13 May 2024

Nepal’s flimsy claims on Kali River will not change ground realities, but India must be vigilant

Claude Arpi

A recent visit to the border areas of the Central Sector of the Indo-Tibet boundary was an eye-opener. The first thing that I witnessed was the considerable efforts that have been made by the Central government (through the Border Road Organisation of the Indian Army) to connect to ‘the world’ in these remote locations.

The accounts of travellers, yogis (particularly Swami Pranavanada in the 1930s), yatris (to Kailash Mountain), or Indian officials posted in Gartok in western Tibet always struck me for the description of the harsh terrain near the tri-junction of India, Tibet, and Nepal; till recently, the journey was indeed extremely perilous.

To give an example, a few years ago, it took up to a 27-day walk for a yatri to travel from Darchula to Lipulekh and later come back (in Tibet, they were taken by buses to the Kailash base camp). Today the road reaches a few hundred metres from the top of Lipulekh, the border pass separating Kumaon (near the trijunction with Tibet and Nepal) from Purang County (Dzong) in Tibet.

The Maldives Is Moving Toward China. Here’s What to Know.

Rhea Basarkar

The Maldives, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, has become embroiled in great-power rivalry. The country recently upgraded its ties with China after years of close cooperation with India echoing similar moves by other Pacific island states. This shift has sparked fresh concerns in India—and the United States—about China’s expanding maritime influence in the Indo-Pacific.
How is the Maldives warming up to China?

The countries’ growing partnership has brought significant economic changes. Since joining China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2014, the Maldives has borrowed some $1.4 billion from Chinese banks, which now makes up 20 percent of its public debt. China has made several large infrastructure investments in the Maldives through the BRI, including the $200 million China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, which connects the islands of Hulhulé and Hulhumalé with the capital, Malé.

Bilateral ties strengthened further under newly elected President Mohamed Muizzu. Muizzu made China the destination of his inaugural state visit in January 2024, where he signed twenty new agreements with Beijing that included financial and military assistance.

Why Is Bangladesh Seeking a $5 Billion Soft Loan From China?

Ali Riaz

The Bangladesh government’s decision to request a $5 billion soft loan from China for budget support to replenish foreign currency reserves and pay import bills is both puzzling and not surprising, at once.

Puzzling, because Bangladesh has not previously sought soft loans from China, especially such a large amount. In past years, Bangladesh borrowed from China for various projects; these are largely “supplier credit” and the highest amount China released was $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023.

However, Bangladesh’s decision to seek soft loans should not come as a surprise considering the country’s ongoing economic crisis. The government seems to be on a loan-seeking spree in the wake of dwindling foreign reserves, downward spiraling of GDP growth and high inflation. The country needs money to meet its debt obligations and, according to a Bangladeshi think tank, is resorting to more borrowing to meet these obligations. Perhaps a vicious cycle is being created, mortgaging the future of the country.

China's Military Is Slowly Becoming a Superpower Before Our Eyes

Stavros Atlamazoglou

China presents the greatest long-term national security threat to the United States. Beijing is looking to upend the rules-based international system that Washington has overseen since the end of World War II.

In its latest National Security Strategy, published in 2022, the White House identified China and its military as the pacing challenge that will trouble U.S. national security and foreign policy experts for years to come.

“The PRC is the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it. Beijing has ambitions to create an enhanced sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific and to become the world’s leading power,” the strategy document states.

Who will inherit Europe? Xi’s visit makes this an open question

Gabriel Elefteriu

For all the pomp and ceremony attending the French leg of Xi Jinping’s European tour, it is the stops in Budapest and Belgrade that carry the greater geopolitical significance for the future.

Predictably, the majority of Euro-elite commentary around the Red Emperor’s coming has focused on EU-China trade relations, particularly as regards the EV situation.

For the past week, we have been treated to reflections on the presumed Macron-von der Leyen “good cop-bad cop” tactics, allegedly for gaining some advantage over the Chinese. And Macron — whose behaviour and statements on Ukraine in recent weeks have cemented his profile as a one-person geopolitical calamity to rival Merkel — has been feted, in some quarters, as a great statesman striding the world stage.

But Xi chose France as his main destination for a power voyage for the same reason that Putin did in 2017 (still fresh from imposing the Minsk accords at gunpoint): an immensely gullible Macron playing “Jupiter” in Paris, ready to roll out the red carpet to autocrats in the name of “statecraft.”

How Primed for War Is China?

Michael Beckley and Hal Brands

How likely is China to start a war? This may be the single-most important question in international affairs today. If China uses military force against Taiwan or another target in the Western Pacific, the result could be war with the United States—a fight between two nuclear-armed giants brawling for hegemony in that region and the wider world. If China attacked amid ongoing wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, the world would be consumed by interlocking conflicts across Eurasia’s key regions, a global conflagration unlike anything since World War II.

How worried should we be?

Notwithstanding the recent flurry of high-level diplomacy between Washington and Beijing, the warning signs are certainly there. Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing is amassing ships, planes, and missiles as part of the largest military buildup by any country in decades. Notwithstanding some recent efforts to lure back skittish foreign investment, China is stockpiling fuel and food and trying to reduce the vulnerability of its economy to sanctions—steps one might take as conflict nears. Xi has said China must prepare for “worst-case and extreme scenarios” and be ready to withstand “high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms.” All of this comes as Beijing has become increasingly coercive (and occasionally violent) in dealings with its neighbors, including the Philippines, Japan, and India—and as it periodically advertises its ability to batter, blockade, and perhaps invade Taiwan.

Xi Believes China Can Win a Scientific Revolution

Tanner Greer and Nancy Yu

In early March, global investors turned their eyes toward Beijing, where 2,977 delegates from across China had gathered for the annual session of the National People’s Congress. Here, Chinese Premier Li Qiang would deliver the annual “Report on the Work of the Government.” Here, the priorities that must guide the activities of the Chinese state over the coming year would be proclaimed. Here—or so financiers at home and abroad badly hoped—the Chinese government would declare its plan to rescue China’s economy.

But there were few comforting signs. The 2023 report had placed “expanding domestic demand” as the top priority for that year, responding to the damage done by zero-COVID policies, a bureaucracy paralyzed by purges and confused by an unfavorable economic environment, and a property bubble too large to pop. The 2024 report did not follow suit. Instead, it laid out a road map not for economic recovery but for wider, and more aggressive, targets.

Ahead of “expanding domestic demand,” the new report prioritizes two other goals. First, the Chinese government must “[strive] to modernize the industrial system and [develop] new quality productive forces at a faster pace.” Second, it must “[invigorate] China through science and education and [consolidate] the foundations for high-quality development.”

Taiwan Wants Suicide Drones to Deter China

Jack Detsch

Taiwan is looking to buy U.S.-made loitering munitions—also known as suicide drones—which have become one of the signature weapons on the modern battlefield, from Nagorno-Karabakh to Ukraine, hovering over fighting for hours at a time before swooping in for the kill.

Taiwan—which has faced near-daily Chinese military exercises for the past three years, including People’s Liberation Army fighter jets flooding the island’s air defense identification zone and virtually erasing the median line that sits across the Taiwan Strait—is said to covet both variants of the AeroVironment Switchblade drone, according to four people familiar with the situation.

The Switchblade, which can fit in a backpack in its smallest form and also has a much larger variant that can be used to take out tanks and armored vehicles, costs about $50,000 per drone, according to the manufacturer. The U.S. Army has stopped buying the smaller variant, known as the Switchblade 300, but the new supplemental budget passed by Congress gives the Defense Department about $72 million to buy several hundred more of the larger variant, the Switchblade 600, and the service is expected to begin fielding the drones next year.

Can Xi Win Back Europe?

Christina Lu

Five years after embarking on his last European tour, Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to return to the continent on Sunday with a new mission: damage control.

When Xi last set foot on the continent, European views of Beijing—and the broader geopolitical landscape—looked dramatically different. In 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic had yet to throttle the world. Russia was still years away from launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Chinese electric vehicles hadn’t yet inundated European markets. And, in a sign of China’s economic and geopolitical clout at the time, Italy had just become the first G-7 nation to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

European attitudes toward China have soured significantly in the years since, fueled by deepening trade divisions and frustrations over Beijing’s expanded economic and military cooperation with Moscow in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine. With Xi’s upcoming trip—which includes stops in France, Serbia, and Hungary—the Chinese leader is hoping to mend ties over the Russia-Ukraine war and blunt Europe’s push to “de-risk” from his country.

The UN Should Not Reward the Palestinians for Oct. 7th

Brett Schaefer

The United Nations General Assembly is expected to vote Friday on one of the worst resolutions to come before that body – one that would confer upon the “State of Palestine” many of the rights and privileges reserved for member states. The U.S. and other U.N. member states should reject it.

The resolution is based on false premises, for one thing. It would also invite financial distress on the UN, throw chaos into the membership process of the General Assembly, and, most importantly, reward terrorism.

Considering the ongoing support for indiscriminate violence against Israeli civilians by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, a majority vote of the General Assembly in favor of this resolution is tantamount to encouraging terrorism and endorsing hostility toward a fellow UN member state.

How Iran and Israel Are Unnatural Adversaries

Karim Sadjadpour

“History is littered,” the British writer and politician Enoch Powell said, “with the wars which everybody knew would never happen.”

A full-blown conflict between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Israel once seemed implausible. But last month, the long-running shadow war between the two nations burst into the open in a series of unprecedented drone and missile strikes, raising the specter of a fight that would contain enough advanced technology, paramilitary forces and mutual acrimony to incinerate large parts of the Middle East, collapse the global economy and entangle the United States and other major powers.

Now the two sides appear to have hit pause, but for how long? As long as Iran is ruled by an Islamist government that puts its revolutionary ideology before the national interest, the two countries will never know peace, and the Middle East will never know meaningful stability.

Pentagon Teams Up With SpaceX to Block Russia From Using Starlink

Anthony Capaccio

Pentagon officials working with Elon Musk’s SpaceX have blunted the Russian military’s unauthorized use of Starlink internet terminals on the battlefield in its war with Ukraine, according to the Defense Department’s space policy chief.

The US has been “heavily involved in working with the government of Ukraine and SpaceX to counter Russian illicit use of Starlink terminals,” John Plumb, the outgoing assistant secretary for space policy, said in an interview.

Biden Draws a Red(Ish) Line on Israel

Robbie Gramer and Jack Detsch

Welcome back to Foreign Policy’s SitRep. This week, we’re marveling at the show of bipartisanship in Congress. And by that, we’re of course talking about Republican Rep. Tim Burchett catching a ride on his skateboard from Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen’s car.

Russia's jamming of American weapons in Ukraine is showing the US what it needs to be ready for in a future fight

Chris Panella,Jake Epstein

Russian electronic warfare has created problems for some American-made precision weaponry in Ukraine, but Moscow is also showing its hand and telling the US what it needs solutions for to be ready for future fights.

Ukraine has employed US precision weapons, such as the HIMARS-fired Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems and air-launched Joint Direct Attack Munitions, throughout the war, but widespread Russian electronic warfare is regularly diminishing the effectiveness of these weapons.

Lt. Gen. Antonio Aguto, who's serving as the commander of Security Assistance Group-Ukraine, addressed the problem in December, saying electronic warfare directed at some of the US's "most precise capabilities" was "a challenge." Other US officials have identified these issues as well, adding that the US and Ukraine were working on solutions.

Any fixes developed to effectively counter the challenge posed by electronic warfare won't just benefit Ukraine. They're also set to help the US solve problems it has long been concerned about as it prepares for the possibility of great-power conflict.

What Does America Want in Ukraine?

Emma Ashford, Joshua Shifrinson, and Stephen Wertheim

Congress has finally approved around $61 billion in new aid to Ukraine, and something strange has happened: Talk of Ukrainian victory has returned to Washington. It’s a jarring turnabout. For the last few months, the White House and others issued dire warnings that if left unaided, Ukrainian lines might collapse and Russian troops might again roll on Kyiv. But with the worst averted, sights are setting higher. The Biden administration is now working to build up the Ukrainian Armed Forces over a 10-year period, at a likely cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, while National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan suggested that Ukraine would mount another counteroffensive in 2025.

China’s Digital Silk Road Taking Its Shot At The Global Stage – Analysis

Evan Williams

The rise of China has strengthened its resolve to challenge global markets and the United States’ technological hegemony. China has developed into the largest exporter of goods, responsible for almost 30 per cent of manufacturing worldwide. As part of this development, China has united various foreign policy objectives through economic statecraft, using loans and investments as political bargaining chips.

A key part of China’s strategy is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a multitrillion-dollar projectthat facilitates investments in foreign countries. It gambles on risky yet comprehensive loans for developing countries to build key infrastructure.

Yet China’s attention has recently shifted to its rapid expansion of a BRI offshoot — the Digital Silk Road (DSR). The DSR targets digital technologies in developing countries by offering cheap alternatives to Western data systems and security. The DSR is a paramount US concern due to its potential security threats and its challenge to US hegemony.

Ukraine Military Situation: Russian Force May Soon Push To Seize Important Cities – Analysis

Hudson Institute

1. Battlefield Assessment: Russia Advances on Ocheretyne and Chasiv Yar

The Russian military’s main objective remains the capture of the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. Current battlefield developments suggest that Russian forces may soon push to seize important cities, such as Kharkiv and Sumy, as a prelude to a larger offensive that will likely begin this summer.

Over the past week, Ukrainian positions near Ocheretyne and Chasiv Yar continued to deteriorate. Evidence suggests that Russian combat formations have advanced on these towns while simultaneously conducting positional fighting in the direction of Siversk. With its sizable troop concentrations, Russia holds the advantage in force-on-force and force-to-terrain ratios against Ukrainian defenses. The Kremlin’s recent territorial gains, and its skill in conducting artillery salvos, could collapse Ukraine’s defensive lines along several fronts.

Drones could guide every bit of an Army division’s firepower, 101st CO says


U.S. Army units could someday align every level of their indirect weapons—from mortars to missiles—with some form of unmanned aerial system, or UAS, the 101st Airborne Division commander said.

“You could see those small UAS tied to the employment of mortars, and you could see those medium UASs tied to artillery, and those larger UAS could be tied to air-launch effects and other higher-order precision munitions,” Maj. Gen. Brett Sylvia said at a media roundtable Thursday.

The 101st is experimenting with different forms of tech as part of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George’s “transforming-in-contact” initiative, which seeks to rapidly evaluate new technology by fielding it directly to select units.

How to Save the A-10 Warthog: Give It to the U.S. Army Now

Brandon J. Weichert

While working on Capitol Hill, I was asked to participate in discussions over funding for the F-35 Lightning II and the A-10 Warthog. During those days of defense budget sequestration, funds were limited by an agreement made between Congress and then-President Barack Obama. Because of the limits, the Pentagon was being forced to choose between funding pre-existing systems, such as the A-10, or newer systems that would define the future, such as the F-35.

Walking into the first meeting, my bias was toward the F-35. The meetings changed my mind.

As part of our meetings, proponents for both platforms were asked to make their cases for why one of these systems should be prioritized over the other. The most impressive arguments came from the A-10 supporters. A group of former Special Forces operators came armed with gun camera footage from an A-10 to describe in detail how the Warthog saved their lives during an ambush conducted by the Taliban against their unit in the dusty foothills of Afghanistan.

A crossroad: Israel’s evolving war goals in Rafah - opinion


Ever since October 8, Israel has been grappling with the appropriate response to the horrifying Hamas massacre the day prior – and in the seven months since, we have watched the nation struggle to articulate a clear strategy.

Initially, the government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was resolute in its objective to “destroy” and “eliminate” Hamas, championing this approach as the path to what it called “total victory.”

However, as the conflict has evolved, so too have the stated goals of the IDF, where officers began redefining the objective of the ground offensive, shifting focus toward achieving a new security reality in Gaza as opposed to complete victory.

What Hamas Wants in Postwar Gaza

Matthew Levitt

On May 6, in an effort to forestall an all-but-certain Israeli operation in Rafah, Hamas leaders said that they might be prepared to accept a hostage-for-prisoners agreement with Israel. Coming after weeks of stonewalling by Hamas, the announcement raised hopes in Washington that some kind of deal might still be reached that could free dozens of hostages and bring about a pause in Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip.

What Kind of Weapons Did Biden Freeze to Israel?

Jesus Mesa

U.S. officials have halted a significant arms shipment to Israel over concerns about the potential implications of the large-scale military operation Israeli forces are preparing to undertake in Rafah, a densely populated city in southern Gaza that's sheltering more than a million Palestinians.

Last week, in response to the Israeli government's persistence that it would go ahead with the Rafah offensive regardless of whether Washington was on board, the Pentagon confirmed that the Biden administration paused the delivery of about 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and another 1,700 smaller 500-pound bombs.

Both those weapons have been widely used by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza—often to break up the tunnel network used by Hamas that runs under the Strip, and not without collateral damage.

Russia can lose this war - Opinion

Timothy Snyder

On Thursday Russia will celebrate Victory Day, its commemoration of the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945. Domestically, this is nostalgia. In the 1970s, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev created a cult of victory. Russia under Putin has continued the tradition.

Abroad, this is intimidation. We are meant to think that Russia cannot lose.

And far too many of us, during Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, have believed that. In February 2022, when Russia undertook its full-scale invasion of its neighbor, the consensus was that Ukraine would fall within days.

Even today, when Ukraine has held its own for more than two years, the prevailing view among Russia’s friends in Congress and in the Senate is that Russia must eventually win. Moscow’s success is not on the battlefield, but in our minds.

Russia can lose. And it should lose, for the sake of the world — and for its own sake.

Washington Takes Its Cyber Strategy Global

Rishi Iyengar

The United States has spent two years supporting Ukraine in one ground war and seven months backing Israel in another, and it continues to prepare for the possibility of a third in Taiwan. But arguably its most persistent focus has been on a far longer-running, more perennial, borderless battle over cyberspace and the future of technology.

The State Department unveiled its own piece of that ever-expanding policy priority this week with the release of its International Cyberspace and Digital Strategy, which lays out a doctrine of “digital solidarity” that emphasizes the role of technology in diplomacy and the need to build international coalitions to uphold an “open, inclusive, secure, and resilient” internet through “responsible state behavior” in cyberspace.

The strategy document, unveiled on Monday, sits at the intersection of three hallmarks of the Biden administration’s first term: an escalating conflict with adversaries such as Russia and China that frequently plays out in the cyber realm; an emphasis on “minilateralism” by building international coalitions and partnerships among smaller, targeted groupings; and a determination to maintain the United States’ global technological primacy.

The Russian Army may have defeated Ukraine — if it had followed its own manual

Michael Peck

The US Army's new manual on Russian tactics is an impressive-looking document. It's 280 pages packed with details and diagrams of how Russian soldiers are supposed to fight.

It is also evidence of a major reason why Russian troops have often fought poorly in the Ukraine war: they are not following their own playbook.

"A lot of the basic elements of that doctrine are sound enough that they could form a basis for successful operations," Scott Boston, a Russia military expert for the RAND Corp. think tank, told Business Insider. "But you do have to follow them."

To be clear, the US Army's manual — ATP7-100.1, "Russian Tactics" — specifies that it "is not meant to represent how the Russians are currently fighting in Ukraine." Nonetheless, armies try to fight according to their doctrine, or the fundamental principles that are intended to guide military operations.