6 April 2023

Beijing Issues Third List of Chinese Names for Places in India’s Arunachal Pradesh

Sudha Ramachandran

Is the list aimed at warning India against hosting an upcoming air combat exercise with the U.S., where Japan will participate as an observer?

The Chinese government has released a list of what it calls “standardized geographical names” for 11 places in Arunachal Pradesh, along with a map depicting much of this Northeast Indian state as part of what it refers to as “Zangnan,” the southern part of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The list, which China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs released on April 2, provides coordinates of two residential areas, five mountain peaks, two rivers and two other areas, all in Arunachal Pradesh, and their names in Chinese characters, Tibetan and pinyin.

The Chinese move is yet another attempt by Beijing to strengthen its claims over Indian territory in the eastern sector of the disputed Sino-Indian border i.e. in Arunachal Pradesh. As the noted Tibetologist Claude Arpi told The Diplomat last year: “This is part of the propaganda to assert China’s claims.”

India reacted with a strong statement in response to the Chinese renaming of Indian places. “We reject this outright. Arunachal Pradesh is, has been, and will always be an integral and inalienable part of India,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement, adding that “attempts to assign invented names will not alter this reality.”

India-Bhutan Relations: A Shift on the Doklam Plateau?

Samadrito Mukherjee

In 2017, a military standoff between India and China took place in the Doklam Plateau, which is claimed by both China and Bhutan. During the standoff, Bhutan maintained a firm stance against China, with India providing support to Bhutan. However, in recent years, Bhutan’s stand on Doklam has shifted, causing concern in India about the future of India-Bhutan relations.

The recent shift in Bhutan’s stance on the Doklam Plateau has caused a significant impact on the longstanding and mutually beneficial ties between Bhutan and India. The change has caused concerns in India about Bhutan’s commitment to their strategic partnership and has made it difficult for India to trust Bhutan’s diplomatic reliability. Moreover, this shift may also pave the way for China to increase its influence in Bhutan, thereby undermining India’s position in the region.

The India-Bhutan partnership has been built upon a strong foundation of trust, cooperation, and friendship. According to recent data, bilateral trade between the two nations has witnessed a steady growth rate of over 20% in the last five years, reaching $1.4 billion in 2020. India has been a significant contributor to Bhutan’s economic development, with New Delhi providing financial assistance to Bhutan for various infrastructure projects, including hydropower plants, roads, and airports.

Additionally, Bhutan has always relied on India for its security, and India has played a crucial role in safeguarding Bhutan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. India has also been a key partner in Bhutan’s socio-economic development, contributing to the education and healthcare sectors. The two countries have also cooperated closely on regional and international issues, including climate change and terrorism.

Why India Downplays China’s Border Threat

Happymon Jacob

In the last decade, China emerged as India’s most consequential national security challenge, a reality that has become more pronounced since a deadly skirmish at the countries’ disputed border nearly three years ago. In June 2020, Indian and Chinese troops clashed along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Galwan Valley—the worst such incident in decades. The standoff remains unresolved. As geopolitical tensions rise, China’s superior military strength and proximity to India enhance the intensity and immediacy of its threat.

India recognizes the danger China poses to its security, and the current Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has taken some steps to meet the challenge—but it remains reluctant to publicly acknowledge them. Meanwhile, India has lost territory to China along their disputed border since the 2020 clash, and another border skirmish further east last December shows that its deterrence is breaking down. In addition to the BJP’s electoral considerations, New Delhi’s aversion to speaking openly about Beijing’s threat stems from a few factors, from the growing power differential between the countries to a lack of political will within the BJP.

For India, responding to Chinese aggression is not only a military question; it’s complicated by political and business interests that have led to incentive structures for New Delhi when it comes to deciding if, when, and how to counter Beijing. Ironically, the BJP’s culture of hypernationalism prevents it from purposefully addressing the threat emanating from China. But without a shift in approach, China’s looming influence is only likely to keep building.

India’s Bans Ghaznavi Force, the Jammu and Kashmir-based Terrorist Group

Animesh Roul

On February 17, the Indian government banned the Kashmir-centric Islamic militant group called the Jammu and Kashmir Ghaznavi Force (JKGF) (egazette.nic.in, February 17). A relatively new entrant in the Kashmir landscape, JKGF emerged as a hybrid strike unit comprised of highly trained cadres of Pakistan-based Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TuM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM).

JKGF is also believed to have cooperated with various militant groups, such as al-Badr, Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGH) (Zee News, February 13, 2020). The group is assumed to be named after senior Hizbul commander Yasin Itoo, whose nom de guerre was Ghaznavi and who was killed in August 2017 during an encounter in Shopian. It is also possible that the group is named after Muslim ruler Mahmud of Ghazni (Afghanistan), who was notorious for invading India several times in the 11th century and is often eulogized by the Taliban and other Islamic militant groups in the Indian subcontinent.

Emergence and Initial Operations

The emergence of JKGF in February 2020 coincided with the first anniversary of the deadly Pulwama terror attacks in February 2019. These attacks claimed the lives of 40 paramilitary force personnel and were carried out by Pakistan-based JeM (India Today, Februrary14). Intelligence agencies report that the newly created JKGF might conduct Pulwama-style suicide attacks in Kashmir again. Expected targets include security convoys, government establishments, and security installations. Besides reinvigorating militancy in Kashmir, JKGF has trafficked arms and drugs, as well as facilitated the infiltration of militants from Pakistan. It has also executed a series of grenade attacks against security forces in Kashmir in the past few years, and has utilized social media platforms such as Twitter, Telegram, and Facebook for propaganda and recruitment. These generally exhort young Muslims to fight against India (Kashmir vision, February 17).

Digital Public Goods for Education: The Indian Experience


The coronavirus pandemic drastically accelerated the adoption of technology in school education. Governments worldwide reacted to pandemic-related school closures by urgently implementing digital solutions and platforms. According to a UNICEF data sheet, more than 90 percent of countries have implemented some form of remote learning policy. The retreat of coronavirus has uncovered structural problems in these hastily implemented solutions. Some of these problems include siloed solutions, lack of evolvability, vendor lock-ins that compromise sovereign control, and proprietary solutions that are not customizable. As a result, many pandemic solutions either have been abandoned or have not found any further investment. A UNICEF report revealed that “stagnation in access to digital learning made during the COVID-19 pandemic, as one-third of nationally developed platforms have entirely shutdown, are outdated, or no longer fully functional, limiting learning approaches to help schoolchildren recover their education.”

Despite this, India has stood out as an exception. This article outlines the combination of policies, frameworks, and principles that resulted in a successful and sustainable implementation of digital public infrastructure (DPI) in India. It is hoped that this could inform G20 deliberations and consultations.


DPI is made up of solutions and systems that enable the effective provision of essential society-wide functions and services. DPI should be seen as a public good that enables private-sector growth, prevents digital monopolies, and safeguards the rights and freedoms of all.

National Resistance Front (NRF) Fails to Foment Unrest Against the Taliban

Jacob Zenn

The National Resistance Front (NRF), which is led by Ahmad Massoud, had intended to challenge the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan after the Taliban took over the country in August 2021. However, since the Taliban’s September 2022 claim to have killed dozens of NRF fighters at their main base in Panjshir, the NRF has seemingly disappeared from the scene (aljazeera.com, September 14, 2022). Massoud himself frequently appeared in media interviews and gave press statements up until that point. More recently, however, the NRF has been accused of profiting from the funding it received while siphoning money to leaders based in the West (twitter.com/@tamimasey, March 27). According to this perspective, the NRF is comparable to former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, who was condemned by Mike Pompeo, former US Secretary of State, for his alleged corruption and failure to negotiate any agreement with the Taliban before it retook Kabul (timesofindia.com, January 29).

Massoud, for his part, has claimed that the NRF has 4,000 fighters—not an insignificant number, but dwarfed by the nearly 100,000 fighters in the Taliban’s ranks (politicstoday.org, February 21). In one of his more recent appearances, Massoud attributed the fall of Kabul to the Afghan government, which he said had betrayed the people.

Further, Massoud claimed that he had only belatedly began developing the NRF’s military capacity out of a sense of trust in the Afghan armed forces’ ability to ward off the Taliban, and a desire not to undermine them. Whatever the reason, the NRF’s efforts proved too little, too late, as it subsequently succumbed to the Taliban on the battlefield in Panjshir (Youtube.com/HudsonInstitute, December 7, 2022).

The “Indo-Pacificization” of Asia: Implications for the Regional Order

Justin Au-Yeung

The Indo-Pacific is a vast geographical region that encompasses the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Oceans, including the many seas in Southeast Asia and Oceania. In a geopolitical context, the term only started to appear in the lexicon of geopolitics in the late 2010s. The late Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo first referred to the confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans in mid-2007, and the official use of “Indo-Pacific” first appeared in Australia’s 2013 Defense White Paper. Since then, the U.S., India, EU, and ASEAN have all published their respective visions and strategies for the Indo-Pacific. What drove the emergence of this vast super-region in the geopolitical discourse?

Mental Maps, the Far East, and the Asia-Pacific

Regions are social constructs that serve political agendas. Fundamentally, they are mental maps that revolve around power, shape identity, agenda setting, and sense of belonging as a stakeholder in a shared space. Regional identities form the basis for which a state perceives itself vis-à-vis others. A logical consequence of the dynamic nature of political agendas is that regional constructs are also dynamic, and subject to reflect the given state of international relations.

The contemporary Indo-Pacific construct is a relatively recent phenomenon. Previously, the term “Far East” was widely used. The term has mostly fallen out of popular use, due to its certain connotations with eurocentrism, colonialism, and cultural exoticism. The term was also initially used by Imperial Japan, but it later opted for “East Asia” in an attempt to create an alternative region order in the form of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Is a New Russia-China-India Bloc Forming in the East?

Mohamed Zeeshan

Putin’s grand plans hinge on an India-China thaw. Can he convince Xi to ease tensions with India?

Last week, a potentially consequential meeting in New Delhi went conspicuously unnoticed in much of the West. On the sidelines of a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s powerful Security Council, met India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a private interaction.

Details about what was discussed are notoriously skimpy in the public domain, but getting a meeting with Modi is no easy task and the conversation certainly had a compelling context.

Ever since the Ukraine war began, Russia’s economy has relied heavily on trade ties with India and China to keep its war effort going. The unprecedented extent of the West’s sanctions on Moscow meant that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin had to essentially build a parallel economy to sidestep dollar transactions and keep those ties going.

Just so, in the aftermath of the invasion, Russia’s trade with China in the Chinese yuan multiplied by an extraordinary 80 times. At a meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping last month, Putin spoke of a longer-term plan to rely on the yuan as its currency of choice. “We are in favor of using the Chinese yuan for settlements between Russia and the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America,” he said.

China Is Eating Russia’s Lunch in the Defense Market


In the new Sino-Russian defense relationship, China does what it wants, and there isn’t a whole lot Russia can do about it.

Xi Jingping’s recent visit to Moscow—his first since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine last year—was summed up by historian Sergey Radchenko in this way: “The summit can be summarised by the Chinese saying 雷声大雨点小 (Loud thunder but few raindrops). Scratch that, even the thunder wasn’t all that loud.”

The meeting, which apparently produced no major policy shifts nor even notable statements of support, did further illustrate a tectonic shift in the supposed "no limits" relationship: China is taking the lead in nearly every aspect, including in the defense-industrial sphere once dominated by Russia.

Russia’s modern defense ties to China go back to the 1920s. when the new Communist regime in Moscow initially supported the Kuomintang, rather than Mao’s forces, during the Chinese civil war and in the battle against imperial Japan. But Stalin eventually came to back the Chinese Communist Party, handing over Manchuria and its heavy industry in 1945, then supplying economic aid and helping to establish the nascent People’s Republic of China’s civilian and defense manufacturing sector. During this period, the USSR willingly transferred various military technologies to the PRC, including systems that China eventually recast into the J-5 and the J-6 fighter aircraft, as well as the H-6 bomber. This was not merely an expression of goodwill; by allowing an ally to copy their designs, the USSR was able to not only arm a close partner without stressing its own manufacturing, but also rely on them for a supply of materiel to other client states, such as during the Korean War.

The Cost of Biden’s ‘Democracy’ Fixation

Walter Russell Mead

From his 2021 address through the Munich Security Conference to last week’s Summit for Democracy, President Biden has been clear. He wants to frame world politics as a contest between liberal democracy and autocracy. That’s unfortunate. While not completely misguided, this approach hampers America’s diplomacy overseas and further erodes the weak consensus at home behind a strong American foreign policy around the world.

Mr. Biden is invoking an old American tradition here. Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt framed the world wars as conflicts between democracy and dictatorship. And from Harry S. Truman to Ronald Reagan, America’s Cold War presidents used similar language.

Mr. Biden isn’t all wrong. If the U.S. and its allies lose the contest, and people like Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin and their hangers-on in countries like North Korea and Nicaragua get to determine the world’s future, democracy isn’t going to flourish.

Nevertheless, the president and his team need to think again. Defining the current contest as one between democracies and autocracies is a flawed strategy. Abroad, this approach weakens America’s ties with key allies and exposes us to devastating charges of systemic hypocrisy. At home and abroad, the widespread unpopularity of the expanded version of democracy Mr. Biden expounds—including controversial stands on issues like trans rights—is too polarizing and divisive to support the long-term consensus American foreign policy needs for success.

America Can Win the AI Race

Paul Scharre

Throughout history, technology has been critical to determining which countries dominate global politics. By rapidly industrializing in the 1800s, Germany and the United Kingdom overtook Russia in economic strength. Europe’s broader industrialization had an even more profound effect. In 1790, Europe, China, and India held roughly the same shares of global manufacturing output, but by 1900, Europe—then home to a quarter of the world’s people—controlled 62 percent of the world’s manufacturing. By contrast, China had six percent and India had less than two.

European powers translated their economic might into military power, launching a wave of colonial expansion. By 1914, Europeans occupied or controlled over 80 percent of the planet’s land surfaces. The states were able to make this translation because the Industrial Revolution had altered the key metrics of power, transforming coal, steel, and oil production into critical components of military success. In World War II, the United States turned its mighty manufacturing capacity to the business of war, retooling factories to build tanks and airplanes and making its military into the world’s most powerful. At the height of the war, Allied factories were producing over 3.5 times as many aircraft and tanks as the Axis powers, burying Germany, Japan, and Italy beneath an onslaught of iron.

Washington has maintained its leading position in the intervening century in large part because of technology. After the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik, the United States surged its investments in science and technology, building the world’s leading universities and technology companies. But technology is never static, and today the world is reckoning with an innovation that could prove just as transformative as nineteenth-century industrialization: artificial intelligence. Its powers, once largely confined to science fiction, are becoming common and ubiquitous. Just as the Industrial Revolution created machines that were physically stronger than humans, the AI revolution is creating machines that are cognitively smarter than humans. GPT-4, the successor to ChatGPT, recently achieved human-level performance on the SAT, the GRE, and the bar exam. And AI is rapidly improving. It is already transforming jobs from computer programming to fighter jet piloting, and it will continue to alter professions in the future.

Taiwan’s President Quietly Met With U.S. Senators Ahead of Kevin McCarthy Sit-Down

Lindsay Wise and Joyu Wang

A bipartisan group of senators quietly met with Taiwan’s president in New York last week, expressing support for the island’s democracy and touting legislation that would impose stiff economic and financial sanctions against China if it invaded Taiwan.

The meeting with Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Joni Ernst of Iowa and Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona was disclosed just as Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and the Biden administration are heading into the most pivotal event in her closely watched travels through the U.S.

Ms. Tsai plans to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) on Wednesday, which Beijing has warned would lead to unspecified retaliation, testing the ability of the U.S. and China to manage tensions.

“There’s this pressure, let’s face it, that’s being put on—a full-court press” by the Chinese Communist Party, Mr. Sullivan said in an interview. “When you have a leader of this important democracy come to your own country, it’s more important than ever to make sure that dictators in Beijing don’t dictate who we can or cannot meet with, especially on American soil.”

Chinese spy balloon gathered intelligence from sensitive U.S. military sites, despite U.S. efforts to block it

Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee

The Chinese spy balloon that flew across the U.S. was able to gather intelligence from several sensitive American military sites, despite the Biden administration’s efforts to block it from doing so, according to two current senior U.S. officials and one former senior administration official.

China was able to control the balloon so it could make multiple passes over some of the sites (at times flying figure-eight formations) and transmit the information it collected back to Beijing in real time, the three officials said. The intelligence China collected was mostly from electronic signals, which can be picked up from weapons systems or include communications from base personnel, rather than images, the officials said.

The three officials said China could have gathered much more intelligence from sensitive sites if not for the administration’s efforts to move around potential targets and obscure the balloon’s ability to pick up their electronic signals by stopping them from broadcasting or emitting signals.

The Defense Department directed NBC News to comments senior officials made in February that the balloon had “limited additive value” for intelligence collection by the Chinese government “over and above what [China] is likely able to collect through things like satellites in low earth orbit.”

US chip controls threaten China’s technology ambitions


BEIJING (AP) — Furious at U.S. efforts that cut off access to technology to make advanced computer chips, China’s leaders appear to be struggling to figure out how to retaliate without hurting their own ambitions in telecoms, artificial intelligence and other industries.

President Xi Jinping’s government sees the chips that are used in everything from phones to kitchen appliances to fighter jets as crucial assets in its strategic rivalry with Washington and efforts to gain wealth and global influence. Chips are the center of a “technology war,” a Chinese scientist wrote in an official journal in February.

China has its own chip foundries, but they supply only low-end processors used in autos and appliances. The U.S. government, starting under then-President Donald Trump, is cutting off access to a growing array of tools to make chips for computer servers, AI and other advanced applications. Japan and the Netherlands have joined in limiting access to technology they say might be used to make weapons.

Xi, in unusually pointed language, accused Washington in March of trying to block China’s development with a campaign of “containment and suppression.” He called on the public to “dare to fight.”

Like it or Not, the US Faces a Russia-China Axis

Chels Michta

The US worries that China is about to supply Russia with weapons and ammunition. But the Beijing-Moscow alliance is already a danger.

There is much dispute about what China has sent to aid Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, and what it might send in the future. While the administration has warned against such deliveries, some already seem to be underway. Whatever China’s defense, assault rifles aren’t really hunting weapons and body armor isn’t needed to protect against wildlife.

Regardless, the two countries are already locked into an alliance. Treating them as separate threats is naïve. The Sino-Russian alliance is creating a potential two-front crisis for the United States which both powers are already exploiting. The US and its democratic allies must now acknowledge and confront this threat.

Of course, things could get worse, and quickly. It’s true that the two are already major trading partners (trade rose by 34% last year), that Russia has for years provided military technology to China, and is now offering much greater access to its top technology institutes, and that Putin and Xi have declared a “no limits” partnership.

And yet there have been clear limits, including the provision of mass-produced heavy arms and ammunition to Russia, especially for artillery units suffering a shell famine.

If China was to take such a decision, it would transform the war into a larger conflict directly pitting Beijing against the US, while forcing our European allies — many of whom are intricately tied to the Chinese manufacturing sector and its markets — to choose sides, with potentially dramatic consequences for their economies battered by COVID and the loss of cheap energy from Russia.

Forging a High-Technology Partnership Between the United States and India in the Age of Export Controls


For all the talk about U.S.-China decoupling and its implications for the currently rickety narrative of globalization, recent years have demonstrated that reports about the looming demise of globalization are exaggerated. Instead, a recalibration is underway of the long-prevailing terms on which globalization had played out and that were fundamentally premised on just-in-time supply chains.

A lot of the discussions on what globalization will look like in the future revolve around companies operating in multiple jurisdictions shifting their supply chains to other countries as a part of the process of global value chain diversification. It is here that experts have spoken about India possibly entering the fray as a candidate for where these supply chains can be relocated. This is the second-order effect of supply chain fragmentation—a scenario where India must jockey with other countries that seek to onshore such supply chains.

While India has positioned itself admirably to benefit from the fractious nature of the U.S.-China relationship, most of the onshoring to India has been in the form of consumer technology products like mobile handsets and solar energy equipment. What is missing from the picture is a focus on cutting-edge high-technology items like semiconductors, high-performance computing, and commercial space technology.

These sectors are significant for India as it starts to take an unprecedented interest in developing its high-technology sectors. Key members of the present government have also realized that a long-standing proclivity for a service-sector-led economy—India’s engine of growth—is simply not feasible at a time when India seeks to advocate for and transition to a more vigorous industrial base. It is here that a U.S.-India high-technology partnership assumes significance. However, U.S. export controls, specifically those under a regime called the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (the ITAR), may need to be carefully considered before this partnership can deliver.

The Intensifying Trend Of Global De-Dollarization

Wei Hongxu

There has been a recent accelerating trend towards “de-dollarization” in emerging markets. According to media reports, on April 1, the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that India and Malaysia had agreed to settle trade in Indian rupees.

Earlier, India and Russia were also pushing for a local currency settlement mechanism to move beyond the U.S. dollar. On March 29, Brazil announced that it had reached an agreement with China to no longer use the dollar as an intermediate currency, but to settle trade in local currencies. This signifies that, except for South Africa, all of the BRICS countries have substantially begun to use local currency settlement as an alternative to dollar settlement in trade. Earlier on January 18, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor publicly stated that the country was studying how the BRICS countries could help to establish a fairer currency trading system to challenge the dollar’s dominance. It is apparent that the “de-dollarization” of trade settlement promoted by the BRICS countries, which are the main force in emerging markets, has become a trend.

On March 28, the Meeting of ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in Indonesia discussed reducing dependence on the U.S. dollar, euro, yen, and pound in financial transactions and shifting toward local currency settlement. ASEAN will further extend and expand the local currency trading (LCT) plan, which was previously attempted as a digital currency, to allow its member countries to use local currencies for trade. A day before, the Indonesian banking regulator stated that Indonesian banks are preparing to gradually phase out VISA and Mastercard and launch their own domestic payment system. Countries in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are also trying to diversify the settlement currency in the oil trade. These can all be seen as new trends in currency localization promoted by emerging markets over a period of time.

Glacial Melt is Dispossessing Nepal’s Indigenous Communities

Tulsi Rauniyar

Shrinking glaciers are forcing residents to flee, leaving a scattering of ghost towns across the country’s unforgiving north.

The journey to the Fuchhme Glacier, in the Himalayan peaks of northern Nepal in Mustang, begins thousands of feet below, in the capital Kathmandu, a city of 1.4 million people, where smoke from diesel trucks and brick kiln fire dims the sky. The route passes through a churning sprawl of mid-hill cities until the trans-Himalayas come into view. A steep wall rising above the plains, the Himalayas are the product of a tectonic collision that began millions of years ago and is still underway. From there, the road snakes upward, past the deepest gorge in the world bearing trucks and taxis and every other kind of moving evidence of Nepal’s economic transformation. In the mountains, the number of cars drops sharply — limited by the rough terrain. After the town of Tatopani, the air cools, and the road cuts through forests of spruce, cedar, and fir.

At higher elevations, the valley deepens; the walls rise a thousand feet on either side, in layers of colored sediment, each representing a different mineral and a different epoch. The landscape surrounding the Fuchhme Glacier is desolate, but with an occasional surprise: a Himalayan griffon vulture, a butterfly with purple wings. A solitary black crow flew along the length of the glacier.

War in Taiwan will dwarf Ukraine unless the US shows China its teeth

Simon Tisdall

It is generally acknowledged that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, drawing in the US and possibly Japan, Australia and Britain, could dwarf the Ukraine crisis both in scale and danger. Top US generals and officials have repeatedly warned an attack is becoming more probable and more feasible. And yet it remains spectacularly unclear what the Biden administration would actually do in response.

The longstanding US policy of “strategic ambiguity”, designed to leave Beijing guessing about Washington’s intentions, has helped keep a lid on cross-strait tensions. But the dynamic has changed radically with the rise of China’s president, Xi Jinping, to a position of supreme power and the advent of his aggressive approach to Taiwan and international relations as a whole.

Xi vowed again last month to annex the self-ruled island, which he regards as China’s property. “We should actively oppose the external forces and secessionist activities of Taiwan independence. We should unswervingly advance the cause of national rejuvenation and reunification,” Xi told the National People’s Congress. Xi pointedly did not rule out the use of force.

American ambiguity becomes more problematic as time passes. US president Joe Biden has confused matters further with unscripted remarks. Asked in September whether, unlike in Ukraine, he would send US troops to defend Taiwan, Biden replied: “Yes, if in fact there was an unprecedented attack.”

This is not official US policy – although it probably should be. Biden’s words were swiftly disowned by his senior officials amid furious Chinese protests. Under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the US is committed “to provide Taiwan with arms of defensive character”. The aim is deterrence, not war-fighting.

Nuclear Power Plants in War Zones: Risks and Remedies

Dr. Manpreet Sethi 

In January 2023, an American non-governmental organisation, the Arms Control Association, announced the winner of its annual Arms Control Person(s) of the Year. Based on an online poll of 3,500 participants from 80 countries, the award recognised the staff of the Ukrainian nuclear energy generating company, Energoatom. Besides honouring the heroism of nuclear operators in difficult circumstances, the award also drew attention to the risks faced by nuclear facilities in war zones.

Ukraine, with its 15 reactors across four nuclear power plants, has highlighted a new vulnerability of civilian nuclear infrastructure caught up in inter-state conflict. Deriving 50 per cent of its total electricity from nuclear energy, the Russia-Ukraine war has not only disrupted reactor operations to impact overall electricity availability, but also endangered plant safety and security.

It has been particularly worrisome to watch both sides use nuclear power plants (NPPs) to score tactical victories, ignoring the strategic risks caused by their actions. Ukraine, for instance, has reported that after taking over these sites, Russian troops have used them to shelter themselves and their ammunition. Russia, on the other hand, has accused Ukraine of attacks on Russian-occupied plants to induce disaster. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu called it “nuclear terrorism from Kyiv.” He also alleged that the nuclear plants still under Ukrainian control, such as at Rivne, are being used to store Western supplied arms.


The IPCS taskforce (TF) on climate security in India was convened over 2021-22. It is part of a multi-year project on the security implications of climate change for South Asia, executed in partnership with the Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands. A track 1.5 initiative, the TF comprised Indian academics, climate experts, scholar-activists, technical experts, and security practitioners. These were 19 specialists—one of whom requested anonymity—from diverse backgrounds who wouldn’t otherwise find themselves in the same room.

We held three full-group virtual TF meetings; these were supplemented by small group discussions to vet member inputs and finalise language. Disagreement was particularly encouraged. TF members approved the minutes of each meeting before proceeding to the next stage. This report is therefore a consensus-based document. Presented as six questions and answers and a policy framework recommendation, it distils deliberations that were structured around the four primary prompts listed below, and several injects:

•Understanding the relationship between climate change and security
•Identifying existing, emerging, and new climate security fault-lines
•Discerning institutional approaches to address climate security
•Conceptualising a broad definition of climate security that best reflects Indian experiences.

The TF was conceptualised during the COVID-19 pandemic and draws some of its rationale from it. We have seen the pandemic irrefutably confirm the obvious, i.e. the insufficiency of existing security frameworks to tackle hybrid challenges. These challenges defy easy categorisation (such as ‘traditional’ and ‘non-traditional’ security). The security implications of climate change follow the same logic. We are able to acknowledge it as a 'problem', but the problem can’t be solved unless we know what it looks like in practice. Nor can we articulate these risks if we don’t yet have the language to do so.

Asia’s Nuclear Future

Cheryl Rofer

Even in today’s unsettled environment, the prospects for additional states to develop nuclear weapons are low. But if there is a next nuclear power, it’ll be found in Asia.

This photo provided by the North Korean government shows what it says is a ballistic missile in North Pyongan Province, North Korea, on March 19, 2023. North Korea says its ballistic missile launch simulated a nuclear attack against South Korea. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified.Credit: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

It may not happen for some time, or at all, but the next nation that joins the nuclear club will be in Asia.

South America and the Caribbean are nuclear-free under the Treaty of Tlatelolco. Likewise, African countries have foresworn nuclear weapons under the Treaty of Pelindaba. The Treaty of Rarotonga covers Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific islands, and the Antarctic is covered by a treaty too. Europe is united by Russia’s imperial war against Ukraine and sits under the protection of NATO’s nuclear umbrella.

More broadly, most nations around the world have promised, under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), not to develop or acquire nuclear weapons. Most of those outside the NPT are in Asia. Three of the Asian states outside the NPT are already nuclear powers: India and Pakistan, and North Korea, which withdrew from the NPT in 2003.

Several states in Asia have motives to proliferate, inspired by complex regional conflict dynamics and domestic ambitions alike. North Korea tests missiles. China builds up its nuclear arsenal and patrols the South China Sea aggressively. India, Pakistan, and China contest borders. Iran ratchets up its uranium enrichment. The mix of nuclear and non-nuclear nations and the complexity of the conflicts in Asia can make nuclear weapons look attractive.

A Comprehensive Framework for India’s Climate Finance Strategy


In November 2022, at COP27, India submitted its Long-Term Low Emission Development Strategy (LT-LEDS) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This long-term strategic transition, by various estimates, will require not billions, but trillions of dollars of investment. Yet India currently lacks a comprehensive climate finance strategy for mobilizing the capital required to execute on the LT-LEDS. A piecemeal approach to attracting the capital required will not work.

What should be the key pillars of India’s climate finance strategy? This article argues four key pillars must underpin India’s climate finance strategy: private sector mobilization, international institutions and partnerships, a blend of financial instruments, and innovation finance. Each of these pillars is outlined below.


India must mobilize much more private sector capital than public financing. Despite having publicly committed to mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020 in support for vulnerable countries coping with climate change, Western governments have repeatedly cited their own domestic fiscal pressures and expressed their inability to fund the climate transitions of developing countries. India has argued that, given rich countries’ historical contribution to carbon emissions, this is a shirking of their responsibility. It has advocated strongly for the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, which holds that developed countries have more responsibility for climate mitigation than developing countries do.

However, India cannot afford to delay investing in its own climate transition. Even as it continues to put pressure on Western governments to meet their moral and financial commitments, India must also realize that the solution lies in mobilizing resources in the private sector. The private sector is not just better placed, but also much more willing to step in. Large corporations and financial firms increasingly view the climate transition as a once-in-an-era economic opportunity and not as a moral or ethical challenge.

Digital Security Act: Between Devil And The Deep Blue Sea

Shafiqul Elahi

Perhaps, the Digital Security Act-2018 (DSA) is the most discussed law in the past few years. The narrative regarding it is also perhaps the most dichotomous. While the dissidents and anti-establishment activists coin it as a draconian law, the ruling party activists try to defend it. It seems the outlook regarding the law is now between the devil and the deep blue sea.

The latest Prothom Alo incident and fragmented response from the journalist society at the national level have further ignited the debate. But between two fires, amending is the best way.

From ICT Act to DSA

As Information and Communication Technologies spread rapidly, the government introduced ICT Act 2006. But the law had several weaknesses. Only 426 cases were filed between 2006-2013. In 2013, the law was amended and the result was visible. In 2017, 568 cases were filed under the ICT act; and in 2018, the number increased to 676. However, the law still had limitations, as hardly any cases were solved.

To address the limitations of the ICT Act and address emerging security threats, the government introduced DSA in 2018. Such laws to ensure security in cyberspace is common around the world. Take, for instance, India’s ICT Act 2000. During the formulation process, the government engaged stakeholders such as civil societies and prominent journalists in developing the draft bill.

Release the Robot Hounds: Providing Unmanned Ground Vehicles to Ukraine

Zachary Kallenborn and Marcel Plichta


Drones do a lot more than fly. In the Russia-Ukraine war, both sides are using unmanned systems in multiple domains. Ukraine forces made use of unmanned surface vessels (USVs) to attack the Russian black sea fleet last October. Recently, Russia deployed four Marker Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) to support its war efforts in Ukraine. The three-ton, five-wheel Marker is a modular system, which can mount anti-tank missiles, heavy machine guns, grenade launchers, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) launch modules, jammers, or other weapons. Although four UGVs are unlikely to turn the war in Russia’s favor, the United States and allied countries should respond in kind, supporting Ukraine’s military and civil authorities with UGVs.

Some UGVs already made their way to Ukraine, but not nearly enough. Estonia sent 14 THeMIS UGVs configured for casualty evacuation to Ukraine and defense firm QinetiQ US announced it would be sending a small batch of UGVs mid-2022. These transfers, however, fall significantly short of the full potential demonstrated by UGVs currently on the market or prototyped. Modern UGVs can accomplish a much wider variety of missions, from direct fire support to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) defense to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). In sufficient numbers, UGVs could create meaningful effects and provide useful lessons learned to inform future U.S. and allied efforts beyond just casualty evacuation and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD).

Drone-on-Drone Combat in Ukraine Marks a New Era of Aerial Warfare

Jason Sherman

In the skies over Ukraine, a new epoch in air warfare is emerging: drone-on-drone combat.

These aerial duels don’t involve bullets, missiles or bombs. In some, hobby-type camera quadcopters that are used to spy on enemy positions simply ram each other in a crude aerial demolition derby. In other encounters, highly sophisticated craft use advanced radar—backed by artificial intelligence and the latest aerospace engineering technology—to precision fire nets that snag other drones.

“This is something we haven’t seen before,” says Caitlin Lee, who leads the Center for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Autonomy Studies at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies in Arlington, Va. “This is the first time we’re seeing drone-on-drone conflict.”

And the action in Ukraine suggests that even more novel kinds of aerial conflict—including combat drones armed to fight in tandem with piloted aircraft—are coming to the broader world of warfare. The U.S. Air Force, for example, now envisions a fleet of 1,000 high-performance uncrewed aircraft paired with its most advanced combat jets. This plan is in response to China’s growing challenge to the U.S. military’s 75-year air dominance. Beyond the battlefield, weaponized drones could, from the skies above any city, easily threaten things such as crowd safety at major sporting events, prison security and critical infrastructure. (Of course, much of the underlying technology is also expected to usher in changes for the good in the realm of peaceful applications. Drones have already been successfully used to rush extremely perishable donor organs to transplant patients.)

UK to use AI to detect foreign threats that may be overlooked by humans

A new government department – the Open Source Intelligence Hub (OSINT) – will use information gathered from open sources to assist its more traditional intelligence services, MI5 and MI6, said UK security minister Tom Tugendhat

New Delhi: UK’s security minister Tom Tugendhat has come up with a plan wherein the country’s intelligence services will use information compiled by artificial intelligence to help detect foreign threats that might be overlooked by humans.

Tugendhat said a new government department – the Open Source Intelligence Hub (OSINT) – will use information gathered from open sources to assist its more traditional intelligence services, MI5 and MI6.

Lessons from Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine have shown how information from open sources can help identify threats, provided analysts are not swamped by data, Tugendhat said.

“Traditional spying will still lift the curtain on the plans of our enemies,” The Telegraph quoted Tugendhat as saying. “We still need to listen and look where they want to hide,” he added.

He said that “intelligence has changed” over the past decade, prompting the UK’s intelligence services to devise new methods to identify and eliminate foreign threats.

Are We There Yet? The Artemis Accords, India, and the Way Forward


In the more than two years since the Artemis Accords were envisioned, announced, and executed, considerable progress has been made. Twenty-three countries, including a large number of spacefaring countries, have signed the accords, which lay out a framework for a new era of space exploration. Although certain countries with highly developed space programs, such as Russia and China, have refrained from joining and instead criticized the accords, the Artemis mission has continued without any major glitches. Yet at the same time, getting India—a major spacefaring nation—to sign on to the accords has proven to be elusive so far. Considering that several major non–NATO allies have signed on to the accords, India’s absence is notable and all the more conspicuous given that it has been considering potential participation in the accords for well over a year now.

To be sure, India has signed an “implementation agreement” that is seen as a legal instrument related to the Artemis Accords. However, more importantly, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is still not a partner agency when it comes to any of the missions conceived under the Artemis Accords. As India considers potential participation in the accords, it is worth exploring what could be the roadblocks.

Often, space is considered too esoteric or technical a topic to merit being put center stage in a bilateral relationship that is habitually too comfortable sticking to the usual talking points of defense cooperation, antiterrorism, climate change, agriculture, and, recently, semiconductors. Why space does not occupy a position commensurate with these other disciplines—why any talk of cooperation is limited to the Civil Space Joint Working Group’s (CSJWG) discussions—has become an increasingly important question. The answer to this question has several parts. First, “space is hard,” as the popular adage in the industry goes, and this leads to discussions that are mired in technicalities and necessitate the involvement of the countries’ respective space agencies. Second, working together on projects is a good way to gauge each other’s capabilities and gradually work together toward more ambitious missions. However, efforts must be made to infuse this bilateral space cooperation with a sense of vigor. Galvanizing cooperation here will require the issue of space to be treated on par with the more conventional areas of cooperation mentioned above.

Desperate For Artillery, Ukraine And Russia Are Reactivating Guns From The 1940s And ’50s

David Axe

Modern mechanized warfare is, more than anything, an artillery fight. The army with the most big guns and ammunition wins—by throwing more explosives at the battlefield.

So it makes sense that, when an army runs out of modern guns and ammo, it might reach deep into its warehouses for replacements.

And that’s how the Ukrainian army wound up with guns from the late 1940s, while the Russian army deployed artillery that’s just a few years younger.

A video that circulated online on Saturday depicts Ukrainian army gunners firing KS-19 100-millimeter guns, apparently during training.

The KS-19 is an anti-aircraft gun from 1947. While it was designed to lob high-explosive shells at targets in the air, up to five miles high and 13 miles away, there’s no reason it can’t toss the same shells at targets on the ground.

The low elevation of the KS-19s in the video speaks to the Ukrainians’ intentions. Maybe they mean to deploy the aged guns to the front line as traditional artillery, in a surface-to-surface role. Or maybe they’re just using the KS-19s to familiarize new gunners with the basic functions of a generic artillery piece.

In any event, it’s telling that the Ukrainians have dragged at least a few of the 10-ton KS-19s—with their four-wheel, towed chassis—out of long-term storage.

Tank tactics: how might Ukraine use its influx of western armour?

Peter Beaumont

In an anonymous muddy field somewhere in Ukraine, the country’s defence minister crouched in the commander’s hatch of a British Challenger 2 tank, one of the first three of 14 to be delivered to Kyiv.

In a maroon jacket and matching baseball cap, Oleksii Reznikov gave a thumbs-up as he thanked the UK for the delivery of the system.

It is not only Challenger main battle tanks that are arriving. In recent weeks a steady flow of donated armour has been arriving in Ukraine. German Leopard 2 tanks and Marder infantry fighting vehicles, US Strykers and Cougars, scores in number, have been shipped discretely, with more to follow.

The sudden influx of new armour, as well as the accelerated training of Ukrainian crews to operate the vehicles in the UK and elsewhere, comes ahead of the expectation – raised by senior Ukrainian officials – that they may soon be in action as part of the country’s anticipated spring offensive.

And while over the winter Ukraine’s president, Volodmyr Zelenskiy, had been pressing for 300 main battle tanks as well as other vehicles and modern fighter jets, the much more modest numbers that have so far arrived is fuelling speculation over how that armour may be used in the coming weeks and months.

With Russia’s own recent offensive in the eastern Donbas region apparently petering out with minimal gains and heavy losses, not least around the key eastern city of Bakhmut, there is little expectation that Ukraine has the resources for the kind of large-scale armoured thrust that Russia itself failed to carry off at the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine.