24 March 2020

India must bridge huge gaps to tackle Covid-19

In 2003, as the virus causing the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) dominated the headlines, Satish Chandra, a former Indian Foreign Service veteran who was then deputy national security adviser, was appalled by India’s unpreparedness to deal with a pandemic threat.

As Covid-19 rages through the world and has thousands infected, India seems to have escaped the brunt so far. It managed to quickly lock down its borders and started screening passengers at international airports fairly early. With positive detections of the virus at around 173 at last count, it seems to be in control. But Satish Chandra’s initial efforts uncovered a host of issues that are yet to be addressed. His study also didn’t focus on several key issues that have a major bearing on India’s national interests.

Soon after the SARS virus became known, Satish Chandra immediately called a meeting at the National Security Council Secretariat and marshalled the available resources to put together a paper on this. This was arguably the first Indian government study on how to deal with such kind of biological threats.

While fighting COVID-19, India must reduce bankruptcies, bring cash transfers & tax reliefs


Although the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 is relatively small in India, 137 as of 17 March, most of the cases have been detected in the last two weeks. Experience suggests that this number will rise. Much of the struggle is ahead of us. In this, the epidemiological, medical, economic, social, political and administrative issues are closely intertwined.

While the vaccine and drugs are being developed, the focus is on early detection by tracing and testing, isolation for those suspected or infected, and prevention by social distancing and personal discipline. 
Mobilise capabilities to avert crisis

The administrative response to COVID-19 includes several activities such as: spreading awareness, monitoring and tracking people at risk, conducting tests, to arranging and enforcing quarantines, sanitising spaces and objects, enforcing restrictions on gatherings, giving healthcare to patients, and so on. Indian governments are capable of this mission mode effort, albeit capability varies across states. We are seeing these capabilities being mobilised. 

India’s Banks Are Imploding – As Is Its Fintech Bubble

By Sarika Kumar

Hardly an opportunity goes by when India doesn’t refer to itself as the next economic superpower — and, while at it, hold up its crowd of payment apps as proof of a bustling and innovative fintech ecosystem.

While one can’t take away from its story of post-liberalization growth, any critical view has steadfastly been bludgeoned to silence by quoting GDP and a market size, powered by the country’s mammoth population.

But as of this March, India’s gloating is getting harder by the day.

COVID-19 is knocking on India’s doors, and a raging Hindu-Muslim riot left capital New Delhi paralyzed and local merchant economies gutted. Then came the slump in global oil prices and, on March 9, 2020, India’s stock markets took the sharpest nosedive in modern times.

Yet possibly nothing throws the rot in the Indian economy in clearer perspective than the serial implosion of its banks under the weight of loan fraud. And nothing makes the “superpower” bombast fall apart like the government and the central bank’s inability and unwillingness to stem this rot.

Blunting The Impact And Hard Choices: Early Lessons From China

by Helge Berger, Kenneth Kang, and Changyong Rhee

The impact of the coronavirus is having a profound and serious impact on the global economy and has sent policymakers looking for ways to respond. China’s experience so far shows that the right policies make a difference in fighting the disease and mitigating its impact - but some of these policies come with difficult economic tradeoffs.

Hard choices

Success in containing the virus comes at the price of slowing economic activity, no matter whether social distancing and reduced mobility are voluntary or enforced. In China’s case, policymakers implemented strict mobility constraints, both at the national and local level - for example, at the height of the outbreak, many cities enforced strict curfews on their citizens. But the tradeoff was nowhere as devastating as in Hubei province, which, despite much help from the rest of China, suffered heavily while helping to slow down the spread of the disease across the nation.

China threatens electronic strikes on Navy

By Bill Gertz
Source Link

China has called for using electromagnetic attacks on U.S. warships transiting the South China Sea, according to a state-run Chinese outlet.

The Communist Party-affiliated organ Global Times, quoting a military expert, said the use of nonlethal electromagnetic and laser weapons should be used by the People’s Liberation Army to expel American warships from the disputed sea.

The report followed China’s potentially dangerous use of a laser against a Navy P-8A maritime patrol aircraft near Guam last month, and an earlier lasing two years ago of C-130 aircraft near China’s military base in Djibouti on the coast of Africa.

The article was published Tuesday, the same day the Pacific Fleet announced on Twitter that the aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and the USS America, an amphibious assault carrier and leader of an expeditionary strike group, were conducting exercises in the South China Sea.

This Is How We Can Beat the Coronavirus

Aaron E. Carroll

While many watched the coronavirus spread across the globe with disinterest for months, in the last week, most of us have finally realized it will disrupt our way of life. A recent analysis from Imperial College is now making some Americans, including many experts, panic. The report projects that 2.2 million people could die in the United States. But the analysis also provides reason for hope—suggesting a path forward to avoid the worst outcomes.

We can make things better; it’s not too late. But we have to be willing to act.

Let’s start with the bad news. The Imperial College response team’s report looked at the impact of measures we might take to flatten the curve, or reduce the rate at which people are becoming sick with COVID-19. If we do nothing and just let the virus run its course, the team predicts, we could see three times as many deaths as we see from cardiovascular disease each year. Further, it estimated that infections would peak in mid-June. We could expect to see about 55,000 deaths, in just one day.

U.S.-China Relations and COVID-19: What Can Be Done Now

The United States and China have dealt with a number of crises over the past decades: the deadly suppression of the Tiananmen protests in 1989; the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999; the EP-3 incident over Hainan in 2001; and the Great Recession of 2008. In each case, leaders of the two nations were able to shelve domestic political exigencies to find common ground upon which to base their nations’ futures.

I vividly recall a luncheon in Beijing in the summer of 1999 when a delegation I led as president of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations was told by a confidante of Chinese president Jiang Zemin that the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party had just made a decision to “move beyond” the bombing of their embassy in Belgrade and resuscitate U.S.-China relations.

But today we seem to have entered unchartered waters, as the COVID-19 pandemic both highlights the need for Sino-American cooperation and, at the same time, reveals the two countries’ inability to do so.

What is at stake today are not only the lives and livelihoods of Americans but those of people around the world who will benefit or suffer depending on how well Americans and Chinese can bring their collective talent and energy together to find remedies, vaccines, and protocols to address COVID-19.

The world can learn from Taiwan

By Amber Kim

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread around the globe. While governments are striving to take effective prevention measures, Taiwan is being praised by foreign media for its quick reaction and effective prevention measures.

Taiwan has fever confirmed COVID-19 cases than neighboring countries, such as South Korea and Japan.

Countries facing a rapid increase of confirmed cases are suffering not only from public panic, but also from a shortage of masks.

However, Taiwan has shown outstanding leadership by urgently taking measures to address public fear and prevent people from stocking up masks.

Besides, Taiwan already blocked the entry of people from China before the circumstances were exacerbated, and cooperated with medical experts. The government was able to take action quickly, as the National Health Command Center (NHCC), which was established during the SARS outbreak, played a critical role in successfully handling COVID-19 related issues.

Planning for the World After the Coronavirus Pandemic

David Steven, Alex Evans 

Editor’s note: WPR has made this article, as well as a selection of others from our COVID-19 coverage that we consider to be in the public interest, freely available. You can find all of our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here. If you would like to help support our work, please consider taking advantage of our subscription offer here.

In just a few months, the tightly connected systems of a globalized world have transformed the novel coronavirus from a handful of cases in China to a global pandemic. But we have yet to see an international response that matches the scale of the threat.

The contrast with the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent economic crash is stark. Then, governments vastly upgraded the G-20 from a somewhat obscure forum of finance ministers to a new global decision-making bloc in order to steer the world to safety. Don’t hold your breath for a similar response to COVID-19. The outbreak has hit at a time when the international order’s immune system is badly compromised.

The Coronavirus Is a Test for the West

Judy Dempsey

It won’t happen here, not in Europe. It’s taking place far away, across the world, in China. Such was the refrain until the coronavirus struck northern Italy and with a terrible vengeance.

Until then, much attention in Europe was focused on how the Chinese Communist Party had imposed draconian methods to contain the virus and equally draconian methods to silence criticism. Such measures were not for the West.

Dempsey is a nonresident senior fellow at Carnegie Europe and editor in chief of Strategic Europe.

Well, it has taken the first road now after European governments saw what happened in Italy. As a result, most of Europe is now in shutdown. French President Emmanuel Macron has put France on what he calls a war footing in order to fight the virus.

Depending on where you live, some people believe the measures adopted by their governments are legitimate. Others—some of my Berlin neighbors for example (and, by the way, two of them are doctors)—believe the reactions are over-exaggerated. Forget the fact that thousands across Europe have already died. And don’t even think about how poor countries will cope. The instruction “wash your hands with soap as often as possible” is a luxury for some populations.

A Rough Guide to Getting a COVID-19 Lockdown Right

David Steven

Editor’s note: WPR has made this article, as well as a selection of others from our COVID-19 coverage that we consider to be in the public interest, freely available. You can find all of our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here. If you would like to help support our work, please consider taking advantage of our subscription offer here.

PISA, Italy—In Pisa, we are entering our 11th day of full lockdown, following a couple of weeks during which normal life, and the economy, was progressively shut down.

While China and some other Asian countries are loosening restrictions on movement, most of the world is now following Italy’s path. That offers national governments and local authorities an opportunity to learn from Italy’s successes and failures in designing a lockdown that is well-understood and observed, and which maintains popular support.

Here is my rough guide to what works and what doesn’t.

Could the Coronavirus Create an Italian Debt Crisis (And Destroy the Euro)?

by Desmond Lachman

In 2012, as Italy’s sovereign debt crisis threatened to tear the Euro asunder, the then European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi successfully rode to the rescue. He did so by famously saying that the ECB would do whatever it took to save the Euro. 

Today, as the coronavirus epidemic chooses Italy as its European epicenter, Christine Lagarde, the ECB’s new president, is hoping to repeat Mr. Draghi’s feat. She is trying to do so by renewing his pledge to have the ECB continue doing whatever it takes to keep the Euro intact.

For the sake not only of Italy but also of the world economy, one has to hope that Mrs. Lagarde will succeed in meeting her daunting challenge. This is especially the case considering that Italy’s large public debt mountain and the European banking system’s high Italian debt exposure makes Italy of systemic importance to the world economy. 

It is doubtful, however, whether Madame Lagarde’s ECB can rescue Italy on its own without the wholehearted support of the rest of the international community. 

Inside the South Korean Labs Churning Out Coronavirus Tests

By Dasl Yoon and Timothy W. Martin 

SEOUL—Lee Hyuk-min sets his alarm at 4:45 a.m. He rolls out of bed, sits down at his home office desk within minutes and then begins his day’s work: analyzing a chart of novel coronavirus test data, separating the positives from the negatives.

A clinical microbiologist, Dr. Lee gets six batches of test results throughout the day. He reviews most of them at the laboratory where he works at Yonsei University Health System’s Severance Hospital in Seoul. He punches out by 11 p.m. But he is typically woken up in the middle of the night to review even more.

“It’s tough,” Dr. Lee said, “but it’s tough for everyone.”

South Korea has absorbed an onslaught of novel coronavirus infections that has left many countries’ health systems rattled. One reason it has managed to check the virus’s spread and bring down its infection rate has been an efficient testing network that allowed it to quickly isolate those infected. The country has run nearly 300,000 tests, double that of Italy’s tally despite having less than a third of confirmed coronavirus cases.

China’s ‘Development Approach’ to the Mekong Water Disputes

By Zhang Hongzhou

Even as COVID-19 is wreaking havoc and uncertainty around the globe, Vietnam’s Mekong Delta declared an emergency over the devastating drought in early March. Studies suggest that the frequency and severity of droughts in the Mekong region has increased in the past decades, and many blame upstream dams, particularly those in China, for exacerbating the droughts. For years China has been criticized for refusing to join the Mekong River Commission (MRC) while unilaterally building dams upstream on the Mekong River (called the Lancang in China). Such hydro projects have become one of the key triggers for water conflicts between China and other Mekong basin states.

Nevertheless, since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by Chinese President Xi Jinping in late 2013, notable changes has been witnessed in China’s transboundary water policy in the Mekong region, which is considered a pivot point for China’s opening up to South and Southeast Asia.

9 Lessons from the Iraq War

by Robert D. Kaplan
Source Link

“Man’s real treasure is the treasure of his mistakes, piled up stone by stone through thousands of years,” according to Jose Ortega y Gasset, the great Spanish philosopher of the early twentieth century. For to remember the past in all its searing complexity is what separates us from the apes, Ortega goes on. By that logic, the Iraq War, which started seventeen years ago this month, should constitute among the crown jewels of knowledge and insight in American foreign policy circles.

What lessons do I take away from my support of the Iraq War?

Realize that things can always be worse. I reported from all over Iraq several times in the 1980s and had my passport confiscated for ten days by Iraqi authorities. I could not imagine a more frightening regime than Saddam Hussein’s. The country was nothing less than a large prison camp, bloodier and more repressive than Hafez al-Assad’s Syria. Emotionally, I had gotten too close to my story. Only when I reported from Iraq during the U. S. military occupation did I experience firsthand how anarchy—like the medieval Persian philosopher Abu Hamid al-Ghazali explained—is worse than tyranny, and how therefore the Iraq of the 2000s was even more terrifying than it had been under Saddam.

Iraq is the Prize: A Warning About Iraq’s Future Stability, Iran, and the Role of the United States

The Burke Chair at CSIS is presenting a commentary by two Iraqi experts whose biographies are summarized below. This commentary joins many U.S. experts in waring about the degree of instability in Iraq, Iran’s role in that country, and the U.S. failure to develop a working strategy and role that goes beyond the past efforts to break up the ISIS “caliphate.”

It also highlights a critical aspect of U.S. policy. Iran, not extremism, is the critical challenge in the Gulf. Moreover, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen may be the worst problems in the region, but Iraq is the strategic prize.

The United States can live with a stalemate or failure in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. If the United States fails in Iraq, it fails in the entire Gulf region. If it succeeds in building either a real strategic partner or in creating a strong and independent Iraq, it checkmates Iran and secures the region.

Commentary: Politics in Iraq are Completely Broken

Getting Serious About Interoperability

By Jennifer Hlad

However, within five years, there will be more than 200 Joint Strike Fighters in the region—70 percent of them owned and operated not by the U.S. Air Force, but by its allies. Japan is acquiring 147 F-35s—105 A models and 42 B models—making it the single biggest international customer for the fifth-generation jets.

Ensuring all those aircraft are truly interoperable is a critical challenge, and there’s no time like the present to get that ball rolling, said Chief Master Sgt. Brian Kruzelnick, command chief master sergeant for 5th Air Force.

“We’re always looking for ways for the U.S. Air Force and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force to become more interoperable,” Kruzelnick said. Japan released its annual Defense of Japan white paper, which outlines its defense policy, strategy, and priorities. “They really highlighted the fact that the U.S. and Japan alliance is the cornerstone for any multilayered, multifaceted security cooperation between allied partners in the region.”

So when the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) approached 5th Air Force about an F-35 maintenance exchange, it seemed like the “perfect opportunity to come in on the ground level and grow our interoperability together,” he said. Except that 5th Air Force doesn’t have any F-35s of its own.

Caught Unprepared by Pandemic, Europe Must Relearn Tough Lessons


Since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Europeans of all ages have undergone a surreal disruption of their work, private lives, and freedom of movement amid massive economic dislocation. Among the additional impacts are an immense burden on healthcare and security personnel, widespread suffering, and uncertainty about whether the crisis will last months or longer. For all the much-needed talk of individual and collective responsibility, the challenge will be staggeringly hard to manage.

Despite the various economic crises, social inequities, terrorist threats, migration pressures, and populist turbulence the EU has weathered in recent decades, Europeans have nevertheless enjoyed enduring peace, nearly unlimited freedoms, easy travel, and generous welfare systems. The EU has even absorbed the historic shock of Brexit.

Yet Europeans have now seen their leaders caught unprepared for a global pandemic, scrambling to respond without ready-to-roll emergency plans or critical stockpiles of diagnostic tests, respirators, masks, or hand sanitizer. Some governments at first tried to limit disruptions, but the recourse to almost total confinement has become the only way to stave off mounting death tolls in overwhelmed hospitals and health systems. Risk assessments were only recently upgraded to “high” or “very high.”


Coronavirus Is Coming for Russia

The current crisis caused by low oil prices and COVID-19 bolsters skeptical perceptions of Russia's 2020 growth forecast. With no revenues entering the country's National Wealth Fund at current oil prices, financing for Russian President Vladimir Putin's much-hyped social spending plan could become impossible to carry out. Growing inflation, rising prices and declining purchasing power are already unavoidable due to COVID-19 and low oil prices, with implications for political stability and elections in Russia.

As elsewhere, Russia's stock markets have suffered and the ruble has continued to weaken. Low oil prices meanwhile threaten the sustainability of Russia's government budget. While Russia currently has substantial reserves that will allow it to weather immediate budget shortfalls, some anticipated sources of government spending may become unavailable. Meanwhile, Russia's economy may stall out and possibly even see a contraction in GDP, while rising inflation will further suppress the already-dwindling purchasing power of Russia's population.

Budgets Under Pressure

The U.S. Is Trillions in Debt. Can We Afford Massive Stimulus to Fight the Coronavirus?

by William D. Lastrapes

The U.S. government now owes over US$23.5 trillion in debt, or about $71,000 for every man, women and child living within its borders. It has risen $3 trillion since President Trump took office in 2017 and is almost double what it was just 10 years ago.

U.S. government officials are discussing another expensive stimulus package – possibly as much as $1 trillion and bigger than the one enacted in 2009 during the midst of the financial crisis – to help the U.S. economy make it through the coronavirus pandemic.

But in light of its large debt, can the federal government really afford more spending?

The national debt represents the accumulation of past deficits that the federal government has run, pretty much continuously, since 1931. Prior to that, surpluses were much more common, apart from the years following the Civil War.

But its size is not a problem. The amount of government debt simply reflects the timing of taxes. Higher spending and lower taxes today mean more borrowing that will need to be paid off by higher taxes in the future.

The Value of Open Source Intelligence in a Pandemic Environment

By Travis Wright

The extreme and necessary measures taken to restrict the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) have impacted the day-to-day lives of everyone around the globe. From schools and jobs to sports and entertainment such as restaurants, bars and movie theaters – all been closed or impacted. The federal government has not been spared as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has directed agencies to utilize telework to the maximum extent possible.

Many Federal agencies are able to adapt to this new paradigm and can provide provisions for their employees to access the necessary government networks from home using government furnished laptops and sensible security protocols. Not to say there won’t be hiccups in this process. The scale and speed of this shift to telework are unprecedented, and there will certainly be challenges as government workers and contractors shift to this new reality. What is certain is that the nature of work has changed for the foreseeable future.

What has not changed is our adversaries attempts to leverage and exploit this vulnerable situation for their own gain. Recently, a cyber-attack on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by a presumed state actor attempted to overload the Department’s cyberinfrastructure. As the lead agency in the pandemic response, HHS is the trusted source for the latest pandemic information. When trust in the source is compromised or threatened, the public loses confidence and the results can be confusion at best, panic at worst.

Moving to the Unclassified

by Cortney Weinbaum, Arthur Chan, Karlyn D. Stanley, Abby Schendt
Source Link

What policy, legal, technology, security, financial, and cultural considerations should intelligence leaders take into account when determining how to conduct work outside secure government facilities?

This report provides analysis and recommendations for intelligence agencies regarding how to conduct work outside secure government facilities by identifying policy, legal, technology, security, financial, and cultural considerations. This report provides steps that intelligence agencies can take to address these considerations and overcome potential challenges. The advantages of remote-work programs include greater access to outside expertise, continuity of operations, and increased work-life offerings for recruitment and retention. The authors reviewed studies on telework and telecommuting, examined seven federal agencies that conduct work outside government facilities, and conducted interviews inside the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). Intelligence agencies could benefit from conducting some unclassified functions outside Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIFs), with each agency differing in terms of which functions would be most appropriate to move to unclassified facilities. The report provides lessons learned and recommendations for leaders of intelligence agencies to consider.

Key Findings

SOCOM Has Solved the Military’s 'Tower of Babel' Problem

By Dan Gouré

According to the Bible, all humanity once spoke the same language. But when the people sought to build a tower that would reach to the Heavens, God responded by causing them to suddenly speak different languages so they could not communicate and work together to complete the Tower of Babel. The word derived from this story, babble, means a confusion of sounds. Over the decades, the U.S. military has created a “Tower of Babel” problem in the form of incompatible communications devices, waveforms, data protocols and encryption schemes. In an era when military forces must be integrated to allow information in all forms to pass rapidly between systems, platforms and devices, the inability to communicate could result in lives lost and defeats suffered. Fortunately, a solution has been developed and is in widespread use with U.S. Special Operations Command.

Over the decades, the U.S. military has acquired a bewildering array of communications networks, systems and message/data formats. Not only did each of the Services pursue communications in their own ways and acquire their own capabilities, but often different branches and even programs within the individual Services did the same. As a result, different parts of the U.S. military often have a difficult, even impossible time communicating with one another. Adding to the problem, defense agencies and the intelligence community have their own ways of communicating information that make it difficult for them to pass vital information to warfighters.


Franklin Annis 

The US Army has had a historic problem in adapting the use of self-development. The concept is misunderstood, our definitions change frequently and often conflict, the graphic display of our leader development model is unclear, we lack practical guidance on how it could be executed, we confuse it with institutional learning, we lack supporting materials, and our leaders often lack the experience to mentor soldiers how to self-develop. The Army still struggles with a nineteenth-century, Industrial Age mindset that hampered the full integration of the education theory advancement in the twentieth century and threatens our ability to optimize for a twenty-first century battlefield. We continue to view soldiers as “cogs” in a machine who simply need to be stamped out through a refined list of education and training requirements. However, we must trust our soldiers to take an active role in guiding their own development. The Army must value non-assessable learning experiences or we run the risk of obstructing development. Without nurturing the trust required to support self-development, it is unlikely that we will foster the trust needed to utilize mission command.

While the Army has struggled to produce a consistent definition of self-development, the best and shortest definition I have run across defines it as “choos[ing] learning over nonlearning activities.” Special emphasis here should be on the word “choosing.” Self-development is driven internally, by intrinsic motivation. Individuals engage in self-development out of curiosity, interest, autonomy, and love of learning. While self-development is likely to lead to increased job performance and other rewards, these extrinsic motivations are not the primary driver.

Institutional Learning / Self-Development Divide