29 November 2023

Nicolas Blarel on India’s Growing Proximity With Israel

Sudha Ramachandran

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s expression of strong solidarity with Israel within hours of Hamas’ attack on October 7 has drawn attention to the growing relationship between India and Israel. A strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, India did not have formal diplomatic relations with Israel until 1992. In the decades since India-Israel cooperation has grown. New Delhi sees Israel not only as a source of high-tech weapon systems but also as a reliable supplier, one that has stood by India during difficult times.

Relations have deepened especially since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014. Hindu nationalists have long admired Israel and been strong votaries of robust cooperation with the Jewish state.

Tracing the evolution of India’s relationship with Israel, Nicolas Blarel, who is an associate professor of International Relations at Leiden University in the Netherlands, and author of “The Evolution of India’s Israel Policy: Continuity, Change, and Compromise since 1922” (Oxford University Press, 2015) points out that Hindu nationalists admire “how Israel was able to build a homeland for Jewish people and unify a religious community that was spread out across different continents.” He told The Diplomat’s South Asia Editor Sudha Ramachandran that the BJP “has also seen Israel as a convenient and useful partner in countering terrorism.”

Following the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted in support of Israel, which was interpreted as a shift in India’s traditional position in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Could you trace the important milestones in India’s growing support for Israel over the past decade?

Narrative warfare: How disinformation shapes the Israeli-Hamas conflict—and millions of minds

Yusuf Can

Earlier this month, German television channel Welt claimed that a Palestinian Instagrammer had feigned a deathbed scenario in a hospital bed and subsequently posted a miraculous video depicting their well-being amidst the aftermath of a bombing in Gaza. While the actual circumstances diverged significantly from this narrative, Welt propagated the Pallywood—a portmanteau of “Palestine” and “Hollywood—conspiracy theory, baselessly alleging that “amateur actors” were fabricating scenes in Gaza.

It turns out the individuals featured in the two videos were not the same, and the footage from the hospital had been uploaded to social media several months prior to Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel. But the claim, asserting the identity of the two individuals, had already made the rounds and was also disseminated by Israel’s official X (formerly known as Twitter) account, only to be removed later.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a perennial, deeply entrenched issue transcending mere geopolitics. It is a contest of narratives, a battle where stories and perceptions wield as much power as physical forces. In this intricate struggle, disinformation emerges as a potent weapon skillfully wielded by those with ill intentions. A single Tweet or a brief TikTok video is insufficient to distill decades, if not centuries, of historical background, yet they possess the capacity to shape the minds of individuals, influence their reactions, and even sway policymaking. As such, an examination of how to address rampant misleading information that is shaping the dynamics of human society is necessary.

Nobody is safe. Regardless of one’s stance in this enduring conflict, dominant narratives are often handed down from generation to generation. The remarkable ability of these narratives to mold public opinion attests to their formidable potency. Disinformation becomes a valuable instrument in developing these entrenched perspectives, revealing the vulnerability of individuals when confronted with a barrage of misleading or outright fake information. Notably, even prominent figures with access to vast resources—journalists, politicians, and ironically, CEOs of social media companies—can fall prey to the insidious influence of disinformation.

Gaza First: How a Palestinian State Could Emerge from the Rubble

Saul Zadka & Yigal Chazan

There has been much talk about what happens after Hamas is eliminated as a military and political force in Gaza. Some speak of the urgency of a two-state solution. Others scoff at the very idea. The hatreds unleashed by the fighting, they argue, would make it impossible to reach such a settlement. Yet, we suggest, once Hamas is neutralized, Gaza could play a key role in finally resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Right now, there is no mood in Israel nor the Palestinian Territories for any talk about what happens next. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians have been traumatized by events. In Israel, some brave souls continue to advance a two-state solution. But the Hamas outrages of October 7 have turned many doves into hawks. Israel’s rightward drift prior to the bloodletting has accelerated. The Palestinians’ view of Israel as a cruel and heartless occupier will now only be more pronounced. A recent poll indicates a majority of them see the conflict as targeting all Palestinians, only a minority view it as a war between Israel and Hamas.

So, the two sides have never been more at odds. Any pursuit of a post-Hamas resolution to this unending human tragedy would be something of a fool’s errand. However, that does not mean that a start can’t be made to develop the contours of a future Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank. The process would have to begin in Gaza because the West Bank remains contested and hugely volatile, with Jewish extremists abusing Palestinians and Hamas and Islamic Jihad cells wreaking mayhem in the territory and, occasionally, in Israel proper.

Once Hamas is out of the way in Gaza, there is a real chance of building what could be a model for Palestinian statehood. Initially, the strip would be governed by an international- or Arab-administered protectorate. Israel certainly has no desire to stay there. When it exited in the early 2000s, many Israelis breathed a heavy sigh of relief. The only real concern was that withdrawal would embolden militants in the West Bank. Now, Israel is likely to insist on Gaza being demilitarized and the maintenance of a heavy security presence on its borders, initially at least. But critically, these borders are not contested, which removes a big headache when discussing Palestinian self-determination.

The Day After in Gaza

Raphael BenLevi

Israel has declared its war aims as the destruction of Hamas’ military and governance capabilities, but what should its plan be for the day after? Since the beginning of the war, some prominent figures in the United States and the Israeli media and former establishment have raised the idea of installing the Palestinian Authority (PA) as the governing body for civilian affairs. However, such a course of action would inevitably result within a few years in the emergence of a new terrorist state hostile to Israel, possibly even under the control of a re-emerged Hamas. If the IDF fights to eradicate Hamas rule and a similar entity rises in its place, this will constitute a historic failure, a fatal blow to Israel’s national resilience, and an existential threat to the future of the country.

The most feasible alternative is an autonomous Arab civilian entity in Gaza, with Israel maintaining overall security responsibility for as long as required by the security situation and threat assessment. However, to ensure that such an autonomous entity remains viable, does not revert to serving as a base for murderous terror attacks, and would be willing to live in peace with the State of Israel, several conditions must be met.

Installing the PA Would Lead to the Re-emergence of a Terror State

In Gaza today lives an entire generation that has been indoctrinated into Hamas’ genocidal ideology, and there exists no organized opposition movement to speak of. As a result, if a new leadership would be established tomorrow based upon local or familial allegiances, it would almost certainly be comprised of Hamas sympathizers, if not supporters, opposed to coexistence with Israel.

Diplomatic dash as end of Israel-Gaza truce looms

Intense negotiations were under way as the truce in the Israel-Gaza war entered its final day.

Statements from Israel, Hamas, the United States and others, released overnight and into the morning, stressed the urgency of extending the four-day pause in the war, which is due to end on Monday.

The diplomatic drive is continuing as the two sides prepare a fourth captive-prisoner swap. Israel has said it is prepared to pause its onslaught on the enclave by one day in exchange for the release of 10 additional captives, although it has also reiterated its intention to continue fighting until “victory”.

US President Joe Biden said on Sunday that he hoped the temporary truce between Israel and Hamas could continue as long as captives were being released. The Palestinian group freed 17 more people yesterday, including a four-year-old Israeli-American girl.

Extending the truce “is my goal, that’s our goal, to keep this pause going beyond tomorrow so that we can continue to see more hostages come out and surge more humanitarian relief into those in need in Gaza,” Biden told a news conference.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was expected to visit Israel on Monday, before heading to Brussels to attend a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting, where the crisis in Gaza is expected to be discussed on the sidelines.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he spoke to Biden about the captive release. However, he said he also told the US leader that, at the end of the truce, Israel would return with full force to achieve its goals for the elimination of Hamas and the release of all captives.

Netanyahu became the first Israeli leader since 2005 to appear in Gaza on Sunday. Standing on a tank in fatigues, he reiterated the war aims to soldiers, but also mentioned the possibility of extending the truce.

The West’s geopolitical situation is deteriorating – and we are doing too little about it: Five scenarios for the next decade

Gabriel Elefteriu

In a world of war, we must recalibrate our grand-strategic thinking. Here are five geopolitical scenarios for what could happen in the coming years

It is beyond doubt that the “rules based international order” chapter of History is coming to a close, removing from the real world many of the traditional assumptions about Western primacy and dominance which, over the past few decades, have become so ingrained in the minds of our “strategic” elites.

Global affairs are certainly in the process of crossing into a new era, but the contour of that geopolitical destination – the configuration of forces that will define power relations between the key states – is yet undetermined.

There are plenty of rhetorical attempts by pundits – many just hawking their podcasts or consulting wares – to make the facts fit their pet theories, whether about the arrival of so-called “multipolarity” or the inexorable decline of the West.

Of more serious concern is the growing and well-directed “information warfare” by revisionist states like Russia and China, which are trying to further demoralise us and shape the narrative over what is supposed to follow the post-1945 US-dominated system. But they’re all grasping at straws.

In reality the world is too volatile and uncertain, and too many structural elements are in motion in the military, economic and political fields, to allow for definitive conclusions to be drawn as to what comes next.

No particular future can be willed into being purely by propaganda tricks or twisted analysis. And no state or grouping of states can claim to have a decisive strategic advantage in the world system at present or in the near future. In other words, it’s all to play for.

Momentum in the India-Australia Relationship on Display With 2+2 Strategic Dialogue

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

India has had a busy couple of weeks. Following the India-U.S. 2+2 strategic dialogue in early November, India had another 2+2 with Australia last week. New Delhi hosted the second edition of the India-Australia Foreign and Defense Ministerial Dialogue on November 20. Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles and Foreign Minister Penny Wong were in New Delhi for extensive discussions with their Indian counterparts, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. The ministers also held separate bilateral talks with their counterparts.

The Australia-India relationship has grown tremendously in the last three years, especially considering that the two countries elevated their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership only in June 2020. The inaugural round of 2+2 ministerial dialogues between the two countries took place in September 2021. That India engages in 2+2 ministerial level strategic dialogues only with a handful of countries (the U.S. and Japan being two of them; not coincidentally they are also Quad partners) reflects the significance of Australia in India’s strategic calculations.

In the inaugural dialogue in 2021, India and Australia signed a military logistics agreement that would provide the two militaries reciprocal access to each other’s military bases for repair and replenishment, in addition to such agreements strengthening familiarity between forces that facilitates strengthened defense cooperation.

Prior to his trip, Marles noted the significance of the India relationship by saying that “Our cooperation with India is at the heart of Australia’s approach to ensuring the Indo-Pacific remains open, inclusive and resilient.” He also pointed to other advances in the relationship including an Indian submarine visit to Perth and Australia’s hosting of the Malabar exercise.

India’s Quest for Advanced Technology in the Era of Export Controls


The United States has recently embarked on a tightening of its export control laws when it comes to cutting-edge technological items such as advanced semiconductors and AI chips. These export control measures have been labelled as necessary to “protect U.S. security and advantage.” These measures have also largely been aimed at Chinese entities, which are suspected of using these technologies—that are largely dual-use—for military applications as well. In targeting these Chinese entities, other like-minded nations that also sell these advanced technological items have been co-opted by the United States. These countries, namely Japan and the Netherlands, however, have not named any specific country as the target of their export control measures. Instead, they have given wide discretion to their export control authorities to block such high-tech exports to any country. This means that tech imports from these countries will likely require an export license for all destinations, including India. How can India navigate these across-the-board export control measures at a time when it is also entering into technology-centric partnerships with other nations to secure enhanced access to advanced technology?

The rationale behind the recent U.S. export control measures, which were announced in October 2022, was to target the military-civil fusion program (MCF) of China. As per the MCF, China allegedly uses civilian technologies for military applications. The U.S. Department of Commerce, while announcing its October 2022 measures, even announced that the subject matter of the export control measures was used by China to “produce advanced military systems including weapons of mass destruction; improve the speed and accuracy of its military decision making, planning, and logistics, as well as of its autonomous military systems; and commit human rights abuses.”

Another knock-on effect of these export control measures has been the seemingly retaliatory measures announced by China. While the recent U.S. export control measures have targeted advanced semiconductors, certain areas like batteries and photovoltaic cells—essentially green technology—are dominated by China. It is in these areas that China has implemented strict export control measures. This too may impact the ability of India to secure access to green technologies in the near future. For instance, in July 2023, China introduced a new requirement for exporters to seek special licenses when exporting minerals such as germanium and gallium – critical minerals needed to make microchips. Most recently, a few days after the United States announced a new series of follow-up export control measures in October 2023, China announced that when exporting synthetic graphite (used heavily in the battery industry), exporters must submit exhaustive documentation that details the end users as well.

AI for All, Beyond the Global North: India’s Opportunity?


The world today is witnessing a new technological revolution with the advent of accessible artificial intelligence (AI) tools. While AI has been developing consistently over the past few years, it has now exploded into the everyday life of the global citizen. Stemming from an increased focus on building AI for the public and the development of easily accessible AI tools and their widespread use, this new technology is being increasingly viewed as a critical means to achieve societal outcomes. Various AI technologies are deployed across sectors like healthcare, agriculture, and education to predict outcomes, monitor progress, optimize processes, and streamline service delivery, significantly benefiting the global economy. Recent estimates suggest that generative AI alone could create value between $2.6 trillion and $4.4 trillion annually.

The expansion of AI comes with a push for its governance, which primarily arises from the need to ensure continuous innovation while mitigating existing and potential risks stemming from unchecked AI usage. These include risks from monopolization and dominance, security risks arising from the spread of disinformation and the misuse of generative AI, and even risks to individuals and communities through AI datasets and systems that are unsafe, biased, or discriminatory.

In this context, a stable regulatory environment for AI development and governance becomes a priority. A range of different approaches to AI governance are in consideration across jurisdictions. Three broad approaches to AI development and governance seem to be emerging, one led by the United States, another by the EU, and a third by China. While nations like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan are looking to govern AI through industry self-regulation and guiding principles, the EU, along with countries like Canada and Brazil, appears to be leaning toward issuing formal legislation for the strict regulation of AI. China is also adopting a prescriptive approach but through the deployment of precise regulations to govern specific AI technologies. Each approach is tailored to meet the interests of the governing jurisdiction, resulting in a fragmented global approach to AI regulation.

Completing the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement: Fulfilling the Promises of a Summer Long Past


Within a few years, it will be two decades since the United States and India signed their epochal agreement on civil nuclear cooperation. When finalized on July 18, 2005, this controversial accord evoked deep fears that the international nonproliferation regime would be irrevocably gutted because Washington proposed to resuscitate nuclear trade with New Delhi despite the latter’s refusal to forego possession of its nuclear weapons—a privilege not extended to any other non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). With the passage of time, however, it has become clear that the global nonproliferation regime has survived the U.S.-India agreement, while the bilateral relationship has been dramatically transformed across myriad dimensions, especially in regard to diplomatic engagement, defense cooperation, and high-technology collaboration.

Despite these remarkable gains, the full potential and promise of the 2005 nuclear agreement—and the larger U.S.-India partnership—has yet to be realized on at least two counts. Where India is concerned, New Delhi is long overdue in removing the obstacles that prevent its purchase of nuclear reactors from the United States, consistent with the written commitments it made during the implementation of the nuclear deal. Where the United States is concerned, a different challenge persists that is no less urgent: matching policy with vision. Given President Joe Biden’s commitment to strengthening India’s power in the ongoing competition with China, Washington’s desire to treat New Delhi’s nuclear weapons program as unique—the fundamental premise that underlay the 2005 accord—must now be consciously fructified in ways that affect his administration’s decisionmaking on how to build a more ambitious partnership with India.


While the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement was broadly driven by the intention of revamping the previously troubled U.S. relationship with India, it concretely expressed U.S. president George W. Bush’s strong desire to change the way that the United States would relate to India on nuclear issues. Both Bush and his Indian counterpart, prime minister Manmohan Singh, envisaged the agreement as creating opportunities for the U.S. nuclear industry to return to India in a significant way and thereby contribute to accelerating India’s economic growth by expanding its baseload energy supply from low-carbon sources.

New beginning or dismal end for the Belt and Road?


Not so long ago, countries were ecstatic about the potential of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a mega-infrastructure scheme launched in 2013 that would connect the world through ports, power grids, railways, roads and telecommunications networks.

Western pundits worried that BRI projects were pulling countries into China’s orbit, empowering Chinese companies and birthing a Sinocentric global order.

For many, it was obvious the road was speeding along as “evidenced” by China’s investments, loans or grants ranging from hundreds of billions to, supposedly, the low trillions of dollars.

Commentators often mixed distinct kinds of monies, classifying loans to countries like Venezuela as BRI loans, equating money invested in or lent to BRI participant countries as BRI money, or labeling projects with no connectivity features as BRI projects. China facilitated these misjudgments by not producing an authoritative BRI project list.

The BRI, initially consisting of the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road Initiative, only raised more concern as it repeatedly broke geographic boundaries, reaching into the Pacific Islands, the Arctic and even outer space.

But one current refrain is that the BRI is falling short of its goals. In fact, before the Third BRI Forum held in Beijing in October 2023, some analysts proclaimed the BRI’s downfall. One only need look at Kenya, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zambia and perhaps Malaysia to see the dismal state of the BRI.

Bhutan Takes Another Step Forward on Democratic Path

Mimrah Abdul Ghafoor

The eastern Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is gearing up for elections to its National Assembly, the 47-seat lower house of the country’s bicameral legislature.

Elections will be in two phases: a primary round on November 30, with all registered parties competing across Bhutan’s 20 Dzongkhags (administrative and judicial districts), and a runoff round on January 9, 2024, where the two parties with the highest votes in the primaries will field candidates across all 47 Demkhongs (electoral constituencies).

Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck will then invite the winner in the final face-off to form the new government.

Five parties are contesting these elections: Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Bhutan Tendrel Party (BTP), Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), and Druk Thundrel Tshogpa (DTTP). With the term of the incumbent DNT, led by Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, ending on November 1, the king appointed an interim government headed by Chief Justice Chogyal Dago Rigdzin to oversee the election period.

Economic issues will be uppermost on voters’ minds as they head off to vote on November 30. Bhutan is still struggling with the economic aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, notably through lost tourism revenue. Despite its cautious approach to external cultural influences (for instance, television was introduced only in 1999), and its policy of limiting tourist numbers by charging them daily fees for visiting the country (under its “high value, low impact” approach, meant to maximize revenue while minimizing cultural and environmental impact), tourism has become increasingly vital to Bhutan’s economy.

Unforgettable Episodes From a 21-Day Covert Assignment in Myanmar

Rajeev Bhattacharyya

Reporting from Myanmar has always been challenging, even a dangerous endeavor. For decades, Myanmar under military rule was hard for journalists to access. When the country was under quasi-civilian governments (2011-2021), democratic reforms were initiated, including the restoration of the freedom of the press. This facilitated reporting from regions that had been reeling under instability and unrest for decades.

Then on February 1, 2021, Myanmar’s military staged a coup. Leaders of the elected National League for Democracy government were arrested and pro-democracy activists were detained. A massive crackdown on the media followed. It became hazardous again for local and foreign journalists to report from the country.

It was in these circumstances that I decided to visit Myanmar. My objective was to report on the resistance to junta rule. Since the chances of reaching a rebel camp from Yangon through regular routes and legitimate channels, and returning home unscathed from the assignment, were near impossible, I decided to sneak into the country through the India-Myanmar border.

Between April and May of last year, I met some leaders and functionaries of the resistance groups at various points along the India-Myanmar border in the Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur. The success of my visit, I realized hinged on establishing contacts ahead and in availing the services of a translator. During the planning phase, I zeroed in on five places in Chin State and Sagaing Region to visit: Tamu, Kalay, Haimual, Camp Victoria, and Thantlang. Kalay was the farthest from the border with India while Tamu was the nearest.

Can troops with 3D printers save the Pentagon’s mass-drone vision?


There's a major obstacle to the Pentagon’s new effort to manufacture thousands of small drones: China dominates the market for consumer-drone parts, which is awkward since the point is to deter China. One potential solution could be rapid manufacturing in the field, according to one of the military’s top young tech minds.

The two-month-old Replicator effort seeks to apply a Ukrainian success—modifying lots and lots of consumer drones for military purposes—to the U.S. campaign to keep the peace in the Pacific. But the Pentagon can’t simply clone the Ukrainian program for the INDOPACOM mission set.

“The fact of the matter is: we don't have an industrial base to do this,” Michael MacKay, national security advisor to Sen. Jodi Ernst, R-Iowa, said last week at a Pallas Advisors event. “If China shut off the hose tomorrow, we don't have the carbon fibers; we don't have the micro-electronics; we don't have the chips; we don't have the motors to be able at this point to provide thousands [of small drones] at scale.

“We ran into this in the beginning of Ukraine,” MacKay said, referring to Russia’s expanded invasion in 2022. “We've had a lot of laws and we have a lot of presidential executive orders that say you can't buy Chinese, down to some of the component level...America needs to get back into manufacturing on some of these components.”

The Pentagon hasn’t said much about where the program is going or how it will achieve its objectives. But major defense contractors are cautioning that Replicator drones could cost far more than Pentagon officials imagine. They pointed to microelectronics and other supply-chain issues—but also argued that the Pentagon might well want the higher performance of more expensive parts.

In a League of Its Own: The Cyberspace Administration of China

Mercy A. Kuo

The Diplomat author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Dr. Rogier Creemers – assistant professor in modern Chinese studies at Leiden University and co-editor of “The Emergence of China’s Smart State” (Rowman and Littlefield 2023) – is the 393rd in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Why is the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) considered the world’s most powerful digital institution?

The CAC has several different roles, both political and regulatory. First, it houses the secretariat of the Central Cybersecurity and Informatization Commission. This top-level decision-making body, chaired by Xi Jinping personally, groups the heads of all important party and state bodies, as well as the People’s Bank of China and the military, that are involved in digital policymaking. Running the secretariat means the CAC has a direct line to the top leadership, and plays a very important role in both supplying the Commission with information, and in implementing their policy decisions.

Second, it has regulatory power over online content in China, which it has taken to include AI content recommendation and generation in recent years. As such, it is the prime rule-setter for the world’s largest online population and second-largest digital economy.

Third, it is responsible for the protection of personal information under the Personal Information Protection Law and has some tasks concerning data security under the Data Security Law as well. Next to content, this is the most impactful area of digital regulation now. This is not to say the CAC has done everything right. It is currently working on revisions to data export rules that have proved to be excessively onerous to both Chinese and international businesses, for instance, and significant lack of implementation and enforcement clarity remains around the Data Security Law.

US CHIPS Act Threatens To Hollow Out Asian Semiconductor Industry

Mary E Lovely

Even as they share similar concerns about economic security and resilience, the United States’ trading partners in Asia wonder what Washington’s new embrace of industrial policy means for their own development.

With deep government pockets, a large domestic market and potent research and development capabilities, the United States has the economic power to capture a significant share of global investment in targeted industrial sectors. The US turn towards protectionism and its desire to shift trade to ‘like-minded’ friends raise fears that the US market will be closed to Asian exports unless US demands for common standards and supply chain configurations are met.

The CHIPS and Science Act, passed by the US Congress in 2022, illustrates Washington’s ‘reshoring’ intentions and their implications for trading partners. The act is designed to ‘bring back’ domestic semiconductor manufacturing that is presently concentrated in Asia by offering a menu of subsidies, tax credits and domestic content rules that promote onshore research, development and manufacturing. Bipartisan support for the funding comes from the centrality of semiconductors to civilian and military technology and concerns over the geopolitical vulnerability caused by fabrication that has moved to mainland China and Taiwan.

The CHIPS Act subsidises onshore investment in semiconductor fabrication, promising US$39 billion of manufacturing incentives on top of 25 per cent investment tax credits. These incentives seem to already be attracting the major semiconductor fabricators and their suppliers to invest in the United States.

China’s Path to Power Runs Through the World’s Cities

Simon Curtis and Ian Klaus

In October 2023, world leaders gathered in Beijing to mark the tenth anniversary of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the centerpiece of recent Chinese grand strategy. The BRI has received enormous attention for its eye-popping price tag and its huge and protean ambitions. Having already invested around $1 trillion, China intends to link more than 150 countries by new roads, railways, seaports, energy systems, and technological and cyberspace innovations, encouraging commerce and connectivity and drawing two-thirds of the world’s population yet closer to Chinese markets and political influence.

For all the scrutiny the BRI has received, however, a key aspect is often overlooked: that it is, among other things, a sweeping urbanization project, one that may define the future of many cities around the world—especially if other great powers do not contest it. The development of cities is often, wrongly, neglected in the analysis of international relations. But there is an intrinsic connection between infrastructure, urban form, and the shape of the international orders that great powers build. Throughout history, great powers have used cities not only as nodes of commercial and religious connection but as sites for the real and symbolic projection of power. The U.S. unipolar moment that took shape in the aftermath of the Cold War was undergirded by the creation of a distinctive urban form: the global city. Cities such as London, New York, Seoul, Sydney, and Tokyo were, over decades, reshaped by the expansion of the liberal free market. In turn, their rise strengthened the United States’ world-spanning influence.

China, however, is now beginning to generate its own distinctive infrastructural and urban forms: during its era of economic opening, experimentation, and explosive growth that began in 1979, it transformed locales inside its borders, extending them up and out into space by building skyscrapers and urbanizing rural areas while also connecting them to regional and far-flung economies. Urban spaces have for four decades been central to China’s economic and strategic vision, predating the BRI. But the attention and resources Beijing is now turning to them through the BRI, at home and abroad, portends a transformation in the lives of billions of city dwellers.

What Was in the Now-Scrapped Inter-Korea Military Agreement?

Soyoung Kim

North Korea launched a military reconnaissance satellite into orbit late on November 21, violating United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions banning its use of ballistic missile technology. In response, the South Korean government partially suspended the Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA), with Prime Minister Han Duck-soo stating in the National Security Council meeting that North Korea’s launch was a direct provocation against the security of the South, and that continued adherence to the CMA may put the lives and safety of the Korean public in danger.

The CMA was signed on September 19, 2018, in Pyongyang, as the product of a series of historic meetings between then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Under the agreement, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to “completely cease all hostile acts against each other” by implementing measures that included ending military drills near the border, limiting live-fire exercises, imposing no-fly zones, and maintaining hotlines. It was intended to alleviate military tensions on the peninsula and build mutual confidence. To clarify, North Korea’s latest satellite launch violates UNSC resolutions but not the CMA.

Specifically, the South Korean government suspended article 1, clause 3 of the agreement, which established a no-fly zone for all aircraft types over the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) from November 1, 2018. This clause prohibited fixed-wing aircraft from flying within 40 kilometers of the MDL in the eastern area and 20 kilometers from the western area. Rotary aircraft were prohibited from flying within 10 kilometers of the MDL; unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) were prohibited within 10 kilometers of the eastern area and 25 kilometers of the western region; balloons were prohibited within 25 kilometers of the MDL.

Why Do New Recruits Love the U.S. Marine Corps?

Travis Pike

Military recruiting is facing a crisis with most branches failing to make their recruiting goals in 2022 or having to tap into their pools of delayed-entry applicants to do so.

Yet, somehow for the 2023 fiscal year that ends in October, whereas most services still struggle, the Marine Corps seems to have attracted enough recruits.


Many reasons are to blame for declining recruit numbers in the military. First, alternative career paths have become more enticing for young men and women due to significant pay increases across the economy and the ability to work remotely. To attract recruits, some services have returned to offering bonuses to potential recruits – although the bonuses are nothing like they were during the GWOT.

Second, perceptions of the military are becoming worse, with young people increasingly believing that serving in the military will cause them physical or emotional damage.

Third, fewer applicants can meet the military’s standards nowadays. Physical standards have become tougher to meet with reportedly more applicants being disqualified due to obesity and other factors.

Additionally, recruits must have a clean mental health slate, which sounds great, but we are way more aware of mental illnesses these days, so we do have more diagnoses but the military still acts like it’s the 1970s in terms of dealing with mental illness. Make no mistake, certain mental health conditions should disqualify recruits, but many applicants are disqualified for fairly mundane conditions.

Will Military Drones Kill Off Human Pilots Once and For All?

Alex Hollings

In the not-too-distant future, the face of American airpower will dramatically shift away from a relatively few highly capable and crewed platforms and toward an overwhelming avalanche of unmanned systems, ranging from single-use munitions all the way to multi-million dollar multi-role UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles).

With new initiatives underway within the Pentagon to rapidly field thousands of drones the United States is now looking to return to the World War II methodology of peace through superior numbers. In order to do so, American Defense officials are aiming to push the boundaries of what we’ve commonly seen as science fiction, turning over vast portions of the warfighting enterprise to rapidly advancing, and often AI-enabled, robots.

A little while back, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks announced the Pentagon’s Replicator Initiative, which aims to field “multiple thousands” of low-cost drones operating in air, land, and sea within the next two years, but remarkably, without requesting any additional funding. Instead of seeing this as a new program, Replicator might be better thought of as a new philosophy – steering the priorities of new acquisition efforts toward what the U.S. Air Force has long called, “affordable mass.”

“Replicator is not a new program of record,” Hicks explained. “We’re not creating a new bureaucracy and we will not be asking for new money in [fiscal 2024]. Not all problems need new money.”

Pentagon’s AI Initiatives Accelerate Hard Decisions on Lethal Autonomous Weapons

Artificial intelligence employed by the U.S. military has piloted pint-sized surveillance drones in special operations forces’ missions and helped Ukraine in its war against Russia. It tracks soldiers’ fitness, predicts when Air Force planes need maintenance and helps keep tabs on rivals in space.

Now, the Pentagon is intent on fielding multiple thousands of relatively inexpensive, expendable AI-enabled autonomous vehicles by 2026 to keep pace with China. The ambitious initiative — dubbed Replicator — seeks to “galvanize progress in the too-slow shift of U.S. military innovation to leverage platforms that are small, smart, cheap, and many,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said in August.

While its funding is uncertain and details vague, Replicator is expected to accelerate hard decisions on what AI tech is mature and trustworthy enough to deploy – including on weaponized systems.

There is little dispute among scientists, industry experts and Pentagon officials that the U.S. will within the next few years have fully autonomous lethal weapons. And though officials insist humans will always be in control, experts say advances in data-processing speed and machine-to-machine communications will inevitably relegate people to supervisory roles.

That’s especially true if, as expected, lethal weapons are deployed en masse in drone swarms. Many countries are working on them — and neither China, Russia, Iran, India or Pakistan have signed a U.S.-initiated pledge to use military AI responsibly.

It’s unclear if the Pentagon is currently formally assessing any fully autonomous lethal weapons system for deployment, as required by a 2012 directive. A Pentagon spokeswoman would not say.

Why directed-energy weapons are the next big bet for the US military


As warfare becomes continually dictated by emerging technologies, the United States military has increasingly been developing new tools to use on the battlefield. One such category is directed-energy weaponry, often described as the beginning of war's next generation.

According to various reports throughout 2023, the Pentagon is working on directed-energy weapons as one of its top priorities. While reports indicate that the military is facing hitches in development, billions of dollars are still being poured into directed-energy technology. What do these weapons do, and why is the Pentagon working so diligently to develop them?

What are directed-energy weapons?

These are electromagnetic weapons "capable of converting chemical or electrical energy to radiated energy and focusing it on a target," according to the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR). These weapons can cause physical damage that "degrades, neutralizes, defeats or destroys an adversarial capability," the ONR reported.

Directed-energy devices include weapons that can fire laser beams, microwaves or other types of light particles. Unlike standard weapons, directed-energy technology doesn't use traditional projectiles, but rather energy itself. Experts say this can provide opportunities on the battlefield that were previously unattainable.

While a standard weapon is limited by the number of rounds it can fire, a directed-energy weapon "gives you essentially an infinite magazine of interception opportunities," Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told CNBC. This is because "the laser — as long as you've got electricity — will continue to recharge, [and] continue to shoot down incoming weapons."

U.S. Intelligence Gap on Potential Hamas, Hezbollah Threats to U.S.


U.S. INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES let their attention wander away from Iran-backed terror groups in their pursuit of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and ISIS in Iraq over the past two decades, leaving them vulnerable to plots by Hamas and Hezbollah for attacks here as passions rage over U.S. backing for Israel’s onslaught in Gaza, former FBI and CIA officials tell SpyTalk.

Ismail Haniya, Hamas’s leader, at a rare news conference in Gaza City on Thursday, per New York Times. Photo credit Mohammed Salem/Reuters.

After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon in 2001, the CIA effectively subcontracted surveillance and intelligence-gathering on Hamas to the Israelis, says former CIA operations officer Marc Polymeropoulos. So when Israeli intelligence failed to prevent the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that killed at least 1,200 people and took 240 hostages, Israel’s intelligence blunder also exposed a U.S. intelligence failure—one that could now cost American lives, Polymeropoulos, as well as present and former FBI officials say.

Pretty much ceding collection on Hamas to the Israelis was “understandable, considering the threats to us from Al Qaeda, and later ISIS, but it was still a mistake,” says Polymeropoulos, who retired in 2019 after several postings in the Middle East, among other assignments. “The massive intelligence failure on Oct. 7 was mainly Israel’s, but we share in that, too,” he told SpyTalk.

Evolution of autonomous robots: Past, present and future roles

Technological advancements, including software, electronics, and robotics, drive modern society. We see technology developing daily, changing how we work and do business. Arguably, at the forefront of current technological progress are AI technology and autonomous robots. There is little doubt that mobile, self-governing robots will play key roles in the future.

In just 50 years, the market for industrial robots has evolved significantly. Today, that evolution has garnered the term “cobots,” or collaborative robots that work alongside humans. Whether autonomous robots will continue to work side-by-side with humans or take over roles completely is a debate that continues.

Artificial intelligence technology has accelerated at an astounding pace over the last two years (something called ChatGPT is one year old at the time of writing), affecting many sectors across the globe. AI has become a part of everyday life for so many, with intelligent assistants supporting us as we work. They are now at our beck and call, answering queries and performing repetitive tasks in various industries.

Hasn’t that always been the point of technological advancements, though? To help us complete physical tasks quicker or even in our place? If recent decades are anything to go by, we rely on automation more than ever. Autonomous robots may soon be irreplaceable parts of society’s fabric.

The Pentagon is facing hard decisions about letting AI weapons kill


Militaries around the world are pursuing autonomous weapons. Alongside humans, robotic swarms in the skies or on the ground could attack enemy positions from angles regular troops can’t. And now those arms might be closer to reality than ever before.

That is according to a new report from the Associated Press on the Pentagon’s “Replicator” program. The program is meant to accelerate the Department of Defense’s use of cheap, small and easy to field drones run by artificial intelligence. The goal? To have thousands of these weapons platforms by 2026. The report notes that officials and scientists agree that the U.S. military will soon have fully autonomous weapons, but want to keep a human in charge overseeing their use. Now the question the military faces is how to decide if or when it should allow AI to use lethal force.

So yes, the Pentagon is one step closer to letting AI weapons kill people. But this does not mean Skynet has gone active and Arnold Schwarzenegger-looking robots are out to wipe out humanity. At least not yet.