10 October 2019

How India can rival China in electronics manufacturing

'We have the geographic advantage, demographic advantage, we have the necessary technical skills.' 'We just have to get all of these together. Then, we can very well compete.'

India has always been seen as a top destination for IT services, but today, the IT hardware sector also is trying to make a mark on the world map.

With the US-China trade war hotting up, India hopes that many large companies will look at India as an alternate destination. But are we ready to attract them?

"Offsetting the India disability, support has to be given for a short period. It is not that the industry requires support from the government endlessly; it is only for a fixed period of time. This support can be in the form of tax rebates, refunds, etc," George Paul, below, CEO of the IT hardware industry association, MAIT, tells Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier.

Signs of Ballot-Box Stuffing Add Tension to Afghan Vote Count

By Mujib Mashal, Fahim Abed and Najim Rahim
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KABUL, Afghanistan — By early afternoon on Election Day for the president of Afghanistan, officials began to fret. At many polling stations, including some in the capital, Kabul, only the occasional voter had shown up. To allow for a bigger turnout, voting was extended by two hours.

The worry about low turnout has now turned into suspicion of artificially high turnout. Ballot boxes from several areas that had exceptionally high turnout in the Saturday election, surprising observers, have arrived at the Independent Election Commission’s tabulation centers brimming with votes. Some places of sparse voting reported turnout rates as high as 90 percent.

Despite evidence that the election was conducted more cleanly compared with years past, Afghans who braved Taliban violence to cast ballots now fear a muddled outcome because of fraud, dragging their war-ravaged country into a new crisis.

The fear amounts to a test for the Election Commission, which will declare the winner. It has vowed to discard bogus ballots and expressed confidence in detecting them with a new biometric voter identification system. But there was quickly talk — later quashed by the authorities — that the commission could loosen its strict rules.

China’s Navy Looms Larger

By Nick Danby

Earlier this month, on September 13, the U.S. Navy sailed a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Wayne E. Meyer, into the South China Sea near the Paracel Islands. The mission’s objective was to challenge Chinese territorial claims in the region. As Commander Reann Mommsen, spokesperson for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet explained, the destroyer “challenged the restrictions on innocent passage imposed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam, and also contested China’s claim to straight baselines enclosing the Paracel Islands.” Why would the United States spend time contesting claims in the Pacific? Mommsen said all three powers have claimed sovereignty over the islands and require permission or notification for a foreign ship to sail through those waters. Such requirements are “not permitted by international law, so the United States challenged these requirements.” 

It all sounds pretty familiar; but these days, America’s mission in the Pacific has become far more dangerous as tensions between China and the United States rise in nearly all domains – economic, political, and otherwise. Responding to the recent U.S. operation, the Chinese Ministry of Defense labeled the act “navigational hegemony” and accused the destroyer of “trespass[ing] into waters…without permission of the Chinese government.” Such operations, commonly known as freedom of navigation operations, are designed by the United States to weaken, contest, and challenge China’s dubious maritime and territorial claims, especially as the rising Asian power seeks to militarize islands and expand its naval presence.

Xi Jinping Is the Life and Soul of the Party

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To mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, much of the commentariat will naturally focus on Xi Jinping as a singularly ruthless Communist Party leader charting a hyperactive path for China to superpower status.

Within China, Xi’s ascendency has triggered the frenetic construction of the intellectual and ideological scaffolding needed to support the leader’s grandiose ambitions for both his leadership and their country.

Under Xi, such work has flourished as the party’s theorists have grappled with the key question of their era: Where does Xi Jinping start and the Chinese Communist Party end?

It is, by now, a familiar tale of Xi the disruptor, overturning Communist Party norms at home to keep himself in power and ditching China’s long-standing positioning in abroad to maintain a low profile and not challenge the United States.

But it is little appreciated how much Xi represents continuity as much as he does disruption.

In decrying ‘foreign interference’, China should remember those times it has meddled in other countries’ affairs

Wee Kek Koon

Since protests began in Hong Kong, in June, against the now-withdrawn extradition bill, Beijing has decried ‘foreign interference’. The central government in Beijing made up its mind very early on that the ongoing mess in Hong Kong is fuelled to a large extent by “ foreign interference”, something to which the Chinese are particularly sensitive, given the nation’s near-capitulation to foreign powers from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries.

Informed by a toxic mix of resentment for past humiliations and pride in recent achievements, many mainland Chinese belligerently view the developed world as conspiring to deny their country its rightful place in the sun. However, in constructing the narrative of itself as a victim of foreign aggression and interference in modern times, China may do well to remember that it has, on multiple occasions, interfered in the internal affairs of other nations.

The China Dream: Never Closer, yet Never More Elusive

by Timothy R. Heath

The 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC) provides an opportune moment to reflect on how the country's recent history has at every stage left its mark on the broader international community. And as it nears the long-held aspiration of national revitalization, the coming decades may see China's impact on the world reach unprecedented heights—if it can surmount imposing domestic and international hurdles.

China's “National Day,” held on October 1, commemorates the founding of the PRC under Chinese Communist Party leadership in 1949. Authorities regard the 70th anniversary as a hugely important occasion, and have accordingly planned a massive military parade featuring the latest weaponry and the participation of more than 10,000 troops. China will also hold a gala, a civilian parade featuring floats, and commemorative events around the country. To whip up public enthusiasm for the event, authorities have even banned “non-patriotic” shows on TV and instead ramped up patriotic programming.

For the world, the occasion may be regarded as a convenient marker of a third act in the PRC's revitalization as a great power. The Cold War provided the setting for the first act. In its first decades, a newly established government suffused with ideological fervor engaged the world through defiant provocation, with occasional wars along its borders, backing for communist insurgencies across Asia, and intense ideological confrontation with the United States and the Soviet Union.

Democracy in Hong Kong

by Eleanor Albert
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Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China that, unlike the mainland’s provinces, has certain political and economic freedoms. The former British colony is a global financial capital that has historically thrived off its proximity to China.

But in recent years, many in Hong Kong have become concerned with intensifying economic inequality and with what they see as efforts by Beijing to encroach on the city’s political system. As China’s economic and military might continue to grow, some fear that Hong Kong’s significant autonomy could erode.

What is Hong Kong’s political status?

Without Democracy, China Will Rise No Farther

By Jiwei Ci 

China has been busy rising, and an alarmed United States has been busy repositioning itself. Neither shows much interest in what is arguably the most important test now confronting China’s leadership, which is whether and how it will respond to internal pressures to democratize. Perhaps that is because neither realizes that how far China rises and what happens to U.S.-Chinese relations both depend more on the country’s democratization than on just about anything else.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is apparently so confident in its ability to deliver economic growth and the nation’s “great rejuvenation” that it has dispensed with the search for democratic legitimacy. The United States, having observed recent political developments in China, seems happy enough to follow the CCP in writing off the country’s democratic prospects. On this shared understanding, the supposed rivalry between China and the United States has taken on the dimensions of a contemporary Cold War.

The Dictators’ Last Stand

By Yascha Mounk 

It has been a good decade for dictatorship. The global influence of the world’s most powerful authoritarian countries, China and Russia, has grown rapidly. For the first time since the late nineteenth century, the cumulative GDP of autocracies now equals or exceeds that of Western liberal democracies. Even ideologically, autocrats appear to be on the offensive: at the G-20 summit in June, for instance, President Vladimir Putin dropped his normal pretense that Russia is living up to liberal democratic standards, declaring instead that “modern liberalism” has become “obsolete.” 

Conversely, it has been a terrible decade for democracy. According to Freedom House, the world is now in the 13th consecutive year of a global democratic recession. Democracies have collapsed or eroded in every region, from Burundi to Hungary, Thailand to Venezuela. Most troubling of all, democratic institutions have proved to be surprisingly brittle in countries where they once seemed stable and secure.

China will use economic pain to hinder US's Pacific missile deployment

Evan Karlik

The U.S. military conducted on Aug. 18 a flight test of a type of missile banned for more than 30 years by a treaty that both the United States and Russia abandoned in that month. © U.S. Defense Department/AP

"The military balance in the Pacific is going in the wrong direction," said former U.S. defense department strategist Elbridge Colby recently. Following the dissolution of a landmark arms control treaty in early August, the U.S. is now eyeing where it might field missiles as a counterweight to China's sizable arsenal.

How Iran Would Wage Cyber War Against the United States

by Robert Kennedy
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While such a conflict is certainly possible, and the situation remains highly fluid, the reality is that neither Iran nor the United States actually wants a war. Iran knows it can’t withstand one against the United States, and President Donald Trump has stated repeatedly that he is disinclined to involve America in another “endless” Middle East war.

This means both sides are likely to engage in a more covert battle of wills—and cyber will be a primary focus. Cyberwarfare is an ideal tool in this type of situation, since the risk of escalation from physical attacks remains high. Over the last fifteen years, Iran has shown an increasing reliance on asymmetric warfare to confront, challenge and undermine U.S. interests in the region, and since 2011 it has increasingly turned to cyber when doing so. On numerous occasions in the last nine years, Iran’s cyber operations have demonstrated to the world that they are willing to act aggressively and—some might say—recklessly in cyberspace, and to achieve only limited goals and objectives.

With this in mind, here is a closer look at how Iran is likely to engage the United States in cyberspace.

The governor of California, Gray Davis, is recalled in favor of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Opinion: Trump And Pompeo Have Enabled A Saudi Cover-Up Of The Khashoggi Killing

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In the weeks following the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, President Trump spent more time praising Saudi Arabia as a very important ally than he did reacting to the killing.Hasan Jamali/AP

Aaron David Miller (@aarondmiller2) is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former State Department Middle East analyst, adviser and negotiator in Republican and Democratic administrations. He is the author most recently of the End of Greatness: Why America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President.

Richard Sokolsky, a nonresident senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, worked in the State Department for six different administrations and was a member of the secretary of state's Office of Policy Planning from 2005 to 2015.

It has been a year since Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi entered Saudi Arabia's Consulate in Istanbul where he was slain and dismembered. There is still no objective or comprehensive Saudi or American accounting of what occurred, let alone any real accountability.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei Is One Despot Trump Might Not Win Over


Iran’s President arrived in New York City in September and left, as usual, without meeting the American one. Both Hassan Rouhani and Donald Trump professed an appetite for sitting down and talking over the ever more treacherous rift between their nations. But as Rouhani has pointed out in private, Iran’s top elected official “has no authority in foreign policy.” That authority–and nearly every other strand of power in the Islamic Republic–resides with the elderly cleric who remained 6,000 miles away, in the country he has not left for decades.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 80 years of age, disabled by a saboteur’s bomb blast and lit by a righteous certainty, holds the title of Supreme Leader of Iran. But he has quietly emerged as the most powerful person in the Middle East, with uniformed military fighting in Syria and loyal proxies dominant in Lebanon, Yemen and (despite a U.S. investment of $1 trillion and thousands of lives) Iraq. Since the spring, behind a thin veil of denials, he has also presided over an audacious and escalating campaign to raise uncertainty and global oil prices, shooting down a $176 million U.S. drone, blowing holes in tankers and bombing the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, all without drawing a U.S. military response.

Who Are These “Jihadists” Who Are Defeating The French Army In The Sahel?

by Rémi Carayol

The French army takes pride in regularly announcing “victories” in the Sahel, where it has been operating for five years under the name “Operation Barkhane.” These may be the destruction of munitions dumps, motor vehicles or camps or, just as often, the “neutralisation” of jihadists or men described as such. In the French army’s newspeak—adopted recently by some of its African allies—“neutralised” means killed. Most of the time this has been the consequence of a firefight but may also result from an execution, when a target has been located by drone or by phone tapping and bombed from the air.

“Mowing the Lawn”

Since France sent its troops into Mali in January 2013, hundreds of alleged jihadists have been killed. In February 2019, the Minister of Armed Forces, Florence Parly, gave a speech before the Senate in which she spoke of 600 terrorists put out of action, including 200 for 2018 alone. Among these were several well-known heads of armed Sahelian Jihadist groups: Abdelhamid Abou Zeid in 2013, Omar Ould Hamaha in 2014, Mohamed ag Almouner in 2018, Djamel Okacha in 2019, etc.

Israel worried Iran might attack soon

Ben Caspit 

It’s been a long time since he delivered such a chilling and ominous speech at a festive occasion, the swearing-in of the 22nd Knesset on Oct. 3. A faltering Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the event to make the following remarks: “We are facing an enormous security challenge, which only intensifies from week to week. It increased profoundly in the last month or two, and, in particular, in the last few weeks. This isn’t spin, it’s not a whim, this is not ‘Netanyahu trying to scare us,’” said the prime minister, as he tried — and succeeded, as usual — in terrifying the public and media alike.

He delivered this speech on the same day that Iran took the unusual step of having the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ General Intelligence Services, Hossein Taeb, announce details of an alleged “Israel-Arab plot” to assassinate Qasem Soleimani, commander of its Quds Force. Already on Oct. 1, Soleimani himself was interviewed on Iranian television about an earlier Israeli attempt to assassinate him, during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Back then, it was Israeli drones circling over Beirut’s Dahieh neighborhood, where he, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, and Hezbollah senior Imad Mughniyeh were located. Mughniyeh was since killed in an operation in Damascus that the international media attributed to the Mossad in 2008. Nasrallah survived, but the Iranians claim that the attack propelled Soleimani to the No. 1 spot on Israel’s “most wanted” list. Iran claims that Soleimani was supposed to join Mughniyeh in paradise, when huge amounts of explosives blow up in a mosque named for his father, on the one-year anniversary of his father’s death.

The Unwanted Wars

By Robert Malley

The war that now looms largest is a war nobody apparently wants. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump railed against the United States’ entanglement in Middle Eastern wars, and since assuming office, he has not changed his tune. Iran has no interest in a wide-ranging conflict that it knows it could not win. Israel is satisfied with calibrated operations in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza but fears a larger confrontation that could expose it to thousands of rockets. Saudi Arabia is determined to push back against Iran, but without confronting it militarily. Yet the conditions for an all-out war in the Middle East are riper than at any time in recent memory. 

A conflict could break out in any one of a number of places for any one of a number of reasons. Consider the September 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities: it could theoretically have been perpetrated by the Houthis, a Yemeni rebel group, as part of their war with the kingdom; by Iran, as a response to debilitating U.S. sanctions; or by an Iranian-backed Shiite militia in Iraq. If Washington decided to take military action against Tehran, this could in turn prompt Iranian retaliation against the United States’ Gulf allies, an attack by Hezbollah on Israel, or a Shiite militia operation against U.S. personnel in Iraq. Likewise, Israeli operations against Iranian allies anywhere in the Middle East could trigger a regionwide chain reaction. Because any development anywhere in the region can have ripple effects everywhere, narrowly containing a crisis is fast becoming an exercise in futility. 

US set to impose tariffs on $7.5bn of EU exports in Airbus row

The US has been given the go-ahead to impose tariffs on $7.5bn (£6.1bn) of goods it imports from the EU.

It is the latest chapter in a 15-year battle between the US and the EU over illegal subsidies for planemakers Airbus and rival Boeing.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling will mean tariffs on EU goods ranging from aircraft to cheese, olives and jumpers from 18 October.

Brussels has threatened to retaliate similarly against US goods.
What happens next?

US trade officials said the tariffs would be set at a 10% rate on aircraft and 25% on agricultural and other items.

They have published a list of all the items that will be subject to the additional tariffs, most of which will apply to imports from France, Germany, Spain and the UK.

Infographic Of The Day: The Most Miserable Countries In The World

This infographic uses data from Steve Hanke of the Cato Institute, and it visualizes the 2019 Misery Index rankings, across 95 countries that report this data on a consistent basis.

US stocks end volatile quarter on positive note; oil prices slide

Wall Street stocks finished a volatile quarter on a positive note on Monday, while oil prices slid amid reports that Saudi Arabia restored oil production more quickly than expected following attacks on infrastructure.

Analysts cited better-than-expected Chinese manufacturing data, as well as comments from Trump administration officials that downplayed the likelihood of potential new US restrictions on Chinese investment.

US stocks had fallen Friday following reports the White House was weighing a plan to delist Chinese companies from US stock markets.

Investors are looking ahead to the resumption of talks between Beijing and Washington in October, said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist of Prudential Financial.

The talks are "clearly a positive for the markets because the effect it has on the world economy is paramount going into the last quarter," Krosby said.

The broad-based S&P 500 finished at 2,976.74, up 0.5 percent for the session and 1.2 percent for the quarter.

The end of the German-American affair

BERLIN — Just off a wide boulevard in a leafy west Berlin suburb, the U.S.-German friendship is alive and well.

Americans play football, sail and dance with their German friends. The decades-old bond between the two countries is on full display.

Trouble is, it's only a display. Opened in 1998, the Allied Museum, a free exhibition housed in an old U.S. Army theater, offers a window into what once was — and a welcome escape from what is.

Nearly 75 years after the end of World War II, the U.S.-German relationship isn’t just moribund, it’s on life support.

At both the official and unofficial level, the foundation that has supported the transatlantic alliance since the 1950s is crumbling. About 85 percent of Germans consider their country’s relationship with the U.S. to be “bad” or “very bad,” according to a recent study, while a clear majority want Germany to distance itself from the U.S.

A Close-Up View of Tunisia’s Unorthodox Presidential Election

Sarah Yerkes

On September 15, Tunisians voted in the country’s second democratic presidential election. Under a joint International Election Observation Mission, I traveled to the interior regions of Kasserine and Gafsa to witness this historic event. As an American, it was awe-inspiring to see how seriously Tunisians took the electoral process, having only won the right to vote less than nine years ago.

The election was remarkable for two reasons: Tunisia remains the sole country in the region to have ever held a democratic election, and the top presidential candidates headed for a runoff are far outside the political establishment. The rise of these candidates—who some Tunisians have nicknamed Robocop (the lawyer, Kais Said) and Don Corleone (the powerful media magnate, Nabil Karoui)—reveals an unambiguous dissatisfaction with the status quo. Yet despite voters’ frustration and a rather unorthodox election process, the election was carried out without any major disruptions.

The Usurpation of U.S. Foreign Policy

By Mira Rapp-Hooper 

Last week’s revelation that Donald Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden was explosive even by the standards of this scandal-prone administration. Had the president of the United States conditioned the restoration of military aid to Ukraine on his counterpart’s willingness to investigate a political rival—a quid pro quo that is all but explicit in the record of the Trump-Zelensky call released by the White House? Much has been made since of Trump’s demand as an abuse of presidential power. But it was also an abuse of American power—and that, in the long run, may do more lasting damage.

Power is the organizing principle of international politics. That endows the United States with an extraordinary ability to coerce others—that is, to make them follow its lead through a mix of inducements and penalties. As a result, Washington has had a unique ability to promote its political and economic agenda abroad.

A United States that transacts in arbitrary coercion will not hold on to its commanding position for long.

“Big, fat, juicy targets”— the problem with existing early-warning satellites. And a solution.

By Jaganath Sankaran

In 2018, the US Air Force announced its intention to cancel the seventh and eighth space vehicles in the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) program—a collection of satellites that provides early warning of incoming missiles—and declared its desire to transition over to the Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared program, which will serve the same purpose but which proponents say will be less expensive and more robust. The escalating costs, and the vulnerability to countermeasures, seem to have motivated the decision to terminate the SBIRS program. In recent congressional testimony, Cristina Chaplain, the Government Accountability Office’s director for contracting and national security acquisitions, pointed out that SBIRS was “exceedingly ambitious, which in turn increased technology, design, and engineering risks. While SBIRS and other satellite programs provide users with important and useful capabilities, their cost growth has significantly limited the department’s buying power at a time when more resources may be needed to protect space systems and recapitalize the space portfolio.”

What went wrong with the SBIRS program, and what advantages might the Next Generation satellites have? To answer those questions, we first have to be brought up to speed.

Assessing Trump’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, 2 Years In

By Elliot Silverberg and Matthew Sullivan

The future of U.S. leadership in the Indo-Pacific rests on the legitimacy granted Washington through its regional network of alliances. However, by some measures, the United States has become increasingly unhinged from its Asian partners of late.

One recent study of elite opinions in Southeast Asia found that 59.1 percent believe U.S. power is waning, a further 21.2 percent regard Washington’s influence as unchanged, and an alarming 68 percent feel U.S. engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) under U.S. President Donald Trump has deteriorated. At a time when the United States’ fastest-growing trade and security partners are all in Asia, Washington’s reliability in the Indo-Pacific is an open question – and U.S. allies and partners in the region may threaten to hedge their commitments or expand their playbook of options, accordingly.

Make no mistake, the Trump administration’s free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy is a worthy addition to U.S. policy in Asia. According to the Pentagon’s latest report on the subject in June, the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy revolves around the simultaneous enhancement of America’s economic engagement, security cooperation, and rule-making potential – objectives that are consistent with prior strategic thinking about the region. Better still, FOIP’s adroit balancing act between trade, security, and governance also aligns with the approaches of key partners like Japan and Australia.

The analytics academy: Bridging the gap between human and artificial intelligence

By Solly Brown, Darshit Gandhi, Louise Herring, and Ankur Puri

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the defining business opportunities for leaders today. Closely associated with it: the challenge of creating an organization that can rise to that opportunity and exploit the potential of AI at scale.

Meeting this challenge requires organizations to prepare their leaders, business staff, analytics teams, and end users to work and think in new ways—not only by helping these cohorts understand how to tap into AI effectively, but also by teaching them to embrace data exploration, agile development, and interdisciplinary teamwork.

Often, companies use an ad hoc approach to their talent-building efforts. They hire new workers equipped with these skills in spurts and rely on online-learning platforms, universities, and executive-level programs to train existing employees.

But these quick-fix tactics aren’t enough to transform an organization into one that’s fully AI-driven and capable of keeping up with the blazing pace of change in both technology and the nature of business competition that we’re experiencing today. While hiring new talent can address immediate resource needs, such as those required to rapidly build out an organization’s AI practice at the start, it sidesteps a critical need for most organizations: broad capability building across all levels. This is best accomplished by training current employees. Educational offerings from external parties have limitations, too: they aren’t designed to deliver the holistic, company-specific training or the cohesive, repeatable protocols essential for driving deep and lasting cultural changes, agile and cross-functional collaboration, and rapid scaling.