9 July 2021

The PLA’s Developing Cyber Warfare Capabilities and India's Options

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made it clear that his objective for China is to emerge as a ‘cyber superpower’. China wants to be the world’s largest nation in cyberspace and also one of the most powerful. The information technology revolution has produced both momentous opportunities and likely vulnerabilities for china. China is home of largest number of ‘netizens’ in the world. It also hosts some of the world’s most vibrant and successful technology companies. It also remains a major victim of cyber crime. 

Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) believes that with the rise of the Information Age future wars will be contests in the ability to exploit information. Wars will be decided by the side who is more capable to generate, gather, transmit, analyse and exploit information.

China’s Nuclear and Missile Capabilities: An Overview

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Since China first conducted a nuclear weapon test in 1964, its nuclear doctrine has remained unchanged and is underpinned by two principles: a minimum deterrent doctrine and a No First Use (NFU) policy. China’s 2019 defence white paper states, “China is always committed to a nuclear policy of NFU of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances, and not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones unconditionally.”

However, a recent U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) report claims that the scope of China’s nuclear modernisation and its lack of transparency “raise concern that China is not only shifting its requirements for what constitutes a minimal deterrence but that it could shift away from its longstanding minimalist force posture.” The data available show that China is modernising and expanding virtually every element of its nuclear forces, including each aspect of its nuclear weapons and missile, sea, and air delivery systems. What is not clear are China’s current and planned holdings of nuclear weapons, China’s future plans for deploying additional delivery systems, its commitment to some form of NFU, first preemption, or launch on warning, and the extent to which it will accept what might be called a form of ‘minimum assured destruction.

How India Can Take a Strategic Approach to Data Protection


Countries with low state capacity need to think strategically when new regulatory functions are entrusted to the government. Any new task given to a government body requires a careful assessment of how to make the best use of available resources.

India’s proposed data protection law would, if passed, require a similar assessment. The law would establish the Data Protection Authority of India (DPA)—an independent regulatory agency entrusted with the task of regulating the use of personal data across all sectors in the Indian economy. Indian regulators have been historically plagued by capacity constraints, so the DPA would need to build its capacity strategically so its resources are not disproportionately drained.


The proposed DPA’s obligation to handle data breach notifications provides one example of how the DPA would need to think strategically about accomplishing its tasks.

The Personal Data Protection (PDP) bill defines a personal data breach as “any unauthorised or accidental disclosure, acquisition, sharing, use, alteration, destruction of or loss of access to, personal data that compromises the confidentiality, integrity or availability of personal data to a data principal.”

Afghanistan at risk of collapse as Taliban storms the north


Afghanistan is at risk of complete collapse after the Taliban has made dramatic gains in recent days, striking at the heart of the Afghan government’s base of power in the north while seizing control of large areas of the country – often unopposed by government forces.

The security situation has deteriorated rapidly. In the lax six days alone, the Taliban has taken control of 38 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts – nearly 10 percent of the country – and most all of them in critical areas.

In all, the Taliban currently controls 195 districts and contests another 129 districts, according to the real time assessments by FDD’s Long War Journal.

Prior to the Taliban’s offensive, which began in earnest on May 1 – upon expiration of the date that the U.S. government originally committed to completing its withdrawal under the Doha Agreement – the Taliban controlled just 73 districts and contested another 210.

Put simply: The Afghan government controls only a little more than 20 percent of the country at the moment.

Days after interview to India Today on Taliban resurgence, counterterrorism expert Faran Jeffery ‘disappears’

Saikiran Kannan

How Afghanistan has once again become a happy hunting ground for the Taliban, reads the headline of an India Today report that is pinned at the top of counterterrorism expert Faran Jeffery’s Twitter timeline. Published on June 30, the report featured some straight speaking by Jeffery, describing the state of the nation since the United States and allied troops began pulling out from Afghanistan on May 1.

So far, so good? Not really, for Jeffery has now become the hunted, missing since late last night and probably picked up by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) from Karachi.

Based out of the United Kingdom, Jeffery hails from Pakistan and is the deputy director of Islamic Theology of Counter Terrorism (ITCT).

The ITCT is an international think tank countering the narratives of Islamic terrorism and radicalisation through in-depth research and analysis. Its executive director Noor Dahri told India Today, “I believe our deputy director was abducted from his home after his interview got published on India Today. He is an expert on Afghanistan-Pakistan matters and has been quoted by several western media as well, and so, it’s not a valid reason to be abducted.”

EXPLAINER: When is the US war in Afghanistan really over?


WASHINGTON (AP) — As the last U.S. combat troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, the question arises: When is the war really over?

For Afghans the answer is clear but grim: no time soon. An emboldened Taliban insurgency is making battlefield gains, and prospective peace talks are stalled. Some fear that once foreign forces are gone, Afghanistan will dive deeper into civil war. Though degraded, an Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State extremist network also lurks.

For the United States and its coalition partners, the endgame is murky. Although all combat troops and 20 years of accumulated war materiel will soon be gone, the head of U.S Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, will have authority until at least September to defend Afghan forces against the Taliban. He can do so by ordering strikes with U.S. warplanes based outside of Afghanistan, according to defense officials who discussed details of military planning on condition of anonymity.

Resistance Amid Digital Totalitarianism: The Case of Myanmar

Eyako Heh was an intern in the Digital and Cyberspace Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

For the people of Myanmar, the past few months have been marred by precarity. Following a military-led coup on February 1 that resulted in the removal of Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the ruling government, protests have erupted across the country. Lawyers, students, teachers, and others have risen up in direct opposition to the military junta. In turn, security forces have responded with violence, killing more than 750 civilians between February and April.

Hours before the coup, the military began suppressing internet access. Armed troops seized control of multiple internet data centers around midnight, destroying equipment and holding engineers and other workers at gunpoint. Three hours after the seizure, internet access in the country suddenly dropped. A one-year state of emergency was also declared. Over the next several days, hundreds of thousands of civilians began participating in street protests and acts of civil disobedience, resulting in online repression, mass arrests, and killings. Government bans of social media sites soon censored the growing popularity of hashtags such as #voiceoutfordemocracy and #savemyanmar. Since February 1, rolling internet outages along with stay-at-home orders have been used to undermine political mobilization. According to Reuters, internet connectivity since April 2 has been either significantly reduced or completely cut for most hours of the day.

China’s Search for a Negotiated Settlement

George Friedman

Last week, China celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party. The celebration included a plan for the invasion of Taiwan, along with a threat to bloody the heads of China’s enemies. The published plan for invasion, obviously, was merely a cartoon summary of an invasion, designed to intimidate rather than pass tactical information on to the United States. The threat of blood was to make China appear ferocious. The problem was that a planned amphibious invasion needs to include the element of surprise. Amphibious invasions are huge risks and must be surrounded by “a bodyguard of lies,” as was said in World War II, and threatening to bloody its enemies’ heads seems more like a temper tantrum than a threat. Still, China is signaling a readiness for war in the hope it won’t have to fight one.

I have written a great deal in the past few weeks about China’s strategic dilemma and its options for resolving it. Last week, I wrote about the strategy of indirection China and Russia must take with the United States. Focusing on China, I want to consider how that strategy might lead to a negotiated settlement. I want to dive deeper into what I think is the optimal strategy for China.

China 'Will Never Allow' Military Intervention Over Taiwan: Beijing


China has said it "will never allow" any country to intervene militarily in a Taiwan Strait conflict, one day after Japan's deputy prime minister posited a collective defense of the self-ruled island by Japanese and U.S. forces.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, called recent remarks by senior Japanese official Taro Aso "extremely wrong and dangerous," saying they "undermine the political foundation of China-Japan relations."

Aso, who is Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's deputy as well as the country's finance minister, told a political fundraiser in Tokyo on Monday that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan could be seen as an "existential threat" to Japan and its outlying islands.

"If a major incident occurs in Taiwan, it's not at all unusual to consider it an existential threat [to Japan]," Tokyo's Jiji Press quoted him as saying. "In such a case, Japan and the United States will have to work together to defend Taiwan."

CCP drone threats must be countered by Taiwan

Yao Chung-yuan

For several years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has instructed the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to use its range of advanced fighter jets to provocatively probe — and even cross — the Taiwan Strait median line. The PLA has also used aerial drones, which it classifies as “strategic weaponry,” to slip into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), although on a less frequent basis.

In October last year, the PLA flew a drone into Taiwan’s southwesterly ADIZ for the first time. Taiwan’s military used radar and ground-to-air missiles to track the uncrewed aircraft.

In March, the PLA used a new type of aerial reconnaissance drone, the Guizhou Soar Dragon, which again flew into Taiwan’s southwesterly ADIZ and was given radio warnings to leave the vicinity.

During a meeting at the Legislative Yuan in April, the Coast Guard Administration publicly confirmed that Chinese drones have been regularly flying circuits around Taiwan’s Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島), and it did not rule out that the uncrewed vehicles were tasked with collecting military intelligence.

Why has China turned on Israel? - opinion


Amid the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, a surprising voice led the charge against the Jewish state.

While Israel’s defensive military response to thousands of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip generated a predictable outcry from Europe and some on the American Left, it was China that emerged as one of the country’s most strident critics.

Beijing did not hesitate to point the finger at Jerusalem, going so far as to cosponsor the UN Human Rights Council decision to establish a commission to investigate Israeli “violations in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

It was China that pushed the UN Security Council to hold three emergency sessions within a week, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi who described the conflict as Israeli “hostilities,” excoriated Israel and demanded immediate “restraint.”

Explosion Rocks Dubai Port, Container Ship Ablaze


An explosion sent shockwaves across the commercial hub of the United Arab Emirates late Wednesday, when a container ship anchored at Dubai's huge port caught fire, according to the emirate's media office.

A Twitter post from Dubai's state-run media office said the fire reportedly erupted at the Jebel Ali Port and that a team of firefighters was working to control the blaze. The video shows an explosion billowing up in giant orange flames on a stationed vessel at Jebel Ali, the busiest port in the Middle East, located on the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula.

The combustion caused tremors through the city that shook buildings and windows up to 25 kilometers (15 miles) away from the port. No immediate casualties were reported, the government said.

Dubai authorities issued a statement early Thursday saying emergency services had brought the blaze under control. The Dubai Media Office posted footage of firefighters dousing giant shipping containers. The glow of the blaze was visible in the background as civil defense crews worked to contain the fire.

European powers warn Iran over enriched uranium metal production

Iran has begun the process of producing enriched uranium metal, it has told the global nuclear watchdog.

Tehran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the process was to develop fuel for a research reactor.

But uranium metal could also be used to make the core of a nuclear bomb.

European powers said Iran's move breached a nuclear deal and threatened talks to revive it. The US called it an "unfortunate step backwards".

Iran nuclear crisis: The basics

World powers don't trust Iran: Some countries believe Iran wants nuclear power because it wants to build a nuclear bomb - it denies this.

The Long Road to Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh

Thomas de Waal

Rarely has an election in a small post-Soviet country been watched so closely.

Armenia held a snap poll on June 20, after months of turbulence following its crushing defeat in an unexpected six-week war with Azerbaijan over the long-disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh late last year. At times, the passions and pressure generated by the war’s outcome had been so intense that it looked as though the Armenian state would not survive. Yet not only did embattled Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan survive, he won a strong new mandate, against all odds. ...

Why U.S. Drone Strikes Are at an All-Time Low

Michael Hirsh

In August 2020, the man who is now U.S. President Joe Biden’s deputy national security advisor, Jonathan Finer, co-wrote a privately circulated memo titled “Ending the ‘Forever Wars.’” Written with two others who have since joined the Biden administration, Christine Abizaid and Brett Rosenberg, the memo laid out a detailed program for extricating the United States from the two-decade-long campaign dubbed the “war on terror” that began on 9/11.

Six months into Biden’s presidency, the administration has said little about its longer-term plans in dealing with Islamist terrorist groups around the world, apart from announcing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. And yet airstrikes by drones and other U.S. kinetic operations in trouble spots around the world, outside conventional battlefields, have dramatically dropped since Biden took office. The president imposed a partial moratorium as his team conducts an intensive review of every aspect of America’s global counterterrorism efforts, which have spread over two decades from Afghanistan post-9/11 to “Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and parts of the Maghreb, Southeast Asia and West and Central Africa,” as the Finer memo notes.

This limited stand-down is happening in spite of rare exceptions like this week’s airstrikes by U.S. F-15s and F-16s on storage facilities used by Iran-backed militias in Iraq.

Chronicle of a Defeat Foretold

Christina Lamb

In 2008, I interviewed the United Kingdom’s then outgoing military commander in Afghanistan, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, in a dusty firebase in Helmand Province, where international troops had been battling the Taliban on a daily basis for territory that kept slipping away. The war in Afghanistan could not be won militarily, Carleton-Smith told me. He was the first senior coalition military officer to say so publicly, and the story made the front page of the British Sunday Times. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates promptly denounced Carleton-Smith to the news media as “defeatist.”

Thirteen years on, U.S. President Joe Biden appears to have reached the same conclusion as the British brigadier. In April, Biden announced that the United States would pull all its remaining troops out of Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of 9/11, ending what he referred to as “the forever war.” But by now, such a withdrawal was all but a foregone conclusion: the Taliban had proved a stubborn enemy that was not going anywhere and that indeed controlled close to half the country’s territory.

Coronavirus Variant Has Some Worried about a New Autumn Wave

Matthias Bartsch, Markus Becker, Jörg Blech, Jan Friedmann

It’s Wednesday morning in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s offices. It’s already summer recess for parliament, but Merkel’s cabinet continues to hold meetings. The country has to be governed, after all. The issue at hand is the new delta variant of the coronavirus and a growing dispute among the German states. Some state governors are calling on the chancellor to make sure there are stricter controls on travelers returning to Germany and the debate is triggering irritation in the cabinet.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) noted in the meeting that airlines are already required to check the paperwork to make sure passengers have been tested. Besides, the states also need to do their jobs, he said, complaining that they and municipalities aren't doing enough to monitor adherence to the two-week mandatory quarantine for travelers returning from countries like Britain and Portugal, where the virus variant has become widespread.

The Shocking Enormity of Russia’s Botched Pandemic Response

Alexey Kovalev

MOSCOW—As I write this, Russia is firmly in the grip of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every day, there are about 22,000 reported new infections—twice as many as during the peak of the first wave in May 2020—and more than 600 deaths. The new Delta variant of the virus, which Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin says is responsible for 90 per cent of new infections in the Russian capital, has caught Russia almost completely unawares. Despite having access to the brain power and resources of one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, Russian authorities have repeatedly squandered almost every chance to beat the pandemic. Their massive, bloated propaganda apparatus failed to do the one job it was designed for: Get the message out. Instead, the pandemic has exacerbated the crisis of trust between the Russian government and citizens. Now, the campaign for parliamentary elections in September could make fighting the pandemic even harder, since the ruling United Russia party may be even more reluctant to impose unpopular measures such as lockdowns.

Russian independent observers and journalists—including me and my colleagues at Meduza—already knew something was terribly off with Russia’s handling of the pandemic in late spring of 2020. We had looked at the numbers and recognized that COVID-19 deaths were being underreported in many regions of Russia. According to the official statistics at the time, tens of thousands of Russians were dying in 2020 of a mysterious pneumonia epidemic unrelated to COVID-19. This was hardly plausible. The more likely explanation: Russian regional authorities were writing off the majority of COVID-19 cases as “community-acquired pneumonia.”

Africa’s ‘Big States Crisis’ Has Deep Historical Roots

Howard W. French

One of the most important problems in modern African history is also among the most widely misunderstood.

For decades, both journalists and scholars have lamented that Africa’s borders were drawn up by outside powers, beginning with Europe’s so-called Scramble for Africa, between 1881 and World War I. This threw all sorts of linguistically, religiously and politically disparate groups into newly formed colonies and, soon afterward, new African nations, in which they were suddenly forced to try to get along together in the task of building independent republics. ...

Hackers attack websites of Ukraine's president and security service

KYIV, July 7 (Reuters) - A cyber attack hit the websites of Ukraine's president, security service and other institutions on Tuesday afternoon but they were working again by the evening, the state service for special communications said on Wednesday.

It did not say who was behind the attack.

Kyiv has previously accused Russia of orchestrating cyber attacks as part of a "hybrid war" against Ukraine. Russia denies this.

Kyiv and Moscow have been at loggerheads since Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and backed separatists in a conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region which Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people.

This AI Helps Police Monitor Social Media. Does It Go Too Far?

SINCE 2016, CIVIL liberties groups have raised alarms about online surveillance of social media chatter by city officials and police departments. Services like Media Sonar, Social Sentinel, and Geofeedia analyze online conversations, clueing in police and city leaders to what hundreds of thousands of users are saying online.

Zencity, an Israeli data-analysis firm that serves 200 agencies across the US, markets itself as a less invasive alternative, because it offers only aggregate data and forbids targeted surveillance of protests. Cities like Phoenix, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh say they use the service to combat misinformation and gauge public reaction to topics like social distancing enforcement or traffic laws.

Speaking to WIRED, CEO Eyal Feder-Levy describes the service’s built-in privacy safeguards, like redacting personal information, as a new approach to community engagement. Still, local officials who use Zencity describe a variety of new and potentially alarming uses for the tool, which some cities use without a public approval process, often through free trials.

A 'Colossal' Ransomware Attack Hits Hundreds Of U.S. Companies, A Security Firm Says

WASHINGTON (AP) — A ransomware attack paralyzed the networks of at least 200 U.S. companies on Friday, according to a cybersecurity researcher whose company was responding to the incident.

The REvil gang, a major Russian-speaking ransomware syndicate, appears to be behind the attack, said John Hammond of the security firm Huntress Labs. He said the criminals targeted a software supplier called Kaseya, using its network-management package as a conduit to spread the ransomware through cloud-service providers. Other researchers agreed with Hammond's assessment.

"Kaseya handles large enterprise all the way to small businesses globally, so ultimately, (this) has the potential to spread to any size or scale business," Hammond said in a direct message on Twitter. "This is a colossal and devastating supply chain attack."

Such cyberattacks typically infiltrate widely used software and spread malware as it updates automatically.


Thomas G. Pledger

The technology of today, while impressive, is developing the tactics and techniques of future terrorist attacks. The most prescient current technology that will enable future terrorist attacks is the drone. Drones have the ability of providing standoff, which can enable terrorists to conduct multiple attacks nearly simultaneously, rapidly magnifying their overall effect. A terrorist attack is meant to create an atmosphere of fear to influence a target audience—a civilian population or government—to force or impose political change. The massive increase in the number of form factors, capabilities, ease of access and ease of operation of drones at low cost will make them the weapon of choice for future terrorists.

The majority of past terrorist attacks have relied on weapons and materials that were readily available. In the United States, the perpetrators of the most significant attacks in the past 30 years, the Oklahoma City bombing1 and the 9/11 attacks,2 purchased the majority of their required materials legally. In addition to acquiring materials, terrorist groups need individuals to carry out their attacks. Many groups typically conduct attacks with the expectation that their members will sacrifice themselves during the attack, either by being caught or killed. The use of drones, however, can allow an individual or a small group to conduct multiple attacks without self-sacrifice.

Army Readies New Tech for Communications Modernization (Updated)

Mandy Mayfield

The Army is gearing up for Project Convergence 2021 where it will field a number of new modernized tactical communications technologies.

Network modernization is one of the top priorities being spearheaded by Army Futures Command. The new capabilities are intended to improve the capacity and resiliency of the service in order to compete in high-end fights against near-peer adversaries.

To achieve its network goals, the Army is pursuing a series of two-year capability sets. Each set has a number of design objectives including: unified network; common operating environment; joint interoperability/coalition accessible; and command post mobility/survivability, according to the service.

The Army completed the preliminary design review for the next round of network tools, known as Capability Set 23, in April, service officials told reporters during a media day hosted at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia.

Panzers, Beans, and Bullets

Michael Peck

Even 80 years after a fateful Sunday in June 1941, when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, questions still abound. Why did the invasion come so close to victory before faltering? How did Russia turn catastrophe into a triumph that made the Soviet Union a superpower for the next 50 years?

Whatever the answer to these questions are, there is no question World War II transformed the world we live in. Eastern Europe was redrawn, leaving contested borders, bitter feelings, and smoldering conflicts from Poland and Ukraine to Chechnya. For Russian President Vladimir Putin, glorifying the Great Patriotic War isn’t just commemoration of 27 million dead Soviet soldiers and civilians but also a political lifeline. The T-34 tanks that drove from Moscow to Berlin—and now clank through Moscow’s streets on Victory Day parades—are a reminder of what Russia once was and what nationalists hope Russia might be again.

Yet when more than 3 million German and German-allied troops surged across the border on June 22, 1941, many expected Operation Barbarossa to be a walkover. “Bolshevism will collapse as a house of cards,” predicted Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. An embarrassingly large number of U.S. and British experts agreed, mindful of then-Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s officer corps purges and the Red Army’s incompetent performance against tiny Finland in the 1939 to 1940 Winter War. An unending series of Soviet military disasters in the summer and fall of 1941—including the killing or capture of 650,000 Soviet soldiers at Kyiv—only reinforced that opinion.