25 December 2015

Amartya Sen: National security is one component of human security

December 24, 2015 
The Hindu“I am against a situation where the Left cannot think independently because of their obsession with American imperialism… I am in favour of humanity, equity and justice, but also in favour of intelligence…” Photo: V. Sudershan
Nalanda is not a Buddhist university, nor was the old Nalanda. So, had we looked for a monk to run the university, it would have been a mistake — that was not what we were seeking.

Economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s latest book, The Country of First Boys, is a collection of essays on an array of topics, ranging from development, justice, and education, to calendars, Rabindranath Tagore, and the importance of play. In an interview with The Hindu, Prof. Sen spoke candidly about the need to prioritise human security and not just national security, the controversy that has dogged the Nalanda University, and, drawing inspiration from Adam Smith, the need for an intelligent response to rampant capitalism. Excerpts:

In your book, you speak of the different priorities of human security and national security. Don’t you think national security often becomes an alibi for not spending enough on human security?

Well, there are three things. Firstly, security ultimately is a matter in which the leading concern should be around human life. So if we are speaking of security, it has to be human security. Since this also means security from external threats and violence, what we call national security is only one of the constituent factors in human security.

Secondly, it is true that in the name of national security, resources are often not allocated to things on which human security depends, such as education, health care, and a social safety net. And sometimes, national security in the political context seems like a barrier rather than a component to fostering human security. But at the same time, when we consider reducing the budget for national security, we also have to think of the other implications. There’s no reason why there should be a conflict between the two.

Thirdly, the neglect of education, health care, and social safety net has been so foundational in India, so deeply rooted in the class structure of the society, that to blame it all on national security would be a mistake.


Thursday, 24 December 2015 | Deepak Sinha

As it is, a military career is not seen as a lucrative option. Now, the Seventh Pay Commision’s decision to downgrade the Armed Forces from an All India Service will worsen the situation and widen the already existing disparity between the Armed Forces and the Civil Services

Those familiar with Dante Alighieri, the 13th century Italian poet, and his enduring work, The Divine Comedy, will be aware of the nine layers of hell. The ninth level, symbolised by the three mouths of Satan, was reserved for traitors. One can, but speculate, as to who would occupy them, if the poem had been set in India.

Raja Jaichand of Kannauj is a certainty; his assistance to Mohammed Ghouri led to Prithviraj Chauhan’s defeat and death, ushering Muslim rule in India. Another certainty is Mir Jafar who was instrumental in Robert Clive’s victory at Plassey; ensuring subsequent British rule in India. The third choice, if left to the serving and retired military community, would unanimously be the Seventh Pay Commission.

The reason for this is that the Commission has systematically and with malevolent intent, downgraded the Armed Forces from an All India Service that it was considered to be. That its actions have been cloaked in ambiguity and hypocrisy, with blatant disregard for facts, suggests arrogance and an utter contempt for propriety.

That the Commission’s recommendations suffer from major lacunae is in no small measure because the Government continues to insist, despite forming the largest cadre affected by its deliberations, that the Armed Forces is incapable of providing expert representation and requires a Civilian Defence Audit and Accounts officer to represent them. This in itself is abhorrent.

Benjamin Disraeli, the former British Prime Minister, once said, “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Table II of the Commission’s report illustrates this in full. It has compared component-wise defence expenditure in percentage terms of 10 selected countries and drawn two conclusions.

Rebooted with U.S. help

December 24, 2015  VARGHESE K. GEORGE

ReutersPIVOTAL: “The U.S. feels that Pakistan is better poised than ever before to deal with its internal challenges, and emphasises the fact that this is the first democratic government that succeeded a democratic government, has brought the economy back on track and has stabilised governance.” 

There have been many explanations as to why Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a new round of talks with Pakistan, abandoning the several conditions that had stalled the bilateral engagement. But no account of the turnaround has adequately accounted for what has been happening between the U.S. and Pakistan over the last two months and how it may have influenced the Indian repositioning. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan army chief Raheel Sharif visited the U.S. in October and November respectively. A joint statement by President Barack Obama and PM Sharif, a background briefing provided to Indian journalists by a senior U.S. administration official and, most recently, a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing of U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson on December 16, give one a sense of how the U.S. sees Pakistan, and the implications for India.

Redrawing the redlines
Until the recent turnaround, India followed the pre-election rhetoric of the current government leaders that India would unilaterally set the terms of engagement with Pakistan. On February 21, 2014, months before he became the National Security Adviser (NSA), Ajit Doval said: “If you know the trick, we know the tricks better than you. If you do another Mumbai, you lose Balochistan.” He added that “defensive offence” would be the approach towards Pakistan, which entailed working on the vulnerabilities of Pakistan and isolating it internationally. While the media took note of Mr. Doval’s earlier positions when he became the NSA — in Pakistan with a sense of unease and in India with characteristic jingoism — there was no official attempt to undo it. On the contrary, fresh statements — by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in the context of dealing with terrorism, that India would “remove a thorn with another thorn”; by Minister of State Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore that the Indian cross-border operation in Myanmar in June was a message to Pakistan; by Mr. Doval that India would “convince Pakistan in the language it understands” — only added to the mystery of India’s Pakistan policy. Incidentally, “talking to Pakistan in the language that it understands” was a favourite one-liner of Mr. Modi throughout the 2014 election campaign. A joke in Washington goes that a dossier that Pakistan PM Sharif gave to President Obama as “evidence” of India promoting terrorism in Pakistan was only a compilation of such speeches!

For now, ‘Make in India’ is a mere slogan

December 24, 2015,   JOSY JOSEPH

Yet another prime ministerial visit is being accompanied by big-ticket defence purchases. This time it is in the deep winter of Moscow, and deals worth over $10 billion are expected to be finalised, bringing Russia back on the list of top defence suppliers after a break of several years.

Earlier, a few hours before the Prime Minister took off for the U.S. in September, the Cabinet Committee on Security cleared deals worth over $3 billion, approving the long-pending purchase of Apache and Chinook helicopters.
The story was not very different in April in Paris, when Narendra Modi surprised many by announcing a decision to buy 36 Rafale fighters from Dassault through a government-to-government deal, overriding years of ongoing negotiations with the same company to buy 126 fighters under the MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) open tender.

While the big-ticket defence purchases help improve atmospherics of the Prime Minister’s high-decibel visits and immediate military preparedness, they also raise troubling questions about the honesty behind the ‘Make in India’ slogan of the government. If anything, these purchases are only affirming the fact that the Modi government is only following the legacy of past several decades in defence procurements — import-dependent, risk-averse and corruption-riddled.

A missing military-industrial complex
India is probably the only large democracy without a robust military-industrial complex. According to data released earlier this year by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India accounted for 15 per cent of the volume of global arms imports in the previous five years. In terms of financial value India was only second to Saudi Arabia in 2014 on military purchases from the global bazaar, said IHS Jane’s.

What to Expect from Modi’s Moscow Visit

P. Stobdan. December 23, 2015

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Moscow on December 24 and 25 for the annual Summit Meeting with President Vladimir Putin. This will be his 23rd and probably last foreign trip during 2015 unless he also stops over in Kabul on his return from Moscow.

This time around last year, Indo-Russian ties were a bit frosty. Russians were complaining about the Americans overtaking them as the number one arms supplier to India. They expressed disquiet and even sought retribution by ending the arms blockade to Pakistan to offset the loss. Indians on their part were frustrated by the Russian failure to meet delivery schedules, tendency to increase costs, and reluctance to transfer technology and supply spares. In fact, ties with Russia had started drifting during the Manmohan Singh era, with deals inked on defence and nuclear issues remaining only on paper.
Now it seems that both Modi and Putin are all set not only to straighten the loose ends of existing projects but also bring new big items on the table. This could well bring back Russia as India’s top military hardware supplier.

Modi is visiting Moscow after concluding a string of summit level meetings with the United States, France, Germany, Israel, United Kingdom and most recently Japan, at each of which defence and security aspects received robust attention. This, along with Modi’s drumming up of foreign investments for his ‘Make in India’ initiative, would have made the Russians jittery about actually losing an established market.

Sitting on top of a smouldering mountain


Subir Bhaumik
Often called India's Lebanon or Bosnia, Manipur has been an ethnic tinderbox, a killing field with few parallels since the former princely state was merged with the Indian Union in 1949. It appears likely to erupt again, as the state's majority Meiteis in the Imphal valley seek to intensify their agitation for implementation of the three bills passed in the state assembly in August and the Naga and Kuki tribespeople in the hills look all set to fiercely oppose the bills. President Pranab Mukherjee has not given assent to the three bills as the Centre has not pushed for it. The Meitei platform, the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System, has blamed the state's Congress government for not taking enough initiative to ensure the implementation of the bills. The JCILPS has threatened to intensify its agitation in December if the government in Delhi and Imphal fail to operationalize the three bills. The agitators feel these bills will help check Manipur's changing demographic profile. But the tribals in the hills oppose these because they fear their existing safeguards will be undermined by them.

Manipur has witnessed free-for-all bloodletting between Naga and Kuki militias in the 1990s with large-scale beheadings of unarmed villagers, as the two tribes fought over conflicting versions of the ethnic homeland. The violence over the extension of the Naga ceasefire during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government saw angry Meitei mobs setting fire to the state assembly and residences of ministers and lawmakers. The mass anger against people's representatives for not opposing the ceasefire that was seen as a prelude to the break-up of Manipur forced Delhi to withdraw the ceasefire. The Narendra Modi government's effort to work out a final settlement of the Naga issue raises tensions again as the National Socialist Council of Nagalim insists they have not given up their demand for a greater Naga state to be formed by merging Naga areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh with the present state of Nagaland.

The agitations against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act that witnessed self-immolations and heavy-handed police action have been kept alive by the fast of Irom Sharmila. The frequent highway blockades by Naga groups to push for their version of 'Nagalim' often lead to violence involving police and protesters. Manipur is also home to dozens of armed insurgent groups representing all its major communities. The violence unleashed by them and by security forces trying to combat them adds to the climate of impunity in Manipur. Kidnappings and ambushes by rebels and custodial deaths and extra-judicial encounters by security forces abound.

WTO : How we failed to protect our farmers

Posted at: Dec 24 2015, PK Vasudeva

The outcome of the ministerial conference of the WTO at Nairobi is a big setback to resource-poor Indian farmers. The negotiating team could neither ensure special safeguard mechanisms nor food security protection. At Bali in 2013, the team had stood firm.
Finally, the 10th Ministerial Conference (MC 10) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ended in Nairobi on December 19. There were trade ministers from 162 countries and most of them were disappointed. Many of the trade ministers felt left out of the key negotiations because of the one-upmanship and defiant attitude of developed countries like the United States and the European Union (EU).

Barring the US, the EU, Brazil, China and India, that had closed-door negotiations, the others were left guessing about the outcome of the emerging world trade order. The United States and the European Union were ably assisted by Brazil, a developing country, as they set about forging a new global trade agenda favourable to them. They succeeded in bypassing crucial aspects of the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) for a level playing field for all the member-countries which was launched in 2001, (14 years ago) in Doha, Qatar. 

In the run-up to the Nairobi meeting, a large majority of developing countries led by India, China, South Africa, Indonesia, Ecuador, and Venezuela prepared the ground to ensure that the Doha round of negotiations were not closed by the two trans-Atlantic trade giants. They tabled detailed proposals for a permanent solution for public stockholding programmes for food security and a special safeguard mechanism (SSM) to protect millions of resource-poor, low-income farmers from the import surges from industrialised countries.

Top MEA, DAE officials trash reports of secret nuke city, radioactive leaks

By PTI | 22 Dec, 2015,
Trashing reports of India building a secret nuclear city in Mysore and radioactive leaks at Jaduguda's uranium mines, top government officials today termed them as "deliberate distortion of facts" and asserted the country's nuclear establishment followed high safety standards prescribed by the IAEA.

Sources in the Ministry of External Affairs and the Department of Atomic Energy also questioned the timing of a raft of articles in international publications questioning safety of India' .
Read more at:

Explained: What Raghuram Rajan Just Did To Make Monetary Policy More Effective

Vivek Kaul
Vivek Kaul is the author of the 'Easy Money' trilogy. He tweets @kaul_vivek
23 Dec, 2015
Here’s how Rajan ensured that banks react faster to RBI repo rate cuts.
In the last monetary policy statement released by the Reserve Bank of India(RBI) on December 1, 2015, the governor Raghuram Rajan had said:
“Since the rate reduction cycle that commenced in January [2015], less than half of the cumulative policy repo rate reduction of 125 basis points [one basis point is one hundredth of a percentage] has been transmitted by banks. The median base lending rate has declined only by 60 basis points.”

Repo rate is the rate at which RBI lends to banks and acts as a sort of a benchmark to the interest rates that banks pay for their deposits and in turn charge on their loans.
What this means is that even though the Rajan led RBI has cut the repo rate by 125 basis points, banks in turn have cut their lending rate by only around 60 basis points on an average. This clearly tells us is that the monetary policy of the RBI (or the process of setting interest rates) has only been half effective.

Why is that the case? A major reason for this lies in the way the banks calculate their base rate or the minimum interest rate that a bank can charge its customers. How is this base rate calculated? As the RBI Draft Guidelines on Transmission of Monetary Policy Rates to Banks’ Lending Rates released earlier this year pointed out:

Besieged Afghan forces in Sangin receive airdrops as UK sends troops

Tiny but symbolic deployment of 10 British troops in non-combat role comes as residents say town has been almost overrun by Taliban
 Sune Engel Rasmussen in Kabul, Ewen MacAskill

Tuesday 22 December 2015 
Ammunition, military equipment and food is being airdropped to besieged Afghan forces battling to prevent the complete fall of Sangin in Helmand province, according to government officials in Kabul.
The move came as a third day of fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban ended with the insurgents in control of large swaths of the town, according to local residents.

The beleaguered Afghan army and police were still waiting late on Tuesday for reinforcements promised by the government in Kabul.
A Sangin police source, pleading for reinforcements, said the Taliban had taken the entire centre except for the police building, which had been under attack from about 50 to 60 Taliban fighters each day.
“If Kabul or the Helmand governor don’t send support, we will all be killed, or we should join the Taliban. We don’t have anything to eat or fight with,” he said.

Sangin assault is sign of Taliban confidence and warning to Kabul
Read more

Nepal's Government Considers Amendment to Resolve Constitutional Crisis

 Nepal’s prolonged constitutional crisis may be headed toward a solution.
By Ankit Panda, December 23, 2015

Nepal’s months-long constitutional crisis appears to be winding down after the government indicated that it is willing to acquiesce to some of the core demands of protestors. At a meeting of the Nepali cabinet this weekend, the government agreed to back a bill including a constitutional amendment that, if ratified by the country’s parliament, would alter the new constitution to satisfy two of the three primary grievances of the protestors. Specifically, the amendment would address proportional representation and federal constituency delimitation issues in the constitution. The political crisis over Nepal’s constitution has been particularly bitter given that the nation is almost evenly split over the appropriateness of the new constitution.

“The bill has ensured proportional inclusive participation in various state organs as demanded by the agitating parties and has also proposed delimitation of the electoral constituencies based on population,” Nepal’s Minister for Industry Som Prasad Pandey told the press, according to the Hindu. He added that a political mechanism “will recommend solutions to disputes over the proposed provincial boundaries within three months of its formation.”
“Besides these issues, the demands related to citizenship and other issues can also be settled through negotiations. So, we urge them to withdraw the protests immediately,” Pandey added.

Across the border to the south, in India, the Nepali government’s signaling has been met positively. Vikas Swarup, a spokesperson for the Indian foreign ministry, in a tweet noted that “India welcomes develop’ts in Nepal as positive steps that help create the basis for a resolution of current impasse.” India, given its important interests in Nepal and historic ties, has sought to resolve Nepal’s constitutional crisis. Additionally, due to cross-border ethnic and cultural ties between the Nepalis of the Terai and Indians living along the Nepali border, the current instability, if prolonged, could destabilize the Indian border. The de facto blockade of the border is one symptom of the problems arising for India from the constitutional crisis.

China's Nukes: What Happens in a Showdown with America?

Harry J. Kazianis, December 23, 2015 

As the Islamic State dominates national security headlines, tensions between Washington and Beijing on a whole host of issues—think the East and South China Seas, Taiwan, China’s rising conventional military power with growing overseas power projection capabilities etc.—only get the occasional attention they truly deserve. Getting even less attention these days: China’s multi-decade quest to modernize its nuclear weapons arsenal. Beijing is developing nuclear armed missiles that have longer ranges (and yes, they can hit the United States), tipped with multiple warheads that are now being deployed across multiple domains (air, land and now in the ocean).

While recent attention on China’s nuclear arsenal—specifically that Beijing is testing a railcar based mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range of 7,500 miles or more—was certainly welcomed, America’s academic community has been keeping a close eye on China’s growing nuclear weapons program for many years. Case in point, a recent article in the renowned academic journal International Security sheds new light on Beijing’s nukes. So what makes this article special? The author’s detailed analysis on an important subtopic: if Beijing will eventually abandon its long-standing nuclear strategy of assured retaliation for what MIT-based authors Fiona Cunningham and M. Taylor Fravel call a “first-use posture” that “will be a critical factor in future U.S.-China strategic stability.”

As I like to do of late, here are the major themes of this recent article, titled Assuring Assured Retaliation: China's Nuclear Posture and U.S.-China Strategic Stability.

Point #1- Revealing China’s Current Nuclear Posture:
“In general, China has sought to maintain the smallest possible force capable of surviving a first strike and being able to conduct a retaliatory strike that would inflict unacceptable damage on an adversary, at the time and place of China's choosing. Rather than expend all of its nuclear forces in a single, massive retaliatory strike, China has structured its nuclear forces to conduct multiple waves of large- or small-scale retaliatory strikes. As result, key principles in force development since 1980 have been “close defense” (yanmi fanghu) and “key-point counterstrikes” (zhongdian fanji). Close defense refers to ensuring the survivability of China's forces, which first emphasized concealment and then mobility. Key-point counterstrikes refer to the means and methods of retaliation and how to inflict unacceptable damage on an adversary. Historically, Chinese planning has targeted population and industrial centers as well as soft military targets, such as military bases.”

The Forces Awakening Against an Antagonistic China


Diplomatic and legal pressure—along with military might—are limiting Beijing's options.
Richard Javad Heydarian, December 22, 2015

Few can deny that China has had a particularly challenging year. In an effort to augment its sovereignty claims over what it considers as its national “blue soil,” China has inadvertently encouraged a growing number of nations to coalesce against it. One could argue that China has overplayed its hand, unleashing a dangerous strategic dynamic that threatens the whole region.

Throughout the early years of this decade, China rapidly and inexorably altered the maritime status quo in East Asia, wresting control of Philippine-claimed Scarborough Shoal and deploying a giant oil rig into Vietnamese-claimed waters in the South China Sea. In possession of cutting-edge technology, and confidently overseeing decades of relentless military modernization as well as paramilitary mobilization, China has transformed a whole host of contested low-tide elevations (LTEs), atolls, shoals and rocks into full-fledged islands. Within twenty months, it has reclaimed seventeen times more land than the other claimants combined over the past four decades.

While such a massive geoengineering project has strengthened its hand on the ground, allowing Beijing to project power from these features across the South China Sea, it has angered regional and external powers and gradually unleashed a robust countercurrent to its plans of local domination. Beijing’s whiplash approach to regional territorial disputes is undermining its own interests as well as that of the whole region, which desperately relies on stability in Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs) for uninterrupted and safe commerce. Beijing is now locked between the rock of domestic hawks, who are vigorously pushing for greater Chinese strategic grip on adjacent waters, and the hard place of growing international backlash, which is undermining China’s soft power—and its claim to regional leadership.

Constrainment in Action

The Sino-Pakistani JF-17 Might Have Another Buyer in Asia

Malaysia recently expressed an interest in the JF-17 Thunder.
By Benjamin David Baker, December 23, 2015

Christmas is a time for reflection, celebration and… buying really expensive gadgets which might or might not be obsolete in a few years. As Robert Farley noted earlier, several states in Asia are getting in the holiday spirit with the presentation of so-called “fifth generation” combat aircraft.
Furthermore, as I’ve covered the last couple of weeks, fourth generation birds are still in high demand throughout the region. Dassualt’s Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing’s F/A- 18 Super Hornet, Saab’s Gripen, and the Sukhoi Su-35 are all being peddled as options for prospective buyers.

As Franz-Stefan Gady has reported for The Diplomat, the Sino-Pakistani JF-17 Thunder (known in China as the FC-1 Xiaolong) is also trying to compete in this crowded field. Developed as a joint venture between China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAC) and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), the JF-17 is supposed to be a low-cost multirole alternative to the more expensive fighters currently on the market. According to the Defense Industry Daily, the aircraft isn’t a top-tier competitor, but does represent a clear step up from Pakistan’s Chinese MiG-19/21 derivatives and French Mirage III/V fighters. This positioning addresses a budget-conscious, “good enough” performance market segment that western companies once dominated, but have since nearly abandoned in recent decades.

First deployed in an operational capacity, the JF-17 Thunder has a conventional aerodynamic layout. The aircraft is fitted with Russian Klimov RD-93 turbofan engine with afterburner capabilities. It is a derivative of the RD-33, used on the MiG-29. In 2007, a contract was signed to supply 150 RD-93 engines for the JF-17, exported to Pakistan. China is also developing an indigenous turbofan engine, which is a copy of the RD-93, but has some modifications. It is designated as the WS-13 (Tianshan-21). The Thunder multi-role fighters delivered to Pakistan are fitted with Italian Grifo S-7 multi-track, multi-mode pulse Doppler radar. It has look-down, shoot-down capability.

What’s Saudi Arabia’s New Islamic Coalition Really Up To?

Author: Ahmed FouadPosted December 22, 2015
Saudi Arabia’s nebulous announcement that it is forming a 34-country Islamic alliance to battle terrorism has raised speculation about the group’s true mission.

The clearest aspect of the Dec. 15 announcement was that it was sorely lacking in details. Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s deputy crown prince and defense minister, merely noted that Riyadh is creating the Islamic Military Alliance to fight terrorism in the Muslim world.
While no countries led by Shiite parties — such as Iran, Iraq or Syria — appeared on the list of member states, Salman stressed that the alliance is open to all Islamic countries. That sentiment was reiterated Dec. 19 by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in remarks made to the press during the international conference on Syria in New York. 
Gen. Anwar Majid Ashqi, head of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies in Riyadh, said during a Dec. 15 phone call to Al-Ghad al-Araby channel that Iran is welcome in the alliance if it proves it does not support terrorist organizations. Ashqi said the precondition is necessary “because Western states accuse [Iran] of financing terror.” However, the general neglected to comment on the memberships of Turkey, Qatar and Sudan, despite numerous allegations that they support terrorism. 
Most notable among those accusations is the one made by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who explicitly accused Turkey of supporting the Islamic State (IS) by buying Iraqi oil through the organization. On Dec. 2,Russia’s Defense Ministry also claimed Ankara is providing weapons to IS in exchange for oil. Thus, accusations of supporting terror are not confined to Iran alone and have been directed at some states that are actually members of the new Saudi alliance. This could indicate that the sectarian and political disputes between Saudi Arabia and Iran played a role in the alliance’s formation. 

How To Stop Islamic State’s Escalation Dominance

By James Kitfield on December 23, 2015

While President Barack Obama’s declared both that the U.S. is hitting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria “harder than ever” and that progress in the campaign to degrade and defeat the group “needs to keep coming faster,” he revealed clearly that the administration is in a race against time. American officials believed that their anti-ISIL strategy and military campaign of the last year-and-a-half had achieved a stalemate: The momentum of the ISIL juggernaut that captured large swaths of Syria and Iraq was largely checked, but U.S.-backed proxies have struggled to roll back the terrorist group’s vast territorial gains.

In fact, ISIL (which we’ll refer to as Daesh from now on) has, in fact, recaptured “escalation dominance” outside of Syria with a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Egypt, Lebanon, France, and the United States, even as its reach and influence continues to grow through increased pledges of allegiance from far-flung extremist groups. Meanwhile, the Syrian civil war that fuels its rise has produced the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II; shifted the political dynamic in Western countries far to the right, with unpredictable long-term implications; and provoked open fighting between a NATO ally and Moscow when Turkey downed a Russian warplane.

That steep escalation curve has prompted some of the leading experts in the country to implore the Obama Administration to adjust its strategy and contemplate more aggressive measures against Daesh, ranging from enforcing no-fly zones and safe sanctuaries inside Syria, to reintroducing U.S. ground forces to break Daesh’s hold on major population centers. Each of those options carries great risk. But so does the current trajectory towards a regional meltdown coupled with expanding terrorist attacks that are drawing major powers into the Syrian vortex.

The Absence of Global Leadership Will Shape a Tumultuous 2016

Ian Bremmer @ianbremmerDec. 21, 2015
 What to expect in the year ahead

During the annual Asia-Pacific leaders’ summit in Manila in November, President Obama sought out two people for a pressing conversation. Not Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose forces were busy changing facts on the ground in Syria, nor Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose global economic strategy is paying off for China. Instead, he turned to a pair of entrepreneurs: Jack Ma, the CEO of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, and Aisa Mijeno, an ecological innovator from the Philippines. Obama gave a short speech and then spent nearly half an hour moderating a panel discussion with two businesspeople.

Obama’s explicit message was that government and business must work together to solve energy and environmental problems. The unspoken message was louder: in a hotel filled with leaders, the President of the United States felt he had more to gain chatting with private citizens than engaging his counterparts. And he was probably right.
In a world of emergencies, leadership matters—and in 2016 it will become unavoidably obvious that the world lacks leadership. The days when heads of the G-7 industrial powers like the U.S. and Germany controlled geopolitics and the global economy are gone for good. The international group of today is the expanded G-20, which is much larger—including important emerging powers like China and India—yet agrees on much less. The result might be called a G-zero world, a global caucus whose members don’t share political and economic values or priorities. They don’t have a common vision for the future. Many years in the making, a G-zero world is now fully upon us.

As bombing in Syria intensifies, a debate about the rules of engagement

By Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan December 22

President Obama’s order to intensify air attacks in Syria has led to new internal debate over whether to loosen tight restrictions on strikes against Islamic State targets that risk civilian casualties, according to senior administration officials.
But so far, at least, the White House has resisted proposals to change the rules of engagement for the bombing. Each strike, whether against a pre-planned target or one chosen on a “dynamic” basis by patrolling aircraft, is weighed against likely collateral damage and must be individually approved by top officers at the coalition operations center in Baghdad.

“We are trying to develop intelligence to get targets, to leverage opportunities . . . to create strikes that have a strategic effect,” a U.S. military official said. “But we’re going to keep doing those the same way we have done. We will not willy-nilly go after a target because it’s right there, right now.”
That caution has drawn sharp criticism from some Republican opponents of Obama’s strategy, with calls to “carpet-bomb” the Islamic State and place a lower priority on avoiding civilian deaths.
President Obama admitted to the legitimacy behind the criticism of his strategy to combat the Islamic State, saying they need to share more information with the public. "Part of our goal here is to make sure that people are informed about all the actions that we're taking," he said. (AP)

Who Wants What in the Syria Negotiations


From the U.S and Russia to Saudi Arabia, it seems like everyone has a stake in Syria's civil war.
Andrew J. Bowen, December 22, 2015 

On Friday, John Kerry convened a high-level session of UN Security Council member states’ foreign ministers to build on the diplomatic momentum that came from the October and November Syria talks in Vienna. Late afternoon Friday, Kerry, Russia’s Sergei Lavrov, France’s Laurent Fabius and the UK’s Philip Hammond reached agreement on a draft Security Council resolution, recognizing the Geneva II communiqué as the guiding principles of a possible settlement, and endorsed the timeline for such a process agreed upon in Vienna last month.

While upon initial glance the resolution text is more a canonization of the status quo than any substantive change, there’s more than meets the eye. First, in a sign of unanimity, the Security Council reaffirmed both the understanding reached at Geneva II (a secular representative democratic Syria) and the timeline for reaching a political settlement (elections within eighteen months and a transition government agreed in six months). Despite pressure by Tehran to void critical components of Geneva II, Iran's efforts to push for a national unity government headed by Bashar al-Assad instead of a transition along the Geneva communiqué were foiled.

Second, the resolution recognized Saudi Arabia’s steps in organizing the opposition for the expected January Vienna talks between the opposition and President Assad’s government. While differences remain, namely between Iran, Turkey, Russia and Saudi Arabia over who constitutes the legitimate opposition, recognition of the Kingdom’s efforts to build unity amongst the political and armed opposition is a positive step. While the Kremlin may have its objections, Moscow didn’t seek to invalidate the Saudi process in the resolution text. Their recognition of Jordan’s role in defining which groups should be defined as a terrorist group, instead of as an opposition group, is important as well.

Wikistrat’s Predictions for 2016

Posted on December 23, 2015 

Each year, Wikistrat asks its analysts to look ahead and predict major events and trends that will shape the world over the next year.

Our “Predictions for 2016” report released today is based on an online crowdsourced exercise Wikistrat conducted earlier this month. The predictions made by our analysts include:
Vladimir Putin will be forced to choose between Russia’s oligarchs and the public.
Iran’s regime will crack down as the country votes in parliamentary elections.
China may resort to unexpected measures to boost its economy.
The EU will not break up.
India will become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
ISIS will intensify its terrorism campaign outside the caliphate.
Technological changes will be greater than expected and range in nature.

Among the analysts who contributed to this report are: Mark Galeotti, a Professor of Global Affairs at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs; Dr. Raz Zimmt, a Research Fellow at the Alliance Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University; Hugh Stephens, former Senior Vice President, Public Policy (Asia-Pacific) for Time Warner; Pascale Siegel, the President of Insight Through Analysis; and Dr. Bruce Wald, former Director for all NRL C4I and military space technology and systems at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

Click here or on the cover image to download the report.

Flexibility from Participating Nations – Key to TAPI’s Success

  Sanket Sudhir Kulkarni, December 23, 2015

In the last one month, two significant developments have brought the TAPI project back into the lime light. Reportedly, Dragon Oil evinced interest in participating in the TAPI project’s pipeline construction1. This is a major breakthrough for this ambitious, multilateral project that was facing the prospect of a silent burial a few months ago due to the absence of any leader for the consortium. But with Dragon Oil’s participation, construction of the proposed project can be expected to move ahead with full speed2. Following closely on the heels of this development, the four nations who have invested in the project participated in a ground-breaking ceremony in Ashgabat to commence pipeline construction3. But, despite the progress made in the last few weeks, the project still faces certain commercial constraints that have the potential to stall the pipeline construction. Foremost among these revolves around gas pricing concerns, primarily of India and Pakistan. As per recent reports in The Economic Times on November 9, 2015, India apparently is not happy about the unit price of gas quoted by Turkmenistan and is hoping to re-negotiate the issue4. Couple of years ago, similar concerns associated with gas prices for TAPI pipeline project were echoed by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, an Islamabad based think tank5. It will be interesting to see how the Turkmen government responds to this fresh Indian move on gas price negotiations. For the continued sustenance of this project, it would be imperative for the Turkmen government to show some degree of flexibility on gas pricing. If that does not happen, it will perhaps force India to reconsider its participation in the project.

The reasons are quite simple. Recent geo-political developments in India’s neighbourhood have come as a blessing in disguise for its energy diplomacy. Such improved circumstances in India’s neighbourhood imply that it has multiple alternatives to source its gas supplies6. It has been argued that as a result of US-Iran deal on nuclear issues, India should look towards Iran for satiating its natural gas demand from Iran through a deep sea pipeline7. Hence some of the stalled energy projects, whose fate seemed to have been sealed earlier, may receive renewed attention from policy planners in New Delhi. With India being relatively immune to external geopolitical pressure, the sole factor that might influence its decision making in joining natural gas projects will be commercial considerations. In the last one year quite a few energy options have opened up for India. For example, the LNG deal with Australia, opening of Iran’s energy sector and prospects of shale gas imports from United States are some options that have the potential to satisfy India’s gas demand in the coming years. What these options have essentially done is infuse an element of comfort into natural gas decision making in India, providing options that suit its commercial interests. This also means that certain projects which were signed earlier primarily based on geopolitical constraints and relatively limited natural gas supply sources globally may perhaps be re-visited. The current Indian effort to re-negotiate gas prices must therefore be seen in this context.

Social Movements Are The Next Big Weapon

December 22, 2015 By Micah White Quartz
Governments and non-state actors will increasingly foment citizen protests to topple terrorist states and influence regimes.
Could social movements replace conventional warfare? 

The idea might sound far-fetched. But President Obama’s steadfast refusal to send occupation forces to fight the Islamic State in Syria may be evidence that the old methods of regime change—boots on the ground—are being rendered obsolete.
Going forward, governments will increasingly rely on catalyzing contagious social protests to topple terrorist states and influence autocratic regimes. Russian military theorists were the first to openly discuss this shift in the art of war—and to accuse America of pioneering techniques of fomenting viral protests abroad. Whether or not their accusations hold water, social movement warfare may well be the wave of the future.

Last year, defense ministers and high-ranking military personnel from several less-than-democratic societies, including Belarus, Iran, Egypt, Myanmar, Vietnam, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and China, gathered in an opulent Stalinist-era hotel in Moscow to discuss a grave threat to their governments. The occasion was the third annual Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS), an event hosted by the Russian Ministry of Defense. Unlike previous years, not a single military officer or official representative from a NATO member country participated in the two-day event.

The reason for the conspicuous absence of NATO representatives became apparent during the opening speech by Russia’s minister of defense, army general S. K. Shoygu. He announced that the focus of the gathering would be “on the problems of how so-called ‘color revolutions’ … affect global security.”

According To DARPA, This Is What The World Will Look Like In 2045

December 15, 2015 | by Robin Andrews
http://www.iflscience.com/ technology/world-2045- according-darpa
photo credit: Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

The U.S. military’s scientific and technological wing, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is essentially tasked with constructing the future. Robotic soldiers and artificial intelligence (AI) have both been in development for some time, as have instantaneous language translation systems and advanced contact lenses. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that DARPA has given its predictions for what the world will be like in 2045, as reported by Tech Insider.
In a video series entitled “Forward to the Future” released on YouTube, three DARPA researchers have explained how the technologies they are actively working on could transform the world in 30 years’ time. 
The first of these predictions comes from Pam Melroy, an aerospace engineer, former astronaut, and deputy director of DARPA’s Tactical Technologies Office. This department, along with others, handles the development of drones.
Militarized drones are becoming increasingly spooky, with one DARPA project aiming to create “vampire drones,” those that sublimate into nothingness in direct sunlight, leaving no trace of their exploits.
Melroy takes this one step further. Instead of merely ordering drones and other machines around, advanced AI will “allow us to work as partners with machines and have them understand our intent for much more complex tasks.” Instead of having rudimentary voice recognition and keyboards, machines – drones, aircraft, and even spacecraft – will respond to our commands dynamically and control multiple systems simultaneously. 
DARPA is currently developing an empathetic system that will even allow robots on the battlefield to detect and analyze our emotional and physical state in real-time; this will permit them to predict our needs before we even need them. Even before this system is operational, a quarter of combat soldiers will be robots by just 2030, according to one U.S. general.
Stefanie Tompkins, a geologist and director of DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office, believes the world of 2045 will be dominated by nanotechnology. Our ability to manipulate materials at the atomic level already means we can produce incredible materials, including prosthetic limbs that have the ability to “feel” and night vision contact lenses only a few atoms thick. 

10 reasons that explain why you should oppose Facebook's Free Basics campaign

Free Basics violates a fundamental principle of the Internet.

Facebook has been making a renewed push to convince India's telecom regulator that it should be allowed to run Free Basics, a subsidised internet platform that gives people Facebook and a few other services for free while violating the principles of net neutrality on which the internet was built. Here is a quick explanation of what net neutrality is and a primer on why Facebook's platform is dangerous
The SaveTheInternet.in team has once again banded together to counter Facebook's marketing blitz, including "accidentally" encouraging users outside India to send a message to an Indian regulator and come up with a concise fact sheet that explains everything that is wrong with Free Basics: 

1) There are other successful models (this, this, this) for providing free Internet access to people, without giving a competitive advantage to Facebook. Free Basics is the worst of our options.

2) Facebook doesn’t pay for Free Basics, telecom operators do. Where do they make money from? From users who pay. By encouraging people to choose Free Basics, Facebook reduces the propensity to bring down data costs for paid Internet access.

3) Free Basics isn’t about bringing people online. It’s about keeping Facebook and its partners free, while everything else remains paid. Users who pay for Internet access can still access Free Basics for free, giving Facebook and its partners an advantage. Free Basics is a violation of Net Neutrality

4) Internet access is growing rapidly in India. We’ve added 100 million users in 2015. Almost all the connections added in India in the last 1 year are NOT because of Free Basics.

5) Free Basics is not an open platform. Facebook defines the technical guidelines for Free Basics, and reserves the right to change them. They reserve the right to reject applicants, who are forced to comply with Facebook’s terms. In contrast they support ‘permissionless innovation’ in the US.

6) The only source of info on Facebook’s Free Basics is Facebook, and it misleads people. Facebook was criticised in Brazil for misleading advertising (source). Their communication in India is misleading. People find the “Free” part of Free Basics advertising from Facebook (or FreeNet free Internet) from Reliance misleading (source).

7) Facebook gets access to all the usage data and usage patterns of all the sites on Free Basics. No website which wants to compete with Facebook will partner with them because it will have to give them user data. Facebook gives data to the NSA (source) and this is a security issue for India.

8) Research has shown that people prefer to use the open web for a shorter duration over a limited set of sites for a longer duration. (source)

9) Facebook says that Free Basics doesn’t have ads, but does not say that it will never have ads on Free Basics.

10) Facebook has shown people as saying that they support Free Basics when they haven’t. They may claim 3.2 million in support, but how many of those mails are legitimate?

Newsweek Has Just Published a “Declassified” Special Edition

December 23, 2015

The Special Newsweek Edition “DECLASSIFIED” - Declassified Even Further
December 23, 2015 - Newsweek’s Special Edition, “Declassified,” is on
news stands now. To commemorate this extraordinary release, which features a
curated list of the most noteworthy documents declassified in 2015,
contributing editor and Archive FOIA project director Nate Jones is
publishing a supplemental online posting for National Security Archive
followers on our blog, Unredacted.

Jones’s additional content is a fascinating read for document hounds, and
will compliment the Newsweek print edition, which, due to space constraints,
was forced to cut some of the background to these fascinating declassified
stories. Readers can also now click the links and access the entire featured
documents themselves, as well as see how they were initially presented by
the “dedicated patriots” who actually filed the FOIAs and brought these
government secrets into the public domain.