28 February 2019

Pulwama and After

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

At least 44 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed and 70 injured when a Maruti Eeco car laden with explosives rammed into a CRPF bus—part of a massive convoy—in Awantipora town of Pulwama District in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) on 14 February, in one of the deadliest terror attacks yet on government forces in J&K. The incident took place at Lethpora, about 30 km from Srinagar on the Jammu-Srinagar highway around 3.15 pm. The scene of the attack is not very far from the CRPF Commando Training Centre at Lethpora, which was stormed by Jaish militants on December 31, 2017, killing five personnel. This was the first suicide car bomb attack in Kashmir since the 2001 strike on the J&K Legislative Assembly in which 41 people, including three suicide attackers, were killed.  Read More......

India to pitch for Pulwama reference in Russia-India-China statement

By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury

India will pitch for a strong reference to the Pulwama terror attack, cross-border terrorism, need to control terrorist infrastructure and financing in the joint communique of the annual Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral on Wednesday in China, an all-weather Pakistan ally. China has so far taken a nuanced position on the February 14 terror attack. 

India, with support from Russia, will attempt for strong references to the Pulwama attack at the annual foreign ministers’ meet, ET has learnt. RIC joint communique, after the UN Security Council (UNSC) and FATF statements, would help increase pressure on Pakistan. 

While refusing to back India’s push to get Masood Azhar banned by the UNSC under the 1267 sanctions committee, China supported the UNSC statement last week condemning Jaish-e-Mohammad for the Pulwama attack. 

Are India and Pakistan on the Verge of a Water War?


With tensions rising between India and Pakistan in the wake of a deadly terrorist attack earlier this month that killed more than 40 Indian police officers in Kashmir, New Delhi has decided to retaliate in part by cutting off some river water that flows downstream to Pakistan. The decision to build a dam on the Ravi River, whose waters are allocated to India by treaty but a portion of which had been allowed to flow through to Pakistan, adds an extra source of conflict between two nuclear-armed neighbors that have repeatedly clashed over the disputed Kashmir territory.

To understand the issue better, Foreign Policy spoke with Sunil Amrith, a professor of South Asian studies at Harvard University and the author of Unruly Waters, a look at how water shapes South Asia’s history, politics, and economic development.

Pakistan’s Proxies: The Kashmir Attack and U.S. Policy Response

By Jason M. Blazakis

At least 40 Indian soldiers and local officials were killed in a suicide attack on Feb. 14 that targeted a large military convoy traversing Indian-controlled Kashmir. Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), a State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), claimed responsibility for the attack, but there are reasons to doubt its credibility. The more likely culprit is Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), which executed the deadly 2008 attack in Mumbai. Both LeT and the Pakistani government have their reasons to deflect attention from LeT, but as India prepares its response to the attack, the risk of escalation is real. In 2008, U.S. diplomacy was decisive in lowering tensions between the two nuclear rivals, and there are clear steps the United States can take today to try to replicate that success—but the Trump administration will have to act quickly.

Who Really Attacked the Indian Military Convoy?

We Should Have Seen This India-Pakistan Crisis Coming

By Michael Kugelman

It has been more than a week since a young militant in the district of Pulwama in the India-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir drove a car packed with 750 pounds of explosives into a convoy of Indian paramilitary forces, killing at least 49 of them.

Indian and Pakistani reactions to the tragedy have been predictable. New Delhi blames Pakistan, accusing Islamabad of assisting the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), which claimed responsibility for the attack. Islamabad denies any complicity, noting that the attacker and his explosives were local products and excoriating heavy-handed Indian security forces for stoking the repressive environment that radicalizes young Kashmiris.

US, India Join Forces Once Again to Beat Back China at the UN

Seema Sirohi

Washington: The United Nations has become an important battleground for a pushback against China, whose sponsorship and protection of Pakistan came under pressure from the combined diplomatic heft of the United States, India and France.

The latest example was the UN Security Council’s first ever condemnation of a terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir despite persistent Chinese objections.

No statements were issued in the past – neither after Pathankot nor after Uri. The UNSC said nothing when the J&K state legislature complex was targeted in 2001 by Jaish-e-Mohammed. The UN’s most powerful body stayed away from events in “disputed” territories.

'No one in Washington wants to see another war, or near-war, between India and Pakistan'

'While US officials understand and accept India's desire for retaliation, they still don't want to encourage steps that would likely lead to war.'

Daniel S Markey --- senior research professor in international relations and academic director, master of arts in global policy at the Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University -- is an authoritative American voice on events in South Asia.

"Look for other versions of cross-border strikes that Indian leaders can describe as strong and punitive, but Pakistan can absorb without escalating dramatically," Professor Markey tells Rediff.com's Nikhil Lakshman.

Do you believe the United Nations resolution condemning the Pulwama attack, Pakistan's actions against Jaish and Lashkar will satisfy the Indian government and prevent a military operation of some kind? Or do you think a military operation is inevitable?

India must prepare for the daybreak of peace in Afghanistan

'The danger today is that out of sheer fatigue and exasperation, the US might cut loose and exit from Afghanistan leaving it to the region to cope with the debris, which it is ill-equipped to handle,' says Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar.

In the torrential flow of real time news from Pakistan about the July 25 parliamentary poll, we in India overlooked an event of historic proportions affecting regional security and stability -- the commencement of direct talks between the United States and the Taliban in Doha.

The Afghan government was bypassed in the Qatar talks. And the timing was exquisite: July 23, the eve of the Pakistani poll.

Washington and the ‘Most Dangerous Place in the World’


In 1951, Chester Bowles, the former governor of Connecticut, asked U.S. President Harry Truman if he could serve as his ambassador to India. The president was shocked. “I thought India was pretty jammed with poor people and cows wandering around the streets, witch doctors and people sitting on hot coals and bathing in the Ganges and so on,” Truman said, “but I did not realize that anyone thought it was important.”

Almost seven decades later, India and South Asia more broadly have never mattered more to the United States. India—the world’s largest democracy and its seventh-biggest economy—has emerged as a close U.S. partner, helping to balance against a rising China. But it remains embroiled in a long-simmering dispute with its nuclear-armed neighbor, Pakistan, America’s closest military ally in South Asia for the past half-century. And it’s a conflict that has escalated dangerously in the last two weeks: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pledged to “avenge every tear” after Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan-based terrorist group, claimed responsibility for a car bomb that killed 44 Indian paramilitary police officers in Kashmir. Then there’s Afghanistan, where, after 17 years of fighting and more than 2,400 dead Americans, the Taliban holds more territory than at any time since the U.S. invasion. “A region once deemed peripheral to US global interests,” writes Srinath Raghavan in Fierce Enigmas, his sweeping new history of the United States in South Asia, “is now the site of the most prolonged application of American military power in the republic’s history.”

Taliban Political Chief Baradar To Attend Afghan Peace Talks In Qatar

A new round of peace talks between Taliban and U.S. negotiators is to begin in Doha this week and will include the militant group’s co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, according to Taliban and diplomatic sources in Qatar.

Reports said the talks were set to begin in the Qatari capital on February 25, and were expected to center around a cease-fire to end Afghanistan's 17-year conflict and the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.

The U.S. negotiating team will be led by the United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad.

Afghan Taliban leaders had said that their new political chief, Baradar, would not attend the negotiations because he had had difficulties obtaining travel documents.

The Taliban also said there were differences among the Taliban leadership over the precise role that Baradar should have in the talks.

Afghanistan’s war killed a record number of civilians in 2018

By Tim Fernholz

The United Nations said today that 2018 was marked by the most civilians killed in Afghanistan’s war since it began counting in 2009.

The casualties included 3,804 deaths and 7,189 injured in fighting between the Afghan government, a US-led coalition of Western military forces, the Taliban, the Afghan branch of ISIS, and other unidentified militias. More than 32,000 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan in the last decade.

“The conflict in Afghanistan continues to kill far too many civilians and has caused long-lasting suffering, both physical and psychological, to countless others,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement. “The fact that the number of children killed this year is the highest on record, is particularly shocking.”

If the US had the same proportion of its population killed in internal conflicts as Afghanistan in 2018 alone, approximately 34,000 Americans would be dead. That’s more than 10 times the number of people killed in the 9/11 attacks.

UN: American airstrikes contribute to record number of children, civilians killed in Afghanistan


KABUL, Afghanistan — More civilians were killed in the war in Afghanistan last year than any other year since records began, with child deaths alone also reaching an all-time high, partly due to a spike in U.S. airstrikes, the United Nations said in a report on Sunday.

The findings added to a litany of discouraging data on the U.S.’s longest war and were released a day before American and Taliban officials were to resume direct talks in Qatar, which could lead to the U.S. pulling out of the 17-year conflict.

The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documented more than 3,800 civilian deaths in the country last year, including about 930 children, both annual records. Nearly 11,000 civilian casualties in total were recorded throughout the year.

UNAMA attributed most of the casualties to anti-government forces, predominantly the Taliban and local Islamic State affiliate, with pro-government forces being blamed for about a quarter of the deaths and injuries.

How New Silk Roads are shaping Southwest Asia

Singapore, aiming high for the status of Asia’s unofficial capital, seems like the ideal venue for a conference to discuss how the Middle East could learn a few lessons from ASEAN’s multi-layered relations with China, especially involving partnership in the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

But first, let’s get things straight. The “Middle East” is, of course, a Eurocentric, Orientalist denomination. From Asia’s – and China’s – cultural and geographical point of view, the “Middle East” is correctly seen as Southwest Asia.

It’s enlightening to evaluate two Chinese informed perspectives on how China is deploying its geopolitical soft power across Southwest Asia in contrast to the Trump administration’s immensely muddled strategy.

China's technology challenge is bigger than just Huawei, British spymaster says

By Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON (Reuters) - The West needs to understand that the challenge of China's technological revolution runs much deeper than Huawei's row with the United States over intellectual property theft and state espionage, one of Britain's top spies said.

Huawei, the world's biggest producer of telecoms equipment, is under intense scrutiny after the United States told allies not to use its technology because of fears it could be a vehicle for Chinese spy operations.

Jeremy Fleming, the head of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), said the incredible rate of technological change was unleashing unprecedented uncertainty, instability and risk.

"The strategic challenge of China's place in the era of globalised technology is much bigger than just one telecommunications equipment company," Fleming, one of Britain's top three spies, said in Singapore.

Will the US Capitulate to China?


The most important problem that a bilateral deal between the United States and China needs to resolve is Chinese theft of US firms’ technology. Unless the Chinese agree to stop stealing technology, and the two sides devise a way to enforce that agreement, the US will not have achieved anything useful from Trump's tariffs.

CAMBRIDGE – It’s beginning to look like US President Donald Trump will yield to the Chinese in America’s trade conflict with China. The United States threatened to increase tariffs on imports from China from 10% to 25% on March 2 if no agreement was reached. But Trump recently said that the date is flexible and may be postponed because of the progress being made in the ongoing bilateral talks.

Fair enough, but progress is in the eyes of the beholder. The most important problem that needs to be resolved is not America’s massive bilateral trade deficit with China. It is that the Chinese are stealing US firms’ technology and using it to help Chinese companies compete with those same firms in China and around the world.

China’s Growing Military Presence Abroad Brings New Challenges

China’s involvement in UN peacekeeping contributions has been on the rise for some time. China is also stepping up its own military and security operations abroad to protect its commercial and strategic interests, particularly in Africa. In doing so, China is exposing itself to a more complex set of issues – including international legal issues – with which it is only just starting to grapple.

China’s contribution to UN peacekeeping over the last 10 years has expanded dramatically. In September 2016, it pledged $1 billion to help fund UN peace, security and development activities, while in 2018 it supplied 10.3 per cent of the UN peacekeeping budget, up from 3.93 per cent in 2012. China is also the largest contributor of peacekeeping forces among the five permanent members of the Security Council. As well as its regular troop contributions, it has also established a stand-by rapid deployment force(opens in new window) of 8,000 peacekeeping troops.

A U.S.-China Trade Deal Is Coming, but How Big Will It Be?

Kimberly Ann Elliott

Washington and Beijing are a little over two weeks away from their self-imposed March 1st deadline to reach a sweeping trade agreement that addresses China’s alleged unfair trade practices. If they fail, and the current truce in their trade war ends with no deal, the costs will be substantial for both sides. The United States imports more goods from China than any country in the world—roughly $500 billion in 2017—and a breakdown in the talks could lead to even higher tariffs on at least half of that. Right now, under the tariffs steadily imposed by President Donald Trump, the U.S. Customs Service is collecting additional duties of 10 percent on $200 billion in imports from China and 25 percent on another $50 billion. If no deal is reached by March, the 10 percent tariffs will also rise to 25 percent. 

China does not import enough goods from the U.S.—$130 billion total in 2017—to match Trump dollar for dollar. But Beijing retaliated with an equivalent 25 percent tariff on $50 billion in American exports in the first round of this fight, and tariffs of 5 percent to 10 percent on another $60 billion in the second round. The Chinese authorities also have many other ways to make life miserable for companies operating in China or trying to export there. Since the trade war began, some American firms have reported shipments being held up in Chinese ports and having to undergo far more extensive inspections than before. ...

China Sets a Course for the U.S.'s Pacific Domain

The decrease in U.S. interest in Pacific islands like the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau will provide further openings for Chinese influence in the area at a time when competition is mounting between Washington and Beijing.

Remote islands that are unable to foster a self-sustaining economy will continue to leverage their strategic position to extract benefits from both sides. 

Australia, Japan and South Korea will all be critical in helping Washington to counterbalance growing Chinese influence here.

James Michener called the Pacific Ocean "the meeting ground for Asia and America," a world of endless ocean and "infinite specks of coral" that form a highway between east and west. Indeed, these scattered islands stretching from Papua New Guinea to Easter Island have been an important link between the two rims of the Pacific since at least the 16th century, when imperial Spain's Manila Galleons sailed between colonial Mexico and the Philippines — bypassing the dominance of its Iberian neighbor, Portugal, in the Indian Ocean. 

Misreading China’s Strength


NEW HAVEN – US President Donald Trump’s administration has underestimated China’s resilience and strategic resolve. With the Chinese economy slowing, the US believes that China is hurting and desperate for an end to the trade war. But with ample policy space to address the current slowdown, China’s leadership has no need to abandon its longer-term strategy. While a cosmetic deal focused on bilateral trade appears to be in the offing, the sharp contrast between the two economies’ fundamental underpinnings points to a very different verdict regarding who has the upper hand.

Chinese military officers’ tough talk on the US is a product of fear and frustration, not a real threat

Mark J. Valencia

One US expert has warned that in China “the language of war is creeping in”. However, these particular Chinese military officers are well known for their over-the-top rhetoric and their threats are atypical. Nevertheless, their fears and frustration are not surprising given recent “in-your-face” US policy, rhetoric and actions.

To China’s leaders, it must seem that just as the country is regaining its cultural – and national – dignity after a “century of humiliation”, it is being faced with a possible 21st-century repeat of history. Indeed, geopolitical developments may be seen by the general population as evidence of a grand conspiracy of Western civilisation against it. China is hemmed in by US bases and rotational assets located in American allies and strategic partners stretching across a wide swathe of Asia, from  Japan and  South Korea in the east to the Philippines and Australia in the south, and Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand in the southwest.

What Comes After ISIS?


Over four years ago, in June 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a caliphate in Iraq and Syria with himself as the caliph. His group, which he renamed the Islamic State to mark this momentous occasion, controlled territory the size of Britain and a population of 10 million people, dwarfing the accomplishments of al Qaeda and other jihadi groups.

By taking sex slaves, sponsoring terrorist attacks, videotaping the beheadings of hostages, and relentlessly pressing its case on social media, the Islamic State horrified and captivated the world. In the United States, fears of terrorism surged, helping propel the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. But that was then. Today, the caliphate is gone, with its last territory being conquered by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces. There is much to learn from the Islamic State’s initial success and its rapid downfall.

Who’s Afraid of Saudi Nukes?

By Keith Johnson

Riyadh’s reckless behavior foments widespread mistrust of its plans to buy nuclear reactors.

The release this week of an explosive report by House Democrats alleging that the Trump administration has sought to help its cronies sell nuclear power technology to Saudi Arabia has dramatically heightened tensions between the White House and lawmakers in both chambers.

But sleaze aside, is there cause for alarm over Saudi Arabia gaining access to the same kind of power-generating technology that more than 30 countries around the world already use?

Both Republican and Democratic legislators and nuclear experts who are increasingly alarmed at Saudi Arabia’s reckless behavior say there is plenty of reason to be concerned.

Iranian Hackers Drew Worryingly Close to Israel's Missile Alarm

By Gwen Ackerman

Iranian hackers came worryingly close to Israel’s missile warning system, sending the military scrambling to protect alerts from being compromised, its top cyber defense chief said.

After detecting the hackers in 2017 and monitoring them to discern their intent, the military blocked them when it became clear what their target was, said Brigadier General Noam Shaar, outgoing head of the cyber defense division in the army’s Cyber Defense Directorate.

How Nazi Germany Went to War Against Japan (Once) During World War II

Most people who stayed awake for at least half of their high school history class knows that the Axis Powers in World War II consisted of Germany, Italy and Japan. But few know that German tactics and weapons—not to mention some actual Germans—helped the Chinese Nationalists stall Imperial Japan’s conquest of China.

For about a decade, German soldiers advised Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek in his campaigns against Chinese Communists … and also against Germany’s future allies, the Japanese.

It’s one of history’s most unexpected—and frankly unknown—wartime partnerships. It all began in the aftermath of the Chinese revolution of 1911, as warlords carved up the country and battled each other for power.

Huawei says Trump 'clear and correct' on 5G as trade deadline looms

By Paul Sandle, Jack Stubbs and Douglas Busvine

BARCELONA (Reuters) - China's Huawei welcomed comments from President Donald Trump about the future of U.S. mobile communications on Sunday and asserted its position as a world-leading smartphone producer as Washington and Beijing seek a trade war ceasefire.

U.S. and Chinese negotiators are set to meet for a sixth straight day of negotiations on Sunday as they work to strike a deal ahead of a March 1 deadline on a trade dispute which has disrupted global commerce and slowed the world economy.

At the center of the imbroglio is Huawei Technologies, accused by Washington of sanctions busting, intellectual property theft and facilitating Chinese state espionage operations.

Speaking ahead of the mobile industry's biggest global event which begins in Barcelona on Monday, Huawei Chairman Guo Ping reiterated his company's position that it has never and would never allow any country to spy through its equipment.

There’s More Bad News Than You Think


Between the 24-hour news cycle, the internet, and the smartphone the world has never been so saturated with information. Yet a new report by CARE International finds that humanitarian crises affecting millions of people around the world snagged relatively few headlines last year.

The report, “Suffering in Silence,” also found that climate change played a direct role in at least five of the 10 most underreported humanitarian crises of 2018, from chronic droughts in Ethiopia to Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines. The tally underscores how the developing world, which has less historical responsibility for the emissions that cause climate change, is feeling its effects earliest and hardest.

Most Laptops Vulnerable To Attack Via Peripheral Devices

Many modern laptops and an increasing number of desktop computers are much more vulnerable to hacking through common plug-in devices than previously thought, according to new research.

The research, to be presented at the Network and Distributed Systems Security Symposium in San Diego, shows that attackers can compromise an unattended machine in a matter of seconds through devices such as chargers and docking stations.

Vulnerabilities were found in computers with Thunderbolt ports running Windows, macOS, Linux and FreeBSD. Many modern laptops and an increasing number of desktops are susceptible.

Will AI give the Army a secure ‘Snapchat of information’?

By: Kelsey D. Atherton  

The Army wants to explore the ways in which robots, artificial intelligence and autonomous systems could supplement, aid and transform ground power. Among the service’s more ambitious ideas: Is it possible for AI to enable a platoon to take on a force 10 times its size?

The hypothesis put forth by Ted Maciuba, deputy director of robotics requirements at the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, is that AI and robots will offer such an outsized advantage to infantry that a given force could face a similarly equipped rival that is an order of magnitude larger (minus the robots and AI) and come out on top.

To test these hypotheses, Maciuba plans to host a September 2020 demonstration at Fort Benning, Georgia, with industry supplying machines, software and other tools to test.

‘Defending forward’ in the cyber arena

By: Mark Pomerleau 

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Skinner, Deputy Commander of Air Force Space Command, speaks at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Cyberspace Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, March 6, 2018. Skinner discussed the command’s efforts to improve processes, develop personnel and push technology forward in the cybersecurity field. The symposium is a national forum for industry and government to collaborate to help meet challenges of cybersecurity, cyber readiness, and national defense. (Dave Grim/Air Force)

Air Forces Cyber has a wide-ranging mission to protect and defend the Air Force’s networks and to provide trained and ready forces to conduct cyber ops for combatant commanders. It’s a big job, but Skinner is well-versed in the trade. He’s served as deputy commander for the Joint Force Headquarters Department of Defense Information Networks, chief of staff at the Defense Information Systems Agency and deputy commander of Air Forces Cyber.

Are Robots Competing for Your Job?

By Jill Lepore

The robots are coming. Hide the WD-40. Lock up your nine-volt batteries. Build a booby trap out of giant magnets; dig a moat as deep as a grave. “Ever since a study by the University of Oxford predicted that 47 percent of U.S. jobs are at risk of being replaced by robots and artificial intelligence over the next fifteen to twenty years, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the future of work,” Andrés Oppenheimer writes, in “The Robots Are Coming: The Future of Jobs in the Age of Automation” (Vintage). No one is safe. Chapter 4: “They’re Coming for Bankers!” Chapter 5: “They’re Coming for Lawyers!” They’re attacking hospitals: “They’re Coming for Doctors!” They’re headed to Hollywood: “They’re Coming for Entertainers!” I gather they have not yet come for the manufacturers of exclamation points.

The Mad Scientists at DARPA Have a Plan to Kill Russia or China's Hypersonic Missiles

by Michael Peck

James Acton, an arms control expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, argues that despite their speed, hypersonic weapons can be destroyed by some ballistic missile defense systems such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. The problem is that THAAD is a point-defense weapon designed to protect a small area: covering the entire United States with THAAD-like defenses would be prohibitively expensive.

DARPA calls it "counter-hypersonics."

The rest of us would call it a way -- or a prayer -- to stop nuclear warheads coming down on our heads at 20 times the speed of sound.

DARPA, the Pentagon's pet research agency, wants an interceptor that can stop weapons that are hypersonic (travel faster than Mach 5). The agency has begun soliciting proposals for Glide Breaker , its project to stop boost-glide vehicles that are lofted high into the atmosphere atop a ballistic missile, and then glide down to Earth. The current exemplar is Russia's Avangard, touted by President Vladimir Putin as unstoppable by anti-missile defenses. The Avangard is lofted by a giant RS-28 Sarmat ICBM, and then glides down to its target at Mach 20. But China and the U.S. are also developing boost-glide vehicles.