5 December 2022

Indo-Sri Lankan Relations Hit A Snag: Absence Of Reciprocity Irks New Delhi – Analysis

P. K. Balachandran

Indo-Sri Lankan relations are currently in the doldrums. The bonhomie seen in the early stages of the economic crisis in Sri Lanka when India rushed US$ 4 billion worth of fuel, food and medicines, is now missing. 

Apparently, New Delhi is deeply aggrieved that while accepting Indian largesse, Sri Lanka has not shown due regard for India’s economic, political and strategic concerns. Colombo has not followed up on important economic, strategic and political agreements already entered into by the two countries. 

Perhaps this is the reason why Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to give an appointment to Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe despite repeated efforts by Sri Lanka to secure it. Perhaps this is the reason why Samant Kumar Goel, head of the Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), reportedly visited Colombo on November 21 to meet President Wickremesinghe and the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna’s chief organizer, Basil Rajapaksa. 

A brief history of Pakistan's recent political turmoil


Pakistan recently ousted former Prime Minister Imran Khan, a vocal critic of the military who holds onto the hope of staging a political comeback in 2023. The nation's new army chief claims the military won't meddle in the upcoming elections, but experts have their doubts. Here's everything you need to know:
What's going on with Imran Khan?

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted in April 2022 after unsuccessfully attempting to block a no-confidence vote in his leadership. Khan's increasingly fractured relationship with the military is considered to have been a major contributing factor to his political downfall, the BBC reports.

Following his removal from office, Khan took to hosting political rallies across the country, baselessly claiming that opposition parties were in cahoots with foreign governments, including the U.S., in an effort to remove him from power. At a rally in early November, a gunman shot Khan in the leg in what authorities say was an assassination attempt, reports CNN. The attack sparked a number of protests across the country in support of Khan.

War Over Taiwan?


CAMBRIDGE – Could the United States and China go to war over Taiwan? China regards the island 90 miles (145 kilometers) off its coast as a renegade province, and President Xi Jinping raised the issue at the recent 20th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Though Xi said he prefers reunification by peaceful means, his objective was clear, and he did not rule out the use of force. Meanwhile, in Taiwan, the share of the population identifying as solely Taiwanese continues to exceed the share that identifies as both Chinese and Taiwanese.

The US has long tried both to dissuade Taiwan from officially declaring independence, and to deter China from using force against the island. But Chinese military capabilities have been increasing, and US President Joe Biden has now said on four separate occasions that the US would defend Taiwan. Each time, the White House has issued “clarifications” stressing that America’s “one China” policy has not changed.

Xi Broke the Social Contract That Helped China Prosper

Yasheng Huang

The protests in China against the government’s draconian Covid controls have been compared to those in 1989, when students demonstrated for political reforms and democracy. The 1989 pro-democracy movement occurred in the most liberal, tolerant and enlightening period in the history of the People’s Republic of China, and the regime opened fire in Tiananmen Square — after the ouster of the liberal leader, Zhao Ziyang — because it had run out of every other control tool in its possession. This is called the Tocqueville paradox: An autocracy is most vulnerable when it is least autocratic.

But a closer analogy is April 5, 1976. On that day and the days before, protesters gathered in Tiananmen Square, demonstrating against the tyrannical rule, deteriorating economic conditions and political persecutions by the Gang of Four and, by implication, its patron, Mao Zedong. That was a movement born out of grievances, not aspirations.

China and the challenge to global order

Bruce Jones and Andrew Yeo

For two decades, China sought to profit from key arrangements of the global political and economic order. Now, in several (though not all) domains, China seeks to subvert these long-standing arrangements and prevent the emergence of new ones, in order to broaden its scope for action. It has also started to propose new arrangements under Chinese diplomatic leadership, starting to seek a role as an ordering power. In response, the United States and its Western allies must adapt their strategies. That does not mean refusing to cooperate with China in areas of common interest (for example, nonproliferation); but in most domains, the United States must not just look to the leading democracies but also to a wider constellation of states willing to act in defense of the core purposes of the order.

A rising power may shape its own ambition, but not just as it pleases; it does not choose the world into which it will rise.[1] The balance of power in its region, the overall international balance, and simple geography are inescapable factors that shape a country’s choices as it grows. Other factors include the structure of the global economy, access to natural resources, and the sources of international finance.

Why China Is Still Stuck in a Zero-Covid Nightmare

AFTER PROTESTERS IN China took to the streets in defiance of the nation’s zero-Covid policy, officials responded this week by affirming their strategy but promising tweaks to “reduce inconvenience” to the public. But that’s likely not enough to placate people who have endured measures that extend beyond inconvenience and include harsh lockdowns, food shortages, and economic hardship.

Now, as China finds itself caught in the tangles of its once-praised policy, there’s no clear road back to normal. Zero-Covid is a point of national pride, and it has saved lives. According to the World Health Organization, China has recorded just over 30,000 deaths during the pandemic, whereas more than 1 million people have died in the US.

But China's combination of leaning too heavily on lockdowns and failing to protect its older population with widespread booster shots give the country no long-term solutions. If China were to open suddenly, experts say, high case rates would overwhelm the health care system.

Why Russia’s cyber-attacks have fallen flat

Wars are testbeds for new technology. The Korean war saw jet fighters employed at scale for the first time. Israel pioneered the use of drones as radar decoys in its war with Egypt in 1973. And the Gulf war of 1991 was a coming-out party for gps-guided munitions. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the first time that two mature cyber-powers have fought each other over computer networks in wartime. The result is a lesson in the limits of cyber-power and the importance of having a sound defence.

The popular notion of cyberwar has been shaped by lurid and dystopian scenarios of an “electronic Pearl Harbour”, first envisaged in the 1990s and accentuated by the relentless digitisation of society. Those fears have been fanned by glimpses of the possible. The American-Israeli Stuxnet worm, which came to light in 2010, inflicted damage on Iranian nuclear machinery with fiendish ingenuity. Russian malware sabotaged Ukraine’s power grid in 2015 and 2016.

Ukraine gets by in cyberspace with a little help from its friends

Tim Starks, Aaron Schaffer

Ukraine's cyber defenses get a boost from unusual suspects

Mykhailo Fedorov, vice prime minister of Ukraine and minister of digital transformation, speaks at a technology conference in Lisbon. (Pedro Nunes/Reuters)

Ukraine got cyber help from perhaps some unexpected U.S. sources in the lead-up to the Russian invasion, the leader of Ukraine’s ministry of digital transformation said Thursday.

One of them was the American media, Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said in a visit to The Washington Post. (Surely he wasn’t playing to the crowd.)

“We ended up getting a lot of information about cyberattack vectors and other related information from the media,” Fedorov said through an interpreter. “And that is how we were able to prevent attacks on our energy infrastructure back in December.”

When Did Ukraine Become a Flashpoint?

Ted Snider

Ukraine has always been a nation divided. Northwestern and Central Ukraine, which had once been part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and then the Austro-Hungarian Empire, have always faced west to Europe; the Southeast, long part of the Russian Empire, has always faced east to Russia. Historically, Western Ukraine has voted for presidential candidates with European-oriented policies, and Eastern Ukraine has voted for presidents with Russian-oriented policies. The country is caught in a tug-of-war, vulnerable to being ripped in two.

The rupture happened dramatically after the U.S.-sponsored and -supported coup of 2014. That coup was intended to replace a president who was favorable to Russia with a president chosen by the U.S., and to pull Ukraine closer into the European and NATO security sphere.

The stage was set for the coup when Ukraine was faced with the choice of economic alliance with the European Union or with Russia. As geography and history would predict, Ukrainians were nearly evenly split. When the U.S. and the E.U. rejected Putin’s solution that both could help Ukraine and forced Ukraine to choose, the fateful tug-of-war began.

Setbacks For Moscow, Progress For Kyiv: Russia-Ukraine War And Its Impact On ASEAN, G20 And APEC Summits – Analysis

Ian Storey


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 has impacted the countries of Southeast Asia in many ways. The most important, and damaging, ones have been in economics. The rising price of energy, food and other commodities has lowered GDP growth forecasts and slowed the region’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kremlin’s invasion has undermined the rules-based international order, further aggravated US-China tensions and inserted another wedge issue in ASEAN unity.[1] The conflict has forced regional states to reassess their defence and arms procurement policies, particularly those that have purchased military hardware from Russia.[2] Myanmar’s tightening ties with Russia have the potential to worsen the country’s civil war.

The conflict also complicated the preparations for, and hosting of, three major back-to-back international summits in Southeast Asia in November: the ASEAN Summits in Phnom Penh (11-13 November); the G20 in Bali (15-16 November); and the APEC Leaders’ Summit in Bangkok (18-19 November).

World War III Begins With Forgetting

Stephen Wertheim

In March, as President Biden was facing pressure to intensify U.S. involvement in Ukraine, he responded by invoking the specter of World War III four times in one day.

“Direct conflict between NATO and Russia is World War III,” he said, “something we must strive to prevent.” He underscored the point hours later: “The idea that we’re going to send in offensive equipment and have planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews — just understand, and don’t kid yourself, no matter what you all say, that’s called World War III, OK?”

More than any other presidential statement since Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Biden’s warning signaled the start of a new era in American foreign policy. Throughout my adult life and that of most Americans today, the United States bestrode the world, essentially unchallenged and unchecked. A few years ago, it was still possible to expect a benign geopolitical future. Although “great power competition” became the watchword of Pentagonese, the phrase could as easily imply sporting rivalry as explosive conflict. Washington, Moscow and Beijing would stiffly compete but could surely coexist.

China Has India Trapped on Their Disputed Border

Sushant Singh

During the recent G-20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi got up from the banquet table to shake hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping and have a brief conversation—their first in-person exchange in three years. Although both sides remain tight-lipped about the interaction, it nonetheless raised hopes among observers of a breakthrough in their 30-month border crisis, which began with a deadly clash in Ladakh in 2020. But any resolution that might emerge will not dispel the challenge posed by massive changes at the border undertaken by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

This marks the third straight winter that around 50,000 Indian reinforcements will spend in Ladakh’s inhospitable terrain in the northern Himalayas, warding off an equal number of Chinese troops stationed a few miles away. Despite intermittent dialogue between the two militaries, Indian Army Chief Gen. Manoj Pande recently confirmed that China has not reduced its forces at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Chinese infrastructure construction along the border is “going on unabated,” he said—confirmed by independent satellite imagery and echoed by the latest U.S. Defense Department report on China. Pande said the situation is “stable but unpredictable.” That unpredictability has become structural.

Killing Twitter


CAMBRIDGE – In April 2022, the world’s richest person, Elon Musk, asked, “Is Twitter dying?” Five days later, he launched an apparently whimsical bid to buy the social-media platform. It took months of legal wrangling to complete the deal, but on October 27, Musk honored his $44 billion offer, acquiring a new toy: free speech.

Financially, Musk’s acquisition of Twitter was an odd move. Despite its user base of some 200 million – including politicians, journalists, and celebrities – Twitter has not turned a profit in eight of the last ten years. And not only did Musk sink a substantial chunk of his personal wealth into the purchase; he also borrowed $13 billion from a consortium of lenders – loans that will cost $9 billion in interest payments over the next 7-8 years.

According to Musk, money was never the point. He is seeking to “help humanity,” by investing in a public good: the world’s digital town square. In fact, Musk has now gained considerable influence over that square. By taking Twitter private, its CEO – or Chief Twit, as Musk has called himself – has ensured that he can do as he pleases, with no shareholders to whom he must answer.

Wipers Are Widening: Here's Why That Matters

Derek Manky

In the first half of this year, researchers saw a rising trend of wiper malware being deployed in parallel with the Russia-Ukraine war. However, those wipers haven’t stayed in one place – they’re emerging globally, which underscores the fact that cybercrime knows no borders. 

It’s not just the numbers that are growing; we’re also seeing a rise in variety and sophistication. These wiper varieties are also increasingly targeting critical infrastructure.

Awash with wipers 

The war in Ukraine has undoubtedly fueled a major uptick in the use of wiper malware; FortiGuard Labs research identified at least seven new wiper variants in the first half of 2022 that were used in campaigns targeting government, military and private organizations. That’s almost as many wiper variants that have been publicly detected in total since 2012, when bad actors used the Shamoon wiper to attack a Saudi Arabian oil company.

How Much Of Chinese 5G Technology Is Still Used In Europe? – Analysis

For many years European telecom operators have used Chinese 3G and 4G technology from vendors such as Huawei and ZTE. The issue was a no-brainer. China was not seen as a national security threat –in fact, the EU had signed a comprehensive strategic partnership with China in 2003– and Chinese technology was cheaper and, for many tech experts, even better than that of European vendors like Ericsson and Nokia. Hence, many European telecoms signed strategic partnerships with their Chinese providers and used their technology both in Europe and in their overseas businesses in the Global South.

But along came Trump with his aggressive policy against Huawei and ZTE, and everything changed. In the US, Chinese 5G technology was banned and many close allies followed suit, especially Japan and the other Five Eyes Countries, first Australia and New Zealand, and more recently the UK and Canada. In Europe there was at first some resistance to US pressure to exclude Chinese 5G technology. It could even be argued, back in 2018, that the intense diplomacy exerted by US embassies in many European capitals was counter-productive, as it triggered a backlash. Many pointed out that the Wikileaks wires showed that it was the US which was spying on Europe, not China.

Why Pakistan Can’t Be Pulled Away From China

Michael Rubin

Last week, tens of millions of American families sat down for Thanksgiving dinner. A few, however, have had empty seats for the past fourteen years. Consider, for example, the family of Alan Scherr and his thirteen-year-old daughter Naomi, both of whom Pakistan-based and trained terrorists gunned down in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The terrorists took three other Americans hostage and subsequently tortured them to death.

While Pakistani authorities arrested low-level operatives amidst international outrage and pressure in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, as international attention moved on, Pakistan’s government stopped both its trials and cooperation with international law enforcement. At no point did Islamabad move against the senior Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders who planned the terror attacks and regularly rubbed elbows with senior Pakistani politicians and military officers. To date, Pakistan continues to shelter terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks.

Information Warfare Can Turn Russians Against Putin

Julian Spencer-Churchill, Touraj Riazi

Despite Russian president Vladimir Putin’s 83 percent approval rating, his deceptions about losses in Ukraine and gradual increases in the costs of sanctions make him vulnerable to a Western campaign of information warfare. Putin must now deliver victory or face being removed. Skeptics warn that any perceived foreign interference in Russian society will trigger a defensive nationalism that neutralizes any of the effects of Western-influenced agitation. They will highlight the consistent failure of contemporary psychological warfare units in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and will point to NATO’s collective indifference toward learning about Islamic political culture as a cause that led to those failures.

In March 2022, the war in Ukraine increased support for Putin from 69 to 83 percent. These numbers are similar to when Russia attacked Georgia in 2008 and seized Crimea in 2014, though support dipped temporarily as a result of partial conscription in October. Overwhelmingly, Russians see the war in Ukraine as defensive and preemptive of a worsening situation as NATO expanded east. While some analysts believe these estimates of Russian approval are accurate, the values need to be broken down into five contexts.

Artificial Intelligence and the Arctic

Colin Wall

Maps of the Arctic are misleading. The vastness of the region is not fully captured in two dimensions: the Arctic Circle spreads across roughly 14.5 million square kilometers (km2), a greater area than any country in the world save Russia. This fact is not only trivia; it has serious implications for the well-being of the communities who live there, the militaries who monitor it, and the scientists who seek to better predict the coming global impacts of climate change. To perform their functions well, each of these actors seeks tools to compensate for or overcome these vast distances, as well as the harsh environment that makes sustained presence in the Arctic so challenging. Increasingly, these communities—some of which have been in the Arctic for decades, and others for centuries—are coming to understand that artificial intelligence may be essential to monitor the region and predict changes within it.

In this edition of Northern Connections, the authors tackle the implications of this new tool for national security and climate research. Both pieces illustrate how governments, scientists, and Indigenous communities can use artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) to better understand key Arctic problem sets, particularly those that involve parsing either a massive amount of data or complex and shifting future scenarios. At the same time, both note that AI/ML, while holding immense potential, remains not entirely proven. In some cases, a lack of funding hinders a robust deployment of AI/ML; in others, it must compete with more established and orthodox methodologies.

Crypto’s Well-Worn Path to Crisis


BARCELONA – Swiftly rising interest rates have punctured the cryptocurrency bubble, exposing fragility, bad governance, and even fraud in many corners, most notably at the crypto exchange FTX. And FTX’s spectacular collapse comes on the heels of other recent failures in the cryptosphere, such as Terra-Luna, Three Arrows Capital, or Voyager Digital. No one should be surprised – not even at how many people were surprised.

“There is no new thing under the sun,” Ecclesiastes reminds us. At FTX’s headquarters under the Bahamian sun, the firm’s advertising admonished customers not to “miss out” on “the next big thing” – blockchain-based currencies, financial products, and non-fungible tokens. But only the assets were new. The narrative of the crypto crisis was established long ago.

The collapse began, as financial collapses often do, with a bubble. Investor demand outpaced reasonable near-term expectations of what cryptocurrencies could achieve. Impractical as a means of exchange, the uses of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and the rest seemed limited to financial speculation and illegal activity. But historically low interest rates fueled the mania for what crypto could become. Due dilligence took a back seat to skyrocketing asset prices. Cheap money made it easier for firms to take on excessive leverage. Investors needed increasingly bigger returns to outpace the market and beat their competition. This meant more leverage and more risk-taking.

Military modernization not a threat

Liu Qiang

National defense and military development were included in the report of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October, which said that more quickly elevating the armed forces to world-class standards is a strategic task for the country's modernization.

This has drawn a great deal of attention and comment outside China because it is a major emerging country and its military development is a sensitive subject.

But there is no benefit in repeating the "China threat" theory without a clear and objective understanding of the report.

The report states that the country's military capabilities will be strengthened through reform, science and technology and personnel training. This is a natural response to practical security demands in a changing world and reflects the transparency of China's defense development.