s) removal of foreign minister (Bali Ram) Bhagat, who criticised US actions against Libya, probably is intended in part to smooth relations with Washington,” the Memo NESA/M/86-20075, dated May 22, 1986, says.

The Himalayan UFOs

A CIA report from April 1968 details six sightings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) over Ladakh, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Nepal between February and March that year.

*** Rescuing India’s defence spending from oblivion

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Pavan Srinath

When you exclude defence pensions, the defence budget drops to a meagre 1.6% of GDP, a drop from last year’s low of 1.74%. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Last year, finance minister Arun Jaitley did something different in his budget speech. For the first time in decades, he entirely skipped mentioning defence spending in his speech.

This year, he did a slightly better job of discussing defence. Apart from mentioning a few minor things about a defence travel system and an online pension disbursement system, he had this one sentence to say: “For defence expenditure excluding pensions, I have provided a sum of Rs2,74,114 crore including Rs86,488 crore for defence capital.”

Between what was said and unsaid, there are many implications for defence expenditure in the country.

The first thing left unsaid was that the budget estimate of defence pensions this year is a whopping Rs86,000 crore. When you include defence pensions, the overall defence budget amounts to Rs3.59 trillion, or 2.1% of gross domestic product (GDP). When you exclude defence pensions, it drops to a meagre 1.6% of GDP— a drop from last year’s low of 1.74% of GDP.

Falling expenditure on defence is of concern in the world seen in 2017. This year has an increasingly belligerent China, a new president in the US who wishes to be more insular about American interests and a Russia that is playing footsie with Pakistan. The deterrent effect of defence spending is needed more now than in the last few years.

The song remains the same on the capital acquisitions budget. As the government has done repeatedly, there was a 9% slash in last year’s revised estimate, compared to the budget estimate. This year, there is a nominal increase of 10% in the capital acquisitions budget over last year —but this is a net reduction in capital spending once you account for inflation and slashed expenditures in the revised estimate.

While Rs86,000 crore on capital acquisitions might sound like a large number, close to 90% of it is allocated to paying off instalments of money for past purchases of Sukhoi fighter craft, aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, transport planes like the C130J Super Hercules and more. The available budget for future acquisitions will be about Rs10,000 crore and no more.

*** Immigration Chaos

By George Friedman 

Last week, President Donald Trump temporarily blocked both “immigrants and nonimmigrants” from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. From the beginning of his presidential campaign he has spoken at various times and in a variety of ways of taking a step like this. Having done it, the action created uproar in part because it was done without adequate preparation, and in larger part, because it was done at all. The mutual recriminations over this particular act are of little consequence. What is important is to try to understand why the immigration issue is so sensitive. The uproar over Trump’s action is merely one of many to come, which also will be of little consequence.

Trump has pointed to two very different patterns. One is immigration to the U.S. by Muslims. The other is illegal Mexican immigration. Both resonated with Trump’s supporters. It is interesting to consider other immigration patterns that have not become an issue. One is immigration to the U.S. from India. The other is immigration from China and other parts of Asia. Both have been massive movements since about 1970, and both have had substantial social consequences.

Protesters gather at the Los Angeles International Airport’s Tom Bradley Terminal to demonstrate against President Donald Trump’s executive order effectively banning citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. KONRAD FIEDLER/AFP/Getty Images

Indian migration to the U.S. has been one of the most successful in American history in that it has been among the least disruptive, has generated minimal hostility and has been extraordinarily successful economically. Today, Indian-Americans are the wealthiest single ethnic group in the United States. They are hardly invisible, as they are present in all professions and as corporate executives.

Chinese and East Asian immigration is more complex. Chinese immigrants began coming to the U.S. in the mid-19th century. They came as laborers supplied by Chinese contractors and were crucial in building American railroads alongside – and in competition with – Irish immigrants. The Chinese were exploited and brutalized and didn’t get citizenship. But after the 1970s, their story matched the Indians’ – the Chinese were not quite as wealthy, but they did well.

** The U.S.-China Military Balance in the Western Pacific

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he security condition in the South and East China Seas has worsened over the past few years as territorial disputes have increased and mistrust deepened. China has grown increasingly assertive in each of the seas, which has caused suspicion among key states in the region. Moreover, regional institutions have had little impact, international law is being disregarded, and Sino-American relations appear increasingly driven by competition rather than shared interests.

The stakes for the United States in the South China Sea are high. Freedom of navigation through the sea facilitates $5.3 trillion in global trade each year, $1.2 trillion of which passes through American ports. The South China Sea is considered by many to be a “strategic bellwether” for assessing the future of American leadership in the Asia-Pacific region.

According to some analysts, whether the Western Pacific remains a peaceful maritime commons or a flashpoint for conflict between the U.S. and China, reminiscent of Cold War tensions, is likely to be decided in the South China Sea. The U.S., therefore, must preserve free access to these critical sea-lines of communication (SLOC) to maintain peace and prosperity throughout the region. However, the inability for the U.S. to project sufficient military power into the South China Sea would dramatically alter the state of affairs for the entire Asia-Pacific region. The balance that must be assessed is the ability of the U.S. military to project whatever military power it might require to prevail in a future armed confrontation with China. Equally, China’s ability to disrupt or deny U.S. force projection must also be assessed.

A cornerstone of U.S. defense strategy since World War II has been the ability to rapidly project military power worldwide to protect the nation’s interests. These interests include, but are certainly not limited to, spreading and protecting democratic governance, preserving access to strategic trading partners and resources, and reassuring allies and partners who cooperate with the United States in protecting common interests. Throughout the Cold War era, the Soviet Union presented a formidable military challenge to American power-projection capabilities. Fortunately, the superpowers succeeded in avoiding a major conflict. Even so, the U.S. military’s unrivaled ability to project and sustain large military forces around the globe was demonstrated in wars in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf, as well as in numerous other, smaller conflicts. In the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s downfall the U.S. military’s power-projection abilities in defense of the nation’s interests were essentially uncontested.

This state of play is clearly coming to an end, with major implications for U.S. national security. With the diffusion of innovative military technologies to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China, the U.S. military’s ability to maintain military access to the Western Pacific region is being increasingly tested. While China proclaims nonthreatening intentions, “it is an old military maxim that since intentions can change overnight—especially in authoritarian regimes—one must focus on the military capabilities of other states.”

Without question, preserving the U.S. military’s power projection capabilities will be crucial to maintaining military preeminence well into the twenty-first century. Since force projection remains foundational to U.S. defense strategy, the nation’s rebalance to the Asia- Pacific region not only revalidates this posture, but it also marks a shift that stresses the necessity for far-reaching naval and air force capabilities. This shift was made clear in A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, which stressed that “U.S. maritime forces will be characterized by regionally concentrated, forward deployed task forces with the combat power to limit regional conflict, deter major war, and should deterrence fail, win our Nation’s wars as part of a joint or combined campaign.”

India And China: Does The Elephant Read The Dragon Right?

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Abhijnan Rej 

At the heart of India’s China problem is an Indian inability to size up the Middle Kingdom and the meaning of its spectacular rise and to devise realistic responses to meet the attendant challenges. To be fair, this is not an affliction of New Delhi alone. Successive American administrations have also remained equally puzzled about China’s long-term strategic intent. There are three views on China that dominate much of Indian public discourse: of China as a (historically) unique power; of China as an economic partner; and of China as fellow ‘norm-entrepreneur’.
China as a sui-generis power

Many in India have implicitly assumed China to be a sui generis power – grounded in a supposedly-Asian ethos – whose behaviour is to be understood outside the matrix that is usually employed to study traditional (Western) powers. When Xi Jinping calls for a new kind of great-power relationship, he has many takers here.

This group of China aficionados believes that Beijing’s mandarins privilege the impetus of a deep-historical identity over raison d’etat – the assumption being that China is a civilizational state that would eschew the use of force and coercion in its rise to great-power status. Such idealists are comforted whenever Chinese dignitaries visiting India invoke the ‘Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence’ – a set of quasi-philosophical principles that were in vogue up and until Mao saw to it that India was abjectly defeated in a short and sharp confrontation in 1962.

China as an economic partner

The second view of India-China relationship can be termed econo-centric. China, in this view, emerges as a key partner in India’s economic transformation, especially when it comes to becoming a large market for Indian goods and services as well as an important source of foreign direct investment. ‘Chindia’ – a Chimerica-like portmanteau coined by a minister of the previous government – will be predicated, in equal parts, by the logic of economic interdependence and the history of civilizational ties, so goes the argument.

But idealism is not always a necessary condition in the econo-centric view. One prevalent pragmatic opinion in India is that of leveraging China for India’s infrastructure growth and connectivity needs to reduce the gap in material strength between the two countries. Once that gap is sufficiently bridged India will be in a position to deter Chinese designs, proponents of this view hold.


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Michael R. Auslin,

Viewed from a distance, Asia appears the stable driver of global economic growth. Corporate forecasts and business outlooks show big bets are being made that present growth trends will continue. Boeing, for example, is betting that roughly 40 percent of new aircraft deliveries for the next 20 years will be in Asia. It is easy for the big stories of Asian economic modernization — of hundreds of millions lifted out of poverty, trillions of dollars invested in infrastructure, the rise of India and China, etc. — to overshadow the contested rocks, reefs, and islands in the South and East China Seas. The bright lights of Shanghai’s skyline blind us to China’s volatility. The booming e-commerce businesses, estimated at more than $500 billion, suggest a youthful dynamism belied by emerging demographic bottlenecks that will transform Asian societies and labor markets.

Michael Auslin’s The End of Asian Century offers a welcome antidote to the Panglossian paeans to Asian growth to which we have been subjected for years. Auslin forcefully argues that the risks emerging amid the region’s relentless growth need to be addressed honestly for Asia to thrive in the next two decades and for the United States to benefit. This gives his narrative the classic two parts of a Beltway book: the identification and elaboration of problems followed by presenting policy options. 

Auslin elegantly succeeds in the former but is less convincing when he turns to the latter. Yet he still succeeds in outlining the bare minimum that Washington should consider as part of its Asia policy.

Any piece of writing, especially a book, has holes that invite critics to rip it apart. The wide swathe Auslin cuts across Asia provides an indefensible frontier. The scope is huge. Area experts will be tempted to pick apart Auslin’s arguments for their pet countries and haggle over the details with their pens in the book’s margins. The End of the Asian Century is not for them. It is, however, for those who are forced to live in the wider world. The book seems meant for the kind of engaged reader who regularly reads the news but lacks a framework for appreciating regional dynamics on the other side of the Pacific. To be true to the book’s purpose specialists should judge the book less on its specifics than its ability to generate useful questions going forward.

Auslin makes the core argument that Asia is more dangerous than economic success stories credit it, and its future deserves better scrutiny than an assumption of straight-line growth; this argument is divided into five parts. Each part addresses a different theme in Auslin’s evaluation of risk, and, as will become apparent, those parts are interconnected. The first is failed or failing economic reforms. 

Asia, not simply China, became the world’s workshop. Many of these countries, however, have struggled to rebalance their economies, allowing waste and corruption to enervate their future potential. The challenges obviously differ between mature economies like Japan, developing countries like Vietnam, and more mixed economies like China and India. But, all face thus far unmet challenges in maintaining economic growth across the next generation.

The Sri Lankan Counterterrorism Model: Intelligence Innovation Outside the Anglosphere

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Spiders have eight legs and two body parts, including the head region (cephalothorax) and the abdomen. Most spiders have toxic venom, which they use to kill their prey. So, if the international community wants to get rid of ISIS, hypothetically speaking, they must get rid of ISIS’ cephalothorax, rather than fight with its eight legs. What I try to pinpoint here is that, while ISIS's headquarters (cephalothorax) are in Syria, their means of survival (abdomen) depend on how much area they control in Iraq. Thus, before this ISIS "spider" transforms into a "multi-headed" and "multi-pronged" spider, the international community must target their headquarters in Syria.

Although international intelligence agencies have feet of clay, particularly in dealing with an enemy of many different faces, I feel that they deserve a more involved role than just being the eyes and ears of any one nation. Recommendations for an appropriate tradecraft to achieve collective intelligence are the need of the day. Although there is no truth to search for, no absolute truth, since everything is subjective, the valuable role that intelligence agencies play in producing deterrence is paramount. Achieving a state of global terrorist deterrence is what I consider the essential argument.

Sri Lanka, a small South Asian island nation located in the Indian Ocean, has been politically and economically destabilized as a result of ethnic conflict that has lasted over three decades. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the “Tamil Tigers”, a secessionist-cum-terrorist organization, fought against the Sri Lankan government to establish a separate homeland for Tamils in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka. This organization was a trendsetter for other terrorist groups around the world. Many organizations, including al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and now ISIS have used LTTE’s tactics as a template for terrorism. In May 2009, the Sri Lankan security forces militarily defeated the LTTE.

The timely detection and precise ground intelligence received from the directorate of military intelligence was proven valuable, as LTTE’s offensive waves were received with intense military counter-attacks. The Sri Lankan security forces could finally claim that the Mullaittivu battle was reaching its final phase. Over 150 cadres were killed during the initial thrust while the rest were hunted down by the 2nd Commando Regiment, 12th Gajaba Regiment, 12th Gemunu Watch, and 8th Gemunu Watch troops during the last 48 hours of the final battle. 

China Eyes Breakthrough R&D Defense Plan to Take on US Technological Dominance

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Recently, China established a new central commission for joint military and civilian development. The new institution will be chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"The commission will be the central agency tasked with decision-making, deliberation and coordination of major issues regarding integrated military and civilian development," read an official statement issued by Xinhua news agency.

According to military expert Vasily Kashin, the fact that the commission is overseen by the Chinese leader proves that it is expected to play an important role in China’s far-reaching defense modernization plans.

The conception of integrated military and civilian development was first presented in China back in the 1980s, at the early stage of China’s economic reforms.

Currently, the Chinese Central Military Council, the Industrial Ministry and the State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry (SASTIND) include agencies coordinating military and civilian research and development (R&D) programs. Chinese defense companies actively recruit civilian technologies as well as embed military technologies into the economy.

How is China feeding its population of 1.4 billion?

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Food security is critical to the well-being of all countries. Fragile states are often those that are the most food insecure, as limited access to basic staples can undermine a country’s social and economic stability.

Decades of near double-digit GDP growth has enabled China’s leaders to make considerable strides in increasing food access across the country. Yet China’s economic boom has generated a new set of demographic demands and environmental strains that have affected its agricultural capacity. This feature explores China’s domestic production, the changing dietary demands of its public, and the role international trade plays in China’s food security.


Four decades of rapid economic growth has fueled a dramatic reduction in China’s undernourished population. Undernourishment is defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations as the condition of an individual not acquiring enough food to meet the minimum dietary energy requirements for a year, and therefore serves as a key indicator for conditions of chronic hunger. According to the FAO, China’s undernourished population rate fell from 23.9 percent in 1990 to 9.3 percent in 2015. This reduction has occurred concurrently with rising per capita income levels that have soared by more than two-thousand percent over the same period.

This reduction in undernourishment facilitated China’s ability to reach the international hunger targets set by the United Nations. These targets were designed to halve world hunger by 2015. Of the twenty-nine countries that have met their respective goals, China’s achievements account for two-thirds of the reduction in undernourished people in the world’s developing regions over the last two years. An additional one hundred countries failed to meet their respective targets.

China has historically striven for domestic food production self-sufficiency. In 1996, the government issued a White Paper on the Grain Issue that established a 95 percent self-sufficiency target for grains including rice, wheat, and corn. China’s domestic production has for the most part increased to meet the country’s growing demand.

Over the past four decades, China’s grain consumption has more than doubled from 125 million tons in 1975 to 261 million tons in 2016. Considerable investments in agriculture have enabled China’s farmers to produce high volumes of staple crops, with China only importing a few million tons of rice and wheat per year. China often produces around the same amount of grain products as it consumes, resulting in a production-consumption ratio of roughly 1.0 since the mid-2000s.

How Assad Is Winning

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Charles Glass

Syrian boys in the rebel-held town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, oan the outskirts of Damascus, January 2017

In Damascus people call it the “million-dollar checkpoint,” although it is not one but two face-to-face roadblocks, barely a rifle shot apart. On a suburban road between government and opposition zones of control in Damascus, President Bashar al-Assad’s soldiers and their rebel enemies inspect cars, vans, and pedestrians. Their shared objective is extortion, exacting tolls on medicine, food, water, and cigarettes, as well as people, that are moving in and out of the besieged orchards and homesteads about ten miles from the center of Damascus in an area known as the Eastern Ghouta. 

This devastated region, where a half-million people lived before the Syrian civil war, was the scene of the regime’s chemical weapons attacks in August 2013 that nearly drew American air power into the conflict. Partly as a result of a deal with Vladimir Putin, United Nations inspectors arrived instead, and removed or destroyed most of the government’s poison gas stocks. Since then, the frontier between the state and its opponents has provided profits to both. Such cooperation between enemies surprises those unfamiliar with Syria’s political and economic landscape, although neither side has concealed its recurrent contacts with the other. 

The fierce game between the government and its adversaries is not confined to Eastern Ghouta. Wherever the warring sides want peace, there is peace. Where they contest territory, as they did until recently in the eastern quarters of Aleppo, there is war. Where they want profits, they collaborate. Hence, the “million-dollar checkpoint” and lesser checkpoints throughout the country that sustain the business of war. Paltry exactions from beleaguered citizens add up to large fortunes, giving the fighters incentives to mute the conflict in certain areas and marshal their forces elsewhere. 

No one denies that the regime is winning the war. It owes its ascendancy as much to its opponents’ disunity and incompetence as to its own effectiveness. Rebel policy, whichever group was involved, was to seize and hold terrain for as long as possible in violation of every tenet of guerrilla warfare. The local people welcomed the rebels in some places and tolerated them in others. 

Iran's Economy Is Bouncing Back

By Kamran Bokhari 

A year after the U.S. agreed to lift sanctions, Iran is recovering its regional influence.

These days there is a great deal of noise over the fate of the Iran nuclear deal. It is going to be very difficult to roll back the agreement, announced a year ago. Therefore, it remains to be seen what the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump can do to limit the extent to which Iran benefits from the respite in sanctions. The issue is not a nuclear Iran or one with ballistic missile capability, but rather an economy that is improving because of the nuclear deal.

On Iran, one comes across two main types of stories, depending from where they originate – Washington or Tehran. In the United States, the newly installed Trump administration appears as though it is trying to renegotiate the nuclear deal. Meanwhile, in Iran, President Hassan Rouhani’s opponents – largely from within the clerical and security establishments – continue to claim that the country has not benefited from the nuclear deal.

An Airbus A321 arrives at Mehrabad International Airport during delivery of the first batch of planes to the state airline company Iran Air in the capital, Tehran, on Jan. 12, 2017. The aircraft arrived as part of an order for 100 Airbus planes after the lifting of international sanctions on the Islamic republic. ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

Reversing the deal would be difficult since it is a multilateral agreement. Undoing the agreement thus would entail a complex process where all major world powers would agree to do so. Rhetoric aside, senior members of the Trump administration, particularly Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis, do not want to reopen the proverbial Pandora’s box. That said, the bellicose rhetoric on this issue is useful in shaping Iranian perceptions and keeping them in check.

Similarly, the claims from hawks within Iran’s various power centers also are disingenuous. Those claims are designed to undermine Rouhani, especially ahead of his re-election bid in May. The Iranian president’s adversaries make a number of different arguments. The main one is that Iran has not benefited from the nuclear deal because sanctions relief has not led to economic benefits, especially in the life of average citizens.

Slow, Slow Progress in the Iraqi Campaign to Retake Mosul

By Emily Anagnostos and the ISW Iraq Team

Operations in Mosul paused since the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) recaptured eastern Mosul on January 24. The ISF is now preparing to retake the western side. Political conditions have changed, however. Increased pressure on Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to keep his premiership and uncertain relations between the U.S. and Iraq may allow pro-Iranian groups to extract concessions from PM Abadi that run contrary to U.S. interests in Iraq.

The ISF recaptured the last ISIS-held neighborhood in eastern Mosul on January 24, nearly three months since operations in the city began on November 1, 2016. Preparations and troop movement are now underway for operations to break into western Mosul, though no official start date has been announced. Mosul Operations Commander Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Yarallah announced that local Ninewa police and fighters, headed by the 16th Iraqi Army Division, will hold recaptured eastern neighborhoods while local Ninewa tribal militias will hold recaptured land outside of the city limits. The Federal Police stated on January 29 that their forces were moving towards western Mosul, suggesting that the three brigades which supported southeastern operations returned to their original position on the southern axis. 

PM Abadi is at increased risk of losing his premiership. Former PM Nouri al-Maliki is maneuvering to reclaim the position by appealing to Iranian interests and courting the pro-Iranian support base away from PM Abadi. PM Abadi, who has been receptive to and supported by the U.S., may need to make concession to the pro-Iranian political base in order to ensure his position, especially if U.S.-Iraq relations strain. PM Abadi compromised on the appointment of a Badr Organization member as the Minister of Interior on January 30, despite previous reservations. He may also need to appease political parties by allowing their affiliated militias greater latitude in anti-ISIS operations.

Trump’s Chief Strategist Is Apparently Obsessed With Dharma; Bhagwad Gita Among His Favourite Books

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Swarajya Staff

If one were to believe this report by The Daily Beast (TDB), Steve Bannon, Chief Strategist for the US President Donald Trump is obsessed with war and ‘Bhagwad Gita’ is one of his top two favourite books along with Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, an ancient Chinese book on military strategy. This is what two of Bannon’s former friends seem to have disclosed to TDB.

TDB’s second source of confirmation for the above tidbit is Julia Jones whom the website refers to as Bannon’s longtime Hollywood writing partner and former close friend. In an interview to the website before Bannon joined Trump’s campaign team last year, Jones had this to say:

Steve is a strong militarist, he’s in love with war—it’s almost poetry to him”, TDB quoted her saying. He’s studied it down through the ages, from Greece, through Rome... every battle, every war… Never back down, never apologize, never show weakness.

TDB further quotes Jones saying that Bannon “used to talk a lot about dharma—he felt very strongly about dharma... one of the strongest principles throughout the Bhagavad Gita.”

TDB is a left-leaning platform in the US and no fan of Donald Trump. Since the day he assumed office, mainstream media has launched a series of negative stories on his administration and his actions. So, this piece might as well be a hit job on Trump’s closest aide and top adviser showing him as a war hawk. It was also no surprise that the piece came just after Bannon was appointed as a permanent member to the National Security Council, main forum which helps shape the US President’s foreign and national security policy.

Swarajya couldn’t independently verify the claims made by TDB.

Steve Bannon’s Long Love Affair With War

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Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s White House chief strategist, was already set to become one of the most powerful people on the planet—even before Trump appointed him to the National Security Council last weekend.

Those who have known Bannon for years, and before he ascended to executive power, describe a man almost obsessed with military history, guerilla warfare, and the general art of war and nationalist foreign policy.

In his Hollywood days, Bannon could easily play war, writing vast landscapes of warfare and conflict into his scripts, sometimes set in outer space.

Thanks to Donald J. Trump, Bannon now could get to do it for real.

That’s because in a presidential memorandum this past weekend, Trump gave his chief strategist a permanent seat at the National Security Council table, while military and intelligence leaders were effectively downgraded. The move to elevate Bannon, a purely political adviser, was unusual to provoke outcry from even fellow Republicans.

For instance, Bannon has very limited experience in U.S. government, and has little relevant experience for the position. Bannon did serve seven years in the Navy several decades ago, before making his name in the private sector, conservative Hollywood, and then politics.

“This is literally the most terrifying thing that’s ever happened,” a former Hollywood associate of Bannon’s (who requested anonymity for fear of retribution, describing Bannon as “vindictive”) told The Daily Beast when discussing the new national-security position.

“He constantly used military terms, used military terms to describe people who worked for him… like, ‘grunts,’” one former Breitbart staffer recalled. “He always spoke in terms of aggression. It was always on-the-attack, double down... macho stuff. Steve has an obsession with testosterone.”

It’s a habit that will likely continue into his time in the executive branch. The New York Times reported that last week’s avalanche of Trump of executiveorders was primarily hatched by Bannon and his team, and doubled as an effort “at disorienting the ‘enemy.’

“If there’s one sort of movie theme that encapsulates Steve Bannon’s philosophy on this, it’s that line from Team America: World Police: ‘You have balls—I like balls,’” Ben Shapiro, former Breitbart editor-at-large, said.

Bannon and a spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment on this story. He has, however (as The Daily Beast previously reported), described himself as a “Leninist,” with regard to his goals of political insurrection.

Putin Testing Trump Early With Ukraine Attacks

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The Trump administration is facing its first major test on the international stage as volleys of Russian artillery and rockets continue to pounad Ukrainian forces in the country’s contested east, reigniting the frozen conflict and killing about a dozen Ukrainian soldiers since Sunday.

The barrages, along with renewed pushes by Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces near the government-held industrial town of Avdiyivka, spiked dramatically on Sunday. The day before, Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin held their first phone call, reportedly talking about forming a new alliance against the Islamic State and working together on a range of other issues.

The international body tasked with monitoring violations of the Minsk agreement reported at least 2,300 explosions from artillery, mortars and rocket fire on Sunday alone, the day after the Trump-Putin call. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said this was a sharp increase from the intermittent shelling that marks an ordinary day long the front, but that the fighting was so intense it could not properly keep count.

Ukrainian forces also appear to be advancing into the no-man’s land separating government-controlled territory from rebel-held areas, in what seems a bid to strengthen their bargaining position if they have to go back to the negotiating table again with a weaker hand.

Trump’s affinity for Russia, and his phone call Saturday with Putin, has stoked fear in Kiev and among NATO allies that Trump could strike a deal with Moscow that would mean less U.S. support for the Ukrainian government, and potentially give Russia a freer hand in its destabilization efforts there.


Heather A. Conley, Europe Program

In May 2016, the CSIS Europe Program and Tongji University in China co-hosted its second annual forum on the Arctic in Washington, D.C. This forum seeks to strengthen dialogue and improve understanding on a full range of environmental, economic, institutional and strategic issues in the Arctic. We are pleased to present a new report, U.S.-Sino Relations in the Arctic: A Roadmap for Future Cooperation, which includes a collection of essays authored by U.S. and Chinese experts that describe areas of shared cooperation and interests, discuss regional challenges, and suggest future mechanisms of dialogue for the Arctic.

Despite Renewal, the Internet Governance Forum Is Still on Life Support

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by Guest Blogger

The International Telecommunication Union Deputy Secretary General, Malcolm Johnson, speaks at the 2016 Internet Governance Forum in Guadalajara, Mexico. (ITU Pictures). 

Samantha Dickinson is an internet governance consultant and writer. You can follow her on Twitter at @sgdickinson and via her blog, Lingua Synaptica

Last week, Mexico hosted the 11th Internet Governance Forum (IGF), an annual UN-convened conference where diplomats, tech experts, companies, academics and non-profit groups discuss anything and everything related to the internet. This was the first IGF since the UN General Assembly renewed its mandate last year that required the forum to improve, particularly in terms of attracting greater participation from stakeholders in developing countries. 

If the 3000 registered participants at last week’s IGF is anything to go by, the new and improved IGF is a success. New topics such as international trade agreements and the future of the digital economy reflected wider global angst about globalization and job loss. There was also increased visibility of gender issues in workshops, although panel composition in many non-gender based sessions still showed a significant bias towards men. Sustainable development figured prominently in the discussions as part of a global effort to use information and communications technologies (ICTs) to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Part of the success of IGF, however, is not its official program, but its side meetings. With such a wide range of issues under discussion, the IGF is perhaps the best opportunity participants have each year to meet others who normally attend separate meeting circuits. This use of IGF as a facilitator for connecting with others goes back to the original intent of the IGF as documented in the 2005 Tunis Agenda and probably should be marketed more to encourage greater participation from governments, many of whom are still suspicious about the usefulness of a forum that does not make decisions. 

Despite improvements, the IGF is still chronically underfunded and struggles to deliver on everything asked of it. Like many internet ventures, volunteerism and ad-hoc funding from supportive governments, nonprofits and tech companies keep it afloat. It is not clear, however, if this strategy will last until the end of the IGF’s second mandate in 2025 given the increasing number of events added to the annual internet governance calendar, each which increasingly demand a slice of stakeholders’ time and resources. 

Harnessing automation for a future that works

By James Manyika, Michael Chui, Mehdi Miremadi, Jacques Bughin, Katy George, Paul Willmott, and Martin Dewhurst
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Automation is happening, and it will bring substantial benefits to businesses and economies worldwide, but it won’t arrive overnight. A new McKinsey Global Institute report finds realizing automation’s full potential requires people and technology to work hand in hand. 

Recent developments in robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning have put us on the cusp of a new automation age. Robots and computers can not only perform a range of routine physical work activities better and more cheaply than humans, but they are also increasingly capable of accomplishing activities that include cognitive capabilities once considered too difficult to automate successfully, such as making tacit judgments, sensing emotion, or even driving. Automation will change the daily work activities of everyone, from miners and landscapers to commercial bankers, fashion designers, welders, and CEOs. But how quickly will these automation technologies become a reality in the workplace? And what will their impact be on employment and productivity in the global economy? 

McKinsey Global Institute partner Michael Chui explains how automation is transforming work. 

The McKinsey Global Institute has been conducting an ongoing research program on automation technologies and their potential effects. A new MGI report, A future that works: Automation, employment, and productivity, highlights several key findings. 

The automation of activities can enable businesses to improve performance by reducing errors and improving quality and speed, and in some cases achieving outcomes that go beyond human capabilities. Automation also contributes to productivity, as it has done historically. At a time of lackluster productivity growth, this would give a needed boost to economic growth and prosperity. It would also help offset the impact of a declining share of the working-age population in many countries. Based on our scenario modeling, we estimate automation could raise productivity growth globally by 0.8 to 1.4 percent annually (see animation below).

Using talent management to create value

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You’ve got great people—but are you realizing their potential? CEO.works founder Sandy Ogg explains why companies must link talent to value, and what that means for the role of HR. 

Great talent can be a source of true competitive advantage—provided it’s deployed against key sources of value. In this interview with McKinsey’s Rik Kirkland, the founder of executive-advisory firm CEO.works and former chief human-resources officer of Unilever, Sandy Ogg, talks about managing talent to build speed in organizations, understanding how jobs link to the value they create, and responding to shifting tides in HR. An edited version of his remarks follows. 

Interview transcript 

We used to think about what, people are our most important asset. And people said that, but they didn’t mean that. Now all of a sudden, the world shifts from a people focus to a talent focus. 

And just the word “talent” means something different. This means someone who is incredibly capable and is going to be able to build an advantage for me. You know, I often talk or think about Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, and when I think about talent, it’s not good to great—we need to go from great to insanely great, ludicrously great people. But you need them where the value is. 

Being able to rapidly redeploy that talent, and whether it’s one at a time, ten at a time, a hundred at a time, or a thousand or even thousands at a time, that’s how you build agility into a large enterprise that can operate at scale. 
HR reimagined 

We’re at a really interesting point in the function that everybody calls HR. And I’m not crazy about, “Let’s rename it and call it something different.” It’s HR. 

But it’s HR reimagined. HR redesigned, if you will. 

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Papers Offer a Peek at ISIS’ Drones, Lethal and Largely Off-the-Shelf

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Members of American Special Operations inspected a drone in Mosul, Iraq, in January. The craft had been used by Islamic State militants to drop explosives on government forces. 

WASHINGTON — The standardized four-page checklist describes each Islamic State drone mission in chillingly impassive detail: Mission type (spy, bombing, training). Location (city, province). Drone components (motor, bomb ignition). Operation (successful or not).

The form, apparently filled out by Islamic State drone operators in Iraq after every mission, was part of a batch of documents discovered in January by a Harvard researcher embedded with Iraqi troops in the battle of Mosul and then turned over to American military analysts for review.

The documents — in Arabic and English — offer a rare window into how the Islamic State has cobbled together a rapidly advancing armed drone program that increasingly threatens allied troops fighting the militant group, also known as ISIS or ISIL. They show how the group has institutionalized a program using off-the-shelf technology to bedevil the militarily superior American armed forces.

The Islamic State has used surveillance drones on the battlefield for about two years. But an increase in attacks since October — mostly targeting Iraqi troops — has highlighted its success in adapting readily accessible technology into a potentially effective new weapon.

In the past two months, the Islamic State has used more than 80 remotely piloted drones against Iraqi forces and their allies. About one-third of the aircraft, some as small as model airplanes, dropped bombs or were rigged with explosives to detonate on the ground, said Col. John L. Dorrian, the spokesman for the American-led operation against the Islamic State in Baghdad.