27 May 2019

Modi 2.0 Confronts a Challenging Foreign Policy Landscape

By Harsh V. Pant

As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi turns his attention to governance after his massive electoral victory, he will find that a number of challenges beckon him on the foreign policy front. From managing India’s periphery to engaging major global powers, challenges abound which will demand all the diplomatic and leadership skills Modi and his team can muster.

Modi has been a foreign policy prime minister in his first term. He relished global engagements and never gave an impression that his lack of experience on the foreign policy front was a handicap. In fact, he made it his strength as he encouraged greater involvement of Indian states in diplomacy. He led from the front in diplomatic engagements and managed to carve out personal equations with world leaders which has paid dividends. Modi also has been successful in selling Brand India abroad and in leveraging the vast Indian diaspora to national causes. He took risks in his foreign policy and more of than not succeeded in converting them into substantive gains for India.

Chinese Companies Marching to Lead in Digital Economy

Dr Kamlesh Bajaj

Byte-Dance, a Chinese company, is one of the most valued start-ups at $75 billion with investors that include Soft-Bank. It is reported to have been funded in its latest round by Soft-Bank, KKR & Co, and General Atlantic to the tune of $1.5 billion. It owns a social media platform – Tik-Tok – that uses only short-videos as a medium. It has attracted over 250 million users in India alone, with over 60 million of them being active online. It is popular among rural folks, who create and enjoy amusing videos without having to write in any language. Social, political, and pornographic videos, among others form the obvious content on Tik-Tok.

It was banned by the Madras High Court (HC) in the first week of April 2019 on the ground that it encouraged pornographic content, and made child users vulnerable to sexual predators. Reuters reported on 11 April 2019 that Byte-Dance approached the Supreme Court of India against the ban on the plea that ‘Indian ban on Tik-Tok App would harm free speech’. A Chinese company invoking free speech in India!

Afghanistan envoy briefs skeptical lawmakers on peace talks


WASHINGTON (AP) — An envoy to Afghanistan was met with skepticism Wednesday on Capitol Hill as he briefed lawmakers on peace talks with the Taliban aimed at ending the 17-year war.

Lawmakers were tight-lipped as they left the classified meeting with special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, but the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Jim Risch of Idaho, says he believes Khalilzad is making progress. However, he added, “the issue always is how much progress, and can you get to the finish line?”

Since Khalilzad was appointed to lead peace talks with the Taliban by the Trump administration in September, his efforts have been largely shrouded in secrecy. It was Khalilzad’s first appearance before Congress since his appointment after months of requests from lawmakers for a briefing.

Initial rounds of talks have yielded mixed results, and violence has been on the rise in Afghanistan, with the Taliban expanding their hold in the country.

Pakistani Duplicity Caused the United States to Lose in Afghanistan

by Lawrence Sellin

“The war in Vietnam was not lost in the field, nor was it lost on the front pages of the New York Times or the college campuses. It was lost in Washington, D.C.”

H. R. McMaster wrote that statement in his 1997 scathing critique of the Vietnam War, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam. He was a major in the Army at that time. Now, he is a retired lieutenant general and former national security advisor to President Donald Trump.

It is indeed ironic that McMaster eventually contributed to what many people thought to be impossible by repeating the mistakes of Vietnam and losing the Afghanistan war—both in the field and in Washington, DC.

The real tragedy is that America’s leaders, in particular its military leaders, long knew that the war in Afghanistan could not be won having chosen to fight it in a manner that was alien to its nature, thus wasting both treasure and precious lives.

For over seventeen years we have wrongly applied counterinsurgency doctrine to a proxy war waged by Pakistan against the United States and Afghanistan. At the same time, we supplied Pakistan with generous aid packages to bribe them from pursuing a course of action opposed to our own, which they considered in their national interest.

China’s Curious Absence From a BRICS Business Conference

By Bonnie Girard

The Eurasia Society sponsored the “Doing Business with the BRICS” Conference in Washington, D.C. on May 15 at Africa House, the African Union’s Representational Mission to the United States. Diplomatic representatives of four of the five BRICS nations, including key stakeholders and partners in the economic development of developing countries, including the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, and a variety of legal, business, and risk management specialists, all had places at the speakers’ table.

Of the BRICS nations, only China did not make a presentation to the audience of well over 100 gathered specialists. Indeed, one of the more intriguing questions that came out of the conference was, “Where was China?”

“BRICS” stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, the five major nations that are identified – and identify themselves – as major emerging, fast, and high growth economies, destined to dominate a larger share of the global economy in the coming decades of the 21st century.

China Raises Threat of Rare-Earths Cutoff to U.S.


With a simple visit to an obscure factory on Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping has raised the specter that China could potentially cut off supplies of critical materials needed by huge swaths of the U.S. economy, underscoring growing concerns that large-scale economic integration is boomeranging and becoming a geopolitical weapon.

With the U.S.-China trade war intensifying, Chinese state media last week began floating the idea of banning exports of rare-earth elements to the United States, one of several possible Chinese responses to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to jack up tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese goods and blacklist telecoms maker Huawei.

U.S. oil refiners rely on rare-earth imports as catalysts to turn crude oil into gasoline and jet fuel. Permanent magnets, which use four different rare-earth elements to differing degrees, pop up in everything including ear buds, wind turbines, and electric cars. And China dominates their production.

The U.S.-China Trade War Is a Competition for Technological Leadership

By Anthea Roberts, Henrique Choer Moraes, Victor Ferguson 

The United States has significantly ratcheted up its trade war with China in recent weeks by firing two new shots. First, President Trump signed an executive order that is expected to restrict Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE Corp. from selling their equipment and services in the United States. Second, the Department of Commerce put Huawei on an export control blacklist that forbids U.S. individuals and businesses from selling goods to these companies without a license from the U.S. government. Such a license can be denied “if the sale or transfer would harm U.S. national security or foreign policy interests.”

In a new paper, we argue that these geoeconomic moves reflect increasing U.S.-China technological competition, which has the potential to radically reshape global tech supply chains and international economic governance. By “geoeconomic,” we mean the “use of economic instruments to promote and defend national interests, and to produce beneficial geopolitical results.” Although the U.S.-China trade war receives a lot of attention, it masks a more significant “tech war” over innovation in the 21st century. The United States is currently the world leader in technological innovation, which it has used to fuel both its economic advantage and its military predominance. It is now facing a technological challenger in the form of China, which is leading the U.S. to undertake shielding, stifling and spurring measures to protect its innovative edge.

The Cold Reality of Tiananmen at 30

By Christopher K. Colley

This year marks several important anniversaries in China: The May 4 Movement of 1919, the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, and the upcoming 30th anniversary of the June 4, 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square demonstrations (often abbreviated as 6/4). Importantly, those of us in the West need to recognize the inconvenient truth that our values centered on democratic norms are clashing with the empirical reality of contemporary China. While 6/4 may still resonate with journalists and China watchers, the vast majority of the Chinese public has moved on.

The international media’s coverage of the anniversary tends to focus on tight Chinese security surrounding the anniversary. In addition, related articles on human rights in China often feature Chinese dissidents such as Ai Weiwei, the late Liu Xiaobo, and Hu Jia, who are frequently cited as evidence of a society that is pushing back against an authoritarian Chinese state. According to this perspective, the surveillance state is able to prevent any collective action that might resurrect the collective memory of 6/4, thus causing China to undergo some form of meaningful political change.

Trump’s ‘Emergency’ to Justify Saudi Arms Sales

Eli Lake

For more than a year now, Senator Bob Menendez has delayed the sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to make a point about the war in Yemen. On Friday, the Trump administration went ahead with those sales over his objections to make a point about the threat from Iran.

That is made possible by a rarely used provision in the Arms Export Control Act. Section 36 of that law gives the president the authority to over rule Congressional objections to arms sales in case of an emergency.

In an interview Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put it like this: "There is an urgency to the matter. You can see the destabilizing activity in the Middle East."

He said later that the arms sales were designed in part to deter Iran from further attacks by its own forces or proxies.

On Iran, Pompeo has a point. Four commercial ships were sabotaged in Emirati territorial waters earlier this month, which Pompeo has said was likely because of Iran. In Saudi Arabia, Houthi rebels (who are supplied by Iran) launched a drone attack on the east-west pipeline. The number of threats reported against U.S. targets in the region has also increased, leading Pompeo last week to order the removal of non-essential U.S. personnel from diplomatic posts in Iraq. And while the acting secretary of defense, Mike Shanahan, reportedly told members of Congress in a closed-door briefing that the threat from Iran had subsided because of recent U.S. actions, the Pentagon announced the deployment of 1,500 more U.S. troops to the Middle East in response to Iran's belligerence.

The Impossible Future of Christians in the Middle East


The call came in 2014, shortly after Easter. Four years earlier, Catrin Almako’s family had applied for special visas to the United States. Catrin’s husband, Evan, had cut hair for the U.S. military during the early years of its occupation of Iraq. Now a staffer from the International Organization for Migration was on the phone. “Are you ready?” he asked. The family had been assigned a departure date just a few weeks away. 

“I was so confused,” Catrin told me recently. During the years they had waited for their visas, Catrin and Evan had debated whether they actually wanted to leave Iraq. Both of them had grown up in Karamles, a small town in the historic heart of Iraqi Christianity, the Nineveh Plain. Evan owned a barbershop near a church. Catrin loved her kitchen, where she spent her days making pastries filled with nuts and dates. Their families lived there: her five siblings and aging parents, his two brothers.

Iran’s Uranium Stockpile and the Future of the JCPOA

By Ankit Panda

Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesperson for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, spoke to Tasnim Newson Monday, clarifying the measures recently announced by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pertaining to the country’s commitments under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Rouhani, on May 8, announced that Iran would cease complying with two provisions in the 2015 agreement, which sought to impose verifiable limits on Iran’s civil nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Initially, Tehran will no longer keep its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) under the 300 kilogram limit permitted by the agreement. Furthermore, it will also not comply with the agreement’s limits on heavy water.

As I discussed in greater length recently at The Atlantic, Rouhani’s announcement was designed to point blame at the United States. The two specific provisions that went into effect regarding the LEU and heavy water limits came days after the U.S. State Department announced that Washington would sanction any individuals or entities involved in allowing Iran to comply with exports of excess LEU out of its borders in exchange for natural uranium (as allowed by the JCPOA). The Trump administration also said it wouldn’t permit any heavy water to become available to Iran “in any fashion.”

A new look at the declining labor share of income in the United States

Labor’s share of national income—that is, the amount of GDP paid out in wages, salaries, and benefits—has been declining in developed and, to a lesser extent, emerging economies since the 1980s. This has raised concerns about slowing income growth, inequality, and loss of the consumer purchasing power that is needed to fuel demand in the economy. The decline has been much discussed and the rising power of companies vis-à-vis workers—whether from new technology, globalization, the hollowing out of labor unions, or market consolidation—has shaped much of that discussion.

The labor share of income in 35 advanced economies fell from around 54 percent in 1980 to 50.5 percent in 2014.

In A new look at the declining labor share of income in the United States(PDF–849KB) we examine the relative importance of different factors in the United States through a focus on the complement of the labor share decline—that is, the rise in capital share of income. We decompose this into the role of depreciation, capital-to-output ratios, and returns on invested capital. Linking this decomposition with a microanalysis of 12 key sectors allows us to identify the relative importance of the factors that have contributed to the labor share decline. While our findings confirm the relevance of the most commonly cited factors, including globalization and technology adoption, they also suggest that additional trends often absent from the current debate—including boom and bust effects from commodity and real estate cycles and rising depreciation, including from a shift to more intangible capital such as intellectual property—played an even more central role.

How the Return of Iranian-Backed Militias From Syria Complicates U.S. Strategy

Candace Rondeaux

In the high-stakes game between Tehran and Washington, it is often hard to tell who is really bluffing. This week, President Donald Trump threatened that a war would be “the official end of Iran,” responding in part to reports that Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, had urged leaders of Iranian-backed militias across the Middle East to “prepare for proxy war.” For those counting cards, however, Iran may already have tipped its hand. 

The recent return to Iran of a wave of fighters from Liwa Fatemiyoun, an Iranian-backed militia made up of ethnic Afghan Hazaras that has been fighting in Syria since the civil war’s early days, suggests Tehran may be anticipating a different kind of proxy war altogether. With deep roots in Afghanistan’s small minority Shiite community, the Afghan Hazaras that make up the bulk of Liwa Fatemiyoun’s forces have historically punched well above their weight. While much of the focus on the fallout from Syria’s war has been on the risks posed by fighters from the Islamic State returning home, the implications of thousands of Iranian proxies leaving the Syrian front for their home turf has been overlooked.

Disinformation on Steroids

Deep fakes are a profoundly serious problem for democratic governments and the world order. A combination of technology, education, and public policy can reduce their effectiveness.


Disinformation and distrust online are set to take a turn for the worse. Rapid advances in deep-learning algorithms to synthesize video and audio content have made possible the production of “deep fakes”—highly realistic and difficult-to-detect depictions of real people doing or saying things they never said or did. As this technology spreads, the ability to produce bogus yet credible video and audio content will come within the reach of an ever-larger array of governments, nonstate actors, and individuals. As a result, the ability to advance lies using hyperrealistic, fake evidence is poised for a great leap forward.

The array of potential harms that deep fakes could entail is stunning. A well-timed and thoughtfully scripted deep fake or series of deep fakes could tip an election, spark violence in a city primed for civil unrest, bolster insurgent narratives about an enemy’s supposed atrocities, or exacerbate political divisions in a society. The opportunities for the sabotage of rivals are legion—for example, sinking a trade deal by slipping to a foreign leader a deep fake purporting to reveal the insulting true beliefs or intentions of U.S. officials.

How Trump’s approach to the Middle East ignores the past, the future, and the human condition

Shibley Telhami

President Trump’s son-in-law and top Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner, pushed back recently against suggestions that the administration should hold off on its expected “deal of the century” plan for Middle East peace over concerns that it’s likely to be dead on arrival. As part of the unveiling, the administration revealed plans to hold an “economic workshop” in Bahrain to discuss “potential economic investments and initiatives that could be made possible by a peace agreement.” Immediately rejecting the idea, the Palestinians called it an attempt “at promoting an economic normalization of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

While the specific details of the Trump plan remain unknown, we already know the troubling principles on which the plan is based.

Details aside, Trump’s approach not only breaks with international law and long-held U.S. policies, it also enshrines historic U.S. responsibility in an unjust process that will ultimately backfire against Israel, the Palestinians, and American interests.

Let’s start with the principles of the approach as revealed by Kushner and other members of Trump’s team. While ignoring prior peace agreements, U.N. resolutions, and international law, Trump’s approach is anchored on three flawed principles: “realities” on the ground as they are, appeal to ethnic/religious justifications of Israeli control of occupied territories, and economic incentives to appease Palestinian political aspirations. The first ignores the history of the U.S. role in creating these realities; the second ignores the future consequences of framing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as an ethnic/religious conflict, instead of a nationalist conflict; the third misses not only the nature of the Palestinian struggle, but of the human condition.

U.S.–China Tech Rivalry Reflects Contrasting Cyber Cultures

By Katherine Mansted

There’s a growing debate in policy circles right now: are cyber technologies good or bad for democracy? Are internet platforms weakening public debate and social cohesion? Will artificial intelligence inevitably favour tyranny?

What’s often missing from this debate is a nuanced appreciation of culture. Every piece of technology is invented by humans and for humans. Whether a technology has ‘good’ or ‘bad’ effects can depend on the social and political context it came from.

Most of the cyber technologies we use today reflect the values of Silicon Valley elites and the American government’s light-touch approach to the tech sector. American tech has enabled significant good, but the values baked into it have also proved toxic—something that we’re only now beginning to understand.

But America is losing its technological supremacy. China is poised to lead on AI, 5G and quantum computing, while its firms are increasingly dominant in consumer-facing platforms, from e-commerce and online payments to social media and gaming. American and Chinese technologies necessarily embody different value systems; understanding both will be essential to navigating the social and geopolitical consequences of technological progress.

Wanted: Harsh Realism at the World Bank

by Hilton L. Root

The World Bank is recovering from one of the worst disasters in its history: the six-year (July 2012 to February 2019) tenure of Jim Yong Kim as its twelfth president. His newly-appointed replacement, President David Malpass, takes over an organization that has lost its focus on reducing extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity, declined in esteem among global institutions, and seen massive demoralization among staff as a result of futile organizational restructures. These problems certainly give Malpass a mandate to change course.

For that, he will receive no shortage of suggestions. Few will be radical enough to create the bank needed for the twenty-first century.

The new World Bank president should begin his assessment with a strong dose of harsh realism. Other development organizations—like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, BRICS New Development Bank, and Gates Foundation—have emerged with impressive resources, faster processing and more focused agendas. The World Bank has relatively fewer funds and multiple missions far beyond its means. Moreover, its operations should be refocused on something attainable and, most importantly, something for which it is uniquely capable.

The Newest AI-Enabled Weapon: ‘Deep-Faking’ Photos of the Earth


Step 1: Use AI to make undetectable changes to outdoor photos. Step 2: release them into the open-source world and enjoy the chaos.

Worries about deep fakes — machine-manipulated videos of celebrities and world leaders purportedly saying or doing things that they really didn’t — are quaint compared to a new threat: doctored images of the Earth itself.

China is the acknowledged leader in using an emerging technique called generative adversarial networks to trick computers into seeing objects in landscapes or in satellite images that aren’t there, says Todd Myers, automation lead for the CIO-Technology Directorate at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

An economist explains how to value the internet

It is one the most commonly used measures of economic activity: gross domestic product (GDP), defined as the total market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period.

But GDP misses out on huge chunks of value in the digital economy. When digital goods, whether Google Maps or Wikipedia, are available free of charge, they make no impact on GDP despite the value to their users.

This has major consequences. Without a valid tool to measure the value of the digital economy, policymakers are left scratching their heads over how to manage it. That led a group of economists at MIT to develop a new tool to measure the benefits of the digital economy.

Dark Web Shutdowns Could Hamper Intelligence Gathering

By Devin Richardson

The dark web, alternatively known as the darknet or deep web, has long been a subject of controversy. The concept of “onion routing,” that is messages encapsulated in layers of encryption like the layers of an onion, on a secure, private internet was originally conceived by researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Lab. The concept would eventually become the foundation for the Tor Project and browser, the predominant means for accessing the dark web by isolating each website visit so third-party trackers and ads can’t follow you.

Dark Web Initially Designed for Private and Anonymous Communication

Initially designed for private and anonymous communication, it didn’t take long for crime to gain a foothold on the dark web, eventually giving rise to illicit online marketplaces such as Silk Road and its many successors. Following seizure after seizure of darknet markets, law enforcement recently turned its sights on DeepDotWeb, one of the top two news sites and directories for the dark web and darknet markets that was hosted on the “open” web.

The Rise Of Huawei

Following the Trump administration's decision to blacklist Huawei, effectively banning U.S. companies from working with the Chinese tech giant, U.S. chipmakers Qualcomm, Intel and Broadcom have reportedly stopped supplying parts to the company headquartered in Shenzhen. The most significant blow to Huawei came from Google however, who reportedly revoked the company's Android license and suspended any business that requires the transfer of hardware, software or technical services, in compliance with Trump's executive order.

Google’s decision marks a significant setback to Huawei’s smartphone ambitions, as it immediately bans the company from receiving future Android updates and using Google’s proprietary apps. While Huawei cannot be banned from using the open source version of Android to build its own operating system based on Android code, the lack of access to Google’s Play Store and its popular line of apps (incl. YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps among others) would severely limit the appeal of Huawei devices, especially for customers outside of China, where most of Google’s services are banned anyway.

Cyber innovation at the forefront of UK’s approach to modern warfare

Speaking this evening at the NATO Cyber Defence Pledge Conference in London, Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt will address the need for the UK and NATO members to recognise offensive cyber as central to modern warfare. As the UK has already demonstrated against Daesh in the Middle East, it can be a vital tool to keep people in the UK and overseas safe from virtual and physical threats.

The military continues to develop its cyber capabilities as part of the £1.9 billion investment into the National Cyber Security Strategy, focused on boosting the UK’s cyber security. Recent UK innovations have included the creation of the National Cyber Security Centre which brings together government, intelligence agencies and the private sector into one organisation. The state-of-the-art Defence Cyber School, which marked its first anniversary in March this year, is also training the next generation of cyber experts.


By: Paul Wagner

Over 180 scientists and doctors in almost 40 countries are warning the world about 5G health risks. “Resolution 1815 of the Council of Europe” spells it out quite succinctly:

“We, the undersigned scientists, recommend a moratorium on the roll-out of the fifth generation, 5G, until potential hazards for human health and the environment have been fully investigated by scientists independent from industry. 5G will substantially increase exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF)… and has been proven to be harmful for humans and the environment.”

If you’re not alarmed about 5G radiation dangers, you should be…

With download speeds up to 20 to 30X faster than 4G, 5G promises a new world, including becoming the foundation for self-driving cars while also causing a long list of potential health risks. “5G Cancer” is actually a thing. The cities of Brussels and Geneva have even blocked trials and banned upgrades to 5G out of this concern.

Pentagon Jumpstarts Hypersonic Targeting, Electronic Warfare, C2


PENTAGON: Fed up with neat technologies that never turn into usable weapons, the Pentagon’s director of advanced capabilities is taking a new approach to crucial missions like finding time-sensitive targets for hypersonic missiles, waging large-scale electronic warfare, and building new command-and-control networks.

Bids are already in for the targeting initiative, James Faist told reporters this afternoon, and companies that want to participate in the industry day for electronic warfare need to sign up by Friday.

These are all “really urgent needed missions,” Faist said, prioritized by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, and the four armed services through extensive discussion, research, and wargaming. “These are well defined areas that we’re behind our adversaries,” he said. “We have to catch up.”

Time-Sensitive Contracts For Time-Sensitive Targets

The first of Faist’s initiatives is already well underway. More than 90 companies, many of them small businesses, have made competing proposals for tracking high-priority mobile threats like truck-borne missile launchers, a prime target for the new hypersonic missiles the military is developing. The Pentagon will award multiple contracts for feasibility studies on June 14th, with the studies due in just three months, i.e. before the fiscal year ends Oct. 1st. The contenders that produce the most promising studies will then have “two to three years at most,” Faist said, to build working prototypes, i.e. no latter than 2022. The best prototypes will then move quickly into Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of combat-ready systems.

How the Army is taking cyber units to the battlefield

By: Mark Pomerleau 

Details are crystallizing on new Army cyber units that will provide information-related capabilities from the theater level all the way to the tactical edge.

The Army is beginning to formalize and even move on forming these units — some of which were already being piloted in one form or fashion — putting real force structure toward fighting a 21st-century conflict.

A new cyber battalion and multidomain detachment were among them.

These teams are organic to the Army and separate from the cyber teams that belong to U.S. Cyber Command, which typically perform strategic, national level IP-based network operations as opposed to more localized effects.