29 August 2017

Pingu, Fencing and National Security

Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM(Retd)

As you come down from Khardung la towards Nubra Valley after a backbreaking gut wrenching journey, the first stop we had after 14 km from the pass was North Pullu. A firm and warm handshake by the company commander welcomed us to a beautiful hut. A Jawan gave us lukewarm water to drink followed by a warm glass of kahwah. The Nursing Assistant took the oxygen count in blood and pulse rate. The smiling RMO enquired about our health and assured us that everything was alright. He was ready with his BP equipment, the oxygen cylinder and the medicines were readily available within the hut. It felt heavenly. The paltans in Indian Army are in great hands. I felt privileged and honored to have served in this great organization. May god bless them in all their endeavours. After a short and refreshing break, we went for lunch. The lunch was warm and wholesome and very well laid out. I found Pingu slowly opening the door ajar to have a peep. He needed no more than a small whistle from me to come in and sit, demanding him to be petted.

In all places where army lives, there are cookhouses popularly known as Langars and dogs are always there. They develop a natural affinity with our men. There are stories galore about their activities.

Pingu attends the morning PT parade everyday. He runs with the boys but breaks free whenever he finds a wild rat and goes after them.

Once I was posted at Binnaguri in 1990 and came to Punjab for fighting a war with Pakistan. War didn’t happen but we were all over Kahnuwan, Kalanaur, Tibri, Har Govindpur Khurana, Batala, Khasa, Ajnala and other exotic places. While moving in train from Binnaguri to Punjab we were issued Meat on Hoof (MOH) meaning live animals. Our boys don’t slaughter pregnant animals. One cute lamb cub was born. It was very playful and used to jump on top of the tent of our genial Deputy Commander and a Gorkha officer from GR. Though the camp people had an eye for the cub, nobody could dare as it was a playing partner of Deputy Commander and other officers from Brigade Headquarters. By the time we had left Punjab after one and a half years, this small cub had become a mushtanda. He use to attend all our PT parades and deal appropriately with his horns the people who he didn’t like.

*** The United States Sets Its Sights Beyond Afghanistan


It can be difficult to separate the important from unimportant on any given day. Reflections mean to do exactly that — by thinking about what happened today, we can consider what might happen tomorrow.

U.S. President Donald Trump reaffirmed his commitment to Afghanistan in an Aug. 21 address to the nation. His speech highlighted the familiar challenges associated with the Afghan theater, namely Washington's desire for Kabul to take on more responsibility for the war; Pakistan's role in providing sanctuary for militants; and a realization that a hasty withdrawal of troops could have dire consequences — such as Afghanistan becoming a base once more for transnational extremists. 

At the same time, however, Trump's speech was a deviation from the norm. He remained deliberately vague about exact troop numbers and military deployments. He also singled out India — which is Washington's preferred partner in South Asia — in taking on greater responsibility in Afghanistan through providing economic assistance, while acknowledging New Delhi's role in promoting stability in the "Indo-Pacific region," which suggests that Washington already sees India as a potential ally against an increasingly dominant China. As important as Trump's invocation of India was the prospect of a negotiated settlement with the Taliban. Many in Washington realize that a conferred resolution is preferable to a never-ending, low-intensity conflict. 

How the Last War Between China and India Haunts Asia (And the World)

Robert Farley

In 1962, the world’s two most populous countries went to war against one another in a pair of remote, mountainous border regions. In less than a month, China dealt India a devastating defeat, driving Indian forces back on all fronts. Along with breaking hopes of political solidarity in the developing world, the war helped structure the politics of East and Southeast Asia for generations. Even today, as Indian and Chinese forces square off on the Doklam Plateau, the legacy of the 1962 resonates in both countries.
Who Fought?

While both the Chinese and Indian governments were relatively new (the People’s Republic of China was declared in Beijing in 1949, two years after the India won its independence), the armed forces that would fight the war could not have been more different.

The Indian Army developed firmly in light of India’s imperial heritage. Large Indian formations had fought in several theaters of World War II, including North Africa and Burma. These forces would, in many ways, form the core of the new Indian military. The post-independence Indian armed forces were structured along lines broadly similar to that of India’s colonial antecedent, the United Kingdom, and in the early years operated mostly with Western equipment. This incarnation of the Indian Army saw its first action in the 1947, in the first Kashmir War, fighting against its erstwhile associates in the Pakistani Army.

India is fighting the Doklam war with China on a 5-inch battleground


NEW DELHI: The stand-off between India and China on the Doklam issue may not have blown into an armed conflict, but a Sino-Indian war is on. India is fighting this war against China on an unusual battleground — the five-inch screen of your smartphone. 

Most of the Indians using Chinese smartphonesare not aware how their phones have turned into a battleground for two countries. 

After reports, including a research by University of Toronto, that Chinese smartphone companies are sending user data of Indians to China, the Indian government has started cracking down on these companies. China can exploit Indian user data transmitted by Chinese smartphone companies for commercial as well as strategic purposes. 

The government has responded to these security risks with a flurry of moves in the past few days. 

The Ministry of Electronics and IT has directed 21 smartphone makers, most of which are Chinese, to inform it about the procedures and processes they follow to ensure the security of mobile phones sold in India, following reports of data leakage and theft. The government will verify the details provided and act against companies that have failed to meet security requirements. 

The government may also ask Chinese handset makers to set up servers in India as the next step in ensuring the protection of user data, following concerns about security breaches, especially as most Chinese smartphone vendors have servers in their home country. 

India 1, China 0

By Tim Culpan

Forgive the Chinese if they start feeling a certain amount of OS envy.

For more than 15 years, China has unsuccessfully attempted to come up with a homegrown operating system that would be loved by the masses and allow the country to be freed from the shackles of Western technological imperialism.

India has achieved that feat in less than two years.

Indus OS is now India's second-most popular smartphone platform with a 6.3 percent market share, behind Alphabet's Android. The multilingual system, one of many based on Android itself, reached No. 2 at the end of 2015 and maintained that position in the first two quarters, according to data released this week by Counterpoint Research. It leads iOS and other Android variants including Xiaomi's MIUI and Cyanogen.

INDUS OS MARKET SHARE

6.3%

China's path toward operating system nationalism is littered with the shells of failures including China OS (COS), Kylin, Red Flag and YunOS. They were all unsuccessful in getting traction for varying but similar reasons that include being pushed by the government or by a corporation with skin in the game. It matters little whether they're for desktop or mobile devices, China has failed at both.

India-China Border Dispute: A Historical Enquiry on the Political Selection of Boundary Lines

By Joe Thomas Karackattu

In this article, Joe Thomas Karackattu examines how India and China came up with the boundary lines that inform their border dispute. He argues that a review of historic diplomatic correspondences and cartographic evidence reveals that the borders claimed by each side were mutable between the 19th and mid-20th centuries. As a result, he suggests that future talks on the border dispute should acknowledge that these boundaries are not important because they are ‘true’, but due to how they were formed through a process of political selection.

The contestation of the boundary lines claimed by India and China resulted in the 1962 war and remains vexed unto this day. However, examining the boundary-making process reveals that the line each country claims as its ‘traditional customary boundary’ was not an unambiguous fixed one, and the line was mutable between the 19th and mid-20th centuries. For India and China, the lines emerged from a process of political selection, implying there is enough basis for new interpretations of ‘reality’ to be introduced to the conversations between the two on the boundary dispute.

The India-China border dispute comprises areas in the Western Sector (proximate parts of Ladakh and Tibet, and a segment of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir with Xinjiang), the Middle sector (part of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, with Tibet) and the Eastern sector (vicinity of Arunachal Pradesh with Tibet).2 Before delving into how India and China came up with their versions of the boundary line, it is useful to note the normative expectations of the Chinese, as far as their worldview on inter-state relations was concerned, “Under the wide heaven, there is no land that is not the Emperor’s, and within the sea-boundaries of the land, there is none who is not a subject of the Emperor.”3

Trump’s Afghanistan strategy isn’t to win. It’s to avoid losing!


Will President Trump’s new Afghanistan strategy alter the dynamics of America’s longest and most frustrating war? Do commanders really have any better chance of succeeding now than when this conflict began 16 years ago?

I put those questions by phone Tuesday to Gen. John “Mick” Nicholson Jr., who for more than 18 months has commanded U.S. forces in Kabul. This is his fourth tour in Afghanistan and his sixth year of service there. He probably knows as much about this difficult and costly war as any American in uniform.

Nicholson answered by describing what he has learned about Afghanistan since we first met 10 years ago in Jalalabad, when he was a colonel commanding a brigade of the 10th Mountain Division. Those were heady, optimistic days when Nicholson would take visitors to a provincial “loya jirga” tribal council, where the turbaned leaders professed support for the U.S. mission; when U.S. development teams were building roads and schools, confident that stability would follow economic development.

It didn’t happen that way, and Nicholson now cites two illusions of that period that he says undermined the war effort. The first was that U.S. commanders didn’t realize just how crucial external support from Pakistan was in allowing an unpopular Taliban insurgency to survive. The second was that commanders didn’t understand how corruption was rotting the Afghan security structure the United States was trying to build.

What Works in Afghanistan


By Phillip Carter

There is a cliché about Afghanistan that custom dictates must be included in every TV appearance, column, and book about that land: It is the “graveyard of empires.” From Alexander the Great’s Greeks, to the Persians, to the British, to the Soviets, to the Americans, nation after nation has tried (and largely failed) to invade and pacify the mountainous country and its people. This history shapes America’s inheritance today: both the reality on the ground for American forces in Afghanistan and the perceptions of our allies (particularly those with experience there, like the British) of possible outcomes.

Nonetheless, this broad brushstroke version of history ignores a number of important cases where foreign powers have found success—albeit often fleeting—in Afghanistan. There is a pattern to these successes: They are typically modest efforts that do not attempt to remake Afghanistan but rather achieve certain discrete, well-defined ends. And significantly, there is some overlapbetween this pattern and the policy articulated (albeit in an opaque manner) by President Trump on Monday night, that the U.S. might have a glimmer of hope as it approaches its 17th year of fighting in Afghanistan.

Four examples of limited success in the modern era are worth revisiting, in part because of their lessons for America today, and in part because each carried complications that only became apparent over the long term.

Trump’s Path to Indefinite Afghan War

BY MAX BOOT

KABUL—The Trump administration’s announcement of a new Afghanistan policy turned out to be a bit of an anticlimax. President Donald J. Trump was desperate for a fresh approach. He did not find one for the simple reason that one does not exist.

The president began his speech Monday night by venting his “frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money—and most importantly, lives—trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations,” and he admitted that his “original instinct was to pull out.” But his national security team stressed to him the dire consequences of a U.S. pullout.

Simply leaving Afghanistan would risk squandering all that American troops have fought for since 2001. “Our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives,” Trump said. Clearly his advisors had counseled Trump to avoid the mistake that President Obama made in 2011 when he pulled out U.S. forces from Iraq, allowing the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. “A hasty withdrawal,” Trump said, “would create a vacuum” that terrorist groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda would fill, much as al-Qaeda did when it used Afghanistan to plot the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Trump went on to repeat a point often made by U.S. generals: “Today, twenty U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world.”

Trump rightly paints Pakistan as foe, not friend

BY JAVID AHMAD

President Donald Trump deserves a praise for unveiling his new Afghanistan policy after a torturous, months-long debate. The new policy moved beyond specifying future U.S. troop numbers to defining a larger strategic end state in Afghanistan.

It drew a clear distinction between America’s friends and foes and sent the right message to the Taliban and their patrons that U.S. commitment to Afghanistan is unwavering and that we will no longer telegraph our exit with artificial deadlines.

Many have criticized the new policy as a status quo, but it was welcomed in Kabul. Afghan leaders have applauded the U.S. shift from a calendar-based approach to one based on conditions on the ground, although those conditions need to be properly defined to ensure the United States does not sign on to a forever war.

Crucially, the new policy makes one striking departure from past U.S. policies: a new approach toward Pakistan, a poster child for terrorism. The policy rightly distinguishes Pakistan as a clever adversary and not an imperfect friend, and makes clear that Washington would no longer tolerate Pakistan’s duplicity.

For years, Pakistan has pressed the Afghan government to reach a political settlement with the Taliban, which is Islamabad’s preferred option, but has refused to allow the Taliban leaders to engage in negotiations with Afghanistan, especially when Pakistan’s needs were unmet. In his speech, Trump urged the Taliban to engage in peace talks, but he was right to not give up U.S. military efforts against the group that would eventually force them into the negotiating table.

China Is Weaponizing Water

Eugene K. Chow

Hidden in plain sight is an intimidating Chinese weapon that allows it to hold a quarter of the world’s population hostage without firing a single shot. While much attention has been given to the nation’s fearsome new military hardware, a formidable component in its arsenal has largely escaped notice: dams.

With more than 87,000 dams and control of the Tibetan plateau, the source of ten major rivers which 2 billion people depend on, China possesses a weapon of mass destruction. With the flip of a switch, the Middle Kingdom can release hundreds of millions of gallons of water from its mega dams, causing catastrophic floods that would reshape entire ecosystems in countries downstream.

China knows first-hand the destructive power of water. In an attempt to halt advancing Japanese troops during World War II, Chang Kai-Shek, commander of the Chinese Nationalist Army, destroyed a dike along the Yellow River flooding thousands of miles of farmland, killing an estimated 800,000 Chinese, and displacing nearly 4 million.

It is highly unlikely that China would ever deliberately unleash such a destructive act upon its neighbors, but the fact remains that it wields enormous leverage as an upstream nation by its ability to control life’s most essential resource.

Pakistan's $100B deal with China: What does it amount to?

By Nadia Naviwala

ISLAMABAD — Early last year, the Pakistani government sent USAID officials in Islamabad a mystifying letter via snail mail: please stop doing feasibility studies for Diamer Basha Dam.

Pakistan had been lobbying the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Asian Development Bank since 2010 to complete the dam. A USAID assessment found that it would have “monumental” development impacts in terms of power generation, agriculture and flood control, making it “more beneficial for the national economy than any other project.” The problem was the equally monumental cost of construction. Even if the U.S. government dedicated its entire $7.5 billion, five-year planned development assistance budget (the second largest in the world after Afghanistan) to the project, it would build only half the dam.

The Rise of Chinese Aid series

As China continues to grow as a global power, so too does its footprint on the development sector. Its rise comes at a moment when the status quo is shifting in the aid industry. Traditional standard bearers such as the U.S. and EU may still drive the majority of funds and set the agenda, but protectionist policies and changing domestic priorities are setting in motion significant changes.

Young Chinese are 'too fat and masturbate too much to pass army fitness tests'

TOM POWELL

A rising number of young Chinese people are failing fitness tests required to join the army because they are too fat and masturbate too much, state media has proclaimed.

The high rejection rate has triggered concerns that there are not enough youths in good physical condition to fill the ranks of the Chinese army.

A poor diet and frequent masturbation, leading to abnormally large testicular veins, are believed to be behind falling fitness levels, according to a report published in state-run military newspaper the People’s Liberation Army Daily.

Authorities also think the constant use of smartphones and drinking water with too high a mineral content are to blame.

In one city, 56.9 per cent of potential recruits were rejected after failing fitness tests. One in five was simply deemed too fat.

The report claimed 8 per cent of male candidates suffered from enlarged testicular veins. “This is related to sitting too long on computer games, excessive masturbation and too little physical activity,” it said.

China’s PLA readying missiles to counter Indian air power

By ZI YANG

Every summer the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducts a major air defense exercise at its western theater command’s air force experimental training base. The anti-aircraft brigade of the 79th group army was the main participant in this year’s drill, on August 22.

The exercise evaluated the unit’s radar system, command and control network, intercept capabilities, electronic and cyber warfare abilities, mobility and logistics. The batteries engaged a variety of aircraft, including the J-10, J-11, Mil Mi-171, Harbin Z-9 and an assortment of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

Reporting, Chinese state media gave particular attention to the Hongqi-16 (HQ-16), one of the PLA’s most prized surface-to-air missiles.

Earlier this month, videoand photographic evidencesurfaced online that shows China moving trainloads of HQ-16 and HQ-17 missiles to Tibet as the standoff with India at Doklam continues.

The HQ-16 is a third-generation medium-range air defense missile system. Inspired by the Russian Buk, the HQ-16 has a 40 km maximum range of fire. Cold-launched vertically, it takes 13 minutes for a moving HQ-16 to load and fire missiles armed with 70kg warheads.

Pentagon Hiding the Presence of Thousands of Troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria


Caps on troop levels in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria mandated by the Obama administration have led to an elaborate Pentagon accounting system that conceals thousands of troops from the public — one that is quickly unraveling as the Trump administration prepares to send more troops to the region.

With new plans to ramp up the war in Afghanistan, the military is finding it exceedingly difficult to maintain a practice that purposely doesn’t count certain troops in the battle zone that military officials insist was not designed to be misleading but many critics now assert is at best an officially sanctioned charade.

The U.S. already has as many as 12,000 troops in Afghanistan, significantly higher than its 8,400-person cap. If President Donald Trump sends nearly 4,000 additional troops, as officials predict, the total will be nearly double the current public number. In Iraq, where the Baghdad government faces political resistance to a large American troop presence, the 5,200 troop figure the Pentagon uses in public serves as a useful fiction. In fact, more than 7,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, according to recent reports.

And in Syria the official 503 U.S. troops mostly covers special operations units. But hundreds of other troops who support them and their local allies remain classified — including the Marine artillerymen and Army Rangers whose vehicles are frequently photographed by local journalists.

British Counterinsurgency: Returning Discriminate Coercion to COIN

by Zachary L. Morris

On 26 October 2014 British troops withdrew from Camp Bastion Afghanistan, ending a costly and ineffective counterinsurgency campaign.[i] Britain’s withdrawal and failure in Helmand province highlights many of the modern misperceptions about British counterinsurgency theory and practice. While much of the world perceived Great Britain as expert in population centric counterinsurgency, a new pervasive view has begun to examine the actual doctrine and practice of Britain illustrating a complex, controversial, and varied performance. 

British counterinsurgency doctrine evolved gradually over centuries of colonial warfare and low intensity conflict. Modern British doctrine, while espousing many successful principles, neglects some critical lessons from actual British practice. British counterinsurgencies demonstrate significant differences between doctrine and practice, and routine challenges when Britain combats insurgencies involving external support and insurgent popular support. Modern counterinsurgents should learn from British theory and practice by employing the theory while remembering the practice of legal, discriminate, and targeted use of coercion to defeat insurgents and control a population. This paper first examines the evolution of coercion in British written doctrine in three periods: colonial, post-world war, and modern. The second section examines differences between British use of coercion in doctrine and practice. The third section assesses some external factors impacting British ability to apply coercion including international support and popular support. Finally, this paper examines the requirement to relearn the principle of legal, discriminate, and targeted coercion that British doctrine failed to emphasize in modern counterinsurgency.

What Kissinger Gets Wrong About Korea

By Joseph Bosco

The physically and intellectually bionic Henry Kissinger is at it again. The former secretary of state recently published an article in the Wall Street Journal casually titled “How to Solve the North Korea Crisis,” perhaps his 12th such piece offering essentially the same advice over the past two decades.

Though the article does not live up to its title, the man himself is amazing. While his talented staff no doubt helps in periodically churning out learned pieces on current world events, Kissinger, now in his 90s, still manages to shuttle between Washington and Beijing to pass messages and offer geostrategic wisdom alternately to American and Chinese leaders. He has done this for nine U.S. presidents and for every Chinese ruler since Mao Zedong.

In his many writings and speeches addressing North Korea, Kissinger always gets the danger right:

"The long-term challenge reaches beyond the threat to American territory to the prospect of nuclear chaos. ... Asia’s nations are already under threat from North Korea’s existing short- and intermediate-range missiles."

And, again with good reason, he invariably laments the failure of the international community to resolve the issue:

A Russian Word Americans Need To Know: 'Kompromat'

GREG MYRE

Russian President Vladimir Putin is shown at the Kremlin in Moscow during the recording of his recent New Year's message. Putin's spokesman said Wednesday that the Russian government does not gather compromising material, or kompromat, on political rivals, despite a well-documented history of such behavior.

Out of nowhere, a shocking video appeared on a Russian TV news program late one evening in March 1999. A surveillance tape showed a naked, middle-aged man who resembled Russia's top prosecutor, Yuri Skuratov, cavorting with two unclothed young women. Neither was his wife.

The ensuing scandal included a press conference by the head of Russia's FSB security service at the time, Vladimir Putin, who made clear it was Skuratov in the video.

Skuratov soon lost his job, not to mention his dignity.

President Boris Yeltsin was apparently impressed with Putin's handling of this episode. Yeltsin wanted to get rid of Skuratov, who was believed to be looking into Kremlin corruption. Several months after the video surfaced, Yeltsin named Putin to be prime minister, and a few months after that, Putin took over as president.

On Writing Why We Write


A long time ago, on a university campus far, far away…

For a third-year engineering student, Technical Writing for Engineers was an obligatory, necessary evil. Quite honestly, I'd never paid much attention in English class growing up, and typically used that time to either get a head start on other homework or to catch up on lost sleep. In high school, one of my friends actually tried to teach me how to sleep with my eyes open so I wouldn't be so obvious to our English teacher, Mrs. Thompson. Writing just wasn't my thing.

So, when I opened my class folder to find a note from the professor that simply said, “See me”, I wasn't that surprised. To avoid spending too much time on my first paper, I’d regurgitated the text from one I wrote on Soviet missile design for a mechanical engineering class the previous semester. Well, I’d gambled and lost. A great way to start a new semester: who knew that the English and Engineering Departments actually shared notes?

Chuck Stratton was your stereotypical English professor. Rumpled, middle-aged, with a trademark cardigan sweater and shoes that were probably older than most of his students. Wire-rimmed bifocals perched atop a mop of unkempt graying hair. I sat down expecting to receive a lecture on student laziness, but what came next truly surprised me.

“I don't appreciate plagiarism,” he said dryly, staring down at me over the top of his glasses. “You're either the best writer I've seen in 25 years of teaching or you’re a plagiarist. Which is it?”

US Army tackles teaming robots and ground forces on battlefield

By: Jen Judson 

FORT BENNING, Ga. ― The U.S. Army is no stranger to teaming manned aircraft with unmanned ones, but it is now tackling how to approach the concept on the ground ― a far more complicated undertaking considering the difficult and extremely variable terrain and the multitude of terrestrial threats that exist on the modern battlefield.

The Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence held a demonstration at Fort Benning, Georgia, on Tuesday that showcased its efforts to develop a robotic wingman within the maneuver force and how to incorporate robotic capability within a tank formation.

Almost out of necessity, the Army has progressed rapidly in aerial manned-unmanned teaming. It was already deep in testing the concept of pairing manned helicopters with unmanned aircraft systems when the service decided in 2013 to restructure its aviation fleet. The move included retiring the Army’s armed scout helicopter ― the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior ― and filling the gap with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and Shadow drones. The capability is fielded, being used operationally and continues to grow incrementally.

The Army sees a promising future for manned-unmanned teaming, or MUM-T, in ground maneuver forces, but has years to go before there’s a clear picture of how capability will be implemented in real battlefield scenarios.