23 January 2019

How Can India Compete With US and China on Artificial Intelligence?

In 2016, I wrote about why data science is a huge opportunity for India and how India can aspire to be a leader in data science services. That led me to start ml-india.org – a platform to get India’s machine learning community under one roof to connect and multiply their success. Today, we have enabled 27 machine learning meetups, featured 55 companies, 11 research groups, 146 machine learning professionals and we run a mailing list of 1806 people.

ml-india.org helped us learn that India needs to do a lot more – we rank quite low on our number of papers in top AI conferences. In fact, the whole of India publishes a lesser number of papers than a single Chinese university. None of our companies engage in cutting-edge machine learning that can have a global impact. There are just a few bright spots. We need to change our approach dramatically if we wish to have a real impact of artificial intelligence on our society and economy. Recently, I wrote a white paper on how this could be achieved with an annual outlay of $100M. The white paper is based on the principles laid out in my recent book, “Leading Science and Technology: India Next?”, that has many data-based insights into the research ecosystem.

Building the AI Ecosystem in India

America’s War in Afghanistan: Fostering Anger, Not Security

By Bonnie Kristian

A nighttime raid left a family home in flames. Two brothers and one of their wives were executed on the spot; the woman shot three times in the head. A little girl, just three years old, was found burned to death in a bedroom.

The scene might be at home in the erstwhile Soviet Union or a gang-run region of El Salvador today, but it is Afghanistan. And the raiding party was not communist secret police or a drug lord’s foot soldiers but an Afghan strike team managed by the CIA.

These teams have for many Afghans become the public face of the United States’ 18-year intervention, and the teams’ brutality toward civilians has made that face an ugly one. An extensive New York Times investigation uncovered stories of shocking violence against innocent people, a carelessness which makes the strike forces’ effectiveness look less like precision targeting than a shotgun spray hitting everything that moves, militants sometimes included.

Talking to the Taliban: Challenges for Kabul

By Habiba Ashna & Prateek Joshi

Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential elections are due in July and there are, at best, contradictory signals about progress on the negotiations with the Taliban.

Despite 2018 being one of the most violent years in Afghanistan’s post 9/11 history, last year also increased hopes on the possibility of getting the Taliban to the table for talks.

The historic three-day ceasefire in June, the Taliban’s agreement to enter into talks with Washington, and the Moscow conference held in November, together convinced the international community of the Taliban’s openness to engage in a potential solution.

However, the divergent goals and bargaining capacities of the stakeholders risk giving greater leverage to the Taliban. While on the one hand, Moscow and Tehran’s closeness with the Taliban contribute to the latter’s assertiveness, the trajectory of Washington’s talks with the Taliban this year signal that the Americans might be only interested in a graceful exit (with a potential possibility of retaining minimal troop presence).

Taliban Kills 47 Afghan Soldiers, Then Resumes U.S. Peace Talks

By Eltaf Najafizada, January 22, 2019,

Taliban militants attacked an Afghan base on Monday killing 47 soldiers and wounding 54 others on the day the rebel group resumed peace talks with the U.S. in Doha.

The assault was the deadliest since 2017 when the group infiltrated a northern army base killing more than 100 soldiers. The Taliban confirmed the talks, and the attack in two separate emailed statements Monday. The insurgents detonated an U.S.-made Humvee full of explosive inside a training center of the country’s intelligence agency on the outskirts of Maidan Shahr city, west of Kabul, two Afghan intelligence officials said, asking not to be identified citing rules.

Later in the day, representatives of the militant organization met with the U.S. delegation headed by special envoy on Afghan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad to seek withdrawal of foreign forces from the war-torn country. The deadly attack was planned to push the U.S. to accept the terrorist group’s demand, according to Abdul Shukor Dadras, an independent political analyst.

“With their deadly attacks, Taliban wants to have an upper hand in the talks and force the U.S. to accept their wishes and demands,” Kabul-based Dadras said. Some of their key demands are full withdrawal of foreign forces, removal of United Nation sanctions and freedom for imprisoned rebels, he said.

The explosion on Monday destroyed large parts of the building, Sharifullah Hotak, a member of the region’s provincial council said by phone. After the attack, four other militants raided the base and began shooting at the wounded soldiers but were killed, the Afghan intelligence officials said.

Once Facing a Growing Opposition, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen Cracked Down To Ensure His Grip on Power

President Trump unveiled a sweeping plan Thursday to defend the U.S. and its allies from missile attack.

The plan is the first update to the nation's missile defense strategy in nearly a decade, but in many ways it is reminiscent of President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, a pie-in-the-sky program that was later dubbed "Star Wars."

The report outlines a battery of new technologies — including lasers and space-based systems — that the Pentagon wants to combat what it deems to be a growing missile threat. It also calls for adding 20 interceptor missiles to an existing system of 44 interceptors based in Fort Greely, Alaska.

"Our goal is simple," Trump said at a Pentagon briefing on Thursday. "To ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime, anyplace."

Is China Really Cheating?

Stephen Roach

Repetition breeds reality. Such is the case with allegations the U.S. has leveled at China in their budding economic Cold War. Across the American political spectrum, it’s now taken for granted that China forces U.S. companies to transfer critical technology in order to do business on the mainland, engages in rampant hacking and theft of intellectual property, and massively and unfairly subsidizes its high-tech industries — all of which contributes to fears that the country poses an existential threat to America’s prosperity.

Like many longtime observers of China, I’ve been getting more than my fair share of airtime over the past several months. Typically, the interview starts with a false premise followed by a loaded question: “Everyone knows that China is stealing hundreds of billions of dollars a year in U.S. intellectual property. Isn’t it high time for America to stand up to its greatest economic threat?”

China’s perilous Taiwan policy

Minxin Pei

The unfolding geopolitical contest between China and the United States has been described by many as a new cold war. If it ever becomes a hot one, the flashpoint could be Taiwan, owing in large part to Chinese policy towards the island.

China’s government suspended diplomatic contact with Taiwan in June 2016 because the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which had just returned to power, refused to recognise the so-called 1992 Consensus, the political basis for the One China principle. Since the 2016 victory, however, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has pursued a moderate policy, disappointing hardline DPP supporters.

China’s Economic Growth Sinks to 3-Decade Low

By Joe McDonald

As the trade war begins to bite, China’s government is looking to prop up growth for 2019.

China’s economic growth hit a three-decade low in 2018, adding to pressure on Beijing to beef up stimulus measures and settle a tariff war with Washington.

Growth slowed to 6.6 percent from 2017’s 6.9 percent as both the world’s appetite for China’s exports and domestic consumer spending weakened, official data showed Monday.

Forecasters said they expect Beijing to try to shore up growth by making credit cheaper, raising government spending, and adopting measures to encourage sales of autos and consumer goods.

Coping With the Challenge of China’s Growing Space Power

By Lincoln Hines

Recognizing China’s status-seeking motives provides an important tool for U.S. policymakers.

On January 2, 2019, China successfully landed the Chang’e 4 space probe on the dark side of the moon – making China the first country in history to do so. This accomplishment represents just one of China’s most recent steps toward fulfilling its goal of becoming “a space power in all respects.” In pursuit of this goal, China has become the world’s second largestspender on space capabilities. Driven by the dual motives of seeking status and security, China’s comprehensive modernization of its space program poses a challenge to U.S. security interests and global standing. However, by recognizing Chinese status aspirations, the United States maintains an important tool by which to temper competitive tensions, and mitigate the threat of a full blown space race.

Why Are Chinese Courts Turning to AI?

By Meng Yu and Guodong Du

In the latest round of judicial reform of Chinese courts (from 2014 to 2017), China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC) has been promoting the system of “similar judgments for similar cases,” in order to ensure the effective supervision of trial activities. The system of similar judgments for similar cases mentioned by the SPC means that judgment criteria should be consistent between a case that a judge is trying now and previous cases that have been concluded by the court concerned and the court at a higher level or other similar cases with guiding significance. The SPC hopes to achieve the similar judgments for similar cases goal through artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

An Alternative Mechanism for Supervising Judges in Chinese Courts

The system of similar judgments for similar cases is one piece of the Judicial Accountability System, the core of the latest judicial reform of Chinese courts. In the relevant reform of the Judicial Accountability System, the SPC is exploring how to supervise judges in the process of hearing cases.

Shaping The New World Order: The Battle For Human Rights – Analysis

By James M. Dorsey

China is leading the charge in a bid to undermine accepted concepts of human rights accountability and justice.

The Chinese effort backed by autocrats elsewhere has turned human rights into an underrated, yet crucial battleground in the shaping of a new world order. 

China is manoeuvring against the backdrop of an unprecedented crackdown on Turkic Muslims in its north-western province of Xinjiang, the accelerated rollout of restrictions elsewhere in the country, and the export of key elements of its model of a 21st century Orwellian surveillance state.

The Chinese effort, highlighted in Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2019, is multipronged.

It involves proposals to alter the principles on which United Nations Human Rights Council operates in ways that would enable repressive, autocratic regimes.

Corruption Flows Along China’s Belt and Road

Jonathan E. Hillman

China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) sprouted another sinkhole this month when the Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese officials agreed to help bail out Malaysia's state development fund 1Malaysia Berhad, known as 1MDB, by inflating the cost of infrastructure projects.

The story is still unfolding: Malaysian officials have announced a probe. Beijing has denied the report. Former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, who has been charged with corruption over 1MDB, denies the allegations against him.

What can no longer be denied is that the BRI is opaque by design. By limiting outside scrutiny, the initiative's lack of transparency gives Chinese companies an edge in risky markets, and it allows Beijing to use large projects to exercise political influence.

How oil has shaped Xinjiang

Judd C. Kinzley

At Baijiantan in northern Xinjiang’s Zungharian oil field, oil derricks as far as the eye can see silently plumb the earth for every last drop of crude. By contrast, there are several well-known oil sites outside of the city of Kashgar in Xinjiang’s far south, where sticky black crude oozes and bubbles out of the ground untouched, collecting in dark, viscous pools.

What separates Baijiantan from sites in the south is not the presence or lack of petroleum. Rather, the patterns of extraction that have shaped Xinjiang’s landscape stem from choices made by a series of past regimes.

It was an open secret in the nineteenth century that in some places in Xinjiang, raw crude pure enough to light lanterns and stoves could be collected by the bucketful. Geographical surveys stretching back to the Qing period (1644-1911) identified oil seepages throughout the region. As well as the arid steppe land of the Zungharian basin, they also pointed to several sites in southern Xinjiang, in the Tianshan mountain range and in the far eastern stretches of the province. These observations were confirmed by British and Russian agents eager to catalogue the region’s rich resource wealth in the waning years of the Qing. 

Israel’s New Global Strategy – Analysis

By Modern Diplomacy

If we want to study Israel’s political and military positions, we must at first analyse Syria.

For Israel the problem in Syria is Russia, although it is apparently Iran.

In fact, one of the de-escalation areas is in the Golan Heights and certainly the Jewish State does not like that Iran and Hezbollah can easily and quietly operate in the Golan area, even without warlike acts but under the protection of Russia, which is also the guarantor of the whole area.

In particular, the Israeli government wants the Russian Federation to never intervene in favour of Iran.

However, if Iran and the Shiite forces leave Syria, Russia’s control to ensure Syrian stability will weaken and probably even crumble.

Iran and the United States: Doomed to Be Forever Enemies?

By Carol Giacomo

President Trump and hard-line advisers want to isolate and undermine the government in Tehran. Engagement is a better option.

John Limbert belongs to an exclusive club — the 52 American diplomats held hostage by Iran for 444 days during the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Since that crisis, which began 40 years ago next month, the two countries shared an enmity that has only grown worse under President Trump.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised the rhetorical stakes earlier this month when he urged the world to isolate Iran and promised to “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria. The United States and Iran are so hostile one wonders whether they will be enemies forever.

“I’ve thought about that a lot,” Mr. Limbert said in an interview. At 75, he remains fond of Iran and committed to helping Americans understand the country, but he finds the bilateral dynamic more dangerous than ever. “I think the best we can hope for is not to get into a war,” he said, setting a low if tragically realistic bar.

Hamas-Fatah tension takes its toll on reconciliation

Mohammed Haboush

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Tension between Hamas and Fatah has been surging, particularly since the latter accused Hamas’ security services in Gaza of cracking down on Fatah leaders and cadres after the Interior Ministry in Gaza refused to allow Fatah to hold a 54th anniversary celebration in the Gaza Strip.

Fatah spokesman in Gaza Atef Abu Seif said in a press statement Dec. 31, “Security services in Gaza have arrested more than 500 Fatah leaders and members since Dec. 30, 2018, against the backdrop of the movement’s activities for its 54th anniversary, which falls on Jan. 1 of every year.”

But on Dec. 31, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry in Gaza, Iyad al-Bozm, denied that Fatah members had been arrested, saying, “Thirty-eight people were summoned in order to maintain order and calm, and they were later released.”

On Jan. 2, Hamas accused the security services of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank of arresting over 60 activists and leaders from the movement, but the PA did not comment on the accusations.

Top Ten Foreign Policy Trends in 2019

By Mark Leonard and Jeremy Shapiro

Top ten trends that will occupy European foreign policymakers in 2019

It’s a new year and thus a new opportunity to predict the big events and trends that will shake the world in 2019. We want to get this in early, so you have time to forget what we said by the end of the year.

However, lest you think that we have completely forgotten the recently deceased 2018, we have responded to the demands of the intellectual harpies our trusted ECFR colleagues and graded ourselves on last year’s predictions. With our usual combination of feigned humility and self-delusion, we eked out a score of 7.5 out of 10.

We’re clearly on a roll. So, here we present our predictions for the top ten trends (plus one bonus trend) that will occupy European foreign policymakers in 2019. Come back next year to see us try to convince ourselves that most them of were right.

Europe: A New Player in the Indo-Pacific

By Eva Pejsova

Can traditional regional powers find a place for a new, “odd” friend?

French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for the creation of a “real European army” last November revived a lively debate both outside and inside Europe. Is it the end of the transatlantic romance? How will it impact NATO? Who is supposed to be the enemy? What does it mean for the global strategic chessboard? And is it even feasible?

While the dream of a European “army,” in a traditional sense, is probably not likely to materialize overnight, the European Union’s ambition to boost its strategic autonomy is real and shaping up.

The World Still Needs NATO

By Ursula von der Leyen

BERLIN — In April, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will celebrate its 70th birthday. Founded in the earliest years of the Cold War, it is just as relevant today, when many feel that the international order is shaken again. In fact, if NATO did not exist, those in favor of a free world would have to invent it.

While NATO’s key purpose remains to guarantee the security of its members, it has never been a purely military alliance. It is a political alliance as well, based on the common aspirations of its members who, as the NATO Treaty says, “are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of its peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.”

Russia, China and Collaborative Actions: An Alliance in the Making

By Stephen Blank

A virtual flood of studies and articles continues to appear concerning Russo-Chinese relations.[i]

Although the expert consensus remains that no alliance or no formal alliance between Russia and China exists despite their visibly growing intimacy; I would dispute that finding.[ii]

Indeed, Moscow keeps inventing euphemisms to disguise what is going on.

First it was called a comprehensive strategic partnership.[iii]

More recently in November 2018 President Putin called it a ‘privileged strategic partnership.’[iv]

Both these formulations sound like attempts to deceive foreign observers as to the alliance’s real nature.

Assessing the Failure of Minsk II in Ukraine and the Success of the 2008 Ceasefire in Georgia

By Sarah Martin

Sarah Martin is a recent graduate of George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, where she wrote her thesis on Chechen foreign fighters in Syria. She was previously a fellow at NatSecGirlSquad, supporting the organization’s debut conference on November 15, 2018. She can be found on Twitter @amerikitkatoreo. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.

Summary: In 2019 the Donbass War in Ukraine will enter its fifth year. Over 10,000 people have been killed, 3,000 of them civilians, and one million displaced. Two ceasefire agreements between Moscow and Kyiv have failed, and no new agreements are forthcoming. When compared to the agreement of the 2008 August War between Russia and Georgia, ending the stalemate in Ukraine and determining a victor might be the key to brokering a lasting ceasefire.

The U.S.-China rivalry and Japan


In its National Security Strategy published in December 2017, the Trump administration declared, “China and Russia challenge American power, influence and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity. They are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence.”

However, U.S. President Donald Trump maintains a special relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, so much so that he has vigorously tried to hide from the public the content of his conversations with Putin. The relationship is so unusual that it triggered an unprecedented investigation in 2017 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to examine whether Trump, as president, was working in behalf of Russian interests.

The Think-Tank Dilemma


Without the high-quality research that independent think tanks provide, there can be no effective policymaking, nor even a credible basis for debating major issues. Insofar as funding challenges, foreign influence-peddling, and populist attacks on truth pose a threat to such institutions tanks, they threaten democracy itself.

TOKYO – The Brookings Institution in Washington, DC – perhaps the world’s top think tank – is under scrutiny for receiving six-figure donations from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, which many consider to be a security threat. And since the barbaric murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October, many other Washington-based think tanks have come under pressure to stop accepting donations from Saudi Arabia.

Protecting Space with a Bold Cyber Security Portfolio and Strategy

Chris A. Mattmann

Despite attempts recently to characterize the landscape of space threats as something unique to the current administration and president, or to set this up as a battle between the president and asteroids, there remain a myriad of reasons for being concerned about protecting space and about the cyber-security-related threats and challenges associated with it.

As an example, with the advent of small satellites and “constellations” of them, the number of active satellites patrolling the Earth at various altitudes will be increased from around 1,900 to nearly 20,000 in the next decade.

This nearly 10-fold increase in machinery orbiting the Earth brings with it a number of cyber-security-related challenges. The first is related to “space junk.”

Can State’s New Cyber Bureau Hack It?

By Robbie GramerElias Groll

The U.S. State Department is expected to stand up a new cybersecurity bureau this year as the government grapples with expanding foreign cybersecurity threats, according to current and former officials familiar with the plans. But the scope of that body’s work remains unclear amid squabbles with Capitol Hill over its responsibilities.

At a time when the United States and its adversaries are making major investments in offensive hacking capabilities, current and former officials say the bureau would fill a gap in the U.S. government’s diplomatic abilities.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan is expected to announce the creation of the new bureau in a speech on the Trump administration’s cybersecurity strategy this spring, according to one official. The official added that plans are underway for the bureau to be run by a new assistant secretary of state but cautioned that nothing has been finalized. 

The future of war is cyber


Gone are the days where battles are fought in person-to-person conflicts. In the coming years, most wars will be waged via computers, servers, and digital weapons. The question is, is the United States prepared for the future?

Military battles have evolved a tremendous amount over the years – most of it due to advances in weaponry and technology. In early centuries, wars were fought with hands, fists, sticks, and stones. You had to be close to your enemy to kill. As weapons become more advanced, things like slingshots, bow and arrows, and catapults gave armies the opportunity to attack from a small distance.

5G will have an enormous impact on the world

By CP Gurnani 

The countdown to the 5G revolution has begun, and the explosion of connected devices, such as mobile phones, televisions, security systems and speakers, among others, is only going to intensify.

As the next big thing in the journey of digital transformation, 5G will have an enormous impact on mankind. It will undoubtedly disrupt the way we live and work. It will go beyond mobile broadband and impact self-sustaining modern human establishments like smart cities, robotics and self-driving cars, and foster innovation in critical sectors such as health care, agriculture and education.

Wearable devices and connected health care, for instance, will help people monitor and manage their illnesses and allow medical professionals to efficiently screen and diagnose patients remotely. In fact, the 5G network has the potential to enable surgeons to robotically operate on patients from thousands of miles away.

Evaluating the GCHQ Exceptional Access Proposal

By Bruce Schneier

The so-called Crypto Wars have been going on for 25 years now. Basically, the FBI—and some of their peer agencies in the U.K., Australia, and elsewhere—argue that the pervasive use of civilian encryption is hampering their ability to solve crimes and that they need the tech companies to make their systems susceptible to government eavesdroping. Sometimes their complaint is about communications systems, like voice or messaging apps. Sometimes it's about end-user devices. On the other side of this debate is pretty much all technologists working in computer security and cryptography, who argue that adding eavesdropping features fundamentally makes those systems less secure.

A recent entry in this debate is a proposal by Ian Levy and Crispin Robinson, both from the U.K.'s GCHQ (the British signals-intelligence agency—basically, its NSA). It's actually a positive contribution to the discourse around backdoors; most of the time government officials broadly demand that the tech companies figure out a way to meet their requirements, without providing any details. Levy and Robinson write:

Troubled Waters: The US Navy And The Return Of Great Power Politics – Analysis

By Erik Khzmalyan

It almost goes unquestioned now that great power politics is back, and consequently the role of national navies will continue to grow. States with global aspirations know perfectly well that without a superb navy it is nearly impossible to sustain a great power status. In the case of the United States, the Navy is the sine qua non of US power, without which Washington’s influence would be limited to only the Western Hemisphere. The Navy is the backbone of American diplomacy, enabler of America’s influence in remote corners of the globe, and the guarantor of global stability and prosperity. However, the United States’ maritime supremacy is increasingly being challenged and new estimates raise the possibility of China’s PLA Navy achieving parity in the near future.

These developments are not going unnoticed, and Washington is waking up to China’s challenge, which promises to turn various international waters into contested zones. Indeed, the 21st century will be one of naval competition between an established seafaring power and a land power increasingly turning its focus toward the seas.


Uriel Epshtein and Charles Faint

“Amateurs talk tactics, but professionals talk logistics.”

It’s a time-honored apocryphal quote, attributed to everyone from Napoleon Bonaparte to Omar Bradley. And it’s one that seems particularly appropriate in the context of the Army’s use of autonomous vehicles (AVs). While the potential of autonomous vehicles in some of the Army’s six warfighting functions—like intelligence, protection, and fires—at the tactical level is already proven, programs exploiting AVs’ potential for functions like sustainment and movement (particularly when it comes to ground transportation) are still in their infancy.

Figure 1: The Army’s Warfighting Functions

Americans are Tired of Middle East Mayhem

by Daniel R. DePetris

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s eight-day trip to the Middle East, which took him to Jordan and through the Gulf before concluding in Oman, was marketed by the Trump administration as a messaging tour. Coming weeks after President Donald Trump’s announcement that all U.S. troops will be leaving Syria in a matter of months, Pompeo spent the bulk of his regional tour impressing upon Arab rulers that Washington will remain an active player in the Middle East. 

As is typical with many secretaries of state who deliver speeches in foreign lands, Pompeo’s remarks were full of the kinds of anecdotes and flowery rhetoric only a quintessential American exceptionalist could love. He talked about the United States as “ a force for good ” in the region, one willing and ready to stand by its partners during a time of crisis.