7 June 2016

*** The CIA’s New Directorate of Digital Innovation

Robert K. Ackerman
June 4, 2016

The CIA Accelerates Innovation

A new directorate focuses on digital technologies across the agency’s spectrum of operations and analysis. 

The CIA’s newest directorate consolidates several technology business units into one hub organization focused on deeply embracing innovative approaches and capabilities throughout the agency. As part of an effort to make digitization commonplace in both operations and analysis, the CIA also will work with industry to speed up the adoption of cutting-edge technologies. To start, the agency will add some of the latest data capabilities in the infosphere, and then it will nurture new technologies as they emerge from laboratories in government and industry.

Known as the Directorate of Digital Innovation, or DDI, this organization is concentrating on inherent capabilities at the core of agency activities, as opposed to generic intelligence functions. “Information is the agency’s lifeblood,” says Andrew Hallman, who leads the unit as deputy director of the CIA for digital innovation. “Our responsibility here is to nourish and develop that digital bloodstream in which we execute the mission.”

The main driver for forming the directorate was a recognition that the CIA’s digital environment pervaded all its business areas, and the agency needed to more deeply embrace technical approaches and capabilities throughout those areas, according to Hallman. Yet some of the agency’s most capable elements lacked the digital acumen to exploit new technologies, so that task needed to be consolidated in a hub organization.

** Migration – A New Form of “Hybrid Warfare”?

2 Jun 2016

By Peter Roell for Institut für Strategie- Politik- Sicherheits- und Wirtschaftsberatung (ISPSW)

Given the variable nature of migration, we shouldn’t be surprised that it has been instrumentalized to aid and abet hybrid warfare, specifically by Russia in Eastern Ukraine and the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Today, Peter Roell fills in the blanks on how migration flows are being turned into “hostile asymmetrical actions.”

Preliminary Remarks

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure and honor for me to attend, now for the sixth consecutive occasion, the strategic dialogue organized by the Research Institute for National Security Affairs (RINSA), the Korea National Defense University (KNDU), and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, in Seoul.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the representative of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in South Korea, Stefan Samse, for inviting our German team to this high-level conference.

While migration has many facets I shall focus here on its utilization as an instrument of “hybrid warfare”.

*Without solid training options, mysterious Cyber Command remains a work in progress

June 5, 2016

The military's demand for cyber capabilities is soaring. Defensive and offensive operations, including those targeting the Islamic State group, are occurring with greater frequency. There's talk of elevating U.S. Cyber Command's profile within the Defense Department. And yet six years after its creation, the organization does not have a training environment for large-scale exercises and to evaluate the readiness of its force.

Unlike other major military components, the mysterious CYBERCOM, which is headquartered at Fort Meade in Maryland, does not have a permanent interconnected range for units to practice new tactics, test new weaponry and fight hypothetical enemies in exercises designed to simulate real-world conflict. It's working to build one, officials say, suggesting — without offering much detail — that they're looking to engineer a network of facilities that replicates command-and-control systems and allows for large units to train with potentially catastrophic cyber weapons. Meanwhile, the definition of unit-level readiness remains a work in progress.

“We don’t have — but we need — an exercise environment where you do rehearsals, go against adversary networks, and figure out ways to better protect your own,” said Jim Keffer, a retired Air Force major general who served as a CYBERCOM's chief of staff in 2015. “For individual training, I think we’re really good. But the team training, the force-on-force training, that is primarily limited by a lack of a persistent training environment.”

Will Modi's Visit Kick off a New Era in U.S.-India Cooperation?

June 5, 2016

The upcoming visit of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United States on June 7–8 at the invitation of Speaker Paul Ryan, to address a joint session of Congress, is being described as a historic movement in the bilateral ties between India and the United States. Modi will have an opportunity to reiterate to U.S. leaders that a resurgent India is committed to working together with the United States in ensuring peace, security and development in South Asia and other parts of the globe. He will also fulfill President Obama’s invitation for a bilateral visit and the two leaders will review the progress of bilateral ties.

The relationship between India and the United States was not so strong when Prime Minister Modi came to power in May 2014. In fact, bilateral ties between two largest democracies were remarkably low. At the same time, given Modi’s personal differences with the United States, diplomats and experts in both countries opined that relations between New Delhi and Washington would continue to face bad weather in the future. Surprisingly, however, showing his pragmatism and statesmanship, Modi decided to redirect efforts to sustain and deepen ties with the United States. This became soon evident when he made a state visit to the United States in September 2014, at President Obama’s invitation. Subsequently, Obama became the first U.S. president to be the chief guest at the Republic Day Parade in January 2015. Since then, bilateral ties have progressed significantly, with the two countries having held two summit-level talks and signed many transformative agreements, including the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, to expand cooperation in all areas of common interest in the first two years of the Modi government.

Boost to India's Strategic Ambitions with Inking of Trilateral Project with Iran and Afghanistan

By Col (Dr) P K Vasudeva
06 Jun , 2016

A trilateral transport corridor project, inked in Tehran during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Iran on 23-24 May with the leaders of Iran and Afghanistan, altered the geopolitical map of South and Central Asia. Additionally, India, Iran and Afghanistan signed a trade and transit agreement including development of Chabahar port that will provide Indian goods with overland access to Afghanistan and Central Asia and vice versa. Hitherto, India’s role in Afghanistan and Central Asia has been limited, as Pakistan had denied it with overland access. The 12 agreements signed during Modi’s visit to Iran will change the scenario.

India’s role in Afghanistan and Central Asia has been limited, as Pakistan had denied it with overland access. The 12 agreements signed during Modi’s visit to Iran will change the scenario.

Strange as it might seem, the deal has now been made possible by tacit support from the same US which is keen on counterbalancing growing Chinese influence in the Central Asian region. For India, the Chabahar port, which is just 940 km from Mundra, Gujarat, is not just about facilitating trade with Afghanistan which has been affected by Pakistan’s refusal to allow transit of goods through its territory. Rather, the development of Chabahar is an important part of the country’s grand strategy to connect with Central Asia for trade circumventing Pakistan, and for tapping into the energy opportunities that are opening up in Iran.

Modi’s Visit to Tehran

The Forgotten Mutiny that Shook the British Empire

By Rakesh Krishnan Simha
06 Jun , 2016

The naval mutiny of 1946 was among the hardest blows the British received during their brutal 200 year occupation of India. The unexpected revolt by more than 25,000 ratings of the Royal Indian Navy (RIN) achieved what two generations of nonviolent political struggle couldn’t – it drove a stake of fear through British hearts.

The mutiny proved the British could not continue to hold on to India with the help of Indian soldiers any longer. It started in Bombay on February 18 and spread like wildfire to naval establishments countrywide, ending on the 23rd. The following day the British started packing their bags.

Without the support of the navy, over 100,000 British troops, administrators and civilians and their families were in no position to make it to Britain safely. At the very least, a large number of them would have been slaughtered. The British knew this, and they quit India post-haste.

British caste system

Pakistan’s Double-Game Stands Exposed Again

By Jai Kumar Verma
05 Jun , 2016

Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the Afghan Taliban chief who was killed in a drone attack on May 21 in the restive Pakistani province of Balochistan was a hardliner and averse to the idea of any negotiations. He refused to participate in the Quadrilateral Cooperation Group (QCG) constituted to initiate peaceful negotiations. In fact, instead of taking part in peace talks, under his leadership, the Afghan Taliban enhanced attacks on US and Afghan forces. 

According to reports, when he was killed, he had a Pakistani passport in the name of Mohammad Wali on him and had valid Iranian visa, along with a CNIC which is issued to ‘bonafide’ citizens of Pakistan. He was entering Pakistan from the Taftan check post on the Iran-Pakistan border from where he was ostensibly headed to the Afghan Taliban headquarters in Quetta. It has been reported that he had travelled out of Pakistan several times, especially to United Arab Emirates and Iran on Pakistani passport. All of this comes to indicate his close relationship with the Pakistani deep state.

Taliban spokesperson announced the appointment of Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, who was the deputy leader of slain leader Mansour as the chief of Taliban on May 25. Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob son of Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani were declared as the deputy supreme leaders of Taliban.

Assessing Power Transition in Taiwan: From KMT to DPP

By Prashant Kumar Singh
05 Jun , 2016

On May 20, 2016, Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was sworn in as the 14th President of Taiwan, or the Republic of China (ROC), recognised as a sovereign country only by 22 countries. She defeated her rival Eric Chu of the Kuomintang (KMT) by a huge margin of 25 per cent vote in the presidential election held in January this year, thus bringing the eight-year long rule of the KMT to an end.

Earlier in 2008, KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou had wrestled power from the DPP, which too had been in power for two consecutive terms since 2000.Tsai’s ascendency to the top post is an important development from the point of view of Taiwan’s domestic politics, cross-strait relations and over all regional security. Given India’s growing thrust on ‘Act East’, India too needs to take note of the political shift in Taiwan and its likely impact at the wider regional level.

Power Transition

The latest power transition is the third since 1996, the year Taiwan had its first direct presidential election on the basis of universal suffrage with multi-party system. Prior to it, during KMT’s single-party authoritarian rule, Taiwan was under Martial Law for almost forty years (1949-1987). It was President Lee Teng-hui (1988-2000), often referred to as ‘Mr. Democracy’, who finally ushered multi-party democracy in Taiwan and won the first election too.

India: Demanding Special Protection Laws For Journalists – OpEd

JUNE 6, 2016

As India has witnessed the murder of three journalists this year (eight since Jan 2015), the demand for special protection laws to journalists on duty is also mounting. Protesting rigorously against the killing of two scribes in Bihar and Jharkhand recently, the media fraternity across the country rose to the occasion for a national action plan for safeguarding the media.

Both the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Paris based Reporters Sans/Without Borders (RSF) strongly condemned
the killings and called for an authentic investigation into the incidents. They also expressed concerns that India is slipping down in the media freedom parameters turning the largest democracy into a worst place for working journalists.

Condemning the killings, the Vienna based International Press Institute (IPI) commented that it shows the failure of the province governments to provide basic protection to journalists to carry out their works. The forum also called the Indian authorities to conduct a full, swift and transparent investigation into their deaths to ensure justice to the victim families with an aim to end a growing culture of impunity for crimes against journalists.

India Seeks Joint Development Of Oil, Gas Fields In Qatar – OpEd

JUNE 6, 2016

Having achieving fair amount of self reliance in military matters, missiles cum nuke arsenals inclusive, India is searching for sources for ensuring energy security. Qatar is the largest supplier of LNG and LPG to India.

Indian PM Narendra Modi, who has been on what is known as world tour ever since he assumed the high office in 2014, is now touring Qatar after his brief visit to Iran and held wide-ranging talks on June 05 with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and Qatari leaders in Doha.

Like the USA and China, India is also focusing on ensuing energy security. The Indian visit to Iran recently in this regard apart from port issue.
During his visit, Indian leader India evinced interest in joint exploration of new oil and gas fields as well development of discovered assets in the energy-rich Qatar. India also invited the Gulf nation to invest in the country’s exploration and production sector by bidding for the blocks under the new ‘Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing’ Policy and take part in disinvestment of Indian PSUs.

The Dream Of Durable Peace – OpEd

JUNE 6, 2016

The constant efforts for an enduring peace in Afghanistan essential for the long term and plausible peace for the people has always been a collective effort of the Afghan government and the international community. The chaos and the conflict in Afghanistan has tried to be overcome through a political process by engaging the Afghan Taliban and the government in a series of negotiations. Previously, the regional powers as well as the United States backed the peace talks with the Afghan Taliban However, with the sudden revelation of Mullah Omar’s death, the over-delayed peace process between the two parties once again have fuelled the persistent tension in the country and encouraged other militant groups to make their place.

Pakistan had mediated a few rounds of peace talks, but after the Mullah Omar’s death the peace talks were halted.

Through a mediatory role Pakistan twice endeavored to engage the Afghan government and the Taliban in a process of peace talks. Further supported by China and the US, both parties were urged to reach at a consensus about a ceasefire and eventually engage in the confidence building measures (CBMs). However, the recent news of the killing of the Afghan Taliban’s supreme leader has once again put the goal of bringing peace in Afghanistan on the stakes. Under the leadership of Mullah Mansoor, the peace talks between the two parties were obscure, but yet there was a ray of hope that could move forward. The demands of Mullah Mansoor for a complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan was considered as an obstruction point since the US and its allies could not agree to a complete withdrawal of the ISAF forces therefore, the drag-on policy was never allowed toward a successful peace process for Afghanistan.

Profile: Abdul Rehman Rauf Of Jaish-e-Mohammad

By Partha Chakraborty*
JUNE 6, 2016

Abdul Rehman Rauf is the second in command in the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM)’s power hierarchy and is arguably the most important person in charge of taking key decisions in the outfit. He has played key role in several terrorist attacks carried out on Indian soil and remains a key instrument of the Pakistan military’s anti-India subversive activities.

Abdul Rehman Rauf alias Mufti Abdul Rauf Ashgar was born on 1 January 1977 in Bhawalpur, Pakistan. Rauf is the younger brother of Maulana Masood Azhar, founder of the proscribed terrorist organization Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). He figures in the list of most wanted terrorists India wants deported from Pakistan.

Rauf is one of the 12 children (six daughters and six sons) born to Allah Bakhsh Shabir, a headmaster at a government-run school in Bhawalpur and his wife Ruqua Bibi. Shabir after his retirement ran a dairy and a poultry farm in Bhawalpur. After completing his education from Jamia Uloomul Islamia Banuri town in Karachi, a Deobandi learning centre, Rauf came in contact with the Harkat-ul-Ansar (aka Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, HuM) terrorist outfit, which had recruited a large number of its cadres from such institutions. Rauf is believed to have received armed training in HuA facilities in Pakistan after which he travelled to Afghanistan to fight alongside Mullah Omar, who became the chief of the Taliban, a connection that came to good use later in 1999.

Rauf’s involvement in terrorism is believed to have started with his 1995 plot to abduct foreign tourists in Jammu & Kashmir. On 4 July that year, two American and two British nationals were abducted during a trekking expedition in the Liddarwat area of Pahalgam in Anantnag district by Al-Faran, a front of the HuA. Four days later, two more foreigners, a German and a Norwegian were also abducted. While one American national John Childs managed to escape on 8 July, the other one was beheaded. The other four were never traced and were possibly killed by their abductors.

Fretting over Chabahar: Phobia or diversionary ploy by Pakistan?

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch
06 Jun , 2016

It was downright amusing to read an article in a prominent Pakistani daily titled ‘Trade route linking Chabahar Port with Afghanistan’ a security threat’. The article refers to deliberations by two former Pakistani defence secretaries (Lt Gen Asif Yasin Malik and Lt Gen Nadeem Lodhi) at a three-day workshop on ‘National Security, Deterrence and Regional Stability in South Asia’ hosted by the Strategic Vision Institute – a Pakistani think-tank. Asif Yasin Malik was reported to have said, “The alliance between India, Afghanistan and Iran is a security threat to Pakistan” and added that he feared that Pakistan is going into isolation. In view of the regional and global environment, I see Pakistan falling into an abyss of isolation primarily because of its own mistakes and partly due to the hostile policies of other states”. Nadeem Lodhi said the existence of such a “formidable bloc” in the neighbourhood had “ominous and far reaching implications”, adding, “We need to break out of this encircling move with help from friends… diplomatic manoeuvres and by forging a strong deterrence.” In this context, Lodhi said that of the three countries, Iran is most likely to pay heed to Pakistani concerns. 

Asif Yasin Malik blamed the situation on the “dysfunctional Foreign Office” and the absence of a full time foreign minister. Nadeem Lodhi feared the three-nation bloc will affect Pakistan’s plans for regional economic integration, restoration of internal peace and maintenance of peaceful borders, as also affect the CPEC timelines. He suggested Pakistan should use China’s influence for fixing problems, not alienate Iran further and Pakistan’s defence and strategic relationship with China be formalized instead of an unwritten understanding. Staff reporters of the paper authoring the article alluded to these above statements as “reflection of the opinion held in military circles, which have been deeply suspicious of the port and the trade route”. Interestingly, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz recently stated during a recent press conference that Pakistan did not see Iran’s Chabahar port as a rival and that Pakistan was in fact exploring the possibility of developing links with Gwadar. Mehdi Honardoost, Iran’s envoy to Islamabad recently stated that Pakistan and China should join in on the Chabahar agreement, stressing that Gwadar and Chabahar ports should not be seen as rivals.

A nuclear arms race in East Asia?

3 JUNE 2016

It is a place where most nations deeply distrust their neighbours, and where old-style nationalism still reigns supreme.
The eventual deployment of the North Korean nuclear-armed missiles might easily push South Korea towards acquiring its own nuclear deterrent, writes Lankov [The Associated 

Andrei Lankov is professor of Korean Studies at Kookmin University, Seoul. He is the author of "The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia".

Recently, news from the Korean Peninsula has been dominated by missiles: as satellite images confirmed, the North Koreans have been busy preparing another test launch of "BM-25 Musudan", their intermediate-range missile.

The launch ended in failure, the fourth such failure in this year. Nonetheless, North Korean engineers and scientists are busy developing both long-range and submarine-based ballistic missiles, capable of hitting the United States.

There has been much hype about the recent Musudan launch, but few people noticed another piece of news that came from South Korea a week earlier.

A Legal Imbroglio In The South China Sea – OpEd

JUNE 6, 2016

The rhetorical war between the China and the United States over the South China Sea dispute is increasing in tempo and magnitude by the week. The US is wasting no time, resource and effort in sponsoring seminars, talks and think tank confabs to drive a wedge between China and other claimant nations in the region. Ambitious young ASEAN scholars and diplomats, anxious to boost their resumes and post-retirement corporate prospects, are actively being lured towards this end via the offer of generous stints at prestigious American universities and think tanks.

Vietnam is the suitor du jour in America’s new carousel game called the “Asian Pivot.” While China is financing and building essential infrastructure in Vietnam, the US is ironically offering weapons to a nation it pummelled during a genocidal two-decade war that left two million Vietnamese citizens dead, as well as an untold number injured and maimed. This tally does not include the yet incalculable effects of Agent Orange on future generations of Vietnamese.

A New York Times report on May 11, 2014 noted that “the war has not ended for many of the 2.8 million” individuals who “are convinced that their cancers and nervous disorders and skin diseases — not to mention congenital maladies afflicting some of their children — are a result of their contact with Agent Orange.”

The Contest For International Support On The South China Sea Disputes – Analysis

By Louie Dane C. Merced*
JUNE 6, 2016

With the final award of the Arbitral Tribunal on the maritime disputes in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea (SCS/WPS) ex- pected in the coming months, there has been a noticeable increase in activities not only on the ground, but also in the diplomatic circles. These developments provide some clues on how the arbitration case and the SCS/WPS disputes currently stand in the re- gional and even global discourse.

The Philippines’ advocacy for a rules-based approach in addressing maritime disputes in the SCS/WPS received an additional boost following the G-7 Foreign Ministers Meeting held in Hiroshima, Japan in April 2016. The foreign ministers of seven major developed countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States – affirmed the need to “fully implement any decisions rendered by the relevant courts and tribunals which are binding on them, including as provided under UNCLOS.” This adds to the several statements by leaders and high officials of these countries supporting the arbitration process initiated by the Philippines, as documented by the Foreign Service Institute.

Countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Timor Leste, on different occasions, have also voiced out the need to uphold the rule of law and affirmed that the Tribunal’s decisions are binding to the parties. The 28-member European Union (EU) also called on parties to “clarify the basis of claims, and to pursue them in accordance with international law including UNCLOS and its arbitration procedures.” While in the ASEAN-US Special Summit held in Sunnylands, California in March 2016, the leaders expressed their “full respect for legal and diplomatic processes… in accordance with universally recognized principles of international and the 1982 UNCLOS.”

For the US, Sailing Around South China Sea Is Not Strategy – Analysis

By Harry J. Kazianis* 
JUNE 4, 2016

US naval excursions are temporary response to Beijing’s permanent islands and equipment in the South China Sea.

After President Barack Obama’s visits to Vietnam and Japan, the wider Asia-Pacific region has to wonder what the future holds as a dangerous geostrategic rivalry develops between the People’s Republic of China and the United States. And considering the stakes, such worries are completely justified.

The rise of China – and its campaign to “salami slice” its way – occupying small pieces of reefs and semi-submerged features in the South China Sea in increments towards regional dominance – threatens America’s dominant position in Asia. Beijing’s seemingly inexhaustible need to control the world’s most economically vibrant region has set in motion what the New York Times rightly called a “game of chicken” that many fear could spark a tragic great-power war.

China’s goal is simple: Dominate the Asia-Pacific and slowly but surely push America out. To achieve this, Beijing must negate the sizeable military assets Washington has in the region – especially the US Navy. To operationalize such a strategy, Beijing has developed a concept known to Western strategic analysts as anti-access/area-denial, or A2/AD. Leveraging the combined strength of such military platforms as ultra-quiet submarines; more than 80,000 sea mines, the world’s largest inventory; air-defense platforms; budding undersea tracking systems; various cruise missiles; and two deadly anti-ship ballistic missile systems, China has set the stage to turn areas around its near seas, as far away as the very ends of the South China Sea towards Indonesia, into what some are calling a “no-man’s land” for US naval vessels and aircraft.

Hints of differences surface among Tibetans

4 June, 2016 

Extant ferment among exiled Tibetans was exacerbated by personality clashes, factional, regional rivalries and generational differences among competing politicians.

The formal swearing-in ceremony in Dharamsala on 27 May 2016, of Lobsang Sangay, re-elected as “Sikyong” or political leader of Tibetans in exile, marked the end of the second elections to the post since the Dalai Lama handed over political authority in March 2011. These elections attracted notice, though, because they revealed the divisive differences simmering within the Tibetan diaspora. The Dalai Lama’s undiminished influence over the Tibetan people was at the same time demonstrated when he intervened to temper campaign rhetoric. His presence at the swearing-in ceremony endorsed the election process and indicated confidence in the 48-year old Harvard-educated Lobsang Sangay.

The recent elections to choose the Sikyong and 45 members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, brought differences and discontent to the surface. Extant ferment among exiled Tibetans was exacerbated by personality clashes, factional and regional rivalries and apparent generational differences among competing politicians, with a section of younger Tibetans questioning the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way” approach. The development has the potential to weaken cohesiveness of the Tibetan community in exile. It will also aid China’s persistent efforts to undermine the influence of the present Dalai Lama, sow division among the different Tibetan Buddhist sects, and facilitate acceptance by them of the next Dalai Lama who the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership in Beijing has declared it would appoint. At least three Tibetan Buddhist sects have till now shown an inclination to engage with China.

Time for US to stop militarization of South China Sea


A formation of the Nanhai Fleet of China's Navy on Saturday finished a three-day patrol of the Nansha islands in the South China Sea. [Photo/Xinhua]

The three-day Shangri-la Dialogue that starts on Friday is set to focus on the South China Sea, and no doubt the United States and some of its allies will grasp the opportunity to play up what it claims China's military expansion in the South China Sea.

However, it's the US that is militarizing the waters and should reflect on the potential risks.

The militarization of the South China Sea as a result of the US' military build-up and its frequent so-called freedom of navigation operations increases the chances of a dangerous collision. The growing risk of a possible collision raises questions about whether the existing international laws can regulate the conduct of relevant parties. If not, should China and US sign an Incident at Sea (INCSEA) Agreement to curtail dangerous encounters.

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea classifies the sea into various jurisdictional zones with rights and duties. These serve as a benchmark for deciding on the lawfulness of the conduct of relevant parties. Consequently, the location of an incident at sea plays a key role in judging the lawfulness of any maritime activity.

Dalai Lama needs to return to Lhasa

4 June, 2016 

Having the Dalai Lama in their midst will do more for the Tibetan people than any number of Hollywood or Bollywood admirers.

LHASA: The capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region looks, at first glance, similar to so many other cities in China. As the train from Beijing halts at a modern terminus, the space around the station is filled with skyscrapers, with more being built. But closer to the city centre, more and more of those walking on the totally “swachh” pavements are holding prayer wheels, while others clutch prayer rosaries. There is a large Muslim presence in Lhasa, even a mosque catering to the half-million inhabitants of this largest of Tibetan cities. More and more Chinese are turning to religion, with Buddhism in the lead together with other traditional faiths such as Daoism, while those drawn to the western world are in significant numbers embracing different versions of the Christian faith. And in Lhasa this adherence to faith is openly demonstrated, with many chanting in soft tones and very often, devotional music issuing from within storefronts rather than the jazz and other raucous tunes favoured by so many shopping malls in India. The Communist Party of China (CCP) has wisely been making its peace with matters of faith, and Buddhism in particular, thereby not standing in the way of the desire of several of the PRC’s people to turn to the spiritual, of course almost always in tandem with the material.

The centre point of Lhasa is not the imposing town hall as it is the Potala Palace, a red and white structure that has in its different avatars lasted a millennium. Atop a mountain in a city already more than three thousand metres above sea level, it is impossible to ignore what was constructed as the abode of the Dalai Lamas of Tibet, and which has now become a museum to all of them except one, His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the XIV Dalai Lama of Tibet, who in 1959 took the decision to change his place of stay from Lhasa to Dharamshala in India. Although there are no visible signs left of him ever having been anywhere in Tibet, yet it is clear from the number of Tibetans who speak Hindi that there are more than a few who cross over to India for a glimpse of the Monk in Exile and return back home. In the St Regis hotel, which is so western that room service, when asked by a guest could not serve Chinese red wine (it was not in stock), but only a French version of the drink. 

Jihadi Paranoia: The Bloody ISIS Hunt for Spies In Their Midst

June 5, 2016

Islamic State kills dozens of its own in hunt for spies

BAGHDAD (AP) — In March, a senior commander with the Islamic State group was driving through northern Syria on orders to lead militants in the fighting there when a drone blasted his vehicle to oblivion.

The killing of Abu Hayjaa al-Tunsi, a Tunisian jihadi, sparked a panicked hunt within the group’s ranks for spies who could have tipped off the U.S-led coalition about his closely guarded movements. By the time it was over, the group would kill 38 of its own members on suspicion of acting as informants.

They were among dozens of IS members killed by their own leadership in recent months in a vicious purge after a string of airstrikes killed prominent figures. Others have disappeared into prisons and still more have fled, fearing they could be next as the jihadi group turns on itself in the hunt for moles, according to Syrian opposition activists, Kurdish militia commanders, several Iraqi intelligence officials and an informant for the Iraqi government who worked within IS ranks.

The fear of informants has fueled paranoia among the militants’ ranks. A mobile phone or internet connection can raise suspicions. As a warning to others, IS has displayed the bodies of some suspected spies in public — or used particularly gruesome methods, including reportedly dropping some into a vat of acid.

ISIS Launches Offensive to Capture Last Territory North of Aleppo Held by U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebels

By Christopher Koza
Institute for the Study of War
June 4, 2016

ISIS Collapses Opposition Frontline in Northern Aleppo Province

Key Takeaway: The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has mounted a major offensive against opposition groups in Northern Aleppo Province over the past week, threatening the total collapse of the last pocket of opposition-held terrain along the Syrian-Turkish Border. ISIS seized at least six villages in Northern Aleppo Province on May 27, besieging the critical opposition stronghold of Mare'a and entering the outskirts of the border town of Azaz. These gains by ISIS mark the latest in a series of recent setbacks for the opposition in Northern Aleppo Province since the Hawar Kilis Operations Room - a coalition of opposition groups backed by the U.S. and Turkey that includes fighters vetted by the U.S. Department of Defense - captured the ISIS-held town of Al-Rai on April 7. The looming defeat of these opposition groups poses a significant risk to the long-term success of the anti-ISIS campaign. Turkey has repeatedly called for the U.S. to increase its support for Sunni Arab opposition groups in Northern Aleppo Province as an alternative to deepening cooperation with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - a U.S.-backed coalition led by the Syrian Kurdish YPG, considered by Turkey to be a terrorist organization due to its links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. The collapse of the Mare'a Line will foreclose this alternative and instead drive the U.S. to deepen its current overreliance on the Syrian Kurdish YPG - setting the conditions for long-term ethnic conflict in the region and further limiting opportunities for partnership with Sunni Arabs in Northern Syria as part of the anti-ISIS campaign.

Syrian Army Inching Closer to ISIS Capital of Raqqa

June 4, 2016

Syrian army opens new front against Islamic State, edges towards Raqqa province

BEIRUT, June 3 (Reuters) - The Syrian army backed by Russian air strikes has advanced towards Islamic State-held Raqqa province in a new offensive, a group monitoring the war said, nearing a region where U.S.-backed militias have also attacked the jihadist group.

Heavy Russian air strikes hit IS-held territory in eastern areas of Hama province near the provincial boundary with Raqqa on Friday, where the army had advanced some 12 km (7 miles), according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The army was around 12 km from the Raqqa provincial boundary.

U.S.-backed militias including the Kurdish YPG are pressing a separate, multi-pronged attack against IS in Raqqa province and neighbouring Aleppo province, which escalated this week with a push towards the city of Manbij near the Turkish border.

A pro-Damascus Lebanese newspaper said the Syrian army was entering “the race for Raqqa” with its new offensive.

A Syrian military source, however, said that reports of an attack targeting Raqqa were “expectations”, and that both Raqqa and Deir al-Zor, also in the hands of IS insurgents, were possible targets of army operations.

The army announced on Thursday a new operation backed by Russian air strikes in the Athriya area of eastern Hama province close to the provincial border with Raqqa. State media said the army had made territorial gains and inflicted heavy casualties.

China Eyes Qatar In Its Quest To Build A New Silk Road

By Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat and Giorgio Cafiero*
June 5, 2016 

It should come as no surprise that China is making its way to Qatar, particularly with respect to the establishment of the Silk Road Initiatives. Despite China leading the initiatives, it is impossible for Beijing to do everything alone; international participation and contributions are needed.

Last month at the China-Arab Cooperation Forum in Doha, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi postulated that Qatar should take part in the realization of China’s Silk Road Initiatives. Considering Qatar as a key partner to promote the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project, which Chinese President Xi Jinping initiated in 2014, Yi said that the initiative shares common cooperative opportunities with the Qatar National Vision 2030, a future development roadmap launched by Doha in 2008.

To this end, China hopes to strengthen bilateral relations with Qatar in economic, political and cultural spheres. This, however, is not the first time China took a step in courting Doha to help in implementing its OBOR projects. Last year, China decided to establish a Renminbi Clearing Centre in Doha, which was the first financial institution in the Middle East to offer access to Chinese currency and foreign exchange markets. This move is crucial as one of the most important steps taken by China to abet the Silk Road Initiatives is the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which among its goals is to expand the use of Chinese currency.

The Russian Spy Run by Dumb and Dumber


Zhenya Buryakov, a Russian spy convicted this past month of espionage in the U.S., had the misfortune of having comically inept handlers from Russian foreign intelligence.

Zhenya Buryakov lived a quiet Bronx existence with his wife and two children in Riverdale, an affluent neighborhood, working at a state-owned bank by day. He moved there, his wife would later say, because he wanted his children to speak perfect English, and two nuns next door would even pet-sit the family’s bird.

But by night, Buryakov met with his handlers at SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service, and passed along information his bosses in Moscow hoped to use against his host country.

That bucolic life was interrupted when Buryakov was arrested by the FBI in January 2015, and charged with being an unregistered agent of a foreign government. Unlike his handlers, whose sloppy conversations may have led to his arrest, Buryakov was only allowed to be in the United States as an employee of a foreign firm. A year later, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 months in prison, in a case that garnered relatively little attention coming on the heels of the 10 Russian “illegals” arrested in 2010.

But Buryakov’s arrest and sentencing serves as a firm reminder that despite the end of the Cold War, covert Russian espionage in the U.S. is prevalent and ongoing.

“Russia never gave up espionage against the West, and the United States remains the prime target of Russian intelligence,” former KGB spy Oleg Kalugin told The Daily Beast. Kalugin, now 81, served as a general in the KGB, but was found guilty in absentia of spying for the West by a Russian court in 2002.

ASEAN–Russia Summit Emphasizes Countries’ Desire To Strengthen Strategic Ties – Analysis

JUNE 6, 2016

International experts continue to analyze the outcome of the ASEAN – Russia jubilee Summit held in Sochi following which the Declaration titled Moving Towards Strategic Partnership for Mutual Benefit was adopted.

Summit participants agreed to develop their ties in economy, trade, energy, global security and culture. They also discussed specific projects in the field of oil refining, transport and education.

Speaking at a meeting of heads of delegations at the ASEAN – Russia Summit with Business Forum representatives, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that the parties have already accumulated considerable experience in carrying out bilateral joint projects.

“Thai companies are investing in Russia’s agricultural sector, for example, Vietnamese companies in oil and gas production, and companies from Singapore and Brunei have been investing in innovation. Russian business has been investing in mining ventures in Indonesia and Myanmar. We are working in peaceful nuclear energy development in Vietnam and plan to do the same in Laos, and are investing in the high-tech sector in Malaysia, to name a few examples. I am sure that we have all we need to give a new boost to our business ties,” Russian President stated.

During the Summit, the agreement was reached on building an oil refinery in Indonesia.

President Barack Obama’s visit to Japan and Vietnam

By Prof K.V. Kesavan
05 Jun , 2016

President Barack Obama’s trip to Vietnam and Japan in the last week of May carried a great deal of importance as it was “part of his farewell visit” to the region. His visit to Japan was undertaken mainly for participating in the Group-7 summit meeting held in Ise -Shima, but his historic decision to make a brief visit to Hiroshima drew far greater attention from different parts of the world. It even overshadowed his participation at the G-7 summit. As the first serving American President to visit Hiroshima, all his utterances came under strict scrutiny in the emotionally surcharged city. While opinion surveys in Japan clearly showed an overwhelming public support for Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, there were conflicting views expressed by the Americans at home.

…main objective of Obama’s visit to Hanoi was to assure the Vietnamese and the ASEAN countries that the US government would stick to its economic and security commitments in the region.

Many feared that Obama might say something almost amounting to revisiting President Harry Truman’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They believed that any effort to criticise the dropping of bombs would portray the Japanese as victims overlooking their military aggression in Asia. But everything went on well and Obama’s speech, and his meeting with Hibakusha left a lasting impression.