1 March 2018

Bridging the Bay of Bengal: Toward a Stronger BIMSTEC

Constantino Xavier

Summary: India and other countries around the Bay of Bengal should invest greater resources in the multilateral institution BIMSTEC to promote regional connectivity and shared prosperity.

The Bay of Bengal is one of the world’s least integrated regions, with abysmal levels of trade, connectivity, and cooperation. The deep divide between India and other countries around the bay hinders their efforts to increase their economic and strategic interdependence.

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), a regional multilateral organization founded in 1997, offers a well-positioned platform to help address these challenges. But BIMSTEC’s mission to deepen regionalism will stand a better chance of succeeding if its members (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand) make the organization a priority, endow it with adequate resources, and enact reforms to strength its capabilities.

India inches ahead in the race to build a Hyperloop

Plenty of places have committed to exploring the economic viability of building a Hyperloop, but nobody has been brave enough to say they'll actually construct one. It's why the news coming out of India's latest announcement is such a big deal, because it includes a pledge to build a working test track.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sir Richard Branson announced the partnership between Virgin Hyperloop One and the Indian state of Maharashtra. The deal will see the pair look into developing a high-speed link between the cities of Pune and Mumbai, with the route going via Mumbai International Airport.

Is India opening up? Some good signs

The media has often mentioned the report prepared by Lt. Gen. Henderson-Brooks on the October-November 1962 debacle.

Is India changing? Political pundits will probably have diametrically opposite views on the subject.

It is a fact that India is rapidly emerging as an important economic pole; the recent visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos and the hosting of the 10 Asean Heads of State or government for Republic Day are symbols of this new emergence.

Does Indian Army have a plan, or are we headed towards war with Pakistan?


Since the Partition of India in 1947, Kashmir has had to bear the burden of being India’s only Muslim majority state, a jewel in the divided crown left by the British, a testimony to the secular nature of the new Republic. It has also had the misfortune of being the battleground of India and Pakistan. Since the NDA government came to power in May 2014, India Today has done 10 cover stories on tensions between the two neighbours, many centred around Kashmir.

The stories have examined the relationship through many prisms, primarily one of terror attacks, which this time have been the worst since 2013.

Why US threats no longer perturb Pakistan

'If the US intention was to use the FATF platform to isolate Pakistan and impose sanctions against it, that is not going to work when influential countries such as Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia will not lend support to the US campaign,' says Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar.

A concerted move by the United States and its Western allies to bring Pakistan back into the 'watch list' of the so-called Financial Action Task Force -- FATF -- leaps out of a morality play from the Middle Ages -- an allegorical drama with Washington assuming moral attributes.

To win ‘hearts and minds’ in Afghanistan, some aid programs worked better than others

By Jason Lyall and Rebecca Wolfe

Budget crunchers are looking at all aspects of the fiscal 2019 White House budget, including how foreign assistance helps support U.S. security interests. Some of the $16.8 billion in the latest U.S. Agency for International Development budget, for instance, targets the agency’s No. 1 programming issue: reducing conflict. 

But what drives support for combatants in wartime? Governments, militaries and aid agencies have implemented dozens of economic interventions designed to win “hearts and minds” and reduce violence in settings as diverse as Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Nigeria and Somalia. These interventions include livelihood training, employment programs, cash-for-work opportunities and, increasingly, unconditional cash transfers to specific populations. 

China and India File Rival Claims Over Tibetan Medicine

By Mike Ives

HONG KONG — China and India have jockeyed for centuries over the Himalayas. The Chinese military invaded Tibet in 1950. India granted asylum to the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, in 1959. Three years later, the two countries fought a border war. Now they are in a standoff over an area disputed by China and Bhutan, the Himalayan kingdom whose claim is supported by India.

The two countries’ latest struggle is over which one will be able to formally tie the ancient practice of Tibetan medicine to its national patrimony. The prize: international cachet and the possibility of significant commercial rewards.

China wanted to split India, Bhutan through Doklam: Shivshankar Menon

NEW DELHI: China's political goal was to "split" India and Bhutan over the Doklamstandoff, former National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon said today while appreciating the way the government handled the issue.

Menon, who was NSA between 2010 and 2014 in the previous UPA rule, also said there was a need for an integrated approach in managing the country's borders.

"One reason why we saw that activity in Doklam last year was not because they (China) had a clear military option or superiority but they had the political goal of splitting us from the Bhutanese," he said at a conference here.

A Strategy Of Conquest, What Drives China's New Silk Road


PARIS — It's a plan of titanic proportions, with a budget of close to $1 trillion and transport projects, for both land and sea, on almost every continent. No single fund can finance it, and the development bank created for it brings together more than 60 countries. The "New Silk Road," and the figures involved, can make your head spin.

The plan, launched in 2013 by Beijing, wasn't an easy sell France. But since the arrival of a train from Wuhan to Lyon in February 2017, and the visit President Emmanuel Macron made last month to China, where the subject was officially discussed, interest has grown noticeably. More and more informational meetings are taking place, and participants are competing for the best arguments to encourage companies to take part in what they describe as an "astounding Marshall Plan."

Beyond Bitcoin: Could China Embrace Blockchain for Defense and Security Applications?

By: Wilson VornDick

Since January 2016, bitcoin (比特币) has skyrocketed from less than $1,000 and nearly peaking at $20,000 in December—a 2,100 percent increase. Despite its volatility, euphoria over bitcoin along with other cryptocurrencies (加密数字货币) has spread across the globe and nowhere has this been more evident than China. The surge in trading volume of bitcoin reached such high levels in 2016 that it may have contributed to a major outflow in China’s foreign reserves when they shrank nearly 8 percent to $3 trillion. In the first half of 2016, up to $400 million worth in yuan was spent on initial coin offerings (ICOs) in China and it is estimated that over $20 billion around the globe was tied to bitcoin the whole year (People’s Bank of China, September 4, 2017; HBR; February 28, 2017).

Israel’s coming war with Hezbollah A new conflict may be inevitable

Mara Karlin

Although the next Israeli-Hezbollah war remains on the horizon for now, it is almost certain to occur eventually, argues Mara Karlin, given both the risks of accidental escalation and the two sides’ long-term strategic goals. When it does happen, it will be ugly and will almost surely drag in external actors, willingly or not. This piece originally appeared on Foreign Affairs.

Another war between Israel and Hezbollah is almost inevitable. Although neither side wants a conflict now, the shifting balance of power in the Levant and shrinking areas of contestation are indicators of a looming showdown. The real questions are how and where—not if—the impending conflagration will occur.

A Venezuelan Refugee Crisis

by Shannon K. O'Neil

In addition to a sharp economic downturn, Venezuela faces a humanitarian crisis. The United States can do little to prevent a downward spiral, but it should take measures to mitigate the political, economic, and humanitarian consequences of a potential mass emigration. 

Venezuela is in an economic free fall. As a result of government-led mismanagement and corruption, the currency value is plummeting, prices are hyperinflated, and gross domestic product (GDP) has fallen by over a third in the last five years. In an economy that produces little except oil, the government has cut imports by over 75 percent, choosing to use its hard currency to service the roughly $140 billion in debt and other obligations.

The New Separatism


As national governments are plunged into crisis, many are looking elsewhere for their identities.

As nation-states in Europe wipe away their borders and dilute the flavors of their national cultures in a European Union slumgullion, their peoples are adopting new identities. Instead of Spaniards, they will be Catalans. Instead of Italians, they will again become Venetians, Lombards, and Sicilians. A story in the October 18 New York Times quotes the newspaper Il Tempo’s Antonio Rapisarda, who tracks separatist movements, as saying, “In Italy, there has been a resurgence of separatist energies. From the South Tyrol to Sicily, passing through Rome, there are separatist movements.” The Times adds that “Separatist movements are also simmering in Britain…as well as France, Germany, Belgium and Romania.” Here at home the Left Coast states of California, Oregon, and Washington host growing movements to separate from the conservative heartland they despise.

State Islam in France

Theodore Dalrymple

Asked once whether he believed in God, French president Emmanuel Macron replied, “That’s a real question, a complex question. I undoubtedly believe in a transcendence. I am not sure any more that I believe in a God. Yes, I believe in transcendence.”

Another real and complex question for him to answer is that regarding the relationship of the French Republic with Islam. France is a militantly secular country whose militancy has seemed only to grow stronger as the Church grows weaker. France rejects all connection between religion and state; in the mouth of a French intellectual, the words très catho (very Catholic) sound more like an accusation than a description. The ghost of Marshal Pétain—who replaced “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” with “Work, Family, Fatherland”—still rides.

Judy Asks: Is Russia Europe’s Biggest Threat?


A selection of experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.

Federiga BindiSenior fellow at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, Jean Monnet chair at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, and D. German distinguished visiting chair at Appalachian State University

No, it is not. Times have changed since the Cold War, when the Soviet Union was indeed Europe’s biggest threat.

New ‘Hybrid’ Plots Revealed in Russian Anti-Western Policy

By: Pavel K. Baev

The central theme of the traditional Munich Security Conference last weekend was the current assessment of the Russian threat. The briefs prepared for the high-level participants, including US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, had, however, to undergo urgent revisions as at least three new developments in the week preceding the event revealed the growing complexity of this threat. First, the intelligence alliance known as “Five Eyes” (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States) put the blame squarely on the Russian military for launching the destructive cyber-attack dubbed “NotPetya” in June 2017 (Newsru.com, February 16). Second, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian citizens for interfering in the 2016 US elections as a part of his on-going investigation (Kommersant, February 16). And third, it gradually becomes clear that a major direct clash between Russian and American forces happened in Syria on February 7, when a massive US air and artillery strike destroyed a battalion tactical group comprised of Russian mercenaries (New Times, February 15).

The Forgotten Benefits of Deterrence

Paul R. Pillar

During the Cold War, no concept was more central to U.S. national security strategy and to the relationship between the superpowers than deterrence. The concept long predates the Cold War, of course, but during that four-decade competition between the United States and USSR, strategists and scholars developed a detailed and still valid doctrine of deterrence. Nuclear weapons and a strategic arms race made that doctrine especially necessary and significant, but the complexities of deterrence extended to other levels of international conflict and competition, such as the confrontation in Europe between armies of NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

Can the nation state survive?

In his speech to the United Nations in September, Donald Trump called for a ‘great reawakening of nations’. How realistic is this? There is evidence to suggest that, far from a resurgence of the nation state, we may be nearing the end of the nation-state era. 

When I was in New York as ambassador to the UN, one of my favourite questions to ask American friends was, ‘Do you think that the United States will exist within its current borders in 100 years’ time?’ Without exception, the answer would come back, ‘Yes, of course – why wouldn’t it?’ In my view, however, it is almost inconceivable. 

We’ve Lost the Opening Info Battle against Russia; Let’s Not Lose the War


The United States has nearly a perfect track record in predicting the nature of the next conflict we will fight: always wrong. That military adage has unfortunately held true in the current conflict being fought in the information domain. The indictment of thirteen Russians by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is just the most recent demonstration that our adversaries are constantly seeking to exploit to our detriment the nature of a more digitized, networked world. In an era where information has never been more plentiful, our adversaries understand that it has also never been more vulnerable to manipulation.

US Cyber Command: “When faced with a bully…hit him harder.”


In Washington, there may be division and confusion about how to deal with Russian cyber-based interference. But 25 miles north, at Fort Meade, home of U.S. Cyber Command, they are angry and ready.

Cyber Command’s new strategy demands that, “We must not cede cyberspace superiority.” The goal is “superiority” through “persistent, integrated operations [to] demonstrate our resolve” even at “below the threshold of armed conflict.”

Hello, quantum world

by Will Knight

Quantum computers are finally here. What are we going to do with them?

Inside a small laboratory in lush countryside about 50 miles north of New York City, an elaborate tangle of tubes and electronics dangles from the ceiling. This mess of equipment is a computer. Not just any computer, but one on the verge of passing what may, perhaps, go down as one of the most important milestones in the history of the field.

I Don’t Care About Net Neutrality Because I’m Fine Letting Greedy Telecom Companies Decide How I Use The Internet

Many people I know are talking about this thing called “Net Neutrality.” They’ve gone through painstaking explanations as to why I should care about a “free internet” or should care about the fact that large corporations may be able to “throttle” my internet.

And yet, I still don’t care.

There are numerous reasons that I, the typical American consumer, don’t give a shit.

We need a global cyberwar treaty, says the former head of GCHQ


There should be an international treaty on cyberwarfare that sets clear boundaries for nation states around hacking computer infrastructure, the former director of GCHQ has said.

In a wide-ranging interview, Robert Hannigan spelled-out the growing threats cyberwarfare, Russia, and artificial intelligence pose as well as calling for tighter regulation. "We should be looking at some kind of arms control for cyberspace," says Hannigan, who left GCHQ last year. "We do need to come to some kind of international agreement about what's acceptable and what isn't".

An Arms Race Toward Global Instability

By Omar Lamrani

The United States is shifting its focus to great power competition as it works to address the challenges of Russia's and China's growing confidence and capabilities.

Combined with this rivalry, weakening arms control regimes and the emergence of disruptive weapons technologies will erode global geopolitical stability.

Declining trust and increased competition will spark discord and conflict between the United States on the one hand and Russia and China on the other. 

Here Is How the Military Hopes to Be a More Effective Fighting Force

Dave Majumdar

The Pentagon is actively working to reduce the number of non-deployable troops on its rolls so that the burden of combat is shared more evenly amongst the force.

“The Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness about a week ago came out, having defined the problem that initially was brought to his attention by the U.S. Army, where they had many nondeployables on their rolls,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters.

“You may say, what's this? People who've been injured and not returned to duty. People who have—and I'm not talking about combat injured now. That's a separate category. But people who are, just for one reason or another, are not able to deploy with their units. It was a significant number, and the Army brought their concerns forward. The other services also highlighted the concerns.”

Will feminizing the Marines win wars?

by Larry Kummer

Summary: The USMC has lowered the requirements in its 13-week Infantry Officer Course, following more drastic measures in the other services. More women to pass, but at what cost? This shows the powerful forces at work reshaping both the US military and US society. Here is the story plus speculation about the future.

The Combat Endurance Test was implemented in 2008 by the Marine Corps as a more combat oriented version of their standard Physical Fitness Test. Sometime afterwards passing it was made a requirement for infantry officers. This article about the new policy change is a triumph of modern propaganda.