11 January 2019

Significant steps towards modernization of armed forces, but challenges remain

NEW DELHI: The bitter Doklam episode as well as the evolving regional security matrix forced India's defence brass in 2018 to hasten work on long-pending reforms and modernisation of the armed forces, resulting in a plethora of strategically key initiatives aimed at boosting India's military prowess 

The efforts, however, were marred by the political firestorm over the Rafale deal with the defence ministry and the Indian Air Force having to focus on rebutting charges of graft in the Rs 58,000- crore contract. 

As concerns mounted over Chinese infrastructure build-up in Tibet Autonomous Region and near Doklam tri-junction, the government expedited implementation of pending projects like laying of roads, construction of bridges, strengthening of key military airfields and enhancing surveillance along the nearly 3,600-km Sino-India border. 

India walking a tightrope with US and Russian defense systems


India is aiming to modernize its strategic arsenal with the introduction of advanced US and Russian defense systems. However, some military experts say that while the South Asian giant needs foreign technologies to become a self-sufficient arms manufacturer – and autonomous global geopolitical player – technical problems could limit their coexistence.

The Indian government finalized the acquisition of Russia’s S-400 air defense missile system earlier this month and is said to be considering the purchase of the National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System-II(NASAMS-II) from the United States.

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The US Isn’t Really Leaving Syria and Afghanistan


President Donald Trump caused a political furor when he announced in December that he would quickly withdraw all 2,000 American troops in Syria, together with half of the 14,000 U.S.soldiers in Afghanistan. Democrats (and many Republicans) condemned the exit strategy as a boon for America’s enemies. Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned in protest, as did the special envoy for the counter-ISIS campaign, Brett McGurk, and the Pentagon chief of staff, Kevin Sweeney. Other prominent voices praised the drawdown. In The New York Times, for example, Robert Kaplan called the campaign in Afghanistan “a vestigial limb of empire, and it is time to let it go.” These critics and defenders of Trump’s decision have one thing in common: They share the assumption that Washington is actually getting out of Syria and Afghanistan.

In conventional campaigns against foreign countries, such as World War II, war and peace are clearly defined. The United States gears up for the fight and battles the enemy, there’s a surrender ceremony, and then the troops come home and Americans close the book. But in the modern era of complex civil wars and counterterrorism operations, a world power like the United States never really leaves.

Trump wanted a big cut in troops in Afghanistan. New U.S. military plans fall short.

By Dan Lamothe and Josh Dawsey

The U.S. military is drafting plans to withdraw a few thousand troops from Afghanistan while continuing all major missions in the longest war in American history, U.S. officials said, three weeks after President Trump sought options for a more drastic pullout.

The planning is underway after Trump ordered the Pentagon to prepare the withdrawal of up to half of the roughly 14,000 U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan, six officials said. The officials, who work in several parts of the government, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

Trump still wants to remove troops from Afghanistan — eventually all of them — but the current withdrawal probably will be far fewer than 7,000, two senior White House officials said. Military advisers have convinced him that a smaller, and slower, withdrawal is best for now — although officials cautioned that a final decision had not been reached and that the president could order a full pullout at any moment.

Sri Lanka: After the Crisis, What Next?

By Umesh Moramudali

2018 was a very dramatic year for Sri Lankan politics and it left the possibility of more surprises in 2019. The political and constitutional crisis that created so much uncertainty in Sri Lanka now seems to have settled temporarily, with the ousted prime minister being reappointed while most of his cabinet ministers were reinstated.

The crisis lasted for almost two months after President Maithripala Sirisena dismissed Ranil Wickremesinghe as the prime minister October 26, 2018 before also attempting to dismiss Parliament itself. Although Wickremesinghe has been sworn in as the prime minister once more, the fissure between the president and the prime minister’s United National Party (UNP) is very much still evident. Sirisena’s speech after the swearing in ceremony included a number of verbal attacks against Wickremesinghe and his cabinet.

The Parliamentary Tug-of-War

The United States and China - A Different Kind of Cyberwar

By Kevin Townsend 

China is Conducting a Low and Slow Cyberwar, Attempting to Stay Under the Radar and Maneuver the Global Economy

The potential for cyberwarfare between the United States and Russia is openly discussed, and – if not actually defined – is well understood. The British attitude is clear and defined, and the threat of retaliation – not necessarily cyber retaliation – is explicit.

But few people talk about China and cyberwar. The reason is simple. China is already engaged in its own form of cyberwarfare, but one that does not readily fit into the West’s perception of war and peace. China, the world’s oldest surviving civilization, is taking the long view. It has no interest in winning short-term battles; its focus is on winning the long-term war.

America’s Freedom of Navigation Operations Are Lost at Sea


On Jan. 7, the USS McCampbell conducted a freedom of navigation operation near three features in the Paracel Islands chain. This was the ninth known operation conducted by the Trump administration, which has undertaken South China Sea excursions more regularly despite risky Chinese challenges. The operation followed Vice President Mike Pence’s assertion last November that “the United States is taking decisive action to protect our interests and promote the Indo-Pacific’s shared success.”

Yet a poll released this week showed that two-thirds of respondents in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) believe U.S. engagement with Southeast Asia has declined and one-third have little or no confidence in the United States as a strategic partner and regional security provider. In short, for all its tough talk on China and increased activity in the South China Sea, the Trump administration’s credibility in Southeast Asia is eroding.

A New Cold War Has Begun


In June 2005, I published a cover story in the Atlantic, “How We Would Fight China.” I wrote that, “The American military contest with China … will define the twenty-first century. And China will be a more formidable adversary than Russia ever was.” I went on to explain that the wars of the future would be naval, with all of their abstract battle systems, even though dirty counterinsurgency fights were all the rage 14 years ago.

That future has arrived, and it is nothing less than a new cold war: The constant, interminable Chinese computer hacks of American warships’ maintenance records, Pentagon personnel records, and so forth constitute war by other means. This situation will last decades and will only get worse, whatever this or that trade deal is struck between smiling Chinese and American presidents in a photo-op that sends financial markets momentarily skyward. The new cold war is permanent because of a host of factors that generals and strategists understand but that many, especially those in the business and financial community who populate Davos, still prefer to deny. And because the U.S.-China relationship is the world’s most crucial—with many second- and third-order effects—a cold war between the two is becoming the negative organizing principle of geopolitics that markets will just have to price in.

The three elements of China’s innovation model

In November 2018, the New York Times published a series that began with a story titled, The Land that Failed to Fail. The central argument of the piece is that defying Western expectations, the Communist Party has maintained its control in China while adopting elements of capitalism, eschewing political liberalisation, and pursuing innovation. The last of these three — innovation — is the subject of this piece.

What drives innovation in China? This is not merely a question about the mechanics of policy, the might of capital, the determination of dogged entrepreneurs, or the brilliance that is conjured up in university dormitories. Increasingly, it is a question that has acquired geopolitical significance, not just in the context of power politics but also in the debate over fundamental values about political and economic organisation. In other words, the question that China’s march towards becoming a “country of innovators” raises is whether a political system that prioritises control can foster genuine innovation.

Why China’s Military Wants to Beat the US to a Next-Gen Cell Network


The race for 5G — the next-generation cell-network technology that promises high speed, low latency, and high throughput — has emerged as a new frontier of rivalry in U.S.-China relations. The technological advances by Huawei, ZTE, and other companies may allow China to become the first country to deploy 5G on a wide scale, giving its economy an edge. But 5G’s dual-use and military potential introduces another dimension of geostrategic significance — one that the Chinese military and defense industry are avidly exploring.

The advancement of 5G in China is linked to its national strategy for military-civil fusion (军民融合). In November 2018, key industry players established the 5G Technology Military-Civil Fusion Applications Industry Alliance (5G技术军民融合应用产业联盟),including ZTE, China Unicom, and the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC). This new partnership aims to foster collaboration and integrated military and civilian development, while promoting both defense and commercial applications. In particular, the CASIC First Research Academy is focusing on the use of 5G in aerospace. There could be some notable synergies in 5G development among these and other notable players. For instance, 5G will require specialized communications equipment, such as certain antennas and microwave equipment, that the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), a state-owned defense conglomerate,has established particular proficiency in developing.

A New Cold War Has Begun


In June 2005, I published a cover story in the Atlantic, “How We Would Fight China.” I wrote that, “The American military contest with China … will define the twenty-first century. And China will be a more formidable adversary than Russia ever was.” I went on to explain that the wars of the future would be naval, with all of their abstract battle systems, even though dirty counterinsurgency fights were all the rage 14 years ago.

That future has arrived, and it is nothing less than a new cold war: The constant, interminable Chinese computer hacks of American warships’ maintenance records, Pentagon personnel records, and so forth constitute war by other means. This situation will last decades and will only get worse, whatever this or that trade deal is struck between smiling Chinese and American presidents in a photo-op that sends financial markets momentarily skyward. The new cold war is permanent because of a host of factors that generals and strategists understand but that many, especially those in the business and financial community who populate Davos, still prefer to deny. And because the U.S.-China relationship is the world’s most crucial—with many second- and third-order effects—a cold war between the two is becoming the negative organizing principle of geopolitics that markets will just have to price in.

The Geopolitics of the Quad

Arzan Tarapore

In the wake of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, meeting in Singapore on November 15, Arzan Tarapore considers how this informal grouping of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States could mount a response to China’s revisionism.

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, met again in Singapore on November 15 on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit. An informal grouping of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, the Quad held its third meeting of officials since it was reformed in November 2017, after a decade-long hiatus. The meeting in Singapore covered a range of security and economic issues under the rubric of supporting a “free, open, and inclusive rules-based order”—in a veiled reference to China’s revisionist policies—and declared the group’s continued deference to “ASEAN centrality” in the region’s institutional architecture. Once again, the group stopped short of announcing any combined military maneuvers or measures that directly push back on Chinese military activities.

At the Dawn of Belt and Road

by Andrew Scobell

What is China's political and diplomatic, economic, and military engagement with the Developing World, region by region? What states in each region does China consider pivotal to its security and external relations? What are the consequences of the Chinese strategy toward the Developing World for the United States?

Since its establishment in 1949, the People's Republic of China (PRC) has viewed itself as an underdeveloped country — economically backward, physically weak, and vulnerable to exploitation by more powerful states. Even as the PRC has grown stronger economically and militarily, especially since launching the reform and opening policies of Deng Xiaoping in 1978, PRC officials continue to insist China is a developing country.

Japan Slams China for Unauthorized Research Around Okinotori Island

By Thisanka Siripala

The Japanese Embassy in Beijing has filed official protest with China after they admitted to conducting marine surveys around the Japan-held Okinotori island without permission. In mid-December last year, the Japanese Coast Guard intercepted a Chinese research vessel in waters surrounding Okinotori Island. Japan claims the uninhabited Okinotori island in the Pacific Ocean as its southernmost territory, which is 1700 kilometers south of Tokyo, and holds that Okinotori generates a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ)

China's Stability Is at Risk

by Christopher Whalen

The western view of China’s political economy is driven partly by anecdote, partly by accepting Beijing’s propaganda/economic data as fact. Foreign investors have convinced themselves that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is superior in terms of economic management, this despite ample evidence to the contrary, thus accepting the official view is easy but also increasingly risky.

In a December 15 speech , Renmin University’s Xiang Songzuo warned that Chinese stock market conditions resemble those during the 1929 Wall Street Crash. He also suggested that the Chinese economy is actually shrinking. But this apostate view was quickly rejected by legions of captive western economists and investment analysts whose livelihood depends upon “selling China” to credulous foreign audiences.

China Is Shooting Itself in the Foot Over Huawei


The conflict between the United States and China is not just a competition over economic prowess or technological might but also a clash over values—whether government power should be restrained, whether dissent is tolerated, and whether citizens are prepared to give up individual liberty for the pursuit of common good spelled out by those in power. Countries with geopolitical or economic interests tied to both of these great powers find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place.

The latest manifestation of this crossfire is the detention of two Canadian citizens by the Chinese authorities in December, in what is widely presumed to be retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, in Vancouver early that month. A Chinese court has ordered a retrial of a Canadian citizen earlier sentenced to 15 years for drug smuggling, which could result in a death sentence. Canada perceives China’s actions as a tit-for-tat strategy and a practice of hostage diplomacy.

The Year of Trump?


BEIJING – Time magazine did not choose Donald Trump as its Person of the Year in 2018, but it may do so this year. Trump ended last year facing criticism for announcing troop withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan without consulting allies (resulting in the resignation of his respected defense secretary, James Mattis) and partially shutting down the government over a Mexican border wall. In 2019, with Democrats having taken over the House of Representatives, he will face increasing criticism of his foreign policy.

Administration supporters shrug off the critics. Foreign policy experts, diplomats, and allies are aghast at Trump’s iconoclastic style, but Trump’s base voted for change and welcomes the disruption. In addition, some experts argue that the disruption will be justified if the consequences prove beneficial for American interests, such as a more benign regime in Iran, denuclearization of North Korea, a change of Chinese economic policies, and a more evenly balanced international trade regime.

Of course, assessing the long-term consequences of Trump’s foreign policy now is like predicting the final score in the middle of a game. Stanford historian Niall Ferguson has argued that “the key to Trump’s presidency is that it is probably the last opportunity America has to stop or at least slow China’s ascendency. And while it may not be intellectually very satisfying, Trump’s approach to the problem, which is to assert US power in unpredictable and disruptive ways, may in fact be the only viable option left.”

If Trump Wants to Get Out of Syria, He Should Strike a Deal With Russia

By Ilan Goldenberg and Nicholas A. Heras

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American forces from Syria is a mistake. But if he insists on going ahead with it, the best option for the United States is to do what it can to ensure that Moscow—not Ankara or Tehran—ultimately replaces it and negotiates a political settlement that prevents a new conflict in eastern Syria. The two of us have long argued for greater U.S. engagement in Syria, so we find this approach unpleasant. But given Trump’s decision, it is the best way to avert further conflict, prevent the Islamic State (ISIS) from reemerging, and limit Iran’s influence in eastern Syria.


The withdrawal of U.S. forces from eastern Syria has the potential to create a security vacuum in which ISIS could regenerate, especially if fighting flares up again. The United States will be abandoning its best local partner in the campaign against ISIS: the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which U.S. commanders expected would stabilize eastern Syria after ISIS’ defeat. Iran will likely take the opportunity to shore up its supply lines across the Levant and reinforce the missile stockpiles it is building in western Syria. By walking away from a region that makes up nearly one-third of the country, including some of its most important electricity-producing resources and its most significant water, oil, and wheat reserves, the United States will be giving up its biggest piece of leverage in any negotiation over the final disposition of the country.

Italy’s Writing on the Wall


PRINCETON – As the home of both the Roman Empire and the Renaissance, Italy has long been at the forefront of cultural developments in Europe and Western Eurasia. But it has also long served as an example of political decline. Edward Gibbon’s classic The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, after all, was meant as a warning to the author’s empire-building contemporaries.

Italy’s economic stagnation after the early seventeenth century was also held up as a cautionary tale. The nineteenth-century English critic John Ruskin implored members of Britain’s mercantile society to ponder the tragedies of Tyre and Venice. Describing Venice in “the final period of her decline,” he wrote of “a ghost upon the sands of the sea, so weak – so quiet – so bereft of all but her loveliness, that we might well doubt, as we watched her faint reflection in the mirage of the lagoon, which was the City, and which the Shadow.”

Then came the post-World War II period, when Italy was the poster child for fruitful European integration. The country developed a cultural style that is still uniquely influential to this day, particularly in the domain of fashion, where it is a global trendsetter. Around the world, upmarket shopping malls, high streets, and airports are lined with boutiques featuring Italian designs (if not Italian products).

The Curious Story of an American Arrested by the Kremlin

By Scott Stewart

Russia has arrested an American corporate security director, Paul Whelan, but he doesn't have the profile befitting a non-official cover intelligence officer, even though there are elements in his background that would bring him to the attention of the Kremlin's security services. Russian authorities arrested Whelan not long after Russian citizen Maria Butina pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to being an unregistered foreign agent, but it doesn't appear that Moscow is seeking a prisoner swap. The Kremlin could try to hold Whelan to exchange him in the future for any "illegal" Russian operative caught operating in the United States.

Pentagon: Military Logistics System Not Ready For War With China Or Russia

BY: Bill Gertz

The strategic American military system for moving troops, weapons, and supplies over long distances has decayed significantly and needs rapid upgrading to be ready for any future war with China or Russia, according to a report by the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board.

A special task force on survivable logistics evaluated the military’s current airlift, sealift, and prepositioned equipment and supplies and found major problems with supporting forces during a “high-end” conflict.

“Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has not fought an adversary capable of the catastrophic disruption of military supply chains and deployment of personnel and materiel,” an unclassified summary of the report states.

Apple’s Troubles in China Predict Problems for Other U.S. Firms

In a letter to Apple investors on January 2, Apple CEO Tim Cook warned that the company’s revenues for the fourth quarter would be lower than expected. He blamed the shortfall on the “magnitude of the economic deceleration particularly in Greater China.” But China’s slowing economy and a burgeoning trade war with the U.S. are not the only factors responsible for Apple’s troubles in China, writes Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions Kartik Hosanagar in this opinion piece. A slew of Chinese rivals has gradually eroded the iPhone’s once dominant market share in the country, he notes.

Hosanagar joined Jyoti Thottam, business and economics editor in the Opinion section of The New York Times, on the K@W radio show on Sirius XMto discuss Apple’s problems and what they reveal about the prospects of other U.S. companies that depend significantly on China for revenues. “Most of Apple’s troubles in China are related to factors other than the trade war,” he said. According to Thottam, “The consumer sentiment part of the equation is interesting and a little complicated. Apple was a little slow to adapt.” (Listen to the podcast at the top of this page.)

America’s damaging flip-flops in Syria

Editor’s note: This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared in the print edition of January 5th 2019. It has been changed to reflect comments made by John Bolton, America’s national security adviser, on January 6th 2019.

IT DID NOT take long for America’s announced withdrawal from Syria to be felt across the Middle East. The Syrian regime, along with its Russian and Iranian allies, rejoiced. Arab states hurried to make up with Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad. The Arab League will soon debate his return to the fold. America’s Kurdish allies, crying betrayal, urged him to help fend off a looming Turkish invasion. Israel scrambled to contain the damage.

The U.S. is leaving Syria, and will stay as long as it takes

President Trump’s sudden announcement that the U.S. would pull out of Syria stunned the key players in the conflict, prompted America’s panicked Kurdish allies to turn to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Between the lines: Nearly three weeks later, the withdrawal seems to be getting less imminent by the day.

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Trump now says U.S. troops will withdraw “at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary.” He initially announced: “They’re all coming back, and they’re coming back now.” 

What Motivates Workers in the Gig Economy?

The gig economy offers tremendous flexibility for workers and companies, but it also comes with a host of unknown factors for both parties. A new study co-authored by Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions Gad Allon looks at how drivers for a ride-hailing firm make labor decisions – when to work, and for how long – and aims to improve predictions about labor supply and to shed light on more effective financial incentives. The paper, titled “The Impact of Behavioral and Economic Drivers on Gig Economy Workers,” is co-authored by New York University Stern School of Business professor Maxime Cohen and Wharton doctoral candidate Park Sinchaisri. Allon recently visited the Knowledge@Wharton radio show on SiriusXM to discuss the implications of the study and what the future of work could look like.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

2019 Forecast: Hard Choices On Invisible Warfare


After a quarter-century of post-Cold War neglect, the Department of Defense has once again become serious about electronic warfare: the art of detecting, disrupting, and deceiving enemy radio and radar. But battles between electrons are invisible, literally and often politically as well, and EW must fight for attention and resources with higher-profile efforts from hypersonic missiles and missile defense to combat readiness for everything from fighter jets to nuclear submarines.

Next Generation Jammer on EA-18G Growler

IBM unveils first standalone quantum computer

IBM unveils first standalone quantum computer Powerful new system could eventually leave today’s machines in the dust The IBM Q System One packs some of the world’s most advanced science into a 9ft glass cube Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) Save Save to myFT Richard Waters in San Francisco YESTERDAY Print this page116 This is one computer you will not be able to buy after the Consumer Electronics Show. IBM has built the first standalone quantum computer, packing some of the world’s most advanced science into a 9ft glass cube. But so far there is only one — and while IBM does not rule out one day selling such systems, its business plan calls for renting access to the hardware over the internet rather than shipping it to customers. 

The Israeli Fighter Pilots Who Got Rich Off Angola's Civil War and Their Link to a Massive Cyberattack

Gur Megiddo

An international criminal probe has been investigating for the past two years suspicions that a company named Cellcom Liberia (and which has nothing to do with the Israeli mobile carrier of a similar-sounding name) ordered an Israeli-British hacker it hired in Angolato wage continuous cyberattacks against a competitor called Lonestar.

The attacks, whose goal was to put Lonestar out of business, spun out of control so much so that by November 2016 the Liberian government believed the state was actually being targeted by these assaults.

skip - Haaretz Weekly podcast, Episode 10
Haaretz Weekly podcast, Episode 10Haaretz

As Markerweek reported last week, hacker Daniel Kaye testified in his investigation — which took place in Germany — that the operation he carried out was ordered by the CEO of Cellcom Liberia, Avishai Marciano.

How Washington plans to regulate Big Tech

How Washington plans to regulate Big Tech Lawmakers will have to balance ways companies can use data with people’s rights of privacy Facebook and other tech companies have accepted the need for a federal privacy law, though the technology industry wants to ensure a new federal law overrides state legislation © Tolga Akmen/FT Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) Save Save to myFT Kiran Stacey in Washington JANUARY 7, 2019 Print this page24 Silicon Valley is steeling itself for 2019 to be the year when Washington takes action over how tech companies balance the way they use data against their customers’ right to privacy. “Secret algorithms, concealed monitoring & potential marketing & more, require privacy rights and protection,” tweeted Richard Blumenthal, a Democratic senator, referring to Facebook, on Tuesday. 

Apple and the Technology Cycle

By George Friedman

We all know that technological innovations have the power to influence geopolitics, but we tend to forget how quickly their returns diminish. The internal combustion engine revolutionized transportation and transformed society. Its birth in 1915 was accompanied by Henry Ford’s invention of another revolutionary technology, the assembly line, and a revolutionary business model, the auto dealership. These innovations transformed not just the United States but much of the world and drove human productivity for half a century.

By about 1965, the internal combustion engine, the automobile, the assembly line and the dealership model had matured. While still indispensable, they were no longer cutting-edge. Most important, they were not generating the vast increase in productivity or the transformation of culture that they once had. The basic architecture of the automobile was complete, from automatic transmissions to air conditioning. The rest was marketing. Neurotic, narcissistic and brilliant, Ford and his generation of revolutionary industry founders were replaced by a generation of managers tasked not with transforming the world but with managing the machine that had transformed it. Process replaced disruption.