1 December 2020

Nothing ‘personal’ about Data Protection Bill as JPC proposes to expand scope

NEW DELHI: The crucial Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill is likely to undergo a complete overhaul. Members of the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) scrutinizing the bill are of the view that its scope should be expanded from focus on personal data to encompass overall data protection.

During the ongoing clause-by-clause discussion of the Bill, a report on which could be submitted before the winter session of Parliament, members of the JPC believe that the Bill would now focus more on data, localisation of data and digitisation of data while personal data will only be part of the crucial Bill.

“The Personal Data Protection Bill is likely to undergo a complete transformation as the intent of the Bill is likely to get changed. Most of the members of JPC are of the view that the ambit of the Bill needs to be expanded and it cannot just be about personal data. JPC members are unanimous that PDP Bill should be about data and protection of data," said a person in the know of development.

India Continues Missile Tests as Crisis With China Remains Unabated

By Abhijnan Rej

The Times of India reported on November 24 that the Indian military is likely to carry out a series of Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles tests this week. Tuesday morning (around 10 a.m. Indian Standard Time), the Indian Army carried out a test of the 290-kilometer range Brahmos missile from the Car Nicobar Islands against a target 200 kilometers away in the Bay of Bengal, according to an Indian Army statement. The statement adds (all sic): “The land attack version of BrahMos with capability of cruising at 2.8 Mach speed is the cutting edge of the Indian Army since 2007. The present Block III version of the missile has successfully executed four operational launches in the past. With the upgraded capability the missile can hit targets at a range of upto 400 Km [kilometers] with precision.”

Indian media reports also note that the Indian Navy and the Air Force will also carry out similar tests during the week, with a Defense Ministry source telling the Times of India, “The requisite advance warnings to aircraft and ships in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal has been issued.”

Cross-Border Data Access for Law Enforcement: What Are India’s Strategic Options?


Access to cross-border data for the state’s law-and-order-related functions is an integral piece of the law enforcement puzzle. State agencies’ ability to access data for such purposes is, however, shaped not only by domestic laws and practices but also by the laws of other countries and the state’s international commitments. In the case of India, the use of international cooperation mechanisms to balance efficient data access with protections for citizens’ privacy remains a relatively underexplored facet of its digital strategy. With its growing digital market, economic relevance for large global businesses, and strategic relationships with countries like the United States and those in the European Union (EU), India is well placed to not merely participate in but rather to lead the discussions on international data agreements on behalf of the developing world.

This paper evaluates India’s present mechanisms for data access by law enforcement authorities and existing arrangements for cross-border data access. It also analyzes the emerging global movement toward direct data access arrangements. Such arrangements authorize agencies in one jurisdiction to make direct data requests to service providers based in another jurisdiction.

China quietly fuels India and Pakistan’s next conflict


PESHAWAR – In the run-up to recent local elections, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced he had granted “provisional” provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan, a semi-autonomous state that India also claims as part of the disputed region of Kashmir.

Khan’s designation was declared soon after a closed-door meeting in September between the Pakistan army’s top brass and opposition parliamentarians, and has raised widespread speculation that China tacitly supported the potentially explosive announcement.

Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed and other senior military generals apparently advised opposition leaders on the decision, which threatens to spike tensions and possibly armed conflict with India.

Significantly, most of those who met the military’s leadership are part of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), which is currently spearheading a campaign against the military’s outsized role in politics under Khan’s elected administration.

EU, Other Donors Step up With Funds to Help Afghanistan

By Jamey Keaten

The European Union, the United States, and other donors on Tuesday pledged billions in new funds for Afghanistan, hoping to salvage years of work aimed to foster peace and stability in the country and coax along uncertain peace talks between the government and Taliban rebels — at a time when Islamic State extremists have increasingly caused havoc and bloodshed.

A largely virtual pledging conference for Afghanistan, co-hosted by Finland and the United Nations in Geneva, drew representatives from nearly 100 countries and international groups in the first such event in four years. It comes as the COVID-19 crisis has commanded worldwide attention, and its outbreak in Afghanistan has compounded persistent ills like corruption and extremist violence.

“Donors pledged more than $3 billion for the first year of the upcoming quadrennial, with annual commitments expected to stay at the same level year on year,” said Ville Skinnari, Finland’s minister for development, cooperation, and foreign trade.

The Quad’s Malabar Exercises Point the Way to an Asian NATO

By Salvatore Babones

Last week, the four Indo-Pacific Quad countries—India, Japan, Australia, and the United States—completed a series of joint naval exercises in the Indian Ocean. The Malabar exercises began in the Bay of Bengal with routine air-sea drills involving destroyers, frigates, and helicopters. The second phase, held off the Malabar coast in the Arabian Sea, brought in the big ships: the Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and the supercarrier USS Nimitz. It was a rare opportunity for U.S. F-18s to train alongside India’s Russian-built MiG-29Ks under the direction of the U.S. Navy’s E-2 Hawkeye surveillance aircraft.

Both the Quad itself—a loose relationship more formally known as the U.S.-Australia-India-Japan Consultations—and the Malabar exercises linking its four members have been touted (and dismissed) as an “Asian NATO.” Some of the impetus for the idea that the Quad could turn into a full-fledged military alliance came from U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who pointed out that “even NATO started with relatively modest expectations” when it was founded in 1949. But a better way to imagine a path forward for the Quad is to compare it to NATO today. Most people regard NATO as a hard military alliance, but no one seriously expects Russian tanks to sweep into Germany and France—and NATO’s Eastern European members are certainly not waiting for Iceland and Portugal to rise to their defense.

Managing U.S.-China Technology Competition and Decoupling

By Akinori Kahata

Technological competition between the United States and China is growing, especially in cutting-edge sectors like 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), and advanced semiconductors. As competition intensifies, trade and technology decoupling between the United States and China has also begun accelerating.

Now, all countries face the reality that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses its economic power—particularly its power over global technology supply chains—to achieve its political objectives. Worse, it is willing to use any means necessary to develop the domestic capacity to produce advanced technology.

The question is not whether decoupling should be promoted or not, but how much decoupling is good for the United States in the long term, and how the United States can effectively manage the decoupling process. To answer this question, we should first evaluate the impact of decoupling on both sides, both now and in the future. We must also keep in mind that decoupling is not an issue that affects only the United States. Other countries, such as Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and European nations will be affected by the decisions made by China and the United States during this process. Collaboration with allies will be essential if the United States hopes to achieve its goals, reduce Chinese influence and prevent China from using their economic power repressively to accomplish their political objectives.

Cooperative Competition Is Possible Between China and the U.S.

Fu Ying

BEIJING — The domestic politics of major countries are never kept within their borders — and the future policy orientation of the United States has become a hot topic for many people in China.

There is no denying the fact that China-U.S. relations have suffered serious damage over the past four years. Each country has expressed much complaint and concern about the other.

The United States believes that China craves world hegemony. China sees the United States as trying to block China’s way forward and as hindering its people’s pursuit of a better life.

It seems that both sides are convinced it is always the other party that is in the wrong; any initiative one of them undertakes is invariably seen by the other as an attempt to undermine it.

For example, China has proposed the Belt and Road Initiative as a global public good to promote more growth and greater connectivity, but America interprets the project as a strategy for geopolitical dominance.

What Does China Think U.S.-China Relations Should Look Like?

Kathleen Kingsbury

As the 20th century closed, I sat as a teenager in a lecture hall and listened to Henry Kissinger declare that China would soon be the next global superpower — and all young Americans needed to know more about it.

For reasons I still can’t fully explain, the message resonated. I began studying Mandarin that same year and took my first trip to Asia, arriving in Hong Kong just two days before Britain handed the territory over to Chinese rule. I’d return several times to live in and report from Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong.

Kissinger was right, of course, though one could argue that he never quite grasped the threat of what his own China mentor, Richard Nixon, saw as an unrelenting authoritarian regime that exists to “nurture its fantasies, cherish its hates and threaten its neighbors.”

As both The Times’s news and opinion pages have extensively documented, as its economy and industrial policies drove generational change, China has corralled as many as a million ethnic Uighurs and other religious minorities into internment camps. It has denied basic human rights to its citizens. It has smothered any hint of political opposition. And it has made menacing moves, through militarization and land grabs, toward the United States and its regional rivals.

China Says It Remains Open to the World, but Wants to Dictate Terms

Steven Lee Myers

After Australia dared last spring to call for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, China began quietly blocking one import after another from Australia — coal, wine, barley and cotton — in violation of free-trade norms. Then this month, with no clear explanation, China left $3 million worth of Australian rock lobsters dying in Shanghai customs.

Australia nonetheless joined 14 Asian nations and just signed a new regional free-trade deal brokered by China. The agreement covers nearly a third of the world’s population and output, reinforcing China’s position as the dominant economic and diplomatic power in Asia.

It’s globalization with Communist characteristics: The Chinese government promotes the country’s openness to the world, even as it adopts increasingly aggressive and at times punitive policies that force countries to play by its rules.

China Stares Down a Financial Reckoning

By Phillip Orchard

One has to wonder what Jack Ma was thinking when, in a speech in Shanghai in late October, the Alibaba and Ant Group founder ripped into overzealous Chinese regulators, accusing them of having a “pawnshop mentality” and stifling innovation. Beijing promptly suspended Ant Group’s upcoming initial public offering, which was expected to be the largest in history, costing Ma personally an estimated $3 billion. Days later, Beijing unveiled sweeping new anti-monopoly legislation that will hit much of Ma’s sprawling empire.

That Ma’s comments struck a nerve was not surprising. As Chinese tech conglomerates like Ant Group have rapidly expanded into fintech and financial services, they’ve effectively become lightly regulated banks. And Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration is obsessed with curbing financial risk. Though Beijing needs these companies’ innovations to get liquidity to corners of the economy that the Chinese banking system struggles to service, these inevitably make it more difficult to stave off a cascading financial crisis. When forced to choose between dynamism and stability, Beijing almost always chooses the latter.

Three Key Differences Between Biden And Trump On China

By Simon Watkins

Given China’s burgeoning role in the Middle East - with Iran and Iraq, in particular, irreplaceable staging posts for Beijing’s multi-layered, multi-generational ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) – how U.S. President-elect, Joe Biden, deals with the country is a key question for the oil industry. According to a range of senior sources in Washington close to the new administration and to sources close to the governing administrations in Tehran and Baghdad spoke to exclusively by OilPrice.com last week, the approach of the Biden team to China will be very close to the very trade-centric policies of predecessor Donald Trump to ensure that Beijing continues to move in the direction of an equitable trade policy with the U.S. Three major differences, though, will be first that Biden will never “give up security considerations for trade” as Trump frequently did, according to Trump’s former National Security Adviser, John Bolton. Second, a new trade metric will be introduced that will reduce and then strictly limit trade imbalances. And third, a narrower co-operative framework will be mandatory between U.S. and Chinese companies.

For China’s leadership – much like that of Iran – the idea of a Biden presidency has long been anticipated as offering a much easier ride than that of former President Trump. Iran, according to various sources (including Bolton), was reportedly even advised by former Secretary of State, John Kerry - when the U.S. withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May 2018 - to stay in the JCPOA deal and ‘just wait it out’ until Trump was no longer president. China, meanwhile, decided to do very little except the bare minimum to keep Trump from increasing sanctions in the final few months of his presidency for the very same reason.

Can AMLO Deliver on His Vision for Mexico’s Future?

Almost two years after taking office in December 2018, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, or AMLO, has struggled to make good on his campaign promises to deliver radical transformation, including tackling corruption and reforming the country’s drug war. Meanwhile, he has often found himself playing catchup to U.S. President Donald Trump, whose quixotic threats linking trade and immigration forced AMLO’s hand when it comes to Mexico’s efforts to block immigrants from crossing into the United States.

Trump did not entirely upend AMLO’s agenda. The Mexican leader has taken steps to rethink Mexico’s drug war, including seeking to redirect the Merida Initiative—a $3 billion annual U.S. aid package that pays for Mexico’s drug war—to use the money for development, while also calling for the decriminalization of all drugs in Mexico. But from cracking down on migrants passing through Mexico on their way north to successfully renegotiating the updated NAFTA trade deal, AMLO’s presidency has in many ways been inextricably linked to Trump. The surprisingly amicable ties he developed with his American counterpart, despite their many differences, now has many observers wondering whether AMLO will pay a political cost under the incoming Biden administration.

Say No, Joe

By Benjamin H. Friedman, Stephen Wertheim

As U.S. President-elect Joe Biden assembles a foreign-policy team of experts drawn from previous Democratic administrations—including former Secretary of State John Kerry and former Deputy National Security Advisor Antony Blinken—some of its members may be tempted to turn back the clock and return the United States to its course of four years ago, before Donald Trump ever set foot in the Oval Office. It is an appealing fantasy, for sure—and one to which Biden gestured in his campaign pledge to “restore” U.S. global leadership from its alleged Trumpian aberration.

During his campaign, however, Biden struck different notes as well, indicating a desire not just to restore but also to change. Biden promised to end the “forever wars” in Afghanistan and the Middle East launched and sustained by Trump’s predecessors. He vowed to terminate U.S. assistance for the Saudi-led war in Yemen and stand against Saudi Arabia’s broader misdeeds. And he repeatedly emphasized that he had opposed sending more troops to Afghanistan in the hopes of building up the Afghan state under the Obama administration, proposing instead a narrower approach of targeting terrorists.

The future of US policy toward China

Ryan Hass, Ryan McElveen, and Robert D. Williams

In recent years, U.S.-China relations have grown increasingly rivalrous. The incoming administration will inherit a bilateral relationship in which areas of confrontation have intensified, areas of cooperation have shrunk, and the capacity of both countries to solve problems or manage competing interests has atrophied.

To address these challenges, the incoming administration will need to develop new thinking on how most effectively to address the myriad challenges and opportunities of the U.S.-China relationship. Whether for strengthening coordination with allies on China, addressing security challenges, or advancing American interests in the areas of economics, technology, and rule of law, fresh ideas will be needed to adapt American policy to meet the competitive and complex nature of U.S.-China relations.

The Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School, directed by Paul Gewirtz, and the John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings, directed by Cheng Li, have drawn upon the expertise and experiences of their scholars and other outside experts to compile a monograph geared toward providing policy recommendations for the next administration. Edited by Ryan Hass, Ryan McElveen, and Robert D. Williams, the monograph offers array of affirmative and pragmatic proposals for how the United States should adapt its policy toward China to respond to current realities in a manner that best protects and promotes America’s security, prosperity, interests, and values.

Download the monograph

A Vaccine And The "New New Normal"

by Lance Roberts

Moderna and Pfizer recently announced they had potential vaccines for COVID-19 that are more than 90% effective. With that, the market surged, and a rotation into “economically sensitive" sectors occurred. While a “vaccine" will eventually come to the market, it will only ensure a return to the “New New Normal."

The term originated cautioning economists and policy-makers’ belief industrial economies would revert to levels seen before the financial crisis. In other words, the “new normal" economy would look a lot different, and worse, after the financial crisis was over.

Such did turn out to be the case. Economic growth struggled to maintain a 2.2% annualized growth rate, interest rates remained abnormally low, and inflation was nascent. Despite the Fed’s best efforts, productive investments or increases in the labor force participation rate failed to appear.

The chart below shows productivity increases through automation, and technology did not lead to higher employment levels relative to the population.

Why rich countries are so vulnerable to covid-19

NEARLY A YEAR into the pandemic, researchers have identified dozens of factors that can increase a person’s chances of dying from covid-19, including hypertension, diabetes and obesity. But the biggest risk factor of all is being old. People in their 60s are twice as likely to die of covid-19 as are those in their 50s; the mortality rate of 70-somethings is higher still. Indeed, the probability of dying from the disease roughly doubles for every eight years of age. This helps to explain why older, richer countries have fared worse than expected in the pandemic, compared to younger, poorer ones.

To estimate a country’s vulnerability to covid-19, The Economist has combined population data from the United Nations with age-specific infection fatality rates (IFRs) for the disease. The latter was estimated using data from Brazil, Denmark, England, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and parts of Switzerland and the United States. From these data we calculated an age-adjusted IFR: the probability that a randomly selected person from a given country would die if stricken with covid-19, assuming access to health care similar to that available in the sample countries.

How to Save Democracy From Technology

By Francis Fukuyama, Barak Richman, and Ashish Goel

Among the many transformations taking place in the U.S. economy, none is more salient than the growth of gigantic Internet platforms. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter, already powerful before the COVID-19 pandemic, have become even more so during it, as so much of everyday life moves online. As convenient as their technology is, the emergence of such dominant corporations should ring alarm bells—not just because they hold so much economic power but also because they wield so much control over political communication. These behemoths now dominate the dissemination of information and the coordination of political mobilization. That poses unique threats to a well-functioning democracy. 

While the EU has sought to enforce antitrust laws against these platforms, the United States has been much more tepid in its response. But that is beginning to change. Over the past two years, the Federal Trade Commission and a coalition of state attorneys general have initiated investigations into potential abuses of these platforms’ monopoly power, and in October, the Justice Department filed an antitrust suit against Google. Big Tech’s critics now include both Democrats who fear manipulation by domestic and foreign extremists and Republicans who think the large platforms are biased against conservatives. Meanwhile, a growing intellectual movement, led by a coterie of influential legal scholars, is seeking to reinterpret antitrust law to confront the platforms’ dominance. 

Inevitable African Schadenfreude About U.S. Elections

by John Campbell

Schadenfreude, a word from German, refers to the pleasure someone derives from the misfortune of another. The word is apt to many Africans looking at the 2020 U.S. elections, ranging from the president's claims of massive fraud in the voting to the slow process of ballot counting.

Successive presidential administrations, American non-government organizations, think tanks, and the Western commentariat in general have long lectured Africans about the inadequacy of their elections. In October, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo issued a general statement on African elections that could have been made by most of his predecessors, including its characteristic lack of specificity. He affirmed the American commitment to "free, fair, and inclusive" elections. He said the "conduct of elections is important not only for Africa but also for defenders of democracy around the world." He said the United States would "watch closely" Africa's upcoming elections and would "impose sanctions" on those who interfere with them—seeming to assert the administration as the arbiter of an African political process. 

How Long Can Portugal Continue to Play Both Sides of the U.S.-China Rivalry?

Mat Youkee

Jutting into the Atlantic Ocean 65 miles south of Lisbon, Portugal’s Sines peninsula has long been recognized by foreign powers for its geostrategic importance. The Romans, Visigoths and Moors all established settlements alongside the natural deepwater port. Today, however, plans to redevelop the port have become the latest source of friction between the U.S. and China, suggesting that Portugal’s diplomatic strategy of courting both rivals is running out of runway.

Sines is the closest port in mainland Europe to America’s eastern shale basins. U.S. firms want to expand the port’s liquid natural gas terminal in order to increase gas exports to the continent, which would also help reduce the European Union’s energy dependence on Russia. In 2018, George Glass, the U.S. ambassador to Portugal, said that the proposed American investment in Sines would convert Portugal into “the Singapore of Western Europe.”

But Beijing has its own plans for Sines. A proposed €640 million Chinese-built container port there is a key project in China’s Belt & Road Initiative, the global infrastructure program of which Portugal became a member in December 2018.

Climate risk and response in Asia

By Jonathan Woetzel, Oliver Tonby, Mekala Krishnan, Yuito Yamada

With many low-lying coastal cities exposed to flood and typhoon risk, dramatic increases in heat and humidity expected across the region, and extreme precipitation forecast in some areas but drought anticipated in others, Asian societies and economies will be increasingly vulnerable to climate risk without adaptation and mitigation.

In our January 2020 global report, Climate risk and response: Physical hazards and socioeconomic impacts, we found that physical risk from climate change is already present and growing around the world. In this report, we look more closely at Asia. While climate science makes extensive use of scenarios ranging from lower (Representative Concentration Pathway 2.6) to higher (RCP 8.5) CO2 concentrations, we focus on RCP 8.5 because it enables us to assess the full inherent physical risk of climate change in the absence of further decarbonization (see sidebar, “Our research methodology”).

This report quantifies the physical risk from climate change for Asia. We characterize risk within and across different countries and categorize impacts in four different types of countries in Asia: Frontier Asia, Emerging Asia, Advanced Asia, and China. We link climate models with economic projections to examine micro cases that illustrate exposure to climate change extremes and proximity to physical thresholds.

Combating Terrorism Center (CTC)

Afghanistan’s Future Emirate? The Taliban and the Struggle for Afghanistan

Biosecurity in the Wake of COVID-19: The Urgent Action Needed

Outlasting the Caliphate: The Evolution of the Islamic State Threat in Africa

The looming threat of AI-powered cyberattacks

Dashveenjit Kaur

AI and machine learning are making things convenient for internet users but also for hackers who use AI to orchestrate multiple cyber-attacks.

This is yet another new battlefield in the ongoing war for control over digital infrastructures, but fortunately, it’s one that the AI defenders have long been preparing for.

Over three decades ago, the Morris Worm infected an estimated 10% of the 60,000 computers that were online in 1988. It was the personal malware project of a Harvard graduate named Robert Tappan Morris, that was widely deemed to be the world’s first cyber-attack.

Fast forward to today, and cyberattacks now stand among natural disasters and climate change in the World Economic Forum’s annual list of global society’s gravest threats. In fact, with machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) coming into the picture, cybersecurity is becoming more effective and powerful but there is another side of the coin too. Breaking into computer systems has become a child’s play using AI and ML. 

Understanding Vietnam’s Military Modernization Efforts

By Bich T. Tran

Between 2003 and 2018, Vietnam’s military expenditure increased by some 687 percent. However, the figure itself, while impressive, does not tell the full story of how Vietnam was able to transform the military from a battle-hardened but technologically deficient force of the Vietnam War era into the relatively modern and capable military of the present.

The seeds of Vietnam’s program of military modernization were planted shortly after the establishment of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1976, when the country was invaded by its giant neighbor, the People’s Republic of China. In February 1979, Beijing sent hundreds of thousands of troops over Vietnam’s northern border, following Hanoi’s overthrow of the China-backed Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia the month before. The brief but devastating war cost tens of thousands of lives, including untold numbers of civilians.

When Vietnam launched the doi moi policy to reform and open its economy in 1986, the country’s leaders emphasized the need to strengthen border security and to modernize its military. They aspired to build the Vietnam People’s Army into a regular, reasonably organized, balanced, compact, and robust force in order to protect the nation’s hard-won national sovereignty and maintain the security of its borders, airspace, islands, and surrounding waters.

The U.S. Army Has A Rocket Surprise For Russian Troops In Crimea

David Axe

The U.S. Army sneaked a pair of long-range rocket launchers near Russia’s Black Sea outpost on Thursday, fired off a few rockets then hurried the launchers back to the safety of their base in Germany. All within a few hours.

The one-day mission by the Army’s new Europe-based artillery brigade was practice for high-tech warfare. It clearly also was a message for Moscow. The U.S. Army in Europe has restored its long-range firepower. And it wants the Russians to know.

The Nov. 19 mission began at Ramstein air base in Germany. Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Field Artillery Brigade loaded two wheeled High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, each with three crew, onto U.S. Air Force MC-130J transports.

The C-130s flew the HIMARS to Romania. The crews unloaded, set up at a Romanian training range, fired rockets into the Black Sea, then drove back to the airfield, loaded back onto the C-130s and flew home to Germany.