4 March 2018

Pressing the Constitutional Reset button in the Maldives An intervention plan for New Delhi

Nitin Pai

Neither the UPA government nor the Modi government seem to care that a strategic Indian Ocean neighbour has been taken over by an autocratic regime so confident of Chinese support that it feels emboldened to go beyond merely thumbing its nose at New Delhi. It’s poking us in the eye. The case for a hard Indian intervention is so strong, the international context so conducive, the military equation so overwhelmingly favourable that we must ask: if not now, when? Will we wait for construction of a foreign naval base to start at Feydhoo Finolhu near Male before we decide to intervene? What use are grand conferences, declarations of being “an Indian Ocean power”, “a net-security provider” or vasudaiva kutumbakam, when governments in New Delhi are disinclined to forcefully protect India’s own core interests? [INI]

Harshad Mehta, Ketan Parekh, Nirav Modi: Three Scams Spread Over A Quarter Century, But The Same Ruses Work

by R Jagannathan
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Are the Reserve Bank of India, Securities and Exchange Board of India, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority and the Finance Ministry listening? The PNB scam is not going to be the last. Humans are very poor learners from history. We not only fail to learn lessons from past mistakes, but knowingly repeat the same mistakes in the foolish belief that this time it will be different, since we are smarter than the folks back then. Our politicians, bankers and regulatory agencies fall for the same scams over and over again, despite all the expert panels, working groups, joint parliamentary committees and forensic investigation reports that tell us where things went wrong, and how to avoid them in future.

India’s Rivalry With China, From the Mountains to the Sea

By Brendan Thomas-Noone

The Doklam border stand-off between India, China, and India’s ally Bhutan managed to break into the news cycle last year. It was a significant dispute, with troops clashing at one point and military forces mobilised, between two of the world’s nuclear powers that have previously fought a war. But details have emerged in recent weeks that indicate the crisis was even more serious than many realised. It may be one of the first episodes to demonstrate the evolving risks (and potential long-term benefits) that the introduction of nuclear-armed submarines will have on strategic stability in the Indo-Pacific.

China Needs A Win In Afghanistan To Keep Its Edge In Asian Trade

Ralph Jennings 

Chinese economic relations with Pakistan offer a textbook case for what Beijing wants from other countries. The pair with a 523-kilometer (324-mile) long mountainous border hit it off in 1963, when each ceded land to the other. The friendship has weathered geopolitical changes since then largely because China is helping Pakistan build infrastructure projects through a three-year-old, $62 billion deal called the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Pakistan Turns to Russia in Managing Relations With the U.S.

By Kathy Gannon

ISLAMABAD (AP) — As Pakistan navigates its troubled relationship with the United States and scrambles to avoid being blacklisted for doing too little, too late to stop terror funding, regional alliances are shifting and analysts ponder whether a cozier relationship with countries like Russia will complicate efforts to move toward peace in neighboring Afghanistan. Russia, analysts say, is motivated by fears of a growing presence of Islamic State militants in neighboring Afghanistan and has warmed up to Pakistan as well as to Taliban insurgents battling the upstart Islamic State group affiliate known as Khorasan Province, the ancient name of an area that once included parts of Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia.

Afghan Taliban renew call for dialogue with U.S. to end war

KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban urged the United States on Monday to begin talks to end almost 17 years of war in Afghanistan, adding to a series of signals that suggest a greater willingness to explore options for dialogue. In its statement, two days before the start of a meeting of regional leaders in Kabul to discuss ways of ending the war, the movement said it wanted a peaceful resolution. “The Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan calls on American officials to talk directly to the Political Office of Islamic Emirate regarding a peaceful solution to the Afghan quandary,” it said. “It would help in finding a solution if America accepts the legitimate demands of the Afghan people and [puts] forward its own concerns and requests for discussion to the Islamic Emirate through a peaceful channel,” it said.

Following the Afghan Silk Road with satellites

By Michael Buchanan

The 23-year-old researcher at the University of Chicago has uncovered 100 previously unrecorded caravanserais — giant, protected stopover points for merchants traveling along the Silk Road. Using a $2 million award from the U.S. Department of State, Boak, as part of the Afghan Heritage Mapping Partnership, has had access to commercial satellite imagery, aerial data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and even spy satellite data from the 1960s and 1970s.

How China Plans to Leverage Its Relationship with Japan

Stephen Nagy
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Sino-Japanese relations have enjoy a relative lull in their complicated relationship over the past six months. In September 2017, Prime Minister Abe paid a surprise visit to the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo marking China’s upcoming National Day as well as the forty-fifth anniversary of the normalization of Japan-China relations at the Chinese Embassy. We have seen Abe express open interest in President Xi’s signature initiative, the Belt Road Initiative (BRI). Furthermore, Abe has voiced numerous positive statements conveying Japan’s interests in building a future-oriented relationship with Beijing. The de-escalation in the relationship’s downward spiral was also signaled by a low-key commemoration ceremony for the Nanjing Massacre in December 2017 in which President Xi did not speak.

Why Didn’t Chinese Investment Ease Ethnic Tensions in Xinjiang?

By Michal Zelcer-Lavid

The assumption that economic investment aimed at increasing modernization and raising standards of living will weaken ethnic identity and strengthen a minority’s sense of belonging has been disproven in the case of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region (XUAR) in western China. Uyghur nationalism is increasing despite significant economic investment by the Chinese government, raising questions about the effectiveness of economic development programs designed to close gaps and diminish polarization between different groups.

China’s step into the maelstrom of the Middle East

Author: James M Dorsey

The Middle East has a knack for sucking external powers into its conflicts. China’s ventures into the region have shown how difficult it is to maintain its principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.  China’s abandonment of non-interference is manifested by its (largely ineffective) efforts to mediate conflicts in South Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan as well as between Israel and Palestine and even between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is even more evident in China’s trashing of its vow not to establish foreign military bases, which became apparent when it established a naval base in Djibouti and when reports surfaced that it intends to use Pakistan’s deep sea port of Gwadar as a military facility. 

The China Model For Korean Unification

By Ronald Tiersky

It’s good news that North and South Korea are talking to each other for the first time in two years. Kim Jong Un’s decision to send athletes and cheerleaders (and his politically important younger sister) to the Pyeongchang Olympics is a sign of political movement. Kim’s unexpected announcement to “all Koreans at home and abroad” that they should espouse “contact, travel, cooperation,” with the goal of reunification affects Korean public opinion, even in the North, perhaps above all in the North where public opinion is manipulated by the regime.

What Trump needs to know about Iranians

Seyed Hossein Mousavian

US President Donald Trump declares his opposition to domestic violence during a working session regarding the Opportunity Zones provided by tax reform in the Oval Office, Washington, Feb. 14, 2018. Ever since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the implicit goal of US strategy toward Tehran has with rare exception been to subvert the Iranian political system. Under President Donald Trump, regime change has been adopted as official policy. Trump’s approach has been twofold: to increase sanctions and other pressures to weaken Iran while countering its defensive capabilities and regional influence, and to support Iranians who seek to overthrow the Islamic Republic.

What is the “New Economy”?

Catherine Flax

The agricultural revolution transformed the way we grew crops and were able to move from subsistence living into the mass production of food. The industrial revolution transformed the way we produced goods and services, bringing prosperity and specialization that had not previously existed. The digital age brought about widespread use of computers, changing how information is shared and enabling things like space exploration. We are currently experiencing the fourth revolution- the New Economy. What is it and what does it mean for you? Technological intelligence: Artificial intelligence is at the center of the New Economy. Training computers to “think” and react like enhanced humans allows for self-driving cars, grocery shelves that can restock themselves, refrigerators that order milk when you are running low, and financial advicethat can analyze millions of data points about you, giving you the best possible information you need when you need it.

Russia Claims It Now Has Lasers To Shoot Satellites


Russian defense companies have created a plane-mounted laser that can hit satellites — at least according to an anonymous source quoted by Russian news agency Interfax. On Saturday, an Interfax report cited the source as saying that weapons maker Almaz-Antey has “completed work on the anti-satellite complex,” which includes the laser and associated ground control gear.

How the IDF Is Preparing for Multi-Front War

By Yaakov Lappin

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The IDF is implementing a plan to improve its ability to operate on multiple battle fronts simultaneously. While there is no indication that any one of Israel’s enemies is interested in initiating a full-scale war in the near future, the growing explosiveness of the region means that any tactical incident can snowball and turn into an unintended armed conflict very quickly – and one front can ignite others.  An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) plan designed to get it prepared for the challenge of multiple-front warfare is entering its third year.

Why The Next Oil Boom Will Be Fueled By Blockchain – Analysis

By Meredith Taylor

The world’s most important industry has been carrying on without any significant changes in its day to day routine for far too long. But now, the new tech on the block has its sights set on the multi-trillion-dollar oil and gas sector. It’s official: Blockchain technology has infiltrated Big Oil. mThe hype behind blockchain has reached a full-blown frenzy. And for good reason. The technology, which creates secure ledgers for digital transactions and rapidly accelerates the pace at which transactions can be made, has the potential to disrupt every major industry: real estate, shipping, banking and healthcare.

The Eastern Mediterranean's New Great Game Over Natural Gas

The energy companies exploring the eastern Mediterranean are likely to make more discoveries after finding the massive Zohr natural gas field off Egypt in 2015. The overlapping political disputes of countries in the region — Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, Greece, Egypt and Cyprus — create a complex mosaic that will complicate development.  Each littoral state will seek to use its natural gas potential as a tool of political leverage against its neighbors.

The Evolution of Autocracy: Why Authoritarianism Is Becoming More Formidable

By: Erica Frantz 

The twenty-first-century autocrat is not the same as his Cold War predecessor.

Globalisation, shifting power dynamics and the growing availability of the internet and other communication technologies have significantly changed the environment in which autocrats operate. Some observers have concluded from these changes that citizens now hold the upper hand, and that dictators’ days are numbered.1 The centralisation of power, according to this argument, is a requisite of dictatorship. In a world in which power is diffusing across NGOs, corporations, and wealthy and technology-empowered individuals, dictators will soon find themselves unable to build and maintain the power needed to uphold their repressive systems of rule.

Let’s talk about artificial intelligence and development

by Milica Begovic, Alex Oprunenco, Lejla Sadiku
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We’ve been trying to learn from those who have used or explored AI across a range of policy issues that the UN works on — from cutting down costs and time in public services and providing humanitarian assistance based on real-time movement of people, to capturing consumption patterns at micro-levels. So what do we talk about when we talk about AI? What applications of it have inspired us? And what do we mean by ‘responsible’ AI?

For the Army, a 3-D printed drone is nice. A customized, 3-D printed drone is better.

By: Adam Stone

Army researchers say they can do just that: 3D print a quadcopter airframe. Better yet, they are developing a system to allow soldiers to customize their drones to meet specific mission needs. “A soldier can input certain specifications - things like range and endurance and necessary payload carrying - and the software tool will tailor a vehicle based on those mission needs, based on what parts are available,” said John Gerbes, a mechanical engineer at Army Research Lab (ARL).

The terrifying future of malicious artificial intelligence

By: Brandon Knapp   

The report, titled “The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention and Mitigation,” echoes the sentiments voiced by European leaders gathered at the Munich Security Conference last week. Officials there raised concerns that NATO allies are ill-prepared to manage the potential threats presented by artificial intelligence. The report focuses on specific ways AI may enable ”superhuman hacking” that will target three security domains: digital, physical, and political – each with its own unique vulnerabilities and countermeasures.

Army Research Lab awards $25 million contract for Internet of Battlefield Things

By: Daniel Cebul  

Washington—The U.S. Army Research Lab (ARL) has awarded a $25 million contract to a consortium of university researchers known as the Alliance for Internet of Battlefield Things Research on Evolving Intelligent Goal-drive Networks (IoBT REIGN) to develop new predictive battlefield analytics and services. As battlefields become more reliant on integrated technologies that partner cyber and physical elements, the speed at which those systems must communicate is necessary. To execute man-machine teaming envisioned by the Department of Defense’s Third Offset Strategy, researchers hope to develop an IoBT that “will connect soldiers with smart technology in armor, radios, weapons, and other objects, to give troops ‘extra sensory’ perception, offer situational understanding, endow fighters with prediction powers, provide better risk assessment, and develop shared intuitions,” according to a University of Illinois press release.

CSAF Predicts War In Space ‘In A Matter Of Years’


AFA ORLANDO: It is only “a matter of years” before the US fights “from space,” the Air Force’s top uniformed leader said here. With that stark prediction, Chief of Staff David Goldfein went on to press the famously plane-focused service “to embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today.” Senior Air Force leaders have been saying for several years that space is central to the Air Force and must be taken seriously. But that rhetoric has ramped up considerably since Rep. Mike Rogers of the House strategic forces subcommittee raised the specter of a separate Space Corps, threatening the service’s dominance of the Pentagon’s space budget and personnel.

The Social Media Threat to Society and Security


It takes significant effort to assert and defend what John Stuart Mill called the freedom of mind. And there is a real chance that, once lost, those who grow up in the digital age – in which the power to command and shape people’s attention is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies – will have difficulty regaining it.  MUNICH – The current moment in world history is a painful one. Open societies are in crisis, and various forms of dictatorships and mafia states, exemplified by Vladimir Putin’s Russia, are on the rise. In the United States, President Donald Trump would like to establish his own mafia-style state but cannot, because the Constitution, other institutions, and a vibrant civil society won’t allow it.

The odds on a conflict between the great powers

DESPITE THE EXTRAORDINARY decline in interstate wars over the past 70 years, many foreign-policy experts believe that the world is entering a new era in which they are becoming all too possible again. But there is a big difference between regional wars that might be triggered by the actions of a rogue state, such as North Korea or Iran, and those between great powers, which remain much less likely. Still, increased competition between America, Russia and China poses threats to the international order and does have a military dimension.