24 May 2018

Commentary: India Should Be Innovative in the Challenging Times Ahead

Arvind Gupta

Prime Minister Modi has shown remarkable innovativeness in foreign policy arena recently. This shows that he is cognisant of the challenges for India that are looming ahead. The ‘informal summit’ with Xi Jinping in April 2018 was an attempt to arrest the slide in Sino-Indian relations which had manifested in the 2017 Doklam stand-off between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Prime Minister Modi held yet another ‘informal summit’ with Russian President Putin in Sochi in May to keep the Indo-Russian relations on the positive trajectory. Russia has been concerned about India’s tilt towards the Americans particularly after the revival of the Quadrilateral Grouping, or the ‘QUAD’. He visited Nepal within a month of the visit of Nepalese Prime Minister Oli to India. The meeting between the two prime ministers was to put Indo-Nepal relations back on the rails after the knocks that they took during Prime Minister Oli’s earlier tenure.

The impact of rising oil prices on Indian economy

Nikhil Gupta

India, the world’s seventh-largest economy, was a key beneficiary of falling crude oil prices between 2013 and 2015. An analysis by this newspaper, more than a year ago, had indicated that almost the entire reduction of about 0.6% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in India’s fiscal deficit between FY14 and FY16 could be attributed to the sharp fall in crude prices. Lower crude prices also contributed to the narrower current account deficit. The biggest benefit of the fall in oil prices was evident in narrower twin deficits. Since the pass-through of the fall in crude prices to retail consumers was limited (the government retained a large part of the benefits by hiking excise duty on retail fuel products), the direct impact on inflation—measured by consumer price index (CPI)—was muted.

Could Pakistan’s Protests Undercut Taliban and Extremism?

BY: James Rupert

Tens of thousands of ethnic Pashtuns have held mass protests in Pakistan in the past three months, demanding justice and better governance for their communities. The largely youth-led protests forged an organization, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (“tahafuz” means “protection”), that has broadened its goals to include democracy and decentralization of power in Pakistan. The movement reflects demands for change among the roughly 30 million Pashtuns who form about 15 percent of Pakistan’s population, the country’s second-largest ethnic community. In March, hundreds of Pashtun men attended a protest at the North Waziristan town of Mir Ali, one of dozens of rallies since January. (Photo Courtesy: RFE-RL)

Beijing’s Building Boom

By Bushra Bataineh, Michael Bennon, and Francis Fukuyama

Scholars and pundits in the West have become increasingly alarmed that China’s planned Belt and Road Initiative (B&R) could further shift the global strategic landscape in Beijing’s favor, with infrastructure lending as its primary lever for global influence. The planned network of infrastructure project—financed by China’s bilateral lenders, the China Development Bank (CDB) and the Export-Import Bank of China (CEXIM), along with the newly formed and multilateral Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank—is historically unprecedented in scope. But the B&R is only the natural progression of a global sea change in developing economy infrastructure finance that has already been under way for more than two decades.

Trump’s Charm and Threats May Not Be Working on China. Here’s Why.

By Keith Bradsher

Chinese negotiators left Washington this weekend with a significant win: a willingness by the Trump administration to hold off for now on imposing tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese imports. China gave up little in return, spurning the administration’s nudges for a concrete commitment to buy more goods from the United States, and avoiding limits on its efforts to build new high-tech Chinese industries. The trade fight is far from over. And large Chinese technology companies in particular could be vulnerable if the United States starts punching again, with administration officials appearing to back away from Mr. Trump’s pledges to help ZTE, a Chinese telecommunications company hit with severe American penalties.

China Has a Vast Influence Machine, and You Don’t Even Know It

By Yi-Zheng Lian

Amid all the hoopla about Russia’s covert attempts to manipulate the 2016 American presidential election, one state has been conspicuously quiet: China. Yet its leaders may well be sneering at the Russians’ heavy hand. Since the project masterminded from Moscow largely relied on social media in the United States, American techies were bound to find out about it soon enough. Likewise with the baldfaced poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in Britain, which has also been pegged to Moscow. Too crude, too traceable, these operations could only generate a backlash. China, too, can be a bully, especially with Asian governments in its immediate sphere of influence — imposing economic sanctions on South Korea for deploying defensive missiles or orchestrating the kidnapping of book publishers from Hong Kong and Thailand. But it doesn’t usually set out to openly hurt or antagonize stronger opponents like the United States; instead, it tries to quietly gain an edge for the long haul.

How Chinese mining in the Himalayas may create a new military flashpoint with India

Stephen Chen

China has begun large-scale mining operations on its side of the disputed border with India in the Himalayas, where a huge trove of gold, silver and other precious minerals – valued at nearly US$60 billion by Chinese state geologists – has been found. Although mining has been going on in the world’s highest mountain range for thousands of years, the challenge of accessing the remote terrain and concerns about environmental damage had until now limited the extent of the activities. The unprecedented scale of the new mines follows years of heavy investment by the Chinese government in roads and other infrastructure in the area. People familiar with the project say the mines are part of an ambitious plan by Beijing to reclaim South Tibet, a sizeable chunk of disputed territory currently under Indian control. 

How Taiwan Would Defend Itself from a Decapitation Strike (By China)

Robert Beckhusen

In military terms, a “decapitation” strike refers to the practice of targeting a country’s top leadership in the opening hours of a war — cutting off the head of an enemy army and its political system. Taiwan, situated close to China with its many ways of carrying out such an attack, is vulnerable. Remote though it may seem, Taiwan takes the possibility seriously enough to treat defending against decapitation to be among its top military priorities under its “resolute defense” doctrine. China also seems to prepare to do it, at least as a way of rattling Taiwan and putting it under pressure. In 2015, Chinese troops drilled in Inner Mongolia at a base built to resemble the Taiwanese Presidential Palace.

Israel vs. Iran: Who Holds the Advantage in an Increasingly Looming War?

By Carlo Muñoz - Washington Times

As two of the Middle East’s military heavyweights edge closer to a shooting war, Israelboasts one of the world’s most effective militaries backed by a nuclear arsenal, but Iranhas 10 times the population and an increasing number of ways to strike back asymmetrically. The Iran military’s total force is reported to be 934,000 active-duty and reserve troops, while the total number of Israeli troops comes in at 615,000, according to figures compiled by GlobalFirepower.com. Expanding the aperture to include all fighting-age citizens, Iran still holds the advantage with over half of the country’s population of 84 million eligible to fight, compared with 3.6 million in Israel  But the age of high-tech warfare and armed drones is where Iran ’s advantages end in terms of conventional warfare, military analysts say.

Changing Political Landscape in the Middle East

Amb D P Srivastava

President Trump’s announcement of US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal comes at a time, when the political landscape in the Middle East is changing fast. Hizbullah won the majority in Lebanon elections in early May. The Iraqi election results came within days of the US decision. Muqtada al-Sadr’s group emerged as the front-runner, while the sitting Prime Minister Haider-al-Abadi’s group finished third. Though government formation in Lebanon and Iraq will take time, these two developments will have a bearing on power equations within the respective countries, and the region.

What the North Koreans Told Me About Their Plans


Introducing Crazy/Genius, a new podcast from The Atlantic with Derek Thompson. Eight bold questions—and eight smart answers—about how tech is changing the world. Listen and subscribe to the podcast. What exactly do the North Koreans mean when they say they’re willing to denuclearize? And how exactly would they do so? These are the key mysteries at the heart of the upcoming Trump-Kim summit—and indeed they threatened to derail the whole thing this week when Kim Jong Un objected to National-Security Adviser John Bolton’s vision for it. In a statement attributed to Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea chastised Bolton for his invocation of the “Libya model” of unilateral denuclearization as a template, noting that the “world knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq which have met miserable [fates].” The White House quickly walked back Bolton’s remarks.

Human Rights and the Fate of the Liberal Order


According to “realist” international-relations theorists, one cannot sustain a liberal world order when two of the three great powers – Russia and China – are anti-liberal. There are several problems with this argument. Many experts have proclaimed the death of the post-1945 liberal international order, including the human-rights regime set forth in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The cover of Foreign Policy recently displayed the white dove of human rights pierced by the bloody arrows of authoritarian reaction. 

Why Engage in Proxy War? A State’s Perspective

by Daniel Byman - Lawfare 

A proxy war occurs when a major power instigates or plays a major role in supporting and directing a party to a conflict but does only a small portion of the actual fighting itself. Proxy war stands in contrast not only to a traditional war—when a state shoulders the burden of its own defense (or offense)—but also an alliance, when major and minor powers work together with each making significant contributions according to their means. So the United States working with the Afghan government against what’s left of al-Qaeda and the Taliban is more of a traditional alliance because of the major U.S. role , with thousands of American troops and hundreds of airstrikes, while Iran working with Houthi rebels in Yemen is a proxy war because Iran primarily provides weapons and funding, not its own troops. How much direct military support is too much to count as a proxy war, of course, lies mostly in the eye of the beholder , but in general, think the lower end of the involvement-spectrum. Iran’s support for the Syrian regime , for example, involves relatively few Iranian forces but a lot of foreign Shiite fighters from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Lebanon as well as helping direct the Syrian regime—so more proxy than alliance.

Mattis on Strategy

by Bill Gertz

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the recently completed U.S. defense strategy, the first in 10 years, will be used to guide the revamping of the military during the Trump administration. “Without a sound strategy, the most brilliant generals, the most well-equipped troops, the most high-tech equipment, fine tactics — none of that works unless your strategy, your framework for what you’re doing, can actually tie ways and means together,” Mr. Mattis said in a recent speech. The retired Marine Corps general said the new strategy identifies China and Russiaas the major threats facing the country and will be used as a rationale for more stable defense funding after years of cutbacks. In formulating the strategy, Pentagon strategists categorized security threats and recognized the prime danger as coming from state actors like China and Russia , not from terrorist groups.

As AI Begins to Reshape Defense, Here’s How Europe Can Keep Up


Change comes hard in much of Europe, particularly in the defense community. But no less than in the United States, European nations are wrestling with the implications of machine learning and artificial intelligence — in the military as well as civilian society. During several trips to Europe in the last six months, we have noted a significant uptick in the number of NATO political and military leaders discussing AI’s impact on the alliance’s military capability.

The global economy’s rising debt problem

I do not know if it is possible to have two epiphanies in a short period. Well, why not? I have had two now, on global risks. The US Federal Reserve is raising interest rates. There is political uncertainty in a few parts of the world, including the developed world. There are trade disputes. These are serious threats to the global economy and global financial assets. But which ones, in particular, are threatened the most? The identification of the vulnerable ones constitutes my epiphanies. I think there are two of them. One is debt in emerging markets. The second is US commercial debt. These will set off chain reactions in other assets, including in American and emerging stock markets.

Critical U.S. Military Sites Can’t Cope With A Prolonged Power Outage

Lorten Thompson
Source Link

The United States spends more money on military preparedness than any other country – nearly $2 billion per day. But some of the most obvious challenges get short shrift in the federal budget. A case in point is the inability of essential defense installations to function if the lights go out for more than a few days. Ten years ago, the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board issued a study warning that “military installations are almost completely dependent on a fragile and vulnerable commercial power grid, placing critical military and homeland defense missions at unacceptable risk of extended outage.” The study went on to assert that “backup power at military installations is based on assumptions of a more resilient grid than exists and much shorter outages than may occur.”

As AI Begins to Reshape Defense, Here’s How Europe Can Keep Up

Source Link

It’s clear that the continent’s political and military leaders are wrestling with the implications of artificial intelligence. But debate needs to translate into action, and quickly. Change comes hard in much of Europe, particularly in the defense community. But no less than in the United States, European nations are wrestling with the implications of machine learning and artificial intelligence — in the military as well as civilian society. During several trips to Europe in the last six months, we have noted a significant uptick in the number of NATOpolitical and military leaders discussing AI’s impact on the alliance’s military capability.


“Without a sound strategy, the most brilliant generals, the most well-equipped troops, the most high-tech equipment, fine tactics — none of that works unless your strategy, your framework for what you’re doing, can actually tie ways and means together,” Mr. Mattis said in a recent speech. “We pull into one of the camps in the middle of nowhere, and I was reminded that next morning that America’s got two fundamental sources of power: the power of inspiration and the power of intimidation,” he said. “Many times, our military acts with the power of intimidation and sometimes the power of inspiration as well.” The man then asked if he would be allowed to immigrate to America if he proved to be a model prisoner.

Banks Adopt Military-Style Tactics to Fight Cybercrime

By Stacy Cowley

O’FALLON, Mo. — In a windowless bunker here, a wall of monitors tracked incoming attacks — 267,322 in the last 24 hours, according to one hovering dial, or about three every second — as a dozen analysts stared at screens filled with snippets of computer code. Pacing around, overseeing the stream of warnings, was a former Delta Force soldier who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan before shifting to a new enemy: cyberthieves. “This is not that different from terrorists and drug cartels,” Matt Nyman, the command center’s creator, said as he surveyed his squadron of Mastercard employees. “Fundamentally, threat networks operate in similar ways.” Cybercrime is one of the world’s fastest-growing and most lucrative industries. At least $445 billion was lost last year, up around 30 percent from just three years earlier, a global economic study found, and the Treasury Department recently designated cyberattacks as one of the greatest risks to the American financial sector. For banks and payment companies, the fight feels like a war — and they’re responding with an increasingly militarized approach.


David Maxwell Comment: Is embedding a small team in each BCT the right way to go? Are we treating them just as do other “enablers?” Are we using old think here? Will that lead to treatment of cyber as an afterthought? Or will cyber be stove piped and only a handful of “cyber special forces” or “cyber special operators” will focus on cyber tasks. What happens when we need to conduct cyber as the main effort and the support from a BCT is not necessary? In the future we might be leading with cyber (offensively and defensively).


According to the Army, the ultimate goal would be to send small teams or “cells” of cyber specialists to be embedded inside brigade combat teams. These teams will better help commanders face challenges in theater.


Gil Shwed, CEO and Founder of the cyber security firm , CheckPoint Technologies, was interviewed on CNBC’s Squawk Box this morning/May 18, 2018, regarding his outlook on the cyber threat. Mr. Shwed said it was imperative that governments and the private sector “develop innovative, sixth generation defenses. Mr. Shwed added that “fifth-generation cyber attacks, excel at identification theft, as well as in targeting cloud services, and mobile devices.” 

Sweden distributes 'be prepared for war' leaflet to all 4.8m homes

Jon Henley

The Swedish government has begun sending all 4.8m of the country’s households a public information leaflet telling the population, for the first time in more than half a century, what to do in the event of a war. Om krisen eller kriget kommer (If crisis or war comes) explains how people can secure basic needs such as food, water and heat, what warning signals mean, where to find bomb shelters and how to contribute to Sweden’s “total defence”. The 20-page pamphlet, illustrated with pictures of sirens, warplanes and families fleeing their homes, also prepares the population for dangers such as cyber and terror attacks and climate change, and includes a page on identifying fake news.

Air Force secretary: China, Russia could shoot down new JSTARS on day one of a war

By: Stephen Losey 

Even a new version of the Air Force’s JSTARS battlefield management and control aircraft would be vulnerable to being shot out of the sky during the opening salvo of a conflict with Russia or China, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told lawmakers Thursday. As part of its proposed fiscal 2019 budget, the Air Force wants to cancel the program to recap the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar Systemaircraft, which previously sought to buy 17 new Boeing 707-sized planes to replace its old inventory.


Avi Salzman had a full-page article in this weekend’s (May 21, 2018) Barron’s, “Despite Recent Price Drop, Bitcoin Gets Vote Of Confidence.” “Bitcoin has plunged 58 percent from its December highs, Warren Buffet has compared it to rat poison, and few people use it for everyday purposes. Other digital coins are stuck in legal limbo. In any other industry, this would be a death knell,” Mr. Salzman wrote. “And yet, at CoinDesk’s annual conference in Manhattan [last week], the premier event for bitcoin and blockchain enthusiasts, roared with optimism and money,” Mr. Salzman added. “Some of that roar came from the rented Lamborghini’s out front; and, the optimism may have been stocked by the blockchain powered, free-beer dispensing machines.” Mr. Salzman adds some more color to the gathering and I refer you to this weekend’s Barron’s for the full article. He does note that despite the price drop noted above, “suits follow the money,” and — “even after the price drop, the [digital] coin world has nearly $400 billion in assets, 20 times more than [it was] at the start of 2017.”