6 November 2021

India in Space Domain - Pathbreaking Developments

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


India is now a major spacefaring nation. Initially, the Indian space programme was focused primarily on societal and developmental utilities. Today, like many other countries, India is compelled to use space for several military requirements like intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Hence, India is looking to space to gain operational and informational advantages.

India has had its fair share of achievements in the space domain. It includes the launch of the country’s heaviest satellite, the GSAT-11 which will boost India’s broadband services by enabling 16 Gbps data links across the country, GSAT-7A, the military communication satellite and the launch of the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV Mk III-D2, the GSAT 29. The Anti-Satellite (ASAT) test is an intrinsic part of today’s geopolitics and the national security context.

Social Media in Violent Conflicts – Recent Examples

 Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)


Alan Rusbridger, the then editor-in-chief of the Guardian in his 2010 Andrew Olle Media Lecture, stated, “News organisations still break lots of news. But, increasingly, news happens first on Twitter. If you’re a regular Twitter user, even if you’re in the news business and have access to wires, the chances are that you’ll check out many rumours of breaking news on Twitter first. There are millions of human monitors out there who will pick up on the smallest things and who have the same instincts as the agencies—to be the first with the news. As more people join, the better it will get. ”

The most important and unique feature of social media and its role in future conflicts is the speed at which it can disseminate information to audiences and the audiences to provide feedback.

This Move By China During Standoff With India Detailed In Pentagon Report

Washington: Chinese military installed a fibre optic network in remote areas of the western Himalayas region, during the height of the border standoff with India in 2020, for increased protection from foreign interception, a Pentagon report said on Wednesday.

A new report titled "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China 2021", details how "acute tensions and clashes along the border with India resulted in significant PLA force buildup and establishment or enforcement of forward positions along the Line of Actual Control."

"At the height of the border standoff between the PRC and India in 2020, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) installed a fibre optic network in remote areas of the western Himalayas to provide faster communications and increased protection from foreign interception," the report said.

Ultraconservative triumph puts Pakistan at risk

James M. Dorsey

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan may have averted for now further violence by caving in to demands of a militant, supremacist religious group. But in doing so, Mr. Khan is allowing radical ultra-conservatism to fester, undermining social cohesion, threatening economic development, and giving militants a say in foreign policy.

The government’s surrender to Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan or ‘I am Present Pakistan ‘(TLP), an outlawed far-right group, comes at a moment that Mr. Khan has taken several steps towards Islamicizing Pakistani society.

It also comes on the heels of ultra-conservatives in Pakistan feeling emboldened by the Taliban victory in Afghanistan. Further, the cave-in will do little to support Pakistan’s efforts to be removed from the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international anti-money laundering and terrorism finance watchdog.

The Most Dangerous Global Flashpoints

Taiwan is America’s most dangerous flashpoint. China’s rise and America’s relative decline, when joined with recent polls suggesting that Americans support defending Taiwan against Chinese aggression, increase the odds of a clash in the South China Sea.

America’s post-World War II position was never guaranteed to last. The U.S. military remains the most effective deterrent against Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, but U.S. diplomacy has lost its edge. China may take advantage of these realities.

Defending Taiwan is a noble cause and one that policy makers must consider honestly and seriously. But it would be foolish to rely on a strong military or to be lulled to sleep by public opinion. America must balance diplomacy with clear markers for when military intervention in the South China Sea becomes inevitable.

— Clark Irvine, Harvard University, international and global affairs

Shutting Down Historical Debate, China Makes It a Crime to Mock Heroes

Steven Lee Myers

The young woman in Beijing began her post complaining about mobs gathering online, where recluses vent misogynistic insecurities from the safety of desk chairs. As provocative as it was, it might have passed unnoticed except that she added another beat.

She mocked the toxic masculinity of users imagining themselves as Dong Cunrui, a textbook war hero who, according to Chinese Communist Party lore, died valiantly during the civil war that brought the party to power in 1949.

For that passing reference, the woman, 27 and identified in court only by her last name, Xu, was sentenced last month to seven months in prison.

Her crime: violating a newly amended criminal code that punishes the slander of China’s martyrs and heroes. Since it went into effect in March, the statute has been enforced with a revolutionary zeal, part of an intensified campaign under China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to sanctify the Communist Party’s version of history — and his vision for the country’s future.

Blue Flag exercise has Israel’s enemies seeing red

Bradley Bowman, Brig. Gen. Jacob Nagel (ret.) and Ryan Brobst

Israel flexed its military and political muscle last month, hosting its largest and most advanced air force exercise ever. The Blue Flag 2021 exercise included dozens of fighter aircraft from at least eight major countries and a landmark visit from the chief of the United Arab Emirates Air Force.

The exercise provided flight crews an opportunity to share best practices, improve interoperability, and refine the integration of fourth- and fifth-generation fighter aircraft operations. Much to the chagrin of those who seek to delegitimize, isolate and attack Israel, the exercise also demonstrated growing international respect for Israel as a regional leader and military power with deep operational experience.

France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States all sent fighter aircraft and personnel to Israel to participate in Blue Flag 2021. Participating aircraft included Israeli F-35Is, F-15Ds and F-16Cs; French Rafales; U.K. Typhoons; Italian F-35s and G550 early warning aircraft; German Typhoons; Greek F-16s; and Indian Mirage 2000s. The United States had wanted to send F-35A aircraft in addition to the F-16C aircraft that participated, but couldn’t due to scheduling challenges.

Iran and Israel accuse each other of cyber-attacks in escalating ‘Cold War’

Borzou Daragahi

Iran and Israel appear to be stepping up tit-for-tat cyber attacks on each other’s civilian information technology infrastructure in what appears to be the latest phase of their escalating rivalry.

On Wednesday, Israelis were assessing the wreckage after attacks by a suspected Iranian-linked hacker collective Black Shadow on a medical institute and LGBTQ+ dating website that resulted in the leak of private information about tens of thousands of Israelis.

The attacks followed a 26 October cyber-attack on a network of Iranian petrol stations, which Tehran has attributed to Israel.

“Black Shadow is a cover for an Iranian attack group which operates under a criminal cover,” Harel Menashri, an official with Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet, told the Kan television network. “Iran works through the cyber systems from a strategic point of view - to damage Israel’s financial and intelligence sectors.”

No first use of nuclear weapons is still a bridge too far, but Biden can make progress toward that goal

Robert Einhorn


In its current Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the Biden administration, like previous U.S. administrations, will review the circumstances in which the United States would consider the use of nuclear weapons. In particular, it will decide whether to adopt a declaratory policy of no first use (NFU) in which U.S. nuclear weapons would only be used in response to a nuclear attack against the United States or its allies and partners. Supporters of NFU, who may well include President Joe Biden, face especially strong headwinds in making their case in the present environment. If NFU once again proves to be a bridge too far, the Biden administration should consider alternative means of demonstrating its commitment to reducing the role of nuclear weapons, particularly in deterring or responding to non-nuclear attacks.

Specifically, the Biden NPR should make clear that the circumstances in which the United States might consider the use of nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear attacks are extremely limited and significantly more limited than suggested by the 2018 NPR. The Biden NPR should also declare that adoption of NFU/sole purpose is a U.S. goal and that the administration will work to put in place the conditions that would allow that goal to be adopted without undermining U.S. and allied security interests. To show the administration is serious about following through on that declaration, the NPR should direct an internal study that would identify those conditions and the policies and programs that would accelerate their realization. It should also call for establishing consultative mechanisms with allies charged with developing a common understanding of the conditions for declaring NFU/sole purpose as well as with promoting and monitoring progress toward fulfilling those conditions.

US strategic clarity on Taiwan wouldn’t unleash a spiral of escalation

Simon Cotton

As tensions across the Taiwan Strait rise, pressure is growing on the US administration to deter China more effectively by giving up on strategic ambiguity and moving towards a policy of strategic clarity. Indeed, last month we may have had an indication that this is already occurring. When asked at a CNN townhall whether the US would come to Taiwan’s defence if China attacked, President Joe Biden didn’t equivocate: ‘
Yes,’ he said, ‘we have a commitment to do that.’

This has been universally reported as a provocative misstatement. The reaction from Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund, is emblematic: ‘The President has a tendency to make gaffes but this is potentially quite dangerous … This is the only issue the US and China could go to war over so it’s something the administration has to be very careful on.’

There are a couple of issues with that interpretation. First, it’s possible that Biden’s statement was intentional. Given that he has said similar things in the recent past, it may be that he has decided to signal a move away from strategic ambiguity on an unofficial level. We’ll have to wait and see if he continues to contradict the official line.

DOD Releases 2021 Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China

The Department of Defense announces the release of its annual report on “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China.” The congressionally mandated report serves as an authoritative assessment on military and security developments involving the PRC.

This year’s report provides a baseline assessment of the Department’s top pacing challenge and charts the maturation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The report accounts for the PRC’s evolving national strategy and outlines the strategic objectives driving the PLA’s defense policy and military strategy. It also covers key developments of the PLA’s military modernization and reform, and provides insights into the PRC’s regional and global ambitions.

This includes the PLA developing the capabilities to conduct joint long-range precision strikes across domains, increasingly sophisticated space, counterspace, and cyber capabilities, and accelerating the large-scale expansion of its nuclear forces.

What is cyber-terrorism, and is it a threat to U.S. national security?

Christopher O’Brien


The primary defense and security concerns of the 21st-century have been and will continue to be driven by the strategic phenomena of cyberspace and terrorism.[i] However, there are several competing definitions of both cyberspace and terrorism, and there is no universally accepted definition for many cyber-related activities (i.e. cyber-terrorism, cyber-warfare, and cyber-crime). Cyber-terrorism is often loosely defined as the “convergence of terrorism and cyberspace,” which allows for a wide range of interpretation and confusion.[ii] This paper provides a more pragmatic definition of cyber-terrorism by addressing the nuances of previously proposed definitions in order to help the U.S. national security apparatus address current and future threats. Additionally, it will discuss what constitutes a cyber-terror attack and how it differs from other cyber-crimes. Lastly, it will then determine what threat, if any, cyber-terrorism poses to U.S. national security. To do so, I will first provide definitions for both cyberspace and terrorism which are helpful for understanding the distinct phenomenon of cyber-terrorism.

With China, a ‘Cold War’ Analogy Is Lazy and Dangerous

Joseph S. Nye Jr.

A new idea is gaining currency among some politicians and policymakers in Washington: The United States is in a Cold War with China. It’s a bad idea — bad on history, bad on politics, bad for our future.

The Biden administration has wisely pushed back on the framing. But the president’s actions suggest that his strategy for dealing with China may indeed suffer from Cold War thinking, which locks our minds into the traditional two-dimensional chess model.

Competition with China, though, is a three-dimensional game. And if we continue to play two-dimensional chess, we will lose.

While neither the conflict with the Soviet Union nor the current competition with China has led to all-out combat, the games are very different. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was a direct military and ideological threat to the United States. We had almost no economic or social connections: Containment was a feasible objective.

U.S. and China Climate Goals: Scenarios for 2030 and Mid-Century


In September 2020, President Xi Jinping announced new goals for China to reach carbon neutrality before 2060, as well as to strengthen its existing 2030 commitments under the Paris Agreement. With these announcements, China has signaled a move to join the European Union—as well as the United States under a Biden administration—in leading long-term climate action among the big emitters.

Our analysis demonstrates that if China’s new long-term goal covers all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and not just carbon dioxide (CO₂), this could bring the country within reach of the emissions reductions required by mid-century for its actions to be in line with the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal of limiting average global temperature increases to 1.5°C. However, if President Xi’s announcement is only meant to cover CO₂, then China would need to achieve carbon neutrality around 2050 for this to be compatible with the Paris Agreement.1

Either way, China’s short-term actions will also need to be quickly brought into line with its new long-term trajectory. This includes doing more than simply peaking CO₂ emissions before 2030 as President Xi foreshadowed. Instead, our analysis demonstrates that China would need to peak its emissions by 2025 and rapidly reduce these thereafter to be compatible with the Paris Agreement. This also implies a need for significant adjustments to the other quantifiable targets identified in China’s existing Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement and the ramping up of action to achieve these. Reducing coal-fired power generation quickly and phasing it out entirely by 2040 would be an important step toward achieving this early peak and rapid reductions.

Human Rights Are Under Attack. Who Will Protect Them?

Globally, human rights remain under attack, whether by populist movements desperate to gain power or authoritarian governments eager to maintain it. Technology has opened up new frontiers for curbing people’s ability to express and share dissenting ideas. And broad assaults are underway on institutions like the International Criminal Court, which was established not only to offer recourse for the victims of rights violations, but to establish an international human rights benchmark. Instead, respect for human rights is being replaced by a dangerous intolerance.

Around the world, populist authoritarians have built their movements by demonizing minorities. In Brazil, for instance, President Jair Bolsonaro has reveled in his provocations, calling into question women’s rights as well as those of the LGBT and indigenous communities. In Poland, incumbent President Andrzej Duda ran for reelection—and won—on an explicitly anti-LGBT platform.

The United Nations Could Finally Create New Rules for Space


ON MONDAY, A group of diplomats from the United Kingdom proposed that the United Nations set up a group to develop new norms of international behavior in space, with the aim of preventing the kinds of misunderstandings that could lead to war. As spacefaring nations advance their military satellite capabilities, including being able to disrupt or damage other satellites, such provocative behavior could escalate already-tense diplomatic situations—and create more space debris in low earth orbit, a crucial region that’s already chock-full of derelict spacecraft.

This is the first significant progress in developing space rules in more than four decades. The most important piece of space law, the Outer Space Treaty, was negotiated by the fledgling space powers in 1967. “Meanwhile, space is getting increasingly complicated,” says Victoria Samson, the Washington office director for the Secure World Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank based in Broomfield, Colorado. There are many players in space now; new kinds of cyberweapons and lasers can jam, dazzle, or spoof satellites; and tens of thousands of satellites are orbiting in the sky.

National security and the climate frontlines


UN climate summit COP26 is in action, with over 30,000 delegates from around the world are meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, to work out specific measures to support commitments made in the Paris Agreement 6 years ago. As with every meeting of this kind, there are many speeches and even more promises and pledges made — but as we have also learned, real action has often fallen short after the fanfare ends.

The world was reminded of this shortfall early into the conference when Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, a small island state on the frontlines of climate change, gave an impassioned speech. She called for climate finance for the world's most vulnerable regions and reminded world leaders and the countries that promised climate finance of $100 billion a year that they were failing to meet the commitment.

She reminded attendees that the world had spent $25 trillion on quantitative easing since 2013, with $9 trillion in the last 18 months alone. In 2019, pre-COVID, the difference was in the order of $20 billion. So why is the world so slow to provide the necessary finance to support mitigation and adaptation in the most climate-stressed regions of the world, which are also areas identified as high on the U.S. national security agenda?

Combating Terrorism Center (CTC)

Commentary: Data, AI, and the Future of U.S. Counterterrorism: Building an Action Plan

Discordance in the Iran Threat Network in Iraq: Militia Competition and Rivalry

A View from the CT Foxhole: Lieutenant General (Ret) H.R. McMaster, Former National Security Advisor

Lessons from the Collapse of Afghanistan’s Security Forces

Strengthening international cooperation on AI

International cooperation on artificial intelligence—why, what, and how

Since 2017, when Canada became the first country to adopt a national AI strategy, at least 60 countries have adopted some form of policy for artificial intelligence (AI). The prospect of an estimated boost of 16 percent, or US$13 trillion, to global output by 2030 has led to an unprecedented race to promote AI uptake across industry, consumer markets, and government services. Global corporate investment in AI has reportedly reached US$60 billion in 2020 and is projected to more than double by 2025.

At the same time, the work on developing global standards for AI has led to significant developments in various international bodies. These encompass both technical aspects of AI (in standards development organizations (SDOs) such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) among others) and the ethical and policy dimensions of responsible AI. In addition, in 2018 the G-7 agreed to establish the Global Partnership on AI, a multistakeholder initiative working on projects to explore regulatory issues and opportunities for AI development. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) launched the AI Policy Observatory to support and inform AI policy development. Several other international organizations have become active in developing proposed frameworks for responsible AI development.

A View Of The Future Of Our Data


Spend time with people interested in data policy, and you will hear wild, florid language. Terms like “self-sovereignty,” “data colonialism” and “surveillance capitalism” share sentences with comparisons of data transactions to organ sales. These colorful metaphors beg for your attention, contrasting startlingly with the insipid transmissions of ones and zeroes to which they refer. Much of this talk is confused and misled, but it is not overheated. Language is simply sputtering before the vastness of the issue.

This happens to technical people regularly. In the 1990s, those who really understood the internet could not voice their predictions without eliciting eye rolls. During much of the last decade, blockchain enthusiasts sounded ridiculous to everyone except one another.

Today, it is policy thinkers who are dumbstruck regarding the question of data regulation. Because while not everyone quite sees it yet, the policy decisions now facing us will shape society and democracy for decades.

Facebook Drops Facial Recognition to Tag People in Photos

FACEBOOK ON TUESDAY said it would stop using facial recognition technology to identify people in photos and videos and delete accompanying data on more than 1 billion people.

The news marks the end of one of the largest known facial recognition systems. Outside of face unlock for smartphones and applications in airports, Facebook’s auto tag is perhaps the most common form of facial recognition technology people encounter. In a blog post, Facebook VP of artificial intelligence Jerome Pesenti said the decision reflected a “need to weigh the positive use cases for facial recognition against growing societal concerns.”

Facebook has used a facial recognition system to automatically detect people in photos, videos, and Memories since 2010, drawing criticism from privacy advocates and incurring hundreds and millions of dollars in fines from government regulators. A Facebook spokesperson told WIRED that billions of photos tagged with the assistance of facial recognition over the span of the past decade will keep those labels. Cues and signals about a person’s social circle that have been gathered from photos and videos using facial recognition will also presumably remain intact.

Why the promise of nuclear fusion is no longer a pipe dream

Andy Ridgway

It sounds like the stuff of dreams: a virtually limitless source of energy that doesn’t produce greenhouse gases or radioactive waste. That’s the promise of nuclear fusion, which for decades has been nothing more than a fantasy due to insurmountable technical challenges. But things are heating up in what has turned into a race to create what amounts to an artificial sun here on Earth, one that can provide power for our kettles, cars and light bulbs.

Today’s nuclear power plants create electricity through nuclear fission, in which atoms are split. Nuclear fusion however, involves combining atomic nuclei to release energy. It’s the same reaction that’s taking place at the Sun’s core. But overcoming the natural repulsion between atomic nuclei and maintaining the right conditions for fusion to occur isn’t straightforward. And doing so in a way that produces more energy than the reaction consumes has been beyond the grasp of the finest minds in physics for decades.

Pentagon details China info war on U.S.

Bill Gertz

China is engaged in influence operations targeting U.S. society aimed at building support for the communist nation’s policies and strategies, according to the Pentagon‘s latest annual report on the Chinese military.

“The PRC conducts influence operations, which target cultural institutions, media organizations, business, academic, and policy communities in the United States, other countries, and international institutions, to achieve outcomes favorable to its strategic objectives,” the report said.

Little academic research has been done in the United States to track the influence operations, which have been successful in shaping Americans’ understanding of China. Many media organizations and think tanks often reflect Chinese government propaganda and messages, such as the theme that China poses no threat to the U.S.

What a “converged battlefield” means to the future of air… I mean, joint warfare "Any sensor, any shooter" means more fighting flexibility—and more complexity.


With the war in Afghanistan in the rearview mirror, US military planners are trying to pivot toward a very different set of challenges than fighting the Taliban. Competition with what Department of Defense officials have commonly called "near peers" presents a set of new challenges to a military that has been focused for the past two decades on counterinsurgencies and terrorism. The United States wants to maintain its ability to respond to nonstate, "asymmetric" adversaries while also figuring out how to fight countries that are America's technological equals.

Enlarge / Two examples of China's fifth-generation fighter, the Chengdu J-20, performing this year at the 13th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, China.
China News Service / Getty Images


Jahara Matisek

The Russian bear isn’t going to wear the same outfit the next time it decides to invade another neighbor. While Moscow used the pretext of defending ethnic Russians and peacekeepers in South Ossetia to overtly invade Georgia in 2008, President Putin learned lessons from how that conflict unfurled. In 2014, unmarked Russian troops masquerading as “Little Green Men” seized all of Crimea, with most Ukrainian police and military personnel responding to Russian incentives and joining Russian forces. While local anti-Russian groups formed in Crimea—one such group, called InformNapalm, identified Russian troops using open-source intelligence, while also uploading data and videos naming and shaming Russian forces—Russia still quickly annexed Crimea and created a “civil war” in the Donbas.

As there typically needs to be a casus belli (a justification for war), the next time Moscow attempts to expand its regional sphere of influence there will likely be a similar pretense for deploying Russian troops. But just as Russia’s approach in Ukraine took on a different form from what was seen in Georgia six years earlier, the Russian costume will definitely be different. A fictional scenario of Russia deploying “Little Blue Helmets” (i.e., fake UN peacekeepers) to a Baltic country (Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania) illustrates one such new form that Russian revanchism could take. To be clear, this is not to suggest that such an outcome is among the most likely, or even that there is evidence that it sits in a playbook somewhere on a dusty Kremlin shelf. But given some states’ willingness to leverage the legitimate image of peacekeeping operations to pursue their unilateral strategic objectives, engaging with this particular hypothetical scenario offers a useful and plausible means of exploring what options are available to respond to another Russian military adventure abroad. In short, it is aimed at ensuring the United States and its European allies and partners are not caught as flatfooted as they were in 2014. The potential solutions that derive from that exploration are all based on recent Homeland Defense Institute (HDI) fieldwork and interviews in Ukraine and the Baltics.