4 January 2019

Kashmir’s Separatist Movement: Rising Challenges, Shrinking Relevance – Analysis

By Sarral Sharma

J&K’s separatist leaders are under pressure to keep their political relevance intact in the aftermath of the outbreak of violence beginning July 2016. Despite their personal and ideological differences, three top separatist leaders–Yasin Malik, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq– were led to establish the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) in late-2016 to streamline street protests and galvanise a united front regarding developments in the so-called ‘self-determination’ movement. This article will look at how the ‘new-age’ militancy poses a challenge to the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC)-led separatist movement, with the latter finding it difficult to maintain its political and territorial influence in the Valley.

The JRL regularly issues ‘protest calendars’ and calls for bandhs (shutdown) or election boycotts in pursuit of their goals. However, this is in part fuelled by challenges in light of the emerging new militancy. In the last two years, religion has been given significant relevance over politics as far as the local militancy is concerned. As a result, separatist leaders have also begun speaking on matters related to Islam, quite apart from politics, in their taqreers (speeches or sermons). Despite these contextual changes, local militants have not stopped criticising or intimidating the separatist leaders for their ‘limited’ participation in the Azadi (freedom) movement.

Afghanistan postpones presidential election


FILE - In this Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018 file photo, Afghan men line up to cast their votes, outside a polling station during the Parliamentary election in Kabul, Afghanistan. On Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018, Afghanistan's election commission said the presidential vote scheduled for April 2019 will be postponed for several months to allow time to fix technical problems that surfaced during October's parliamentary elections. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s presidential election, initially scheduled for April, will be postponed for several months to allow time to fix technical problems that surfaced during October’s parliamentary elections, officials said Wednesday.

More time is needed to verify voter lists and train staff on a biometric identification system designed to reduce fraud, said Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi, deputy spokesman for the Independent Election Commission.

The Iraq Exit Strategy Will Not Work in Afghanistan

by Tanya Goudsouzian 

Last week, President Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, fulfilling his oft-repeated promise to get America out of “dumb wars in the Middle East.” Along with that announcement was a message to start planning a withdrawal from Afghanistan. Early indications are that more than 7,000 American troops —out of 14,000—will return home soon. And probably sooner than the Pentagon would want.

While the move no doubt undercuts the Afghan government’s position in the ongoing peace talks with the Taliban, President Ashraf Ghani claimed it would not impact security in the country. Afghan military generals did not agree with this assessment, saying the move would be seen as a defeat. Indeed, the Taliban reportedly reacted with “ cries of victory .”

Opinion | Time to Get Out of Afghanistan

by Robert D. Kaplan

A member of the United States Air Force at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. President Trump has decided to pull out about half of the 14,000 American troops there.

The decision by President Trump to withdraw 7,000 of the roughly 14,000 American troops left in Afghanistan, possibly by summer, has raised new concerns about his impulsive behavior, especially given his nearly simultaneous decision to pull out all American forces from Syria against the advice of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. But the downsizing of the Afghan mission was probably inevitable. Indeed, it may soon be time for the United States to get out of the country altogether.

No other country in the world symbolizes the decline of the American empire as much as Afghanistan. There is virtually no possibility of a military victory over the Taliban and little chance of leaving behind a self-sustaining democracy — facts that Washington’s policy community has mostly been unable to accept.

Indo-Pak Relations in 2019

Tilak Devasher

Four factors are likely to define how Indo-Pak relations will shape in 2019: The role of the Pakistan army and its perception of India; Imran Khan’s predilections; existing bilateral issues like Kashmir, Mumbai attackers’ trial, SAARC summit, Kartarpur corridor, support to terror etc., and the shape of Pakistan’s economy.

Role of the Pakistan Army and Perception of India

Despite Imran Khan’s assertion of being on the same page as the army1, the reality is that the army continues to call the shots on Pakistan’s India policy. In implementing such a policy it has developed and honed terror as the key instrument. There are no indications of such a policy being jettisoned.

Two significant aspects of the Pakistani narrative on India that are likely to dominate in 2019 are, first, to increasingly accuse India of fomenting terrorism. As Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi put it, “Pakistan shall never forget the mass murder of more than 150 children in a Peshawar School, the terrible Mastung attack and many others that have links with terrorists supported by India.”2 Second, no rapprochement is possible till after the Indian parliamentary elections in April-May 20193 since electoral rhetoric would demand an anti-Pakistan approach rather than pursuing dialogue. Many analysts do not discount the possibility of further deterioration in relations for political advantage ahead of the elections.4
Imran Khan’s Predilections

The Bell Tolls on Bangladesh's Democracy

By Tamim Choudhury

As Bangladesh, a South Asian nation of 165 million people, went through another round of parliamentary elections, high-stakes gamesmanship unfolded. Opposition activists were arrested in the thousands, and a pervasive climate of repression filled the thick, sweaty air. Whereas the ruling party kept with the mantra “Vote for us, and economic progress will continue,” the opposition hobbled together an alliance led by the widely respected Kamal Hossain, the Oxford-trained lawyer who drafted the nation’s constitution.

Even though the ruling Awami League has secured a landslide victory, surpassing its previous wins with a record 288 out of 300 parliamentary seats, allegations of vote-rigging are rife. The BBC reported that ballot boxes at a polling center were already filled right after polls opened; the presiding officer refused to comment on the discrepancy. There are anecdotal reports of opposition supporters — whole families — being barred from entering polling centers to cast their votes.

The Asia-Pacific in 2019: What to Expect

Another year has come and gone, and it was a doozy. 2018 saw the much-feared U.S.-China trade war actually come to fruition; an unexpected but rapid thaw on the Korean Peninsula; crucial elections in Malaysia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan; and surprisingly rapid reforms continue under Uzbekistan’s new president.

This year promises to be a busy one as well. Indonesians will vote for their next president while Australia, Thailand, and India will hold general elections that could seat new prime ministers. The People’s Republic of China will turn 70 to much fanfare, just a few months after the government studiously ignores the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. The world will continue to watch if the Korean peace holds. And, over everything, the “Trump factor” will continue to drench the region in uncertainty for yet another year.

The Rise of Gene Editing: How Did We Get Here

The scientific community and the world at large are still reeling from the news that a rogue Chinese scientist conducted experiments that ultimately resulted in CRISPR-edited twin girls. The scientist's behavior may have been anomalous, but the use of CRISPR and other gene-editing technologies is something we've been tracking here at Stratfor for a number of years. The potential applications spread across a wide swath of sectors, from agriculture to industry to medicine. Much as we see a tech race on artificial intelligence between China and the United States, we expect a similar one in biotech. And just as we see countries trying to regulate and set ethical standards for other technology, the same is true for CRISPR. In this compendium, you'll find not only our coverage from 2018 but also our foundational analysis on this geopolitically relevant technology.

How Trump Can Challenge China

Reihan Salam

President Donald Trump has good reason to denounce China’s tolerance of intellectual-property theft and various other trade abuses, as even his harshest critics will acknowledge. And there are tentative signs that U.S. negotiators are securing concessions from Beijing on market access for U.S. firms and the protection of their intellectual property. But a face-saving deal along these lines won’t really change China’s behavior. To do that, Trump ought to play against type by championing the interests of ordinary Chinese workers. That would pressure the Chinese party-state right where it is most vulnerable—and drive home the point that our quarrel is not with the Chinese people, but with the Chinese party-state.

5 Big National Security Predictions for 2019

by James Holmes
Source Link

Winston Churchill once wisecracked that the politician’s job is to predict what will happen—then explain why it didn’t. More to the point, George Orwell mocked “the unsinkable Military Expert” who keeps venturing strong predictions about martial affairs, keeps getting forecasts wrong, and keeps drawing “fat salaries” despite repeated failures as a soothsayer. Be humble when prophesying—lest the ghosts of wars past appear before you and terrify you!

In that spirit of humility, my Five National Security Predictions for 2019:

1. China keeps pushing its bounds:

China Shaken By Foreign Investment Slowdown – Analysis

By Michael Lelyveld

Based on the latest official figures, it appears that investors may be holding back until the outcome of the trade war with the United States becomes known.

As with much of the official data in China, the evidence is clouded, fragmented and inconclusive.

Yet, despite the uncertainties over Chinese statistics, it seems clear that foreign investment growth has fallen far below the double-digit rates of a decade ago.

Some reports have been quick to cite a “sharp deterioration in business confidence” among China investors following a steep drop in November’s foreign direct investment (FDI), reported by the Ministry of Commerce (MOC).

US-China Relations at 40

By Elizabeth Economy

2019 should be a year of celebration; it marks 40 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and China. Bilateral trade and investment between the two countries has grown exponentially from $5 billion in 1980 to $710 billion in 2017; student exchange and tourism numbers have soared; and peace has been maintained in the Asia-Pacific. Yet, over the past several years, trade tensions have risen to an all-time high; there is talk of military conflict over Taiwan and in the South China Sea; concerns have flared in each country over the political influence of the other; and the two countries have launched an all-out competition to define the values and norms underpinning the international order. In a number of respects, the current bilateral relationship is under more stress than at any time since the normalization of relations.

The protectors of the sacred homeland and the builders of happy homes (II)

Govern the nation by governing the borders; govern the borders by first stabilizing Tibet; ensure social harmony and stability in Tibet and strengthen the development of border regions.

Thus spoke President Xi Jinping about China’s relations with Tibet.

The authorities in Tibet have started implementing the theory of their boss and the party’s propaganda is doing its best to entice the local Tibetan population to side with the Communist Party.

This is a serious development, unfortunately ignored in India.

A new formula can be found in every speech of the local satraps, the inhabitants of China’s borders (with India) should be “the protectors of the sacred homeland and the builders of happy homes.”

Big Data near the Indian Border

China Tibet Newsreported yesterday that ‘Big Data’ were used for ‘poverty alleviation’ in the county. It is a bit worrisome, for an area located relatively close to the Indian border. 

The website said: “In the age of information and network, ‘big data’ plays an even more important role in assisting decision-making for all kinds of work. In recent years, relying on the advantages of the ‘big data’, village task forces of Baxoi [Pashoe] County can record the progress of poverty alleviation work in real time and establish the mechanism of data administration and assessment, which greatly improve the effectiveness of poverty alleviation work.”

‘Improve the poverty alleviation’, as well keep a tab on the restive border population to ultimately …stabilize the border.

This the un-publicized objective.

10 Security Resolutions for 2019

By Scott Stewart

Come the end of December, people the world over sit down to make resolutions for the year ahead. And with the On Security column for Jan. 1, what better way to ring in the new year than with 10 security resolutions to help people keep themselves, their families and their homes safe from a wide array of threats.

1. I resolve to practice the appropriate level of situational awareness for my environment.

Situational awareness is more a state of mind than a hard skill. Because of this, anyone can practice it. But to do so effectively, one must understand the different levels of situational awareness and which level is appropriate for which circumstance. For more about situational awareness, read Building Blocks of Personal Security: Situational Awareness.

Snake-Oil Economics The Bad Math Behind Trump’s Policies

By N. Gregory Mankiw

When economists write, they can decide among three possible voices to convey their message. The choice is crucial, because it affects how readers receive their work.

The first voice might be called the textbook authority. Here, economists act as ambassadors for their profession. They faithfully present the wide range of views professional economists hold, acknowledging the pros and cons of each. These authors do their best to hide their personal biases and admit that there is still plenty that economists do not know. According to this perspective, reasonable people can disagree; it is the author’s job to explain the basis for that disagreement and help readers make an informed judgment.

The second voice is that of the nuanced advocate. In this case, economists advance a point of view while recognizing the diversity of thought among reasonable people. They use state-of-the-art theory and evidence to try to persuade the undecided and shake the faith of those who disagree. They take a stand without pretending to be omniscient. They acknowledge that their intellectual opponents have some serious arguments and respond to them calmly and without vitriol.

2019 Forecast: Budget Battles & Confirmation Wars


It’s been a frenetic fall for the Department of Defense: a budget cut and then a budget increase, the secretary’s resignation and then his dismissal, an affirmation of allies and then a denunciation. What does this year-end craziness say about the year ahead? Here’s what to watch for: 

Trump’s pick to replace Sec. Jim Mattis will be a key indicator about where the president wants to drive the department — and the confirmation process will show what the Senate will accept.

The National Defense Strategy issued in January, once thought to be firm, may now be in question.

The defense budget may be collateral damage from a bitterly divided Congress.
Finally, congressional investigations will both highlight key policy issues and add to partisan rancor.

Martin van Creveld reviews America’s mad wars

Larry Kummer

When 9/11 shook the world seventeen years ago the U.S was quick to respond. And the response, whatever else, was bound to be spectacular so as to make both friends and opponents see the hole through which the fish pisses, to use a colorful Israeli expression. A superpower – at the time, remember, there was only one – simply cannot afford to be treated the way Bin Laden and Co. treated the U.S. Such is the way of the world; had President Bush not done what the vast majority both in Congress and in the nation believed was both justified and necessary, surely a way would have been found either to coerce him or to sweep him away.

Russia Will Soon Be Taking Out Enemy Drones With A New Unmanned Artillery System

creasing use of drones by militants has fueled a hi-tech response from the country’s weapon designers.

Russia is developing an AI-enabled combat module – it’s main task will be take out small low-flying drones, which have become the weapon of choice for militants fighting in the Middle East. The development of the new system was reported by Russian media in late December, citing Umakhan Umakhanov, the chief designer of the company responsible for the project.

The new artillery system has been provisionally called Samum. In addition to cheap bomb-carrying UAVs, it will be able to provide protection against tactical fighters, attack aircraft, and even helicopters.

“The unmanned remote-controlled module can be installed on any self-propelled platform, namely armored vehicles or ships. The implementation schedule depends on the receipt of orders. So far this is just an R&D initiative,” Umakhanov said in an interview.


The title above is from Tim Simonite’s December 28, 2018 article he posted to the cyber and security website, WIRED.com. He begins: First algorithms figured out how to decipher images. That’s why you can unlock an iPhone with your face. More recently, machine learning has become capable of generating and altering images and video.” 

“In 2018, researchers and artists took Artificial Intelligence (AI)-made and enhanced visuals to another level,” Mr. Simonite wrote. Indeed, “software developed at the University of California Berkeley, can transfer the movements of one person, captured on video…to another,” he notes. “The process begins with two source clips — one showing the movement to be transferred; and, another showing a sample of the person to be transformed. One part of the software extracts the body positions from both clips; another learns how to create a realistic image of the subject for any given body position. It can then generate video of the subject performing more or less any set of movements. In its initial version, the system needs 20 minutes of input video before it can map new moves onto your body.”

A Thimbleful of Optimism for 2019


KOLKATA – At the end of this year of political trauma and conflict, I found myself feeling an unexpected sense of hope, sitting in Mumbai, where I could see the Arabian Sea stretching westward toward the Gulf of Aden and Africa, as well as the vast Indian subcontinent extending eastward to the Bay of Bengal and the lands beyond.

To be sure, one must not gloss over the ongoing catastrophes of 2018. In Yemen, millions of civilians, including children, are suffering starvation and indiscriminate violence. On the southern border of the United States, refugees fleeing misery and conflict don’t know if they will be met with sanctuary or bolted gates and tear gas. Around the world, hyper-nationalist politicians and egomaniacs are launching trade wars, stoking hatred, and veering toward fascism.

If I feel optimistic, it must be because, over the last month, I have been on the road, and somewhat sheltered from the news, from the US to Mexico, China, and, now, India. Through it all, I have chatted with roadside vendors, students, and strangers in cafés, and when one does this it is impossible not to be struck by how similar people are across the planet. We may not look, dress, or speak the same, but our shared humanity becomes evident through conversation and interaction. At a time when hatred of the “other” is on the rise, this is comforting.

Who Benefits from Trump’s Trade War?


TOKYO – In 1950, the Canadian-born Princeton University economist Jacob Viner explained a customs union produces a “trade creation” effect, as lower tariffs and non-tariff barriers spur increased flows of goods among member countries. But Viner noted that a customs union also generates a “trade diversion” effect, as countries that are not part of it face reductions in their trade with countries that are. By raising trade barriers with its major trading partners – especially China – the US now risks negative trade-creation and trade-diversion effects.

Of course, the US is not part of a customs union. But the trade creation and diversion effects can be seen, to varying extents, with any free-trade area – even an arrangement as broad as the World Trade Organization. So when, for example, US President Donald Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership – which is now moving forward as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership – it effectively doomed the US to a reduction in trade with the countries it deserted, as they increase trade with one another.

Brexit Does Not Matter


A chaotic Brexit could do great damage to ordinary people, as was the case with Britain’s self-ejection from the Exchange Rate Mechanism of the European Monetary System in 1992. But those ordinary people will be overwhelmingly British. The days when Britain could move the world are long gone.

WASHINGTON, DC – The contours of the nineteenth and early twentieth century were defined in part by a series of consequential British foreign policy and economic decisions. As recently as 2007-2009, British policy affected global outcomes: whereas deregulation of the City of London contributed to the severity of the global financial crisis, British leadership at the London G20 summit in April 2009 ultimately proved a stabilizing influence. Today, however, despite all the political theater and dramatic rhetoric, Britain’s impending exit from the European Union – Brexit – really does not matter for the world.

6 enterprise tech trends to watch in 2019

Analytics firm CB Insights has released a list of 16 enterprise IT trends that it believes will dominate in 2019.

CB Insights broke the list down into the following four categories: 

Necessary: "Trends which are seeing widespread industry and customer implementation / adoption and where market and applications are understood. For these trends, incumbents should have a clear, articulated strategy and initiatives." 

Experimental: "Conceptual or early-stage trends with few functional products and which have not seen widespread adoption. Experimental trends are already spurring early media interest and proof-of-concepts." 

Threatening: "Large addressable market forecasts and notable investment activity. The trend has been embraced by early adopters and may be on the precipice of gaining widespread industry or customer adoption."

Four big questions for cybersecurity in 2019

By: Justin Lynch 

How will cybersecurity experts remember 2018?

In the past year, the Trump administration announced it would take more offensive hacking operations against foreign countries, the Department of Justice announcedsweeping indictments against Chinese hackers and the U.S. intelligence community reported that foreign countries continued to interfere in American elections.

So what comes next? Here are four overarching questions for the cybersecurity community in 2019:

What will the new Pentagon chief do with expanded cyber powers?

Smart Cities: A Toolkit for Leaders

The definition of a “smart city” is changing. While it refers to a community that adopts technological tools to become more efficient, the term also increasingly encompasses ideas of sustainability, compassion and equity for all stakeholders. As cities embrace initiatives to become more connected, data-driven and resilient, mayors and other leaders often must prioritize various needs because of budget constraints. The key is to pick strategic projects that will bring the most impact to a city and result in increased well-being. To help mayors and civic leaders make meaningful choices on these issues, Knowledge@Wharton is pleased to offer this special report in collaboration with the Digital Software and Solutions Group of Tata Consultancy Services, which includes interviews with experts as well as examples from cities in the U.S. and Europe.

The topics include:

Cyber War - Part 2

Rajinder Tumber

Welcome to part 2 of "2019: Cyber War". In Part 1, I state my belief that a major cyber attack will strike in 2019. I also begin to describe Category 1 cyber attacks, which are a national cyber emergency with consequences as severe as the potential loss of life. In Part 2, I delve into election hacking.

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses U.S. armed forces members on a Christmas Day video conference call in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2018. Trump expressed confidence in the Treasury secretary, Federal Reserve and U.S. economy on Tuesday, moving to calm financial markets further roiled after Bloomberg News reported that the president had discussed firing the central bank’s chairman over raising interest rates. 

Another area of Category 1 concerns politics and elections. Why? Because a cyber attack from a foreign government can attempt to influence the outcome of elections, and thus the leadership of a country and its people. This is a big deal! Should you care if a foreign government, domestic extremist group or an individual can push for a racist, sexist or dictatorial party to win an election and control your decisions? Of course!

Tech trends 2019: folding phones, cyber crime and space tourism

Early in the year, all eyes were on Facebook during the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when the personal details of 87 million social media users were exposed to the research agency without their consent. 

There were also year-long declines in the cryptocurrency market, with bitcoin falling from its record high of nearly $20,000 (£15,820) in December 2017 to well below $3,500 (£2,770) a year later. 

Next year, though, is already looking as though it’ll be a stellar year for the industry. Smartphones are on course to make a quantum leap in speed and design, while everyday users may benefit from tighter cyber security measures. 

Here are The Week’s predictions for headline-grabbing technology in 2019: 
Networks switch on 5G

Infographic Of The Day: How To Be Invisible On The Internet

Although giving up your data was once an afterthought when gaining access to the newest internet services such as Facebook and Uber, many people have had their perspective altered by various recent scandals, billions of dollars of cybertheft, and a growing discomfort around how their personal data may be used in the future.

More people want to opt out of this data collection, but aside from disconnecting entirely or taking ludicrous measures to safeguard information, there aren’t many great options available to limit what is seen and known about you online.

The Next Best Thing

It may not be realistic to use Tor for all online browsing, so why not instead look at taking more practical steps to reducing your internet footprint?

Army looks for a few good robots, sparks industry battle

By: Matt O'Brien

In this Aug. 28, 2018, photo, software engineer Nicholas Otero speaks with a colleague about features on a Centaur robot at Endeavor Robotics, in Chelmsford, Mass. The next generation of U.S. military ground robots will be easier for the average soldier to deploy, and slightly more autonomous than the remote-controlled rovers that have been helping to disable explosives on the battlefield for more than 15 years. 

CHELMSFORD, Mass. — The Army is looking for a few good robots. Not to fight — not yet, at least — but to help the men and women who do.

These robots aren't taking up arms, but the companies making them have waged a different kind of battle. At stake is a contract worth almost half a billion dollars for 3,000 backpack-sized robots that can defuse bombs and scout enemy positions. Competition for the work has spilled over into Congress and federal court.