27 December 2017

Ten Silver Linings in 2017

Ten Silver Linings in 2017

-- Maj Gen P K Mallick,VSM (Retd)

The year 2017 was marked by conflict, instability, and humanitarian crises.However, Not everything was bad in 2017. There have been bright spots as well in number of areas where progress was made, from reducing child mortality and poverty to improving women’s rights.

Council on Foreign Relations has come out with a list of 10 such positive trends in 2017. Here is those positive trends. 

1. The World Health Organization reports in October that global measles deaths have decreased by more than 80 percent since 2000 to an estimated ninety thousand last year. The drop is part of a broader decline in child mortality, which has been more than halved since 1990. 

2. Colombia’s largest Marxist rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), completes its disarmament process in June, six months after it reached a peace agreement with the government, bringing to a close Latin America’s oldest and bloodiest civil conflict. The second-largest rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), agrees to a temporary cease-fire in September. 

3. The hole in the earth’s ozone layer is the smallest it has been since 1988, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports in October. Warmer weather conditions over the last two years prevented ozone-depleting chemicals from eating away at the protective layer, scientists say. They also attribute the improvement to decades of global efforts to reduce emissions of such chemicals. 

4. Women’s rights advance in several Arab countries with the passage of legal reforms: Tunisia criminalizes violence against women, Lebanon and Jordan repeal laws that had permitted rapists to escape punishment if they wed their victims, and Jordan amends its penal code to do away with reduced penalties for so-called honor killings. 

5. Eight countries adopt legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, bringing the total to eighty-five, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. 

6. The number of people living in extreme poverty, making $1.90 or less per day, continues its steady drop, falling from roughly 35 percent of the world’s population in 1990 to 8.4 percent in late 2017, according to the Vienna-based World Data Lab. 

7. Gambia’s longtime authoritarian president, Yahya Jammeh, steps down on January 20, 2017, weeks after losing his reelection bid to Adama Barrow and a day after troops from the regional bloc ECOWAS cross into the country. Barrow’s government releases hundreds of political prisoners, holds legislative elections deemed free and fair, and announces plans for a truth and reconciliation commission. 

8. Maritime piracy declines in the first nine months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, dropping 14 percent to 121 incidents, according to the International Chamber of Commerce. The organization attributes the improvement to more stringent naval patrols in some areas such as Indonesia. This follows a 25 percent decrease a year earlier. 

9. After resolving Argentina’s billion-dollar dispute with bondholders in 2016, President Mauricio Macri continues promarket reforms that have lifted the Group of Twenty economy. October 2017 midterm elections reinforce Macri’s reform mandate, and the International Monetary Fund hails Argentina’s “systemic transformation of its economy” and progress in “restoring integrity” to the government. 

10. The eurozone economy grows 2.5 percent more in the third quarter of 2017 than in the same period a year prior. The increase puts the zone’s economy on track to see its highest annual growth since before the 2008 global financial crisis. Unemployment in the single-currency area drops to 9.1 percent, its lowest level since early 2009.


Claude Arpi 

One fateful decision taken by Nehru seventy years ago, much against the advice of Sardar Patel, is still creating ripples in the Indian sub-continent. India continues to suffer for the Kashmir mistake.

Seventy years is a long time, but a blunder which took place in the last days of 1947, is still creating ripples in the sub-continent. I am speaking of Kashmir. On October 20, 1947, the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir was invaded by tribesmen and Pakistani nationals from bases inside the Pakistan territory.

Growing Inequality Dulls India’s Sheen – Analysis

By Riaz Hassan*

India’s economy surges, but inequality threatens democracy, culture and security with 80 percent of wealth in the hands of 10 percent.

Spectacular economic growth over the past three decades has made India a global economic powerhouse. Between 1990 and 2016, India’s economy grew at a compound rate of around 7 percent in current dollars. The Indian economy is now the third largest in the world by purchasing power parity after China and the United States.

Indian Army sets sights on 120 high-tech drones to boost surveillance

Rahul Singh

The army’s existing unmanned systems’ fleet comprises Heron medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAVs, and the smaller Searcher Mark II tactical drones, both built by Israel Aerospace Industries.

The army plans to buy high-tech unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to strengthen its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities and improve the effectiveness of its military operations.

Govt gets serious about rural development; readies roadmap

What do Khagaria in Bihar, Paschimi Singhbhum in Jharkhand, Mewat in Haryana, and Shrawasti in Uttar Pradesh have in common?

They are the top-ranked - worst off - districts in India with respect to poverty, health, education, and infrastructure, respectively, which are featured in the first ever ranked list of 115 backward districts in India.

The 115 districts are not necessarily the “most backward”.

A balance between representation to backwardness in each state and the capacity of the respective states to achieve realisable targets - keeping in mind the absolute level of backwardness - has been the principle employed by the NITI Aayog while formulating the list.

Jharkhand has 19 districts on the list, the highest from any state, followed by Bihar, which has 13 (see map).

India's Neighborhood-First Diplomacy Coming Apart at the Seams

By Surajkumar Thube

Despite a concerted push, India is losing ground to China in its own backyard. 

With talk of inviting ASEAN members for the upcoming Republic Day celebrations in India, New Delhi’s diplomatic overtures toward the Southeast Asian countries are increasingly clear. At the same time, with India set to look for greener pastures beyond South Asia, it’s hard to ignore the palpable fissures developing in the so-called “neighborhood-first” policy. The grand initiative to increase bonhomie with neighboring countries since 2014 has become hopelessly mired in episodic yet fundamental practical diplomatic hurdles. This anxiety can be sensed through recent developments, beginning with Nepal and Bangladesh.

New Extremist Religious Groups Are Wrecking Pakistan

Abdul Basit

Religious politics in Pakistan has moved away from pan-Islamism to narrow sectarianism with the entry of new religious-political groups.

With the rise of Barelvi, a sub-sect of Sunni Hanafi Islam, extremist groups in Pakistan, the country’s drift into extremism comes full circle. Apparently, considered to be more tolerant and accommodative of other faiths and sects, the Barelvi groups in Pakistan have been asserting themselves politically since the 2016 hanging of Mumtaz Qadri, who was the self-righteous assassin of former Punjab governor Salman Taseeer.

Technological Entanglement? — Artificial Intelligence in the U.S.-China Relationship

By: Elsa Kania

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a new arena for engagement and competition between the United States and China. In July, China’s State Council published the New Generation AI Development Plan (新一代人工智能发展规划) which declared, “AI has become a new focal point of international competition. AI is a strategic technology that will lead the future,” articulating China’s ambition to “lead the world” and become the “premier AI innovation center” by 2030 (State Council, July 20). Perhaps recognizing that a new era has begun, the U.S. National Security Strategy (NSS) published in mid-December announced, “To maintain our competitive advantage, the United States will prioritize emerging technologies critical to economic growth and security” (National Security Strategy, December 18). 

What's Really Behind Chinese Assertiveness in the South China Sea?

By Richard Q. Turcsanyi

“Chinese assertiveness” has become an infamous phrase – it is regularly used by media, pundits, and politicians, yet there is little scholarly work that would clarify the meaning of the concept. A similar situation exists when it comes to China’s power. Although it is generally assumed that “China is rising,” there are surprisingly few systematic studies of China’s power being done comprehensively and rigorously.

As such, we have ended up with the proposition that China is “assertive” and that the ongoing “power shift” is the reason why. In reality, we do not know which Chinese actions, precisely, fall within the “assertive” label or what this label actually means. Similarly, we do not know how much power China has acquired, and we are not even sure how to assess China’s power. Worse, there is not even much ongoing discussion about these questions.

The US is preparing for a trade war with China – don’t be fooled by the noise

On the first day of his ­recent visit to Beijing, President Donald Trump was treated to Peking opera. A common element in many such shows is moments when characters run about the stage wildly banging gongs to draw the audience’s attention, even though nothing of substance is occurring. And so went the US president’s summit with China’s Xi ­Jinping on economic and trade issues, a perfunctory display meant only to give the impression of serious ­engagement and achievement.

Chinese hackers go after think tanks in wave of more surgical strikes

2016 saw a significant drop-off in cyber-espionage by China in the wake of a 2015 agreement between US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Xi Jingping. But over the course of 2017, espionage-focused breach attempts by Chinese hackers have once again been on the rise, according to researchers at CrowdStrike. Those attempts were capped off by a series of attacks in October and November on organizations involved in research on Chinese economic policy, US-China relations, defense, and international finance. The attackers were likely companies contracted by the Chinese military, according to Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at CrowdStrike.

Running out of time

John J. Hamre

Last week I participated in a high-level discussion with a senior representative from the Administration. The topic was North Korea. And at one point, the individual said that the Administration believes “we are running out of time on North Korea.” “What the hell are you talking about,” I said. Let us go through this systematically.

We should survey the real facts—not what people want to believe, but what is true.

Will there be a war on the Korean Peninsula in 2018?

Robert Gates was U.S. secretary of defense and therefore my immediate boss for much of my time as supreme allied commander at NATO. A former director of the CIA and a career intelligence officer, he is brilliant, understated and dry-witted. When asked once about our ability to predict wars, he said, "Our record is consistent and perfect -- we never get it right."

With that as a cautionary comment, I would assess the chances of a full-blown war on the Korean Peninsula in 2018 are in the range of 10% and rising, with an additional 20% chance that some level of ordnance will be exchanged (missiles, torpedoes, artillery) but that both parties will step back from the abyss of a nuclear war. A year ago, I would have placed the chance of war at around 1%. Two things have changed: rapid technical progress by the North Koreans on their missile and nuclear programs; and the unsteady belligerence of the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump -- a combustible and potentially lethal combination.

Donbass Blues, The Forgotten Conflict In Eastern Ukraine

KRASNOHORIVKA — The sound of canon fire has become more distant of late in Krasnohorivka. But the war continues to haunt Lioudmila Sidonnka. The young mother's stories are those of soldiers running in all directions, of smoking tanks, never-ending detonations, nights spent in her building's basement, houses on fire.

Little wonder that so many residents in this hamlet, on the Ukrainian side of the frontline, have left. After three years of conflict, only about 100 people — a third of the ghost village's pre-war population — remain. Lioudmila and her family are among the holdouts. Her 14-year-old son, Vadim, shows us shell fragments that he's collected. He also shows us around his school, the only connection he still has to real life. Life before the war.

Trump May Not Think That Russia Is a Threat, But the Rest of Us Should. Here’s Why

When President Trump met Angela Merkel last March for the first time, the German chancellor had Russia on her mind. Allegations about the Russian intervention on Trump’s behalf in the U.S. presidential election were swirling around Washington—and Trump had done nothing to allay the concerns of Russia’s neighbors that he planned to forge ahead with a new opening to Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin strongman he has so openly admired. He had never really backed away from his public bashing of NATO, either. The American security pact with Europe had survived for seven decades, since its creation in the aftermath of World War II as a counterbalance to the Soviet Union. But Merkel and many others now wondered if NATO could outlast the twin assaults of a Russian leader who had long viewed it as enemy No. 1 and an American president who publicly branded it as “obsolete.”

Photographer: Beata Zawrzel/Getty Images EU Sanctions Risk for Poland Rises on Democratic Backsliding

Marek Strzelecki and 

The European Union called on national governments to discipline Poland for failing to uphold the bloc’s democratic values, recommending an unprecedented process that could lead to economic sanctions and stripping the country of its voting rights.

The European Commission said Wednesday the government in Warsaw posed a threat to the rule of law and recommended member states trigger Article 7 of the EU treaty. The process is unlikely to lead to Poland being shut out of decision making. But the decision -- backed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron -- underscores the erosion of trust between the EU’s largest states and some of its eastern members.

Mexico Asks: Does Fracking Raise Earthquake Risk?

Giacomo Tognini

As September's duo of deadly earthquakes made so painfully clear, Mexico is a highly seismic country. Sadly, there's no accounting for the dangers of plate tectonics. But could human activity also be contributing to Mexico's propensity for earth-shaking events? Quite possibly, according to the Mexico City-based newspaper El Universal, which reports that oil exploration in the northern state of Nuevo León has led to stronger and more frequent earthquakes over the past decade.

How to prepare for a nuclear attack

By Philip Bump

This combination of Nov. 29 images provided by the North Korean government purportedly shows the launch of a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile. 

Children growing up in the 1980s were vaguely aware of the threat of nuclear annihilation the way children today are vaguely aware of the threat of being eaten by sharks. You heard horror stories and you saw movies about it, but it was something more than distant. It was like playacting royalty: Kings and queens exist, sure, but obviously they are not things you are going to bump into any time soon. 

Democracy Is Not the Cure for Terrorism


Analysts have blamed Egypt’s autocracy for a recent attack that killed hundreds. But that’s not what’s motivating the violence.

A few weeks ago, terrorists laid siege to a mosque in the small town of Bir al-Abd that lies just off the east-west road spanning the northern Sinai Peninsula. They killed 305 people and wounded many others. The photos from the scene were macabre—the stuff of Baghdad or Karachi, not Egypt. Until the attack on the al-Rawdah Mosque on November 24, the deadliest terror incident in Egypt occurred in 1997, when a group called al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya killed 57 people—most of them Japanese and British tourists—at the Temple of Hatshepsut near Luxor. The recent bloodletting in the Sinai is believed to be the work of Wilayat Sina, the Sinai branch of the self-styled Islamic State, though no one has claimed responsibility.

Strategic Confusion Donald Trump’s new National Security Strategy will baffle allies and delight foes.

By Fred Kaplan

At least once in a president’s term, the White House releases a document called the National Security Strategy. Mandated by Congress since the mid-1980s, the NSS is usually sheer boilerplate, a collage of clichés about America’s role in the world. Few read it, but those who do come away with harrumphs of reassurance that the current people in power know what they’re doing and, by and large, are following the hallowed principles of their predecessors.

On the other hand, President Trump’s NSS, released on Monday afternoon, is bound to incite more confusion among our allies and adversaries about what America stands for and what this administration might do, or not do, in the world’s crises and hot spots.

3 cybersecurity trends agencies need to watch in 2018

By: Andy Hammond and Red Curry

All organizations struggle to prioritize their cybersecurity efforts, but federal agencies do so with the twin burdens of added regulation and a smaller budget than most private organizations. As the world prepares for monumental data legislation to take effect, and as traditional, static security methods prove ineffective, it is becoming clear than privileged access management can no longer be ignored. These three forces will be explored below, along with how to strengthen network security against both immediate and future concerns.

Making sense of North Korea’s hacking strategy

Donghui Park, Jessica L. Beyer

Pyongyang is ramping up its cyber warfare. Just this week, a White House official blamed North Korea for the WannaCry attack that took down hospitals, banks and businesses in May and noted that Facebook and Microsoft recently took action against the infamous North Korean Lazarus hacker group. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“Risk Informed, But Not Risk Averse”: the National Security Strategy Approach to Cyber Ops

by Eric Jensen

The Trump administration’s National Security Strategy (NSS) is replete with references to cyber operations and their impact on national security. It states that, “America’s response to the challenges and opportunities of the cyber era will determine our future prosperi­ty and security.” ­Like President Barack Obama’s 2015 NSS before it, Trump’s NSS identifies cyber capabilities as one of the great facilitators of U.S. national security, but also one of the country’s great vulnerabilities, with particular mention of China as a source of concern in both documents.

Terrorist Networks Eye Bitcoin as Cryptocurrency’s Price Rises


Signs are increasing that jihadist groups are looking to capitalize on the rising value of bitcoin, as massive price increases for the cryptocurrency in recent months garner growing public attention. Cold, hard, untraceable cash remains their preferred medium for transmitting funds, but new online activity shows that some jihadist groups are soliciting bitcoins, which can be acquired and spent without any government or banking intermediary.

UK has substantially increased its hacking capabilities in recent years

The UK has substantially increased its hacking capabilities in recent years, an official report says.

This includes the ability to attack other country’s communications, weapons systems and even infrastructure.

The details were revealed in the annual report of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which oversees the work of intelligence agencies.

Studying Conflict and Practicing Peacebuilding

By Richard Caplan

What can one say about the academic study of violent conflict and its implications for the practice of peacebuilding? There is no reason to assume a necessary relationship between these two spheres of activity; the study of armed conflict may or may not have any practical significance for peacebuilding. Of course many scholars in this field are motivated in part by the hope and expectation that their findings will make a contribution, however slight, to the building and maintenance of peace. 

How the Marines are mobilizing forces for information warfare

By: Mark Pomerleau 

U.S. Marine Cpl. Rusty Defoe, left, avionics technician and Gunnery Sgt. Mark Morales, flightline division chief, both assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 369, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, consult diagrams on a laptop while participating in Integrated Training Exercise 2-16 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Jan. 24, 2016. MCAGCC conducts relevant live-fire combined arms, urban operations, and joint/coalition level integration training that promote operational forces' readiness.

The Marine Corps is making a fundamental shift to better posture itself and organize in the emerging information environment.