30 November 2016

The current state of the cyber security industry: it's a mess


28 NOVEMBER 2016

This year has been troubling for the cyber security industry with more successful and more vicious cyber attacks than ever before 

'Today’s threat landscape is constantly evolving, yet the majority of technologies being deployed to thwart them, are at odds with this evolution and focus on the age old ‘defence-in-depth’ approach' 

The last few days have summed up the current state of the cyber security industry. 

In a matter of days the European Commission was brought offline by a distributed denial of service attack, San Francisco’s Municipal Railway was held to ransom by ransomware in a system-wide attack and it was revealed that in September the Japanese Defence Ministry and Self-Defence Forces were hacked, which may have compromised Japan’s internal military network. 

It is almost farcical. From these most recent examples it is evident that critical infrastructure is totally unprepared for an attack and severely vulnerable as well. 

But it is not just the public sector that is suffering. Private organisations are hacked the whole time despite serious investment in cyber security strategies. 

To gauge what exactly is going on in the cyber security industry Information Age spoke to Mike East, VP sales EMEA at CrowdStrike. Is it really as bad as the evidence suggests? 
What is the current state of the cyber security industry? 

Germany: Massive Outage Knocks Out 900,000 Routers

BY MINA 
NOVEMBER 29, 2016

German Telekom is now looking into evidence of a hacker attack after 900,000 internet, phone and television clients were hit by a massive outage starting on Sunday and going into Monday.

Around 900,000 routers across Germany were hit by the outage which started on Sunday, a company spokesman told DPA on Monday.

The routers connect customers not only to the internet, but also to telephone and television services. The spokesman explained that the problem was not with the network itself, but rather with identifying routers upon dial-up.

The company is now looking into evidence found by IT analysts that the connection problem may have been due to an outside attack rather than a normal system failure, Telekom said late Monday morning.

“We have found the first indications that we were possibly victims of a hacker attack,” a spokesman said.

The company said it was introducing a new software on Monday morning that they expected would remedy the problem, after clients – including The Local – could still not connect when the day started.

Telekom advises customers to try disconnecting their routers, waiting a while, and then plugging back in. The company reported that with the software update, resetting the router in this way had solved the problem for many customers.

THE SWORD AND THE SWASTIKA: HOW A MEDIEVAL WARLORD BECAME A FASCIST ICON

NOVEMBER 28, 2016

On a fall day in the early 8th century, somewhere between the French cities of Poitiers and Tours, a Muslim army crashed into the serried ranks of a force led by a powerful Frankish noble: Charles, Mayor of the Palace and son of Pippin of Herstal. In the ensuing battle, Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi — governor of the Muslim territories in Al-Andalus (Spain) — was slain, and his troops were routed. This confrontation between two Dark Age warlords echoed through the ages and acquired a potent symbolism, all despite the fact that medievalists know relatively little about the principal protagonists and the respective orders of battle, let alone how the fight actually unfolded.

Indeed, the battle of Poitiers (or Tours, as it sometimes known in the English-speaking world), has been framed as one of history’s most decisive military struggles, on par with the battles of Thermopylae or Waterloo. Commentators have presented the victory of Charles — later given the martial cognomen of Martel, or “the hammer” — as a civilizational as well as a military triumph, crediting the Frankish warrior with having stanched the Muslim expansion into Western Europe.

Edward Gibbon famously speculated that, had Abdul Rahman prevailed at Poitiers,

the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet.

The French romantic writer Chateaubriand made the equally dramatic claim that, “if it were not for Charles Martel’s valor, we would all be wearing turbans.”

BRUTAL VIOLENCE IN SOUTH SUDAN: HOW PEACEKEEPERS CAN DO MORE TO PROTECT CIVILIANS

NOVEMBER 27, 2016

The hope that filled South Sudan at its independence is rapidly disintegrating. Brutal tensions flared again in July 2016 after heavy fighting from December 2013 to August 2015 came to a tenuous halt with the signing of a peace dealbetween President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar. This seemingly constant cycle of politically and now ethnically motivated violence has displaced over 2.6 million people and caused tens of thousands of conflict-related deaths. Because of an urgent and unmet need for protection, more than 200,000 civilians are sheltering at United Nations protection of civilians (POC) sites throughout the country. Both the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and Movement in Opposition (SPLA-IO) have purposefully attacked civilians based on their ethnic background or perceived political ideologies, committed acts of rape and sexual violence, arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals, and attacked journalists and United Nations personnel. Both parties to the conflict have committed gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, with leaders from both sides permitting these violations to occur by forces under their command. A recently released U.N. report confirmed that the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) could have done much more to protect civilians. As it currently operates, UNMISS does not have the capability or capacity to stop the brutal violence against civilians. UNMISS will need to make major changes to its training requirements, posture, and operating procedures to more effectively protect civilians in South Sudan’s complex environment.

July Violence Intensifies

How to Get the National Security Council Right


President Barack Obama convenes a National Security Council meeting in the Situation Room of the White House. Wikimedia Commons/The White House

The new administration should resist the tendency for the NSC staff to grow in size and take on operational responsibilities.

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Many around the world and across the United States are watching with rapt attention reports about President-elect Trump’s potential national security team. His choices will be vital in shaping America’s international role for the years ahead.

After forty years as U.S. diplomat, having worked through presidential transitions, I am watching from the outside, teaching about foreign policy decision-making at Hamilton College this semester. My students have identified key lessons learned, good and bad, from U.S. administrations since World War II. Now, they are keenly watching to see if and how President-elect Trump will draw on those lessons in selecting his national security team and in designing his National Security Council (NSC) process. In an ever more complicated and interconnected world, Mr. Trump’s early decisions on people and structure will have a major impact.

29 November 2016

*** The Changing Civil-Military Dynamic Doesn’t Serve India’s Strategic Interests

BY ARUN PRAKASH 
26/11/2016

By depriving India’s fighters of honour, respect and a pride of place in the national hierarchy, the government has shattered their élan and esprit de corps. 

File photo of naval personnel. Credit: Reuters 

Nothing exemplifies the periodic descent into the ‘theatre of the absurd’ of Indian politics better than the prolonged and inane debate that followed the army’s cross-Line of Control operations of September 20, melodramatically termed ‘surgical strikes’. 

The nation was forced to witness, with embarrassment, the spectacle of all major political parties – ably assisted by the electronic media – jumping onto the stage to indulge in a puerile competition of one-upmanship on an issue of serious national security import. Having grudgingly approved of the government’s response to the Uri terror strike, the opposition, on second thoughts, coalesced in a raucous effort to deny BJP the credit for this operation by seeking ‘proof’. 

Obviously, not many of our politicians are aware of the strong linkage that 19th century Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz had established between the statesman and military commander. Unequivocally categorising war as an “an instrument of policy” and a “branch of political activity”, he declared, “War does not have its own logic and purpose. The soldier must always be subordinate to the statesman; the conduct of war is the responsibility of the latter…” 

*** 26/11 probe panel member says terrorists may have landed earlier

November 27, 2013 

'During the course of our inquiry, we heard a rumour that the 10 terrorists had reached Mumbai days before 26/11. That the terrorists had landed at Machhimarnagar in Colaba and were staying in a hut which was being used by the underworld.'

'We heard that the kingpin of a diesel pilferage scam had provided shelter to the 10 terrorists. After taking shelter at a shanty in Machhimarnagar, the terrorists supposedly conducted reconnaissance of various targets in Mumbai before launching the attack.'

V Balachandran, the other member of the Ram Pradhan committee that probed the 26/11 terror attacks, speaks to Rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa in a startling interview.

The ten terrorists from Pakistan who attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008, were living in the city as one of us long before the terror strike. They lived in a shanty, used by an underworld figure with political links, at Colaba's Machhimarnagar area in south Mumbai, and conducted reconnaissance of various sites.

Days later, they walked into some of these sites with their guns blazing, killing 156 innocents, wounding hundreds others and wreaking havoc in Mumbai's darkest days yet.

This aspect in fact had come up before the Ram Pradhan Committee, comprising former Union home secretary Ram Pradhan and former special secretary, Research and Analysis Wing V Balachandran, which was constituted after the terror attacks by the Maharashtra government to look into the administration's woeful response to the strike.

In an exclusive and candid interview with Rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa, Balachandran says the committee had come across this aspect and had handed over the pertinent information to central intelligence agencies, which did little about it.

Even the Mumbai police's crime branch, which investigated the attacks, did not go into detail about this aspect and finally said the terrorists landed in Mumbai on November 26, 2008, and went about the attack almost immediately

** CPEC: Corridor of Discontent

By Dr. Priyanka Singh
27 Nov , 2016

The flagship project under the Belt and Road Initiative – the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), has been seen as a ‘game changer’ in the regional geopolitical discourse since its formal unveiling in April 2015. It has become the foremost bilateral initiative between China and Pakistan, entailing a budget above $46 billion. CPEC has captured popular imagination in Pakistan, at a time when it is struggling to get its economy back on track. Through the successful execution of the CPEC, China looks forward to adding a significant brand value to its overseas developmental initiatives enunciated as One-belt-One-Road.

With a spectacular GDP having trillions of dollars in reserve, China is seeking to invest in projects abroad that can enhance connectivity, utilise idle capital and sustain its economic growth. In this context, CPEC is conceived as a project that will give China overland access to the Arabian Sea through the Pakistani port of Gwadar, bring development and prosperity to Pakistan – a long-time friend and ally, and cement strategic ties between the two. Innocuous as it may appear, with its passage through the disputed territory of Gilgit-Baltistan and its access and control of Gwadar port – situated in close proximity to the energy-rich Western Asian region, CPEC has provoked the regional/sub-continental security debate ever since it was announced with great gusto by China and Pakistan.

Enveloped in a geopolitical chimera, the focus of the emerging discourse on CPEC is clearly tilted towards its economic and strategic imperatives. However, the flip side of the project concerning its political viability is being ignored. Considering that the CPEC is set to traverse through Xinjiang, Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan simmering with large-scale political discontent, there are lurking uncertainties facing the future prospects of the project, widely hailed as a harbinger of enhanced regional connectively and trade.

* China’s Military Reforms: An Optimistic Take – Analysis

By Michael S. Chase and Jeffrey Engstrom* 
NOVEMBER 28, 2016

China is implementing a sweeping reorganization of its military that has the potential to be the most important in the post-1949 history of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).1 Xi Jinping, who serves as China’s president, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), seeks to transform the PLA into a fully modernized and “informatized” fighting force capable of carrying out joint combat operations, conducting military operations other than war (MOOTW), and providing a powerful strategic deterrent to prevent challenges to China’s interests and constrain the decisions of potential adversaries. Scheduled for completion by 2020, the reforms aim to place the services on a more even footing in the traditionally army-dominated PLA and to enable the military to more effectively harness space, cyberspace, and electronic warfare capabilities. Simultaneously, Xi is looking to rein in PLA corruption and assert his control over the military.

Brief Overview of the Reforms

China unveiled the long-anticipated organizational reforms in a series of major announcements beginning on December 31, 2015, when it subordinated the ground force to an army service headquarters, raised the stature and role of the strategic missile force, and established a Strategic Support Force (SSF) to integrate space, cyber, and electronic warfare capabilities. On January 11, 2016, Xi announced “a dramatic breakthrough . . . in the reform of the military leadership and command system” that discarded the PLA’s four traditional general departments in favor of 15 new CMC functional departments.2 Next, the reorganization eliminated China’s seven military regions (MRs) and converted them into five theater commands. This part of the restructuring is intended to enhance the PLA’s readiness and strengthen its deterrence and warfighting capabilities. In addition, the CMC released a “guideline on deepening national defense and military reform,” which states that under the new system, the CMC is in charge of overall administration of the PLA, People’s Armed Police, militia, and reserves; the new joint war zone commands focus on combat preparedness, and the services are in charge of development (presumably of personnel and capabilities).

Likely Benefits of the Reforms

* Pakistan Has a New Army Chief. Here’s What We Know About Him


Raheel Sharif’s retirement is certainly unusual and creditable in the context of strengthening institutional conventions in Pakistan, he being only the seventh army chief out of 15 to have quit on time. 

Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. Credit: Dawn News 

The appointment of Lt. Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa as Pakistan’s 16th army chief does not come as a complete surprise. His name was being mentioned as one of four strong contenders for the post in recent Pakistani media reports. Notably however, he was the junior-most in the pecking order of the current cohort of 3 star generals of the 62nd Pakistan Military Academy long course who were eligible for selection. 

Pakistan’s president, Mamnoon Hussain, formally appoints the army chief under Article 243 of the 1973 constitution, though after the 18th amendment, the prime minister’s advice is binding on him. Nawaz Sharif may have exercised some discretion in making this choice, though it is likely that the recommendation of the current army chief, General Raheel Sharif, was given due weightage. The timing of the announcement is significant, coming as it does while Nawaz Sharif has just returned to the country from a visit to Turkmenistan. This would suggest there was no real civil-military discord over this choice. 

Bajwa’s long stint in difficult terrain, confronting India across the Kashmir front in different assignments must have weighed in his favour. Starting as colonel, he served as general service officer to earlier X Corps commanders, then as brigadier and as major general in the same sector. He was Force Commander Northern Areas, before serving as GOC, X Corps, Rawalpindi under both Raheel Sharif and his predecessor, Ashfaq Kayani, from August, 2013 to September, 2015. In between, as a brigadier, he also did a UN peace-keeping stint in Congo. He was also commandant, School of Infantry & Tactics, Quetta – always regarded as an important faculty assignment. 

From one Sharif to another

S. Akbar Zaidi

As Pakistan’s army chief retires on schedule, its Prime Minister has an opportunity to consolidate the slow process of democratisation under way in the country since 2007

Anyone familiar with Pakistan’s history knows that most of the last 70 years since Independence have been dominated by the country's military. Pakistan’s history and its politics have been more about the military than about its civilians or about society more broadly. Whether the military has governed directly under dictatorial military generals, as it has for 32 years, or whether it has ruled through other indirect, but equally intrusive, means, as it has when not directly running government, much of what Pakistan has become has been moulded by, and on account of, Pakistan’s military and its various interests and institutions. Whether it is Pakistan as a (failed) national security state, or a breeding ground for various forms of Islamic jihad, much credit goes to Pakistan's military.

Moments of change

This is not to suggest that the civilian and political actors are innocent in any way, beyond agency, accountability or reproach. But having been constrained in numerous ways by the overly-dominant and overly-invasive military, for whether Pakistan has been a failed or failing state, a rogue state involved in nuclear proliferation, or a state which allowed the world’s most wanted man to live well-protected for five years in Pakistan, responsibility on civilians and politicians, in the absence of any real power, must be rather thin. Moreover, it is well recognised that whether it is Pakistan’s nuclear policy, Afghan policy or policy towards India, whether in terms of peace or trade, real power rests not with the civilian elected political body, but with the military, particularly the army.

Pak: Don’t expect change


Bajwa has considerable experience dealing with Kashmir and will use his knowledge and expertise to advance the Pakistan Army’s interests.

Lt. Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa has been appointed the new chief of the Pakistan Army, and will take over on Tuesday from Gen. Raheel Sharif, who turned out to be scrupulous on not playing politics to gain an extension, that is pretty much the norm in Pakistan, where the military calls all the shots. Like his predecessors, we may be fairly certain that the new chief will be a professional soldier who won’t unleash kinky ideological-political policies to promote jihadism in his country, as had been done by Gen. Zia-ul Huq. That won’t go down well internationally in the current climate.

But in relation to India we may be just as certain that the new chief won’t give up on the use of militant proxies, no matter how democracy-minded and of moderate disposition Gen. Bajwa shows himself to be. This is a low-cost option short of war with deniability written all over it. China, Pakistan’s best friend, is likely to approve. The United States, best friend at crucial junctures, fretted and made the right noises, but went along all this time.

US-2I, A FEATHER IN NAVY’S CAP?

PK Ghosh 
The role that the aircraft is supposed to play is in areas of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. But mostly they may be used in some places in the island territories of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and in Lakshadweep, where no regular landing strips exist currently

It is well known that most big ticket purchases of defence equipment have strategic compulsions and interests behind them — rather than mere technical feasibility. The jury is still out on the likely purchase of the much talked of ShinMaywa US 2i — the Japanese amphibious airplane by India.

It has often been stated that one of the primary reasons for showing interest in its purchase, has been the rising trajectory of bilateral relations between New Delhi and Tokyo. And, the other strategic reason has been to offset the Chinese announcement of having built the world’s largest flying boat, known as AG-600 by the State owned-the Aviation Industry Corporation of China.

The question, of course, that begs an answer is: Do these very expensive, sophisticated aircraft really suit our requirements, and hence, do they possess a high utility factor or are they mere ‘trophy’ defence platforms nice to have but, not a real necessity?

THERE IS HOPE AMID TERROR AND VIOLENCE

Sudhansu R Das

Government must ensure that indigenous talent and resources are given due attention, so that it can help augment the economy while benefitting remote areas

Terrorism in any form adversely affects the social, cultural and economic fabric of a nation. According to the 2015 Global Terrorism Index, the cost of terrorism to the world was $ 52.5 billion in 2014, the highest since 2001. As per the South Asia Terrorism Portal, between 1992 and 2016, the terrorist violence in North-East has taken 21,422 lives, which include 10,244 civilians, 2,727 security personnel and 8,451 terrorists.

The cost due to loss of life among security personnel, death of single bread-earner of the families, loss of livelihood, loss of productivity hours, loss of priceless handicraft traditions in Maoist infested areas, loss to tourism sector, loss of forest wealth, loss of school time due to bandh, loss of mutual trust among communities, huge expenditure on surveillance gazettes, on purchase of sophisticated weapons, on security check, on barbed wire fence and on transport etc has not been assessed across the country.

The North-East has a vibrant horticulture, tourism, adventure tourism, pilgrim tourism, handicrafts, mining, handloom sector, and has the largest crop diversity in India, which can create jobs for the people. People of these regions have traditional skills to make hundreds of handmade utility and decorative items to meet the growing global demand for eco-friendly items.

India: Curb Currency Circulation To Ensure Success Of Demonitization – OpEd

NOVEMBER 28, 2016

The Modi government has been receiving bouquets and brickbats ever since it announced demonetization of high value currency on November 8, 2016.

Doomsayers seem to be of the view that demonetization will result in fall in GDP growth and cause stress and anxiety for people due to cash shortage for atleast next one year. However, those supporting demonetization stress that this move is necessary and inevitable to restore the social and economic strength of India and defeat corrupt forces at all level.

The opposition political parties are caught unaware and are highly disturbed after hearing the announcement on demonetization, for whatever reasons . They paralysed the functioning of the parliament for several days and have gone to the extent of announcing national strike on 28th November as a mark of protest.

While the black money holders and those used to corrupt practices are pleased about the critical stand of the opposition parties, there appear to be overwhelming view amongst the common man that demonetization should succeed, so that their present sufferings due to widespread corrupt practices in government departments and other agencies like educational institutions, hospitals , real estate agencies etc. will stop.

Obviously, Modi government believes that India should rapidly move towards a cash less economy , which would be the only way to ultimately wipe out corrupt practices in the country.

Does India Have A Foreign Policy? – OpEd

NOVEMBER 28, 2016

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hard-line approach to project India as a superpower and as an upcoming power on global platform has received mixed reactions. The primary goal of any Indian establishment has been to maintain friendly relations with all the nations, cooperation on all grounds and even remaining non aligned with extreme ideology backed states.

Prime Minister Modi has been visiting nations across the globe to strengthen ties on all fronts including military partnerships. His “Make in India” programs to boost defence manufacturing in India and job creation was more than just a slogan or so believe many analysts. Indias first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his policies were directed towards projecting India as strong state post independence and till date the Congress Party holds on to ancient policies paying little heed to the changing dynamics of Indian Foreign Policy.

The concept of power plays a major role in the theoretical understanding of International Relations. It essentially means self reliance and freedom in deciding local and international matters or sovereignty so to speak. But India as a country is obsessed with hero worship. The Prime minister is not just an elected representative but the face of India hence sometimes policies dividing the nation go unnoticed as it happened in the recent demonetisation case.

India does not seem to have a blueprint of its foreign policy it seems. It focuses too much on the currents and undercurrents of politics and all stands maintained by the elites are directed towards immediate gains. The vision is lacking. The new buzz word is nuclear. In 1998 when India conducted nuclear tests it wanted to tell the world it’s no longer a weak state. Despite all efforts of Prime Minister Modi’s Indias ambition to become a superpower remains largely unrealised.

Restraint To Retribution: Modi’s New Normal And Nawaz Sharif’s Challenge – Analysis

By Lt Gen Arvinder Singh Lamba*
NOVEMBER 27, 2016

India’s response by a surgical counter-strike by Special Forces on launch pads against terrorists near the Line of Control (LoC) to infiltrate inside Indian Territory was the beginning of a natural but formidable exhibition of the changing political will and military precision assaults. The resonance of near global synergy and opinion against both – terror and a terror sponsor state – that uses its military machine to endanger peace and stability, should have warned Pakistan of possible responses.

India’s strong responses with complete ownership at the highest level signal the first ever reflection of rare strategic convergence between political leadership, the home ministry, the National Security Advisor, and the military.

For Pakistan, the message was one of India’s zero tolerance towards terror emanating from home grown groups in Pakistan, as well as terror groups or elements sponsored by Pakistan and operating within India.

In keeping with its strategy of denial and disowning terrorist actions from Mumbai to Uri, Pakistan’s military has dismissed the strike as a usual cease fire violation. The chorus of denial this time came from the highest diplomatic levels as office of the high commissioner of Pakistan in India to the political and the military hierarchy in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s response is unmistakeable despite this denial. Visits of journalists to forward locations to negate the truth of Indian surgical strike have been followed up by intensified firing on border villages inflicting heavier casualties in the rice belt of RS Pura, sensitive Macchal and Gurez sectors, terror strikes in Afghanistan and Balochistan, and mutilations of Indian soldiers. Recent media reports of four posts in Keran sector routed by India’s fire assaults and increased casualties of Pakistan’s soldiers reflect the hardening responses.

It is Time Nepal Army Tookover!

By RSN Singh
27 Nov , 2016

The tragedy of Nepal’s second Constituent Assembly elected in end 2013 is signified by the outrageous proposition that the Maoists, who were comprehensively rejected by the people and managed to merely survive as third poor political force after the elections are ruling the country. The political situation therefore is even worse than the first Constituent Assembly, which was killed by none other than the Maoists after four years in 2012. Nepal, since the demise of monarchy is gasping for stability. If the country is still managing to plod on, it is because of the residue of structures evolved under the monarchy for over two centuries.

The Maoists, all over the world believe in a single party rule and are therefore congenitally unfit for parliamentary democracy.

This is not unexpected. What is reprehensible is the shallow but conceited political, strategic and military understanding displayed by the policy makers in the last Indian dispensation in dealing with the perpetrators of Left-wing extremism in Nepal. The legitimacy invested by India on Prachanda, is costing both India and Nepal dearly. But such is the seductive power of puerile leftist intellectualism of a segment of Indian policy makers that they could hardly foresee the consequences of bringing the Maoists in Nepal at once at the helm. The basic imperative that they should have not ignored is that in a democracy, all contending political forces must be prepared to sit in the opposition if the verdict says so.

Japan and India: A Special Relationship?

November 24, 2016 

Tokyo and New Delhi may have to deal with China's bellicosity without the United States.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent three-day visit to Japan is a sign that the bilateral relationship between India and Japan is headed for newer heights. More importantly, there seems to be a palpable method to this resurgent Asian connection that does not just attempt to restore the balance of power in Asia. The two sides are astutely restructuring regional formulations in the Asian geopolitical theatre through a mix of economic, political and strategic accomplishments. India was able to draw Japan’s support for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), negotiate small but significant progress in the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train timeline, ease Indian student visas and facilitate the training of 30 thousand Indians in Japanese manufacturing practices.

Two other developments that took place during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Japan could turn the India-Japan relationship into an unwavering geostrategic alliance in Asia. One is the decision by both the countries to merge their contiguous maritime corridors to create a single geostrategic maritime expanse running from the Far East up to the western Indian Ocean. Modi’s Japan visit drew assurances for merging India’s “Act East Policy” with Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.” The second is the significant progress made in negotiations for the sale of Shinmaywa US-2i search and rescue aircraft from Japan to India. Both of these developments could recalibrate the Asian power balance by resetting the maritime heft in Asian waters, which has increasingly tilted in China’s favor since the beginning of this decade.

26/11 response: NSA Menon wanted LeT HQ in Muridke targeted, but...

November 27, 2016

India would have responded differently to "Pakistan-sponsored" Mumbai terror attacks had there been a different "mix of people" at the helm, according to former foreign secretary and national security advisor Shivshankar Menon.

In his latest book titled Choices: Inside the Making of India's Foreign Policy, Menon says that as foreign secretary he had "urged" former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee that India should retaliate militarily as he felt Pakistan had "crossed the line" and the action demanded more than a "standard response".

"My preference was for overt action against LeT headquarters in Muridke or the LeT camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and covert action against their sponsors, the ISI. Mukherjee seemed to agree with me and spoke publicly of all our options being open," he writes.

"Personalities matter. With a different mix of people at the helm, it is quite possible that India would have chosen differently. In fact, if India is forced to make a similar choice in the future, I am sure it will respond differently," he says.

Menon believes that an immediate visible retaliation would have been emotionally satisfying and gone some way towards erasing the "shame of incompetence" that India's police and security agencies displayed in the glare of world's television lights for three full days.

Published by Penguin, the book is an insider's account of five major Indian foreign policy decisions in which Menon either participated directly or was associated with.

These "choices" include the India-US nuclear agreement, the first-ever boundary agreement between India and China, India's decision not to use overt force against Pakistan after 26/11, the 2009 defeat of LTTE in Sri Lanka and India's disavowal of the first-use of nuclear weapons.