30 November 2019

Sri Lanka’s India Equation: Rhetoric And Reality – Analysis

By Prof. V. Suryanarayan*
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The victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the Presidential election held on November 16, 2019, with a massive mandate, not unexpected by Sri Lanka watchers in India, opens a new chapter in Sri Lanka’s history and also in Sri Lanka-India relations.

Gotabaya is a controversial figure; while the majority Sinhalese adores him as a “savior” and a “war hero”, the minority Tamils (Sri Lankan Tamils and hill country Tamils) and the Muslims view his ascendancy with fear and trepidation. The EU Election Observation Mission in its report has mentioned that the election was largely free of violence and technically well – managed. However unregulated campaign funding, abuse of state resources and media bias did not provide a level playing field for all candidates.

Gotabaya in his campaign highlighted that if elected he would restore law and order in the country. It was music to the ears of the majority Sinhalese, especially in the wake of ISIS-inspired bombings last Easter, that left more than 250 dead and at least 500 injured. The fact that external intelligence agencies, including India, warned Colombo about possible attacks, added to the discomfiture of Sirisena-Ranil team. Other contributory factors included the rift between the President and the Prime Minister, increasing corruption, mounting cost of living and rising unemployment.

NSA gets teeth, Secretariat put in government business rules

Pranab Dhal Samanta,

NEW DELHI: The National Security Council Secretariat, which reports to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, has been brought into the government’s Allocation of Business (AOB) rules, thus granting it constitutional recognition and legal authority.

The amendment to government’s rules of business, which was made last month, also gives an official description to the role of National Security Advisor as “the principal advisor on national security matters to the prime minister”. It also makes it clear that the NSCS will be the secretariat for the PM-led National Security Council (NSC).

The NSCS, also called the Rashtriya Suraksha Parishad Sachivalaya, has been enumerated right after NITI Aayog at number 50 in the first schedule of the AOB rules.

Unlike in the case of other departments, the government has refrained from going into any detailed elaboration of the NSCS functions, except stating that it will “assist the National Security Advisor, the principal advisor on national security matters to the PM, and NSC”.

China’s Repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang

by Lindsay Maizland

Human rights organizations, UN officials, and many foreign governments are urging China to stop the crackdown. But Chinese officials maintain that what they call vocational training centers do not infringe on Uighurs’ human rights. They have refused to share information about the detention centers, and prevented journalists and foreign investigators from examining them. However, internal Chinese government documents leaked in late 2019 have provided important details on how officials launched and maintain the detention camps.
When did mass detentions of Muslims start?

Some eight hundred thousand to two million Uighurs and other Muslims, including ethnic Kazakhs and Uzbeks, have been detained since April 2017, according to experts and government officials [PDF]. Outside of the camps, the eleven million Uighurs living in Xinjiang have continued to suffer from a decades-long crackdown by Chinese authorities.

Most people in the camps have never been charged with crimes and have no legal avenues to challenge their detentions. The detainees seem to have been targeted for a variety of reasons, according to media reports, including traveling to or contacting people from any of the twenty-six countries China considers sensitive, such as Turkey and Afghanistan; attending services at mosques; and sending texts containing Quranic verses. Often, their only crime is being Muslim, human rights groups say, adding that many Uighurs have been labeled as extremists simply for practicing their religion.

After the US-China Trade War


NEW HAVEN – For the last two years, the conflict between the United States and China has dominated the economic and financial-market debate – with good reason. After threats and accusations that long predate US President Donald Trump’s election, rhetoric has given way to action. Over the past 17 months, the world’s two largest economies have become embroiled in the most serious tariff war since the early 1930s. And the weaponization of US trade policy to target perceived company-specific threats such as Huawei has broadened the front in this battle.

I am as guilty as anyone of fixating on every twist and turn of this epic struggle between the world’s two economic heavyweights. From the start, it has been a political conflict fought with economic weapons and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. What that means, of course, is that the economic and financial-market outlook basically hinges on the political dynamic between the United States and China.

In that vein, the so-called phase one “skinny” trade deal announced with great fanfare on October 11 may be an important political signal. While the deal, if ever consummated, will have next to no material economic impact, it provides a strong hint that Trump has finally had enough of this trade war. Consumed by domestic political concerns – especially impeachment and the looming 2020 election – it is in Trump’s interest to declare victory and attempt to capitalize on it to counter his problems at home.

Singapore Isn’t The Next Hong Kong

By Kirsten Han

On my last trip to Hong Kong, in May, I listened to a litany of anxieties shared by the city’s journalists. They spoke of the erosion of press freedom and a growing climate of fear. A friend from an independent media outlet observed that it was getting harder to get people to comment on particular issues, because Hong Kongers were now more wary of going on the record. Incidents such as the kidnapping of booksellers have sent a signal, and people—including journalists themselves—were beginning to self-censor.

“If we keep going like this, what’s the press going to be like in Hong Kong?” they lamented.

Well, I thought, it’s going to be like Singapore.

In Singapore, the mainstream, traditional media operates under the influence—if not outright control—of the People’s Action Party (PAP) government, and journalists exercise self-censorship to make sure that their work stays away from ambiguous “out of bounds” markers. These unwritten, shifting boundaries are so widely accepted as part of Singaporean journalism and discourse that the former chief editor of the Straits Times, Singapore’s paper of record, actually named his memoirs OB Markers: My Straits Times Story. It’s not the same choking censorship as in the Chinese mainland, but it’s certainly not a truly free press.

Hong Kong is at war, and why should the world be worried.

LM Reporter

Amonth has passed since the Hong Kong government made use of the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to adopt a regulation that bans the public from wearing masks in public assemblies and demonstrations. Yet the situation in this former British colony has not got any better.

Violent clashes between the protesters and the beleaguered police force have heated up further and, perhaps, reached a climax on 12 November 2019. The police force turned their target to student dormitories of universities, where the college students reside in.

Since June 2019, thousands of citizens have been arrested for participating in the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill (“Anti-ELAB”) movement. More than one-third of them were students, who were considered to be more active on the frontline and could take more risks in fighting back the brutal force used by the police. At least compared to the grown-ups, who may have family and financial burdens and be obliged to take supportive roles instead.

After a university student, Alex Chow, passed away five days after falling from height during a clash between protesters and the police whereas the truth behind his death remains a mystery due to inconsistent descriptions and chronologies given by the police, the city’s anger towards the unconstrained behaviour and acts by the police grew to a new height.

Why Iran May Be Locked Into a Future of More Protests

Vahid Yücesoy 

At midnight on Nov. 15, Iran’s government announced a precipitous 300 percent hike in fuel prices. Immediate public outcries quickly escalated into nationwide protests that spread to more than 100 cities and gripped the country for 6 straight days, before the authorities effectively crushed them.

Since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in August 2018 and reimposed unilateral sanctions, the Iranian economy has been charting difficult waters. President Hassan Rouhani admitted as much recently when he exhorted lawmakers to reduce fuel subsidies in the face of plummeting oil revenues, saying that “Iran is experiencing one of its hardest years since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.” ...

Untouchable No More: Hezbollah’s Fading Reputation

By Rebecca Collard

BEIRUT—It was the sort of chant that, only a month or so ago, would have been all but unthinkable in Lebanon. “Terrorists, terrorists, Hezbollah are terrorists,” yelled some of the hundreds of anti-government protesters who stood on a main road in Beirut early Monday morning, in a tense standoff with supporters of Hezbollah and another Shiite party, the Amal Movement. 

Other protesters told the chanters to stop, but as widespread economic discontent and anger engulf Lebanon—and with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah defending the government—the sanctity around Hezbollah’s reputation is clearly broken. 

“Hezbollah is being seen as part and parcel [of] the main hurdle to change in Lebanon,” said Mohanad Hage Ali, a fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center.

Bipolar Economics

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LONDON – How can we know if an economic policy is achieving its stated objective? Well, we can create two similar groups, randomly allocate the “treatment” to only one of them and measure the results. By comparing the groups, we will obtain a reliable estimate of how effective the policy is.

This technique, known as randomized controlled trials, or RCTs, had long been used in medicine and social policy. By applying it to development economics, Esther Duflo, Abhijit Banerjee, and Michael Kremer revolutionized how many economists work – and won the Nobel Prize last month.

The achievement was both intellectual and organizational: a global community of randomistas has emerged, committed to using RCTs to change the world. New evidence would cause developing-country governments to discard bad policies and adopt good ones.

Philosopher Nancy Cartwright, Nobel laureates Angus Deaton and James Heckman, and Oxford’s Lant Pritchett have long argued that the evidence RCTs yield is not the gold standard of reliability proponents claim it is. But even if the evidence is strong, will voters and governments find it persuasive? Will policy improve enough to make a difference to people’s lives?

The Coming Nuclear Crises

by Richard N. Haass

Until just a few years ago, it looked as if the problem posed by nuclear weapons had been successfully managed, if not solved. American and Russian nuclear stockpiles had been reduced substantially from their Cold War highs, and arms-control agreements were in place that limited both intermediate- and long-range systems. But all of this now could come undone.

Progress over the last generation was not limited to the United States and Russia. Libya was persuaded to abandon its nuclear ambitions, Israel thwarted Iraqi and Syrian nuclear development, and South Africa relinquished its small nuclear arsenal. Iran signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which constrained its ability to acquire many of the essential prerequisites of nuclear weapons. Most recently, the UN Security Council imposed tough sanctions aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its still modest and comparatively primitive nuclear weapons program, clearing the way for high-level talks between North Korean and US officials. And, of course, no nuclear weapon has been used in combat for three-quarters of a century, since the US dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan to hasten the end of World War II.

New EU Chief Flags Climate Policy As Europe’s ‘New Growth Strategy’

By Frédéric Simon 

(EurActiv) — The new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, cited climate policy as the most pressing issue facing her new executive team, which was officially confirmed by a vote in the European Parliament on Wednesday (27 November).

EU lawmakers confirmed von der Leyen as European Commission president along with her new team of 26 Commissioners, with 461 voting in favour, 157 against and 89 abstentions.

And the climate crisis featured at the top of her address to MEPs.

“We don’t have a moment to waste any more on fighting climate change,” von der Leyen told the assembly shortly before the vote in a speech delivered in English, French and German.

“If there is one area where the world needs our leadership, it is on protecting our climate. This is an existential issue for Europe – and for the world,” said the 61-year old former German defence minister, citing forest fires in Portugal and the recent floods in Venice as compelling reasons to move forward as quickly as possible.

An American Failure: CAATSA And Deterring Russian Arms Sales – Analysis

By Jarod Taylor*
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(FPRI) — The threat of sanctions action under Section 231 of the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) is in the news again. This time it was suggested by the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, Mr. R. Clarke Cooper, at the recent Dubai Airshow regarding Egypt’s Su-35 fighter jet purchase from Russia. An unnamed U.S. State Department official spoke on background to the press on November 21, 2019 to discuss the lingering threat of CAATSA sanctions regarding Turkey’s S-400 purchase from Russia. The Egyptian and Turkish cases are only two of several that represent the inability or unwillingness to use Sec. 231 the way it was designed, which not only weakens the U.S. diplomatic position in these instances but also encourages other states to dismiss similar threats. Comments from both officials show that CAATSA Sec. 231 is failing to deter and that the strategic logic underlying the sanctions has changed.

CAATSA Sec. 231 was designed with an ambitious goal in mind: to shape the global security environment by raising the costs for third countries to do business with Russian defense and intelligence industry. The U.S. Congress resolved to use Sec. 231, and other provisions, to respond to Russia’s activities in Ukraine, aggressive cyber operations, and interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections. But resolve and design are not enough: the deterrence mechanism has to be implemented in a way that stays true to the design for it to work. CAATSA’s ambiguities leave room for divergent interpretations by officers in the executive branch. The statute mandates secondary sanctions on entities, either people or organizations or both, who execute a “significant transaction” with disallowed Russian firms. Important elements of the law are purposefully vague, giving the President significant latitude when implementing this law. Left notably ambiguous in the original statute are the definition of “significant transaction,” the timeline for implementation of specific actions, and the specification of which Russian entities are disallowed (specified by the State Department in October 2017).

Brexit As A Renewal Of Britain’s Geopolitical Cycle – Analysis

By Jose Miguel Alonso-Trabanco

Amongst other things, geopolitics can be seen as an analytical tool whose comprehensive perspective is useful to unveil the patterns that shape the action of the impersonal forces which condition the behavior of socio-political entities throughout history. In other words, since it can envisage constants, it has the ability to foresee the recurrence of certain themes.

In that sense, even in strategic circles, Brexit is often portrayed as a wild card, an unforeseen event that makes little sense when seen from a contemporary angle. After all, the European Union symbolically embodied the spirit of liberal internationalism that prevailed after the Cold War, at least throughout the Western world. The integrationist project it represented was regarded by many as a role model. The EU’s gravitational pull was so strong that even a country like Turkey –a national state that has its own imperial tradition – once intended to join the bloc. Likewise, in an unmistakable display of ‘soft power,’ EU flags were prominently flown in the context of the Euromaidan protests.

However, a closer look reveals that, although it represents a major game-changer, Brexit itself is consistent with historical cycles. Thus, a long-range assessment is pertinent in order to transcend the deafening noise unleashed by the incoming UK general election that will be held next month.

Britain’s Geopolitical Condition

Sending Refugees Back Makes the World More Dangerous

By Stephanie Schwartz

The oft-repeated refrain that the world is witnessing an unprecedented refugee crisis is both misleading and dangerous. While the number of refugees worldwide has nearly doubled in the past decade, if there is a crisis today, it is one of refugee return. Despite the fact that non-refoulement—the prohibition against sending asylum-seekers back to a country where their life or liberty is endangered—is considered one of the strongest norms in international law, governments across the world are going to great lengths to send refugees back. Some, such as the United States, are blatantly flouting non-refoulement with plans to send Central American asylum-seekers directly back into the violence they are fleeing.

One of the primary goals of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s invasion of Syria in October was to capture territory where he could then send the millions of Syrians currently seeking refuge on Turkish soil. Other countries, such as Germany and Lebanon, have taken more subtle approaches, offering payments to refugees who opt to go back to Syria, or simply making life for refugees so miserable that many feel they have no alternative but to return.

10 Things in the World to Be Thankful for in 2019

It’s the week of Thanksgiving in the United States, which means it’s time for Americans to overeat, watch a lot of football, meet with friends and family, and try, if at all possible, to avoid talking about politics. More seriously, Thanksgiving is a day to reflect on the aspects of life for which we are most grateful, however difficult that might be in these disturbing times.

I’ve had as fortunate a life as anyone has any right to expect, and I try to keep that in mind when disappointments occur. As I contemplate Thanksgiving 2019, there are a number of people I’m especially thankful for right now. Without further ado, here are my Top 10 Reasons to Give Thanks This Thanksgiving.

1. Greta Thunberg. Unless you have been off the grid or confining your news intake to Fox, you’re probably aware that climate change is an even bigger problem than we previously thought. The head-in-the-sand response of many U.S. politicians (including the denier-in-chief in the White House) and the fossil fuel industry’s active efforts to mislead the public have made the problem worse. For this reason, I’m thankful that a teenage Swedish activist found a way to rivet public attention on the problem and has inspired more and more young people to take up this cause. You may not feel thankful if you happen to own a coal mine—but future generations will.

To Be Well-Informed, Cut the News and Read These 7 Blogs Instead

Nick Wignall

If you want to become a genuinely well-informed citizen, more and even better information is not enough. Instead, you must learn to think critically and thoughtfully about complex ideas.

You can’t vote intelligently about immigration, foreign policy, bioethics, or tax law without the ability to think clearly. This is something no amount of Fox News or CNN will teach you how to do — in fact, there’s a good chance it will do the opposite.

I believe the following blogs, on the other hand, will teach you to think more carefully about the most important ideas and problems facing our society.

None are overtly partisan, and they represent a range of political thinking from progressive through libertarian and conservative. No single piece of content, underlying belief, or assertion is important. What matters is learning to think differently.

Commit to reading between the lines and observing how these people think about complex issues. And whether you agree with them or not, you will be better for it.

1. Marginal Revolution

Machine Programming: What Lies Ahead?

Imagine software that creates its own software. That is what machine programming is all about. Like other fields of artificial intelligence, machine programming has been around since the 1950s, but it is now at an inflection point.

Machine programming potentially can redefine many industries, including software development, autonomous vehicles or financial services, according to Justin Gottschlich, head of machine programming research at Intel Labs. This newly formed research group at Intel focuses on the promise of machine programming, which is a fusion of machine learning, formal methods, programming languages, compilers and computer systems.

In a conversation with Knowledge@Wharton during a visit to Penn, Gottschlich discusses why he believes the historical way of programming is flawed, what is driving the growth of machine programming, the impact it can have and other related issues. He was a keynote speaker at the PRECISE Industry Day 2019 organized by the PRECISE Center at Penn Engineering. 

Following is an edited transcript of the conversation.

Russia’s Military Is Writing an Armed-Robot Playbook


The new tactics and operating concepts will draw on three years of Syrian operations.

The Russian military is gathering proposed tactics, techniques and procedures for using robots in urban and coastal combat, the RiaNovosti state news agency said Sunday. 

The defense ministry has asked various military-industrial enterprises to provide proposals for review by early next year to the military’s Combined Arms Academy. The initiative is meant to address “the virtual absence of a unified concept for the use of military robotics by the Russian armed forces,” the Russian agency wrote.

The effort likely reflects Vladimir Putin’s desire for more unmanned systems as well as the military’s experience in Syria, where numerous ground and air vehicles have made their operational debuts. For example, the initial operating experience of the Uran-9 — Russia’s largest unmanned combat ground vehicle — did not go according to plan in “Syria’s near-urban conditions.” Practically all of the Uran-9’s major systems have failed, yet the ministry gleaned valuable lessons for designing and employing future UGVs in urban combat. Among them: unmanned combat systems need greater operational autonomy if they are to be effective without putting their human operators in harm’s way.

Army project may improve military communications by boosting 5G technology

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (Nov. 21, 2019) -- An Army-funded project may boost 5G and mm-Wave technologies, improving military communications and sensing equipment.

Carbonics, Inc., partnered with the University of Southern California to develop a carbon nanotube technology that, for the first time, achieved speeds exceeding 100GHz in radio frequency applications. The milestone eclipses the performance -- and efficiency -- of traditional Radio Frequency Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor, known as RF-CMOS technology, that is ubiquitous in modern consumer electronics, including cell phones.

"This milestone shows that carbon nanotubes, long thought to be a promising communications chip technology, can deliver," said Dr. Joe Qiu, program manager, solid state and electromagnetics at the Army Research Office. "The next step is scaling this technology, proving that it can work in high-volume manufacturing. Ultimately, this technology could help the Army meet its needs in communications, radar, electronic warfare and other sensing applications."

Did No One Audit the Apple Card Algorithm?

by Osonde A. Osoba
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In the world of social media, tech executive David Heinemeier Hansson's thread of outrage about Apple Card has been categorized as viral Twitterstorm.

Data scientists would call it a rather tidy example of an algorithm audit.

Here's what happened: Jamie Heinemeier Hansson, Hansson's wife, asked to increase the line of credit on her Apple Card, a credit card Apple created in partnership with Goldman Sachs. The increase was denied. At the same time, her husband—with whom she shares all assets as a married couple in a community property state—had a credit line 20 times higher. Apple reps' reply: “It's the algorithm.”

So in this mini-audit, does the algorithm produce the same results (credit limits) for the same relevant inputs (reported personal assets)? Not so much.

Protecting users from government-backed hacking and disinformation

Shane Huntley

Google's Threat Analysis Group (TAG) works to counter targeted and government-backed hacking against Google and our users. This is an area we have invested in deeply for over a decade. Our daily work involves detecting and defeating threats, and warning targeted users and customers about the world’s most sophisticated adversaries, spanning the full range of Google products including Gmail, Drive and YouTube.

In the past, we’ve posted on issues like phishing campaigns, vulnerabilities and disinformation. Going forward, we’ll share more technical details and data about the threats we detect and how we counter them to advance the broader digital security discussion.

TAG tracks more than 270 targeted or government-backed groups from more than 50 countries. These groups have many goals including intelligence collection, stealing intellectual property, targeting dissidents and activists, destructive cyber attacks, or spreading coordinated disinformation. We use the intelligence we gather to protect Google infrastructure as well as users targeted with malware or phishing.


Cheap Cyber Weapons Threaten Unintended Consequences

By George I. Seffers

A new report on the commoditization of cyber weapons suggests that the easy availability of inexpensive offensive cyber tools is reshaping the cyber threat landscape. The report is being briefed to officials across the federal government, including elements of the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), FBI, Senate Cyber Caucus and the Secret Service.

The report, The Commoditization of Cyber Capabilities: A Grand Cyber Arms Bazaar, was created by the Public-Private Analytic Exchange Program, a joint effort between the DHS and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The program brings together experts from the government and the private sector to tackle some of the nation’s toughest challenges.

On November 19, for example, several co-authors briefed a group hosted by the Joint Staff, and the next day it was presented to the Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force in Chicago. It will likely be presented to the Atlantic Council, and early next year officials in New York from the financial sector will probably be informed of the results. Personnel from think tanks in the Washington, D.C., area also have been briefed, says Guillermo Christensen , a former CIA officer and a partner at the Ice Miller law firm, who helped work on the report.

‘Guess What, There’s A Cost For That’: Getting Cloud & AI Right


DETROIT: “I get so frustrated,” fighter pilot turned Microsoft exec Mark Valentine said, when “senior program officials and my former colleagues from the Air Force [ask me] ‘Dude, I need to get me some of that AI.’ And I shake my head.

“To do what?” Col. Valentine asked the AUSA conference on autonomy and AI here. “What are you trying to accomplish?”

Then there are the customers who know just enough to be dangerous, added Leonel Garciga, an expert in military intelligence IT on the Army headquarters staff (G-2). He’s gotten requests like, “hey, Leo, I want to move my instance of SharePoint” – a popular collaboration tool – “to a Google cloud platform” – a popular cloud provider. “And I said, really? That sounds like not a great idea,” Garciga recalled.

Army soldiers access the DCSG-A intelligence system during an exercise.

The Blockchain and the New Architecture of Trust

Kevin Werbach
The blockchain entered the world on January 3, 2009, introducing an innovative new trust architecture: an environment in which users trust a system—for example, a shared ledger of information—without necessarily trusting any of its components. The cryptocurrency Bitcoin is the most famous implementation of the blockchain, but hundreds of other companies have been founded and billions of dollars invested in similar applications since Bitcoin’s launch. Some see the blockchain as offering more opportunities for criminal behavior than benefits to society. In this book, Kevin Werbach shows how a technology resting on foundations of mutual mistrust can become trustworthy.

The blockchain, built on open software and decentralized foundations that allow anyone to participate, seems like a threat to any form of regulation. In fact, Werbach argues, law and the blockchain need each other. Blockchain systems that ignore law and governance are likely to fail, or to become outlaw technologies irrelevant to the mainstream economy. That, Werbach cautions, would be a tragic waste of potential. If, however, we recognize the blockchain as a kind of legal technology that shapes behavior in new ways, it can be harnessed to create tremendous business and social value.

The Return of Mercenaries, Non-State Conflict, and More Predictions for the Future of Warfare

Sean McFate

Everywhere around the world, the nature of war is changing, and the West is failing to adapt. Western powers are already losing on the margins to threats like Russia, China, and others that have made the leap forward and grow bolder each year. Eventually someone will test us and win.

The West has forgotten how to win wars because of their own strategic atrophy. Judging by how much money the United States invests in conventional weapons like the F-35, many in our country still believe that future interstate wars will be fought conventionally. But although Russia and China still buy conventional weapons, they use them in unconventional ways. China has armed its fishing fleet in the South China Sea, turning it into a floating militia. Russia gave T-72 tanks, truck-mounted rocket launchers, and howitzers to its mercenaries in Syria. Tellingly, Russia even cut its military budget by a whopping 20 percent in 2017, yet it shows no sign of curbing its global ambitions. Its leaders understand that war has moved beyond lethality.

Conventional war thinking is killing us. From Syria to Acapulco, no one fights that way anymore. The old rules of war are defunct because warfare has changed, and the West has been left behind. War is coming. Conflict’s trip wires are everywhere: black market nukes that can melt cities; Russia taking something it shouldn’t and NATO responding in force; India and Pakistan duking it out over Kashmir; North Korea shelling Seoul; Europe fighting an urban insurgency against Islamic terrorists; the Middle East goes nuclear; or the United States fighting China to prevent it from becoming a rival superpower.

29 November 2019

US And India Grow Closer Strategically – Analysis

By Todd Royal

The Financial Times (FT)in the first quarter of 2019 stated the world is now living in the “Asian Century.” FT goes onto mark the times have moved from a western to Asian model becoming the cornerstone for the remainder of the century. The former U.S. administration realized this reality years earlier when it made a policy decision to “Pivot to Asia.” 

Now the current U.S. administration is continuing this pivot by wrapping up the first ever, joint U.S.-India military drills that involved live-fire drills and search-and-seizure training. The exercise dubbed – “Tiger Triumph” – “brought together 500 American Marines and sailors, and about 1,200 Indian soldiers, sailors and air force personnel to train side-by-side for nine days.” At one point during the exercise and ocean drills an Indian helicopter landed on an American naval vessel in the Bay of Bengal. The main goal of this nine-day exercise was “to coordinate more ambitiously on challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.” 

The two countries signed a mutual defense pact in 2018. This pact allows for exercises and “transfer of advanced (U.S.) weaponry and communication systems to India.” This type of nation-state partnership is out of the norm for India. Historically, India doesn’t partner this publicly with the U.S., or other western powers such as NATO, or the European Union (EU). This non-alignment with western powers is confirmed when Russia is the only other country India has completed military exercises with that involved all three branches of its armed forces.

Pakistan’s Haqqani Network Increases Its Profile in Afghan Peace Talks

By Umair Jamal

The recent prisoner swap between the United States and the Afghan Taliban is the first major development since the collapse of the peace talks earlier this year, which suggests that the peace process’ revival has been accepted by all major stakeholders. The development, which was facilitated by Islamabad and endorsed by the Afghan government, Washington, and the Taliban, indicates that the restoration of dialogue has formally begun.

In Afghanistan’s context, the progress shows that the Afghan government is ready to work with the United States and other regional stakeholders despite the former’s previous rejection of the peace process. From the Afghan government’s perspective, the sanctioning of the recent exchange shows two things. First, while the Afghan government doesn’t stand to gain much from the prisoner swap, the former has no option but to agree with the parties making a deal. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s decision to allow the prisoner exchange is to an extent driven by his weakening legitimacy domestically, which is not only being challenged by his political rivals, but also by stakeholders that want to make a deal with the Taliban.

Sri Lanka: Victory of Rajapaksa- What it means to Tamil Polity?

By Prof. Ramu Manivannan

The victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa was much anticipated in the recently held 16th November presidential elections in Sri Lanka given the course of national politics after the evaporation of false euphoria over the success of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in keeping Mahinda Rajapaksa out of power since 2015. 

Rajapaksas are back in saddle more firmly than ever before and their grip over Sri Lankan polity is near complete with the becoming of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the prime minister. Sinhalese along with the radical Buddhist clergy are celebrating the success of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the restoration of political stability and national security state. While Muslims are looking over their own shoulders with worry about their safety and future, Muslim leadership is mulling about its own survival in power. Tamils are disheartened but not broken although Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is in a mood of disdained resignation. It is, however, time to reflect than to throw in the towel. 

Tamils are a strong political society with poor self belief. Tamils have strongly and consistently maintained their collective political opposition to the ‘Sinhala Only’ polity of Sri Lanka as revealed in every election since 1977 without any exception. But unfortunately Tamils could only decide whom they do not want to elect and not choose who they want to be represented as their leaders at the national level. 

China’s Growing High-End Military Drone Force

By Rick Joe

The 2019 National Day parade held on October 1 was punctuated by the debuts of a number of new systems, some of the most consequential being a various unmanned aerial vehicles/unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UAVs/UCAVs). Recent years have seen the introduction of a variety of new UAVs in Chinese military (PLA) service as well, some of which have parallels to foreign equivalents. This marks a useful time to review some of the PLA’s UAVs and what the future of PLA drone development may hold.

Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drones

Medium Altitude Long Endurance drones can be described as UAVs with a service ceiling of below 9,000 meters and capable of flying a relatively long endurance of up to 24 hours or longer. These UAVs tend to be powered by propeller engines rather than jet engines. Well-known international MALE drones include the MQ-1 and MQ-9 from the United States or the Heron system from Israel.

China’s Growing Amphib Fleet: A Cause for Long-Term Concern?

By Robert Farley

Within the next decade, China will likely wield a weapon of political influence that thus far only the United States has fully taken advantage of. In a recent Asia Times article, Grant Newsham wrote of the political and military implications of China’s growing fleet of amphibious warfare vessels. Newsham argued that the primary impact of China’s fleet will come through its political implications, rather than through its use as a weapon of war. The more important consideration is how this fleet will allow China to maximize and extend its influence across the Indo-Pacific region.

As The Diplomat’s Rick Joe suggests, by 2025 China will have at least three Type 075 LHDs in service, and could have as many as eight in service by 2030. As Joe indicates, the PLAN will shortly have eight Type 071 LPDs available, although it is unclear how many more of these ships should be expected. U.S. Navy experience with LPDs has no clear lessons for the future of the LHA force, although the USN eventually expects to acquire 26 San Antonio-class LPDs in support of roughly a dozen LHAs.

How to Lose a War: U.S. Bases Are Under Threat From Chinese Missiles

by James Holmes

Last week the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Center (USSC) set policy circles aflutter when it issued a novella-length report that questions the staying power of U.S. military strategy in the Indo-Pacific theater while urging inhabitants of the region to take up their share of the defense burden vis-à-vis a domineering China. 

In one sense the report presents little new information or insight. That the U.S. military has retooled itself for counterinsurgency warfare and must now reinvent itself again for great-power strategic competition is old news. So is the notion that Washington suffers from strategic ADHD, taking on new commitments around the world willy-nilly while shedding few old ones to conserve finite resources and policy energy. Over the past decade-plus, it’s become plain that Communist China is a serious, strategically-minded maritime contender and has equipped itself with formidable shore-based weaponry to assail U.S. and allied bases in the region and supply firepower support to its increasingly impressive battle fleet. Beijing can now hope to fend off U.S. reinforcements from coming to the aid of regional allies, to slow them down, or to make the effort so expensive in terms of lives and hardware that no U.S. president would order the attempt. If it does any of these things it could spring a fait accompli on the region, accomplishing limited goals before powerful outsiders could intercede.

This is old—if still potent—wine in a new bottle.

Secret Documents Reveal How China’s Mass Detention Camps Work

In this Monday, Dec. 3, 2018, file photo, a guard tower and barbed wire fences are seen around a section of the Artux City Vocational Skills Education Training Service Center in Artux in western China’s Xinjiang region.Credit: AP Photo/File

The watch towers, double-locked doors and video surveillance in the Chinese camps are there “to prevent escapes.” Uyghurs and other minorities held inside are scored on how well they speak the dominant Mandarin language and follow strict rules on everything down to bathing and using the toilet, scores that determine if they can leave.

“Manner education” is mandatory, but “vocational skills improvement” is offered only after a year in the camps.

Voluntary job training is the reason the Chinese government has given for detaining more than a million ethnic minorities, most of them Muslims. But a classified blueprint leaked to a consortium of news organizations shows the camps are instead precisely what former detainees have described: Forced ideological and behavioral re-education centers run in secret.