10 February 2019

India-Bhutan Relations: Leveraging Ladakh

By Stanzin Lhaskyabs

With its third successful assembly elections in 2018,the small Himalayan country of Bhutan is maturing as a democratic state. Despite initial apprehensions by the world and the people of Bhutan, the country surprised many. This success can be credited to the people and the former king of Bhutan, but the role of India cannot be discounted either.

Bhutan is supported by India on various fronts including development, education, foreign policy and security. The two countries shared very strong ties right from the time of the first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. In a gesture meant to continue and further strengthen ties with India, Bhutan’s newly elected prime minister, Dr Lotay Tshering, made his debut foreign visit to New Delhi. However, unlike before, this timeBhutan approached India as an investment partner, not as an aid recipient. This shift can mainly be attributed to the dynamic geopolitics of Asia, mainly driven by the ambitious and emerging power China, as well as Bhutan’s own aspirations.

India is reportedly proposing new laws to clamp down on popular Chinese social media apps

Weizhen Tan

India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has introduced draft legislation for Chinese apps that run on user-generated content, and which have more than 5 million users in India, according to the Financial Times.

Those proposed new rules will require the owners of such apps to establish a local office in the country, and appoint a senior official to be accountable for any legal concerns that might arise, according to the Financial Times report.

Chinese social media apps are rapidly becoming popular with users in India, but the country now wants to regulate them, the Financial Times reported.

India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has introduced draft legislation for such apps that run on user-generated content, and which have more than 5 million users in India, according to the FT.

J&K: The Intimacy of Killing

The cold blooded execution of a 25 year old woman, Ishrat Muneer, in Pulwama on January 31, 2019, and the posting of a video of the act on social media, has evoked horror and revulsion everywhere. This is the third incident in which such gruesome executions have been recorded and circulated by the perpetrators in J&K. On November 15, 2018, Nadeem Mushtaq was shot multiple times at point blank range, again in Pulwama District; while 19 year old Huzaif Ashraf had his throat slit in Shopian District. Each of these incidents was the work of ‘local militants’ of the Hizb-ul-Mujahiddeen (HM); each was allegedly directed against ‘Police informers’; and each provoked a measure of disgust and public criticism within the State and beyond.

The incidents posted on social media are not, however, any index of the actual brutalities increasingly being directed by the terrorists against civilians in J&K. The atrocities that largely escape public notice are no less ghastly, and often involve far greater cruelty than the three relatively quick deaths projected on social media.

China has economic aims as it quietly builds bonds with Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD -- China is making quiet approaches to Afghanistan, with the aim of expanding its influence in geopolitically important South Asian region at a time when the U.S. is planning to drastically cut back its military forces in the country.

Afghanistan's national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on Jan. 10 to discuss how China could assist the "long term stability" of the war-ravaged country.

Mohib's visit coincides with an ongoing push by the administration of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to end the country's bloody conflict with Taliban militants, almost 17 years after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

As Trump seeks an exit from Afghanistan, Moscow steps in

By Nathan Hodge

Moscow (CNN)The Trump administration may be negotiating an exit from Afghanistan, but Russia is stepping up its game there.

On Tuesday, the President Hotel in central Moscow was the scene of an unusual, high-profile event: the launch of a two-day conference on Afghanistan.

This was no mere talking shop; the meeting brought representatives of the Taliban together with some of Afghanistan's main political players, including several of the country's most powerful regional and ethnic leaders.

The meeting, ostensibly organized by members of the Afghan diaspora in Russia, also carried a quasi-official imprimatur. The President Hotel -- formerly known as the October -- belongs to the presidential administration, and Ghulam Mohammad Jalal, one of the organizers of the conference, said the Russian Foreign Ministry had provided "technical support" to the event.

It's time to let go of America's 18-year Afghan war

By Aaron David Miller, Steven Simon, and Richard Sokolsky

Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East analyst at the State Department and adviser in Republican and Democratic administrations, is a vice president and director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Steven Simon is visiting professor of history at Amherst College. He served on the NSC and in the State Department in five administrations and is co-author of "The Age of Sacred Terror." Richard Sokolsky, currently a non-resident senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was a member of the Secretary of State's Policy Planning Office from 2005-2015 and served in the State Department in six administrations. The views expressed here are solely that of the authors. Read more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)Reports that US and Taliban negotiators have reached a tentative framework for withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan have set the foreign policy establishment's hair on fire. A former US ambassador described the putative deal with the Taliban as a "surrender."

Finishing Strong: Seeking a Proper Exit from Afghanistan


A precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan would endanger many of the social, political, economic, and health gains that have been achieved in Afghanistan over nearly 20 years. Afghanistan has a myriad of problems, including corruption, violence, and poverty, but these challenges often overshadow improvements in mortality rates, media and cellular access, tax collection, and women and girls’ education and political freedoms, among others. To prevent these gains from dissipating, the international community should encourage the Afghan government to meet certain governance benchmarks and continue on its path to self-reliance. The United States and its international allies should also consider a gradual withdrawal of troops, funding for the Afghan security forces, and economic assistance, based on a timeline that reflects facts on the ground and progress on peace negotiations. 

New China Tariffs Will Not Resolve the Trade Dispute

By Clark Packard

Last week, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He met with U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer in the latest in a series of high-level conversations designed to de-escalate trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies. The vice premier, President Xi Jinping’s top economic adviser, has a reputation as an economic reformer interested in liberalizing China’s economy, which provides some hope that the parties will finally resolve the simmering trade war. Ambassador Lighthizer and an American delegation will reportedly head to Beijing in a few weeks to see if an agreement can be struck before March 1, the date tariffs are slated to ratchet up. With the clock ticking, now is the time to strike a durable agreement.

Last March, the United States issued a damning report on China’s trade policy practices under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. The U.S. complaints include that Beijing abuses intellectual property, including by stealing trade secrets, and that it forces American firms to hand over technology to Chinese joint venture partners as the cost of doing business.

Is China a global leader in research and development?

Research and Development (R&D) is the backbone of innovation. It supports the development of new products and services, which have the potential to touch all aspects of modern life, in the ways that personal computers and smart phones have and that artificial intelligence and robotics are expected to in the near future. In a global community built on technology, how countries leverage their R&D efforts has a profound impact on their economic prosperity and the quality of life enjoyed by their citizens.

China has leaned on its manufacturing prowess for decades to support economic development, but it must now contend with countries whose economies are deeply rooted in innovation-based growth. Yet, China has made considerable progress in establishing itself as a pioneer in emerging industries and its leaders are increasingly looking toward innovation as a driver of its economic growth.

Don’t Let China Take the World Hostage

Hal Brands

Discussions of what China’s rise will mean for the world often take on an abstract, impersonal quality. We use terms like “international order,” “geopolitical competition” and “balance of power.” Yet the case of Michael Kovrig, the Canadian ex-diplomat who has been unjustly detained in China for nearly two months, reminds us that the rise of a brash authoritarian power comes with profoundly human consequences.

No less, this episode shows how Xi Jinping’s China risks alienating those foreign observers who have worked hardest to build connections and understanding between Beijing and the outside world. 

Kovrig certainly fits this description. He is fluent in Mandarin and served at posts in Hong Kong and Beijing. Since 2016, he has been covering China for the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental with a strong reputation for objectivity and quality. Kovrig’s work for ICG has covered an array of issues: China’s role in U.S.-North Korea diplomacy, its involvement in the conflict in South Sudan, and its growing global military footprint. 

Is an Iron Curtain Falling Across Tech?

The U.S. indictments against Huawei look set to significantly worsen already tense relations between China and the United States. As America pressures allies to drop Huawei and other Chinese firms, U.S. and European officials point to China’s own laws as evidence that even private firms are potential arms of the Chinese state, and the political atmosphere grows colder in Beijing, the vision of a world brought together through technology feels ever more distant.

Is tech the main battlefield in a new global struggle between two superpowers? Are there any prospects for de-escalation? What will the indictments mean for the growth of Huawei and other major Chinese tech companies? —The Editors

The Coming China Shock


For years, China has defied the widely held view that political openness is necessary for long-term economic development. But recent macroeconomic developments now suggest that the country's exceptionalism is nearing its expiry date, with potentially devastating effects for the global economy.

CAMBRIDGE – In September 2018, we argued that China’s economic and foreign policies were defying the “laws” of economics and geopolitics, and warned that the situation could not last. Since then, our assessment has been borne out, and our concerns have deepened.

Until recently, China had been able to pursue a unique development path, owing to the government’s far-reaching control over the economy (and society more generally). But those days are over. The country’s internal debts are mounting to unsustainable heights, and domestic investment levels have passed the point of diminishing returns and are veering toward negative territory.

How U.S. Mission Creep in Syria and Iraq Could Trigger War With Iran

An incident in Syria two years ago involving the transport of an Iranian port-a-pottynearly led to a confrontation between American and Iranian forces, underscoring just how quickly even minor events could escalate there.

The episode, told here for the first time, is particularly instructive as the Trump administration signals it might leave behind a small force in both Syria and Iraq to monitor Iranian activities.

Some analysts and U.S. officials believe that the change of mission for those forces could raise the chances of a war between the United States and Iran—and that it may even be illegal under the U.S. Constitution.

Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response

In March 2011, antigovernment protests broke out in Syria, which has been ruled by the Asad family for more than four decades. The protests spread, violence escalated (primarily but not exclusively by Syrian government forces), and numerous political and armed opposition groups emerged. In August 2011, President Barack Obama called on Syrian President Bashar al Asad to step down. Over time, the rising death toll from the conflict, and the use of chemical weapons by the Asad government, intensified pressure for the United States and others to assist the opposition. In 2013, Congress debated lethal and nonlethal assistance to vetted Syrian opposition groups, and authorized the latter. Congress also debated, but did not authorize, the use of force in response to an August 2013 chemical weapons attack.

Maduro vs. Guaidó: A Global Scorecard

By Amy Mackinnon

Support is waning for the Venezuelan president, but he still has Russia and China on his side.

The political crisis in Venezuela has left the international community divided. More than three dozen countries have now thrown their support to Juan Guaidó, the head of the National Assembly, while Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Turkey, and a handful of smaller nations back President Nicolás Maduro.

America’s Public Debt: Crisis Or The Cost Of Civilization?

By Jordan J. Ballor, PhD*

The annual update from the Congressional Budget Office released on Jan. 28 has once again highlighted the debate over America’s debt crisis. Despite dismissive claims that Washington should end its debt and deficit “obsession,” and the fact that America’s indebtedness was omitted from last night’s State of the Union address, a much more prudent approach would treat this as a real crisis, important not only for public policy and political culture but also for our personal and spiritual lives. 

The size and scope of the crisis is significant. The national debt is the accumulation of the federal government’s unpaid liabilities. These include deficits, which are negative balances between spending and revenue for a particular period, and are financed by instruments issued by the Treasury Department. The deficit for the month of October 2018 exceeded $100 billion, which more than doubled the deficit from the previous October. The deficit for the 2018 fiscal year totaled $779 billion. The highest deficit in the last 50 years was in 2009, when the government spent $1.4 trillion more than it brought in. The last time the federal government ran a surplus was 2001.

Huawei Sting Offers Rare Glimpse of the U.S. Targeting a Chinese Giant

by Erik Schatzker 

The sample looked like an ordinary piece of glass, 4 inches square and transparent on both sides. It’d been packed like the precious specimen its inventor, Adam Khan, believed it to be—placed on wax paper, nestled in a tray lined with silicon gel, enclosed in a plastic case, surrounded by air bags, sealed in a cardboard box—and then sent for testing to a laboratory in San Diego owned by Huawei Technologies Co. But when the sample came back last August, months late and badly damaged, Khan knew something was terribly wrong. Was the Chinese company trying to steal his technology?

The glass was a prototype for what Khan’s company, Akhan Semiconductor Inc., describes as a nearly indestructible smartphone screen. Khan’s innovation was figuring out how to coat one side of the glass with a microthin layer of artificial diamond. He hoped to license this technology to phone manufacturers, which could use it to develop an entirely new, superdurable generation of electronics. Akhan says Miraj Diamond Glass, as the product is known, is 6 times stronger and 10 times more scratch-resistant than Gorilla Glass, the industry standard that generates about $3 billion in annual sales for Corning Inc. “Lighter, thinner, faster, stronger,” says Khan, in full sales mode. Miraj, he promises, will lead to a “fundamental next level in design.”

Top Foreign-Policy Takeaways From Trump’s State of the Union


U.S. President Donald Trump spent much of his 2019 State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday night urging lawmakers to overcome partisan gridlock and touting the strength of the U.S. economy under his administration. But he also devoted some portions to foreign policy. Here is the rundown of what he said and, just as tellingly, what he didn’t say:

North Korea: Trump announced his long-awaited second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be on Feb. 27 and 28 in Vietnam as he pushes forward nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang. “If I had not been elected president of the United States, we would right now in my opinion be in a major war with North Korea,” he said. “Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one.”

What Would Space Force FIX? No One Would Notice Its Disappearance


President Trump and VP Pence at Space Council meeting June 2018

Born as what most thought was a joke in March 2018, President Trump’s Space Force had by June become a White House directive to the Pentagon. Since then the Trump Administration has been considering possible variants in the Force’s subordination, authorities, size, and budget, while Acting SecDef Shanahan has already created a working group to implement the idea and announced plans to create a new Space Development Agency. Congress will consider authorizing and funding the Force in the impending budget cycle. 

Almost completely absent from all this have been administration presentations of the rationale, the purpose and the need for this new Force; the failing or shortcoming or deficiency it would correct; the proposal’s “intention, end, goal, mission, objective, object, idea, design, hope, resolve, meaning, view, scope, desire, dream, expectation, ambition, intent, destination, direction, scheme, prospective, proposal, target, [or] aspiration” (thank you, Webster). “American dominance in space,” offered by Vice President Pence, has excessive interpretive laxity (evoking echoes of Kissinger’s “what in the name of god is nuclear superiority”).

Editorial: A new Pentagon report says climate factors are a national security concern

More than two-thirds of the U.S. military’s operationally critical installations are vulnerable to climate-related concerns, a new Department of Defense report says. The findings underscore the Pentagon’s general conclusion from several years ago that U.S. national security concerns must include climate-related ones.

“The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense missions, operational plans, and installations,” the new report states. The Pentagon is incorporating climate considerations into its long-term planning.

The report, titled “Report on Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense,” focused on 79 installations. Flooding poses a significant threat to 53 of the 79 bases, the report says. Drought threatens 43 installations. Wildfires are a concern for 36.

Bank Of America: Oil Demand Growth To Hit Zero Within A Decade

By Nick Cunningham

By 2030, oil demand could hit a peak and then enter decline, according to a new report.

For the next decade or so, oil demand should continue to grow, although at a slower and slower rate. According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the annual increase in global oil consumption slows dramatically in the years ahead. By 2024, demand growth halves, falling to just 0.6 million barrels per day (mb/d), down from 1.2 mb/d this year.

But by 2030, demand growth zeros out as consumption hits a permanent peak, before falling at a relatively rapid rate thereafter.

The main driver of the destruction in demand is the proliferation of electric vehicles.

Bank of America did offer a few caveats and uncertainties. The growth of EVs hinges on a handful of key metals. Lithium, for instance, is mined and produced in large concentrations in a few Latin American countries.

Crypto-Exchange CEO dies in India, platform can’t pay investors as he had the passwords

By Karen Zraick

A Canadian cryptocurrency exchange said it could not repay at least $250 million to clients after its chief executive died suddenly while visiting India. The company, QuadrigaCX, said in court filings that the CEO, Gerald Cotten, was the only person who knew the security keys and passwords needed to access the funds.

The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on Tuesday approved the company’s request for protection against creditors for 30 days and the appointment of accounting firm Ernst & Young to sort out Quadriga’s finances and explore a possible sale.

The company’s inability to release its clients’ money has created an uproar among angry — and highly suspicious — investors.

US Assault Against Venezuela Could Initiate Another Proxy Wa

By Shabbir H. Kazmi

Reportedly, United States President Trump, Vice President Pence and National Security Advisor John Bolton have escalated threats to launch a war against Venezuela, as large pro- and anti-government demonstrations filled Venezuela’s streets on Saturday.

In an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” program that aired before the Super Bowl, Trump reiterated that military intervention “is an option.” Pence assured a crowd of far-right Venezuelan exiles in Miami that “this is no time for dialogue, it is the moment for action, and the time has come to end the Maduro dictatorship once and for all… Those looking on should know this: all options are on the table.”

Bolton, who helped author the playbook that was used to launch the 2003 invasion of Iraq, issued a blunt threat Friday that the US would kill or jail and torture Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro if he did not resign. Comparing Maduro to Nicolae Ceaușescu and Benito Mussolini—both of whom were killed—Bolton told right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt: “The sooner he takes advantage of that [resignation], the sooner he’s likely to have a nice quiet retirement on a pretty beach rather than being in some other beach area like Guantanamo.”

Climate Change Impacts On Power Systems – Analysis

By Debabrata Chattopadhyay, Morgan D. Bazilian and Mohar Chattopadhyay*

The energy industry is not immune from climate change’s many threats, and society must both mitigate and adapt.

The Pacific Gas & Electricity Company, a major US utility, filed for bankruptcy months after wildfires whipped through Northern California, killing 86. The company confronts numerous lawsuits and more than $50 billion in liabilities even as the Camp Fire remains under investigation. The scale of risks now facing utilities demand new ways of planning future power systems and addressing resilience.

Warming century: Earth’s surface temperatures warmed as shown by linear trends in the Goddard Institute for Space Studies Surface Temperature Analysis data sets

Climate change threatens far-reaching impacts on power system design, markets and operation. These can range from short-term damage from increasing frequency and severity of storms to prolonged crises such as rising temperatures and an associated drop in hydro availability. A 2015 study found that “severe weather caused approximately 80% of the large-scale power outages from 2003 to 2012.” Planners and operators of power systems have historically quantified extreme weather events through various metrics of reliability such as the duration and frequency of outages. Growing evidence now suggests the entire energy supply chain, particularly power generation transmission and distribution, is vulnerable to climate change and disaster events. A new resilience-focused approach is thus required. 

CNO Wants More Cyber, IW in Navy’s Wargames

WASHINGTON: The Navy needs to increase both the number and complexity of its wargames, the service’s top admiral said Wednesday, citing rapid advances being made by competitors in cyber and information warfare tactics that will muddy and confuse future battlefields.

While Adm. John Richardson didn’t provide any details to flesh out his thinking during an appearance at the Atlantic Council, he said “we’re now getting to the point where we’ve got to start in a robust fashion wargaming these elements of conflict…so we understand [how to respond] when we need the authorities to do the things we need to do.”

Richardson’s comments come after the other services have long since moved out on trying to get their cyber and IW houses in order. The Army, Marines, and Air Force have each already talked about their efforts to incorporate Multi-Domain Operations into their wargaming. The idea is to flesh out ways to attack high-tech defenses with coordinated thrusts across all domains — land, air, sea, space, and cyberspace simultaneously. The Navy hasn’t yet signed on to conducting such operations to quite to the same degree, but Richardson’s comments Wednesday may be a signal that the service is getting more serious.


In his 2008 white paper that first proposed bitcoin, the anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto concluded with: “We have proposed a system for electronic transactions without relying on trust.” He was referring to blockchain, the system behind bitcoin cryptocurrency. The circumvention of trust is a great promise, but it’s just not true. Yes, bitcoin eliminates certain trusted intermediaries that are inherent in other payment systems like credit cards. But you still have to trust bitcoin—and everything about it.

Much has been written about blockchains and how they displace, reshape, or eliminate trust. But when you analyze both blockchain and trust, you quickly realize that there is much more hype than value. Blockchain solutions are often much worse than what they replace.

3 ways the Pentagon could improve cyber intelligence

By: Justin Lynch 

The United States needs to expand its cyber intelligence authorities and capabilities to meet the Trump administration’s new cybersecurity strategy, according to top current and former government officials and academics.

The United States intelligence community’s ability to boost its surveillance of American computer networks, foreign adversaries and even third-party countries is integral to the Trump administration’s plan to be more aggressive in cyberspace.

“We are building relationships with U.S. institutions that are likely to be targets of foreign hacking campaigns — particularly in the nation’s critical infrastructure — before crises develop, replacing transactional relationships with continuous operational collaboration among other departments, agencies, and the private sector.” Gen. Paul Nakasone, head of U.S. Cyber Command and the NSA, said in the January edition of Joint Force Quarterly, a Pentagon publication. “This is a domain where 90 percent of the networks — the critical infrastructure — resides in the private sector, not in the public. This is primarily a private industry-driven domain.”

US Hacker Squads Constantly On the Attack in New Cyberwar Strategy

Lee Ferran

All day every day American hackers are breaking into foreign networks to slug it out with adversaries on their own turf — part of a new aggressive strategy by the U.S. Cyber Command.

Because in cyberspace, the best defense is a good offense.

“While we cannot ignore vital cyber defense missions, we must take this fight to the enemy, just as we do in other aspects of conflict,” Gen. Paul Nakasone, the head of both the National Security Agency and the military’s Cyber Command wrote in a military journal [PDF] recently.

Nakasone said that when U.S. Cyber Command was set up, it was naturally assumed to be a defensive organization tasked with securing military and classified networks. But as high-profile foreign cyber-attacks on U.S. targets mounted after 2013 — including a suspected Iranian attack on a Las Vegas Casino and an attack on Sony Pictures attributed to North Korea — American officials realized they were doing it all wrong.

Cloud Computing, Armageddon, & How Not To Sell IT To DoD


CRYSTAL CITY: Just when you thought the Pentagon’s new cloud strategy was all about adopting private sector practices, it makes an offhand reference to Armageddon. Cloud computing can swiftly switch users to different backup data centers around the country if one goes down, the strategy notes approvingly: “This will be vital in the case of human-made or natural destruction of a large geographic area.”

That’s not the kind of contingency that private companies usually plan for. But this line and others in the cyber strategy – released Monday– should be a wake-up call for the tech sector that the military is a very different kind of customer with some uniquely challenging demands that require a different approach.

The Pentagon’s First AI Strategy Will Focus on Near-Term Operations — and Safety


The document is intended to make commander think through the implications of their new artificial-intelligence tools.

The Defense Department will unveil a new artificial intelligence strategy perhaps as early as this week, senior defense officials told Defense One. The strategy — its first ever — will emphasize the creation and tailoring of tools for specific commands and service branches, allowing them to move into AI operations sooner rather than later.

“DOD has spent the past 50 years treating AI as a [science and technology] concern. This strategy reflects an additional imperative, which is to translate the technology into decisions and impact in operations,” said one official with direct knowledge of the strategy.

Much like the new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, the future of military AI will take its cue from Project Maven, which applied artificial intelligence to sorting through intelligence footage. One official described Maven as “a pathfinder” but cautioned, “the strategy is much broader than one project.”