18 May 2015

Science and Tech in India A must read

A special issue explores the enormous potential and major challenges for research in south Asia's superpower. PDF

India is racing forward. With nearly 1.3 billion people and a steady growth rate, it is expected to become the world's most populous nation within a generation. Its gross domestic product more than tripled between 2000 and 2013, and its economy ranks third in the world in terms of purchasing power, behind only China and the United States. India's scientific production has also surged, with the number of published papers quadrupling over the same period.

But the country has far to go before it earns the status of a scientific superpower. By almost every metric — spending, number of researchers and quality of publications — India underperforms relative to developed nations and the ascendant economies to which it is most often compared, such as China and Brazil.

This week, Nature takes an unvarnished look at the challenges and opportunities for scientists in India. An infographic (page 142) assesses the country's strengths and weaknesses by comparing its research and development landscape with those of comparable countries. A News Feature (page 144) probes beneath the numbers, examining Indian successes in space, biotechnology and energy, as well as exploring bureaucracy, underfunding and other obstacles to higher education and scientific research.

Jorge Ramos’s Message for Journalists: Take a Stand

May 15, 2015

I guess I was invited to talk about the future. Your future. So this is what I know for sure: I’m an immigrant and I am a journalist. These two things define me. 

To be an immigrant means that I left everything behind me. Everything: my family, my friends, my house and the sense the life was going to be predictable. 

As a young reporter, I was censored in Mexico. Back then in the early 1980’s you couldn’t criticize the president. So, of course, I did a story that criticized the president. I quit before I was fired, I sold my car -an old Volkswagen Beetle-, got a little money and moved to Los Angeles as a student. 

I was only 24. I didn’t know anything about this business but I did know that I didn’t want to be a censored journalist. I’ll always be grateful to the United States. This country gave the opportunities that my country of origin couldn’t give me and I hope that it continues doing the same with the immigrants who came after me. 

Now, let’s fast forward to the present. 

Japan's 5 Most Lethal Weapons of War

Kyle Mizokami
May 17, 2015 

Once upon a time—just six years ago, actually—Northeast Asia was a security backwater. China was in the midst of the “peaceful rise” policy advocated by Deng Xiaoping and though her defense budget grew at a prodigious rate, her neighbors were unconcerned.

The main threat was North Korea, which had successfully tested a nuclear weapon in 2006 and had a growing arsenal of conventional ballistic missiles. But even this threat, once a ballistic missile shield were put in place, could be mitigated.

Japan’s defense policy and establishment, aside from upgrading the Ministry of Defense to a cabinet-level role, remained largely unchanged. The defense budget remained largely unchanged, and when it did, it dropped. Life in Japan went on.

5 Battles That Changed the Middle East Forever

Akhilesh Pillalamarri
May 17, 2015 

The Middle East is the cradle of civilization—and the cradle of organized warfare between states and tribes. The oldest recorded battles in history, as well as some of the most impactful, are all from this region. While not a comprehensive list by any means, here are five of the greatest battles fought in the Middle East.


The Battle of Kadesh was fought between the Egyptians and Hittites (from modern Turkey) in 1274 B.C.E. at a site in modern Syria near the Lebanese border. Both powers had been fighting to dominate the Levant for a while. This battle is of particular importance to the history of warfare and diplomacy because it is the earliest recorded battle for which details and tactics are known. Additionally, the subsequent peace treaty is the oldest known surviving peace treaty to date. Not only that, but both the Egyptian and Hittite copies have been found.

Why is the US Excluding China from a New Military Meeting?

By Prashanth Parameswaran
May 16, 2015

Not every interaction that leaves out Beijing is part of a ‘containment’ strategy. 

Earlier this week, media outlets reported that the U.S. Marine Corps was bringing together foreign commanders from amphibious forces – mostly those deployed in the Asia-Pacific – for a new conference to help integrate amphibious operations, with China excluded from the event.

The engagement in question is the inaugural U.S. Pacific Command Amphibious Leaders Symposium (PALS) held from May 17 to 21 in Hawaii involving around two dozen foreign nations. The Star Advertiser notes thataccording to the Marine Corps, the objective of the symposium is to get a handle on regional considerations with respect to amphibious operations – useful for a variety of purposes including humanitarian assistance, power projection and territorial defense. PALS reportedly includes group briefings, scenario-based exercises, and the observation of Culebra Koa 15, a joint seabasing exercise taking place in Hawaii. The idea is to help lay the groundwork for multilateral amphibious exercises between nations further down the line.

Grading Global Governance: Implications for East Asia and Beyond

May 15, 2015 

The Council of Councils (CoC), a network of think tanks that mirrors the membership of the G20, released this week a thought-provoking report card assessing the state of global governance. The report evaluates the performance of global institutions in addressing ten international challenges, ranks the seriousness of these global challenges, and assesses prospects for breakthrough in international efforts to deal with these issues. The report card accurately captures the issue overload and prioritization challenges on the global agenda, provides a compelling snapshot of the scope of challenges to global governance and reveals the major gaps that will likely continue to challenge the international community.

As one considers the rising importance of Asia and the emerging issues the region faces in the context of global challenges, the results are particularly revealing of both potential opportunities and the significant differences embedded in the “Asian paradox” of high economic growth alongside latent and emerging conflicts that could bedevil the region going forward. The Council of Councils gave its highest (albeit low) marks to international efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation, primarily in response to P5+1 diplomatic efforts to keep Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. However, as Sook-Jong Lee of the East Asia Institute rightly observes, “the North Korean case still challenges the effectiveness of nonproliferation governance.” In other words, in East Asia the failure to prevent North Korea from expanding its nuclear development efforts outside the confines of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty deserves an F.

17 May 2015

Modi talks to China looking Straight into Her Eyes

16 May , 2015

Days before the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to leave for China on a three-day state visit, India formally registered a protest against the recently signed $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The Chinese envoy in Delhi was summoned to the Ministry of External Affairs and an objection was lodged over the project.

India has also expressed its concerns about China routing its corridor through Kashmir, but President Xi Jingping had dismissed these objections, describing the economic corridor as “a commercial project.”

Going by the past record this was a little unusual. It appeared India was more confident and well prepared to negotiate all aspects; bilateral, regional and multilateral issues from a relative position of strength.

Mr Modi has been the only Prime Minister of India to visit Arunanchal so many times in over a year and the February 2015 visit being the latest in the series. Narendra Modi government has also extended overt cordial gestures to Tibetan Government in exile unlike any other Prime Minister in the past irking the Chinese. This prompted adverse comments in Chinese media virtually highlighting the nervousness, somewhere, arising out of an assertive and a strong Indian Prime Minister.

Will Afghanistan and Pakistan Jointly Fight the Taliban?

May 16, 2015

A recent high-level bilateral meeting might indicate that Islamabad and Kabul have put their old differences aside.

This week, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged to deepen cooperation on defense and security issues during a bilateral meeting that took place in Kabul.

Ever since his inauguration in September 2014, Ashraf Ghani has worked hard to improve relations with Pakistan. It was his initiative to invite a senior-level Pakistani delegation to Kabul that, aside from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, included Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif and Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar, the director-general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The main topic of discussion was the possibility of joint operations against Taliban insurgents and deeper cooperation in combatting regional terrorism. Pakistan’s Prime Minister was at pains to emphasize that both countries are fighting the same enemy. “I assure you, Mr President, that the enemies of Afghanistan cannot be friends of Pakistan,” he told reporters during a press conference in Kabul, according to The Guardian. “Any effort by any militant or group to destabilise Afghanistan will be dealt with severely and such elements will be outlawed and hunted down.”

Rana Banerji: Pulls, pressures and the Pakistan Army

Rana Banerji 

The recent postings and promotions of three-star generals in the Pakistan Army have propelled some of former chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani's favourites to traditionally important positions

The recent promotions of three-star generals in the Pakistan Army went almost unnoticed, except for a small disclosure on the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) website on April 9, 2015, but they indicate an interesting course correction that may alter the succession stakes when General Raheel Sharif's term as chief concludes in November, 2016.

Sharif's first reshuffle of senior lieutenants general last year had seen Lt General Zubair Mohd Hayat, an artillery officer being sent to replace the famed Lt Gen (retd) Khalid Kidwai as director-general, Strategic Plans Directorate (SPD). Earlier chiefs had not disturbed Kidwai, as he enjoyed great prestige in the West as someone who had introduced a fairly secure system of checks and balances in Pakistan's nuclear control hierarchy, a welcome respite from the lax days of A Q Khan.

There may have been a design to this move. Hayat was perceived as Ashfaq Parvez Kayani's choice to head the army down the line. He had been Kayani's director-general of staff earlier. When Sharif moved him out of the 31 Corps, Bahawalpur command after he had done barely 10 months there, many believed he was being side-tracked to make way for Sharif favourites, Chief of General Staff (CGS) Lt General Ishfaq Nadeem and newly promoted Director-General, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Rizwan Akhtar, in the succession stakes for next chief.

Pakistani Military Launches Offensive Against Taliban in North Waziristan

May 15, 2015

Pakistani troops on Friday began a “massive” offensive to try to push the Taliban from their last major stronghold in the mountainous northwestern region of North Waziristan, moving in from north and south, officials and residents said.

The heavily forested ravines of the Shawal Valley are pockmarked with Taliban hideouts and the valley itself is a key smuggling route into neighbouringAfghanistan.

Pakistani jets began bombing the valley in the early hours, killing between six and 15 militants, four intelligence sources told Reuters.

“It is a massive military action against the Taliban militants and their allies in the Shawal mountains,” said a government official who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about military operations.

The Pakistani Taliban controlled almost all of North Waziristan until troops launched a long-awaited offensive there in June. The Taliban still maintain control of Shawal Valley and have used it as a launching pad for attacks on Pakistani forces.

Bin Laden, War Crimes and Gray Areas

By Noah Feldman

We'll probably never know the accuracy of all the details in Seymour Hersh’s alternative account of the killing of Osama bin Laden. But Hersh’s version has enough verisimilitude that it calls for reconsidering what has always been the most troubling legal question, even under the official version of the event: Was the shooting of bin Laden proportionate and therefore justified under international law? Or was it, to put the matter bluntly, a war crime?

Recall that, when the White House first broke the story, it incorrectly stated that bin Laden had been reaching for an AK-47 when he was shot. Were that true, the killing would have been legal under the U.S. interpretation of international law. Since Congress had declared war on al-Qaeda after Sept. 11, bin Laden was a combatant -- and it's permissible to shoot an armed combatant in wartime. True, you have to accept that the struggle against al-Qaeda is really a war, and that the battlefield extends to the whole world -- propositions that many non-American international lawyers dispute. But at least within theofficial U.S. version of the laws of war, the killing would not have been problematic.

Karachi’s Deadly Unrest

Despite considerable rhetoric and months of effort, the operations Pakistani paramilitary forces have been carrying out in Karachi still appear to be far short of bring peace to the port city. On Wednesday, six gunmen armed with sophisticated weapons gunned down at least 43 people and wounded 13 others in a busy market in the city. The attackers were able to flee unhurt from the scene.

The attackers opened fire inside a bus carrying members of the Ismaili community, a sub-sect of Shiite Muslims known for their liberal views. In the wake of the attack came chaos, as mobs took out their anger on local police.

Hundreds of men, women and children took to the streets, blaming Pakistan’s paramilitary forces and police for not targeting Jundullah, which claimed responsibility for the deadly attack. Jundullah is a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, allegedly based in a Pakistani tribal area and Quetta. According to senior Pakistani journalist Umar Farooq, Jundullah has very strong links with the Islamic State (IS), pledging allegiance in a November 2014 video message.

US embassy cables: Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists raise funds in Saudi Arabia


2. (SBU) In May 2009, legal representatives for 1267-listed entity Jamaat-ud-Dawah (identified by the UN 1267 Committee as an alias for Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, permanent reference number QE.L.118.05) and its leader, Muhammad Saeed (permanent reference number QI.S.263.08) petitioned on their clients behalf for delisting via the UN focal point. The focal point, which was established in the UN Secretariat pursuant to UNSCR 1730 to allow listed individuals/entities (or their representatives) to petition directly for de-listing, forwarded the de-listing request on behalf of JUD and Saeed for review to the USG (designating state) and to the Government of Pakistan (state of citizenship/residence/incorporation). The USG and GOP have had three months to review the de-listing petition. We have completed our review and plan to notify the UN focal point on August 25 of our opposition to de-listing. Before doing so, we would like to take this opportunity to: -- share the results of our review of the de-listing petition for JUD and Muhammad Saeed with Pakistani officials; -- seek GOP views on the request; -- underscore our ongoing concern over the threat posed by LeT/JUD and Saeed; -- ask Pakistani officials to update us on actions taken to impose UN 1267 sanctions on LeT/JUD and Saeed.

Budgets and Bullets: Taking Stock of Afghanistan’s Security Forces

By Anthony H. Cordesman, John Sopko 

Statement for the Record: Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John Sopko 

On May 13, 2015, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Mr. John Sopko, spoke at CSIS for the roll-out of the new Quarterly Report to Congress on the Status of the U.S. Reconstruction Effort in Afghanistan. The event was hosted and moderated by CSIS Alreigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy, Anthony Cordesman.

With a $62 billion investment in the development of Afghanistan's security institutions, and billions more expected to be appropriated every year for the foreseeable future, Special Inspector General Sopko discusses the current capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces and their prospects for long-term sustainability. His discussion focuses on SIGAR observations and audit work that call into question certain long-standing assumptions about Afghan forces, including whether current ANSF personnel numbers are accurate.


May 12, 2015 

ISLAMABAD: Two former senior Pakistan military officials told AFP on Tuesday that a ‘defector’ from country’s intelligence agency did assist the US in its hunt for Osama bin Laden but denied the two countries had officially worked together.

The officials’ accounts came after the publication of a controversial news report by US journalist Seymour Hersh in which he claimed to have uncovered a ‘secret deal’ between Washington and Islamabad that reportedly resulted in the killing of Al-Qaeda chief in 2011.

The White House has flatly rejected Hersh’s claims that Pakistan was told in advance about the May 2 special forces raid in Abbottabad.

A source – who was a serving senior military official at the time of the raid – told AFP that the defector was a “resourceful and energetic” mid-ranking intelligence officer whose efforts were critical to the operation’s success.

Hersh’s report quoted a senior US source as saying a “walk-in” approached the then-Islamabad station chief for the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2010 promising to lead them to bin Laden, who according to the journalist had been imprisoned by Pakistani authorities at the Abbottabad compound since 2006.

A People on the Brink

Driving through Sittwe, the dusty provincial capital of Rahkine state in northwest Burma, you notice a small poster affixed to nearly every shop and home. In English these signs read “white card,” and they alert anyone passing by that the building’s occupant sides with recent government efforts to prevent Burma’s most threatened ethnic and religious minority group, the Rohingya, from participating in the upcoming national elections. Most of Burma’s Rohingya are, in fact, stateless, and “white card” refers to the special identity documents issued to them by the government in lieu of the papers held by Burmese citizens. A few months ago officials decided that white card holders would not be allowed to participate in the national vote scheduled for this fall — effectively excluding the overwhelming majority of Rohingya.

As you drive on, the cacophony of bustling markets and careening tuk-tuks gradually gives way to the quiet of unpaved jungle roads and, eventually, a makeshift barbed wire roadblock that now separates nearly 150,000 Rohingya from the outside world. My Buddhist driver, from the state’s majority Rahkine ethnic group, refused to take me past the fence line into one of the world’s largest collections of internment camps — an implicit acknowledgement that he didn’t feel safe proceeding into a Rohingya community. Similarly, on the other side, my Rohingya guide refused to try to leave, too fearful of the consequences of being found outside the camps. “They just want us all to go away,” was the best explanation one camp dweller could give for his three years of internment.

Dredging For Disaster

BEIJING — Tensions are rising in the South China Sea. On May 16, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Beijing, for talks which will likely focus on the territorial disputes. But China’s controversial effort to assert its sovereignty in the South China Sea is not only antagonizing its neighbors and the United States: it’s destroying the a precious coral reef ecosystem, and the Chinese agency charged with protecting it seems curiously unmoved to stop the damage.

Since 2014, Beijing has been engaged in a series of “reclamation” projects in the waters of the South China Sea, expanding islands and constructing landing strips on the coral reefs and rock formations that make up island chains, like the contested Spratly Islands. Through this so-called “great wall of sand” operation, Beijing hopes to assert a permanent claim to these specks of rock and coral and, ultimately, the vast majority of the sea itself. And the project is picking up speed. In April, Foreign Policy reported on a set of new satellite images showing that China had built out roughly 3,000-feet of a 10,000 foot runway on the Fiery Cross reef, a part of the Spratlys in the sea’s southern reaches.

Indian Prime Minister Modi visits China

Tanvi Madan | May 13, 2015

Later this week, when Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meet in China, they’ll be representing more than one third ofhumanity. The countries they lead have two of the largest economies and militaries in the world, are among the fastest growing global energy consumers, and have economies that are expected to grow at about 7 percent this year. There’s a reason the two are called Asian giants—and whether or not they get along, and how they do, has implications beyond their region.

Their relationship has had elements of cooperation, competition and, potentially, conflict. And, as Modi goes to China, his attempt will be to enhance cooperation, reduce asymmetries, manage competition, and deter conflict. This piece lays out the following: 
India’s relationship with China 

The Modi government’s approach towards China over the last year 
The forthcoming visit 

A ‘New’ Philippine Naval Base Near the South China Sea?

Earlier this week, Reuters reported that the Philippine armed forces chief had said in an interview that the construction of a new naval base opposite the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea was “a top priority.”

Plans for constructing a base in Oyster Bay in Palawan – located around 100 miles from the Spratly Islands – date back years and were first publicly announced back in 2013. But the renewed urgency recently expressed by General Gregorio Catapang, Jr., the head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), makes sense given Manila’s alarm about China’s behavior in the South China Sea. China is currently carrying out rapid land reclamation activities in seven reefs and recently warned Philippine air force and navy planes at least six times to leave areas around the Spratlys in the past week. It has also refused to participate in the case the Philippines filed against it with the arbitral tribunal at The Hague. As Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario recently put it in remarks earlier this week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, from Manila’s perspective, “we must do something quickly.”


Doug Bernard

WASHINGTON -As the World Wide Web has evolved and grown more complicated, so have the tools and techniques of cyber-espionage and military action.

Perhaps nowhere is this evolution more clearly seen than in China’s recently disclosed “Great Cannon” and its similarities to a tool reportedly possessed by the United States known as “QUANTUM.”

Depending on how they are wielded, both can serve as a high-tech tool for spies, intimidating weapons of cyberassault, or a combination of both, analysts say.

In March, the operators of GitHub – a popular site among software developers – noticed something unusual. Two open-source project sites on GitHub, both aimed at circumventing Chinese censorship of the Web, were under a heavy and sustained DDoS attack.

The attack itself wasn’t all that surprising: the hosted sites GreatFire and a mirror copy of the New York Times in Mandarin had long been irritants to Chinese cyber officials. What was different this time is that much of the traffic appeared to be coming from computers outside the Great Firewall – many within the U.S., they said.