4 May 2019

5 Big Ideas for the Indian Foreign Ministry's New Indo-Pacific Desk

By Aman Thakker

On April 14, 2019, reports emerged that India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had set up a new Indo-Pacific division. The division, headed by Joint Secretary Vikram Doraiswami, will “integrate the Indian Ocean Rim Association, ASEAN Region, and the Quad” under its purview. This move is significant as it bureaucratically aligns the MEA with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of the Indo-Pacific as spanning “from the shores of Africa to that of the Americas,” making the Indo-Pacific desk the central node to coordinate activities across the various regional desks in this geography. The creation of this desk also signals to India’s partners, particularly the United States, to consider the importance of the western Indian Ocean, currently not included in the U.S. definition of the Indo-Pacific.

As the Indo-Pacific concept becomes a more central part of India’s foreign policy, here are five ideas for this Indo-Pacific desk to consider, all of which aim to advance the shared vision of a “free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific” promoted by India, the United States, Japan, and others.

Afghanistan Opens Loya Jirga Grand Assembly To Discuss Peace Talks

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani opened a four-day Loya Jirga, or Grand Assembly on April 29, with more than 3,200 delegates seeking to agree on a common approach to peace talks with the Taliban.

The Loya Jirga that brings together politicians, tribal elders and other prominent figures, was overshadowed by no-shows of several high-ranking officials, including Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Ghani’s partner in a unity government.

President Ghani's Special Envoy Omar Daudzai said that delegates from Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan are among the participants of the gathering that is taking place under tight security in Kabul.

Ghani told the gathering that he wants to create a "unified stance" on peace. He called the participants "ambassadors of peace" in Afghanistan, and said the Loya Jirga delegates will determine the "direction" of the peace process.

Taliban negotiators have so far refused to negotiate with the government, calling it a puppet of the West, and have insisted on the withdrawal of foreign forces before talks with Kabul can begin.

From 9/11 to Sri Lanka: the terrorists’ deadly message we have failed to grasp

Jason Burke

The funerals are over, the investigation continues and the blame game begins and media attention shifts away. This time the victims were Catholic worshippers and patrons of luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. A month ago they were Muslim worshippers in New Zealand, shot by a white supremacist as they prayed.

It is almost two decades since attacks launched by al-Qaida on New York, the Pentagon and Washington announced a new era of mass-casualty terrorism. Such violence has long been with us all, of course. Terrorism in its modern form can trace its roots back to the 19th century. The 1970s saw hundreds of terrorist bombings, shootings and hijackings in the US. The 1990s were bloody, too.

But the era that began with the 2001 attacks brought something else. The rapidity with which we now learn of violence thousands of miles away, the graphic images and testimony to which we are exposed, or seek out, and the unprecedented scale of the violence combine to give an old threat a new immediacy. Terrorism is part of all our lives – as terrorists want it to be. We know much more about extremist violence than we have ever done. So what can we learn from this latest tragedy?
Our view of terrorism is too restricted

SWJ Primer: Chinese Cyber Espionage and Information Warfare

Jack Deoliveira

The first conflicts between the United States and China over cyberspace were strictly freelance affairs (Harold, 2016). Following real-world events, such as the bombing of China’s embassy in Belgrade in 1999 and the EP-3 incident off Hainan Island in 2001, hackers on both sides labored to deface websites in each other’s countries (Harold, 2016). The results were little more than minor annoyances but served to create and reinforce the impression within the United States that China primarily used proxies to carry out cyber-attacks both small and large (Harold, 2016).

It was in 2002 when the real cyber race began when the United States started to incorporate cyber warfare into its war doctrine (Rubenstein, 2014). During this time, the “National Security Presidential Directive, which outlined strategies, doctrines, procedures, and protocols for cyber warfare (Rubenstein, 2014). This was followed by the Information Operations Roadmap, published by the Department of Defense in 2003, which started to incorporate cyber warfare preparations, such as training military personnel in cyber defense, as part of normal military operations” (Rubenstein, 2014). Also, in 2003, the Communist Chinese Party Central Committee and the Central Military Commission approved the concept of ‘Three Warfares,’ a People’s Liberation Army non-military information warfare tool to be used in the run-up to and during hostilities (Iasiello, 2016). Collectively, the ‘Three Warfares’ allow China to enter any fray, whether in peace or war, with a political advantage that can be used to alter a public or international opinion. They are psychological warfare, public opinion/media warfare, and legal warfare (Iasiello, 2016).

Huawei leak reflects China’s growing importance as a partner for post-Brexit Britain

Kerry Brown

They also made it clear that, as with so many other things in the UK, the decision seemed to have been made in solitude by Prime Minister Theresa May. This will probably be the basis for interesting discussions when the almost simultaneously announced state visit of US President Donald Trump takes place in early June.
The US has made it clear in word and deed that Huawei 
concerns it, but it has 
no company that can supply what Huawei offers. In many ways, in terms of price at least, Huawei has few competitors.

For a UK looking at lean growth in the years of being out of the EU – if and when 
that happens (it has already been delayed twice, and is now set for the end of October this year) – price becomes increasingly important.

This is one of the realities of the UK in the era of what politicians once declared would be that of “Global Britain”.

The critical frontier: Reducing emissions from China’s Belt and Road

Simon Zadek

While every energy-saving bulb makes a difference, there are only a small number of existential frontiers in our efforts to deal with climate change. Of these, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), involving over 70 countries from Central Asia to Latin America, has been dangerously ignored.

New infrastructure will be a major contributor to global carbon emissions over the coming decades, accounting for over half of new sourcesaccording to the World Economic Forum. Such investments in countries involved in the BRI could make up as much as 60 percent of global infrastructure investments over the coming two decades. That is, BRI-involved countries could be the single largest source of growing carbon emissions over this critical period.

A forthcoming report by Tsinghua University and partners has, for the first time, aggregated growth and carbon scenarios for BRI countries. Notwithstanding data weaknesses and uncertainties, the results indicate that these countries are currently on track to generate emissions well above 2-Degree Scenario (2DS) levels based on current infrastructure investment patterns and growth projections. BRI-involved countries could exceed their 2DS carbon budget by as much as 11 gigatons by 2030 and 85 gigatons by 2050. In this scenario, these countries would account for 50 percent of global emissions by 2050, up from 15 percent in 2015, if all other countries succeeded in following a 2DS pathway.

Is China the World’s Loan Shark?

By Deborah Brautigam

WASHINGTON — Representatives from more than 150 countriesbegan to gather in Beijing on Friday for a grand forum to celebrate China’s grand Belt and Road Initiative. Since its formal unveiling in 2013, B.R.I. — a vast, worldwide web of infrastructure-development projects mostly funded or sponsored by the Chinese government — has generated both tremendous enthusiasm and tremendous anxiety.

Some call the colossal program a new Marshall Plan, arguing that it could radically reduce the costs of international trade as well as underpin the economic transformation of poor countries.

Others accuse China of using B.R.I. as a way to flex its economic muscle for political gain on the sly. The whole effort is a cover for “debt-trap diplomacy,” goes one common criticism — or, to borrow from John R. Bolton, the United States national security adviser, China is making “strategic use of debt to hold states in Africa captive to Beijing’s wishes and demands.” (Some American Democrats seem to agree with him, at least about this.)

Can China Rise Peacefully?

by John J. Mearsheimer

(Editor’s Note: The following is the new concluding chapter of Dr. John J. Mearsheimer’s book The Tragedy of the Great Power Politics. A new, updated edition was released on April 7 and is available via Amazon.)

With the end of the Cold War in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union two years later, the United States emerged as the most powerful state on the planet. Many commentators said we are living in a unipolar world for the first time in history, which is another way of saying America is the only great power in the international system. If that statement is true, it makes little sense to talk about great-power politics, since there is just one great power.

Against ‘Nationalism’


The Estelada (Catalan separatist flag) flutters during a protest the day after a banned independence referendum in Barcelona, Spain, October 2, 2017. (Enrique Calvo/Reuters)The term is too evocative, and its connotations too various, to function as shorthand for political ideas that need to be unambiguous.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLEIsrael figures prominently in the latest segment of the episodic nationalism debate at National Review. Rich Lowry praises Zionism as a model of nationalism. Models are helpful. We point to them when we need to talk about a concept but are not sure how to define it: “I know it when I see it.” In Suicide of the West (1964), James Burnham compiled a long list of politicians, publications, and institutions that “everybody knows” to be liberal. He distilled their shared essence, as he saw it, and constructed a critique of it. We can apply his method to the question of what nationalism is, but first we need to gather many examples, not just one.

“Zionism was the most inspiring nationalist movement of the 20th Century,” Rich writes. Let’s agree that it was inspiring. You probably won’t if you’re a descendant of Palestinian Arabs displaced by the war of 1947–49. In that case, you’re liable to be inspired by a different nationalist movement, one that sets itself in opposition to Zionism.

Can the EU Save the Internet?


Instead of breaking news, op-eds, and sports results, Europeans visiting the website of the venerable Chicago Tribune are seeing what has become an all-too-familiar notification: “Unfortunately, our website is currently unavailable in most European countries.”

At last count, over 1,000 U.S. newspapers have voluntarily blocked access from Europe since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)—the law intended to protect the privacy and data of individuals within the European Union—came into force in 2018. These U.S. publishers have simply deemed compliance too cumbersome and costly, opting instead to abandon their European readership and forgo online revenues from the EU market altogether.

GDPR is not the only online legal initiative taken by the European commissioners. This April, the EU approved a new directive on copyright. Article 13 of that directive makes operators like Facebook and YouTube legally liable for any content uploaded to their platforms that is in breach of copyright. Article 11 (dubbed the “Link Tax” by critics) allows publishers to charge platforms like Apple News and Google for displaying even snippets of their content. These measures have sent shockwaves throughout the online ecosystem and placed the EU at the forefront of internet regulation.

What Effects Will Tighter U.S. Sanctions on Iran’s Oil Have?

by Amy M. Jaffe

The United States announced it will no longer exempt a small set of countries, including China, from its oil sanctions regime against Iran. CFR’s Amy Myers Jaffe, an expert on global energy policy, assesses the impact on the oil market and the potential reactions from both Tehran and Beijing. Oil prices ticked up a few percentage points after the announcement. Do you expect prices to remain higher, or is there enough supply in the market to cover a drop in Iranian exports?

U.S. sanctions had already curbed Iran’s oil production substantially earlier this year. The Trump administration’s tough stand on waivers could remove an additional five hundred thousand barrels per day or more from the market in the coming weeks. This would come on top of production cuts planned by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and ongoing production and export problems in Libya and Venezuela.

The Most Indebted Countries In The World

by Felix Richter

Most people think of Japan as a highly developed and prosperous country. With a GDP per capita of $39,306 in 2018, its economy is among the most advanced in the world, home to global powerhouses such as Toyota, Honda, Sony and Nintendo, just to name a few. What many people don't realize, however, is that Japan is also the most debt-ridden country in the world, with government debt amounting to 238 percent of the country's GDP in 2017, according to the IMF.

“Stabilising” the Middle East: A Historical Perspective

By Lorenzo Kamel

The relevance of “continuities” in relation to the history of the region and its inhabitants has been evident throughout most of its millenary past, and from a wide range of different angles. For instance, the Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 2100 BCE), a literary product of Mesopotamia, encompasses a number of themes and motifs (including, among others, the flood myth adopted in the narrative of Noah’s ark) later included in the Bible and other religious books.

The history of Jerusalem (5000 years old) represents another powerful example. As noted in a study published by the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies at Bar-Ilan University, “Canaanite Jerusalem had two holy sites; both were above and outside the city walls. Shalem was probably worshipped in the area of the Temple Mount, which later became the holiest site for the Jews and the third most holy site for Moslems.”1

These and a plethora of other possible examples are hardly surprising. Every “invader”, in fact, has, to some extent, left its mark upon the region and its inhabitants. In Jacques Weulersse’s words, “Hittites, Arameans, Assyrians, Sea Peoples […] didn’t vanish, they changed their capitals, sometimes altered languages and customs, they hardly touched the rural population, already bound to the soil [déjà lié au sol]”.2

Cellphones now outnumber the world’s population

By Mike Murphy

If there is one thing that just about everyone on Earth may be able to agree upon, it seems it would be that we all find our cellphones to be a necessity.

At some point in the middle of this decade, the number of active cellphone subscriptions grew larger than the number of actual people on this planet, according to data from the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the World Bank, and the UN itself.

Not everyone likely has their own phone, however: there are an estimated 1.1 billion people in the world who don’t have access to electricity, meaning charging a phone, let alone owning one, would likely be difficult. Most likely, some people have more than one device for work and personal reasons, or to save on international calls. And presumably, there are millions of infants who, hopefully, don’t have phones yet.

And this is not to say that smartphone ownership is nearly as high. The ITU estimates there to be roughly 5.28 billion “mobile broadband” subscriptions as of the end of 2018. And about 45% of that group—2.38 billion users—check Facebook on their smartphones each month.

Huawei Poses a 5G Threat, but Nationalization Is Not the Answer


Telecommunications workers install a new antenna system for AT&T’s 5G wireless network in downtown San Diego, Calif., April 23, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)It’s a mystery why free-market advocates are urging the Trump administration to establish a ‘wholesale regime’ for wireless service.

Afriend of mine once told me a story about his father calling the phone company to set up a landline at their home in Milwaukee. A technician showed up the next day. This may seem like a mundane occurrence to most Americans, but it was nothing short of a miracle to my friend. He came to America from a country where it often took six months to get a phone installed.

My friend’s father explained the reason for the stark difference. See, in America the company responsible for installing the phone made money once it was in use — there was an incentive for the installation to be done quickly. In their native country, phone lines were the responsibility of the government, and so there was no incentive to move fast.

Rehanging Rembrandt


In 2016 a new Rembrandt was revealed. It was a half-length portrait that shows an unnamed 30-something man against a plain, buff background. He wears a black hat and white ruff and stares out of the canvas with those characteristic frank and interrogative eyes. It seemed a typical early-period Rembrandt, a product of the stage of his career when he worked in detail before his brushwork broadened into something much more expressive.

This portrait of a burgher looked typical because that is exactly what it was. It was not, in fact, a painting at all but an extremely sophisticated digital print, the result of an 18-month collaboration between advertisers, data scientists, engineers and art historians from the likes of Microsoft, the Delft University of Technology, the Mauritshuis museum in the Hague and the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam.

The idea started as an advertising wheeze by the J Walter Thompson agency for the ING bank. When analysis of Rembrandt’s portraits revealed that his most frequent subject was a 30-something man in a black hat, etc, that was what the team set out to re-create.

The new electronic warfare tool cyber units will need

By: Mark Pomerleau  

Industry leaders are warning that the targets U.S. Cyber Command will pursue in the future may not be connected to the internet or even accessible through the traditional, IP-based operations that the command has historically exploited in the past.

Instead, the military will need to expand the type of digital targets its high-end cyber warriors focus on.

“Many targets may not be connected to any external networks or may function on dedicated land networks, which does not present an insurmountable barrier but does require very extensive intelligence development to cross,” Austin Long, senior political scientist at the Rand Corporation, wrote in an essay published in the book “Bytes, Bombs and Spies: The Strategic Dimensions of Offensive Cyber Operations."

Can the Pentagon sell Silicon Valley on AI as ethical war?

By: Kelsey D. Atherton   

The CIWS is a fast-firing defensive weapon. The challenges of target identification and autonomous response are central to ethical questions around the use of AI in war. Silicon Valley is wrestling with a Pentagon-shaped ethical question, and April 25 the arena for this particular fight was a wood-paneled ballroom at Stanford University, which hosted a listening session of the Defense Innovation Board. The Board exists to advise the secretary of defense on modern technology, and for nearly two hours it heard members of the public express their fears and hopes about applying robot brains to modern warfare.

Before the public weighed in, the tone of the hearing was set by Charles A. Allen, deputy general counsel for international affairs at the Department of Defense. Allen’s case was straightforward: As the Pentagon continues to justify the pursuit of AI for military applications to a sometimes-hostile technology sector and an ambivalent-at-best public, it will draw upon the language of precision and international humanitarian law.

What Insurgency Will Look Like in 2030


The author of “Ghost Fleet” has some guesses — and some questions that U.S. defenders will have to answer.

Robots, artificial intelligence, cyberwar, 3D printing, bio-enhancements, and a new geopolitical competition; the 21st century is being shaped by a range of momentous, and scary, new trends and technologies. We should also expect them to shape the worlds of insurgency and terrorism. 

With so much change, it is too early to know all that will shake out from these new technologies in the years leading toward 2030 and beyond. But we can identify a few key trends of what will matter for war and beyond, and resulting questions that future counter-insurgents will likely have to wrestle with. Below are three, pulled from a recent New America report on what the tech and wars of 2030 might portend.
The End of Non-Proliferation

Online Information Operations Cross Platforms. Tech Companies' Responses Should Too.

By Jessica Brandt, Bradley Hanlon 

In March, Facebook took down more than 2,600 pages, groups and accounts engaged in sweeping coordinated information operations on its platforms—an important step in the platform’s effort to prevent malign actors from spreading content designed to polarize and mislead. However, when our team at the Alliance for Securing Democracy took a close look at the small number of blocked pages and groups about which Facebook and its partner, the Digital Forensic Research Lab (DRFLab), shared information, we found that related accounts on Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram continue to operate, spreading falsehoods. Despite the promises of better communication and reform, there is a concerning lack of coordination between Facebook and its peers. 

Online information operations have emerged as a key tactic in the toolkit employed by malign foreign actors to interfere in democracies. As Special Counsel Mueller’s reporthighlighted, malign foreign actors have used social media platforms to spread divisive content as part of a broader campaign to undermine democratic institutions. Our organization investigates these efforts and develops comprehensive solutions for government, private sector, and civil society to counter and deter foreign interference. After Facebook announced its takedown of inauthentic networks a few weeks ago, our research team took a close look at each of the accounts and pages that were publicly identified by Facebook and its partners.

Can Courts Clear the Fog of War?


What constitutes an act of war? A military invasion, sure. Hostile acts by smaller armed formations, sure. The blowing up of a bridge by commandos or the poisoning of water, very likely. But a cyberattack? Zurich, one of the world’s leading insurers, claims that’s the case. The confectionary giant Mondelez, one of its customers, argues the opposite. This isn’t an abstract discussion: Two years ago, Mondelez was laid low by NotPetya, a computer virus unleashed by Russia against Ukrainian targets. Now the two companies are battling out the definition of war in court—and regardless of how the ruling turns out, a new fog of war is still settling over society.

NotPetya struck with devastating force in June 2017. First, the virus—subsequently traced to hackers working for Russian military intelligence—brought down virtually all of Ukraine’s government along with Ukrainian hospitals, power companies, airports, and banks. That was probably its real target. Then, however, the virus traveled on in a less predictable fashion. It crippled Maersk, the Danish shipping giant, and the global law firm DLA Piper. FedEx subsidiary TNT Express was hit, too, as was the U.S. pharmaceutical giant Merck and French construction company Saint-Gobain. Several of them lost hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of the attack.

Military spending around the world is booming

THE WORLD is arming itself to the teeth. That is the conclusion of a new report published on April 29th by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a think-tank. Global military spending last year rose to $1.8trn, says SIPRI—the highest level in real terms since reliable records began in 1988, during the cold war, and 76% higher than in 1998, when the world was enjoying its “peace dividend”. Military spending as a share of global GDP has fallen in recent years, but that offers little reassurance in a world of rising geopolitical tension.

The spending boom is driven, above all, by the contest between America and China for primacy in Asia. Start with America. In 2018 it raised its already-gargantuan defence budget for the first time in seven years, ending an era of belt-tightening imposed by Congress. The boost reflected the Trump administration’s embrace of what it calls “great power competition” with Russia and China—requiring fancier, pricier weapons—in place of the inconclusive guerilla wars it had fought since 2001.

The U.S. Military: Like the French at Agincourt?

By Bret Stephens

Early on a Sunday morning in 1932, a fleet of some 150 fighters, dive-bombers and torpedo planes struck the naval base at Pearl Harbor. The ships lying at anchor on Battleship Row sustained direct hits. Also hit were the base’s fuel storage tanks and the Army Air Corps planes parked nearby at Hickam Field.

The surprise was as complete as it was devastating. Only this was an Army-Navy war game, the attackers were American pilots operating from the carriers Saratoga and Lexington, and the bombs they dropped were sacks of flour.

The lesson of “Grand Joint Exercise 4,” as it was called, is that forewarned is not always forearmed. It took the actual sinking of much of the U.S. battle fleet nearly a decade later to bring the lesson home to U.S. military planners that the age of the carrier had arrived.

The Utility of Proxy War

By Tyrone Groh 

Editor’s Note: Both the United States and its adversaries back proxies around the world to advance their interests. Often the goal is to achieve important policy objectives yet avoid the costs, human and political, of outright war. Tyrone Groh, a professor at Embry-Riddle and a retired Air Force officer, argues that the supposed costlessness of proxy wars is deceptive. Too often proxies ignore their sponsors, and sponsors must invest heavily in maintaining control.

Daniel Byman

As a tool of statecraft, proxy wars provide the means for all states, not just the great powers, to engage in foreign interventions. Proxies provide means and access as well as secrecy or plausible deniability. Proxy wars are interventions in which a foreign state supports an indigenous actor to influence political outcomes in a country or region. Support for proxies can be either material (weapons, intelligence, supplies) or immaterial (training, advising, politically advocating for the cause). Violence is an important part of the policy.

The Donbas Conflict: Opposing Interests and Narratives, Difficult Peace Process

Five years on from the Donbas conflict’s start, fighting continues. In response, Sabine Fischer here examines 1) the conflict’s origins and international responses to it; 2) whether or not the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk are Russian puppets; 3) the implementation of the Minsk ceasefire agreements; 4) the humanitarian situation in the Donbas; 5) impediments to peace, and more. Fischer also provides recommendations for the EU and Germany on how to move forward on the conflict, emphasizing the need to focus more on the local level and the region’s humanitarian crisis.