8 March 2018

The toll of revenge The belief that an increase of fire power on the LoC will impact Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism is illusory. Ceasefire must be restored.

by Prakash Menon
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The alarming frequency of ceasefire violations, inflicting a mounting loss of life and property on both sides of the LoC, begs the question: What is the political purpose of force application? The question is valid as without political purpose the exchange of fire and cross-border raids would be guided by an independent military logic that could be described as senseless violence trapped in a cycle of revenge. Images in the media of reciprocal devastation portray the retribution that has been inflicted, stirring nationalistic instincts with mourning the dead, accusing the other of unprovoked ceasefire violations and swearing greater revenge. Therefore, it is assumed that the leadership of both India and Pakistan has calculated that the politico-military benefits outweigh the costs of devastation and death.

The political costs are felt mainly by the civilian population straddling the LoC, as they are the victims whose lives are disrupted and large numbers have been relocated to temporary camps. If they are not relocated, they live under the perennial fear of being visited by the now-familiar sound of an artillery shell or mortar bomb. Apparently, these people have no political clout to effectively protest their plight and the state’s failure to protect their life and property. Only a re-imposition of the ceasefire agreement can restore normalcy to their lives. However, that prospect seems faint as the leaders on both sides are calling for a greater use of muscle, expressed in India as “mooh tor jawab” (strong reply).

Armed forces on both sides get a lot of shooting practice to vent their anger and despite suffering casualties periodically, celebrate the pain inflicted. They bear the physical and psychological brunt of this cycle as a challenge to their professional competence, which is laced with pride and a sense of duty derived from partaking in a national effort. The primary victims are the civilians — the sacrificial goats at the altar of an imagined national cause.

** The Trap of Empire and Authoritarianism

Robert D. Kaplan


For thousands of years the tragedy of politics has been that empire affords the answer to chaos. Imperialism, as the Oxford historian John Darwin says, “has been the default mode of political organization throughout most of history,” as the capabilities needed to build strong states, owing to the patterns of geography, were never evenly distributed, so that one ethnic group usually emerged to rule the territory of others. Yet, because conquest leads to conceit, militarism, overextension, and bureaucratic calcification, the very act of building an empire indicates, in the view of German philosopher Oswald Spengler, decadence and cultural decline. Empires (especially those of Great Britain and France) were never so obvious as before their collapse.

Modi Is Getting Ready To Stop China, As The Indian Economy Booms

Panos Mourdoukoutas

India won’t be encircled by China. And it won’t let China make the South China Sea its own sea. That’s a dual message India has been sending these days, as its economy leaped ahead of China’s to become the world’s fastest large economy—and as investors grow wary over the rising geopolitical risks in the Asia-Pacific region.  To deliver the first message, New Delhi has been hosting multi-nation naval exercises in the Indo-Pacific region, like the one in Malabar in the Bay of Bengal last year with Japan and Australia. And it is hostinganother this month that will include 23 nations. To deliver on its second message, India has joined forces with Vietnam to provide support for freedom of navigation, a position held by the United States and its Asian allies, and rejected by China.

One local and two global risks facing India

Rajrishi Singhal

The beginning of a new year usually sees think tanks and insurance companies list their version of perceived global risks over the next 12 months. As India lurches towards the 2019 general elections, it might be appropriate to list some of the risks that confront the country. India’s numerous direct and indirect geopolitical challenges are well known. Some of these are: problems with a mendacious neighbour on the western border; China’s aggressive expansionism and its belligerent posturing in the South China Sea; smouldering conflicts between Saudi Arabia and Iran and Qatar aggravating; the proxy war in Syria coming to a boil; and tensions further escalating in the Korean peninsula.

How India’s New Russian Air Defence System Will Force Adversaries To Change Tactics

by Prakhar Gupta

The deployment of the S-400 systems on India’s borders with China and Pakistan would affect the strategy of both countries against India, forcing them to change tack and serving as a deterrent. When a Russian Sukhoi Su-24, an all-weather attack aircraft on a mission in northern Syria, was shot down by a Turkish F-16 in November 2015 for alleged airspace violation, Russia responded by deploying its formidable S-400 Triumf air defence system in the region. The move pushed the Turkish Air Force out of Syrian airspace while forcing the United States (US) to change tack. The same could happen in Asia once the S-400 system takes up duty defending the Indian skies.

Turkey Is Turning Into the Next Pakistan

Eli Lake 

There isn't much that Turkey's president can do these days to further debase his reputation in the West. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has crushed peaceful protests at home and abroad, closed newspapers, threatened American soldiers, and collectively scapegoated Kurds. But over the weekend, Erdogan managed to go even lower. At a rally at Kahramanmaras, the Turkish leader brought a trembling 6-year-old girl on stage dressed in military garb and told her she would be honored if she died as a martyr. He sounded like a terrorist. We expect this kind of child abuse from the fanatics in Hamas or Hezbollah. Erdogan though is the leader of an important NATO ally.

How America Can Win the Drug War in Afghanistan

M. Ashraf Haidari

This past November, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released its annual survey of opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan for 2017. As ever, the survey’s findings are hardly surprising. They reflect the periodic fluctuations in the amount of opium poppy cultivated and produced in the country. Last year, cultivation increased to 328,000 hectares and production to nine thousand metric tons—a 87 percent increase over 2016.

Afghan Civilian Casualties, the Elephant in the Room

By Said Sabir Ibrahimi

Afghan civilians are becoming casualties of war in alarming numbers. More than 28,000 civilians have been killed and more than 50,000 injured since 2009, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). This number does not include thousands of others who died between 2001 and 2008. 2017 saw 3,438 dead and 7,015 injured — 65 percent of the casualties were attributed to the anti-government elements, namely the Taliban and Islamic State. Twenty-five percent of these casualties have been attributed to the pro-government elements (including 16 percent attributed to the Afghan National Security Forces, or ANSF, and 2 percent to international military forces). Eleven percent of these casualties were attributed to crossfire, and 1 percent to border shelling from Pakistan, while the rest cannot be attributed to any warring parties.

Once-Feared Afghan Warlord Is Still Causing Trouble, but Talking Peace

By Andrew E. Kramer

KABUL, Afghanistan — When President Ashraf Ghani stood up last week to try to lure the Taliban to peace talks, promising them amnesty and political inclusion, he could point to a recent example: the deal that brought the militant group Hezb-i-Islami and its deeply divisive leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, in from the battlefield.  Through decades of Afghan turmoil, Mr. Hekmatyar has managed to keep himself near the action, and has broken alliances several times to do it. He has been a C.I.A.-favored fighter of the Soviets, a warlord who mauled Kabul, a prime minister, an admirer of Al Qaeda, an ally and enemy of the Taliban, and an unabashed proponent of suicide bombings against American forces.

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 have 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.

The Changing Dietary Landscape

America’s Other Espionage Challenge: China

David Wise

With all the focus on Russian meddling in the 2016 election, the damage done by China’s vigorous and continuing espionage against the United States has taken a back seat.  The preoccupation with Russia, in fact, has obscured the significant inroads made by Chinese intelligence and cyberspies. In some cases, China has proved more skillful than Russia in infiltrating American intelligence. A case involving a former C.I.A. officer named Jerry Chun Shing Lee is a perfect example. Beginning in 2010, C.I.A. sources in China began disappearing; a dozen were reported executed and several more imprisoned. What had seemed a major success in establishing a network of C.I.A. spies inside China had been turned into a devastating intelligence failure. The C.I.A. and F.B.I., suspecting a mole, went on a secret hunt.

China, India should move beyond Doklam crisis

Last August, the Doklam standoff was solved diplomatically. Wang Yi in December visited New Delhi and met with his counterpart Sushma Swaraj during the 15th Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of China, Russia and India. However, Sino-Indian relations hadn't returned to the normal track. Top Indian officials continued hyping up the "China threat" theory and made anti-China remarks. Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat alleged without proof that Pakistan with support of China is waging a proxy war against India. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the so-called "Arunachal Pradesh," China's South Tibet, on February 15. These moves may have been prompted by internal political factors, but it cannot be denied that they damaged bilateral trust.

China’s Financial Reach Leaves Eight Countries Vulnerable, Study Finds

By Josh Zumbrun and Jon Emont

China is emerging as a massive creditor to its economic allies taking up projects to upgrade roads, harbors and airports, making it an increasingly important financial influence on the world stage. China is financing as much as $8 trillion in deals as part of its “Belt and Road Initiative” in 68 countries winding through Asia, Africa and Europe. New data from the Center for Global Development, an international think tank, estimate the program has left eight countries financially vulnerable: Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, Pakistan and Tajikistan.

China’s Options Towards the (Re)emerging Quadrilateral Security Dialogue

By Adam Ni

Adam Ni is a researcher at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University. His areas of interest include China’s foreign and security policy. He can be found on Twitter @adam_ni. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. National Security Situation: The People’s Republic of China (China) is facing the (re)emergence of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, known as the Quad, consisting of the United States, India, Japan and Australia. The unstated aim of the Quad is to constrain China’s growing power in Asia through possible military and economic cooperation that would raise the cost if Beijing challenges the status quo.



Scrapping the two-term limit on the Chinese presidency will have profound ramifications for the region. While Asia may have to accept a more assertive China is here to stay, most countries have reasons for cautious optimism.A highlight of China’s biggest political meeting of the year – this month’s “Two Sessions” – will almost certainly be the slew of constitutional amendments proposed by the Communist Party to the country’s legislature, the National People’s Congress. Among these, the one that by far has gained the most overseas attention is the plan to scrap the two-term limit on the presidency.



Violence has continued in all of at least four conflicts raging concurrently in Syria, inflating the death toll of a seven-year war that showed little signs of calming down anytime soon. The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported Friday that military helicopters dropped leaflets with instructions on how civilians could exit the besieged Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta, which has been under the control of rebels and jihadis opposed to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2013. Backed by Russia and Shiite Muslim militias supported by Iran, the Syrian troops have steadily gained on one of the few pockets of control remaining from the 2011 uprising against Assad.

Why the Coming Elections Won’t Cure Italy's Problems

If the elections produce a hung Parliament, it will likely reduce the chances of a new government introducing disruptive measures that could worry markets, but it will also delay the introduction of much-needed reforms to boost economic growth. Rome will pressure the European Union to give Italy more room to cut taxes and increase spending, but moderate parties are more likely than their anti-establishment rivals to seek a compromise with Brussels. The next Italian government will have to deal with high debt levels, slow economic growth, widespread social discontent with the political system and declining influence on EU affairs.

Russia, US could be headed for collision in Syria

Maxim A. Suchkov

Putin’s call came after humanitarian monitors said they suspected forces supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had launched a chlorine attack on the battered city near Damascus. Russia, however, claimed terrorist groups in Eastern Ghouta such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham had been plotting to use chemical weapons themselves and blaming Assad supporters, according to Russia's state-run Tass news agency.

Putin Unveils Array of Nuclear ‘Super Weapons’ Aimed at US

By: Pavel Felgenhauer

In his annual address to the Russian parliament (on March 1), President Vladimir Putin began by speaking at length about plans to kick-start the stagnant economy, increase household incomes and pensions, as well as spend more on education and medicine. This first, civilian part of Putin’s speech was rather tedious and ambiguous. The gathering of some 1,000 Russian VIPs, including not only parliamentarians, but practically all the ruling Russian elite, was visibly bored and stone-faced; they clearly applauded without much enthusiasm. But when Putin began unveiling an array of new long-range nuclear weapons aimed at the United States and its allies, the atmosphere in the hall changed dramatically. Previous annual presidential addresses were held in the Kremlin. This week, it was moved to an adjoining building—the Manedz—regularly used to hold different exhibitions. A spacious conference hall was erected with enormous flat-screen video panels along the wall. The large graphs illustrating life expectancy or national income growth that were put up on the video monitors did not make much of an impression. In the military part of Putin’s presentation, however, the screens showcased footage of preparations and launches of new Russian long-range nuclear weapons. Animations presented those missiles flying over the Atlantic toward the United States or sinking US aircraft carriers. The main punch of Putin’s message was that Russia is number one and can wipe out its “Western partners” (the US) at will (Kremlin.ru, March 1).

Inside Syria: With its enemies diverted or fighting each other, Isis is making a swift and deadly comeback

Patrick Cockburn

The Wars in Syria: In the second part of his new series, Patrick Cockburn finds a growing line of graves being dug after fresh battles between Kurdish fighters and soldiers of the so-called Islamic State. Yet, after the defeat of Isis was soundly declared last year, this should not be happening  
The Independent Online Arab and Kurdish fighters take part in a graduation ceremony in Qamishli last week. They are witnessing the Isis comeback on the front line AFP  Suleiman Khalaf, also known as Abu Fadi, was killed 10 days ago in a fight with Isis in eastern Syria when the vehicle he was in was hit by a heat-seeking missile. “He was driving a bulldozer which was building an earth rampart when Isis hit it with a missile we call a ‘fuzia’,” said Baran Omari, the commander of his unit in the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Don’t Buy Putin’s Missile Hype


In his annual state of the nation speech on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin boasted that Russia is developing new types of nuclear weapons that will be invulnerable to U.S. missile-defense systems and, more broadly, will nullify America’s effort to gain the edge in a revivified arms race. To which the United States should respond (to the extent we respond at all): Go ahead, waste your money. Putin’s new weapons include a nuclear-tipped cruise missile with an engine powered by a nuclear reactor and thus have unlimited range. A computer-generated video, displayed on large screens behind his podium, showed such a missile zipping across the Atlantic Ocean, circling South America, then sneaking up the Pacific Coast toward U.S. territory—all the while flying at sea-skimming altitudes and evading missile-defense radar.

Building Peace in Yemen From the Ground Up

By Peter Salisbury

Many diplomats and observers now see Yemen’s three-year-old civil waras yet another crisis that has barreled out of control. The conflict began in September 2014 when Houthi rebels from the north and groups loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh seized Sanaa, taking President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi hostage, first figuratively and then literally. In March 2015, their slow-burning coup escalated and internationalized with the intervention of a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which launched an intense but often disjointed campaign to restore Hadi’s government and counter the Houthis, whom the Saudis claim are an Iranian proxy. Over the last three years, the situation on the ground has dramatically deteriorated: today, nearly seven million Yemenis are at risk of famine and thousands have already died in the worst cholera outbreak in history. Yet even as the crisis worsens, efforts to stop the fighting have come up wildly short.

Germany´s Russia Challenge

By John Lough for NATO Defense College (NDC)

John Lough contends that prior to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Germany failed to read Russia correctly. Indeed, he suggests that successive German governments remained in denial about developments in Russia, leading them to support a system in Moscow that was hostile to German interests. So how did this happen? To provide answers, Lough examines the complex mixture of attitudes and impulses that have informed German thinking about Russia since the end of the Cold War. Further, he addresses what Germany must now do to tackle the threat Moscow poses.

A New Beginning for European Defence

By Mark Leonard and Norbert Röttgen

Europe is facing multiple security challenges. Russia aims to undermine the European security order and has shown its willingness to violate other countries’ sovereignty and increase its nuclear power. The Middle East and North Africa are on fire, homegrown terrorism threatens the streets of Europe, and cyber and information warfare are on the rise. Europe is currently ill-equipped to manage this spectrum of threats, and it can no longer rely wholeheartedly on US security guarantees.

Army Extends Secure, Secret SIPRNet to Combat Cell Phones

by Warrior Maven

The Army are working with industry to extend commercial cloud technology to mobile devices as part of a broad effort to both improve access to data and provide security for forces on the move. Army weapons and cyber engineers are leveraging commercial cloud technology to bring secure, secret connectivity to mobile devices increasingly being used by soldiers on the move in combat situations.  The idea is to help extend the military’s SIPRNet down to everyone, including dismounted units and those on the tip-of-the-spear in combat. Such technology brings the possibility of changing the paradigm regarding the transportable accessibility of classified information, according to DISA leaders, who are working with the Army on this.

The Cyber-Luddites Are at It Again

By Michael Nordeen

Defense News recently reported that the Department of Defense (DoD) is considering a cell phone ban at the Pentagon. The report further suggests a potential ban could include other wearables and other locations. Simply stated, a ban of this type should be considered highly inadvisable, and even the discussion of it should be considered suspect. The department should be headed in exactly the opposite direction – use more technology, use it everywhere, and learn how to build a system resistant to attack and resilient to penetration.

Power and Influence in a Globalized World

By Jonathan Moyer, Tim Sweijs, Matthew Burrows and Hugo Van Manen for Atlantic Council

In this article, Jonathan Moyer et al highlight insights drawn from the Formal Bilateral Influence Capacity (FBIC) Index, which measures the bilateral influence of states from 1963 to the present. Key findings include 1) similar to trends in the global distribution of power, global influence is dispersing; 2) US’ global influence is declining and is considerably smaller than its share of the world’s coercive capabilities; 3) China’s has vastly expanded its influence, while Russia has seen a considerable decline; 4) European states significantly punch above their weight relative to their economies, and more.

The worrying rise of militarisation in India’s Central Armed Police Forces


Once one has a hammer, one tends to see a nail everywhere — the use of lethal force by organs of the state against its own citizens needs utmost vigilance. Over the last two decades, the size of India’s Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) has almost doubled. At the same time, expenditures on these forces have increased by almost an order of magnitude. These increases are occurring at a time when virtually all major ministries and departments of the central government have witnessed a decline in their personnel. The implications of this growth in the militarised approach to policing have not received the attention they deserve.

The Macroeconomics of Trade War


Will Trump back down from his urge to start a trade war? Nobody knows; the thing is, he’s been an ignorant trade hawk for decades, he’s feeling beleaguered on many fronts, and word is that his doctor has told him to eat fewer burgers. So there’s surely a lot of pent-up rage that he’s all too likely to take out on the world trading system, especially when he tweets stuff like this:  The United States has an $800 Billion Dollar Yearly Trade Deficit because of our “very stupid” trade deals and policies. Our jobs and wealth are being given to other countries that have taken advantage of us for years. They laugh at what fools our leaders have been. No more!

War by Other Means – Integrating Modern Technology

By Nick Brunetti-Lihach

Armed with only a radio and a nine-line, a well-trained Marine can wreak havoc on enemy forces. During Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, lethal air and artillery fires destroyed, suppressed, or neutralized targets of all shapes and sizes. In that place and time, lethal combined arms were an effective means to an end. The standard has now changed. The ability to shoot, move, and communicate can no longer be taken for granted. Today’s maneuver units do not have the tools to integrate lethal fires with non-lethal cyber (cyberspace) and EW (electronic warfare) fires at the tactical level in real time to win a fight with a near-peer or contest cyber and the electromagnetic spectrum. Today’s threats are no longer line-of-sight projectiles. Threats at the tactical edge may originate from anywhere in the world. In order to address the gaps in doctrine, organization, tactics and technology, the MAGTF must adapt and evolve.

Commentary: Military needs a way to honor a different, critical kind of courage

By: Max Brooks  

“How do we, in the military, encourage our war fighters to be flexible thinkers?” I get asked this a lot — from Quantico to West Point to the Army Futures Forum last December. No matter what military gathering I attend, I keep getting a version of this question. Our new century requires new levels of creativity to survive, and the armed forces are no exception. In a world where America’s enemies seem to be adapting, evolving and innovating new ways to hurt us, sometimes on a day-to-day basis, those in uniform can’t afford the kind of rigid, linear, textbook mindset that got their predecessors through the Cold War.