21 February 2019

India’s Options after the Pulwama Attack

Note: A version of this article appeared on BBC World on February 19, 2019. Due to significant unauthorised changes by the editors, the original draft has been reproduced below. The final published version can be read here.

On February 14, India experienced its worst Islamist terrorist attack in a decade when the car bombing of a paramilitary convoy in Jammu and Kashmir resulted in over 40 fatalities. While the suicide bomber was a local Kashmiri, the group that recruited, trained, and equipped him was Jaish-e-Mohammed, a United Nations-designated terrorist organisation that claimed responsibility for the attack and operates openly in Pakistan.

The incident at Pulwama adds to a long history of terror attacks in India by groups protected and supported by Pakistan’s security agencies, including the 1993 Mumbai bombings, the 2001 assault on the Indian parliament, the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and the 2016 targeting of military bases at Pathankot and Uri. With Indian general elections around the corner, the government is under pressure to respond to the latest provocation, or at least demonstrate that such actions are not without consequences. What are some of India’s options?

Pulwama strike mirrors changes in the dynamic in Kashmir, Pakistan and the region

by Tilak Devasher 

There are three dimensions to the suicide attack by Masood Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in Pulwama on February 14 that led to the tragic deaths of at least 40 CRPF jawans.

The first dimension is Kashmir related. The Pulwama tragedy signals a significant escalation in terrorism in the Kashmir Valley. Given the type (Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device-VBIED), target and the scale of the attack, it seems obvious that this was done at the behest of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). The motivation would have been to refocus attention on the Valley after a spate of successes by the Indian security forces in neutralising terrorists, to provide a higher degree of visibility to the JeM, and to show the attack as being carried out by a local Kashmiri. However, it is obvious that while a local Kashmiri youth was the trigger, he was merely cannon fodder. The sourcing of material, training and planning was the handiwork of Pakistanis. The moot point, however, is whether this attack is a reversion to the 1990s pattern of terrorism involving the Pakistanis in pole positions and Kashmiris in sacrificial roles. While time will tell, the security forces in Kashmir will have to factor in this modus operandi and devise counter-measures.

China’s master plan for India

Brahma Chellaney

China’s culpability in the massacre of Indian paramilitary soldiers by a Pakistan-based terrorist group is unmistakable. It openly shields Pakistan’s export of terrorism. While Pakistan’s proxy war keeps India preoccupied in the west, China’s aid to northeast Indian insurgents weighs down India on its eastern flank.

The Dalai Lama recently told this newspaper that due to Chinese pressure, no Buddhist country, with the sole exception of the nominally Buddhist Japan, is now willing to grant him entry. China’s ability to browbeat smaller countries into submission, however, should not obscure the major new challenges it faces.

The world’s longest-surviving autocracy turns 70 this year, with its future uncertain. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, which left at least 10,000 people dead. After more than a quarter century of phenomenal economic growth, China has entered a new era of uncertainty.

India: The Next Green Growth Champion?

By Tim Steinecke

India, the third largest energy consumer in the world, has often been flying in the slipstream of the United States and China when it came to the global energy debate. This is set to change soon, however. Looking ahead at the next two decades, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that India will almost add 30 percent to global energy demand growth, consuming 11 percent of global energy by 2040 (up from around 6 percent in 2018). India’s energy production and consumption will not only impact global markets but will also be an important factor in global efforts to address climate change. The expected decline in Indian coal consumption is already good news for the global climate (albeit not without domestic political and financial risks). Coal as a share of India’s electricity production capacity is expected to fall from currently 57 percent to 38 percent by 2026, while the share of renewables will rise from 29 percent to 50 percent in the same time.

Geopolitics, The Black Swan In Saudi-Indian Relations – Analysis

By James M. Dorsey

When Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi next week, the elephant in the room is likely to be what weighs more: the issues the two men agree on or the ones that divide them.

As a matter of principle, Prince Mohammed and Mr. Modi are likely to take their strategic partnership to a new level as a result of changing energy markets, a decline in American power, the rise of China and the transnational threat of political violence.

Discussions with the crown prince and his delegation of Saudi businessmen on energy and investment will prove to be the easy part. Saudi Arabia is investing US$44 million in a refinery in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri and supplies 20 percent of India’s crude oil. India, moreover, expects the Saudis to invest in ports and roads while Saudi Arabia is interested in Indian agriculture that would export products to Saudi Arabia.

The looming Taiwan crisis

Richard N. Haass

Much of lasting significance happened in 1979. There was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Iran’s Islamic revolution, which brought to power a regime set on remaking not just Iranian society but also much of the Middle East.

Just as important was the United States’ decision to recognise, effective 1 January that year, the government of the People’s Republic of China—then, as today, run by the Communist Party—as China’s sole legal government. The change paved the way for expansion of trade and investment between the world’s largest economy and the world’s most populous country, and enabled closer collaboration against the Soviet Union.

China's Belt and Road One Initiative, Three Strategies

by Joel Wuthnow

BRI is one of the most notable manifestations of China’s rising global power, yet its drivers and implications remain clouded in uncertainty. BRI is composed of three distinct strategies, each with its own goals, tools, and sets of challenges. Politically, it enhances the image of both Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party but has to contend with public ambivalence and distorted bureaucratic incentives. Economically, BRI benefits a number of Chinese interest groups, including select provinces and cities, as well as state-owned enterprises, but faces a panoply of economic, legal, and governance risks. Geopolitically, the initiative strives to create a more stable frontier, advance key partnerships, diversify energy sources, and position China to compete more effectively with the U.S. Yet it has been hobbled by hedging among recipients and growing international skepticism about its purposes and ramifications.


BRI illustrates a number of lessons about China’s status as an emerging global power, including its strategic flexibility, use of economic statecraft, multilayered goals and motivations, and contradictions within its own bureaucratic system.


THE US GOVERNMENT averted another shutdown when Donald Trump instead opted to declare a national emergency to fund his border wall dreams—a wall which raises huge privacy and security concerns and will cause more problems than it solves. As the country digested the national emergency, cybersecurity workers were still scrambling to clean up the security nightmare wrought by the longest shutdown in history.

Amid all the border wall news this week, you’d be forgiven for missing that the president also signed an executive order creating the American AI Initiative. In an op-ed for WIRED, White House deputy assistant to the president for technology policy Michale Kratsios explained why AI strategy is a security issue. Speaking of AI, to combat the growing threat of deep fakes, a new tool uses the blockchain to monitor video for tampering and manipulation.

The most successful EV model to date is not from the US or China

By Echo Huang

When it comes to being the top maker of electric vehicles (EV) by sales, China’s BYD and Tesla have been duking it out in recent years. Neither company, however, has a model popular enough to rival Japan’s Nissan Leaf, which is the most popular electric car of all time.

First sold in the US and Japan around a decade ago, the battery-powered car has sold more than 360,000 units as of 2018, according to data released last week from Germany-based Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW). Tesla’s Model S, the California-based carmaker’s first EV model released in 2012, came in at second place, selling more than 240,000 units in the same period, while Chinese state-owned firm BAIC’s EC series was the third most popular EV model as of last year.

In total, there are now 5.6 million EVs on the road as of 2018, up 64% from the previous year, according to ZSW, which includes data from both battery powered EVs and plug-in hybrids. China accounts for half of that number, while the US makes up around 20%.

Why Has China Deployed its Elite J-16 Strike Fighters to Tibet

People's Liberation Army Air Superiority Fighter

New details have recently emerged regarding the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force contingent deployed to the strategically located southern province of Tibet, including the deployment of new J-16 strike fighters. The J-16 reportedly first entered service in the PLA Air Force in 2013, and is one of the most capable derivatives of the Su-27 Flanker air superiority airframe in the world. While best known for its strike capabilities, and its potential as an AWACS and tanker hunter at extreme ranges, the fighter is also highly capable in air to air combat. The deployment of the J-16 in considerable numbers this provides the PLA Air Force with a formidable complement to the J-11B - an older Flanker derivative specialised in air superiority. 

Building The Air Force We Need To Meet Chinese And Russian Threats

Dave Deptula 

In January, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) released its unclassified assessment of China’s military capabilities, with the telling subtitle: “Modernizing a Force to Fight and Win.”

As DIA director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley explained: “China is building a robust, lethal force with capabilities spanning the air, maritime, space and information domains which will enable China to impose its will in the region.” He went on to emphasize: “…the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] is on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapons systems in the world. In some areas, it already leads the world.”

Such a stark warning stands in direct contrast to the presumed unilateral super power status America has enjoyed since the end of the Cold War nearly three decades ago. For the first time in a generation, America’s global interests are at risk. Failure to win when contested by either China or Russia would have negative consequences not just for the United States, but for the entire free world. Accordingly, it is time to prepare deliberately and prudently to achieve levels of capability to deter conflict with these states, and if necessary win if deterrence fails. Nowhere is this truer than for the U.S. Air Force.

Why a US-China Trade Deal Is Not Enough


If the US and China fail to reach a comprehensive trade agreement, bilateral trade will plummet, and the unraveling of the US-China economic relationship would accelerate. But even if an agreement is reached, that unraveling will continue, because, at its core, the trade war has always been about security.

WASHINGTON, DC – As Chinese and American trade negotiators meet in Washington to try to forge an accord on trade, observers are largely focused on the countries’ economic disagreements, such as over China’s subsidies to its state-owned enterprises. But to think that an agreement on trade will protect the world from a Sino-American cold war would be as premature as it would be naïve.

Of course, a trade deal is highly desirable. The collapse of trade talks would trigger a new round of tariff hikes (from 10% to 25%, on $200 billion of Chinese goods exported to the United States), driving down global equity prices and spurring businesses to move more of their activities out of China. Amid tit-for-tat tariffs, bilateral trade would plummet, and the unraveling of the US-China economic relationship would accelerate, creating widespread uncertainty and higher costs.

China in the Middle East: Past, Present, and Future

By Nicholas Lyall

This article is the first in a serious of four that will explore the nature of China’s growing presence in the Middle East and what China’s increasing leadership means for the region’s economic, humanitarian, and security situation.

By virtue of initiatives like the Belt and Road accompanying America’s stagnating influence in the region, China is emerging as a leading power in the Middle East. However, the dynamics of China’s presence in the Middle East have traditionally been afforded somewhat sparse focus compared to Beijing’s involvement in other regions. Therefore, many observers are now grappling with the question of how China’s growing involvement will play out, especially as Beijing seems set to play a crucial role in issues like post-conflict Syria. To this end, it is instructive to start by appreciating the context of China’s recent history in the region, and delineating the major trend lines that have driven Beijing’s presence thus far.

1978-1991: Slowly Emerging From the Shadows of the U.S. and USSR

The Complicated Geopolitics of U.S. Oil Sanctions on Iran

by Amy Myers Jaffe

It is often said, perhaps with some hyperbole, that Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers was the best hope for conflict resolution in the Middle East. Its architect John Kerry argues instead that the 2015 deal’s limited parameter of closing Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon is sufficient on the merits. The Trump administration is taking a different view, focusing on Iran’s escalating threats to U.S. allies Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Those threats, which have included missile, drone, and cyberattacks on Saudi oil facilities, are looming large over the global economy because they are squarely influencing the volatility of the price of oil. One could argue that the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iranian deal, referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has injected an even higher degree of risk into oil markets, where traders now feel that the chances of Mideast conflict resolution are lower.

Australia has a challenge of scaling defence capabilities for large cyber attacks

By Asha McLean

Australian Defence Force (ADF) Head of Information Warfare Major General Marcus Thompson is concerned that while the nation has "good" defence capabilities, those capabilities might not be able to scale if Australia was faced with a large-scale attack in a cyber realm.

Today's security threats have expanded in scope and seriousness. There can now be millions -- or even billions -- of dollars at risk when information security isn't handled properly.

Speaking at the Cyber Storm international conference at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) on Monday, Thompson said it's what keeps him up at night.

"If we accept that the opening salvos of the next big fight will play out in cyber space, if they're not already, it's that capacity of the Australian government to respond ... we know we've got good capabilities, but when it comes to scale, I'm a bit worried," he said.

The US, Germany and the Strategic Divide in Europe

By George Friedman 

The NATO divide is not just a trans-Atlantic split but a European one as well. 

The Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of the trans-Atlantic security community, was held this weekend in Germany. Two things stood out. First, Germany is trying to redefine NATO’s primary functions in important ways. Second, the tensions between the United States and Europe are being redefined as tensions between a U.S.-led bloc and a German-led bloc. While Germany claims to speak for all of Europe, it’s actually leading a faction within the Continent against the United States and a group of European nations whose interests are more aligned with those of Washington.

At the conference, the most important disagreement between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was over Russia. The American view is that Russia is an adversary whose strategic interests are at odds with those of the Western alliance. Its behavior in former Soviet buffer states, in the Middle East and in intelligence operations represents a threat that must be contained and countered. The Russian decision to support Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is a minor example of Russian hostility to Western governments, many of which have thrown their support behind the Venezuelan opposition.

Ukraine, Russia: Pressure on Moscow Builds Over Its Seafaring Standoff With Kiev

In its 2019 Annual Forecast, Stratfor noted that the Sea of Azov would emerge as a key front in the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia — writing that both countries would bolster naval assets in the area, with the United States weighing in through additional security support for Ukraine. A recent meeting between Ukrainian and NATO defense officials, along with upcoming sanction decisions against Russia related to the Sea of Azov, point to the growing importance of this front. 

What Happened

Ending America’s World Bank Monopol


NEW YORK – The nomination earlier this month of David Malpass, a senior US Treasury Department official, for the post of World Bank president came as something of a relief. Malpass is, after all, the choice of US President Donald Trump, who is known for backing extreme and unqualified job candidates. But that does not mean that Malpass is the ideal choice for the job.

In fact, while it could have been worse, Malpass’ nomination was a distinct disappointment. For one thing, his skepticism toward multilateral institutions runs deep. For another, he is a Trump loyalist who has often stressed the paramount importance of economic growth – especially US growth. More fundamentally, Malpass is conservative, and the World Bank is not.

To be sure, the World Bank was once the standard-bearer of economic orthodoxy, reflected in the post-Cold War policy cocktail of privatization and deregulation known as the Washington Consensus. The institution codified a set of archconservative rules on trade, capital flows, and fiscal and monetary policies, with which it then compelled developing economies around the world to comply.

Planning for Failure: The US Withdrawal From Syria – Analysis

By Aaron Stein*

(FPRI) — Last week, the Wall Street Journal and Reuters reported that the United States military will begin to withdraw troops from northeastern Syria with the end of April as a “soft date” to finish the removal of most (if not all) of the 2,000 troops stationed there. In parallel, Ambassador James Jeffrey, the Special Representative for Syria, is engaged in negotiations with Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Syrian Kurdish-led partner force that has borne the brunt of the U.S.-led ground war against the Islamic State, to try to manage the U.S withdrawal. After President Donald Trump announced in mid-December that the Islamic State had been defeated, the United States military has sought to catch-up with the president’s rhetoric and finish the fight against the small and sparsely populated Islamic State territory in a small sliver of eastern Syria.

Here’s Where US’ Imported Oil Comes From: Venezuela Currently Fourth-Largest Exporter – OpEd

At the present time, the latest month for which the U.S. Department of Energy publishes the number of barrels per day (bpd) of oil that’s exported to the U.S. is November 2018. Here are the rankings:

1. Canada 142,206 bpd
2. Saudi Arabia 30,028
3. Mexico 18,020
4. Venezuela 16,889
5. Iraq 11,767 
6. Colombia 7,769
7. Russia 7,611
8. Ecuador 5,866
9. Nigeria 5,392
10. Algeria 4,848
11. UK 4,653

Net Neutrality Is Gone. Did You Even Notice?

By Julian Adorney

Net neutrality was repealed over six months ago. But if no one had told you, would you have even noticed?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed Net Neutrality in 2015, which regulated the Internet under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act. The rules were intended to ensure that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would treat Internet traffic the same, regardless of which website it came from. But in June 2018, the FCC repealed those rules. And while many neutrality advocates predicteddisaster, since repeal, the Internet has only improved. Now NBC is reporting that Democrats in Congress will likely push for a net neutrality law in 2019. Their fixation on regulating the Internet is misplaced. The Internet keeps getting better, faster, and more affordable — and it will continue to do so without net neutrality.

Net neutrality advocates have long claimed that ISPs would take advantage of repeal to push users into slow lanes. Save the Internet, a coalition of organizations dedicated to preserving net neutrality, warned that, “Without net neutrality, cable and phone companies could carve the internet into fast and slow lanes.” But Internet speeds in 2018 actually rose by 35.8 percent. Rather than shoving users into a slow lane, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) upgraded everyone’s lane.

DARPA Thinks AI Could Help Troops Telepathically Control Machines


The Pentagon is looking to build artificial intelligence into neural interfaces to let humans control machines with their thoughts.

The Pentagon’s research office is exploring how artificial intelligence can improve technologies that link troops’ brains and bodies to military systems.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently began recruiting teams to research how AI tools could augment and enhance “next-generation neurotechnology.” Through the program, officials ultimately aim to build AI into neural interfaces, a technology that lets people control, feel and interact with remote machines as though they were a part of their own body.



THIS WEEK, PRESIDENT Donald Trump signed a new executive order on artificial intelligence and the Pentagon declassified part of its AI strategy. Neither was a first attempt at a national AI strategy. In 2016, the Obama administration published a comprehensive plan on the future of AI, which never had time to gain the momentum it needed in government. The Pentagon has been researching intelligent machines for the better part of 60 years, and only recently did it come to a consensus: Our future wars will be fought in code, using data and algorithms as powerful weapons. Using AI techniques, a military can “win” by destabilizing an economy rather than demolishing countrysides and city centers. From that perspective, and given China’s unified march advancing artificial intelligence, China is dangerously far ahead of the West.

Revolutionary AI Fake Text Generator Is ‘Too Dangerous’ To Release; Project Backed By Elon Musk Won’t Publish Its Research For Fear Of Its Misuse; Creative Machines Will Be The Next Weapon In Our Fake News/Video Wars

Yuan Ren posted an article on the February 14, 2019 edition of the DailyMail.com, with the title above. He writes that “a project backed by billionaire and visionary Elon Musk has been so successful its developers are not releasing it to the public – for feared it might be misused. Research Group Open AI developed a ‘large-scale, unsupervised language model,’ that is able to generate news stories from a simple headline. But,” Mr. Ren adds, “the group insists it will not be releasing details of the program; and instead, has unveiled a much smaller version for research purposes. Its developers claim the technology is poised to rapidly advance in the coming years; and, the full specification and details of the project will only be released when the negative applications have been discussed by researchers.”

The researchers said: “Due to our concerns about malicious applications of the technology, we are not releasing the trained model. As an experiment in responsible disclosure, we are instead, releasing a much smaller model for researchers to experiment with.” Dario Amodei, OpenAI’s Research Director told the DailyMail: “We are not at a stage yet, where we’re saying this is a danger. We’re trying to make people aware of these issues, and start a real conversation.”

Cyber blitzkrieg replaces cyber Pearl Harbor

By Stilgherrian 

Since 2006, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and allied nations have run exercises based on the concept of a Cyber Storm. They've focused on "policies, processes, and procedures for identifying and responding to a multi-sector cyber attack targeting critical infrastructure".

But we're now in the post-NotPetya era. Nation-states are actively mapping out each other's critical infrastructure. Last month, it was even reported that both China and Russia have already staged assets to launch cyber attacks that could at least temporarily disrupt US critical infrastructure.

Austin says that cyber storm thinking is now being replaced by a concept he calls "cyber blitzkrieg". It's effectively a more nuanced version of the somewhat tired "cyber Pearl Harbor" concept.


Harry Cockburn

Groundbreaking new artificial intelligence text generation software built by a company backed by Elon Musk is too dangerous to make public, its creators say.

OpenAI, a nonprofit artificial intelligence research group, said their GPT-2 software is so good they are worried it could be misused.

The software generates coherent text, and can be prompted to write on certain subjects or in a certain style by feeding it paragraphs of source material.

The algorithm was trained on eight million web pages and the results are far better than any previous attempt at computer text-generation, where odd syntax changes and rambling nonsense have been difficult to iron out.

Hybrid Warfare: The Comprehensive Approach In The Offense

Chris Kremidas-Courtney

The Comprehensive Approach (CA) is a way to achieve a common understanding and approach among all actors of the International Community through the coordination and de‐confliction of political, development and security efforts in solving an international crisis.


Through the use of broad spectrum techniques and pathways to destabilize and weaken neighboring nations, Russia and China have been using hybrid warfare to expand their influence and gain territory. Alliances and nations have been unable to respond effectively due to this aggression being exercised just below the threshold of open warfare, while the aggressors achieve their political aims at limited expense.

Setting the Standard for CVE

By Evanna Hu 

Editor’s Note: Few people disagree with the goal of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), but in practice the programs have faced many problems. A big one is that it is hard to know if they are working, as existing metrics do a poor job of measuring success and failure. Evanna Hu of Omelas proposes a set of fixes to CVE programs that would make them more rigorous and more effective.

There is no doubt that Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) is critical to U.S. national security interests. But CVE has always suffered from a major flaw: a lack of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) to show the effectiveness of the many programs in implementation. Without rigorous M&E, it has been hard to defend the CVE budget in front of Congress, and five years after the first CVE summit hosted by the White House under President Barack Obama, we still do not know with confidence which CVE programs work better than others in different contexts. Have the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on CVE programs actually had the desired effects? Have some programs generated unintentional backlash? And moving forward, how do we know which CVE programs are worth continuing and have the biggest bang for the buck? Setting industry standards for M&E can answer these questions, allowing policymakers to develop more effective programs and direct funding to what works.

Call to ban killer robots in wars

By Pallab Ghosh

A group of scientists has called for a ban on the development of weapons controlled by artificial intelligence (AI).

It says that autonomous weapons may malfunction in unpredictable ways and kill innocent people.

Ethics experts also argue that it is a moral step too far for AI systems to kill without any human intervention.

The comments were made at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington DC.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is one of the 89 non-governmental organisations from 50 countries that have formed the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, to press for an international treaty.

Military, Industry Gung-Ho on Software Defined Radios

By Jon Harper

AN/PRC-163 multi-channel handheld radio

Industry is moving to supply the U.S. military with new communications technologies that are more cost-effective and offer enhanced capabilities. Software defined, multi-channel radios are seen as the wave of the future as the armed services try to stay ahead of emerging threats.

The network is one of the Army’s top six modernization priorities. The service recently undertook a comprehensive study of its communications architectures.

“One of the big ah-ha moments for us … [was the realization] that we missed that strategic shift in the IT marketplace that started happening — this idea of software defined radios,” Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, chief information officer, Army G-6, said at the MILCOM conference in October.