14 April 2018

“We Need Bold Steps, Faster Decision Making And A Real Level Playing Field ”

by Anupama Airy

Jayant Damodar Patil, whole-time director and senior executive vice-president, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) defence business, is counted as the most experienced hand in the private sector defence industry today. Under his leadership, L&T has built a portfolio of products, systems and technologies, both on its own and by teaming up with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Navy, and is today engaged in design-to-delivery of solutions across its chosen defence segments. Among Patil’s most notable achievements is the order for the K9 tracked SP artillery gun system, jointly developed by L&T with a foreign collaborator, the Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers, Akash missile propulsion airframes and missile launchers, and setting up the VLF (very low frequency) communication facility for the armed forces.

Reorienting India’s export strategy

By Ajit Ranade

The global headlines these days are dominated by the unfolding trade spat between the United States and China. It seems to be following a tit-for-tat sequence. First, the US imposed higher tariffs on import of aluminium and steel, mainly from China. To which, China responded by imposing tariffs on goods worth $3 billion imported from the US. This was followed by the US imposing 25 per cent penalty tariff on 1,300 Chinese items including electronic components, medical devices, auto and aircraft components. This was to punish alleged theft of intellectual property of US patents. China retaliated within hours, extending their list by another 106 items, affecting US export of beef, cars, soybean and aircrafts to China. This is escalating into a trade war and the world markets are watching nervously.

Peace In The Himalayas? A tale of war, colonisation, and rather dubious legality

Far from being eternally peaceful pilgrimage sites, the Himalayas have seen centuries of brutal conflict, religious divides, wily entrepreneurship, and intellectual and cultural flourishing on par with any place in the world. The 17th and 18th centuries were particularly momentous years for the scattered, warring peoples who lived in the world’s highest mountains. Gushi Khan, the founder of the Mongol Dzungar Khanate that politically united Tibet and established the primacy of the Dalai Lama. Tibet, at the time, was very much the politico-cultural center of the Himalayan peoples, and was torn by conflict between the great noble houses and ambitious monastic schools. Appealing to Mongol aid, the Dalai Lamas eventually emerged from the chaos into the political and spiritual role through which they would rule the Tibetans until the present day. Meanwhile, a certain lama fleeing powerful rivals in Tibet had subdued most of Bhutan’s tribes, turning it into a united kingdom for the first time. From Tibet, also, came a family, supposedly descended from another great monk, who united Sikkim and extended it up to the Chumbi Valley, where it was contested with the new state of Bhutan.

Pakistan’s Nuclear Bomb by Hassan Abbas – An Excerpt

In this inside view of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, Hassan Abbas profiles the politicians and scientists involved in the development of the country’s nuclear bomb, and the role of China and Saudi Arabia in supporting its nuclear infrastructure. Drawing on extensive interviews, the book also examines Pakistani nuclear physicist A.Q. Khan’s involvement in nuclear proliferation in Iran, Libya and North Korea. 

Taliban overruns Afghan district, kills governor

BY BILL ROGGIO | April 12, 2018 |

The Taliban overran the district of Khwaja Omari and killed at least eight people, including the district governor, earlier today. Seven policemen were also killed in the attack. Khwaja Omari was considered to have been one of the more secure districts in Ghazni province.

The attack and death of Ali Shams Dost, the district governor, and seven policemen was confirmed by the Ghazni provincial police, according to TOLONews. Nine other policemen were wounded during the fighting.
A statement released by the provincial police force said the Taliban launched the raid at 2:00 AM local time. The Taliban routinely launches strikes on district centers and military bases at night. Videos documenting the attacks often show Taliban fighters using night vision devices.
The Taliban torched the governor’s compound before withdrawing its forces. The police claimed that 27 Taliban fighters were killed in retaliatory airstrikes.
The district of Khwaja Omari was previously considered to be one of the more secure areas in Ghazni, which is a hotbed for the Taliban and other foreign jihadist groups such as al Qaeda. Resolute Support listed Khwaja Omari as “Government Influenced,” according to a report issued by the Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. A government influenced district means that the government holds sway and the Taliban presence is minimal.

The New Great Game: China And The Intense Maritime Contest In Indo-Pacific Region

by Abhijnan Rej

China’s growing naval force projection has sparked anintense maritime contest in the Indo-Pacific, where traditional notions of spheres of influence are being challenged. Over the past five years or so, China has adopted an increasingly assertive foreign policy that stands to upend, if unchecked, the political and security order in maritime Asia. This has included blatant disregard for international law, construction of artificial islands and other features to reclaim contested waters, weaponising capital and trade, and adoption of a military posture that seeks to keep other powers out from parts of the western Pacific. Coupled to growing authoritarianism at home — President Xi Jinping is now effectively president for life — as well as efforts to influence and shape domestic politics of other states, a super-powered China could very well spell the end of the liberal international order that the world has known since the end of the Second World War. China is well into becoming Middle Kingdom 2.0: the apex of a deeply hierarchical Asia, where all powers pay obeisance to the all-powerful Chinese state.

Conquest And Memory

by Makarand Paranjape

If there is an unhappy and distressing truth that historians the world over have withheld from us, it is this: the classical world was destroyed by Christian and Islamist armies both in the West and in the East. In my last column, I chronicled, nay, lamented the destruction of Nalanda. The wanton demolition of great temples of learning and the decimation of their inhabitants, deplorable and outrageous as they were, are not the only things that gall. It is the deliberate and insolent devastation of this great seat of ancient education that is so saddening. No doubt, information, teaching and research in a variety of disciplines including mathematics, philosophy, linguistics and natural sciences were set back by centuries. The mass execution of so many learned professors, scholars, monks and students resulted in a huge knowledge deficit and pedagogical vacuum.

How China won the battle of the yuan

“THE horse may be out of the proverbial barn.” So wrote Ben Bernanke, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, in early 2016, arguing that capital controls might be powerless to save China from a run on its currency. He was far from alone at the time. As cash rushed out of the country, analysts debated whether the yuan would collapse, and some hedge funds bet that day was coming fast. But two years on, the horse is back in the barn: the government’s defence of the yuan has succeeded, in part through tighter capital controls. The latest evidence was an 11th consecutive monthly increase in foreign-exchange reserves in December. During that time China’s stockpile of official reserves, the world’s biggest, climbed by $142bn, reaching $3.14trn, roughly double the cushion usually regarded as needed to ensure financial stability. Another sign of China’s success is the yuan itself. At the start of 2017 the consensus of forecasters was that the currency would continue to weaken; it finished the year up by 6% against the dollar.

The U.S. vs. China: A Trade War (II)?

Two weeks ago, I warned the U.S. against starting a trade war with China (The U.S. vs. China: A Trade War?). Since then, the situation has worsened, with both sides throwing more punches at each other (China retaliates against Trump tariffs with levy on US food imports and Trump Doubles Down on Potential Trade War with China). I must therefore escalate my warning accordingly ... Please share this article - Go to very top of page, right hand side, for social media buttons.

1. A trade war is war!

Civil-Military Fusion and the PLA’s Pursuit of Dominance in Emerging Technologies

By Lorand Laskai

China is intensifying its nearly two-decade push to meld together the civil and defense economies through what officials term “civil-military fusion” (军民融合). On March 2, 2018, CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping chaired the third meeting of the recently formed Central Commission for Integrated Military and Civilian Development (CCIMCD), where he emphasized the strategic importance of ‘unifying’ (体化) national power through reducing barriers between the commercial economy and defense industrial base (CCTV, 03/02). Days later, speaking to a delegation from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and armed police at the 13th National People’s Congress, Xi called civil-military fusion (CMF) a “prerequisite” for realizing the goal of building a strong military (Xinhua, 03/12) [1].

China As a Responsible Stakeholder: 5G, Your Toaster and the CCP (Part 2)

By Michael Shoebridge

The Australian government’s exclusion of huge Chinese telecom company Huawei from the National Broadband Network in 2012 turns out to have been a little thing hiding a bigger thing. The bigger thing is the implementation of a 5G network across Australia and whether or how Huwaei participates. 5G isn’t just a tagline for the next-generation, faster, more reliable mobile network that’ll connect your smartphone or tablet while you are away from home or the office and give you the bandwidth to watch Netflix on the move. 5G technology is the new high-speed, low-latency backbone technology that will enable the ‘internet of things’. It will allow companies to run power plants through internet-connected sensors and control systems. It will enable healthcare data to be shared electronically across multiple portable and fixed devices between patients, doctors, specialists and hospitals. It will enable your fridge to tell Woolworths when you need milk and salsa delivered, and enable you to tell your TV and toaster when to turn on and off.

The US should tame finance to tame China

V. Anantha Nageswaran

In February this year, Ashton B. Carter, defense secretary in the Barack Obama administration, had given an interview to Politico (“Ash Carter: Full Transcript”, 19 February 2018). The interviewer, strangely and yet unsurprisingly, dedicated more than half the interview to real and imagined threats to America from Russia, ignoring the bigger elephant in the room, China. Towards the end of the interview, in response to a somewhat tangential question, Carter spoke about the threat from China to America. He said America did not have an adequate playbook for competition with China and that economists had not given (the government) much of a playbook to protect American companies and the American people. He is quite right. Economists have been quick off the block to criticize President Donald Trump for his seemingly disparate and uncoordinated actions on trade and intellectual property disputes with China. But they had not offered better answers.

Syria: Country's Largest Airbase Attacked, Israel Likely Responsible

As we said in our 2018 Second Quarter Forecast; "troops loyal to al Assad, along with their Iranian allies, will also risk coming face to face with Israel as they conduct operations against rebel positions in southern Syria. Israel has a narrow window in which it can strike at its longtime adversary, Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, and at Iranian targets across its northeastern border with Syria. Israel will probably take it, with the aim of preventing the entrenchment of Iranian-backed fighters along the edge of the Golan Heights." 

Israel Wages a Growing War in Syria

By Robin Wright

Israeli forces near a border fence between the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights and Syria. The Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw forces from northern Syria could trigger broader Israeli military intervention in the region. Jihad Mughniyah is buried under the same black marble slab as his father, Imad Mughniyah, the legendary Hezbollah military commander, at a special cemetery created by the Lebanese militia for its “martyrs” in Syria. Life-size posters of both men, dressed in fatigues, stand above it. During a recent trip to Beirut, I counted the number of the graves in the cemetery, a barometer of the price Hezbollah is paying to prop up Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad. Mughniyah’s grave also reflects the impact of Israel’s quiet but escalating campaign to challenge Hezbollah and Iran in Syria. The younger Mughniyah was a rising Hezbollah star mentored by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards after his father’s death. In 2015, he was killed, in an Israeli air strike on Syria, along with five other Hezbollah fighters and a general in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as their convoy neared the village of Quneitra, in the Golan Heights.

Is the US Still a Reliable Ally?

Cipher Brief experts Matt Olsen and Nick Fishwick tackled the state of the U.S. alliance with the “5 Eyes” – the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – in discussion with Executive Editor Kimberly Dozier at Sea Island. Their overall conclusion? Despite the Trump administration’s early controversial comments about NATO and criticism of Britain among others, intelligence sharing and counterterrorism cooperation continues unabated – for now.

Relationships Between Highly Asymmetric Nuclear Powers

By Rod Lyon

The current tensions between Washington and Pyongyang aren’t just about history. Nor are they simply the result of personal frictions between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. At their core, they reflect the difficulties that typically attend adversarial relationships between two highly asymmetric nuclear powers. Bernard Brodie, one of the doyens of deterrence thinking during the early days of the Cold War, canvassed some of the problems in this sort of relationship in his 1958 essay, The anatomy of deterrence. There he considered how the Soviet Union might be strategically hampered by the emergence of a much inferior adversary which could, however, threaten nuclear damage to a small number of Soviet cities. The following extract is taken from pages 7–9 of his essay:

Misconceptions About Trade Deficits

by Timothy Taylor

The competition for most misunderstood economic statistic is hard-fought, but there is a clear winner: the trade deficit. No other number is interpreted so differently by professional economists and the general public. Common reactions to the U.S. trade deficit range from belligerence to dejectedness: It is thought that America's trade deficit exists either because of the skullduggery and unfair trade practices of countries that shut out U.S. products, or because American companies are failing to compete against their global competitors. In either case, the preferred solution is often to get tough in trade negotiations for the sake of protecting U.S. jobs. But, according to most economists, cutting across partisan and ideological lines, such mainstream beliefs about cause, effect, and solution are wrong. Even more bothersome, these popular beliefs are wrong not simply because the evidence is against them - although it is - but because they reflect fundamental misunderstandings of what the trade deficit is and how it interacts with the rest of the economy.

The Future of Education: How A.I. and Immersive Tech Will Reshape Learning Forever

Education is an odd bird: we all know it could be better, while at the same time it is the best it has ever been in human history. For the last two centuries the world went through a great expansion in learning: our literacy rate skyrocketed from 12% to 88% worldwide, and Primary, Secondary and Tertiary education have all seen drastic growth (in schools and students), breaking records on almost a yearly basis.

It Is Climbing Season On Mount Everest; Legendary Mountaineer Reinhold Messner Explains ‘The Art Of Not Getting Killed;’ And, Some Key Ingredients To Overcoming Our Fears

It’s that time of year again. It is nearly mid-April and as I write this, there are those hearty souls, excessively driven to push the limits of their physical and mental abilities; and, summit the highest mountain on Earth. So, perhaps it is appropriate to get a better appreciation of how those who succeed in summiting Everest and the descent — confront the emotion of fear — and, find a way to survive. Last October, 2017, NDTV (New Delhi Television Limited) conducted a sit-down interview with legendary mountaineer, Reinhold Messner, about the ‘Art Of Not Getting Killed.’ Mr. Messner, for those of you who do not know about him — has lived quite a remarkable life. The Italian born Mr. Messner, as the publication noted. “became the first person to summit Mount Everest solo; and, without the help of oxygen in 1980. Perhaps one of the world’s last great adventurers: he has conquered the world’s highest peaks; crossed Antarctica; and, hunted for the elusive Yeti,” the publication noted.

Marketing and the Delegitimization of Elections

By George Friedman

Last week, I wrote about the use of marketing in elections. This week, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faces a congressional hearing on how Facebook data was used during the 2016 presidential election, I will address one of the critical consequences of marketing. It is a tool used on a global basis to delegitimize elections and, with it, democracy. As I argued last week, the use of marketing, particularly online marketing, has been growing. But this doesn’t necessarily mean it is becoming more effective. It has been claimed that the Russians interfered in the U.S. election by spreading fake news stories to help Donald Trump get elected. It has also been revealed that consulting firm Cambridge Analytica helped run the Trump campaign’s data operations and used social media user data to target certain voters with customized content. The connection between alleged Russian interference and Cambridge Analytica is murky, but they are both being used as examples of how the internet can sway election results. This assumes that such techniques are effective enough to change voters’ minds and influence the outcome of a presidential election.


THE HEADLINES ABOUT the trade wars being touched off by President Trump’s new tariffs may telegraph plenty of bombast and shots fired, but the most consequential war being waged today is a quieter sort of conflict: It’s the new Cold War over data protection. While the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica crisis currently burns as the latest, hottest flare-up in this simmering conflict, tensions may increase even more on May 25, 2018, when the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect.

Minister Reveals Cyber Attack On Iranian Data Centers, Blames Foreign Hackers

Iran’s Telecommunications minister has criticized the government’s cyber-attack monitoring center for failing to detect an attack that led to the hacking of several Iranian data centers on the evening of April 6, despite a warning about the attack ten days before it took place. Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi first said in a tweet Friday evening “Several Iranian data centers came under cyber attacks tonight. Some of the smaller routers have been changed to factory setting.” Later, in another tweet, Jahromi claimed that MAHER, Persian acronym for the Computer-related Events Operation and Coordination Center, “Has monitored and controlled the attack and the data centers’ settings have been brought back to normal.”

Cyber Needs to Be Center Stage for Every World Leader

By Christopher Painter

It seems every day brings news of another high-profile cyberattack or intrusion affecting our personal data, national security or the very integrity and availability of the institutions and infrastructure on which we depend. These cyber threats come from a range of bad actors including ordinary criminals, transnational organised criminal groups and nation-states. Indeed, in mid-February, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and several other countries attributed the devastating NotPetya ransomware worm—that caused billions of dollars of damage across Europe, Asia and the Americas—to the Russian military as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to destabilise the Ukraine. At the same time, special counsel Robert Mueller in Washington unveiled a remarkably detailed criminal indictment charging a range of Russian individuals and organisations with a concerted effort to undermine the 2016 U.S. elections.

The Pentagon is asking for 3 times as many drones for 2019

By: Kelsey Atherton  

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Bobbie with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, replaces the battery for an InstanEye quadcopter during a Quads for Squads training event on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Feb. 28, 2018. Quads for Squads is a program intended to train and equip individual squads with small unmanned aircraft systems. (Cpl. Miguel A. Rosales/U.S. Marine Corps)  The Pentagon’s enthusiasm for drones has never been greater. A new report published today by the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard University found that in the president’s new budget request, the Department of Defense is asking for three times as many uncrewed vehicles for 2019 as it did in 2018.

The math of military modernization

Benjamin Schwartz

The Chinese are on track to dominate the security architecture of the Asia-Pacific. This is not to suggest that the People’s Liberation Army will set out to conquer the region. But it is to acknowledge the foreseeable outcome of the growing gap between China’s ability to project military power in Asia and the defence capabilities of other regional militaries. Obscuring this gap, and matching it in some sense, is the growing distance between political rhetoric and reality.

Gunboat Diplomacy and the Ghost of Captain Mahan

By Alfred W. McCoy

Amid the intense coverage of Russian cyber-maneuvering and North Korean missile threats, another kind of great-power rivalry has been playing out quietly in the Indian and Pacific oceans. The U.S. and Chinese navies have been repositioning warships and establishing naval bases as if they were so many pawns on a geopolitical chessboard. To some it might seem curious, even quaint, that gunboats and naval bastions, once emblematic of the Victorian age, remain even remotely relevant in our own era of cyber-threats and space warfare.