24 March 2018

Seychelles Strategy: Why A Base On Assumption Island Is Crucial For Securing The Indian Ocean Region

New Delhi has recently made a sound move by agreeing to work in tandem with similarly-minded powers to protect the Indian Ocean.The acquisition of its own assets in the Indian Ocean Region is a bonus and will retain some autonomy for India. The small, out-of-mind archipelago of Seychelles has been in the Indian news cycle an inordinate amount. Part of this is due to a prospering Indian public starting to take greater interest in the geopolitics of their region. Another reason is the recent agreement signed between India and Seychelles for the construction of a military base on Assumption Island, one of the 115 islands of the African country. Originally signed in 2015 during a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the country, work could not begin on the strategic asset as the deal was not ratified by the Seychelles parliament during the term of the previous president, James Michel.

China quietly & cleverly finds a new route to S. Doklam, 7 months after India stopped it


New alignment is 5 km away from Indian posts, making it difficult for India to do anything about it. The new road will open up South Doklam to Chinese troops. New Delhi: China has worked through the winter to bypass India’s aggressive blockade at Doklam, making a new road that can give its troops access to the southern part of the plateau – a move that has serious strategic implications for New Delhi. The Doklam crisis was sparked in June last year after Indian troops crossed over to stop the construction of a road that would enable the Chinese military to move vehicles to South Doklam, thus giving it easy access to the Jampheri ridge that overlooks the strategic Siliguri corridor.

Army flags concerns over OFB rifles


Kolkata: Close on the heels of the Modi government’s clearance to procure around 7.40 lakhs assault rifles of 7.62 mm calibre which will replace the 5.56 mm calibre INSAS rifles for the Indian Army, the Army has flagged its serious questions on the quality of the latest weapon being developed by the Kolkata-headquartered state defence manufacturer: Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).  Vowing to not to compromise with the qualitative requirements (QR) for its weapons the Army also pointed out that the new assault rifle failed trials while deliberating that no one can meet its requirement.

B.R. Ambedkar in the time of farmer protests

Niranjan Rajadhyaksha

The challenge of sustainable industrial growth is intimately linked to the situation in rural India, as Ambedkar rightly pointed out a hundred years ago B.R. Ambedkar persuasively argued in his 1918 article that the solution to rural stress is rapid industrialization. This year marks the centenary of a landmark article by B.R. Ambedkar. Its central insight deserves attention at a time when thousands of protesting farmers touched the hearts of Mumbaikars with their quiet dignity during the long march this week.

The U.S. Needs to Talk to the Taliban in Afghanistan

By Borhan Osman

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban appear to have rejected the bold proposal by President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan to invite them for direct peace talks with the government. In an unsigned commentary published last week on their official website, the Taliban said, “The permission of peace and war are with the Americans ….” and claimed that their policy of wanting to “talk to American invaders about peace and stability rather than talking to their slave regime is now widely accepted by the independent Western analysts and other intellectuals.”

Do the Taliban Have any Appetite for Reconciliation with Kabul? | Antonio Giustozzi

Dr. Antonio Giustozzi

Has China Overtaken The U.S. In Terms Of Innovation?

by Ana Maria Santacreu and Heting Zhu

Two measures of innovative activity of a country are: Its research and development (R&D) intensity (that is, the fraction of total output invested in R&D), which reflects the effort of innovation Its number of patent applications, which reflects the output of innovation Larger R&D investment is associated with faster technological progress, higher productivity and faster output growth. One of the outcomes of the R&D process is an increase in the number of patent applications.1 Indeed, there tends to be a positive correlation between the R&D intensity of a country and the number of patent applications in that country.

Xi Jinping tells parliament China must not be complacent

Chinese President Xi Jinping has told the National People's Congress (NPC) that China must not become complacent about its development. Speaking at the closing session of the annual parliament, Mr Xi said China was at a critical stage in its history and only socialism could save it. He also warned against Taiwanese separatism or attempts to split China.  Mr Xi is now set up to be China's president for life, after the NPC removed a two-term limit. The motion was overwhelmingly approved by the roughly 3,000 delegates at the start of the session.

Liu He: China's quiet economist becomes top economic leader

By Sarah Porter

Harvard-educated Liu He has been named one of China's four vice-premiers - in charge of economic policies and financial issues. It's a huge and high-profile job. Known affectionately by some as "Uncle He", it's widely rumoured Liu He has been friends with President Xi Jinping since they were teenagers. Whether that's true or not, his status today as President Xi's top economic adviser is beyond dispute. He has been called the brains behind China's shift in economic policy, which has seen a focus on slower but more sustainable consumption-based growth, rather than the debt-fuelled investment and exports that have driven the country's expansion of the past four decades.

China's stealth wars in the Himalayas

Brahma Chellaney

Operating in the threshold between peace and war, China has pushed its borders far out into international waters in the South China Sea in a way no other power has done elsewhere. Less known is that China is using a similar strategy in the Himalayas to alter facts on the ground -- meter by meter -- without firing a single shot. India is facing increasingly persistent Chinese efforts to intrude into its desolate borderlands. China, however, has not spared even one of the world's smallest countries, Bhutan, which has barely 8,000 men in its security forces. In the disputed Himalayan plateau of Doklam, claimed by both Bhutan and China, the People's Liberation Army has incrementally changed the status quo since last fall.

Trade Wars and Real Wars

The world is rudely awakening to the dangers of President Donald Trump’s tariffs. Markets are correcting. Countries and industries are scrambling for exemptions. Economists now see greater downside than upside to growth projections for the U.S. economy this year. But the hazards could be even greater than anyone wants to admit. As protectionist sentiment rises, so does the risk of war. The link between international commerce and peace has been apparent for so long that it is sometimes taken for granted. As the German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote in his 1795 essay, Perpetual Peace, “The spirit of trade cannot coexist with war, and sooner or later this spirit dominates every people.”

The Armed Conflict in Eastern Ukraine

By Nikolaus von Twickel, Gwendolyn Sasse and Mario Baumann for Center for Security Studies (CSS)

The three articles in this edition of the RAD look at 1) the “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, arguing that though they may be best described as Russian puppet states, Moscow’s denial of formal ties to these entities makes a comprehensive analysis difficult; 2) the attitudes and identities of the Donbass region’s population, including both the Russian and Ukrainian controlled areas; and 3) key factors driving the recurrence of violence in eastern Ukraine and the potential for peacekeeping efforts to address them.

Allies “Entering a New World” in Confronting Russia, U.K. Official Says


WASHINGTON: The No. 2 official in the British Ministry of Defence promised a “robust” response to the alleged Russian assassination attempt on U.K. soil. Mark Lancaster‘s remarks to reporters here Friday echoed a rising drumbeat of British and other allied statements on the seriousness of the Russian threat, including from the top European general in NATO.

The 25 Countries With The Most Billionaires

There are roughly 36 million millionaires in the world. However, the billionaire on the other hand is a much rarer breed. According to Forbes, there are just over 2,000 billionaires in existence, making up just 0.00003% of the global population.

Tsunamis of innovation are shaking the energy industry

David G. Victor

The World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Energy recently released a paper on Transformation of the Global Energy System. One of the Council’s authors, David Victor, also co-chair of the Cross-Brookings Initiative on Energy and Climate, highlights its findings on the global energy system below. Tsunamis of innovation, anxiety, and opportunity are now washing over the world’s energy system. New technologies have transformed the global markets for oil and gas. The United States is on track to become the world’s largest oil producer within a decade, as my Brookings colleague Samantha Gross has analyzed. Meanwhile, countries from Russia to Saudi Arabia—that used to have the problem of finding ways to spend huge amounts of cash earned from oil exports—are now learning to be a lot more frugal. Innovation is making some fuels, like natural gas, significantly more competitive while crushing coal in some markets. Even more profound changes are now appearing in the electric power industry, where traditional firms that operate large power grids see threats from new upstarts that are siphoning away customers and creating totally new types of local power grids.

US says Russian hack did not compromise power grid, plants

By: Matthew Daly

WASHINGTON — A Russian government hacking operation aimed at the U.S. power grid did not compromise operations at any of the nation’s power plants, federal regulators and the industry said Friday. Corporate networks at some of the 99 nuclear power plants licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were affected by the 2017 hack aimed at the energy grid and other infrastructure, but no safety, security or emergency preparedness functions were impacted, the NRC said in a statement.

Are Cold War Spy-Craft Norms Fading?

by Jonathan Masters

The poisoning of a Russian former double agent, Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter with a rare nerve agent in England has raised new concerns in NATO capitals about Russia’s willingness to escalate intelligence operations beyond established norms. The British and U.S. governments have blamed Russia for the attack, which follows a series of unexplained deaths of Russians in the United Kingdom in recent years. For longtime CIA veteran Jack Devine, it appears that some of the unwritten conventions of spy-craft with Russia no longer apply. “Russia today seems unconstrained by any norms,” says Devine in a written interview, citing assassination campaigns, meddling in foreign elections, and bombing civilians in Syria.
Are there spy-craft norms?

Here’s how Army soldiers in Europe are doing mobile electronic warfare

By: Mark Pomerleau  

The Russian electronic warfare threat in Europe has caused the U.S. military and its foreign partners to scramble to reevaluate their capabilities and force postures. Some leaders have even asserted the U.S. is “outgunned” when it comes to electronic warfare. Army soldiers in Europe, as a result, require additional capabilities. For the first time, details regarding soldiers needs — such as the ability to be mobile and operate disconnected from a network, which the current capability and program does not include — are coming to light.

Acropolis is DISA’s bastion against today’s threats and future cyber wars

By Patience Wait

There already are battles in cyberspace. The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has got the warriors — and the weapons — to prove it. And just as in kinetic war, it takes constant adaptation, new strategies, tactics and weapons to engage adversaries whose own means and methods are constantly changing. DISA’s Acropolis is the infrastructure upon which the agency runs its platforms and tools – the weapons – to track down and fight off opponents. “This division has been working with Acropolis since it was invented about 15 years ago,” said DISA’s Dr. Jim Travis, chief of the Cyber Situational Awareness/Cyber NetOps Solution Division. “It’s lots and lots of servers that we run defensive cyber solution operations on top of…Acropolis is a stack of things, with specialists at each layer.”

Addressing The Dark Side Of The Crypto World

by Christine Lagarde

Whether Bitcoin’s value goes up or Bitcoin’s value goes down, people around the world are asking the same question: What exactly is the potential of crypto-assets? The technology behind these assets - including blockchain - is an exciting advancement that could help revolutionize fields beyond finance. It could, for example, power financial inclusion by providing new, low-cost payment methods to those who lack bank accounts and in the process empower millions in low-income countries.he possible benefits have even led some central banks to consider the idea of issuing central bank digital currencies.

Trans-Alaska pipeline fights 22 million cyberattacks per day

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s chief information officer said his team fights off about 22 million cyberattacks per day. Bill Rosetti said that at the Anchorage headquarters for the trans-Alaska pipeline, his team is kept busy by mass, automated attacks — often from servers overseas, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported Wednesday.  “It can be 6 or 7 million some days and 45 million the next,” Rosetti said. “I wish I could tell you why it changes that way, but I really don’t know.” Rosetti said that Alyeska has never been breached, but the challenge is growing. The rate of cyberattacks has roughly doubled in the last five years, he said.

Edward Snowden: Facebook Is A Surveillance Company Rebranded As "Social Media"

(Zero Hedge) NSA whistleblower and former CIA employee Edward Snowden slammed Facebook in a Saturday tweet following the suspension of Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) and its political data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, over what Facebook says was improper use of collected data. In a nutshell, in 2015 Cambridge Analytica bought data from a University of Cambridge psychology professor, Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, who had developed an app called “thisisyourdigitallife” that vacuumed up loads of information on users and their contacts. After making Kogan and Cambridge Analytica promise to delete the data the app had gathered, Facebook received reports (from sources they would not identify) which claimed that not all the data had been deleted – which led the social media giant to delete Cambridge Analytica and parent company SCL’s accounts. 

Facebook’s Surveillance Machine

Zeynep Tufekci

In 2014, Cambridge Analytica, a voter-profiling company that would later provide services for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, reached out with a request on Amazon’s “Mechanical Turk” platform, an online marketplace where people around the world contract with others to perform various tasks. Cambridge Analytica was looking for people who were American Facebook users. It offered to pay them to download and use a personality quiz app on Facebook called thisisyourdigitallife.

Why the military needs to take 3-D printer cybersecurity seriously

By: Meredith Rutland Bauer 

Marines with 2nd Maintenance Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group discuss the capabilities of 3-D printing technology with a British Royal Navy Commando during Exercise Bold Alligator 17 at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 26, 2017. (Lance Cpl. Abrey D. Liggins/Marine Corps) The use of 3-D printing in the military is becoming more commonplace, and as a result experts are emphasizing the importance of treating 3-D printers like the hackable machines they are. While a 3-D printer’s capability for experimental on-site manufacturing is far more futuristic than a traditional Wi-Fi enabled printer, the hardware is as vulnerable to cyberattacks as an average laptop or connected printer, said Nikhil Gupta, a New York University associate professor of engineering and materials researcher.

Comparing A 355-Ship Fleet With Smaller Naval Forces

In December 2016, the Navy released a new force structure assessment (FSA) that called for a fleet of 355 ships - substantially larger than the current force of 280 ships. In response to a request from the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces of the House Committee on Armed Services, CBO explored the costs of achieving that goal in a previous report. To expand on that analysis, CBO has estimated the costs of achieving a 355-ship fleet under two alternatives. The agency then compared those scenarios with two other alternatives involving smaller fleets. For all four alternatives, CBO explored shipbuilding and operating costs, the composition and capabilities of the fleet, and effects on the shipbuilding industry.