23 September 2018

Takshashila Discussion Document: The Doklam Imbroglio

By Lt Gen (Dr) Prakash Menon and Anirudh Kanisetti

In 2017, the Doklam plateau became a flashpoint for the Asian powers, India and China. China’s tactics in Doklam are clear examples of its general “salami-slicing” strategy, a policy of gradual encroachment onto disputed territory where other claimants are forced to accede to a new status quo tilted in China’s favour.

This Discussion Document outlines the history of the Doklam conflict, places it in contrast with China’s strategy on the McMahon line, and examines India’s response to China’s behaviour in Doklam.

During the June-August 2017 crisis (henceforth referred to as “Doklam 1.0”), India appeared to have adopted a four-pronged approach: physical denial for road building at the face-off site, a restrained public reaction to China’s aggressive and vitriolic statements, intense diplomatic back-channelling, and limited defence readiness.

India, Russia focus on innovative elements in strategic partnership


idnia_RussiaIndia and Russia must innovate solutions across sectors including revival of soft-power quotient and collaboration in innovative technology and connectivity projects in keeping with the current mutual requirements and geo-politics to bring momentum in strategic partnership. This was the focus of a two-day (Sep 13-14) high-powered workshop organised to give further impetus to the special priviledged strategic partnership ahead of the annual summit here early October. The workshop brought together Oil & Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, PM’s scientific adviser 

India must not hurry Narendra Modi into a summit with Imran Khan


It has been reported that the Pakistani army chief quietly reached out to India a few months ago “to open barriers to trade between the countries, which would give Pakistan more access to regional markets”. Given the dire economic situation Pakistan is in, good neighbourliness is anyway in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s interests at this time. But every time a new government comes to power in India or Pakistan, people start expecting dramatic progress in bilateral relations. Not just common people, but even old hands put hope ahead of experience and start pushing up expectations of thaw, progress, breakthrough or even some kind of resolution of disputes.

Is This the Revival of Russia-India Economic Ties?

By Aleksei Zakharov
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For the last several years Russia and India have been struggling to retain the legacy of their long-term friendship as their foreign policy courses have moved slowly in opposite directions. However, U.S President Donald Trump’s approaches to global trade and other issues exposes shared interests yet again between Moscow and New Delhi. Both realize that in order to mitigate the consequences of U.S. actions, they should focus on their shared interests.  The last week saw an intensification of the bilateral dialogue between Russian and Indian officials. Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry, and Civil Aviation Suresh Prabhu led the Indian delegation at the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok from September 11-13. Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Moscow on September 13-14 where she met her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and co-chaired with Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov the India-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Technical and Economic Cooperation. Both visits were aimed at bolstering economic ties and preparing the ground for the upcoming summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Asia's Next Crisis: The Coming Conflict Over Taiwan?

by Malcolm Davis

Beijing may be tempted to call Washington’s bluff on the assumption that it won’t respond. China may think that such an outcome—achieving forced reunification of Taiwan and China, strengthening China’s dominance of East Asia, and ending US strategic primacy in Asia—may be worth the risk of a war across the straits. Taiwan is a country under siege as it faces the prospect of eventual reunification with China, on China’s terms, and potentially as soon as 2021—the centenary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. From Xi Jinping’s perspective, the successful reunification of China and Taiwan, through force if necessary, would firmly entrench his position as China’s paramount leader, with prestige far exceeding Mao Zedong’s or Deng Xiaoping’s. Achieving that goal quickly is seen by Xi as an essential prerequisite for realizing the ‘ China Dream ’ of national rejuvenation. As ‘a rich country with a strong army’, China would be, in every sense, a new middle kingdom—a global superpower for the 21st century—that ultimately eclipses the United States.

What’s China up to in Antarctica?

By Claire Young

For Australian policymakers, the security advantages of the Antarctic Treaty would seem to be hiding in plain sight. The luxury of a secure, demilitarised southern neighbourhood saves us a great deal of money and kit. But it has also spared Australian governments from giving Antarctica much thought.

So, as China increased its Antarctic activities over the past decade, there’s been a lack of steady, substantial funding for Australian engagement in the treaty system, which is run by consensus by scientifically active states. Although a new vessel, year-round runway and Antarctic aviation have been approved, Australian governments still need to stump up the bulk of the funding.

As the trade war rages, China’s economic tightrope tremors

Sara Hsu

China’s banking system is under pressure as regulators attempt to reduce risks stemming from shadow banking and excessive corporate leveraging. The US–China trade war is adding to this pressure by threatening to further slow growth. The Chinese government is in a bind since its go-to methods to stimulate the economy are among the main causes of this current headache.

China’s central bank has stressed that it will stay on a course of prudent and neutral monetary policy, while ensuring that there is sufficient liquidity in the financial system. Keeping financial risks at bay is a major aim. In other words, it is unlikely that the central bank will inject a large amount of funds into the economy, but rather just enough to maintain policy targets.

China Struggles With Belt And Road Pushback – Analysis

By James M. Dorsey

China, in an implicit recognition that at least some of its Belt and Road-related projects risk trapping target countries in debt or fail to meet their needs, has conceded that adjustments may be necessary.

China’s Trade-War Tack Is Steeped in History

David Fickling

David Fickling is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering commodities, as well as industrial and consumer companies. He has been a reporter for Bloomberg News, Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Guardian. President Donald Trump certainly has a way of picking his moment. After weeks of will-he, won’t-he, the U.S. government’s latest announcement on tariffs on $200 billion-worth of Chinese goods came Tuesday Beijing time, just as the nation was preparing a nationalistic commemoration of resistance to foreign humiliation. Sept. 18, 1931 marks the Mukden Incident, when dissident Japanese soldiers staged a fake attack on a railway line near the modern Chinese city of Shenyang as a pretext to their country’s invasion of Manchuria.

China Once Looked Tough on Trade. Now Its Options Are Dwindling.

By Keith Bradsher

BEIJING — President Trump imposed tariffs in July on $34 billion in Chinese goods. China matched them dollar for dollar with its own. Then he hit an additional $16 billion in goods in August. China matched that, too. Now, Mr. Trump has made his biggest move yet, announcing 10 percent tariffs starting in a week on $200 billion a year of Chinese goods. But this time, China can’t match them all — and that crystallizes a growing problem for Beijing. On Tuesday, Chinese officials responded to the president’s latest move by following through on an earlier threat to impose tariffs on $60 billion in American goods — nearly everything China buys from the United States.

The EU Is Looking Like Europe’s Next Failed Empire

James Stavridis

James Stavridis is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former military commander of NATO, and dean emeritus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He is also an operating executive consultant at the Carlyle Group.

Walking the streets of Budapest along the banks of the Danube, one is constantly reminded of the glories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The grand buildings hearken back to an unwieldy political entity that eventually disintegrated in the aftermath of the First World War. Today in Europe, we see another awkward federation — the European Union — under extreme centrifugal forces of its own, threatening to pull apart the dream of unifying the continent.

Francis Fukuyama: Identity politics is undermining democracy

By Nathan Gardels

Francis Fukuyama is a political scientist at Stanford University. His latest book is “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment,” which came out in September. He recently spoke with The WorldPost’s editor in chief, Nathan Gardels.

WorldPost: Across Western democracies, the social cohesion that was once the foundation of political consensus has severely fragmented, giving way to a cultural and ideological diversity so robust that it thwarts a common sense of belonging. That, in turn, leads to a search for identity in ever more fragmented tribes, whether it’s Black Lives Matter, the return of the white power movement, or the LGBT movement and the many other acronymic specifications.

Russia reveals the MH17 ‘smoking gun’

The Russian Defense Ministry may have finally unveiled the “smoking gun” able to solve the mystery surrounding Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, shot down on July 17, 2014 over the Donetsk Oblast, a province in eastern Ukraine.

The MH17 crash killed 283 passengers from 10 different countries and 15 crew members. A Joint Investigation Team (JIT) from Malaysia, the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine – but not Russia – seemed to reach a controversial verdict: Moscow did it.

Well, not really, according to a detailed presentation by Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov and Lt. Gen. Nikolai Parshin, head of the Main Missile and Artillery Directorate.

Trans-Atlantic Scorecard – September 2018

Welcome to the first edition of the Trans-Atlantic Scorecard, a new quarterly evaluation of U.S.-European relations produced by Brookings’s Center on the United States and Europe (CUSE), as part of the Brookings – Robert Bosch Foundation Transatlantic InitiativeTo produce the Scorecard, we polled Brookings experts on the present state of U.S. relations with Europe—overall and in the political, security, and economic dimensions—as well as on the state of U.S. relations with five key countries and the European Union itself. We also asked about several major issues in the news. The poll for this edition of the survey was conducted September 4-10, 2018.

Russia in Ukraine 2013-2016: The Application of New Type Warfare Maximizing the Exploitation of Cyber, IO, and Media

Ronald Sprang
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This case study for analysis focuses on Russian operations in Ukraine from 2013-2016. Russian decision-making in Ukraine has demonstrated the ability to use cyber and information warfare to influence operations to support military and political objectives, and continued preparation of the cyber environment to create a range of options for future action.[i] The Russians were able to use Ukraine operations as a test for New Generation Warfare (NGW) to enhance the deep battle concept. Russia has adeptly executed deep battle, creating time and space to effectively employ limited ground forces and special operations to achieve desired effects. The employment of the cyber domain created windows of opportunity for success and simultaneous execution of offensive and defensive tasks across the strategic and operational levels and other domains. Additionally, the cyber capabilities employed allowed the Russians to achieve three critical strategic effects; 1) troop levels were minimized through integrated cyber operations and operational advantage gained; 2) Russian leadership maintained plausible deniability through effective cyber and information operations delaying international intervention; 3) cyber operations achieved desired effects and kept the threshold for violence below an international outcry for intervention or interference allowing the Russians to achieve the strategic objective to control key terrain in Ukraine.[ii]

The Psychology of Strategy & Strategy, Evolution, and War

T. Greer

A new science of human behavior has emerged over the past two decades. This new science has linked together the research of neuroscientists, cognitive and evolutionary anthropologists, decision theorists, social and cross cultural psychologists, cognitive scientists, ethnologists, linguists, endocrinologists, and behavioral economists into a cohesive body of research on why humans do what they do. Research in this field rests on two propositions about the human mind. The first, that the mind is embodied; the second, that it is evolved.

When behavioral scientists say the mind is embodied, they mean the mind is a biological thing and the study of decision making cannot be divorced from the architecture of the biological machinery that makes the decisions. Their research suggests most of the mind’s machinery works under the hood, below the level of conscious awareness. Researchers have their favorite object of study: for some it is hormones and emotions, for others it is specialized cognitive modules evolved in the deep human past to solve problems faced by our hominid ancestors, and for yet others it is culturally created cognitive gadgets impressed into the biological structure of brains at an early age by the societies in which we grew up.

Bitcoin Hasn’t Funded any Terror Attacks in Europe, Europol Report Reveals

Bitcoin and similar digital assets were not used to fund any of the recent terror attacks in Europe, finds a Europol report that paints a clear picture of the contribution of cryptocurrencies to online crime.

The 72-page long study [PDF], titled Intenet Organized Threat Assessment 2018, thoroughly touches upon the various modules of online crime, ranging from ransomware attacks to child pornography. The report mentions Bitcoin on 18 pages to discuss its alleged and confirmed use in several illegal operations online, including terrorism.

Mis-sold, expensive and overhyped: why our universities are a con

Aditya Chakrabortty

In any other area it would be called mis-selling. Given the sheer numbers of those duped, a scandal would erupt and the guilty parties would be forced to make amends. In this case, they’d include some of the most eminent politicians in Britain.

But we don’t call it mis-selling. We refer to it instead as “going to uni”. Over the next few days, about half a million people will start as full-time undergraduates. Perhaps your child will be among them, bearing matching Ikea crockery and a fleeting resolve to call home every week. 

They are making one of the biggest purchases of their lives, shelling out more than one might on a sleek new Mercedes



In 1984, a science fiction movie starring an up-and-coming Austrian-American actor took the box office by storm. A cybernetic organism is sent back in time to seek out and kill the mother of a great war hero to prevent his subsequent birth. The cyborg scans a phone book page and begins methodically killing all women named Sarah Connor in the Los Angeles area, starting at the top of the list. If The Terminator were set in today’s world, the movie would have ended after four and a half minutes. The correct Sarah Connor would have been identified with nothing but a last name and a zip code—information leaked last year in the massive Equifax data breach. The war against the machines would have been over before it started, and no one would have ever noticed. The most frightening thing about cyberwarfare is just how specifically targeted it can be: An enemy can leap national boundaries to strike at a single person, a class of people, or a geographic area.

How Air Force Tankers, Transports Can Survive In High-Tech War


AFA: Air Mobility Command’s tankers and transports would be big, slow targets in a major war, but without them, most of the US military can’t move. The imperative to fly fuel, supplies, and troops in the face of high-tech threats – from anti-aircraft missiles to cyber attack – is forcing AMC to change its approach to aircraft upgrades, communications networks, and what they ask airmen to think about every day, its new commander told reporters here this morning. AMC wants to stimulate innovative thinking by all its people, Gen. Maryanne Miller said, but “not so much on innovation for innovation’s sake” – they have to be “much more focused.” On what? “It needs to be on our resilient and agile response,” she said, “being able to operate in that contested, degraded, or operationally challenged threat environment.”

What’s Next for the New ASEAN-Singapore Cyber Center?

By Prashanth Parameswaran

This week, Singapore announced the setting up of a new cybersecurity body to boost the capabilities of Southeast Asian states in this realm. While the move is just the latest in a string of measures proposed by the city-state over the past few years, it nonetheless bears noting within the context of the significant challenges that the region faces in the cyber domain and Singapore’s leadership efforts in helping manage those in concert with regional partners. As I have noted before in these pages, Singapore as a country and Southeast Asia as a region have been grapping with a growing cyber challenge as states try to balance the opportunities afforded by the digital economy – a significant driver of economic and technological progress – with the issues raised due to the increased sophistication of cyber threats in an increasingly networked world and their links to other challenges such as terrorism and fake news.

Are We Being Played in the Pacific?

By Fergus Hanson

If you were trying to design a low-cost strategy to constrict the operational horizon of an important US ally in the region, China’s ploys in the Pacific wouldn’t be a bad model to examine. China has been talking a big game in the Pacific. It’s been reported as looking to fund a major regional military base in Fiji and scoping Vanuatu for a military base of its own. And it apparently has plans to refurbish four ports in Papua New Guinea, including the strategically significant Manus Island. Over the decade 2006–2016, it has committed US$1.8 billion in aid, and Chinese telco Huawei has sought to build undersea internet cables in the region.

Australia’s response has been frenzied, but perhaps not yet that strategic.

Virtual Training Will Save Real Army Lives: Close Combat Task Force


PENTAGON: Of all the technologies and tactics that the defense secretary’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force has looked at, I asked one battle-hardened noncom here this morning, what’s the one thing you personally think has the most potential to save lives? His answer wasn’t a bigger gun or a new drone. Instead, Sgt. Major Jason Wilson said, without a second of hesitation, “the Synthetic Training Environment.” That’s a new combination of virtual reality and real-world data that could revolutionize training for an ancient art — what Wilson called “extreme violence within line of sight of the enemy.”

Task Force Looks at Making Infantry Squads More Lethal

The Close Combat Lethality Task Force is gathering information from the services, industry and allies before making recommendations to Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, the senior Army enlisted representative to the task force said Wednesday. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Army Sgt. Maj. Jason Wilson explained the process for the task force, which Mattis set up in March. The task force seeks to ensure Army, Marine Corps and special operations infantry squads overmatch any potential adversary, he said. Noting that infantry squads need to be more lethal, more resilient and more capable, he said the task force has the mission to look at lethality from every angle, from personnel to equipment to training to doctrine, and make recommendations to the secretary.

Here's 1 Way to Replace Navy Aircraft Carriers Could this work?

by T. X. Hammes
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There is an ongoing debate about the continued viability of the aircraft carrier. Proponents point to the fact the carrier provides a range of capabilities essential for power projection and sea control that, without basing rights, cannot be provided in any other way. Opponents note that several nations have drones and cruise missiles that vastly outrange the short-legged carrier air wing. They also note that China has developed a ballistic missile specifically to kill carriers. A particular concern is that a carrier and air wing alone cost $20 billion and 5,000 Americans live aboard. This is an enormous investment of eggs is a possibly fragile basket.