6 June 2018

The Nehruvian Style of Modi’s Foreign Policy

Brahma Chellaney

In the four years that he has been in office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has animated domestic politics in India and the country’s foreign policy by departing often from conventional methods and shibboleths. As he focuses on winning the next general election, the key question is whether the Modi era will mark a defining moment for India, just as Xi Jinping’s ascension to power has been for China. The answer to that question is still not clear. What is clear, however, is that Modi’s stint in office has clearly changed Indian politics and diplomacy. In domestic politics, Modi has a stronger record: He has led the Bharatiya Janata Party to a string of victories in elections in a number of states, making his party the largest political force in the country by far. Under his leadership, the traditionally urban-focused BJP has significantly expanded its base in rural areas and among the socially disadvantaged classes and spread to the country’s eastern and southern regions. His skills as a political tactician steeped in cold-eyed pragmatism have held him in good stead. Modi, however, has become increasingly polarizing. Consequently, Indian democracy today is probably as divided and polarized as US democracy.

How India Is Making Its Place in the World

India’s $2.6 trillion economy last year became the world’s sixth largest, outstripping France, and with a projected GDP growth rate of between 7% and 7.5%, it could become the fifth largest, larger than that of the U.K. And yet, while the country’s economic clout has been growing, it still has been unable to secure permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council.

A Bleak and Sobering Lessons-Learned Report on the US Military’s War in Afghanistan

John F. Sopko

Editor’s Note: The following is adapted from prepared remarks that John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, delivered at Brookings on May 24, 2018. You can find the full event video hereThe fourth lessons-learned report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (or SIGAR), entitled “Stabilization: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan,” is the culmination of two years of work and examines the U.S. stabilization effort in Afghanistan. It details how USAID, the State Department, and the Defense Department tried to support and legitimize the Afghan government in contested districts in Afghanistan from 2002 through 2017.  Special Inspector General - Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction

What to do with Pakistani militant Hafez Saeed? Pakistan and China grope for ambiguity

By James M. Dorsey

Recent remarks by several senior Pakistani officials suggest that Pakistan and China are groping with how to deal with globally designated Pakistani militant Hafez Saeed as the South Asian nation gears up for elections expected in July and risks being next month put on an international terrorism finance and money laundering watchlist. The Pakistani-Chinese dilemma stems from a China-backed Pakistani refusal to fully implement designations of Hafez Saeed by the United Nations Security Council and the US Treasury. The United States has put a $10 million bounty on the head of Mr. Saeed, who is believed to lead the outlawed militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as well as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an alleged LeT front, and is suspected of being the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed.

IMF Bailout Looms For Pakistan as Debt Surge Raises Alarm

By Kamran Haider and Faseeh Mangi

For many in Pakistan it’s a question of when -- rather than if -- the nation will go to the International Monetary Fund for financial support to pay its soaring foreign debt as reserves dwindle. External debt and liabilities has increased 76 percent to 10.6 trillion rupees ($92 billion) since June 2013, taking the ratio up to 31 percent of gross domestic product, the highest in almost six years. Pakistan’s debt will continue to grow as it has the highest financing need as a percentage of GDP in emerging markets over the next two years, according to IMF projections.

Pakistan's external debt surges to highest in almost six years

Intervention – ‘Merkel’s Geography: Maps and Territory in China’

Maps are vital for the geographic imaginary of the state. They are, as David Harvey (2001) and others (see, for example, Crampton and Elden 2007; Elden 2013) remind us, instruments of a Foucauldian power/knowledge nexus that interlock in a particular mode of governmentality. Their authoritarian and authoritative representation of reality legitimises and makes possible state governance and the exercise of violence over territory. There exists, however, a mismatch between the cartographic need to map territory and the historically dynamic nature of territory itself. Territory is neither a static container nor a dehistoricised social relation. It is instead a formative force and a historically contingent category. Maps need therefore to be constantly adjusted to reflect changing political realities. The consequence is a weakening of their authoritative nature which, in turn, can potentially damage the geographic imaginary of the state. In other words, territory is revealed to be a process rather than a permanent and truthful reflection of reality. This was made visible in a recent news story which by and large seems to have gone unnoticed by geographers.

The Real China Threat Is That Its People Are Talented

By Byron Wien

For some time I have believed that our biggest concern about China should be not a possible trade war or military conflict, but the threat posed to the economic leadership of the United States by the rapid progress the country is making in technology. The prevailing view is that China is an enormously effective manufacturer through a combination of the creative use of robotics and low labor costs. The country has been able to produce a wide range of products at compelling prices and become a leading exporter to the world. Many believe that China’s government prevents the untrammeled expression of ideas and thereby stifles innovation. As a result, the theory goes that China has to obtain technology from others because it cannot develop creative ideas on its own. While that might have had some truth to it for much of its recent economic history, it is no longer true today.

Threat Report 2018: China’s Expanding Economy and Military Reach

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Despite indications that China’s economy is likely to experience a moderate slowdown, the world’s second largest economy – and largest market by headcount – continues to expand the depth of its interactions with the world. From the One Belt, One Road project to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, China’s economic footprint is set to expand dramatically over the next decades. China’s approach to foreign policy, military might, and international security are evolving as well.

Iran's Strategy for Surviving U.S. Sanctions

Now that the United States is piling on sanctions, Iran's government is preparing for an inevitable economic decline. Iran's political factions are in relative agreement about how to handle the economic pressure, at least over the next several months. Tehran's goal will be to keep its head above water long enough to outlast the current U.S. administration. It will try to increase non-oil exports to make up for the loss of oil sales, implement financial reforms and slow the depreciation of its currency. Iran's key priorities while it is coping with sanctions will be to keep prices for food and other goods down, minimize protests against the government, and make foreign exchange reserves last as long as possible. One big question is how long Iran's discouraged population will trust the government's survival strategies before they start to protest against inflation and increasing wealth inequality. 

Iran and Israel are Racing toward Confrontation in Syria

By Mona Yacoubian

Israel has long been wary of Iran’s power projection in the Levant, particularly in Syria. Ties between Tehran and Damascus have been close since the 1979 revolution, but the relationship deepened after Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011. With the Assad regime’s survival at stake, Tehran doubled down on its support, providing critical military assistance—fighters and strategists—and economic aid estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Syria and Iran now have a partnership with existential stakes—for the Assad regime’s longevity and Iran’s enduring position in Syria, the most strategic property in the Levant. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian looks at Iran and Israel’s goals and concerns in Syria and the potential of their shadow war spilling over into a regional conflagration.


Tom O’Connor 

The U.S. has reportedly considered abandoning one of its most significant military installations in Syria as it prepared to enter into talks with Russia and Jordan over a deteriorating security situation in the war-torn country’s restive south. The report, which first surfaced Sunday in Saudi Arabian newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, came as Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Tuesday that Moscow “supported the idea of holding a trilateral meeting at a level convenient for our partners,” according to the state-run RIA Novosti. The U.S. and its Middle Eastern ally Jordan are opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces—backed by Russia and Iran—are planning a new offensive against rebels and jihadis across southern Syria. 

Revisiting the U.S. Role in Three Middle East Crises


It has long been conventional wisdom to blame the Western powers, first and foremost the United States, for the ills of the contemporary Middle East. No sooner had al-Qaeda terrorists steered two hijacked airplanes into the World Trade Center than the atrocity was presented as a response to Washington’s overbearing and self-serving Middle Eastern policy. What goes around comes around, ran the common argument, and it is only natural for the seeds of rage that Washnigton has sown to come home to roost. In the words of historian Gabriel Kolko: “The events of September 11 were the direct result of over fifty years of American involvement in the region, the consequence of actions and policies that have destabilized the arc of nations extending from the Mediterranean to South Asia.”[1]

Europe’s losing streak Why Brussels feels so dazed and confused in 2018.


Here are a few words you keep hearing about Europe today: Drift. Relapse. Malaise. Trouble. If news cycles now move in eye blinks, political epochs come in quicker too. The current era — of Europe in trouble once again — is at once jarring and familiar. Only two years ago, of course, Brusselswas a city on the verge of a nervous breakdown, struck hard by twin political blows. Shortly after Britain became the first EU country to choose, in June of 2016, to head for the exits, America elected a president vocally hostile to the EU and NATO. The pillars of the post-war order seemed to be shaking. Europe turned things around in 2017. The election surprises early that year were establishment-friendly victories in the Netherlands and France. The voting public’s embrace of stability and the golden middle came personified in the form of Emmanuel Macron, who celebrated his election win in France with Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” the EU anthem.

The Ongoing Drama, or Farce, of Trump’s China Trade Policy

Kimberly Ann 

Those were among the clichés that came to mind during the Trump administration’s China trade policy gyrations over the past few weeks. Almost exactly a year after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the results of a “herculean” effort to get a deal with China to boost U.S. exports of energy and agricultural goods, and six months after Ross announced another set of deals purportedly worth $250 billion in increased American exports of natural gas, soybeans, beef and pork, the White House released a joint statement in which China again promised “meaningful increases” in imports of U.S. agricultural and energy products. The chief White House economic adviser, Lawrence Kudlow, claimed the Chinese had agreed to increase American exports by $200 billion, but China denied that there was a commitment to any specific dollar figure.

On the 20th anniversary of the 1998 nuclear tests by India and Pakistan


May 2018 marked the 20th anniversary of the nuclear weapon tests by India and Pakistan. Over these past two decades, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has covered the growing nuclear programs of the two countries and the profound risks they pose to the roughly 1.5 billion people now living in these two countries, who make up one-fifth of humanity. Here, guest editors Zia Mian and M.V. Ramana select a few of the many articles on nuclear South Asia that have been published by the Bulletin. On 11 May 1998, Indian Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee announced that three nuclear devices had been exploded earlier that day. Two days later, following two more explosions, Vajpayee proudly announced that India was now a nuclear weapon state. A couple of weeks later, on May 28 and 30, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced that his country had conducted six nuclear explosions.

Emerging Market Meltdown Could Undermine Oil Rally – Analysis

By Nick Cunningham

Saudi Arabia and Russia just destroyed the oil price rally, potentially putting an end to all the speculation about what the group might do next. But higher production doesn’t necessarily mean higher oil prices are entirely out of the question, and in fact, the oil market is still faced with a ton of uncertainty. Higher oil production from the OPEC/non-OPEC group would seem to close off the higher-price scenario. But a “complete collapse” of Venezuela’s oil production could still push oil prices up to $100 per barrel, Bob Parker, investment committee member at Quilvest Wealth Management, told CNBC.

Are We Truly Witnessing The End Of Violent Islamism? – Analysis

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Islamists have grossly used Western freedom and they must understand that this is not allowed anymore. The integration of moderate Islam in the European social fabric is an urgent necessity today more than ever before and the same is true of the rest of the Western world, writes Dr. Mohamed Chtatou. The fearful Islamic State has been duly defeated by a Western-Islamic coalition through a combination of aerial pinpoint bombardment and a land offensive undertaken successfully by the Iraqi army beefed up by Kurdish, Iranian and Western forces. As a result, the cities controlled by this infamous State were re-conquered and its militias killed, imprisoned or have merely disappeared in the thin air. However, the question is: is this enough to crush Islamic fundamentalism that aims to adopt a time-old Caliphate system and engage in spreading Islamic religion through a combination of gentle persuasion , jihad in dar al-Kufr (Infidels’ homeland)i and terrorist actions both at home and abroad?

Trump’s Steel Tariffs on Allies Complicate Bigger Problem: China


The men waging Trump’s trade wars (from left): Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and White House National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro, in the White House on March 8. The Trump administration’s decision Thursday to slap steep tariffs on steel and aluminum from some of its biggest trading partners — Canada, Mexico, and the European Union — will make it harder for the United States to tackle the very trade abuses it claims to be fighting. Despite a flurry of last-minute negotiations with Canada, Mexico, and Europe, the United States went ahead and levied a 25 percent tariff on imports of steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports from those three trading partners, ending the temporary exemption they’d enjoyed since the spring.

U.S. Allies Hit Back as Trump Revokes Steel Tariff Reprieve

By Andrew Mayeda , Jenny Leonard , and Joe Deaux

America’s closest allies plan to slap billions of dollars in tit-for-tat tariffs on U.S. goods after the Trump administration announced it’s imposing steel and aluminum duties on them. The reaction was swift after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the U.S. on Friday will levy new metals duties on imports from the European Union, Mexico and Canada on national security grounds, ending their temporary exemptions. The EU said it would take immediate steps to retaliate, while Mexico vowed to impose duties on everything from U.S. flat steel to cheese. Canada’s government announced it will impose tariffs on as much as C$16.6 billion ($12.8 billion) of U.S. steel, aluminum and other products from July 1.

A Distracted U.S. Struggles To Shift Its Global Focus

By Omar Lamrani

The United States is restructuring its global military footprint, reallocating its resources and shifting its strategic focus to better compete against China and Russia. To achieve this, the United States will be compelled to prioritize its commitments in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. However, enduring U.S. commitments elsewhere and emerging global flashpoints will sidetrack Washington's attention and resources. Changing times call for changing measures. In the face of an intensifying great power competition with Russia and China, the United States is expanding its efforts to refocus its global strategy, force deployments and resources to better position itself in a new struggle. But recalibrate as it might, the United States' enduring commitments, along with global flashpoints, will continue to sap the country's attention and resources as it wages a new global battle for influence.

Italy and Spain Rattle the Eurozone

Italy's political crisis has deepened, significantly increasing the likelihood that another round of elections will be held soon. Should that happen, Euroskeptic parties will likely perform strongly again. In Spain, the government faces a vote of no confidence. Even if it manages to stay in power, the minority government in Madrid will be increasingly ineffective. While Euroskeptic politics in Italy represent a much more urgent threat to the eurozone than those in Spain, the countries using the currency are so deeply interconnected that financial risk from either country could easily spread.

Uncertainty Is Pushing the EU to Speed Up Its Trade Deals

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Worried about the future of global trade, the European Union is seeking to negotiate as many free trade agreements as it can. While the bloc is becoming slightly more flexible on some formerly restricted topics, its protective attitude toward agriculture and other areas will still present obstacles in talks. The strength of nationalist and populist movements in Europe will create political problems that impede the approval of new agreements. In the wake of the disruption of trade rolling out of Washington, the European Union is accelerating its drive to lock down as many import-export agreements as it can. In recent months, the bloc has completed deals with Japan and Singapore, updated an agreement with Mexico, authorized talks with Australia and New Zealand, and made progress with the Common Market of the South, the South American trade bloc known as Mercosur.

Religion and Violence in Russia Context, Manifestations, and Policy

Olga Oliker

Religious violence is surely as old as both faith and fighting themselves. In the Russian Federation, as elsewhere in the world, religious teachings and philosophies are used both to justify and combat violence. While many, including Russian authorities, increasingly view religious conflict through the prism of violent radical Islamic jihadism, the full picture is much more complicated. It includes religious propaganda employed by violent right-wing groups, repression of religious communities and organizations by local and federal authorities, and conflict within religious confessions. Violence may be couched in the language of self-defense as modernity clashes with a multitude of perceived and real traditions. A better understanding of the dynamics at the heart of religious violence in Russia, in its many manifestations, is critical to the country’s future development and its security. The analyses collected in this volume aim to contribute to the body of knowledge on these topics and inform policy solutions to make Russia and Russians of all religions (and no religion) safer and more secure.

Will AI help save lives on the battlefield?

By: Adam Stone  

After a while the buzzwords start to ring hollow. What’s “artificial intelligence,” in practical terms? An Orwellian nightmare that will control our every battlefield maneuver? Or a helpful tool to aid the war fighter? Let’s bring it down to Earth, make it tangible. AI can, for instance, scan a live video feed faster and more accurately than any human and then warn commanders of imminent danger. At least that’s the premise behind an ongoing project at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. “Video is captured with such velocity and volume [that] no individual or team of individuals can hope to analyze that data in a meaningful way,” said Scott Clouse, senior research engineer at the Decision Science Branch.

5 ways government will fight against botnets

By: Jessie Bur  

Both government and the private sector must take action to combat the threat of botnets — networks of computers infected with malicious software that allows a hacker to control their actions — according to a May 30, 2018, report to the presidentThe “Enhancing the Resilience of the Internet and Communications Ecosystem Against Botnets and Other Automated, Distributed Threats” report released by the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Commerce was mandated under a May 2017 executive order on cybersecurity. It draws from federal agency and private sector input. To begin the process, the report proposed 24 actions that align with five overarching goals, ranging from improving the cybersecurity of internet of things devices to promoting engagement between different industries impacted by the botnet problem.