4 February 2019

India Signs Contract For 2 Guided-Missile Frigates

By Franz-Stefan Gady

India and Russia signed a contract for the construction of two modified Admiral Grigorovich-class (Project 1135.6P/M) guided-missile frigates destined for service in the Indian Navy on January 30, the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) said in a statement.

Overall, India will procure four Project 1135.6P/M frigates under an inter-governmental agreement signed between India and New Russia in October 2016.

Two frigates are in the final stages of construction at Russia’s Yantar shipyard in Kaliningrad on the Baltic coast, while the remaining two ships of the class will be assembled at India’s state-owned Goa shipyard with technical support from Moscow. All four warships are expected to be delivered to the Indian Navy by 2026. Total acquisition costs for the four warships are estimated at around $1.9 billion.

Digital India versus Real India

by Bhaskar Chakravorti

In the run-up to the general election, global tech companies must find ways to live with populism, pandering and paranoia.

As a digital destination, India is red-hot. After all, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his maiden appearance at Davos, had declared that he was replacing red tape with a red carpet; his administration had already embraced Digital India, the brand poised to displace the Incredible India of palaces, camels and yoga retreats. While Digital India is a mix of many public sector initiatives as well as private ones — such as a 4G network blanketing the nation with Internet access at throwaway prices — it needs the digital players from the outside. And these outside players have responded. Amazon was so gung-ho that it pledged $5 billion on cracking India. In response, arch-rival, Walmart, raised the bar by putting down $16 billion to secure its own toehold. Nevertheless, Amazon has dug in for the long haul; after “Prime” and “Alexa”, apparently, “India” is the third-most frequently used term in its recent letters to shareholders. Beyond the retail giants, there are the usual Silicon Valley suspects — Google, Facebook, Netflix, etc. — hoping to be the stewards of a digitally-emergent nation. Even Indian startups have felt the love. Ventures, mostly digital ones, have raked in over $10 billion in funding from overseas for two years in a row.

An Indian nonprofit is showing how free childcare at work can help disrupt the poverty cycle

By Annabelle Timsit

It’s 11am on a Tuesday morning in Gurgaon, a bustling city southwest of New Delhi. Hundreds of construction workers are laying steel bars around what looks like a pile of rubble—a project that, in two years, will become a massive residential center.

Most of the construction workers, both men and women, are migrants from remote parts of India who’ve come to Gurgaon in search of work for themselves and their families. For the length of the project, they will live in a makeshift camp near the construction site. They will probably have to deal with the corruption and exploitation that plagues the industry. But unlike most Indian laborers, they won’t have to wonder who will take care of their children while they work. Their children will be cared for by Mobile Creches, a nonprofit, onsite daycare which pioneered in India a half a century ago, and whose relevance has only grown with India’s development.

India wades into Afghan peace talks


The Ministry of External Affairs spokesman’s remark on Thursday in New Delhi that “it is important that the presidential election in Afghanistan takes place as per the schedule” is the first major Indian comment on the current peace talks in Qatar between the United States and the Taliban.

Whether that was an off-the-cuff remark or not remains unclear, but if it has been a considered statement, it puts India at odds with the peace talks in Qatar, which is working toward commencing the intra-Afghan dialogue, forming an interim government in Kabul and declaring a nation-wide ceasefire. Arguably, India’s strong advocacy of the charade of a presidential election in Afghanistan at this juncture is tantamount to the debunking of what is happening at the Qatar talks.

Why Did Soviets Invade Afghanistan? Documents Offer History Lesson for Trump

By Peter Baker

WASHINGTON — One day in October 1979, an American diplomat named Archer K. Blood arrived at Afghanistan’s government headquarters, summoned by the new president, whose ousted predecessor had just been smothered to death with a pillow.

While the Kabul government was a client of the Soviet Union, the new president, Hafizullah Amin, had something else in mind. “I think he wants an improvement in U.S.-Afghan relations,” Mr. Blood wrote in a cable back to Washington. It was possible, he added, that Mr. Amin wanted “a long-range hedge against over-dependence on the Soviet Union.”

Mr. Blood’s newly published cable sheds light on what really drove the Soviet Union to invade Afghanistan only two months after his meeting with Mr. Amin. Spoiler alert: It was not because of terrorism, as claimed this month by President Trump, who said the Soviets were right to invade. Among the real motivations, the cable and other documents suggest, was a fear that Afghanistan might switch loyalties to the West.

The U.S. Isn’t Leaving Afghanistan Anytime Soon

President Trump may be pressing for a massive withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, but it appears American involvement in the country will last. As the U.S. military prepares to draw back in the country, another agency in the Trump administration is stepping in, The Daily Beast has learned. And Trump ally Erik Prince is positioning himself to join in this next phase, Afghan officials say.

The U.S. Geological Survey—a scientific agency in the administration—signed a letter of intent with the Afghan government to help the country unlock what estimates say is nearly $1 trillion in natural resource wealth, according to Afghan officials and two other consultants working with the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum. The two parties signed the paperwork earlier this year.

The U.S. agency has long partnered with Kabul on mining development. By one report, the U.S. has spent hundreds of millions of dollars propping up the mining sector since 2009.

Foreign troops to quit Afghanistan in 18 months under draft deal: Taliban sources

KABUL/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Taliban officials said U.S. negotiators on Saturday agreed on a draft peace pact setting out the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan within 18 months, potentially ending the United States’ longest war.

The details of the draft were given to Reuters by Taliban sources at the end of six days of talks with U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar aimed at ending the war, more than 17 years since American-led forces invaded Afghanistan.

It stipulates that troops would leave within 18 months of the agreement being signed.

While no joint statement was issued, Khalilzad tweeted later that the talks had made “significant progress” and would resume shortly, adding that he planned to travel to Afghanistan to meet government officials.

US reports ‘agreements in principle’ with Taliban

By: Rahim Faiez

KABUL, Afghanistan — Negotiators for the United States and the Taliban insurgents have reached “agreements in principle” on key issues for a peace deal that would end 17 years of war in Afghanistan, the top U.S. envoy said Monday.

The statement by U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad followed six days of talks last week with the Taliban in Qatar, where he urged the insurgents to enter into direct negotiations with the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Ghani on Monday assured Afghans that their rights will not be compromised in the name of peace with the Taliban, who have been staging near-daily attacks against Afghan forces, causing scores of casualties every week. Their offensive has not let up despite the severe Afghan winter, and the insurgents now hold sway over nearly half of the country.

Khalilzad said in an interview with The New York Times that an agreement in principle was reached with the Taliban on the framework of a peace deal "which still has to be fleshed out" that will see the insurgents commit to guaranteeing that Afghan territory is not used as a "platform for international terrorist groups or individuals."

Taliban: US to Help in Afghan Reconstruction After Troop Withdrawal

Ayaz Gul

ISLAMABAD — The United States and the Taliban have agreed to establish two “technical teams” to determine details for the eventual withdrawal of all American and NATO troops from Afghanistan and for preventing terrorists from using Afghan soil against America and its allies, the insurgent group said Wednesday.

Chief Taliban negotiator, Mullah Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, revealed the details after nearly a week of marathon discussions which concluded on Saturday in Qatar with the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad.

“The two technical teams will prepare proposals and take decisions and bring them to the table in the next meeting in Doha set for February 25,” Stanikzai told a pro-Taliban media outlet. He added that a larger meeting would then be arranged, with major powers, the United Nations and representatives of Islamic countries in attendance as “guarantors” where assurances will be given that all foreign troops will leave Afghanistan.

Peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan appears closer than ever. What could that look like?


Seventeen years after the U.S. military-led invasion of Afghanistan — after the deaths of more than 2,400 American troops, tens of thousands of Afghan soldiers and police and untold numbers of civilians — the prospect of a truce with the Taliban appears to be inching closer to reality.

Six days of talks in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar ended over the weekend with a commitment by U.S. and Taliban negotiators to reconvene soon and the outlines of a deal under which all 14,000 U.S. troops would depart Afghanistan within 18 months.

The talks still don’t include the Afghan government, whose leader, President Ashraf Ghani, on Monday warned against a precipitous troop withdrawal and insisted that any peace agreement must be Afghan-led.

But the longest face-to-face meeting between U.S. and Taliban representatives has raised hopes that a deal will be reached.

The Taliban Are Counting the Days Until Trump’s Afghan Pullout

Sami Yousafzai

DOHA, Qatar—On the sixth and last day of marathon talks between the Afghan Taliban and a team of U.S. negotiators led by veteran ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, a convoy of luxury cars converged on the luxurious offices of this rich little country’s foreign ministry. The Taliban emerged in traditional Afghan clothing, wearing black or gray turbans, the Americans in business suits and ties, as they sat down at a long table in the meeting hall.

What the members of the Afghan government of Ashraf Ghani might have worn can be imagined but not known. They were not there.

These were negotiations to extract the United States from its longest war, the objective a framework agreement calling for a ceasefire that would open the way for American troops to get out. In exchange, the Taliban would agree not to harbor jihadists who aimed to attack the U.S. and other far-flung targets, as they had done with Osama bin Laden when he organized 9/11.

Peace in Afghanistan? Don't Count On It.

by Lyle J. Goldstein

For all the newsprint devoted to Syria lately, one would think that this was an American “core interest.” Yet, that conclusion could not be further from the truth. The United States has had a minimal military presence there with no clear mission. The American deaths that occurred on January 16 are tragic, of course, but should not be used cynically by those hoping to prolong the presence of U.S. troops in the country—one that is unconstitutional and simultaneously violates international law. As for the Islamic State (aka “bad dudes in pickup trucks”), let’s not kid ourselves: the same bad dudes (or their cousins) will still be lurking in Syria for a long time. The presence of a paltry number of Americans around was never going to change that, and may even have encouraged the group’s nefarious undertakings.

Japan’s Abe Is Eyeing His Legacy. But First He Has to Get Through This Year

J. Berkshire Miller

Shinzo Abe has already outperformed his five immediate predecessors, putting to rest the idea that a Japanese prime minister couldn’t stay in office for more than a year. Now, he is approaching a milestone. He will become the longest-serving prime minister in Japan’s history if he remains in office until November. But Abe is looking beyond that, with a chance to serve out his current term as prime minister until 2021, since he was overwhelmingly re-elected last fall for a third and final term as president of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP. The party can effectively determine the prime minister since it controls large majorities in both houses of the Diet, Japan’s legislature.

This moment has not been lost on Abe, especially after his disastrous and truncated first term as prime minister, which lasted from September 2006 to September 2007. But before Abe can start burnishing his legacy, he’ll have to get through a decisive year ahead. ..

Is China's latest weaponry science fiction or battle ready?

by Brad Lendon

Hong Kong (CNN) Since the beginning of January, the Chinese military has revealed a dizzying array of sophisticated and powerful new weaponry.

The testing of some of these devices has been accompanied by great fanfare. But just how plausible is the new technology in a battlefield situation?

With a recent report from the US Defense Intelligence Agency that China "leads the world" in some weapons systems, a closer look at Beijing's latest claims is in order.

J-16 fighters with a 'cloaking coating'

A January 28 report on the Chinese military's English-language website says J-16 fighter jets have been covered with a paint that "is a kind of cloaking coating."

A new role for allies of the US who are also friends with China

Many countries that are allies of the United States but also friendly with China are increasingly caught in the middle. Besides trade and commercial disputes, intelligence and military cooperation have also become issues on which Washington is exerting pressure on allies to get tough with Beijing.

While they are caught in a difficult situation, such nations need to play it smart. They should point out to the US that it’s not in anyone’s interest to isolate or contain China.

Rather, it’s far better to work out common ground and mutually acceptable behaviour.

Israel is a good example. This year marks the 27th anniversary of diplomatic relations with China, though ties date back to when Chinese cities such as Shanghai offered sanctuary to Jewish refugees.

There Is No Sino-American Trade War


Chinese negotiators recently offered to buy enough American products to reduce the bilateral trade deficit to zero by 2024. Why, then, have US negotiators rejected that as a way to end the dispute?

CAMBRIDGE – The current conflict between the United States and China is not a trade war. Although the US has a large trade deficit with China, that is not the reason why it is imposing high tariffs on imports from China and threatening to increase them further after the end of the current 90-day truce on March 1. The purpose of those tariffs is to induce China to end its policy of stealing US technology.

The Chinese government refers to the conflict as a trade war because it hopes that buying large quantities of American products will lead the US to end its tariffs. The Chinese negotiators have recently offered to buy enough US products to reduce the trade deficit to zero by 2024. Tellingly, the US negotiators have rejected that as a way to end the dispute.

US-China: A New Consensus for Strategic Competition in Washington

By Satoru Mori

In the past, whenever a dramatic event or an action created tension between the United States and China, it would be followed by a phase of reduced tension and stability. Are we witnessing another phase of this tension-stabilization cycle, or are we on the cusp of a qualitatively new mode in the U.S. approach toward China, epitomized by the phrase “strategic competition with China”? Will U.S. efforts to push back on China intensify to the point where the United States can accept and absorb the consequences of the “decoupling” of the two nations? These are questions that have implications beyond the Trump administration and potential repercussions not only for the United States but also for the rest of the world.

Pakistan’s New Generation of Chinese Warships

By Scott N. Romaniuk and Tobias Burgers

The upgrade is noticeable but will not change the disparity between the Pakistani and Indian navies.

With the support of the Chinese government, the Pakistan Navy (PN)’s strength has recently grown and is on a course to increase further still following the completion and delivery of four advanced warships currently under construction in Shanghai’s Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard. Pakistan’s new China-made naval frigates will be delivered through a bilateral arms agreement by 2021. The revamping of the naval warfare branch of Pakistan’s Armed Forces has captured a lot of attention; however, the acquisition of new and advanced warships will not affect Pakistan’s naval posture, not to mention the military balance between Pakistan and the military giant directly across its eastern border.

ODNI Releases Annual Overview of Islamic State and Al Qaeda Networks

By Thomas Joscelyn

The ODNI’s map highlights the Islamic State’s and al Qaeda’s global footprint, though the jihadists are not a major force in some of the countries depicted. The ODNI’s map recognizes the presence of Al Qaeda’s senior leadership (AQSL) in Iran.

The Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released its annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” today. The written statement accompanied oral testimony given by Director Daniel Coats to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The Arab League Mulls Whether to Readmit al Assad's Syria

Readmitting Syria to the Arab League would mark the first normalization of high-level ties with Damascus since other countries in the organization turned against Bashar al Assad's government in 2011.
Faced with the reality that their strategies to counter Damascus in the civil war have failed, some powerful Arab states are warming up to the idea that working against Syria is no longer as strategic an option as working with the country. 

The Arab League's reinstatement of Syria would not immediately pave the way for the rest of the world to welcome Damascus back into the international fold, but it would mark a first step in the lengthy process of enabling others to do business with al Assad's government. 

Russia’s Playbook for Social Media Disinformation Has Gone Global

By Sheera Frenkel, Kate Conger and Kevin Roose

Russia created a playbook for spreading disinformation on social media. Now the rest of the world is following it.

Twitter said on Thursday that countries including Bangladesh and Venezuela had been using social media to disseminate government talking points, while Facebook detailed a broad Iranian disinformation campaign that touched on everything from the conflict in Syria to conspiracy theories about the Sept. 11 attacks.

The campaigns tied to various governments — as well as privately held accounts in the United States — followed a pattern similar to Russian disinformation efforts before and after the 2016 presidential election. Millions of people were targeted by content designed to widen political and social divisions among Americans.

The World Bank and IMF are in crisis. It's time to push a radical new vision

David Adler and Yanis Varoufakis

The president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, will step down on 1 February – three and a half years before the end of his term – in search of greener pastures. His readiness to resign from the leadership of one the two most powerful international financial institutions is a worrying omen. But it is also an important wake-up call.

The World Bank and the IMF are the last remaining columns of the Bretton Woods edifice under which capitalism experienced its golden age in the 1950s and 1960s. While that system, and the fixed exchange rate regime it relied upon, bit the dust in 1971, the two institutions continued to support global finance along purely Atlanticist lines: with Europe’s establishment choosing the IMF’s managing director and the United States selecting the head of the World Bank.

The Mask Slips to Reveal the Grim Reality of Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe

James Hamill

The military coup that ended the ruinous 37-year rule of Robert Mugabe was greeted with genuine enthusiasmboth in Zimbabwe and abroad. Any skepticism of Emmerson Mnangagwa was drowned out by the new president’s calming rhetoric about unity and reconciliation and his commitment to a “new beginning.” It seemed churlish, amid such optimism, to deny the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe their moment of hope.

Yet that spirit has been dashed recently as Mnangagwa’s reforms have been exposed as cosmetic, at best. Instead of a new Zimbabwe, it is the same old state within the narrow parameters imposed by the ruling party, ZANU-PF, with no prospect of any change that might encroach upon its power. ...

Brexit Sweat and Tears


For years after World War II, Britons were aware of the palpable shift in the country’s fortunes. But there was a deep aversion to accepting the UK’s diminished status, and the failure – beginning with Winston Churchill – of successive generations of politicians to address it is what has led to the current impasse.

LONDON – I recently saw an American play in London called “Sweat,” written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Lynn Nottage. It was performed previously on and off Broadway and was described by the Wall Street Journal as a play that helped to explain Donald Trump’s election as president.

Nottage had spent some time talking to the residents of a poor city in Pennsylvania which was losing jobs and its modest prosperity because of the contraction of the steel industry. Competition from cheaper manufacturers and lower-paid workers around the world had devastated an already-weak economy and provoked conflict between friends, relatives, and races.

Who’s Afraid of Budget Deficits? How Washington Should End Its Debt Obsession

By Jason Furman and Lawrence H. Summers

The United States’ annual budget deficit is set to reach nearly $1 trillion this year, more than four percent of GDP and up from $585 billion in 2016. As a result of the continuing shortfall, over the next decade, the national debt—the total amount owed by the U.S. government—is projected to balloon from its current level of 78 percent of GDP to 105 percent of GDP. Such huge amounts of debt are unprecedented for the United States during a time of economic prosperity.

Does it matter? To some economists and policymakers, the trend spells disaster, dragging down economic growth and potentially leading to a full-blown debt crisis before too long. These deficit fundamentalists see the failure of the Simpson-Bowles plan (a 2010 proposal to sharply cut deficits) as a major missed opportunity and argue that policymakers should make tackling the national debt a top priority. On the other side, deficit dismissers say the United States can ignore fiscal constraints entirely given low interest rates (which make borrowing cheap), the eagerness of investors in global capital markets to buy U.S. debt (which makes borrowing easy), and the absence of high inflation (which means the Federal Reserve can keep interest rates low).

U.S. Military Leaders Want Soldiers To Think Critically, Not Just Follow Orders

Helen Lee Bouygues

The term “conventional warfare” has been outdated since at least the late 1960s, and today, some of the U.S. military’s biggest potential adversaries are insurgencies without a discernible front line.

With this reality in mind, the U.S. Navy has been conducting a major studythat’s expected to lead to a radical shift in the education of its personnel. The Navy will almost certainly recommend doing far more to emphasize critical thinking skills in its training and development programs.

For many observers, the Navy’s educational reforms are long overdue. Experts have been raising concerns about the state of critical thinking in the nation’s armed forces since the early 2000s, and it has been 100 years since the Navy even performed a comprehensive review of its education system.

Reinventing telco networks: Five elements of a successful transformation

For telcos to keep and grow market share, the network division needs a makeover that lets it shed its cost-center past to become a leading function that influences the digital and analytics metamorphosis of the core.

You move to a new city for work and decide to switch to the well-regarded local leader in mobile services. You go to its website and port your number over, and, in seconds, your new service is working.

Soon, however, you experience some dropped calls and sluggish data in your apartment. The problem clears up quickly, though, after your provider’s analytics identify you as a new customer in a key demographic who is experiencing service issues in a location where you frequently use your mobile phone. The provider’s automated remediation confirms your apartment is in a strategic region with spare spectrum available and promptly provisions additional capacity.

For DoD cyber, 2019 is the year of doing

By: Mark Pomerleau 

Following a year of cyberspace strategizing, 2019 will be all about implementing rules and tools, according to the Department of Defense’s top uniformed cyber policy adviser.

Appearing Jan. 29 before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Brig. Gen. Dennis Crall said the department knows where it needs to head following last year’s DoD cyber strategy (the first in three years) and now is the time to show results.

“This is the year of outcomes and that’s what we’re focused on — delivering the capabilities and improvements that we’ve discussed for some time,” he told the committee, adding that the strategy process allowed them to take a look at some departmental gaps and get after them.

Lords of War: Visualizing the Global Arms Trade Network

Selling weapons to other countries is big business. It’s so lucrative that President Trumpfamously refused to cancel an American arms deal with Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. So just how big is the international market?

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the World Bank keep detailed figures on international arms imports and exports, counting every major conventional weapon from missiles to radar systems and military airplanes. We used the latest available complete data, sometimes going as far back as 2016 for some countries, to create a unique set of maps. The larger a country appears, the more arms it imports or exports. Plus, we added a color-coded outer ring corresponding to the level of each country’s contribution.

Let’s start by looking at who’s selling the most weapons. The U.S. stands out as the world leader by a long shot, shipping well over $12B in arms to other countries. To be sure, a significant amount of American arms exports go to Israel, but there are several other large customers across the Middle East as well, like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE.



In June 2018, it was revealed that Chinese government hackers had stolen large quantities of data from a contractor working for the United States Navy. Compromised information included secret plans for developing anti-ship missiles for submarines.

It signified an escalation of China’s state-sponsored cyber attacks, but that wasn’t the only reason the U.S. was worried. China frequently uses its own naval forces to assert itself in the South and East China Seas, which carry half the world’s seaborne trade. Maintaining peace and stability in this region is vital for the U.S. economy.

It’s not just this area which is important—around 90 percent of the world’s goods are transported on the seas, and almost all electronic financial transactions between the U.S. and other continents run through submarine cables. The sea remains the backbone of today's economy, and the Navy has a vital role in its protection.