27 November 2018

The Triumph of Hindu Majoritarianism

By Kanchan Chandra

In August, former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee died at the age of 93. India’s first prime minister from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vajpayee is often held up as an exemplar of moderate Hindu nationalism, especially in contrast to the current prime minister, Narendra Modi, who espouses a more strident ideology. Vajpayee’s obituaries have been written as obituaries not only of the man but also of that ideological moderation.

Yet what has gone unnoticed in Vajpayee’s death is the passing of an older, pluralist idea of India. In 1997, the historian Sunil Khilnani described "the idea of India,” usually attributed to the country’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, as an imagined secular, pluralist, polity that belonged to all Indians and not to any one group. In particular, India did not belong to the Hindu majority, which constituted 80 percent of the country’s population according to the last official census. It was this secular idea that created India in 1947, not as the Hindu mirror of a Muslim Pakistan, but as the pluralist opposite of majoritarian nationalism.

67 Years Later, The Board Is Back In Control Of RBI

by Subhomoy Bhattacharjee

It will need another crisis to tell us if the government or more specifically the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India have decided to work together rather than at each other. The truce on Monday only tells us that the current set of differences have been discussed and possibly papered over. It does not throw up any evidence that the two have worked out a proforma to handle future differences.

But on one aspect there is a clear direction ahead. RBI will now be a board driven organisation. This is likely to be reflected in the next announcement of the monetary policy by the Governor Urjit Patel on 5 December.

So if any bank in future needs to be merged with another or even closed down, it is clear that the Governor will have to walk to the Central Board and ask for permission beforehand. It would turn back the clock though, once he does so.

To Stop The Next Kasabs: 10 Years After 26/11, Is India Any Safer?

War today has mutated; it now comes in many forms. Once it used to have a beginning and an end—truce and peace would follow war. Terrorism, its most dreaded modern mutant, breaks that template. It has the feel of a permanent war, one without end or armistice. November 26 is a day to remember one of the biggest terror strikes India has seen—big on spectacle like 9/11, and almost equal in its disruptive nature, if not the number of people who lay dead at the end. One decade since that November day, it’s a time to mourn the dead—a staggering 166 civilians and security personnel—and to take what appears in the retrospective lens and apply it to the future. The best way to honour those dead would be to ensure the mistakes that brought it about, or aided it, are never repeated. Are we ready to face a new, morphed form of violent terror? Before we look at the gaps in our fences, we must crack the code of terror, put its Rubik’s cube squares in a pattern.

Water Security in India Threat Mapping: Impact of Climate Change

"Water Security in India Threat Mapping: Impact of Climate Change" Peace and Security Review, Vol 8, Number 17 (2018)

Water has been a much discussed topic in India in recent years. Starting from the government’s decision on inter-river linking, construction of dams to localised state conflicts over sharing, water touches a chord across religion both ethnically and politically. Hence if water becomes skewed owing to continuous lack of rainfall and simultaneous exploitation for human consumption, it could soon attain a national narrative that would have a bearing on the national economy, agricultural output, religious tourism (given that river is the religious lifeline of the country) subaltern conflicts and much more. The report illustrates five contributing factors/parameters/ issues to water insecurity such as: ground water depletion, glacial retreat, rainfall, temperature fluctuation, national water governance and civil society initiatives such as various water conservation practices. The issues were then studied in each ecological zone to understand the broader link between the causes of water scarcity and climatic variability.

Local Governance in Afghanistan: The Unwalked Path

By Javeed Ahwar

Local governance is usually treated as a secondary issue in Afghan politics, unless it is about unseating a strong provincial governor. The appointment of governors with strong affiliations to the capital has been a common practice since the 1880s in Afghanistan. The tension between the center and the periphery, Kabul and the provinces, is both historical and ethnic in nature, and the management of local governance has been a failure in the post-September 11 state-building process in Afghanistan. 

Between the Periphery and the Center 

Pakistan’s invisible forces tighten grip on power


After fracturing Nawaz Sharif‘s mandate and injuring him politically, the invisible forces are now busy tightening the noose on the chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Asif Ali Zardari, and his aides.

Because of the way things were designed, it was not difficult to understand that sooner or later the Zardari-led PPP would face the music soon. The new doctrine of the military establishment revolves around the correction of the political structure in Pakistan, and in order to do so, it is thought that the two main parties should gradually be thrown off the political horizon.

Despite Headley’s Warning, U.S. Prioritised Capturing Bin Laden Over Saving Mumbai

Adrian Levy

There are so many reasons why 26/11 should never be forgotten. A megalopolis was taken hostage and in a democratising act of brutality neither the poor or the rich were spared, Indian, Jewish and international targets attacked, making this a universal act of terror that in many ways —its scale, visibility and duration —was far worse than anything else endured in the epoch of terror we are living through. The attackers sailed in, exploiting a long-warned-of vulnerability, about which hundreds of reports —demanding the better securing of the coast —lay gathering dust.

Then there was the ventriloquism practised during the raid —ten gunmen remotely controlled by shadowy handlers who watched their progress via round-the-clock cable news feeds that were never limited or even cut. Inside the buildings, captured loud-mouthed politicians and oligarchs gave live interviews to reporters, complaining about their predicament to news channels, their forceful personalities jeopardising their lives and those of others, by giving away their locations and helping the terrorists decipher what was going on in places where there was no visual feed.

Try as it might, Pakistan still needs IMF help

Adnan Aamir

Instantly after returning from China this month, Pakistan’s Finance Minister Asad Umar declaredthat Pakistan’s balance of payments crisis to be over. He claimed that a financial bailout package provided by Saudi Arabia and China has helped Pakistan overcome its financial troubles.

Yet in truth, independent assessments of the situation show that Umar’s confidence is misplaced, and Pakistan’s financial crisis is far from being over.

Pakistan does not have enough foreign currency reserves to pay for two months’ worth imports.

Sustaining Democracy in South Asia


Last week, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih took the oath as the seventh President of Maldives. In September 2018, in a surprising turn of events, Maldives voted against Abdulla Yameen, then the President and politically a strong man.

Not many expected that Yameen would lose the September elections in Maldives. Ten years ago, in 2008, a similar development took place in Maldives. Mohammad Nasheed, an activist who had formed a political party a few years earlier, contested against Abdul Gayoom, then the longest-serving President of Maldives (since 1978), and won the elections in 2008.

After getting elected through a popular mandate, will the new President of Maldives, Ibrahim Solih succeed where Mohammad Nasheed had failed earlier? Will Solih be able to deepen democracy and strengthen the institutions in the Maldives? 

U.S. Accuses China of Continuing IP Theft as WTO Launches Probe

By Shawn Donnan and Jenny Leonard

The U.S. accused China of continuing a state-backed campaign of intellectual property and technology theft as the World Trade Organization said it would establish a dispute panel to rule on the complaint.

The new accusations came in a detailed 53-page report released by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s office just 10 days before President Donald Trump is due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a Nov. 30-Dec. 1 Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires.

The timing of the report’s release appeared to be a move by some of the more hawkish members of Trump’s administration, such as Lighthizer, to bolster their case ahead of the summit and as other cabinet members such as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin push for a resumption of negotiations.

China's race for dominance

By Peter Morici 

It may be tough for Americans to accept but cheap toasters and TVs from China come at a terrible risk of lost freedom, because Beijing is using the cash it earns from those purchases in a new cold war aimed at replacing the United States as the pre-eminent global superpower.

The contest is waged in four theaters — the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea, and broader Pacific and Indian Oceans, the race for dominance in artificial intelligence and most importantly, the standoff over trade.

Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama appeased Beijing by letting it enable, effectively unchallenged, North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs — those have advanced to pose a direct threat to the U.S. mainland. President Trump has responded by coordinating truly meaningful international sanctions, but those are not enough without Beijing earnestly turning the screws on Pyongyang.

Will China’s Economic Slowdown Lead to a Major Crisis?

By Josh Rudolph

China has incurred the largest debt buildup in recorded economic history—and the prognosis is not good. The International Monetary Fund surveyed five-year credit booms near the size of China’s and found that essentially all such cases ended in major growth slowdowns and half also collapsed into financial crises.

A 50 percent chance of a financial crisis for the world’s second-largest economy would represent one of the greatest threats to the global economy.

Can China avoid a crisis? Both bears and bulls make equally compelling arguments about China’s current challenges, suggesting the probability of a major crisis is in line with the historic precedent of 50/50.

Bears warn that Beijing is juggling too many challenges at once while growth drops, making a crisis more likely.

Beijing risks making a misstep as it attempts to manage seven economic policy challenges at once:

Forecasting US-China Trade Fallout

By Mercy A. Kuo

Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with DailyFX Markets Analysis Team is the 164th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.” 

DailyFX Markets Analysis Team is a research group that provides analysis of market moves, explaining economic, political, and technical factors driving the market. 

Describe three plausible scenarios of how the U.S.-China trade dispute could unfold.

When trade disputes escalated in April, it set off three scenarios. 

Scenario 1: The U.S. and China have disputes but are able to avoid country-level tariffs. This has failed. 

What the APEC 2018 Summit Reveals About China's Regional Economic Insecurities

By Ankit Panda and Prashanth Parameswaran

The Diplomat‘s Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) and Prashanth Parameswaran (@TheAsianist) discuss the recent Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation 2018 summit in Papua New Guinea and the failure to produce a joint communiqué.

Click the arrow to the right to listen. If you’re an iOS or Mac user, you can also subscribe to The Diplomat’s Asia Geopolitics podcast on iTunes here. If you use Android, you can subscribe on TuneIn here. If you like the podcast and have suggestions for content, please leave a review and rating on iTunes and TuneIn.

Eye on China: Tantrums, Terror & Talks

A weekly bulletin offering news and analysis related to the Middle Kingdom. This week, we cover the acrimonious APEC meeting, the terror attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi, India-China border talks and much more.

1. Summit Conflict

If you read the Chinese press, Xi Jinping’s trip to Papua New Guinea was not much different from most of his other diplomatic travels. Xi arrived for a state visit ahead of the APEC summit, amid brewing “China passion.”

This Guardian report captures the fanfare around the visit: Xi was “met by a military band and traditional dancers dressed in parrot feathers, possum pelts and seashell necklaces. Across the capital, images of Xi beamed down from massive billboards and the streets were lined with high school students, some waving Chinese flags.” Tangibly, there was a handover ceremony of a road, Independence Boulevard, which he attended with Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and the announcement of a comprehensive strategic partnership. There was also some ping pong diplomacy and the opening of a school backed by Beijing. There was, however, one glitch, when Chinese officials barred journalists from Xi’s Friday meeting with forum with leaders of eight island countries. Speaking to Reuters, Jonathan Pryke of the Lowy Institute aptly described this as an “own goal.”

The West begins to stir over China’s massive abuse of Muslims

Few governments send ambassadors to China to be brave about human rights. Envoys to Beijing are scholars of realism, their fine minds applied to a delicate task: managing profitable relations with a deep-pocketed, unapologetic dictatorship.

It is, therefore, a big deal that at least 14 ambassadors from Western countries, led by Canada, have come together to confront China over its mass detentions of Muslims in the far-western region of Xinjiang, most of them ethnic Uighurs. Officials say the purpose is to stamp out extremism. In a letter leaked to Reuters, a news agency, the ambassadors have asked to meet Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party’s boss in Xinjiang. A hardliner transferred from Tibet, Mr Chen oversees a gulag into which perhaps a million Uighurs have been sent for “transformation-through-education”, many for indefinite periods without trial.

When Mike Pence met Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping

By Josh Rogin

Vice President Pence was not planning to meet with the leaders of Russia or China during his Asia trip last week, but they sought him out anyway. In several conversations with Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Pence delivered messages on election interference, North Korea and the trade dispute, and also set the stage for big showdowns next week when President Trump meets the same leaders in Argentina.

Pence stood in for Trump at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders meeting in Papua New Guinea. The trip was billed as a reassurance tour wherein the vice president would reinforce with allies the Indo-Pacific strategy Trump announced at these events last year. The meetings with Russian and Chinese leaders were impromptu encounters but had real substance.

Why ‘Made in China 2025’ triggered the wrath of President Trump


WU‘Made in China’ is often associated with cheap and poor quality goods, but Beijing has ambitious plans to transform itself into an innovative hi-tech powerhouse by 2025

The Chinese government announced the ‘Made in China 2025’ strategic plan in 2015. Aimed at closing the gap with Western hi-tech prowess and lessening China’s dependency on imported technology, it specified 10 areas where the country should take the lead. But as the trade war between the US and China heated up in mutual rounds of punitive tariffs, the plan became a focus of Washington’s discontent with Beijing

the first of three phrases, ‘Made in China 2025’ is a ten-year plan
The reality

US drops the gauntlet on the South China Sea


When US Vice President Mike Pence flew on Tuesday over the South China Sea in transit to the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) summit in Singapore, his air force plane passed within 50 miles of Chinese outposts in the contested Spratly Islands.

Upon landing at the summit, attended by regional leaders, Pence said his overflight was a type of “freedom of navigation” operation and that it was a message to China that the US “will not be intimidated” by Beijing’s warnings against US operations in areas it claims in the maritime region.

While Asean and China continue to negotiate a “code of conduct” in the disputed areas, talks that have been ongoing since 2002, President Donald Trump’s administration has made clear through toughened rhetoric and action that it won’t accept any final agreement that undermines or infringes on its interests in the area.

China plans to be a world leader in Artificial Intelligence by 2030

Artificial intelligence (AI) has come to occupy an important role in Beijing’s ‘Made in China 2025’ blueprint. China wants to become a global leader in the field by 2030 and now has an edge in terms of academic papers, patents and both cross-border and global AI funding.

In 2017, China published its “Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan”, which laid out plans to ultimately become the world leader in artificial intelligence, with a domestic AI industry worth almost US$150 billion. The first step of that plan is to catch up with the US on AI technology and applications by 2020.

China now dominates AI funding. Last year, 48 per cent of total equity funding of AI start-ups globally came from China, compared to 38 per cent funded by the US, and 13 per cent by the rest of the world. This is a significant jump from the 11.3 per cent of global funding China made in 2016.

China is pushing hard to overtake Silicon Valley and win the biotech race, and gain control of the world’s biological data

Eleonore Pauwels

Eleonore Pauwels says the world should pay attention, as China achieves dominance in AI and biotech. Bio-intelligence is more than mapping genomes: whoever controls the resources may influence the well-being of entire populations

China is fast becoming the next AI-DNA powerhouse, threatening Silicon Valley’s long-standing global edge in bio-intelligence. As other countries form alliances with the two giants, the world will be divided into rival tech blocs. This new geopolitical order – depicted in Kai-fu Lee’s latest book, AI Superpowers – will not be shaped by US President Donald Trump’s trade wars, but by competition to control the artificial intelligence and biotech industries.


Bitcoin Cash Forks -- Mayhem On The Markets

Gerald Fenech

Thursday was a volatile day on the cryptocurrency markets with Bitcoin Cash forking into two different currencies, BCHSV and BCHABC creating considerable hash wars which are ongoing.

One worrying aspect of this fork is that some wallets, particularly the Bitcoin.com wallet saw its BCH value lower considerably. The average price on this wallet was around $360 on Friday morning, in contrast with the total price of $446 on eToro although admittedly, trading was frozen on that platform.

In the meantime, Bitcoin has hit another bottom and exchange volume spiked by 80%. Why is this happening? Are we going deeper into this bear market? What does this mean for the future of crypto? I spoke to a few luminaries from the crypto space to find out more.

Where Did North Korea’s Cyber Army Come From?

Steve Miller

North Korean hackers continue to circumvent protections and compromise computer systems around the globe. Pyongyang’s cyber operatives, like the Lazarus Group, have been linked to computer system infiltrations like the 2014 Sony Pictures Studios hack prior to the release of the U.S. film “The Interview” and the attempted theft of close to $1 billion from the central Bangladesh bank using the SWIFT banking network in 2016.

But how did Pyongyang become so adept at hacking while not possessing rich resources and being under tough International sanctions?

Seungjoo Kim, a professor at Korea University’s Graduate School of Information Security says the answer, in part, is because North Korea’s computer hackers operate in China and Europe with easy access to the internet.

Is a “No Deal” Brexit Still Avoidable?

By Henry Farrell

W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman’s comic history of England, 1066 and All That, talks about nineteenth-century British Prime Minister W. E. Gladstone’s efforts to solve the Irish Question—the puzzle of what to do with rebellious Ireland, which was then part of the United Kingdom. According to Sellar and Yeatman, every time that Gladstone got close to an answer the Irish changed the question. Over the last couple of days, a new Irish question has stymied Brexit negotiations between the United Kingdom and the EU: how to deal with the border between the Republic of Ireland, which will remain part of the EU, and Northern Ireland, which will not. This time it’s EU negotiators who keep on trying to come up with answers, while British politicians keep on changing the question.

At one point last week, it looked as though the EU and the United Kingdom had reached a provisional deal. British Prime Minister Theresa May brought the deal to her cabinet, which accepted it. But then, a few hours later, British ministers started to resign over the deal—including Dominic Raab, the secretary of state for exiting the European Union, who had helped negotiate it, only to later apparently decide that it wasn’t nearly good enough. British politics is now in chaos. Most dread the prospect of a “no deal” Brexit, where the United Kingdom crashes out of the EU without any cushion, leading to massive economic and political instability. Yet no one has any good proposal for how to avoid it. There is no obvious deal that is both acceptable to the EU and likely to pass in the House of Commons.

Who’s Driving the Wedge Into US-South Korea Relations?

By Benjamin A. Engel

There has been concern for months about a rift the U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) alliance. As the diplomatic torrent of 2018 involving both Koreas and the United States took off ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, U.S. commentators were warning that North Korea wanted to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington. Following the Singapore Summit between U.S. President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June 2018, more alarms were sounded about North Korean wedge-driving. With all the wedge talk, South Korean and U.S. officials have often stared into cameras to assure the world that all is well in their alliance. 

Cyberwar, Network Propaganda review: did Russia or the right do most to help Trump?

Michael Cornfield

Since the Director of National Intelligence’s (DNI) interagency reportof January 2017, it has been a truth selectively acknowledged that the Russian government took to the US media surreptitiously in 2016 to help elect Donald Trump president. But did it work? Were sufficient numbers of voters persuaded, mobilized and, crucially, demobilized by the efforts of the Internet Research Agency to swing the election in Trump’s favor?

To answer this question sufficiently requires not just additional evidence but also a theory of influence. Two books by top scholars in political communication have now weighed in – and they disagree in their conclusions.

IoT & Cybersecurity: Where we are and what needs to change

David Kay 

Threats are now emerging beyond home and medical devices towards IoT control systems connected to national infrastructures. It is no exaggeration to say that IoT vulnerabilities are a threat to our national and personal security – dangers brought into sharp relief by the growing weaponisation of cybersecurity on the world stage
Cybersecurity agenda

Over the last decade, the scale of cyber attacks have increased dramatically and there has been a huge increase in the scale of cyber attacks against global IT infrastructures. The increase in the number of attack vectors enabled by the internet, the level of sophistication of the attacks, the ‘staying power’ of the cyber gangs, are all markers of how cybersecurity has become the subject of major international conflict.

Flash Wars: Where could an autonomous weapons revolution lead us?

Ulrike Esther Franke 

Making it harder to attribute an attack to a perpetrator will have repercussions beyond non-state use 

This week, the High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons meet in Geneva. One item on the agenda is lethal autonomous weapons. Lethal autonomous weapons – LAWS – are weapons able to carry out a military full targeting cycle in a military operation without human intervention. They are systems equipped with sensors, which in most cases rely on artificial intelligence to take decisions fast and without human involvement. 

Although they invoke images of science fiction, weapon systems already exist that at least partly fit this definition. For instance, air defence systems such as PATRIOT detect, track, and shoot down incoming missiles or rockets. They do so without direct human intervention, as no human would be fast enough to give the order for each interception. Similarly, Israel’s Harpy system – a type of ‘kamikaze drone’ – can loiter in the air until it detects radar emissions. It then destroys the radar by slamming itself into it, without needing a specific human order. 

Six Days, Fifty Years: The June 1967 War and its Aftermath

Editors: Anat Kurz, Kobi Michael, Gabi Siboni

The Institute for National Security Studies, November 2018

The Six Day War, which broke out on the morning of June 5, 1967, was a formative event that changed the face of the State of Israel and, to a large extent, the entire Middle East. Prior to the war, Israel had been under existential threat and in six days, the Israel Defense Forces succeeded in removing the threat by achieving a decisive military victory and positioning Israel as a significant force in the region. This victory was accompanied by new complexities, and fifty years after the war, some of its implications still remain as heavy dilemmas, which the Israeli public and the state institutions must address. Five decades later, the events directly related to the war and its loni-term implications can be examined more broadly and more rationally than was possible in the period immediately after the war. The study of the past and the drawing of insights from the war and its results enable us to analyze the complex security, political, and social challenges currently facini the State of Israel, as well as assess those inherent in future scenarios. On the fiftieth anniversary of the war, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) chose to publish this book devoted to the war and its lessons, which was written by researchers from the institute and outside of it. Together these articles present a comprehensive and in-depth picture of the Six Day War, its results, and its implications.

Fifty Years since the Six Day War: A Retrospective

Disruptive technologies show why government needs data security standards now

By: Justin Lynch 

Telepathy. Data uploading to the brain. Even humanoid sex robots. These are among the ideas that exist on a periodic table of disruptive technologies, a new visual guide that predicts what will alter human existence in the coming years.

Created by Imperial College London, the table identifies what is set to change societies in the short term (smart controls and appliances), as well as fringe ideas that are decades away from existence, if they will exist at all (think force fields.)

Yet the disruption could turn disastrous without proper data-security standards, according to one of the chart’s creators, Richard Watson, the futurist in residence at Imperial College London.