26 April 2017

Govt. plea against military pay upgrade sparks unease


The personnel are yet to get salaries recommended by the Seventh Pay Commission. 

Armed Forces Tribunal cannot take sweeping decisions

Setting off widespread discontent among military personnel, the Centre on Friday moved the Supreme Court against the judgment of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), which grants Non-Functional Upgrade (NFU) to the armed forces.

The Special Leave Petition (SLP), filed by the Centre, came even as the military personnel are yet to receive their new salaries recommended by the Seventh Pay Commission.

According to a Ministry of Defence official, the decision to challenge the ruling of the AFT to grant NFU was prompted by its legal stand that the tribunal has no authority to take such a sweeping decision. The source, in fact, argued that the government was not against NFU for services.

Core anomaly 

NFU has been one of the core anomalies raised by the services in the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations, which are yet to be implemented for military personnel. There have been some reports, quoting Army chief General Bipin Rawat, saying that the issues would be sorted out by the end of April. The NFU entitles all officers of a batch, including those not promoted, to draw the salary and grade pay that the senior-most officer of their batch would get after a certain period. For instance, batch mates of a Secretary to the Government of India, who have not been promoted, will be entitled to the same pay after a certain period of time.

The Sixth Pay Commission had granted NFU to most Group ‘A’ officers but not the military and paramilitary officers. Since then, the armed forces had been demanding a one-time notional NFU to ensure parity.

** JOHN MCAFEE: WHAT IF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE HACKS ITSELF?

BY JOHN MCAFEE 

On March 9, 2017, ZT, an underground technologist and writer, read his upcoming novella: Architects of the Apocalypse, to a group of his adherents in the basement of an abandoned bar in Nashville, Tennessee. The occasion was the Third Annual Meltdown Congress—an underground, invitation-only organization dedicated to the survival of the human species in the face of near certain digital annihilation. 

I was present, along with three of my compatriots, plus about 30 gray hat hackers (hackers or cybersecurity experts without malicious intent) who represent the cream of the American hacking community. 

ZT’s novella takes place in the not-too-distant future. It chronicles an age in which artificial intelligence and its adjutant automata run the world—in which humanity is free and is cared for entirely by the automata. 

The artificial intelligence in this novella has organized itself along hierarchical lines, and the ultimate decision-making function is called “The Recursive Decider.” 

Can India replace China as driver of world GDP growth over next 20 years?

Manas Chakravarty

The share of emerging markets in World GDP has improved from 42.3% in 1996 to 58.1% in 2016, according to the IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook database. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

The share of emerging and developing markets—153 of them—in world gross domestic product (GDP) has improved from 42.3% in 1996 to 58.1% in 2016, according to the International Monetary Fund’s latest World Economic Outlook database. (See chart 1—The share of global output has been computed by taking GDP on a purchasing power parity basis).

New Joint Doctrine – but who will walk the talk?

ByLt Gen Prakash Katoch

Anything to do with defence, and there is plenty electronic excitement. So this time, the media is agog with headlines of “New defence doctrine to ensure Army, Navy, IAF can tackle entire spectrum of conflicts”.

…who will execute this joint doctrine? Where are the command structures and the organizations that would implement this joint doctrine?

Reportedly, this new doctrine is to be released shortly. The obvious choice will be the Defence Minister to release the 80-page doctrine. Perhaps it has also been signed by the Defence Minister, as was Army’s Sub-Conventional Doctrine signed and released by AK Anthony as Defence Minister few years back even though the latter was quite inadequate; focusing on application of combat power to enhance ‘civil control’ in affected areas, that too on own side of the border – in sharp contrast to meet the borderless settings of hybrid warfare.

As for the new joint doctrine, media quoting MoD sources says it underlines the need for “application of military power” in an integrated manner to enhance operational efficiency as well as optimize utilization of resources for a greater military punch from limited budgetary funds. It also charts out a broad framework of principles for joint planning and the need to build integrated land-air-sea-cyberspace war-fighting machinery, but also “signals” the intent of the military to the world at large.

In the name of God

Sanchita Bhattacharya

The practice of condemning an individual or a particular group for following 'certain religious practices' in the name of blasphemy has intensified acts of violence in Pakistan. In the latest blasphemy case, Mashal Khan, a student, was brutally lynched by his own hostel mates at Abdul Wali Khan University (AWKU) in the Mardan District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in broad daylight on April 13, 2017, after being accused of blasphemy. The deceased was a resident of Swabi and a student at AWKU’s Journalism and Mass Communications department. A friend of the deceased student said that a mob attacked and beat him, before shooting him in the head and chest. The mob then continued to beat his body with sticks.

Some of the recent cases of blasphemy-related crimes include:

April 21, 2017: A mob attacked a man and beat him brutally inside a mosque in Chitral, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, after he was accused of uttering blasphemous remarks following Friday prayers. The man, who is yet to be identified, is alleged to have pushed the imam of the mosque to allow him to speak after jummah (Friday) prayers. Eyewitnesses claim the man then uttered 'blasphemous remarks' amidst the prayer gathering. As worshippers started beating the man, the mosque's imam, fearing for the man's life, handed him over to the Police. The Police took him to the local police station for his protection, and claimed that they were trying to ascertain the man's mental health. A First Information Report (FIR) was filed against him over charges of blasphemy and terrorism, according to the Deputy Commissioner Chitral, Shahab Yousafzai.

How Could The Taliban Breach A Heavily-Guarded Afghan Army Base?

by Voice of America

WASHINGTON/MAZAR-I-SHARIF - On Friday early in the afternoon, two Afghan Army Ford Ranger vehicles with 10 soldiers on board stopped before the first security check point of the main entrance to 209 Shaheen Corps, in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of northern Balkh province.

The soldiers on board were Taliban militants, disguised in Afghan National Army (ANA) uniforms with fake identification cards.

Inside the first vehicle, there was a wounded soldier who was pleading for urgent care.

“The soldier was covered in blood, and when the guard at the first checkpoint communicated with his superiors in the second checkpoint, he was told to let them in,” an Afghan soldier from the military base told VOA on condition of anonymity.

“They were allowed to cross the second checkpoint as well, and when they were stopped and asked for their guns in the third checkpoint, they started firing at the guards,” the Afghan soldier added.

According to the soldier, the security guard at the main gate was convinced that the assailants were returning from a mission from northern Faryab province and that the wounded soldier would die if not taken care of immediately.

“As soon as they gunned down the security guards in the third checkpoint, they spread inside the base, and two of the assailants rushed towards the cafeteria and the mosque detonating their suicide vests,” the source added.

The Benefits and Risks of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

SHI ZHIQIN, LU YANG 

Traditionally, China and Pakistan have cooperated closely at the strategic and political levels. Now the two nations are making efforts to expand their bilateral collaboration economically as well. The construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a milestone that signifies this shift.

At its core, the CPEC is a large-scale initiative to build energy, highway, and port infrastructure to deepen economic connections between China and Pakistan. This initiative has been well-received in both countries, although it is not without its problems.1 Nevertheless, China and Pakistan regard the CPEC as a new source of potential synergy between their respective national development strategies, which may help the two countries translate their close political cooperation into multifaceted economic cooperation, attain mutual benefits, and achieve win-win outcomes. For the economic corridor to reach its potential, however, there are security and political challenges in Pakistan that must be addressed.

The Other Side of the World: China, the United States, and the Struggle for Middle East Security

As China looks westward for energy security, it finds the United States in a dominant position in the Middle East. China faces fundamental choices as to how it will manage its own rise without either clashing with the United States or creating undue burdens for itself as the largest Asian power. As the United States seeks to commit more attention to the Pacific, it must decide how it will seek to shape the Chinese role in the Middle East and how much of a role it wants to reserve to itself. The challenges for both countries manifest themselves especially in the space between East Asia and the Middle East, a space that, from a U.S. perspective, is truly the other side of the world.

In this Brzezinski Institute report, Jon Alterman considers the ways in which the U.S. and Chinese governments have approached the Middle East and the Asian space leading to it and the implications that potential shifts would have not only for their bilateral ties but also for the future of geopolitics more broadly.

This report is available for download in English, Arabic, and Mandarin.

WHAT DO WE KNOW (SO FAR) ABOUT CHINA’S NEW AIRCRAFT CARRIER?

by RC Porter 

Five years after commissioning its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, China is now primed to launch its second carrier – the Type 001A. Unlike its Soviet-built predecessor, the Type 001A is China’s first domestically built carrier. Both carriers are similar in size and use a STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) system for the launch and recovery of aircraft. Although similar to the Liaoning, the Type 001A features some notable enhancements and represents an important step in China’s developing aircraft carrier program.

Key Facts 

The control tower island of the Type 001A is expected to be 10 percent smaller than that of the Liaoning. 

It will displace roughly 65,000 – 70,000 tons, a few thousand more tons than the Liaoning. 

It will feature the advanced Type 346 S-band AESA radar system. 

Its airwing will be slightly larger than that of the Liaoning, featuring around 8 additional aircraft. 

The Type 001A may have an internal arrangement that is better optimized than the Liaoning’s. 

It is expected to be commissioned around 2020. 

Comparing the Type 001A and the Liaoning

Outlines derived from satellite photos demonstrate the similarities between the carriers.

Key Characteristics of the Type 001A

This Is China’s Biggest Problem With North Korea

By Simon F. Reich,

China’s leadership has repeatedly demonstrated a sophisticated capacity to adeptly wade through awkward diplomatic situations. But since North Korea’s failed missile test this week, China faces a unique dilemma. Despite his seemingly erratic behavior, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has made a cold calculation familiar to enemies of the United States. If his scientists can manufacture a nuclear missile that can hit the continental United States, or at least if he can give the impression that they have done so, then he has bought himself the insurance he needs against any American attack.

As long as he appears irrational enough to be willing to sacrifice millions of his compatriots, then his threat of a reprisal if the North is attacked is credible. But he is taking a grave risk on the way to that point: that the United States and maybe its allies will launch a preemptive attack before North Korea can develop a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile that can hit the US.

After ISIL: The Conflict Following the War

by Brandon Whitehead

The Middle East has long been a breeding ground for insurgencies and terrorist organizations alike. Groups and organizations spanning from the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, Lebanese Hezbollah, Taliban, and nearly an infinite list of splinter organizations have had disputes over everything from religion to territory for years and will likely continue to do so. Most recently, the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS) or the Arabic acronym of Da’ish), has burst on scene and made lasting impacts on Iraq, Syria, and throughout the greater Levant.

In June 2014, ISIL seemingly came out of nowhere and has now grown to become a major force in the Middle East, more specifically in Iraq and Syria. The organization became especially prominent following its lightning-swift military advance over northern Iraq, where it encountered an abysmally low level of government resistance (Terrill 2014). With that being said, ISIL’s hold on the region has recently been on the decline with territorial losses mounting in key areas along the Euphrates River Valley, the Tigris River Valley, and Northern Syria, with current operations threatening their capitals in both Raqqah and Mosul. Up to this point in time, the predominance of research and analysis has been carried out to figure out how to degrade and ultimately defeat the Islamic State. Governments of the 50+ Coalition nations from around the world that are participating in Operation INHERENT RESOLVE have seemingly put an infinite amount of time, money, and effort in the overall strategy of how to beat ISIL…which is, if you follow the news, still a plan very much so in the works.

Unmasking the Unmaskers


When then-National Security Advisor Susan Rice asked for the names of Donald Trump aides who were communicating with foreign officials and being monitored by the National Security Agency, she probably didn’t anticipate igniting a firestorm.

The saga kicked off in February, when the Washington Post reported that key Trump advisor Michael Flynn had been chatting with the Russian ambassador, an article that led to his early resignation from the president’s team.

By March, Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, declared that the Trump team had been seriously wronged. After Nunes’ alleged mysterious midnight run on the White House grounds came to light, his committee’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election was thrown into political turmoil, prompting his departure from the investigation.

The next month, Rice was identified as at least one official who asked that the names of Americans who spoke with Russian officials be “unmasked,” though it’s unclear whether she uncovered Flynn’s name. Critics quickly accused her of being a source of the leaks, an allegation she’s vehemently denied.

Is the United States Really Blowing Up North Korea’s Missiles?

BY JEFFREY LEWIS

The Trump administration has completed a policy review of how to manage the growing nuclear threat from North Korea. The new policy — massive pressure and engagement — is a tepid serving of leftovers from the Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton administrations. I actually created a quiz of similar statements from all four administrations — and then when I looked at it a day later, I failed it.

As so often happens when reality disappoints, people turn to rumor and fantasy. And so, disappointed with the reality that Donald Trump faces the same lousy options on North Korea that hamstrung all his predecessors, the new Washington bedtime story is that the United States is secretly hacking North Korean missile launches.

The root of this particular bedtime story was a bit of reporting by David Sanger and William Broad, asserting that the Obama administration had begun, about three years ago, to launch cyberattacks against North Korea analogous to those against Iran.

While the United States is undoubtedly interested in penetrating Iranian and North Korean computer networks, and is doing a bit of mischief, that’s a long way from the reality of some keyboard jockey in Utah taking command of a North Korean missile and piloting it into the drink.

Is the United States Really Blowing Up North Korea’s Missiles?


The Trump administration has completed a policy review of how to manage the growing nuclear threat from North Korea. The new policy — massive pressure and engagement — is a tepid serving of leftovers from the Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton administrations. I actually created a quiz of similar statements from all four administrations — and then when I looked at it a day later, I failed it.

As so often happens when reality disappoints, people turn to rumor and fantasy. And so, disappointed with the reality that Donald Trump faces the same lousy options on North Korea that hamstrung all his predecessors, the new Washington bedtime story is that the United States is secretly hacking North Korean missile launches.

Unmasking the Unmaskers

What Susan Rice did used to be unusual, but it was encouraged by years of expanding access to signals intelligence.

The root of this particular bedtime story was a bit of reporting by David Sanger and William Broad, asserting that the Obama administration had begun, about three years ago, to launch cyberattacks against North Korea analogous to those against Iran.

While the United States is undoubtedly interested in penetrating Iranian and North Korean computer networks, and is doing a bit of mischief, that’s a long way from the reality of some keyboard jockey in Utah taking command of a North Korean missile and piloting it into the drink.

How Desert Storm Destroyed the US Military


BY RAY STARMANN

The US military that won Desert Storm or Gulf War I in 1991 was a spectacular military, a gargantuan industrial age military with high tech weaponry and well trained personnel, that when called upon, achieved victory with the speed of Patton and the elan of Teddy Roosevelt.

Overlooking the vast eight mile carnage on the Highway of Death in Kuwait, destruction that was caused by a US Air Force and Navy that bore almost no resemblance to the two services now, a sergeant in the 7th US Cavalry remarked, “America sure got its money’s worth from those Joes.”

In 44 days, the largest military force assembled by the US and its allies since Normandy destroyed the world’s fourth largest army in a brilliantly led, fabulously executed air and ground war in the sands of the Middle East.

The ghosts of Vietnam were vanquished by men who had experienced the horrors and strategic errors of that war and who inculcated those lessons to the personnel they led.

RETHINKING THE BATTLEFIELD


A strong American military is still vital to guard against conventional security threats, but many of the emerging threats to global stability cannot be checked with military power alone. The threats posed to the United States have changed. The global challenges the United States faces have transformed. Our adversaries have adapted. Given this changed world order, why does America refuse to rebuild its foreign policy toolkit? Why has America’s foreign policy not adapted too? 

This document lays out the blueprint for rebuilding U.S. power with a kit of foreign policy tools to match the world we live in now. It contains specific, targeted recommendations for how to get the most return out of every dollar for American security and prosperity. It spends money on smart power—investing in diplomacy, economic development, and humanitarian assistance—to head off conflicts before they require costly military interventions.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright offered praise for the report, stating, “Rethinking the Battlefield is a comprehensive blueprint for how America can protect its citizens, build our prosperity, and defend our way of life in the 21st century. Senator Murphy recognizes that now is not the time for America to retreat from the world, and that we should be doing more, not less, to deal with challenges abroad before they affect our security and prosperity at home. After the reckless and misguided cuts to national security institutions proposed by the Trump administration, it is more important than ever to have a real conversation about how and why we engage globally. Rethinking the Battlefield provides a good basis for such a discussion."

Download Rethinking the Battlefield, or read the full report below.

America’s Dangerous Love for Special Ops

By MARK MOY

An American Special Forces soldier in Afghanistan in 2014. CreditDiego Ibarra Sanchez for The New York Times

As the North Korean Army slashed its way down the Korean Peninsula in 1950, 15-man units inflitrated South Korean lines to ambush convoys and demolish bridges. America sought to respond in kind, forming Ranger units with skills like low-altitude parachuting and sabotage. Americans fell in love with these elite warriors. One reporter wrote that each Ranger “is a one-man gang who can sneak up to an enemy sentry, chop off his head, and catch it before it makes noise by hitting the ground.”

The country, and its presidents, have been enamored with special operations forces ever since Franklin Roosevelt created the first unit in 1942. John F. Kennedy expanded the Army Special Forces from 2,000 to 10,500 soldiers and founded the Navy SEALs. Under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, special operations forces grew from 38,000 in 2001 to 70,000 in 2016.

Will President Trump follow suit? He has already used special operations forces in several Middle Eastern countries. And the units seem custom-made for a president intent on both combating terrorism and avoiding large-scale war.

But the history of America’s special operations forces recommends caution. They are primarily tactical tools, not strategic options. Nor, for all the talent and training, can they always beat the odds.

Logistics and the strangling of strategy


By David Beaumont.

Logistics has long been recognised as vital to a force, but when inefficient a constraint on that force’s freedom to manoeuvre. However, the impact of logistics on strategy is just as significant and ultimately more profound. The modern fixation on high-velocity, nominally ‘efficient’, and usually ‘globalised’ supply chains have introduced significant operational challenges that many strategists fail to fully realise. Indeed, it was recently argued that the Australian Defence Force has yet to fully understand the consequences of an approach to logistics that now permeates its methods of sustaining capabilities and operations. This is for two reasons. One, it is hard to ascertain where single points of failure are in global supply chains for the purposes of creating and sustaining combat capabilities. Two, the nature of these supply chains makes securing them increasingly more important to operational success than the defence of lines of communication has ever been.

In year of big political decisions, Chinese economy appears stable

David Dollar

David Dollar interprets China's newly released first quarter macro economic data and concludes that China’s growth and financial stability look assured. This piece originally appeared in The Hill.

China’s first-quarter economic numbers were mostly good news, with GDP growth (year-on-year) accelerating modestly to 6.9 percent, up from 6.8 percent in the previous quarter and 6.7 percent for all of 2016.


The GDP growth is based on domestic consumption, rather than investment, as in the past. The China story of the past few years is that investment growth has been slowing after a binge in the period following the global financial crisis.

The result of the investment boom was excess capacity in real estate (especially third- and fourth-tier cities), heavy industry and local government infrastructure. Investment growth has naturally slowed down in the face of excess capacity, declining returns and diminished new investment opportunities.

Consumption growth, on the other hand, has held up well. The accompanying chart shows the contributions of consumption and investment to China’s GDP growth (each series is a four-quarter moving average to address seasonality and smooth the trend). Since 2011, consumption has been the main source of demand.

MAKING SENSE OF IRREGULAR WAR

By Joe Brown

In this article, Joe Brown reminds us that most conflict does not involve state-on-state military confrontation. When it comes to multi-domain thinking, one must not only consider multi-domain actions in large-scale war, but also how to apply multi-domain solutions across the range of military options and effectively use all national instruments of power. Keep this in mind as the author helps us make sense of irregular warfare.

Theory will have fulfilled its main task when it is used to analyze the constituent elements of war, to distinguish precisely what at first sight seems fused, to explain in full the properties of the means employed and to show their probable effects, to define clearly the nature of the ends in view. Theory then becomes a guide to anyone who wants to learn about war from books; it will light his way, ease his progress, train his judgment, and help him to avoid pitfalls.

The world’s energy is getting cleaner (and cheaper)—but not quickly enough

David Victor


A growing array of evidence suggests that twists and turns at the federal level won’t automatically change how U.S. firms behave. The Trump administration may roll back U.S. regulations on clean power and on methane leaks from oil and gas operations, for example, but many states already have their rules in place, and the courts will likely halt some of Trump’s most ambitious rollbacks.

Indeed, the states such as California and New York that account for most of the nation’s economic growth—and thus most of the innovation and technology and policy—are the bluest politically and poised to do even more to cut emissions.

Nuclear Power Is Set To Get A Lot Safer And Cheaper - Here's Why

by Michael Fitzpatrick

High-profile disasters such as Chernobyl and Fukushima have given nuclear power a bad name. Despite 60 years of nuclear generation without major accidents in many countries including Britain and France, many people have serious concerns about the safety of nuclear energy and the impact of the radioactive waste it generates. The very high capital cost of building a plant is also seen as a significant barrier, particularly given recent low oil prices. Plans to build a new British plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset are facing fresh opposition after it emerged the estimated lifetime costs had risen to £37 billion.

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Yet the high priority of reducing carbon emissions thanks to climate change means nuclear power looks more important than ever. Luckily, the next generation of reactors could hold the answer. With more in-built safety systems and a way to reuse old fuel, they are set to make nuclear power safer and, potentially, cheaper.

Human error and a natural disaster played major roles in the Chernobyl and Fukushima incidents, respectively. But in both cases, the failures occurred when the plants could no longer keep the reactors cool enough. At Chernobyl this was because of deliberate action and human error, and at Fukushima because the backup generators to drive the cooling pumps had been destroyed as a result of the tsunami.

Pathways and obstacles to a low-carbon economy


The energy transition is happening. But the pace of change depends on a range of technical, business, and societal factors. 

Technological advances and falling prices are driving the momentum toward low-carbon energy production across the globe. In this episode of the McKinsey Podcast, McKinsey partner Arnout de Pee and Lord Adair Turner, chair of the Energy Transitions Commission and the Institute for New Economic Thinking, speak with McKinsey Publishing’s Cait Murphy about the shift toward renewable resources and the future of sustainable development. 

Podcast transcript 

Cait Murphy: How can the world produce the energy it needs to broaden prosperity without damaging the environment beyond repair? The Energy Transitions Commission, whose members comprise leaders from the public, private, and social sectors, is dedicated to answering that question. 

Speaking with us today is Lord Adair Turner, head of the Energy Transitions Commission, and Arnout de Pee, a partner at McKinsey’s Sustainability and Resource Productivity group. I’m Cait Murphy of McKinsey Publishing. 

Let’s start with the broad question. Lord Turner, what is meant by the term “the energy transition,” and why is such a transition necessary? 

Lord Adair Turner: The term “energy transition” describes the fact that over the next several decades, we are going to have to achieve a really dramatic transition in the world away from reliance on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels have been absolutely essential to the original industrial revolution, to the growth of prosperity that we’ve achieved in an increasing number of countries over the last 200 years. 

In order to limit global warming to below two degrees centigrade above preindustrial levels, we will have to really very significantly move away from fossil fuels, while still delivering in many countries even more energy use than there is today. 

Securing Critical Information Infrastructure: Global Perspectives and Practices

Munish Sharma

Monograph No. 60

B

Infographic Of The Day: The Key Differences In Demographics For The Top 7 Social Networks

The following infographic dives deep into the demographic differences between the top seven social networks.

Android Poised To Knock Windows Off Internet Perch

by Martin Armstrong

Five years ago, Microsoft Windows enjoyed a massive 80 percentage point lead over Android when it came to the operating systems used the most to access the internet around the world.

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When looking at all platforms, this gap has now narrowed to 1.2 points. As the world's online activity becomes more and more mobile, Google's market-leading OS looks set to oust Windows from the top spot. As Aodhan Cullen, CEO of StatCounter summarizes, “Windows has won the desktop war but the battlefield has moved on".

This chart shows global internet usage share from February 2016 to February 2017, by operating system.

You will find more statistics at Statista.

25 April 2017

Overuse of groundwater for irrigation is leading India to disaster. Here’s what India needs to do

Vivek Prakash

A graphene-based membrane produced by the Graphene Centre at the University of Manchester promises to remove over 97% of salt from water, enabling farmers to use far more brackish water for irrigation than they could have done before. It has been demonstrated to be scalable as well. 

The Beijing Institute of Nanoecology and Nanosystems has proposed floating nets of nano generators, which will extract energy from ocean waves. 

A Danish energy company is opening a waste-to-energy facility in Northwich in Britain to convert unsorted municipal solid waste including plastic to energy using enzymes and microbes. 

A group from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology just reported in the journal Science that their new metal-organic framework can harvest water from air at relative humidity as low as 20%, using only available sunlight. 

To escape the disaster being caused by the water-food-energy nexus, India must rapidly deploy new solutions like these, enhance its own innovation for its monsoon-specific agricultural system, and develop nimble policies.

Russian offer of MiG LMFS, F-16, etc. as India faces a troubled world


Persons in the know say Russia is offering India the co-development of the MiG 1.44 in the updated LMFS configuration with a conformal bomb bay. Some years back, as noted in this blog, IAF then in the throes of the MMRCA decision had rejected the 1.44. The Russian Air Force is streamlining its inventory to two types of combat aircraft — the “super” Su-30 and the MiG LMFS, Su plus a new generation strategic bomber to replace the Tu-160 Blackjack. The US Air Force is likewise restricting itself to the one type, all-purpose fighter plane — F-35 and its service variants.

If IAF is planning on a similar exercise as it should be doing then, as yet, there’s no hint of it. In any case, for the combat complement one type of aircraft, if anybody has any sense, has to be the indigenous Tejas LCA and its future variants, like the AMCA. It is the other type that will prove to be headache for the country. Just too many aircraft manufacturers are chasing down that slot, and have selected their Indian commercial partners in this venture with an eye firmly on the proximity of these partners to prime minister Modi. Dassault has tied up for its Rafale with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Aerospace and the Sweden’s SAAB for its Gripen E with the other A in the business world — the Adani’s. Neither Ambani nor Adani have done any aircraft production and have no production wherewithal ecen of a rudimentary kind set up by Mahindra. The only industrial engineering firm that has the resources, if not the actual experience, is L&T which, incidentally, dithered when asked in late 2014 to set up a Tejas production line to compete with HAL. This to say the country faces a nearly bare cupboard where the private sector manufacture of complex fighter aircraft is concerned.

Mr Modi, please heed loss of morale in armed forces


'The non-implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission, almost a year after it was implemented for civilians, is gradually beginning to hurt morale in the armed forces,' says Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal (retd).

A salient trend line in the emerging character of conflict points to the fact that future wars on land, sea, in the air and in space and cyber-space will be increasingly fought by machines.

However, military history bears out that ultimately it is the man behind the gun who carries the day.

This is unlikely to change no matter how many robotic vehicles are fitted with weapons and programmed to operate autonomously on the battlefield.

And since he is a thinking human being, the man behind the gun has emotions and feelings. He gets angry and upset, or goes into a shell, or loses his sense of discipline or sulks.

All subalterns and young captains are taught to keep a close eye on the morale of the soldiers.

If their morale is down, they lose their motivation to fight well.

WHAT NEXT FOR PAKISTAN'S NAWAZ SHARIF AFTER SUPREME COURT CORRUPTION RULING?


BY ELEANOR ROSS 

Pakistani Hindus celebrate Holi – the festival of colours

WORLDNAWAZ SHARIFPAKISTANCORRUPTIONPANAMA PAPERSCOURTMONEYBRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDSASIA

Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday that there is not enough evidence to convict Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of corruption after the 2016 Panama Paper leaks linked his children to three offshore accounts.

Sharif repeatedly denied the charges of corruption—arguing that they were politically motivated—but the court’s decision may not put to bed a scandal that has dogged the Pakistani leader for the past two years. For his critics, many questions remain.

Sharif has not explained publicly how he was able to amass a fortune of around $19 million while working in politics since the 1970s, and opposition leaders accuse him of lying to parliament.

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It is the first time a sitting prime minister has ever faced an investigation panel probing into his financial affairs, according to Dawn newspaper.

According to papers leaked from Mossack Fonseca law firm, Sharif’s daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies that were registered in the British Virgin Islands. His children later used the holding companies to purchase properties in London, according to the court.

Pakistan 2017 comprehensively colonised by China

By Dr Subhash Kapila

Reminiscent of British colonisation of India two centuries ago facilitated by some Indian princes connivance two centuries ago, China in 2017 has comprehensively colonised Pakistan with the connivance of Pakistan Army and Pakistani politicians.

India needs to take a special note of this trend as in 2017 wherein it is emerging that Pakistan’s own national interest would now slide into a sub-text and be subsumed into the all-enveloping Chinese strategic blueprint for South Asia. Pakistan would only be a Chinese colonial proxy for dealing with India.

Perceptionaly, in 21st Century political parlance it can be believed that a nation gets “colonised” when willingly a nation’s power structure elites concede their policy decision-making wholly or virtually to a powerful neighbour in the domains of foreign policy, political dynamics, economic development and subsuming one’s own national security interests to those of their ‘strategic patron.’

Strategically ironic is the fact that Pakistan, as a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic of Pakistan, self-proclaimed as geopolitically significant globally, and also proclaiming ‘strategic equivalence’ with India as the neighbourly Emerged Power, should have succumbed to China’s geopolitical pressures over the decades to build it as the contending power with India. In the process decades later in 2017, Pakistan despite its mighty claims has seemingly emerged as comprehensively colonised by China.

How predatory crime and corruption in Afghanistan underpin the Taliban insurgency

Vanda Felbab-Brown

Afghanistan is once again on the cusp of a bloody fighting season, which this year didn’t even relent during the winter. In fact, since 2014 the Taliban has mounted and sustained its toughest military campaign yet, and the war has become bloodier than ever. Extensive predatory criminality, corruption, and power abuse—not effectively countered by the Afghan government—have facilitated the Taliban’s entrenchment.


The transition choices by the Afghan government and the international community—including the embrace of problematic warlords for the sake of short-term military battlefield advantages, and as tools of political co-optation—shaped and reinforced criminality and corruption in the post-2001 Afghanistan. In turn, this delegitimized the post-Taliban political dispensation. Indeed, generalized predatory criminality in Afghanistan lies at the crux of Afghanistan’s dire and fragile predicament.

Moscow’s Afghan Confusion

Written by Davood Moradian

One can see the emergence of a “Taliban alliance” which includes Pakistan, with China, Russia and Iran.

Russia’s pursuit of “great power” status and its growing concern over terrorism and narcotic drugs have pushed it to re-enter the Afghan conflict, as demonstrated by the April 15 regional conference on Afghanistan in Moscow. Kabul and Moscow have had complicated relations during the last two centuries: Russia was the first country to recognise Afghanistan’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1919. It became its main developmental partner during the last century. Afghanistan was also a major contested zone during Moscow’s imperial expansion during the Cold War. In the 1970s, Moscow’s misunderstanding of Afghan politics and its imperial hubris provided its arch rivals — the West, China and Islamist groups — a golden opportunity to trap the Russian bear in the Hindu Kush, which ushered the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union.

The West and the Islamists’ victory had, however, two unintended consequences: The destruction of the Afghan state and the emergence of militant Islamism. The combination hit back at the West on September 11, 2001. Following the rise of the Taliban, Moscow was again entangled in Afghanistan. This time, it chose the correct course of action. It joined an anti-Taliban regional alliance in support of the Mujahideen government in Kabul alongside Iran, India and the Central Asian states. After the collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2011, Moscow continued to pursue a Kabul-centric, an anti-Taliban policy in support of US-led international efforts. Moscow’s clarity helped develop conciliatory sentiments among Afghans towards Russia.

Myanmar: Ceasefire on the Rocks: A Set back to Suu Kyi?

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

The recent attack by the MNDAA on the Army Posts at Laukkai, the headquarters of the Kokang region on 6th March, 2017 was followed by quick and heavy retaliatory attacks by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army) on the 10th. This is yet another indication of serious fault lines that exist among the government, the Army and the ethnic militant groups in taking forward the peace process that started with the Nationwide cease fire Agreement of October 2015 and the 21st century Panglong Conference of August 31, 2016.

The peace process in Myanmar can be likened to that of a four-wheel coach where the four wheels represent the ethnic groups along with the militant outfits, the Tatmadaw, the Government of Myanmar led by Suu Kyi and finally - the fourth wheel- China itself. Unless the wheels move together, no progress can be made and the coach can only hobble. This appears to be the state of peace process today.

Of the four actors in the cease fire drama, only Suu Kyi appears to be serious and sincere in reaching out to the ethnic groups while others while mouthing high rhetoric appear to be. moving in different directions. What is missing now is the “Panglong Spirit” displayed by late Gen. Aung San in trying to reach out to the ethnic minorities. It is no surprise that the spirit is in shambles with serious fighting going on in the northwest border of Myanmar.

Chinese Jihadis’ Rise In Syria Raises Concerns At Home

By BASSEM MROUE AND GERRY SHIH 

BEIRUT — Many don’t speak Arabic and their role in Syria is little known to the outside world, but the Chinese fighters of the Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria are organized, battled-hardened and have been instrumental in ground offensives against President Bashar Assad’s forces in the country’s northern regions.

Thousands of Chinese jihadis have come to Syria since the country’s civil war began in March 2011 to fight against government forces and their allies. Some have joined the al-Qaida’s branch in the country previously known as Nusra Front. Others paid allegiance to the Islamic State group and a smaller number joined factions such as the ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham.

But the majority of Chinese jihadis are with the Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria, whose vast majority are Chinese Muslims, particularly those from the Turkic-speaking Uighur majority native to Xinjiang in China. Their growing role in Syria has resulted in increased cooperation between Syrian and Chinese intelligence agencies who fear those same jihadis could one day return home and cause trouble there.

The Turkistan Islamic Party is the other name for the East Turkistan Islamic Movement that considers China’s Xinjiang to be East Turkistan.

Comparative Assessment of China and U.S. Policies to Meet Climate Change Targets


China and the United States together emit more than 40 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) according to the latest available data.[1] Therefore any successful global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must include meaningful contributions from both countries. Each country has started down this path by committing to reduce CO2 emissions and both have announced plans, policies, and programs to meet those commitments. However, the character of the carbon problem in each country is different and so while the plans, programs, and policies they are pursuing have some similarities, the emphasis is different.

China and the United States have different fundamental energy supply potential. China’s energy resource base is coal-intensive, while the United States has large oil and gas reserves. China does not have the option of dramatically increasing natural gas or oil supplies unless it chooses to import them. In fact, China has become the world’s largest importer of oil—importing 6.71 million barrels per day in 2015.[2] Energy security, which has historically been a political priority in the United States, now receives less attention due to the recent boom in shale oil and gas. The opposite is true for China, which faces no significant growth in domestic oil and gas production, forcing it to import more oil and gas. Due to a combination of logistical obstacles and slow growth in coal reserves, China is now a net importer of coal, and thus energy security is becoming more of a concern.

*** Has AQAP Traded Terrorism For Protection?


As I've often said before, some of the most interesting stories to come across my desk are those from abroad that the U.S. mainstream media has failed to pick up. A recent article by Norwegian news outlet Verdens Gang (VG) only reminded me of that fact when it reported it had been in contact with an unidentified member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The piece, written by Erlend Ofte Arntsen, raised some interesting points - not least of which was the suggestion that the Yemeni al Qaeda franchise has set aside its mission of conducting attacks in the West.

Above image: Al Qaeda has shifted most of its attention to strengthening and equipping its local branches and foreign partners, rather than carrying out spectacular attacks overseas. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Finding Dale

VG reporter Erlend Ofte Arntsen connected with the anonymous AQAP member through an intermediary at al-Masra newspaper, a publication that belongs to Ansar al-Sharia Yemen. AQAP has historically used the name "Ansar al-Sharia" in its local endeavors in an attempt to hide their links to al Qaeda and promote them as mainstream. Because of this, an al-Masra employee would be a logical channel through which to meet a person claiming to be an AQAP leader.

Fearing ISIS in the Shadows

Vera Mironova

The six-month Mosul operation will soon come to an end. Civilians and soldiers alike are eager to turn over a new page after years of ISIS control over the city. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that this will come to pass. The security problems that will follow are already visible in other Iraqi cities of Iraq, such as Falluja and Ramadi, which had been liberated from ISIS prior to the Mosul operation.

Last month, a high-level government meeting on the "post-ISIS situation" took place. But beneath the surface, even the idea of before and after, of a "post-ISIS moment" seems uncertain. This is because ISIS insurgencies and sleeper cells at various stages of activation exist across many areas that are now considered to have been liberated. If, in liberated East Mosul they are still mostly dormant, in Fallujah and Ramadi they are already active. Only last week there were clashes between ten ISIS militants dressed in police uniforms and Iraqi security forces in Tikrit, Iraqi security forces’ military bases were attacked in Hamrin and Sadyah, and ISIS insurgents were trying to take control of Amriat Faluja (a town near Falluja). And although efforts to ferret them out are ongoing, the Iraqi security forces’ record of success has been mixed at best.

OPEC’s Misleading Narrative About World Oil Supply

Leonardo Maugeri

At a time when energy market headlines focus mainly on OPEC cuts, observers may be forgiven for concluding that a supply crunch and higher prices are imminent. On the contrary, there is still too much oil in global markets. In this context, OPEC production cuts (which notably fall short of the original target envisaged by the organization) appear to serve mainly as a psychological support to oil prices.

Analyzing trends from my proprietary database of more than 1,200 global oilfields helped me to make a bold prediction in 2012 regarding a coming oil supply boom. In January, my similar field-by-field analysis indicated that world oil production capacity and actual production were still growing—while prospects for demand growth were not sufficiently high to absorb the excess supply. In particular, actual oil production (which includes crude oil and other liquids such as condensates, NGLs, and more according to the standard definition used by most statistics) was almost 99.5 million barrels per day (mbd)—leaving a voluntary and involuntary spare capacity (the result of local civil wars and other geopolitical factors) of more than 4 mbd.

U.S. Eavesdropping Program Goes Silent

By The Daily Beast,
 

It’s long been considered one of the most important ways American spies gather information overseas. But in 2016, it apparently went dark.

Something a little funny might be going on in America’s most secretive court. According to the annual report for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), released April 20, the court didn’t authorize any surveillance last year under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—a controversial provision of the 1978 spy law.