3 August 2018

As India’s Rafale Controversy Rages, Reforms on Defense Acquisitions Needed

By Aman Thakker

The political discourse surrounding the deal underscores a need for India to rethink its defense acquisition processes.

On July 20, when the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance faced its first vote of no confidence, the president of the Indian National Congress, Rahul Gandhi, hit out against the government on a host of issues ranging from job creation to foreign policy. However, one criticism has garnered particular attention: the allegation that Modi had overpaid for the fighter jets when he purchased 36 “ready-to-fly” Rafale fighter jets, and that the deal included financial irregularities that have amounted to a “scam.”

While the government has defended the agreement as going beyond the original deal by bringing advanced weaponry such as the Meteor missile to India, and showcasing it as an example of Modi’s decisive leadership style, the opposition has suggested that the government grossly overpaid for the jets when compared to the deal negotiated by the Congress, and is purposefully keeping the price details confidential. However, despite the exchange attacks between the government and the opposition parties, the controversy underscores a deeper and systemic issue facing India’s acquisition of defense equipment, especially as India launches another tender for 110 jets.

India’s defense data leaked as it debated data protection law


In the days following India’s currency demonetization, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) stopped publishing raw transactional trade data of every product being imported and exported by India. The trade database was public and provided market intelligence for traders and businesses.

As India debates data protection and information security, this database shutdown provides insights on issues of transparency, privacy, national security, ownership and security of data controlled by various government departments.

The daily list page of the customs portal provided a week’s span of transactional trade data every week for years. The fields of these data included product harmonized code, description of goods, port of origin, quantity, and value of goods. The description of goods also had sensitive information of its purpose. In the case of defense imports, a simple bolt imported had descriptions like “for defense use,” “aircraft engine parts for defense use,” or “for Indian Navy use.”

India needs to build trust in the private sector

Arvind Subramanian has often said that India is affected by the problem of stigmatized capitalism. There is neither enough trust in the private sector nor in the ability of the government to regulate it. Political hyperbole only adds to the problem. Consequently, the government of the day is always worried that big reforms (privatization, for instance) would be seen as being pro-business and anti-poor. Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done well to make it clear that he is not afraid to stand with industrialists and they are as important as anyone else. This should inspire confidence among investors.

The importance of industrialists and entrepreneurs cannot be overstated in an economy like India. They take the risk to build businesses that produce goods and services, and jobs, which are essential for economic growth. Businesses also generate the tax revenue which is used to build bridges and schools. Therefore, a political environment that appears to be hostile to business does not augur well for the economy. Capital is extremely mobile in today’s interconnected world and tends to avoid economies where it is not treated well. If India’s political establishment is unable to trust domestic industrialists, attracting foreign capital will become difficult, which is needed to plug the savings gap. As things stand today, capacity utilization in the country is rising, and if investments are not made in time, inflation will shoot up and growth will become unsustainable.

How India must deal with Imran's Pakistan

Pakistan's 2018 parliamentary election will in many ways be regarded as yet another a turning point in the country's turbulent history and its efforts to develop strong and enduring democratic institutions. Barely six months ago, Pakistanis were proudly proclaiming that they were actually heading for their third consecutive free and fair parliamentary election, uninterrupted by an army coup. While Nawaz Sharif had twice been ousted earlier by the military, he, like his compatriots across the country, discovered that as the election approached, they confronted a totally new challenge.

All the Prime Minister’s Women


It was a hot day in mid-July when Salman Sufi found out that he had been fired. Until then, Sufi had been a senior member of the Punjab chief minister’s Special Monitoring Unit, where he had, among other things, developed and implemented the Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act in 2016. The law was controversial, not least because it allowed for speedy hearings on cases, made special provisions for the development of women’s shelters, expedited procedures that allowed for the removal of abusive men from homes, and sought to implement GPS tracking of abusers. The country’s ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), was committed to getting the reforms through in the province of Punjab, and Sufi was there to help it do so.

Imran Khan’s Shine Won’t Last as Pakistan’s Prime Minister

On March 25, 1992, Pakistan experienced one of the greatest moments in its history.

Playing before a crowd of nearly 90,000 people on a pitch in Australia, Pakistan’s national cricket team defeated England to win the sport’s world cup. For the first time in its 45-year existence, cricket-mad Pakistan was the champion of the world. Back home, euphoric Pakistanis poured out of their homes to celebrate. It was, in the words of cricket writer Mohammad Ramis, “the jubilation of their lives.”
Pakistan’s squad was led by 40-year-old team captain Imran Khan, a star batter and bowler then in the twilight of an illustrious career.

Fast-forward to today. Khan, now a star politician, is poised to become Pakistan’s next prime minister after his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party triumphed in elections last week.

A New Batsman for Pakistan

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Imran Khan, the cricketer who led Pakistan to a glorious World Cup victory over its former colonial ruler, England, a quarter century ago, led his political party to an equally impressive victory in Pakistan’s national elections this week. In a country as corrupt and troubled as Pakistan, a new, charismatic leader is bound to raise hopes; whether Mr. Khan can deliver is a far different question. Pakistan’s woes are many and grave. Corruption runs deep — the last elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was imprisoned two weeks ago. The national debt is ballooning, the electricity grid is disintegrating and jobs are so scarce that Pakistani workers are compelled to fan out across the Middle East to take whatever work they can find. On top of that, terrorists strike often, relations with the United States are bad and politics are chronically unstable, with a tradition of military meddling.

Daily Memo: US Funding Shortfalls, Exclusions from NAFTA, Skepticism of Pakistan

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All the news worth knowing today.

The United States may not be putting its money where its mouth is in the Indo-Pacific. It has spoken of the region’s importance, but a recently unveiled economic component to its regional strategy allocates a mere $113 million to fund digital, energy and infrastructure connectivity. It does, however, raise the spending limit for USAID in the region, and it calls for $25 million to increase U.S. technology exports. Meanwhile, Washington announced without elaboration that it had formed a partnership with Australia and Japan to goose Indo-Pacific economic growth and development. At first glance, the plan appears to pale in comparison to the hundreds of billions of dollars China plans to spend in the region. But U.S. businesses already invest heavily in the region, even without government direction or backing. This speaks to both a strength and a weakness of the U.S. strategy: Washington has a hard time spending on specific projects, particularly the sort of commercially dubious but strategically important ventures China is funneling money into, but U.S. investment is likely more sustainable over the long term. (There are reports, moreover, that China is failing to honor some of its financial commitments. The Philippines, for example, has seen just $150 million of the $24 billion Beijing promised it more than two years ago.) In any case, the United States under President Donald Trump tends to favor military strength over economic ties and so will look to Japan and Australia to foot the bill for economic growth and development projects in the region.

Pakistan, the United States, and the IMF

With the Pakistani elections in the rearview mirror, one thing is clear—the economy remains a longstanding mess.

In view of mounting economic stresses, it has been conventional wisdom for over a year that Pakistan will need to embrace the IMF immediately after the elections.

According to IMF data, the fund has had 21 programs with Pakistan since 1958, 14 of which since 1980. Suffice it to say, overall this has not been a healthy relationship. While the fund may have helped maintain a semblance of macroeconomic stability, the IMF’s involvement, along with the World Bank and others, has surely not helped Pakistan break out of a low-growth trap. 

U.S.-Led Infrastructure Aid to Counter China in Indo-Pacific

By Jason Scott

The U.S., Japan and Australia agreed to invest in infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific in a move that will be seen as a counter to China’s rising influence in a region that stretches from the east coast of Africa, through Australia to Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. “This trilateral partnership is in recognition that more support is needed to enhance peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” Australia Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Tuesday in an emailed statement. The pact will mobilize investment in energy, transportation, tourism and technology infrastructure, according to the statement, which didn’t give any funding details.

Fighting Chinese cyber-espionage could cost U.S. 5G dominance

Ryan Duffy

As the U.S. government works to neutralize its Chinese counterparts’ efforts to conduct surveillance via commercial telecom products, it may unintentionally jeopardize the United States’ bid to beat China to a nationwide 5G network. 

This summer, U.S. officials, policymakers and allies have cracked down on Huawei and ZTE, two large Chinese smartphone and telecommunications equipment manufacturers. The pair are believed to have a cozy relationship with the Chinese Communist Party and People’s Liberation Army. Washington fears that relationship could lead Beijing to tap into equipment owned by those companies to siphon sensitive information and possibly lay the groundwork for cyberattacks. 

Russia is dumping US Treasuries. Will China be next?

Despite US President Donald Trump’s best efforts to make nice with Russia, it seems the Kremlin is not putting all of its eggs in the détente basket. As a hedge against the success reproachment – and possible accompanying sactions relief – Moscow is reportedly dumping US government debt, and doing so fast.

“A US Treasury report this week appears to show Russia liquidating dollar assets at a record pace, selling four-fifths of its cache of US government debt, $81 billion worth, over a two-month period. It started in April, when the U.S. imposed the most onerous sanctions yet on allies of Putin,” Bloomberg reported Friday.

The move is “the obvious way to limit a country’s exposure to US sanctions,” according to Brad Setser, a former Treasury Department official who is now at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.


Doug Livermore

Between 1950 and 1972, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in close cooperation with the Departments of State (DoS) and Defense (DoD), conducted a comprehensive covert action campaign in support of Tibetan resistance movements fighting against Communist Chinese occupation of their homeland. The campaign consisted of “political action, propaganda, paramilitary, and intelligence operations” intended to internally weaken and undermine the expansionist ambitions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).[i] Following the October 1950 invasion of Tibet by the PRC, the CIA’s Special Activities Division (SAD) inserted teams into Tibet to train, advise, and assist Tibetans who were already fighting the Communists.[ii]

Censorship, Geopolitical Time Bombs, and China’s Islamophobia Problem

By: Matt Schrader

China has a serious and worsening Islamophobia problem. While relations between China’s Muslim minorities and its Han majority have been fraught since 2009’s deadly inter-ethnic riots in the far western city of Urumqi, recent years have seen the normalization of online hate speech directed at Muslims. The rise of Islamophobia inside China is a product both of government action, and of the government’s failure to act. Commentary on the recent death of a prominent Muslim leader in the western province of Qinghai highlights the extent to which the situation has deteriorated, and suggests the ways in which China’s warped online discourse could blunt its efforts to build influence and win friends in countries across the Muslim world.

Iran Ramps Up Support to Taliban in Western Afghanistan

By: Abubakar Siddique

During an official visit to Iran in May, Tariq Shah Bahrami, Afghanistan’s defense minister, received assurances that Tehran was fully committed to helping Kabul fight terrorism. It was a welcome guarantee, coming as Afghan forces faced a fresh onslaught from the Taliban, which typically mounts an annual offensive in April. Within months, however, the promise appeared to ring hollow as Afghan officials increasingly blamed Iran for the fighting in Afghanistan’s western Farah province.

A Common Enemy

The Syrian War Is Over, and America Lost


Earlier this month, Syrian regime forces hoisted their flag above the southern town of Daraa and celebrated. Although there is more bloodletting to come, the symbolism was hard to miss. The uprising that began in that town on March 6, 2011, has finally been crushed, and the civil war that has engulfed the country and destabilized parts of the Middle East as well as Europe will be over sooner rather than later. Bashar al-Assad, the man who was supposed to fall in “a matter of time,” has prevailed with the help of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah over his own people.

Washington is too busy over the furor of the day to reflect on the fact that there are approximately 500,000 fewer Syrians today than there were when a group of boys spray-painted “The people demand the fall of the regime” on buildings in Daraa more than seven years ago. But now that the Syria conflict has been decided, it’s worth thinking about the purpose and place of the United States in the new Middle East. The first order of business is to dispose of the shibboleths that have long been at the core of U.S. foreign policy in the region and have contributed to its confusion and paralysis in Syria and beyond.

NATO in Ukraine: High Strategic Stake, Irresolute Engagement

United States President Donald Trump’s behavior at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) recent summit in Brussels (July 11–12) and in its aftermath has cast a shadow on this landmark event. Trump’s follow-up actions, including the meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, continued hitting at NATO and the European Union from afar. Trump’s persona and his possible motivations furnished the main topic of analysis throughout these events, diverting attention from the actual results of the NATO Brussels Summit. Its agenda and decisions clearly identified Russia as the main source of threats and challenges to the Alliance. The summit’s balance sheet is a mixture of significant accomplishments and unfinished business left over from years past, notably in the Black Sea region and NATO’s eastern neighborhood.

Russia Will Not Mass-Produce T-14 Armata Main Battle Tank

By Franz-Stefan Gady

Russia will not mass-produce its new third-generation T-14 Armata main battle tank (MBT) as it is too costly, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told Russian media on July 30. Instead, the Russian military will continue to rely on older platforms such as the T-72B3s (fitted with explosive reactive armor), an upgraded variant of the original Soviet-era T-72 MBT, or the T-90A MBT, according to Borisov.

“Why flood our military with Armatas, the T-72s are in great demand on the markets,” the deputy prime minister said noting that the upgraded variant of the T-72 “leaves far behind” German, French and U.S. MBTs currently in service “in terms of price, efficiency and quality.” Furthermore, Borisov noted, when discussing the government’s decision to modernize older armor platforms: “Having a military budget ten times smaller than that of NATO, we are achieving our objectives due to such efficient solutions.”

Truce Aside, U.S.-EU Trade Relations Are In for a Bumpy Ride

Although the European Union and the United States agreed to negotiate a trade deal that includes only manufactured goods, Washington has already put agricultural products on the table and will likely keep them there as talks continue.

France, Italy and other protectionist governments on the Continent will resist U.S. – and likely German – calls for U.S.-EU trade talks to include agricultural products.

European leaders are already saying that talks will eventually need to include the auto sector and address U.S. "Buy American" laws.

American demands on agriculture and vehicle protectionism, however, could derail the prospects of a deal, making the future of U.S.-EU trade relations potentially stormy.

An American Perspective of US-German Relations

George Friedman 

Christian Hacke, a distinguished German scholar, has written an important article on the future of Germany’s national strategy. He has done well in laying out Germany’s options from a German point of view, as well as identifying uncomfortable conversations that the country needs to have. I think, however, that the American point of view, even under President Donald Trump, is more complex and sophisticated than most Europeans acknowledge.

In the article, which first appeared in the German-language Cicero magazine, Hacke raises as one of the possible courses for Germany that it may become a self-reliant nuclear power. The mere suggestion makes this an important article – though it is a conversation that has been had before, most recently in the wake of Trump’s election – but equally important is that the article is heavily focused on the United States. To a great extent, German national strategy will be a response to the willingness of the United States to continue its internationalist policy. The conversation should begin here.

America’s Counterterrorism Gamble

U.S. national security is shifting from a focus on countering terrorist groups to competing with state adversaries. While it is reasonable to focus more attention on adversaries like Russia, Iran, North Korea, and China, terrorist groups like the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and Hezbollah still present a threat to the United States. Indeed, state and non-state adversaries frequently overlap, since countries like Iran use terrorist groups like Hezbollah to pursue their interests. It would be unnecessarily risky for the United States to move too quickly away from countering terrorists while the threat is still high, allowing groups and networks to resurge. 

U.S. economic strategy for Indo-Pacific doesn't stack up to China's

In a speech on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rolled out the Trump administration’s long-awaited Indo-Pacific economic strategy, outlining the Trump administration’s alternative to China’s Belt and Road initiative.
The big picture: The Trump administration has made the region a centerpiece of its approach to Asia, speaking frequently about the importance of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” Pompeo highlighted the importance of deeper U.S. engagement with this large and fast-growing economic area, but the proposed strategy falls short of the scale needed to provide credible alternatives to China’s efforts, which include increasingly prominent cases of “debt-trap” diplomacy.

Is the Threat of Nuclear Terrorism Distracting Attention from More Realistic Threats?

by Antonia Ward

At the final Nuclear Summit of his presidency in Washington D.C. in 2016, Barack Obama said the risk of ISIS or other extremist groups acquiring nuclear weapons remains “one of the greatest threats to global security.” A number of terrorist groups, including ISIS and al-Qaeda, have expressed explicit intentions to acquire and use nuclear material. However, countries face far more pressing threats than nuclear terrorism and authorities would be better off focusing on insurgents' frequent use of conventional weapons, such as chemicals and bombs.


“In order for things to remain the same, everything must change” – Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Here’s the problem: the winning party, the Election Commission and other institutions involved in last week’s national polls say there is nothing wrong in the way the results were announced, and that the outcome of the electoral exercise is the will of the people. They say it’s fair play.

Those affected by the unprecedented delay in poll results announcements and almost surreal developments in vote counting and tabulation, among other things, cry brazen foul play. They allege that the umpire’s thumb and finger both were at work in ensuring the PTI’s victory (and their loss). So while Imran Khan wants to make government at the centre and in Punjab, the broad coalition of parties (PML-N, MMA, ANP, PPP, PSP, MQM, and the rest) wants to expand their protest and question the very foundation on which the PTI’s victory stands.

Mitigate threats, not workers’ ability to do their jobs

By: George Kamis 

Recently, hackers stole 614GB of highly sensitive data related to a U.S. Navy project called “Sea Dragon.” The data was stored on a naval contractor’s unclassified network. The incident is still under investigation, although it is reasonable to assume that somewhere, someone’s credentials were compromised to initiate the attack. The Sea Dragon incident is only one example of external hackers taking advantage of employees’ information. Indeed, according to the 2017 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 81 percent of data breaches were caused by the hijacking of user credentials by hackers to gain access to internal systems and data. It is a troubling trend that organizations, including government agencies and contractors, have struggled to defend against as they continually seek a balance between better security and giving employees the freedom necessary to accomplish their missions.

Russian Jamming Poses a Growing Threat to U.S. Troops in Syria


American troops deployed in Syria are increasingly having to defend themselves against Russian jamming devices—electronic attacks with potentially lethal consequences, according to U.S. military officials and analysts. Officers who have experienced the jamming—known as electronic warfare—say it’s no less dangerous than conventional attacks with bombs and artillery. But they also say it’s allowing U.S. troops a rare opportunity to experience Russian technology in the battlefield and figure out how to defend against it.

Satellite Imagery + Social Media = A New Way to Spot Emerging Nuclear Threats


A research team is training computers to find and fuse clues from wildly different rivers of digital data. Hiding illicit nuclear programs might be getting harder, thanks to new ways of gleaning and combining clues from various rivers of digital data. That’s the conclusion of new research funded in part by the U.S. Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Satellites offer one kind of information; social media another — particularly inside countries that may be trying to flout inspections. But large volumes of satellite imagery and social media data aren’t similar. You can have one analyst examine satellite pictures and another look at social media posts to see if they align, but the process is time-consuming and generally far from comprehensive. The study’s authors developed a method for fusing different types of data in a machine-readable way to offer a much clearer picture.

Why I Didn’t Sign Up to Defend the International Order


Last week, a group of prominent international relations scholars published an ad in the New York Times under the headline “Why We Should Preserve International Institutions and Order.” You can find the text and a list of signatories here. The scholars who drafted the ad are a who’s who of experts on international political economy, but the list of endorsers also includes many people who work on other aspects of international relations, including security, gender, and other topics.

The ad is directed at U.S. President Donald Trump’s disregard for—if not outright hostility toward—the various institutions that have been prominent in world politics for the past 60-plus years. It argues that the “international order formed after World War II provides important benefits to the United States,” and declares that “U.S. leadership helped to create this system” and has “long been critical for its success.” It acknowledges that the United States has borne a “significant share of the costs” of this order but has also “greatly benefited from its rewards.” The signatories are “alarmed” by Trump’s repeated attacks on these arrangements, which they describe as “reckless.” While conceding that the “global order is certainly in need of major changes,” they nonetheless warn of a descent into chaos if today’s institutions are discarded.

Tool of Peace and War: Save the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute

The U.S. military is currently at war with itself, and a casualty may be a valuable Army institution that protects not only U.S. interests, but also the lives of U.S. service members.

Dr. Tammy S. Schultz is a professor of strategic studies at the U.S. Marine Corps War College. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Department of Defense, U.S. Marine Corps, or U.S. Marine Corps University. The author worked at PKSOI from 2005-2007. 

The U.S. military is currently at war with itself, and a casualty may be a valuable Army institution that protects not only U.S. interests, but also the lives of U.S. service members. Since its establishment in 1993, the Army War College’s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI) has led the development of capabilities across the U.S. government and international organizations to support peace and stability activities and missions. But, according to various sources in the Pentagon, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper recommended eliminating PKSOI, in spite of much of the Army Staff’s objections. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has to make a decision on or around August 15, 2018. Although there is not much time, PKSOI can yet be saved.

Assessing the Needs of Soldiers and Their Families at the Garrison Level

PDF file 0.5 MB 

Research Questions
What are soldiers' and families' perceived problems?
How do soldiers and families use Army resources to cope with these problems?
How do issues confronting soldiers and their families differ across garrisons?
Are there local patterns of disparate problems, needs, or resource use?

The RAND Arroyo Center conducted a 2014 formal needs assessment survey of active component soldiers at 40 installations. The original study described a broad landscape of needs in such areas as quality of life support services provided to help families cope with a variety of challenges. In this report, new analysis of those survey data explores differences at the garrison level and includes additional focus group data. The analysis suggests that resources providing one-on-one, personalized help should be given priority and it is possible that emphasizing trust between soldiers and their leaders could help fulfill this need. Providing easily accessible information online and staffing services that provide information to soldiers and their families should also be continuing priorities. In intergovernmental support agreements and other community partnership activities, Army garrisons should consider focusing more on partnerships that help meet the needs of soldiers and their families. The Army might consider a series of solutions to achieve the right balance between fostering resilience and helping its soldiers solve problems early. One solution is to expose noncommissioned officers and other soldiers earlier and more frequently in their careers to information regarding what resources are available. Another solution is to set priorities at the aggregate Army level, rather than leaving lower levels to determine how to prioritize the many requirements that are passed down. Finally, the Army should consider strengthening the "no wrong door" policy at Army Community Service and broadening the policy to help soldiers and families navigate resources.