8 April 2018

Leading the war against protectionism

Narayan Ramachandran

India is a disproportionate loser in a protectionist world and must take a very strong and principled stand against it India needs global trade, human-capital-based exports and financial capital import to buttress its path to prosperity. Photo: Bloomberg  President Donald Trump drove a steel rapier through the heart of a post-war global framework for trade when he signed a proclamation authorizing tariffs on steel and aluminium products imported into the US. Using a national security rationale, Trump followed through on this tariff despite widespread opposition within the Republican party and the resignation of his chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, who opposed the tariff. The tariff, taken together with the move to tax imports of solar panels and large washing machines, announced earlier, easily makes this American government the most protectionist in the last 80 years. The worry is that these moves trigger tit for tat retaliations from around the world—Brazil and the European Union have already reacted verbally. 

Why the south-vs-north debate is a flawed way to analyse the 15th finance commission formula


If this argument of south-vs-north is followed through, a direct corollary would be to also oppose money flows from Bengaluru to Bidar or from Whitefield to south Bengaluru.The terms of reference for the 15th finance commission (FC) have come under attack from many quarters in the last few weeks. Of these, the most prominent line of attack is that using 2011 census data will end up hurting the interests of the southern states. Since their population is one of the factors considered while distributing tax revenues among states, some say the southern states will be punished for controlling their population. To resolve this moral hazard, a few southern states are demanding that the dated 1971 census be used for the FC’s revenue distribution formula.

Why India is walking away from its tit-for-tat China policy

Prateek Joshi

After relations between China and India reached a new low during last year’s Doklam stand-off, New Delhi’s China policy has taken a sharp turn this year, in what could be interpreted as a reversal of its previous stance. In recent months, India has not only supported China’s vice-presidency in the Financial Action Task Force, an intergovernmental agency combating money laundering, but Delhi also withdrew its support from a commemorative event marking the 59th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising. And, in a bid to stabilise ties, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is expected to visit China next month. The change in India’s approach has triggered a backlash in academic and strategic circles at home, with China sceptics expressing concern that Delhi was “surrendering” to Beijing. Such an observation isn’t entirely accurate.

Execution key for defence manufacturing in India

Subrata Saha
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Defexpo 2018, the biennial defence exhibition, will be held at Chennai from 11-14 April. It has been nearly four years since the Make in India initiative was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Fundamentally, the initiative is meant to enhance manufacturing, attract investments, create jobs and increase technical depth. But for defence, there is the added criticality of achieving self-reliance for security. The intensity and complexity of security challenges is increasing due to the nexus between China and Pakistan. With infrastructural improvements in Tibet, belligerence on the Line of Actual Control has increased. China’s military engagements with South Asian and Indian Ocean region states have been increasing. 

Connecting the Bay of Bengal: The Problem

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AFTER decades of neglect, the Bay of Bengal is today reassuming strategic and economic salience. Nearly 1.4 billion people live along its coastline and almost a fourth of the world’s total population calls this region home. The seven countries situated immediately on and around the bay (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand) have a combined GDP of approximately US$ 2.7 trillion and an impressive average rate of economic growth of around 5.5%.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands: India’s Eastern Anchor in a Changing Indo-Pacific

Summary: The Andaman and Nicobar Islands provide significant surveillance and monitoring advantages to India’s navy. If India can chart out a role for the islands in its maritime domain awareness project, it can achieve far greater deterrence through staging and power projection. India’s military priorities are highlighted by its defense budget: the army funded at 55 percent, the air force at 23 percent, and the navy at a meager 15 percent. Since independence, troubles along India’s continental borders, including wars with China and Pakistan, have kept the country’s defense focused on its northern frontiers. A quiet maritime environment and a strong navy inherited from the British have allowed India to establish a prominent role in the Indian Ocean region without much effort.

China Has a Devastating 'Debt Time Bomb' on Its Hands

Gordon Watts

The mere mention of shadow banking was always going to conjure images of dimly-lit rooms and shady deals, evoking Hollywood’s film noir genre. In reality, of course, those two words are probably enough for the mandarins in the rarefied atmosphere at the People’s Bank of China to break out in a collective cold sweat. With a broader brief to exert control over financial regulatory policy-making, the de facto central bank has been handed increased powers to deal with the threat of increased risk bubbling beneath the surface of the world’s second-largest economy.

How Big Is China’s Belt and Road?

Jonathan E. Hillman

The big numbers being floated for President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy effort, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), do not add up. Popular estimates for Chinese investment under the BRI range from $1 trillion to $8 trillion, hardly a rounding error. Without a clearer sense of the BRI’s scale, it is difficult to assess its economic and strategic implications. A closer look reveals the highest figures are inflated, scoring political points for Beijing in the short term but also creating unrealistic expectations. Mapping the BRI is part art, part science. It is a moving target, loosely defined and ever expanding. It includes Chinese investment in roads, ports, and other hard infrastructure. It includes trade deals, transportation agreements, and other “soft” infrastructure efforts. If you traveled to China since September 2013, congratulations, you may have participated in the BRI. It includes tourism and other “people-to-people” ties such as education and cultural exchanges.

The Coming Crisis in US-China Relations

US-China relations tend to rise and fall in cyclical fashion. It is therefore tempting to conclude that the deterioration in relations in 2018 is a temporary phenomenon. Unfortunately, there are good reasons to believe this downturn has robust structural causes, constitutes a real change in relations, and is not another temporary downturn that will soon reverse itself. Washington and Beijing are well aware of the dangers of the “Thucydides trap”: a war-prone situation in which a newly powerful state emerges in a neighborhood long dominated by an older great power. Yet China is clearly unsatisfied with the degree of accommodation offered by the United States, and the US is clearly uncomfortable with the strategic demands made by China. Chinese allege that Washington has a hidden agenda of restricting China’s development, while Americans complain that China is acting overly aggressively. If China maintains its internal political stability and high economic growth rate, this tense transition period will continue for at least a couple more decades. Tensions will be further aggravated if the Chinese government believes, as some Chinese analysts claim, that the more China “rises,” the harder Washington will resist.

All of the Reasons Why Trump Can Win a Trade War with China

Alan Tonelson

Since President Trump announced his intention to turn up the trade heat on China, the American political and chattering classes have all but declared Beijing the odds-on favorite to win any resulting trade conflict. Leaving aside this establishment’s dreadful prediction record that stretches back at least to the (completely unforeseen) collapse of the Soviet Union, and its clear determination to ridicule Trump’s flip comment about trade wars being easy to win, here’s what’s overlooked in its portrayal of China as ten feet tall in this arena, and rightly confident in its retaliatory capabilities.

What U.S.-China ‘Proxy Wars’ Mean for Asia’s Balancing Act

With tensions running high between China and the U.S., many fear an all-out trade war is in the making. But the likelihood of things boiling over is low, writes Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett in this opinion piece. Both countries have a lot to gain from their economic interdependence – and a lot to lose if they step up confrontation significantly. Instead, these tensions are more likely to continue playing out through “proxy wars” in Asia, as the two countries wrestle for influence. 

Meet China's military elite

There are some interesting sidelights in the selection of deputies representing the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and People's Armed Police Force (PAPF) at the 13th National People's Congress (NPC), the first session of which was held in Beijing from March 5 to 20, 2018. Interesting is that despite the downsizing of the PLA by 300,000 personnel and the 'civilianisation' of a number of academics who had PLA ranks, the number of deputies has actually increased and at 269 is one more than in the last NPC.


Dozens of Chinese naval vessels are exercising this week with an aircraft carrier in a large show of force off Hainan island in the South China Sea, satellite images obtained by Reuters show. Satellite photo dated March 26, 2018 shows Chinese ships south of Hainan, China. Planet Labs/Handout via REUTERS The images, provided by Planet Labs Inc, confirm a Chinese carrier group has entered the vital trade waterway as part of what the Chinese navy earlier described as combat drills that were part of routine annual exercises. The Liaoning carrier group last week traversed the Taiwan Strait, according to the Taiwanese defense ministry.

Can China's Great Show of Unity Last?

By Kerry Brown

Perhaps we should be concerned. Going around China in the final week of the National People’s Congress, things seemed eerily orderly and calm. Years of heavy investment in high-speed trains mean you can travel like lightning between Beijing and Shanghai, Shanghai and Hangzhou, Xian and Kunming, in ways that were simply unimaginable in the past. The orderly sound of words in newspapers and the images on television supplement this sense of a country that has become a predictable machine. Xi Jinping’s election, unopposed, to the presidency for the second time was described in the People’s Daily in beatific terms, like the canonization of a saint. The images on CCTV supplement this – smiling attendees at the grand meeting in the capital, all looking like they are overwhelmed with happiness and contentment.

China Re-Enters the Korean Field of Play

Through a top-level meeting with North Korea, China is signaling it will not be a bystander in the evolving dynamics on the Korean Peninsula. China may have an opening to restore its long-frosty relations with South Korea by extending outreach on trade measures. Both North Korea and South Korea have an interest in including China to some extent in their evolving diplomatic dynamic.

China Expanding in Russia’s Transbaikal—and Russian Taxpayers Are Paying for It

By: Paul Goble

A new scandal is adding fuel to the fire of Russian fears about Chinese penetration of Siberia and the Russian Far East. The Russian media in those regions is reporting that in order to sell Russian agricultural products to China—something that benefits both local oligarchs and Moscow—Russian taxpayers are being forced to subsidize the sector. And those taxpayers are reportedly receiving nothing back in return, because what the Chinese are willing to pay is less than the costs Russians incur producing the food (Babr24.com, March 22, 2018; RBK, November 23, 2017).

Taking All the Wrong Steps in Syria, Iraq, and the Fight Against Terrorism

By Anthony Cordesman

There is a case for limiting the U.S. role in Syria. The U.S. has no reason to provide aid to Assad in rebuilding his power in Syria, and no reason not to place the full burden on funding the Assad regime on Iran and Russia. That kind of pressure could be a key part of actually forming some kind of U.S. strategy for dealing with the large portions of Syria that now are back under the control of a failed dictator. A unilateral sudden U.S. military withdrawal from the other parts of Syria, however, is a very different story – as General Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. forces in the Central Region has made clear. A sudden withdrawal deprives us of diplomatic leverage, abandons the last vestiges of moderate Arab forces in Syria, and exposes the Kurdish forces that did much to defeat ISIS to defeat by Assad and Turkey. It will fundamentally undermine the already fading trust of our other Arab strategic partners, be seen as a major defeat of the U.S. by Russia and Iran, and as a further opening to intervention by an increasingly authoritarian Turkey in the Arab world.

Turkey's Relationship With the EU: It's Complicated

The European Union and Turkey will seek to relaunch their bilateral relations during a summit March 26. While Turkey will not join the European Union anytime soon, the parties can still cooperate in areas such as updating their customs union agreement. However, issues such as the dispute over Cyprus, EU criticism of Erdogan's domestic policies and Turkey's increasingly unilateral action in the conflict in Syria will continue to generate friction between Brussels and Ankara.

Al Qaeda’s Struggling Campaign in Syria Past, Present, and Future

With President Donald Trump threatening to pull out of Syria, the Bashar al-Assad regime ramping up its military campaign against rebels, and the Islamic State in decline, al Qaeda has attempted to resurge and reposition itself at the center of global Salafi-jihadist activity. Syria has been perhaps its most important prize. For some, al Qaeda’s cunning and concerted efforts in Syria and other countries highlight the group’s resilience and indicate its potential to resurge and rejuvenate.

Stumbling into a War with Russia

Dave Majumdar

Given the poisonous relationship between Washington and Moscow, chances that the two great powers might face off in a military confrontation are growing. In recent days, the United States has expelled dozens of Russian diplomats—who are alleged to be undercover intelligence officers—in retaliation for Moscow’s alleged attack on GRU defector Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the United Kingdom. The Kremlin has promised retribution as relations between Russia and the United States sink to their lowest point since the Cold War.

What We Know (and Don’t Know) About How to Lose Weight

By Aaron E. Carroll

The endless array of diets that claim to help you shed pounds tend to fall into two camps: low fat or low carbohydrate. Some companies even claim that genetics can tell us which diet is better for which people. A rigorous recent study sought to settle the debate, and it had results to disappoint both camps. On the hopeful side, as The New York Times noted, people managed to lose weight no matter which of the two diets they followed.  The study is worth a closer look to see what it did and did not prove.

What Trump Wants From North Korea

By Joseph Bosco

U.S. President Donald Trump’s no-nonsense approach to North Korea -- and to its enabler and protector, China -- has caught the attention of the two anxious Communist allies. While the hardest part lies ahead, the president may have moved the world a bit closer to the ultimate goal: peaceful elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. During the campaign, after his election, and as president, Trump has been consistent on the basics: (1) What was tried for almost three decades by administrations of both parties has not worked; (2) He would pursue new options, including both personal diplomacy and credible threats of force to protect American and allied security interests; 

Russian Defense and Security News

Russian military experts, and those of European neighbors, agree that the American and NATO military superiority over Russia is greater than it was during the Cold War. That explains why many Russians support Russia threatening to use its nuclear weapons (especially the hundreds of ICBMs) and special operations (irregular warfare and lots of subterfuge and deception) to achieve anything against foreign enemies. While this has proved to be useful in explaining how the current Russian government will somehow do the impossible and rebuild the ancient Russian empire. It has not worked in practice. Despite that the current Russian leadership has kept trying.

What Was the Vietnam War About?

By Christian G. Appy

Was America’s war in Vietnam a noble struggle against Communist aggression, a tragic intervention in a civil conflict, or an imperialist counterrevolution to crush a movement of national liberation? Those competing interpretations ignited fiery debates in the 1960s and remain unresolved today. How we name and define this most controversial of American wars is not a narrow scholarly exercise, but profoundly shapes public memory of its meaning and ongoing significance to American national identity and foreign policy.

An Old Marine’s First Ten Thoughts on Combat

By Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper, USMC (ret) 

Pray before every battle, pray during the battle, and pray after the battle. I never prayed harder or more earnestly than I did in combat nor did I find anything more comforting. Fear is the same every time you come under enemy fire. You may become accustomed to the responses you make, but not the gut-wrenching feeling. You can conquer fear in the sense that you are able to function effectively, however, it will always be with you. There are two extremes in a unit’s first fight—“trigger happiness” and over caution. If the first fight is at night the problem is even greater. This is something you simply need to be aware of and to educate your Marines about to reduce the negative impact. Generally, the problem is self-correcting in subsequent engagements. 


Andy Greenberg

AFTER SAILING THROUGH two friendly Senate hearings—one so uncontroversial that only six senators tops bothered to even show up at any given point in the hour—Lieutenant General Paul Nakasone seems set for confirmation as the next director of the National Security Agency. That means he’ll soon lead not just one agency, but two: the world’s most powerful spying operation, the NSA, and the world’s most powerful military hacker force, US Cyber Command. And for the first time since those two roles were combined in 2010, the man leading them may be more comfortable with the latter—leaving the NSA with the unfamiliar feeling of being the not-quite-favorite sibling.

Cambridge Analytica is an 'example of what modern day colonialism looks like,' whistleblower says

Justina Crabtree

Cambridge Analytica is in the midst of a dispute after an undercover sting operation caught senior executives boasting about psychological manipulation, entrapment techniques and fake news campaigns. Kenya's elections last year were marred by chaos and violence, which resulted in multiple deaths and injuries. The original vote, which took place in August, was overturned by the country's Supreme Court and re-run in October, with Kenyatta emerging victorious both times. 

Trying to change the subject: Facebook says it will change privacy controls in wake of data scandal

Facebook (FB.O) announced a series of changes on Wednesday to give users more control over their data, after a huge data scandal which has wiped more than $100 billion from its stock market value. The company has faced a global outcry after a whistleblower revealed, on March 17, that data from 50 million users was improperly harvested to target U.S. and British voters in close-run elections. “The last week showed how much more work we need to do to enforce our policies, and to help people understand how Facebook works and the choices they have over their data,” Erin Egan, Vice President and Chief Privacy Officer, and Ashlie Beringer, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at Facebook, wrote in a blog post.

Why the Cambridge Analytica Scandal Is a Watershed Moment for Social Media

Serious concerns have arisen in the past week over how social media firms guard the privacy of their users’ personal data, and how the analytics of such data can influence voter preferences and turnout. Those worries follow a whistleblower’s account to The Observer newspaper in the U.K. about how Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm with offices in London and New York City, had unauthorized access to more than 50 million Facebook profiles as it micro-targeted voters to benefit Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Data for Research — Lessons from the Cambridge Analytica Debacle

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Data from companies such as Facebook is an important resource to conduct research. But the law must ensure that it is processed in a de-identified form and not used for commercial gain. One of the most curious aspects of the recent Cambridge Analytica debacle was that Facebook’s databases were not hacked. The journey of the information that wound up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica started on innocent terms. An academic named Aleksandr Kogan approached Facebook with a request to access information to conduct research. Facebook granted permission to Kogan and the fallout from the subsequent actions of Kogan and Cambridge Analytica have been charted in much detail over the past week.



In this era of disruption, the accelerating pace of change is propelling the world towards a historic inflection point. The liberal international order is in crisis, as geopolitics has returned with a vengeance. Not since the end of the Cold War have we faced a more complex and daunting set of foreign policy challenges — including the resurgence of great power competition with Russia and China, a 30 Years War engulfing the Middle East, the rise of populist movements across the West, the persistence of the terrorist threat, and the economic and social challenges created by inequality and the uncertain future of globalization.

Skeptics Ask: Can Army Field Armed Robots By 2024?

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What mission does the Army really need armed robots for -- expendable scouts, perhaps, or supplementary fire support? And does buying robots for that role really offer more tactical value than spending the same money on mundane upgrades to, say, self-propelled artillery? BAE’s Armed Robotic Combat Vehicle (ARCV), originally developed for the Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, a potential model for the Army’s new initiative. Can the Army develop a Robotic Combat Vehicle within six years? Some of the experts we spoke to were deeply skeptical, including veteran congressional staffers badly burned by past acquisition disasters. Some, however, said the Army’s goal was achievable — but the early models will require a lot of human oversight, especially when it’s time to pull the trigger.

Why The Army’s New Palantir Contract Won’t Fix Battlefield Intelligence

by Capt. Iain J. Cruickshank

Palantir has a great reputation for use on the battlefield, especially for counter-IED functions, and has attained an almost legendary status among some analysts and communities in the Army. When compared to the Distributed Common Ground System – Army (DCGS-A), its success is not surprising; most users of DCGS-A would agree that it is problematic. In particular, Palantir has a much friendlier user interface than DCGS-A, and its Gotham system is excellent at linking reports or other pieces of intelligence together. But Palantir’s Gotham system, the model for a new battlefield intelligence system, is susceptible to quickly becoming the next DCGS-A. Without some important changes, Palantir’s software will not satisfy battlefield intelligence needs and be doomed to repeat the failures of its predecessor.

Army’s Signals Corps: Cyber soldiers’ diamond jubilee events to showcase skills, challenges

The Army’s Signals Corps will hold a cyber security symposium and an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) exhibition on November 28 and 29 at the BMICH to mark 75 years of the unit’s service to the nation. The announcement came at a ceremony on Wednesday to launch the logo and website for the diamond jubilee year. Addressing the ceremony, Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake outlined the important role played by the Signals Corps in combating cyber security threats and providing ICT solutions and digital support to the Army.

US Would Fight Without Air Support for Weeks if War With Russia Began

By Matthew Cox 

Senior U.S. Army officials on Monday mapped out a plan to dramatically increase the range of the service's artillery and missile systems to counter a Russian threat that would leave ground forces without air support in the "first few weeks" of a war in Europe. The Army has named long-range precision fires as its top modernization priority in a reform effort aimed at replacing the service's major weapons platforms. "We've got to push the maximum range of all systems under development for close, deep and strategic, and we have got to outgun the enemy," Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general of United States Army Pacific Command, told an audience during a panel discussion on "improving long-range precision fires" at the Association of the United States Army's Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.