28 July 2018

Indian Railways and coal: An unsustainable interdependency

Puneet Kamboj and Rahul Tongia
Source Link

Coal and railways in India are heavily interdependent. In the Financial Year (FY) 2017, out of 574 MT of coal (inclusive of imports) consumed for grid electricity generation (Central Electricity Authority, 2017), 341 MT, or 60 per cent, was transported through railways (Railway Board, March 2017). On average railways accounts for over 85 per cent of costs for transporting coal to thermal power plants, as a number of power plants are pithead/near coal mines and do not use this mode for transportation. Coal is 44 per cent of IR’s freight revenues and has an even higher share in its profits. Indian Railway’s (IR) business model is based on passengers underpaying and freight overpaying.

The Impact on India of the Collapse of the Iran Nuclear Deal

By Vinay Kaura
Source Link

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The withdrawal of the US from the Iran nuclear deal is likely to deal a blow to India’s strategic investments in energy-rich Iran and land-locked Afghanistan as the Chinese strategic footprint there grows. Maintaining good relations with both Riyadh and Tehran will also become more challenging for New Delhi. The Iran dilemma materialized at the wrong time for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as India is preparing for parliamentary elections in less than a year. The pressure being exerted by the Trump administration on the Modi government to stop all oil imports from Tehran is set to complicate India’s diplomatic ties with Iran. It remains to be seen how India will secure its interests in Afghanistan and Central Asia without Iranian support.

A volatile election season in Pakistan

Madiha Afzal

On July 25, Pakistan is set to hold a general election, with an elected government having completed its full five-year term for the second consecutive time. What should have been a celebration of democracy consolidation in the country, however, has turned into a period of instability and uncertainty amid allegations that the military is manipulating the electoral landscape. Here are some of the main factors shaping Pakistan’s 2018 election, and what we know and what we don’t.

In recent years, thanks largely to military offensives against the Pakistan Taliban (also known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP) that have weakened the group, terrorist attacks and fatalities have fallen drasticallyin the country. However, the current election campaign, with a week to go, has been marred by greater violence than Pakistan has seen in recent months. On July 10, a TTP-claimed attack in Peshawar killed one of the leaders of the Awami National Party, Haroon Bilour, along with 21 others. Mr. Bilour’s father was also assassinated in 2012 by the TTP. The ANP is a largely secular, Pashtun party that has held power in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK) multiple times, most recently from 2008 to 2013.

Voting for a ‘New Pakistan’?

The lead-up to Pakistan’s general election on 25 July 2018 has been dominated by tragedy and spectacle. Both are providing a useful distraction for the top three political contenders — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PLM-N) party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party — each of which appear largely uninterested in advancing a clearly defined agenda for change.

On Friday 13 July, an explosion in the Mastung area, claimed by both the so-called Islamic State and a faction of the Taliban, tore through an election rally in Balochistan, killing 149 people and injuring 189. Earlier the same day, a motorcycle bomb intended for a political candidate in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa missed its target but killed four bystanders and injured another 30. The explosions were the latest in a series of election-related attacksthat have occurred over the past several weeks.

Assessing India’s Foreign Policy towards Afghanistan

Afghanistan has seen it all — fluctuating from a monarchy to communism and then a theocratic state before lurching towards democracy, all in less than 50 years. It is a nation of many contradictions — peopled by a Pashtun majority who lay claim to a larger legacy across its eastern borders, a large Tajik minority more numerous than the country from which they originally migrated, a Hazara Shia minority living in harmony with the majority for the most part, and an Uzbek minority that makes up nearly 10 percent of the population. Despite these contradictions, it has stuck together as a nation, often bloodied but proudly unbowed.

Pakistan election raises fears of 'creeping coup'

By M Ilyas Khan

A day before Pakistan's 11th national election, the country's dream of undiluted democracy appears to be receding - again.

In its 70-year history, Pakistan has alternated between quasi-democracy and pure military rule. In the process it has become embroiled in international conflicts and morphed into a home base for Islamist militancy.

Over the past decade, Pakistanis have witnessed democracy at its most undiluted thus far, but it's now under threat from what some say appears to be a "democratic coup" of sorts.

And just as in the past, the country's powerful military establishment remains the chief suspect behind the fresh round of political manipulation.

Afghan Military Suffers Significant Casualties Since End of Government’s Ceasefire

Bill Roggio
The Long War Jounral

While Resolute Support touted the body count of insurgents during the three-week period following the Afghan government’s unilateral ceasefire as a measure of success, the Taliban has also inflicted casualties on Afghan forces during this timeframe. An estimated 150 Afghan security personnel (soldiers, policemen, and militia fighters) have been killed in major Taliban attacks since July 12, according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal.

U.S. Army Major General Andrew Poppas, Resolute Support’s deputy chief of staff for operations, claimed on July 21 that Afghan operations resulted in the killing or wounding of over 1,700 Taliban, Islamic State, and other insurgents. Poppas’ figures are derived from the Afghan ministries of Defense and Interior, which are notorious for inflating casualties. Even if Poppas’ stated figures for insurgent casualties are accurate, he did not explain how the body count equated to progress on the ground. Afghan forces have not wrestled districts from Taliban control during this time period, and the Taliban remains on the offensive. [See LWJ report, NATO command touts body count of ‘Taliban irreconcilables’.]

Time for Pakistan’s generals to stop meddling in politics

AS A fast bowler, Imran Khan made rival batsmen quake and led Pakistan to victory in the Cricket World Cup in 1992. As a politician, he is thundering towards the election on July 25th and appears to be on the point of scoring another famous victory. Polls suggest his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), may emerge as the largest; and Mr Khan may well become the country’s next prime minister.

Yet, as a pukka sportsman, can Mr Khan really be happy? Although he and Pakistan’s army deny foul play, the match has been rigged. The army is ensuring that the PTI enjoys privileged access to media, endorsements from powerful people and defections from rival parties. Nawaz Sharif, a three-term former prime minister, and his daughter, Maryam, were arrested as they stepped off a plane from London on July 13th. A campaign of harassment and arrest has affected other parties’ workers far more than the PTI’s. More murkily, the others have also suffered assassination attempts and terrorist attacks, among them a suicide-bomb that killed 149 people at a rally for a local party in Mastung, in Balochistan, on July 13th.

It’s too early to write off the Indo-Pacific strategy


In an age when illiberalism appears to be gaining steam all around the world, one of the biggest geopolitical challenges for Asian democracies is to how best to deal with China’s rise. One of the answers to this conundrum is the Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy, which Tokyo is promoting as a strategy to maintain the international liberal order in the region. But the much talked about idea is running into trouble as of late, as India, one of the key components of the strategy — has been displaying mixed feelings about it. Last month at the Shangri-La Security Dialogue in Singapore, security experts were perplexed when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — who chaired this year’s forum — made a tepid speech and even refrained from mentioning the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, which is comprised of democratic giants like the United States, Japan, Australia and India.

China in Africa

by Eleanor Albert

China has become Africa’s largest trade partner and has greatly expanded its economic ties to the continent, but its growing activities there have raised questions about its noninterference policy. 


Over the past few decades, China’s rapid economic growth and expanding middle class have fueled an unprecedented need for resources. The economic powerhouse has focused on securing the long-term energy supplies needed to sustain its industrialization, searching for secure access to oil supplies and other raw materials around the globe. As part of this effort, China has turned to Africa. Through significant investment in a continent known for political and security risks, China has boosted African oil and mining sectors in exchange for advantageous trade deals. Chinese companies are also diversifying their business pursuits in Africa, in infrastructure, manufacturing, telecommunications, and agricultural sectors. However, China’s activity in Africa has faced criticism from Western and African civil society over its controversial business practices, as well as its failure to promote good governance and human rights. Yet a number of African governments appear to be content with China’s policy. At the same time, Beijing’s complex relationship with the continent has challenged its policy of noninterference in the affairs of African governments.

What History Can Teach Us About the Current US-China Trade War

By Jin Kai
Source Link

Much has been discussed in media and academia about the emerging and probably forthcoming disputes and confrontations between China and the United States in respect to a series of bilateral, regional and global issues, upon which both sides find it increasingly difficult to agree. This calls to mind widespread concern about an incoming clash or even war between the world’s two leading economies, which stems not only from the power transition underway but from their two different cultures and civilizations. Now the war has come, only in a different form. As the increasingly strong and confident China has grown into a power, one somewhat bewilderingly perceived in the United States as both a “competitor” and a “stakeholder,”the clash has come in the guise of a trade war.

China, EU seize control of the world’s cyber agenda

Source Link

WASHINGTON — The United States is losing ground as the internet’s standard-bearer in the face of aggressive European privacy standards and China’s draconian vision for a tightly controlled web. The weakening of the American position comes after years of U.S. lawmakers and presidents, including both Donald Trump and Barack Obama, backing the tech industry’s aversion to new regulations. The EU has stepped in to fill part of that gap, setting privacy standards that companies like Facebook and Google must follow. At the same time, China is dictating companies’ security practices and demanding to see their products’ source code — developments that experts say will undermine global cybersecurity. And while the global tech industry is adapting to these new realities, no one in the Trump administration has devised a clear plan to rebut either of these agendas.

A Way Out of the Trade War?

By Barbara Matthews
Source Link

US President Donald J. Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker are expected to discuss ways to defuse the trade war between the United States and the European Union (EU) when they meet at the White House on July 25. This escalating situation, which also involves China, has brought increased attention to trade in goods, at the expense of trade in services, which account for three quarters of US gross domestic product (GDP) and four out of five jobs in the United States. Consequently, a policy that is focused on trade in goods misses not only the largest sector of the US economy, but also the United States’ prowess in providing services to international partners and the enormous potential for US service providers if allowed access to additional markets. The Trump administration should be working hard to expand markets for US services and to conclude and strengthen new agreements that encompass services trade.

The US-China War Will Have to Wait

Jacob L. Shapiro
Source Link

It’s easy to imagine a doomsday World War III scenario in which China and the United States are the main belligerents. China is pouring resources into its armed forces and is militarizing the South China Sea. The primary goal is not to make Scarborough Shoal a 21st-century Sudetenland but to find weak points in the U.S.-led archipelagic security alliance. The United States’ primary response thus far has been economic. The occasional freedom of navigation operation notwithstanding, U.S. strategy has evolved toward hitting China where it hurts most – its bottom line. If history is any indicator, this may be the point of no return. After all, it was a U.S. oil embargo that led Japan to conclude that war was its only option for dealing with the U.S. in 1941. Trade is still the lifeblood of the Chinese economy; posterity may well remember U.S. tariffs as the first pitched battle in a much larger conflict.

Trade Wars Are Not Good for the US Military Advantage

By Robert Farley

Is the United States undermining the foundations of its military advantage by initiating trade wars with most of the known world? The connections between trade and innovation are complicated, but generally speaking freer trade tends to generate more technological innovation than autarky, although much depends on the specific legal and structural conditions under which trade is conducted. During the Cold War, the United States derived immense military advantage from the global trade system that it constructed. This trade system tied the world’s most powerful economies to the United States with private and public binds, and also ensured that American producers would find consumers. While the system had drawbacks (exposure to international shocks, limitations on national economic policy) it provided a sounder basis for long-run economic growth than the autarkic policies undertaken by the Soviet Union and its Eastern European subject states.

Facebook Twitter Whatsapp Summing up the Trump Summits


Traditionally, one-on-one meetings between government leaders are scheduled only after months, or even years, of careful preparation by lower-ranking officials have narrowed or eliminated disagreements. By turning this sequence around, Donald Trump is fueling, rather than mitigating, global uncertainty. US President Donald Trump’s summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki are history, as is the G7 summit in Quebec and the NATO summit in Brussels. But already there is talk of another Trump-Putin summit in Washington, DC, sometime later this year. Some 30 years after the end of the Cold War, a four-decade era often punctuated by high-stakes, high-level encounters between American presidents and their Soviet counterparts, summits are back in fashion.

Currency Crash Course for Politicians


US President Donald Trump has imposed duties on a range of Chinese goods because he thinks that China is still holding down the renminbi's exchange rate to boost its exports. But China no longer needs to sell its goods at below-cost prices, and it has been unloading its dollar-denominated foreign-exchange reserves since 2014. MUMBAI – One major impetus behind US President Donald Trump’s protectionist policies is his belief that China has artificially weakened its currency in order to dump goods in the United States. Trump harped on this issue often during his presidential campaign. But now that he is taking action to reduce America’s bilateral trade deficit with China, there could be grave consequences for the world economy.

How Washington Can Prevent Midterm Election Interference

By Joshua A. Geltzer and Dipayan Ghosh
Source Link

When the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this month announced indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officials for hacking the Democratic Party’s and Hillary Clinton’s e-mails in 2016, President Donald Trump’s first reaction was to blame the administration of Barack Obama for not taking action against the interference. “Why didn’t they do something about it, especially when it was reported that President Obama was informed by the FBI in September, before the Election?” he tweeted.

Advice from Silicon Valley: How tech-sector practices can promote innovation in government

By Thomas Dohrmann, Ankur Ghia, and Elizabeth Murthy
Source Link

Public-sector leaders recently met with leaders from the region’s most innovative companies to learn about their culture of innovation firsthand. Here’s what they heard.

For all the impact government innovation can have on people’s lives, leaders at the national, regional, and local levels often feel constrained in bringing new technologies or ways of working to bear on their organizations. Long approval processes, a lack of resources, and time-consuming regulations can impede progress, and so does the task of assessing what innovations would be worth adopting.

To improve the functioning of government in areas such as resource allocation, talent management, and organizational culture, its leaders could learn from the experience of any number of companies and industries. But few are as synonymous with innovation as the technology sector—and even among technology hubs, Silicon Valley stands out. In March 2018, McKinsey and The Aspen Institute brought together a group of senior government leaders and tech-industry executives for two days of immersion in and discussion about innovation.1

2018 Stats on Internet, Social Media, and Mobile Trends

With Facebook privacy scandals, Twitter hashtag revolutions, and new unprecedented cyber regulations, 2018 is already shaping up to be an explosive year for the digital world.

But even with all the drama, people aren’t giving up on the internet, and more and more of us are spending our days online, connecting to each other and the world at large.

Read on to learn about our similarities and our differences, and see how we engage with the ever expanding, ever more dynamic world wide web.

Trends in Internet Use

Highest and Lowest Internet Penetration by Country

Using Social Media and Social Network Analysis in Law Enforcement

PDF file 0.9 MB 

Research Questions

How should social media data and social network analysis be used in law enforcement?

What security, privacy, and civil rights protections should be in place to ensure the appropriate and sustainable application of these technologies in law enforcement?

What needs does law enforcement have with respect to social media and social network analysis?

In April 2017, the National Institute of Justice convened an expert panel to identify high-priority needs for law enforcement's use of social media and social network analysis.

Toy Drones and Twitter: The Ability of Individuals to Wreak Large-Scale Havoc

by Colin P. Clarke
Source Link

In late April, a toy drone buzzed past the palace of the king of Saudi Arabia, leading Saudi security forces to shoot it down. Online, a story spread quickly across the internet that the Saudi royal palace was under siege and a full-fledged coup was in progress. Given the recent crackdown and imprisonment of wealthy and influential Saudis engineered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the news was believable—at least initially. But in the end, just like the commercial drone, the story of the coup plot was also shot down, proved to be false and just another piece of the ubiquitous disinformation flotsam populating the World Wide Web.

Infographic Of The Day: How Profitable Are The World's Top Crypto Exchanges?

According to estimates, calculated by Bloomberg, the top ten cryptocurrency exchanges are bringing in as much as $3 million per day in profit.

Cyberwar: What happens when a nation-state cyber attack kills?

By Danny Palmer

The increasing sophistication and power of state-backed cyber attacks has led some experts to fear that, sooner or later, by design or by accident, one of these incidents will result in somebody getting killed. It might sound far-fetched, but a former head of the UK's intelligence agency has already warned about the physical threat posed by cyber attacks and the potential damage they could do. "Nation-states are getting more sophisticated and they're getting more brazen. They're getting less worried about being caught and being named -- and of course that's a feature of geopolitics," said Robert Hannigan, who served as director general of GCHQ from 2014 to 2017.

Quantum computing: Seven truths you need to know

By Nick Heath

Experts spell out exactly what quantum computers will be used for and whether they will replace conventional number crunchers. But those benefits are still theoretical at present, with quantum computers lacking a sufficient number of processing units, known as qubits, and enough stability to do useful work. Companies are going to huge lengths to build quantum computers, cooling devices to a few micro kelvins above absolute zero. Even then challenges remain, while IBM has a 50-qubit prototype machine and Google a 72-qubit chip, each has their own roadblocks that prevent them from being truly useful devices at this moment. Here is the expert view on what quantum computers will and won't be able to do, and the challenges we still face.

Congress is giving the officer promotion system a massive overhaul

The changes would have a far-reaching impact on the culture of the officer corps and change the incentives for how individual officers manage their own careers. These are the most significant reforms we’ve seen since the late 1970s — if not longer,” said Brad Carson, who served as the Pentagon’s top personnel official during President Barack Obama’s administration. “And this isn’t just about cyber jobs or signal or the JAG corps. This can be applied to any person in any job.”


The U.S. Army and DoD are long overdue in addressing a significant capability and survivability shortcoming in its most fundamental formation—the infantry squad. Four percent of the total uniformed force—the infantry squad—has suffered almost 90% of U.S. military combat deaths since World War II. Although it is not surprising that front-line infantry Soldiers, Marines and Special Forces suffer casualties in higher proportion than the rest of the military, the United States must do everything feasible to minimize the blood spilled by its front-line warriors fulfilling their indispensable role in defense of the nation. 

Addressing this shortcoming is a political, strategic and moral issue. To prevail against near-peer threats in the increasingly lethal 21st-century security environment, the United States requires a military that is dominant in close-combat fighting. It also requires leadership and a population that is resilient enough to maintain the political will necessary to see conflicts through even with inevitable casualties. This resilience only will be possible if the nation and its military keep faith with those who volunteer to fight, and perhaps die, in the most lethal 600 meters on the battlefield.



With President Donald Trump continuing to practice diplomatic brinkmanship via Twitter, U.S.-Iranian tensions appear to be reaching a boiling point—as they have several times since Trump entered the Oval Office. The president’s latest outburst was in response to comments from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who said, “Peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.” Exactly what this means is unclear, as is often the case with the president’s bellicose social media output. Political commentators raised concerns that Trump might use such a conflict to deflect attention from his domestic troubles, whether in Syria, North Korea or Iran. But if the U.S. was to go to war against the Islamic Republic, could it win?

Defining Militant Groups: Why the Names Matter

By Scott Stewart

Much of the media continues to use outdated names for militant groups, even though the designations have long since changed.

Describing violent extremist groups as militants, rather than terrorists, does not whitewash their actions but serves to underline the multi-pronged threat they pose.

When militant groups alter their names, it often signifies a change in tactics and targets — and maybe even their degree of brutality.

Heritage To DoD: Do War Games, Experiments, Don’t Write Requirements

Source Link

A recent Chinese military exercise

WASHINGTON: During the Cold War the American military boasted enormous advantages in financing over the Soviet Union and smaller militaries, so it could make enormous and often enormously risky investments and take 15 to 20 years to see the results. It often worked, but it was slow and the world just isn’t that way anymore. Everything the Pentagon is doing today speaks of speed, avoiding large, slow programs and, perhaps most importantly, being able to tackle an incredibly wide range of threats from terrorists to guerrilla armies to Russia’s Little Green Men to the massed military of North Korea and China’s increasingly advanced and powerful regional forces. And the US must be able to tackle them anywhere and at any time across the globe. That requires change, something the US military isn’t always good at.