17 April 2018

India is not a currency manipulator

Indian policymakers have to be sensitive, without actually overreacting, to the risk that Donald Trump may move from rattling the sabres to actually using them. 

The Indian government reported last week that the trade deficit with the rest of the world nearly doubled in the financial year ended 31 March. The US Treasury Department said a few hours later that it would be adding India to the list of countries that it considers as potential currency manipulators. All this comes against the backdrop of growing global trade tensions. It is important to recognize that India has been put on a watch list rather than being actually accused of manipulating its exchange rate to hurt US interests. However, the mere fact that India is on the watch list now could restrict the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in the foreign exchange operations it needs to pursue to protect financial stability, especially when global capital flows threaten to overwhelm domestic monetary policy.

Malala is building more schools in Pakistan. That’s not likely to reduce support for extremism.

Madiha Afzal

Since the Taliban targeted Malala Yousafzai for her advocacy for girls’ education, she has become known globally for promoting girls’ schooling. But will increasing access to education actually decrease support for the kind of extremism that led to the TTP’s attack on Malala? The answer is far from clear, writes Madiha Afzal. This piece originally appeared in the Washington PostLast weekend, Malala Yousafzai visited Pakistan for the first time since she was shot by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) more than five years ago. That she was able to visit—albeit amid exceptionally tight security—is a testament to how much safety has improved in Pakistan. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, 748 civilians and security personnel died in terrorism-related incidents in Pakistan in 2017, a drop from 3,739 such deaths in 2012.

Afghan-Pakistani Cross-Border Terrorism Cuts Both Ways

By Franz J. Marty

KABUL — Reports about Afghan Taliban safe havens on Pakistani soil are abundant and such refuges are seen as crucial for the militants’ ability to sustain their insurgency inside Afghanistan. What is often overlooked is that some extremist groups, like the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), do the same, but in reverse – seeking shelter on the Afghan side of the border (which Kabul does not officially recognize) to launch assaults on the Pakistani side. While Pakistani officials have been making such accusations for years, they – unlike the allegations from Afghan and U.S. officials regarding Afghan insurgents hiding out on Pakistani soil – never really gained much traction or attention.

Pentagon Declares Strike Successful. Here’s A Look at What Went Into It

U.S., French, and British planes and ships used a wide variety of precision weapons to hit Syrian chemical weapons facilities. Some saw their first day of combat.
Saturday’s U.S.-French-British strike “overwhelmed” the Syrian air defenses and degraded the Assad regime’s chemical weapons capabilities, Pentagon leaders told reporters this morning. Three facilities were targeted in the 4 a.m. strike, in which allied warships and -planes fired 105 weapons, including the first combat use of the Joint Air to Surface Standoff, or JASSM, missile, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, Jr. said.

McKenzie said the Syrians responded by firing 40 surface-to-air missiles, most of them after the allied munitions had already struck their targets. The head of the joint staff called the defensive fire “materially ineffective” against the coalition forces, but said it likely did pose a threat to civilians on the ground. “It is likely that the regime shot many of these missiles on a ballistic trajectory – without guidance,” he said. “When you shoot iron in to the sky without guidance, it will inevitably fall to earth.”

The most significant target was the Barzah Research and Development Center, located close to downtown Damascus, and heavily protected by Syrian air defenses. It was targeted by U.S. warships, which launched 57 Tomahawk cruise missiles and B-1 bombers 19 JASSM missiles. The bombers were escorted by attack aircraft and an EA-6B electronic warfare jet. McKenzie said initial assessments indicated the Barzah center was destroyed. “This Is going to set the Syrian chemical weapons [program] back years” he said. (Story continues below.)

The Importance of Seychelles

Pratap Heblikar

Seychelles is of vital geopolitical importance, and China is fighting to get an upper hand. India must not allow this. India’s relations with Seychelles have run into rough weather following the agreement to establish a military base on Assumption Islands. That exposed fault lines leading to racial tensions between the majority community and the minority comprising people of Indian origin and Indian nationals currently resident there. Political dissensions in the country between the ruling dispensation and the opposition, particularly anti-India elements on both sides of the political divide, have come to the fore.

The Full Story Behind China's Gold Mine-Power Plant Swap in Tajikistan

By Dirk van der Kley

The swap is the culmination of a longstanding agreement that began almost a decade ago.

In the last couple of days, it was reported that a Chinese company, TBEA, has been granted a license to operate the Upper Kumarg gold mine in northern Tajikistan in exchange for the construction of a power plant in Dushanbe. This is likely to be true. It is the culmination of a long-standing agreement that began almost a decade ago.

Is Trump Serious About Trade War? China’s Leaders Hunt for Answers

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BEIJING — In an elegantly furnished back room at a conference in eastern China in December, a member of the Chinese leadership asked American tech executives for help. The official, Wang Huning, a Communist Party strategist who has spent much of his career sizing up the United States as a geopolitical rival, wanted to know whether President Trump was serious about a trade war with China— and whether his American visitors could serve as a channel of communication to the White House.

The sneaky ways China and Russia could threaten US satellites

By: Aaron Mehta and Mike Gruss   

WASHINGTON – Major global powers, such as China and Russia, are focusing more on space weapons that neutralize others’ satellites rather than those that destroy payloads on orbit, a new report has foundThe study by the Secure World Foundation, released Wednesday morning and previewed exclusively with Defense News, is a comprehensive collection of public-source information about the counterspace capabilities of China, Russia, North Korea and other world powers that could threaten American dominance in space.

China’s Moves in Vanuatu: What Should Australia Do?

By David Brewster

Australia woke up on Tuesday morning to extraordinary reports that China had made an informal approach to Vanuatu to establish some type of naval or military presence in that tiny island state. This set off big alarm bells for Australians, who since the bloody battles of 1942-45 have successfully managed to avoid the militarization of the South Pacific by major powers. These reports were flatly denied by the government of Vanuatu and by Beijing. Indeed, for several reasons, we should be skeptical about whether China would want to establish a military base in the South Pacific in the foreseeable future. But China does have growing interests in the region — which Australia needs to understand and do its best to help manage.

Ring Of Fire: Tremors and Eruptions in the US-China Trade War

By Roncevert Ganan Almond

On April 5, 1815, Mount Tambora erupted on the island of Sumbawa in the Dutch East Indies, present day Indonesia. Located along the “Ring of Fire” – the seismic belt surrounding the Pacific Ocean – the volcano’s blast was one of the most severe in recorded history. Nearly 800 miles away in Java, Thomas Stamford Raffles, the lieutenant-governor of British Java and founder of colonial Singapore, mistook the thunderous bang for cannon fire. The eruption’s ash plume was so vast that it literally changed the world’s climate, lowering global temperatures for years. The following year, 1816, became known as the “Year without Summer” as the persistent chill from the sun-blocking ash cloud killed crops and disrupted commerce across the globe, from China to America. This foreboding environment inspired Mary Shelley to pen her masterpiece Frankenstein, a tale drawing upon human ambivalence and fear in the face of technology and industrialization.

Understanding How China Chooses to Coerce and Influence US Partners and Allies

By Ankit Panda and Prashanth 

The Diplomat‘s Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) and Prashanth Parameswaran (@TheAsianist) discuss the Chinese Communist Party’s overseas influence operations in Oceania, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. Click the arrow to the right to listen. If you’re an iOS or Mac user, you can also subscribe to The Diplomat’s Asia Geopolitics podcast on iTunes here. If you use Android, you can subscribe on TuneIn or on Google Play Music. If you like the podcast and have suggestions for content, please leave a review and rating on iTunes and TuneIn.

'Boiled frog syndrome' - Germany's China problem

Noah Barkin

Bauer, a big producer of construction equipment, is better placed than many German companies that invested heavily in China over the past few decades. The headquarters of Bavaria-based construction equipment maker Bauer AG are seen before in Schrobenhausen, Germany April 3, 2018. REUTERS/Michael Dalder The Bavaria-based firm, which traces its roots back to 1790, does not have to worry about keeping a Chinese joint venture partner happy because it is the sole owner of its two plants in Shanghai and Tianjin. And the specialist engineering machines Bauer produces there are sold in countries across Asia, shielding the group from swings in the volatile Chinese building market.

Pentagon: Syria Struck From All Sides, No Missiles Intercepted


WASHINGTON: In one of the largest coordinated international air operations in years, over 100 American, British and French guided missiles slammed into three Syrian chemical weapons facilities early Saturday morning, launched from an armada of aircraft, submarines, and ships offshore.

The Pentagon was careful Saturday to say that the assault didn’t seek to topple the regime of Syrian strongman Bashar al Assad. But the strike — and the Syrian failure to stop any of the missiles — represents a stark reminder that despite the protection of Russian air defenses, the United States and its NATO allies can hit Syria at will.

Look beyond transactionalism: It is time India and the US redefined their ties in light of 21st century power shifts

Ram Madhav

US President Donald Trump has expressed anger at India for its high trade tariffs. His administration has complained to the WTO about it. Not that Trump is angry with India alone. He is angry with China too. And the trade clash between the two countries has acquired serious proportions. Several others too have faced Trump’s anger at bilateral or multilateral trade regimes that he sees as unfavourable to the US.

I had written, after Trump’s election, that India now has to learn to deal with a ‘transactional’ president. It is this transactional nature of Trump’s dealings that has brought our two countries face-to-face at WTO today.

A Test Of Europe's Artificial Intelligence

by Matthew Bey

As a tech war shapes up between China and the United States, European powers fear they may get left out. French President Emmanuel Macron recently unveiled an ambitious plan for France - and the European Union as a whole - to develop an artificial intelligence ecosystem that could compete with those of China and the United States. Germany, meanwhile, worries that the wave of U.S. and Chinese tech innovation will wash away its critical automotive and industrial robotics sectors. To prevent that outcome, the country has been pushing for more AI development; in fact, Industry 4.0 - a movement to bring emerging information technology innovations to the manufacturing industry - is a German concept. The seemingly unstoppable rise of tech giants in the United States and China has forced entrepreneurs and leaders in Europe to react. But solutions such as Industry 4.0 and Macron's initiative won't be enough to bring European tech into the competition.

Pentagon Urges Greater Caution on Imminent Strike Against Syria


WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought on Thursday to slow down an imminent strike on Syria, reflecting mounting concerns at the Pentagon that a concerted bombing campaign could escalate into a wider conflict between Russia, Iran and the West. During a closed-door White House meeting, officials said, Mr. Mattis pushed for more evidence of President Bashar al-Assad’s role in a suspected chemical attack last weekend that would assure the world that military action was necessary. Despite the caution, two Defense Department officials predicted it would be difficult to pull back from punishing airstrikes, given President Trump’s threat on Twitter a day earlier of American missiles that “will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart.’”

Gene Editing for Good

By Bill Gates

Today, more people are living healthy, productive lives than ever before. This good news may come as a surprise, but there is plenty of evidence for it. Since the early 1990s, global child mortality has been cut in half. There have been massive reductions in cases of tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. The incidence of polio has decreased by 99 percent, bringing the world to the verge of eradicating a major infectious disease, a feat humanity has accomplished only once before, with smallpox. The proportion of the world’s population in extreme poverty, defined by the World Bank as living on less than $1.90 per day, has fallen from 35 percent to about 11 percent.



Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis told Congress Thursday that the U.S. military is developing the technology to shoot down North Korean missiles as they take off. Arms experts say the technology would greatly improve the U.S.'s ability to fend off a nuclear attack from North Korea, but it probably won't be ready for another 10 to 15 years.“What [Mattis] is referring to is boost phase directed energy, so the idea is to have a laser on a drone, have the drones hovering in international airspace, and then once a missile is launched we zap it with a laser,” Matthew Kroenig, an expert on national security and arms control at the Atlantic Council, told Newsweek.

‘It’s going to happen’: is the world ready for war in space?

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Stuart Clark

When you hear the phrase “space war”, it is easy to conjure images that could have come from a Star Wars movie: dogfights in space, motherships blasting into warp speed, planet-killing lasers and astronauts with ray guns. And just as easy to then dismiss the whole thing as nonsense. It’s why last month’s call by President Trump for an American “space force”, which he helpfully explained was similar to the air force but for err… space, was met with a tired eye-roll from most. But there is truth behind his words. While the Star Wars-esque scenario for what a space war would look like is indeed far-fetched, there is one thing all the experts agree on.​

Will artificial intelligence make you a better leader?

By Sam Bourton, Johanne Lavoie, and Tiffany Vogel

Agile leadership and AI both depend on learning to let go. 

Consider this real-life scene: Reflecting on the difficult moments of his week, the new CEO of a UK manufacturer felt angry. His attention kept going back to the tension in several executive-team meetings. He had an urge to shake the team and push several of its members, who were riven by old conflicts, to stop fighting and start collaborating to solve the company’s real problems. He also sensed, though, that a brute-force approach was unlikely to get very far, or to yield the creative insights that the company desperately needed to keep up with its fast-changing competitive environment. Instead, he calmed himself, stopped blaming his team, and asked himself whether he could break the logjam by pursuing truly new approaches to the company’s problems. It was then that his mind turned to, of all things, artificial intelligence. 

2 Days, 10 Hours, 600 Questions: What Happened When Mark Zuckerberg Went to Washington

Senator John Kennedy told Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, that his company’s user agreement “sucks.” Our reporter Sheera Frenkel explains the senator’s questions, Mr. Zuckerberg’s answers and what they really mean. By SHEERA FRENKEL and GRANT GOLD on Publish DateApril 11, 2018.Photo by Tom Brenner/The New York Times. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, endured a rite of passage this week that other powerful executives have gone through before: a public grilling before CongressOver two days, nearly 100 lawmakers in the House and Senate interrogated Mr. Zuckerberg about the company’s handling of user information. He faced almost 600 questions, including whether the company should be more heavily regulated, whether it intentionally censors conservative content and how much Russians may have meddled with America’s democratic process through the social network.

Space Threat Assessment 2018

The United States depends on space across the full spectrum of military operations. These space systems, both U.S. government satellites and those of commercial and international partners, are vulnerable to a wide array of threats, ranging from jamming and cyberattacks to direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons. While the need to improve the resiliency of space systems to different forms of attack is often discussed publicly, the progress other nations are making in developing and deploying counterspace weapons is not. Space Threat Assessment 2018 reviews and aggregates open-source information on the counterspace capabilities and activities of other nations, focusing in particular on China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The report also assesses the space and counterspace activities of select other nations and some non-state actors.

Stop Wasting Infantry’s Time: Mattis Task Force


“All too often when we bring things up inside the Beltway, it immediately devolves to material and programs and technology," said Scales. "What we hope comes out of this is not just new machines but new ways of thinking about warfare at the tactical level.” Infantry training at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La. ARLINGTON: Finding $2.4 billion for new infantry equipment was just the start for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force. Now they’re taking on the hard part: getting the military to stop wasting the troops’ time.



Lost in the hyper-politicized hullabaloo surrounding the Nunes Memorandum and the Steele Dossier was the striking statement by Secretary of Defense James Mattis that the U.S. has “no evidence” that the Syrian government used the banned nerve agent Sarin against its own people. This assertion flies in the face of the White House (NSC) Memorandum which was rapidly produced and declassified to justify an American Tomahawk missile strike against the Shayrat airbase in Syria. Mattis offered no temporal qualifications, which means that both the 2017 event in Khan Sheikhoun and the 2013 tragedy in Ghouta are unsolved cases in the eyes of the Defense Department and Defense Intelligence Agency.

Reconceptualizing Military Professionalization

As CSIS’s new Cooperative Defense Project will explore, the U.S. national security enterprise has long sought to ensure that U.S. aid not only advances national security objectives, but also advances core U.S. values: democratic civilian control of the military, respect for human rights, observance of the international law of armed conflict, accountability to the rule of law. This values-based assistance often takes shape through efforts termed “military professionalization.” Implementers have long struggled to measure the effectiveness of military professionalization initiatives, but it is increasingly clear that these efforts are insufficient to match the challenge—and importance—of addressing military professionalism and attendant U.S. values in today’s security environment. What is needed is a fundamental reexamination and reconceptualization of our approach to professionalization of partner military forces. 

How network tools can improve base security

By: Kara Frederick  

In 2011, the simple exploitation of an existing data set could have prevented a near disaster in northern Afghanistan. Then, an entire operations center watched as the feed from an MQ-1 drone, newly reassigned from its original mission, displayed a growing group of protesters at the perimeter of a small U.S. forward operating base. Although conventional signals intelligence indicated a possible disturbance, full-motion video confirmed the severity of the threat only well after it had matured. Intelligence analysts didn’t understand what the protestors were doing — and why they were doing it — until they had already massed at the entry point. If used properly, automated social media monitoring and geofencing, which calls for creating virtual geographic boundaries, could have filled this critical gap in situational awareness.