14 October 2016

Does SAARC Have A Future? – OpEd

OCTOBER 13, 2016

The recent cancellation of the 19th summit of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) that was scheduled to take place in Islamabad on November, 15 and 16, has led to serious doubts as to whether SAARC can fulfill its objectives and remain as a useful forum that would be beneficial to the eight nations that are members of the SAARC.

India cited Pakistan’s involvement in the September 18 terrorist attack at an Army camp in Uri town of Kashmir, in which 19 soldiers died, as the reason for its decision to boycott the summit. When a few other member countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan supported India’s stand and decided not to attend the 19th summit at Islamabad, there was no option for Nepal, the Chairman of SAARC to cancel the summit.

Obviously, this has created considerable dissatisfaction in Pakistan, creating serious fissures among SAARC nations.
Potential strength not being realized

SAARC, with member states of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, comprises 3% of the world’s area, 21% of the world’s population and around 9% of the global economy. With such strength, SAARC has the potential to emerge as a strong center of power in the world, with prospects of emerging as a decisive economic and trade entity.

For this to happen, there has to be unity and sound understanding between the SAARC nations, which are conspicuous by absence.
Very little to show

With its secretariat based in Kathmandu, SAARC is supposed to promote development of economic and regional integration.

The future of Ladakh

By Claude Arpi
13 Oct , 2016

Making Ladakh a Union Territory would not only help ‘localise’ the Kashmir issue to the Valley, it would also provide a better administration to the mountainous region, streamline the security and send a message to China: ‘India cares for Ladakh’.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh paid a belated two-day visit to Ladakh after last month’s much-publicised all-party delegation’s trip to Jammu and Kashmir. Ladakh had been forgotten in that programme.

While in Srinagar in September, Mr Singh remarked that the delegation’s talks with the various sections in J&K have been fruitful. Various sections but minus Ladakhis! The neglect of Ladakh is not new.

In April 1952, Sonam Wangyal, a resident of Leh wrote to the Indian Prime Minister: “When Kargil fell to Pakistan, (in 1947) the Muslims of Padam (Zanskar) anticipating the entry of an Indian force from Lahoul made it their first business to invite Pakistan troops from Kargil. In this they succeeded… the Buddhist suffered during the occupation of their land by Pakistan, how their Gumpas (monasteries) were looted and desecrated, their women outraged, their men slaughtered and their houses rifted is common knowledge.”

Hundreds of Ladakhis eventually fled to Kulu, “large percentage of them perished during their fugitive wanderings.”

At that time, some elements in the local police are said to have sided with the invaders. Wangyal’s letter requested Nehru to send some relief to the suffering population through Kushok Bakola, Ladakh’s head lama: “May we hope that the excesses of the police will be duly inquired into and that this force will, in any case be withdrawn and replaced, if necessary by an Indian military picket.”

Should India be concerned about Russia’s closeness with Pakistan?

By Bharat Lather
13 Oct , 2016

In Pakistan, the standard narrative of Islamabad-Moscow relations begins a purportedly fateful choice said to have been made in 1949. That year, Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was invited by Moscow for a state visit, which he promptly accepted. However, upon receiving an invitation from Washington, Liaquat cancelled the Moscow visit, going to Washington instead, beginning what would become an on-again, off-again relationship between Pakistan and the United States.

Moscow, realizing that its longtime partner (India) is now seeing other people, has lifted an arms embargo on Islamabad, which is keen on modernizing its military…

As the U.S.-India embrace tightens, former Cold War foes Pakistan and Russia are bolstering ties with one another. Pakistan was an early Cold War partner of the United States, ultimately helping to evict the Soviets from Afghanistan in 1989. While India proclaimed a policy of non-alignment, it was firmly allied with the Soviet Union, which served as its chief defense supplier for decades. Those strong ties continued following the end of the Cold War into recent years. While India’s defense arsenal remains overwhelmingly Russian in origin, over the past four years, Washington is on the verge of supplanting Moscow to become New Delhi’s top defense supplier. Moscow, realizing that its longtime partner is now seeing other people, has lifted an arms embargo on Islamabad, which is keen on modernizing its military and reducing its dependence on Washington.

Role of the former Soviet Union (Presently Russia) in the Indo-Pak War of 1971

Pakistan's Counter-Terrorism Plan: All Talk and Little Action

By Dr Sanchita Bhattacharya
13 Oct , 2016

In implementation of its National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism, the Pakistani government, as reported on September 26, 2016, initiated a widespread fiscal crackdown against over 8,400 individuals allegedly involved in terror financing in an apparent sign of state acting decisively to track and block the money supply to extremists.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb did yield positive results, but the major portion of the NAP, which was about taking action against extremism and the extremist mindset, has not yet been implemented.

According to official sources, “over three dozen banks have also choked around Rs101 million in suspicious funds owned by 177 madaris”.[1] “All bank accounts of Lal Mosque’s top cleric Maulana Aziz and gangster Shahid Bikiki of Lyari Aman Committee have been frozen. Their travel documents have also been cancelled,” a senior official of the Ministry of Interior, stated. In addition, authorities at the National Database Registration Authority and Directorate of Passport and Immigration office have blocked travel documents of over 3,111 terror suspects whose names were listed in Schedule IV recently.

Among prominent terrorists whose accounts have been frozen are: Mati-ur-Rehman of al-Qaeda Pakistan, Mansoor alias Ibrahim alias Chotta of Tehreek-e-Taliban and Qari Ehsan alias Ustad Huzaifa of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). Pakistan Government has already announced Rs20 million bounty on their heads. Accounts of Umar Chohas of Tehrik-i-Taliban al-Qaeda group, Bilal Ahmed of TTP al-Qaeda Pakistan, Ramzan Mengal of LeJ, Sher Abbas of Jamaatul Furqan, Maulvi Ahmed Ludhianvi of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, Maqsood Domki of Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen, Pariyal Shah, Sarfraz Pappu, Imaad Ali, Baqir Moosvi, Hafiz Aurangzaib and Kabir Raza of ASWJ, Sibtain Shirazi of defunct Tehreek-i- Jafaria Pakistan and Mirza Ali of defunct TJP have also been frozen.

The Risk-Taker

September 25, 2016


Indian Express
Summary: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s seeks to break out of the many presumed constraints on India’s Pakistan policy by taking more risks than his predecessors.
Related Topics

For a quarter of a century, India has struggled to negotiate peace with Pakistan under the shadow of nuclear weapons and cross-border terrorism. Limited gains and enormous frustration from that process have begun to compel Delhi to break from the past. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new approach seeks to break out of the many presumed constraints on India’s Pakistan policy by taking more risks than his predecessors. Modi’s willingness to probe the limits of escalation — both horizontal and vertical — marks a new phase in India’s troubled relations with Pakistan.

Over the last two-and-a-half decades, India’s leaders were weighed down by the prospect that any conventional military action against Pakistan’s support to cross-border terror would inevitably escalate to the nuclear level. Delhi was also paralysed by the fear of “internationalising” theKashmir question and inviting “third party mediation” into India’s disputes with Pakistan. The Clinton Administration’s decision in 1993 to question the legitimacy of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India was compounded by Washington’s perception of Kashmir as the world’s most dangerous nuclear flashpoint and its quick interventions to defuse the frequent military crises between India and Pakistan.

A deeply defensive India in the 1990s believed negotiations with Pakistan were necessary to resolve the impasse in Kashmir. The governments of HD Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral (1996-98) put Kashmir back on the negotiating table with Pakistan. After the Shimla Agreement of 1972, Delhi saw itself under no compulsion to negotiate on Kashmir. Gujral’s successor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, after multiple military crises, negotiated the terms of a peace process with General Pervez Musharraf that called for a resolution of the Kashmir dispute in a violence-free atmosphere. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ran with this baton and came close to resolving the disputes in Siachen and Sir Creek, negotiated an agreement on Kashmir, expanded economic engagement and people to people contact during 2004-06.

The Indian Administrative Service Meets Big Data

September 01, 2016 

The Indian Administrative Service Meets Big Data

Summary: The Indian government should reshape recruitment and promotion processes for the Indian Administrative Service, improve performance-based assessment of individual officers, and adopt safeguards that promote accountability while protecting bureaucrats from political meddling.

India’s economy has grown rapidly in recent years, but the country’s bureaucratic quality is widely perceived to be either stagnant or in decline. While small, India’s elite civil service cadre, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), occupies the nerve center of the Indian state. Unfortunately, the IAS is hamstrung by political interference, outdated personnel procedures, and a mixed record on policy implementation, and it is in need of urgent reform. The Indian government should reshape recruitment and promotion processes, improve performance-based assessment of individual officers, and adopt safeguards that promote accountability while protecting bureaucrats from political meddling.

Key Insights Into the IAS 

For officers early in their careers, exam scores and education are highly predictive of future success. 

Older officers who enter the service as part of larger cadres face limited career prospects and are less effective at improving economic outcomes. 

While initial characteristics heavily shape career trajectories, in the long term, there are clear rewards for officers who systematically invest in training or acquire specialized skills. 
Individual bureaucrats can have strong, direct, and measurable impacts on tangible health, education, and poverty outcomes. 

Surprisingly, officers with strong local ties—thought to be vulnerable to corruption—are often linked to improved public service delivery. 

Does India Really Want to Go to War?

October 12, 2016 

We are going through a strange time in India. Even as we live it we are rewriting history. It isn’t that we transformed overnight into another kind of country. We didn’t change in isolation. The world around us continues to change and it is inevitable that we will change with it, especially when it comes to international relations and how we approach them.

War is a malaise. Like avian flu or HIV or dengue fever, it is born of a beast and there is a beast in both citizen and nation which we keep wrapped and leashed with clothes and flag, societal norms and the constitution.

But war, like all infectious diseases, has a way of creeping into the system and minds, insidiously at first and then with blatant disregard for life and the toll it may take.

Just as happened with avian flu, HIV and dengue fever, many of us thought it would never come to India. Yet suddenly it seems that even if we are not at war, there is a great deal of warmongering being instigated, especially in certain sections of the media.

We are a peace loving democracy. We may have countless internal problems: water disputes over a river, lynchings for consumption of beef in states where it is banned, child trafficking, farmer suicides, Maoist attacks, environmental devastation, an almost civil war-like situation in Kashmir, corporate and political corruption.

But we have not gone to war.

Disability Pension Controversy: Here Is The Complete Picture


What is the complete story behind the ‘slashing of the disability pension’ of the defence forces? Read below.

Yesterday, there were reports which claimed that even as the country was saluting the armed forces in the wake of their surgical strikes in Pakistan, the Modi government had ‘quietly put the finishing touches on a plan to slash disability pensions for injuries incurred in the line of duty’.

This shows the union government as not only being disrespectful towards the armed forces but being so at a time when the the country at large is saluting them for their surgical strikes inside Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

So what is the complete story behind the ‘slashing of the disability pension’? Read below:

The problem

Disability element of pension for defence personnel, during the 5th Central Pay Commission (CPC) regime, was calculated based upon a slab system. For civilians, the same was calculated based upon percentage of emoluments. This was a grave anomaly and resulted in lower disability benefits to disabled soldiers as compared to civilian counterparts. Only soldiers at lower ranks with lesser length of service stood to gain by slabs.

The solution

The 6th CPC removed this anomaly and started a regime of percentage system both for civilians and defence personnel. To offset any loss to lower ranks, the Government introduced an amount as a minimum slab which was guaranteed if the calculation by way of percentage fell below that level.

The error

Be warned Pakistan, you are dealing with a new reality now

October 10, 2016
Source Link


'Since India has to live next to Pakistan, it can't remain under permanent blackmail.'

'A predictable consequence of these fundamental shifts is the fraying of the principle of strategic restraint.'

'It hasn't been junked. But the threshold has been shifted to provide India much greater room for retaliatory action,' says Shekhar Gupta.

Smarting under the impact of the 9/11 terror attacks, the George W Bush administration had its battering ram, Deputy Secretary of Defence Richard Armitage, to summon the chief of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence, asking him to dump the Taliban and become a US ally, or else.

The Pakistani general started arguing that there was a history of his country's and the agency's role in Afghanistan and how they had vital interests there. 'History,' Armitage is said to have declared, 'begins here and now.'

It doesn't happen often, but events, leaders, ideologues can sometimes arrive at the same conclusion and when they believe they have the power to do so, make the same assertion.

That's what Narendra Modi has done with his declared strikes along the Line of Control in Kashmir. What exactly happened in the night intervening September 28 and 29, how deep did Indian commandos go, how much success they achieved in terms of death and destruction, or, even, if you allow the Pakistanis a question, did they even go 'in' or just 'fired small arms' from the Indian side killing two soldiers, are all minor, tactical issues.

The substantive, strategic issue is: India made the public statement it did. This redefines the India-Pakistan relationship hereon. It also firmly signals the end of continuity from the Indian side.

The India–Sri Lanka Fisheries Dispute: Creating a Win-Win in the Palk Bay

V. SURYANARAYAN 
September 09, 2016 

Summary: With renewed commitment, India and Sri Lanka have a chance to bring stakeholders together, halt the damaging effects of trawling, and secure the livelihoods of their people.

V. Suryanarayan, retired, was formerly the founding director and senior professor of the Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Madras.

The Palk Bay, a narrow strip of water separating the state of Tamil Nadu in India from the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, has historically provided rich fishing grounds for both countries. However, the region has become a highly contested site in recent decades, with the conflict taking on a new dimension since the end of the Sri Lankan Civil War in 2009. Multiple issues have compounded to bring tensions to a near crisis point, with serious ramifications for internal and bilateral relations. These issues include ongoing disagreement over the territorial rights to the island of Kachchatheevu, frequent poaching by Indian fisherman in Sri Lankan waters, and the damaging economic and environmental effects of trawling. However, with the governments of both countries recently affirming their commitment “to find a permanent solution to the fisherman issue,”1 there is an opportunity to create a win-win scenario, in which the bay becomes a common heritage of mutual benefit.

IMPORTANCE OF THE PALK BAY
Strong Ties

The bay, which is 137 kilometers in length and varies from 64 to 137 kilometers (roughly 40 to 85 miles) in width, is divided by the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL). Bordering it are five Indian districts and three Sri Lankan districts. In 2004, there were approximately 262,562 fishermen on the Indian side and 119,000 on the Sri Lankan side.2

Unravelling the Mystery of Brahmaputra River Issue

October 10, 2016 


On 07 September 2012, our former President Late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam made a prophetic statement while speaking at St Thomas College, Pala saying, “Future wars will be over water”. While referring to this, one is not talking about the present Cauvery Water Crisis between Karnataka and Tamilnadu. There has been a lot of discomfort in the Indian strategic circles that China may choke the water of Brahmaputra, known as Yarlong Zangbo in China, either by constructing dams on it or by diverting her waters, thereby affecting the availability of water for the middle riparian state of India and the lower riparian state of Bangladesh. China has not signed a water sharing treaty with any country and that increases the uncertainties about her behaviour over water.

All strategists studying China know about her penchant for building her asymmetric capabilities. Colonel Qiao Liang and Colonel Wang Xiangsui, two Chinese Colonels who wrote a book titled ‘Unrestricted Warfare’ in which they described all types of asymmetric capabilities that China may use against her adversaries. They mention that modern technology can be employed to influence the natural state of rivers under the subject of Ecological Warfare. Such writings by Chinese themselves have added to the concerns about China’s intentions with respect to the dams that she is building on Brahmaputra.

China Eyes Ending Western Grip on Top U.N. Jobs With Greater Control Over Blue Helmets

OCTOBER 2, 2016 

As China steps up its commitment to U.N. peacekeeping, Beijing is said to be eyeing a leadership role — with potentially troubling human rights implications. 

China is believed to have its sights on the United Nations’ top peacekeeping job, a position that would place a country with an abysmal human rights record in charge of the world’s second-largest expeditionary force of more than 100,000 peacekeepers deployed in hot spots around the world.

While the race for a new U.N. secretary-general has for months grabbed most of the attention at Turtle Bay, behind the scenes a fierce political competition is underway to land top posts under the world body’s next chief. The outcome could shatter the monopoly that Western powers have held for decades inside the inner sanctum of U.N. leadership — and push peacekeeping operations in a direction human rights advocates may find worrisome.

According to multiple U.N.-based officials, Beijing is angling to run the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, or DPKO, which has been headed by French nationals for nearly 20 years. Moscow, for its part, is said to be hankering after the Department of Political Affairs, or DPA, which former U.S. State Department officials have headed for the past decade.

“China is making a play for DPKO, and Russia is making a play for DPA,” one senior U.N. official said. “Are these just opening positions? Who knows.”

Saudi Arabia and Iran Face Off in Afghanistan The Threat of a Proxy War


Saudi Arabia and Iran’s ongoing proxy war in the Middle East is never far from the headlines. The two countries have sparked or exacerbated various conflicts throughout the region, including in Syria and Yemen, two of the most complex and devastating wars in recent history. But another battle between the two regional powerhouses has gone relatively unnoticed, even though it could further destabilize a key strategic theater for the West: Afghanistan.

Since entering Afghanistan nearly 15 years ago, NATO has committed thousands of troops and billions of dollars to the country. Today, 13,000 NATO troops remain there, and this summer, NATO committed to continue funding Afghan forces until 2020.

But despite all these efforts, Afghanistan remains highly volatile, with a weak central government and various insurgency groups that maintain considerable influence in the country. Many of these groups have a long history of working with Tehran or Riyadh and sometimes both. Although both capitals fund Islamic centers and various groups in Afghanistan, their respective strategies for the region diverge considerably.

Iran sees Afghanistan as a primary zone of influence, much as it sees Iraq. The two countries share a porous border, as well as cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and economic ties. Iran is also home to a large number of Afghan refugees, and increased instability and insecurity there translate into even more. Further, narcotics trafficking from Afghanistan fuels Iran’s epidemic of drug abuse. For these reasons, Tehran was already present in Afghanistan when the United States and its NATO allies intervened in 2001. At the time, Iran saw the NATO war as an opportunity and worked with Washington and its partners to defeat the Taliban and stabilize the country. Tehran also leveraged its influence to help build a new national government in Kabul and donated hundreds of millions in aid. Iran has often been

Getting Regulators and Regulated to Collaborate on CybersecurityCommerce Secretary Penny Pritzker Sees a New Relationship for Traditional Adversaries



With passage of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act in 2015, Congress authorized the Department of Homeland Security to develop a system in which the federal government and businesses can share cyber threat information.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker thinks DHS shouldn't have a monopoly on government and businesses sharing cyber threat information. In a recent speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Pritzker suggests that regulatory agencies should implement cyber threat information sharing programs with the businesses they regulate, not only to enhance their IT security, but to build a collaborative environment between the two, often adversarial sides.

"Pick any cyber breach - Target, Sony, Yahoo; when under attack, these companies do not think about how government can help them," Pritzker said in a speech delivered last week at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Cybersecurity Summit. "What they see are the downsides of engagement - potential liability, the risk of punitive action and the investigations that may result from even basic interactions. ... We cannot blame executives for worrying that what starts today as an honest conversation about a cyberattack could end tomorrow in a punish-the-victim regulatory enforcement action."

In this audio report (click on player above to listen), you'll hear:
Pritzker explain the reasoning behind getting regulators and regulated companies to collaborate on cybersecurity information sharing;
Experts express concerns about how too close of a relationship between the two sides could jeopardize the protections regulations provide the public; and
Lawyers representing businesses before regulatory agencies address why such cooperation could enhance cybersecurity among regulated companies.

The Upside to the EU’s Crisis


Europe currently finds itself in the throes of its worst political crisis since World War II. Across the continent, traditional political parties have lost their appeal as populist, Euroskeptical movements have attracted widespread support. Hopes for European unity seem to grow dimmer by the day. The euro crisis has exposed deep fault lines between Germany and debt-ridden southern European states, including Greece and Portugal. Germany and Italy have clashed on issues such as border controls and banking regulations. And on June 23, the United Kingdom became the first country in history to vote to leave the EU—a stunning blow to the bloc.

At the same time as its internal politics have gone off the rails, Europe now faces new external dangers. In the east, a revanchist Russia—having invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea—looms ominously. To Europe’s south, the collapse of numerous states has driven millions of migrants northward and created a breeding ground for Islamist terrorists. Recent attacks in Paris and Brussels have shown that these extremists can strike at the continent’s heart.

Such mayhem has underscored the price of ignoring the geopoliti­cal struggles that surround Europe. Yet the EU, crippled by the euro crisis and divisions over how to apportion refugees, no longer seems strong or united enough to address its domestic turmoil or the security threats on its borders. National leaders across the continent are already turning inward, concluding that the best way to protect their countries is through more sovereignty, not less. Many voters seem to agree.

THE MISADVENTURES OF RUSSIA AND THE UNITED STATES IN SYRIA: COMPLETE STRATEGY IMPLOSION EDITION

OCTOBER 11, 2016

The current situation in Syria is the civil war’s most dangerous and arguably tragic phase. Months of U.S.-Russian efforts to arrange a nationwide ceasefire in Syria and set up a military coordination agreement have collapsed spectacularly, leading to venomous recriminations as a Russian-backed coalition renewed its assault on Aleppo. The tone of official rhetoric — Ambassador Samantha Power called the renewed bombing campaign “barbarism” — together with a suspension of military contacts raises the risk of a military clash that much further. Meanwhile, interventionist circles in the West have renewed their cries for the United States to use force, while Russia signaled that such a move would lead to uncertain consequences and possible military conflict, reminding the United States to “think carefully” before hitting any Syrian regime forces. If this is not the greatest foreign policy train wreck of 2016, it will certainly do until that calamity arrives.

On October 3, the United States suspended its attempts to implement a ceasefire with Russia and scrapped the proposal for a joint military coordination body. Russian President Vladimir Putin retaliated by shelving a 2000 deal on disposal of weapons-grade plutonium and canceling a bilateral agreement on research cooperation between nuclear sectors. The two countries have since cemented an escalatory cycle of tit-for-tat blows, as U.S. intelligence agencies publicly blamed Russia for its hacking of the Democratic National Committee to interfere with U.S. elections. The prevailing impression in policy and media circles is that Russia has abandoned efforts at peace, instead making a bid for military victory on the ground. Increasingly, many in Washington are certain that Russia strung the United States along in negotiations to help Syrian forces recapture Aleppo in the closing days of the Obama administration. References to the Cold War abound as tensions increase.

Japan's Central Bank Writes Tokyo A Blank Check


Official announcements often have hidden meanings that escape the commentariat, leaving citizens unaware that an important page in their governments' policies has just been turned. So it was with the Bank of Japan's Sept. 21 press release, which held so many revelations that observers struggled to digest and explain them all.

Much of the discourse that followed focused on familiar topics, such as the end of quantitative easing or additional interest rate drops. Others registered surprise at and approval of the bank's new inflation target, which makes room for officials to overshoot their targets.


But what has received far less attention is that, for the first time since World War II, the Bank of Japan's bond purchases will now be directly linked to the government's issuance of debt. In many ways, this could be the biggest economic development Japan has seen since the 1985 Plaza Accord, which set the country on a path toward a bubble-ridden economy and the two "Lost Decades" of stagnation that followed.
The Road to Fiscal Dominance

When a government spends more money than it brings in with taxes, it typically issues bonds to make up the shortfall. The market and central bank then buy those bonds since they are, in theory, the safest asset available. From there, the bonds serve as the basis for any number of transactions. The more a government issues, the higher the risk that it will be unable to pay them off - and, as a result, the higher the interest rate the market demands. If functioning properly, this system acts as a natural check on government spending, since skyrocketing interest payments and deteriorating public finances would threaten the government's ouster.

Robotics Delivery Option: Drone. Arrival Estimate: 2020



Even keen advocates of airborne package delivery still envision a long wait for your parcel.

Do not let the breathless predictions and gimmick-laden pilot tests by large tech companies fool you: drone deliveries are still a ways off.

We wrote in March that drone delivery will be a long time coming. And even though federal rules released since then allow the use of drones for commercial activities, there are major restrictions—including the fact that drones can’t fly above people or out of the line of sight of an operator without a waiver.

Even if regulations soften, there are still major hurdles to overcome before drone deliveries become regular occurrences. Among them are security, airspace management, and reliability, not to mention the small problem of what an aircraft does when it arrives at your home.

And yet suggestions of delivery drone applications keep coming. Alphabet is hauling Chipotle burritos across the campus of Virginia Tech aboard its Project Wing aircraft. UPS is testing a drone to send medical supplies. Mercedes-Benz has collaborated with drone-maker Matternet to design a vehicle that works as a mobile delivery hub.

The idea makes some sense: networks of delivery drones could provide swift and efficient shipping, reduce road congestion, and even help cut emissions.

But even keen proponents of the concept can be forced to admit that we’re in for a wait. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Andreas Raptopoulos, the chief executive of Matternet, said that airborne package delivery will reach an “inflection point around 2020.”

Hacked IoT Devices Unleash Record DDoS MayhemFirepower Fueled by Vulnerable Internet of Things Devices

Jeremy Kirk (jeremy_kirk)
September 29, 2016  


An army of networked devices - webcams, digital video recorders, CCTV cameras and routers - has been unwittingly drafted into doing electronic battle via a type of attack that has existed since the early days of the internet, but which has reached new levels of intensity in recent weeks.

Website operators and companies regularly fight off distributed denial-of-service attacks, which seek to take down services through overwhelming or else highly pinpointed barrages of traffic. DDoS attacks have typically been launched from compromised desktop computers. But in a development that experts have long forecasted, hackers are increasingly using so-called internet of things devices to launch record-breaking attacks.

The assaults are asymmetrical: The cost of launching attacks are often trivial compared to the cost of defending against them. While large organizations, such as financial service companies, are usually ready for DDoS attacks, many are not, and the unprepared often find themselves scrambling in panic as their websites remain unavailable.

The attacks highlight structural weaknesses in the internet - now essential to global commerce and business - which wasn't designed to defend against this type of abuse.

"Never before in human history have so many people across the world been utterly dependent upon such a fragile, brittle technology as the internet," says Roland Dobbins, a principal engineer at Arbor Networks in Singapore.

The consultancy Gartner predicts that 6.4 billion internet-connected devices that fall into the IoT category will be online this year. By 2020, 25 percent of cyberattacks within enterprises will involve IoT devices, but just 10 percent of IT security budgets will be dedicated to safeguarding them, Gartner forecasts.

The most prominent apparent IoT attack of late was directed against the website of cybersecurity journalist Brian Krebs, whose exposés on the cybercrime underground have made him a frequent target of online attacks and other harassment. His site was hit Sept. 20 with 620 gigabits per second of traffic in one of the largest-ever DDoS attacks ever seen. By comparison, most DDoS attacks are in the range of 1 Gbps to 15 Gbps.

Enhancing NAVIC’s Competitiveness

ANANTH PADMANABHAN, NIHARIKA KAULOp-Ed 
September 6, 2016 Livemint 

NAVIC, India’s indigenous satellite navigation system, the details of which are discussed in a previous piece, can have significant consumer benefits. Rapidly declining average selling prices of smartphones have led the Internet and Mobile Association of India to estimate about 371 million mobile Internet users by June 2016 in its latest report. Mobile Internet cost is also expected to drastically come down post the introduction of 4G networks. Therefore, NAVIC’s success in replacing Global Positioning System (GPS), the most popular navigation service in the Indian market currently, shall depend on its ease of integration with third-party smartphone apps.

Since the revenue from navigation services in India in 2016 amounted to $53.3 million, and is projected by Statista to grow at an annual rate of 31.79%, NAVIC’s operational launch can result in healthy competition between various navigation services, and potentially significant revenues for the country. India can combine NAVIC with GAGAN—its indigenous augmentation system—to service users on differential rates depending on the navigational precision they seek.

While NAVIC’s accuracy is currently lower than GPS’s, it could well make up for this with its higher sturdiness to erratic weather conditions. NAVIC leads on this score because it accesses frequency bands that are less volatile to changes in ionospheric properties. Apps that rely on satellite navigation services for location, timing and navigation—pretty much spanning the spectrum of economic activity from mobility solutions to agriculture, and from location-based advertising to delivery of medicines—can now make conscious choices and trade-offs as regards the kind of support they require. Interestingly, one such trade-off hinges on the domestic regulatory frameworks governing each of these navigation systems. Competitive advantages built around regulations, particularly in the areas of labour and environment are quite common, but in the context of NAVIC, the debate is much more nuanced than simply choosing between weaker and stronger regulations.

After Attributing a Cyberattack to Russia, the Most Likely Response Is Non Cyber

October 10, 2016


Almost four months after the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike claimed that two Russian hacker groups were behind the theft of data from computers at the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations, the U.S. government has publicly attributed the attacks to Russia. In a joint statement from the Director of National Intelligence and Department of Homeland Security, the intelligence community declared that it was “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.” According to the statement, the hack was not the work of an individual calling himself Guccifer 2.0 or a 400 pound hacker sitting on a bed, but was: intended to interfere with the U.S. elections; consistent with other Russian efforts to influence public opinion in Europe and Eurasia; and was likely to have been authorized at the highest levels of the Russian government.

This is the latest in a growing list of cyberattacks that the United States has attributed to state-supported hackers. Washington accused the PLA of hacking U.S. Steel and others;North Korea of attacking Sony; and seven hackers tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps of attacks on U.S. financial institutions and a dam in Rye, New York. Russia has, not surprisingly, denied any responsibility, saying the claims “lack proof” and are an attempt to create “unprecedented anti-Russian hysteria.”

The next steps for the Obama administration are unclear. As Henry Farrell notes, the U.S. government will now have to decide if it will provide compelling evidence of Russian culpability. Releasing additional proof will be necessary if the United States wants to build some international legitimacy for whatever retaliatory actions it takes. In fact, the United States signed onto a 2015 UN report that said that accusations of internationally “wrongful acts brought against states”–the kind the United States is accusing Russia—”should be substantiated.” But substantiation has significant risks. It will be difficult to assign responsibility without revealing intelligence capabilities, and attribution may allow Russia to patch vulnerabilities and result in the loss of U.S. defensive and offensive capabilities.

New Army EW tool allows for greater mission planning, aware

October 11, 2016 

With the emergence of electromagnetic spectrum operations and electronic warfare playing a much larger role in conflicts going forward, the Army is fielding a new tool to provide commanders both greater understanding and awareness of the spectrum for better planning and decision making.

The Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool, or EWPMT, will provide an initial integrated Electronic Warfare System, or IEWS, capability by coordinating and synchronizing operations across the 2/3/6 staff sections within the command post from the joint task force level down to the battalion.

“Bottom line is EWPMT is a mission command software application that enhances the CEMA (cyber and electromagnetic activity) element’s ability to plan, coordinate and synchronize CEMA with mission command systems,” said Lt. Col. Marc Dorrer, product manager for electronic warfare integration.

Key tasks the tool provides the force include capabilities to plan, coordinate, manage and deconflict electronic warfare and spectrum management operations; integration of electronic attack in the targeting process to ensure electronic attack can meet the commanders' desired effect; and synchronization of electronic warfare and spectrum operations within the CEMA cell.

“EWPMT is really the first tool for the electronic warfare officer,” said Maj. Eric Burke, assistant product manager for electronic warfare integration. “There are a multitude of other systems that bring a partial capability for EW or spectrum planning. But EWPMT pulls everything together into a common operating picture similar to the other command systems but really is the background and the backbone of the system, which provides the robust modeling and simulation capability to give commanders confidence in what they are seeing and what effects they can expect.”

So You Want to Learn About Maneuver Warfare?

By Jim Greer
JULY 15, 2016 


After 15 years devoted to low intensity conflict in the form of counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism and foreign internal defense the U.S. military, and more specifically the U.S. Army, is now focused on restoring the lost capability to conduct mid-to-high intensity maneuver warfare. Restoring capabilities for maneuver warfare is only possible through the leader development, training and cultural adaptation that enables leaders, Soldiers and organizations to think, plan, analyze, decide, communicate and act effectively in combat situations that are incredibly complex, conducted at extremely high tempos and far more lethal than the operations of the last fifteen years. Recognizing that future maneuver warfare will not be the same as that of the latter half of the 20th Century, the following reading list is offered as a start point for those who wish to educate and prepare themselves to lead our Army in preparing for and if necessary conducting large-scale maneuver warfare in the future. Each of these books shaped my own thinking and understanding about maneuver warfare and enabled me to prepare leaders, Soldiers and units to plan and conduct successful combat operations employing maneuver warfare in Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Patterns of Conflict by USAF Colonel John Boyd is I believe the best primer on how to think about maneuver warfare. Using a combination of theory, history and practice Boyd troop leads the reader to develop the thinking skills necessary for planning and conducting combat operations. Although best known for the OODA Loop, Boyd’s contribution is much more. Regardless if you are a company commander, Brigade staff, or an instructor, Patterns of Conflict will shape the way you think about your role in warfighting. I was lucky enough to hear Colonel Boyd present Patterns of Conflict as a young captain. In his six-hour presentation he completely changed the way that I thought about warfare.

State’s New Armed Drone Policy Confuses Ends With Means

October 11, 2016

The intent behind the State Department’s new international policy for armed drones is admirable in principle but the declaration’s hoped-for real-world effect will fall short for three reasons. First, the combat effects of drones can be achieved through a variety of military means. Second, Remotely Piloted Aircraft (as the Air Force calls them) are tools whose use is guided by policy and strategy; they are not fundamentally unique. Third, critical drone exporting nations like Russia and China are not signatories to the declaration.

The Department of State issued its “Joint Declaration for the Export and Subsequent Use of Armed or Strike-Enabled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)” on Oct. 5, and it’s been signed by 45 supporting nations. The declaration stipulates that the international community “must take appropriate transparency measures to ensure the responsible export and subsequent use of these systems.”

The joint declaration on drones represents admirable intentions, but its practical impact will be elusive because the declaration’s characterization of drones as sufficiently distinctive to warrant such an agreement does not reflect reality. Drones enable greater ethical oversight allowing the ability to observe, evaluate, and respond to targets of interest in a highly informed fashion. Drones give mission commanders the means to achieve mission objectives in a precise fashion, while limiting collateral damage and unintended casualties.

State’s New Armed Drone Policy Confuses Ends With Means

October 11, 2016 

The intent behind the State Department’s new international policy for armed drones is admirable in principle but the declaration’s hoped-for real-world effect will fall short for three reasons. First, the combat effects of drones can be achieved through a variety of military means. Second, Remotely Piloted Aircraft (as the Air Force calls them) are tools whose use is guided by policy and strategy; they are not fundamentally unique. Third, critical drone exporting nations like Russia and China are not signatories to the declaration.

The Department of State issued its “Joint Declaration for the Export and Subsequent Use of Armed or Strike-Enabled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)” on Oct. 5, and it’s been signed by 45 supporting nations. The declaration stipulates that the international community “must take appropriate transparency measures to ensure the responsible export and subsequent use of these systems.”

The joint declaration on drones represents admirable intentions, but its practical impact will be elusive because the declaration’s characterization of drones as sufficiently distinctive to warrant such an agreement does not reflect reality. Drones enable greater ethical oversight allowing the ability to observe, evaluate, and respond to targets of interest in a highly informed fashion. Drones give mission commanders the means to achieve mission objectives in a precise fashion, while limiting collateral damage and unintended casualties.

13 October 2016

Earlier cross-LoC strikes had different goals: former NSA

October 12, 2016 03:34 IST 
Shiv Shankar Menon says they were not publicised because they were not aimed at domestic constituencies.
Operations across the Line of Control (LoC) were not publicised in the past, before the September 28 strikes, because they were not aimed at domestic constituencies, former National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon has said. However, in the first comments made by a senior member of the UPA Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on the issue, Mr. Menon also said he had no regrets about not announcing previous strikes, as they had different “goals” in mind.
“Covert operations were not announced to the country because the primary goal was to pacify the LoC and cut down infiltration and ceasefire violations, not to manage public opinion at home. By keeping operations covert rather than overt, it was made possible for the Pakistan Army to climb down and for a temporary peace to be re-established,“ Mr. Menon said in written replies to The Hindu.

Mr. Menon’s remarks are significant as the controversy around the government’s decision to announce cross-LoC strikes by the Army, grows. On September 29, the DG of Military Operations Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh announced at a press conference that Army commandos had carried out a number of “surgical strikes” “along the Line of Control” inflicting significant damage on terror launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
In a series of background briefings since then, senior officials of the government including National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar have expanded on details of the operations, making it clear that they involved teams of commandos crossing over the LoC by foot, and killing terrorists in the “double digits” on the other side, in strikes carried out in “self-defence.”

Meanwhile, Cabinet Ministers and BJP leaders have hailed the strikes as a “first”, with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar claiming credit for “empowering the Army like Hanuman was.”
Asked if he had any regrets about not publicising the cross-LoC operations like Operation Ginger in 2011 during his tenure, which was reported by The Hindu this week, Mr. Menon said, “No. As I said, the decision to go public or not depends on the outcome you seek and the best way to achieve it.”

Uri and after
Mr. Menon said the response to the Uri attack “had been handled as well as can be expected,” and was possibly necessitated by a sharp increase in ceasefire violations, infiltration attempts, and attacks by terrorists from Pakistan in the past 18 months compared to the decade following the 2003 ceasefire that was announced by Pakistan’s former President Pervez Musharraf and India’s former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Compared to 1,373 infiltration attempts in 2003, figures had reduced to about 277 in 2013.

*** Using ‘Mental Models’ to Outthink the Enemy

From ARMY Magazine, Vol. 66, No. 9, September 2016. Copyright © 2016 by the Association of the U.S. Army and reprinted by permission of ARMY Magazine.

By the end of August 1944, Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s Third Army had left a swath of destruction across Europe. They had captured or destroyed over 4,300 German tanks, artillery pieces and vehicles while losing fewer than 500 of their own tanks and artillery. Even the death toll was lopsided. As of Aug. 23 of that year, the Germans had lost 16,000 soldiers, killed at the hands of III Corps, compared to approximately 2,000 U.S. service members killed in action.

Patton’s rapid 500-mile trek across Europe can be summed up in one word: Attack! The speed at which he moved left the Germans confused, and it paved the way for the Allies’ race to the Rhine.
Almost 60 years later, in the summer of 2002, retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper led the opposing force during Millennium Challenge, a joint forces exercise simulation. He played the role of a rogue Middle Eastern commander whose technological capabilities paled in comparison to those of the U.S. The purpose of Millennium Challenge was to validate a new way in which the U.S. military fought. During the 1990s, leaders thought that technology would lift the fog of war and allow U.S. commanders to see first, understand first, then act decisively.

Van Riper’s performance during the exercise proved that the contemporary U.S. way of warfare was inconsistent with the nature of war. He used asymmetric methods to counter technological dominance, couriers instead of cellphones to communicate among his forces, World War II-era practices to get his airplanes off the ground when his communications systems were knocked out, and a surprise attack on Navy ships—which would have killed approximately 20,000 service members and sunk 19 ships. His technologically inferior force outthought and outfought the U.S. military in the exercise.
While Van Riper and Patton served in different capacities and in different eras, they both dominated the battlefields where they fought. One reason was that both complemented their experiences with a lifetime of self-study, gaining an understanding of war and warfare and thus, developing “mental models” that allowed to them to outthink, outsmart and outfight their opposing commanders. These mental models were the foundation of their competitive advantage, and their personal examples should provide leaders with the impetus to adopt the same practices in their own careers.

Lifetime of Experience, Education
Mental models or schemas are prerecorded bits of information stored in our brains that enable us to quickly understand the world. They also influence how we take action. Mental models are developed through a lifetime of personal experiences and education. They are the reason two individuals can look at the same information, or two commanders can look at the same terrain, and draw two very different conclusions. The types and variances of experiences, and how we make sense of them, will determine how our mental models are shaped.
Even military strategist Carl von Clausewitz commented on the power of mental models when he discussed coup d’oeil as a prerequisite to military genius in his book On War. Great military commanders intuitively understand the power of this idea and deliberately supplement their experiences with the practice of reading and reflection. They do not rely on the organization for development; they take their development into their own hands.