12 February 2015

A ‘breakthrough’ that is no big deal

Suhasini Haidar
February 12, 2015 

While the government may continue to say that the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act remains untouched, it’s the government’s reading of that law which is problematic, especially as it is around an issue which concerns every Indian: as an energy consumer, a taxpayer, and a potential victim of a nuclear accident

In an unusual move this week, the government sought to clear the air over the India-U.S. nuclear “breakthrough understanding” announced by U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with a detailed press release on the subject. The move was prompted by several questions being asked over how the two leaders had been able to announce a breakthrough in issues that have held up nuclear trade for five years. The bottom line, the government said, was that the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act of 2010 remained untouched. However, it is the government’s reading of that law that is problematic, especially as it concerns an issue which touches the life of every Indian: as an energy consumer, a taxpayer, and a potential victim of any untoward nuclear accident.

The energy basket

Let’s be clear. The problem is not with the India-U.S. civil nuclear deal. After all, nuclear energy is something India has made a conscious move towards since 2000 in a bipartisan manner, with both the United Progressive Alliance and the National Democratic Alliance governments pushing ahead with it. By 2035, India’s projected energy demand is expected to grow by 132 per cent and India will surpass China as the world’s highest energy consumer according to the latest BP energy outlook report. Given India’s projected population growth, and the worldwide push for clean energy, it is clear that nuclear energy, with its low carbon content, and centralised land requirement, will form a key component of our energy mix. As a result, just last month, the government has tripled its target to 63,000 MW of nuclear energy by 2032, more than 14 times what is produced today.

The problem is also not about making special concessions to the United States. If it hadn’t been for the American administration led by President Bush, India would have had few options to build its nuclear energy programme, and access fuel and nuclear supplies from other countries. After the U.S. did the “heavy lifting” in getting India a legitimate place in the international nuclear regime, it would seem churlish to suggest that India should cut out U.S. businesses like GE and Westinghouse from the market simply because they demand more favourable terms than Russian or French ones do.

World's growth chart: No Indian city in Top 10

Chidanand Rajghatta
Feb 12, 2015

WASHINGTON: The hurly-burly is done; the electoral battle is lost and won. As the poll dust settles over Delhi, the two men who matter most in the city may want to mull - when they meet later today - over the dismal rating of India's capital and premier metropolis in the world's growth chart, a scroll in which no Indian city makes the Top 10 or even Top 15.

The Brookings Institution's 2014 Global Metro Monitor Map that measures and compares growth patterns in the world's 300 largest metro economies puts Delhi at 18th place, followed by Kolkata (among Indian cities) at 32nd. Mumbai (52) Chennai (57) Hyderabad (76) and Bengaluru (87), round up the Indian cities in the Top 100, which expectedly is dominated by Chinese cities.

China has 11 cities in the Top 20, and four in the Top 10. Surprisingly, Turkey has four in the Top 10, including Izmir, Istanbul, and Bursa at two, three and four. Macau is at top spot.

The report compares growth patterns in the world's 300 largest metro economies on two key economic indicators - annualized growth rate of real GDP per capita and annualized growth rate of employment.

These indicators, which are combined into an economic performance index on which metro areas are ranked, matter because they reflect the importance that people and policymakers attach to achieving rising incomes and standards of living and generating widespread labor market opportunity, the report says.

Why India was more unsafe than Syria in 2014

Deeptiman Tiwary
Feb 12, 2015

NEW DELHI: Far away from the virtual war zones of Syria and Afghanistan, it's in India where more bombs are exploding. In 2014, India witnessed 190 IED explosions, putting it just behind Pakistan and Iraq in the list of countries worst affected by bomb blasts.

And while VIPs continue to clamour for security, they make only 3% of the target as compared to the general public which accounts for 54% of blast targets. Maoists continue to remain the biggest enemy of the state executing more than 50% of the blasts followed by Northeast insurgents accounting for 30% of the explosions.

According to latest data released by National Bomb Data Centre (NBDC), Pakistan witnessed the maximum number of blasts in the world with 313 explosions followed by Iraq which suffered 246 blasts. Afghanistan with 129 blasts is far behind India. Syria, which has seen pitched battles between ISIS, Kurdish Peshmargas and Nato forces, has seen only 32 blasts.

These five countries have together account for almost 85% of the 1,127 blasts across the world.

India, however, has been able to reduce the number of explosions and casualties in 2014. While 2013 witnessed 99 casualties in 212 explosions, 75 people lost their lives in 2014. This is in keeping with the trend across the world.

What's worrying is that in 92% of explosions in India, high explosives were used recording an increase of four percentage points over 2013. This indicates the ease with which anti-national elements are able to lay their hands on explosives and electronic detonators.

NSG chief JN Choudhury blamed it on 'less-than-satisfactory' control over sale and stocking of explosives and detonators. "All 190 blasts in India used electronic detonators. We see a ban on the sale of detonators desirable, but that's not possible. There needs to be some control on sale and secure storage and use of detonators," Choudhry said.

He said, "It seems when licence for use of detonators is given out by district magistrates, it is done in a very routine manner with no monitoring of its end use."

Internally too, India is witnessing a geographical shift in pattern of blasts. Jammu and Kashmir which has witnessed a 30% drop in explosions is no more among the top danger areas. Ditto for Manipur which has seen a 45% drop from 66 blasts in 2013 to just 36 in 2014. Conversely, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand witnessed an increase of 33% and 50% respectively in number of explosions.

Concern combined with realism

G Parthasarathy
Feb 12 2015 

China unsettled by the readiness of the US and India to expand their military ties

The year 2015 began with clear indications of how the Narendra Modi Government intends to position itself in global affairs. The Prime Minister’s invitation to the Heads of SAARC Governments for his swearing-in was followed by intensive interaction in Yangon and Brisbane with regional and global leaders, during the East Asia and G-20 Summits. The focus was very clearly on sending out the message that India was determined to return to a high-growth path economically. It would play a proactive role not only in regional economic integration with its ASEAN neighbours and major economies like Japan and South Korea, but also in fashioning new security dynamics across the Indo-Pacific region. India’s security perimeter was no lager confined to the Indian Ocean rim, but extended across the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

While the Xi Jinping visit to India was marred by the Chinese military intrusion in Chumar, the message to Beijing was that while India would resist territorial incursions, it was ready for dialogue to end tensions, expand economic cooperation and widen interaction in forums like BRICS and G 20. But the event that received widespread global attention was the visit of President Obama on India's Republic Day. That visit clearly signalled that India was opening its doors to foreign investment, expanding the scope of bilateral cooperation in defence and seeking solutions constructively to issues of environment, energy, intellectual property rights and climate change. New Delhi recognises the reality that the US is going to remain the pre-eminent global power for at least the next two decades. At the same time, one has to recognise that differences in areas like Intellectual Property Rights, especially in pharmaceuticals and in climate change, posed difficult challenges. Moreover, the road ahead in nuclear power cooperation with the US is going to be bumpy. Legal challenges on issues of compensation appear inevitable. It also remains to be seen if American reactors can supply power at reasonable and competitive rates.

The tyranny of hurt sentiment

By: Dilip Simeon
February 12, 2015

Shirin Dalvi, the editor of the Mumbai edition of Urdu newspaper Avadhnama, has become the latest victim of the running saga over cartoons. Since mid-January, when she unwittingly published a Charlie Hebdo cover, she has been slapped with criminal charges, her newspaper shut down, its employees rendered jobless, and she herself forced underground. Vicious threats are sent to her via social media. All this is happening despite her printed apology. The police have opposed anticipatory bail on the ground that it would cause a law and order problem (aren’t they paid to deal with such matters?).

The man who filed the complaint heads an Urdu journalists’ body. He is cited as saying, “I filed a case against her and I am happy that she was arrested. If she was in an Islamic state, she would have been beheaded as per law.”

That the freedom of speech could be so flagrantly attacked in the name of religion is by now a common experience. Self-appointed guardians of faith have attacked our minds with relentless aggression for years. But that someone could wish a horrible death to another human being is itself highly offensive to many of us — and this person thinks it earns him merit in the eyes of Allah. I have no access to the mind of the Almighty, but I can venture to suggest that Allah is more considerate than some of his followers.(Illustration by: C R Sasikumar)

Hurt sentiment has become the cutting edge of tyranny. It is the perpetually available political tool for preparing “spontaneous” mob violence, violating the law, mobilising illiberal movements and intimidating everyone — especially within the preferred community — who disagrees with communal politics. It becomes worse when responsible individuals glamorise this fake and vicious form of piety.

Sentiment appeared in the law in the aftermath of the Rangila Rasul case of 1929, when the publisher Rajpal was murdered in Lahore by a 19-year-old youth named Ilm-ud-din. The boy pleaded guilty, against his lawyer M.A. Jinnah’s advice — this is reported as the only case Jinnah ever lost. The philosopher Allama Iqbal led the funeral ceremony, at which he reportedly declared: “This uneducated young man has surpassed us, the educated ones.” One of pre-Independence India’s outstanding thinkers had no qualms in glorifying murder in the name of hurt sentiment. Ilm-ud-Din is now revered as a ghazi in Pakistan. This is akin to the reverence accorded to V.D. Savarkar, a prime accused in the M.K. Gandhi murder case, not to mention the glorification of men like Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and Nathuram Godse.

Children of a Lesser God

By Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi
11 Feb , 2015
No one will ever reach even bit of dedication of a SOLDIER ..!!

The Indian soldiers, on account of their faith in the officers who lead them, their innate goodness and the discipline that has been ingrained in them have a great capacity to accept and absorb wrongs but if these continue to happen on a sustained and regular basis, as is happening, then it would be foolish to expect them to keep accepting policies that are patently discriminatory! The aspirations of the military may continue to be ignored but at the risk of a revolt, or even a coup!

There are huge deficiencies of officers in the military, massive stagnation and extremely short tenures at senior levels of the armed forces…

Government employees are of two broad categories – civilian and military. The former comprise administrators, diplomats, police, customs, auditors, technocrats and so on. However, it is the generalist administrators that fall in the category of bureaucrats. In most countries, the spheres of the two categories are well-defined and both are considered important organs of all types of governments.

Most countries also ensure that military personnel have an edge over their civilian colleagues on account of their extremely difficult conditions of service such as ever-present danger to life and limb, retirement at young ages and 24×7 duty; all this because security is considered to be of the highest importance without which, no progress in other spheres is possible. This is manifested in better status, better emoluments and pride of place for the military.

This was the situation in India too in 1947. Thereafter, this has been turned on its head, as our political leaders have been absolutely blasé about the military. Since they had also abrogated their powers and responsibilities to the bureaucracy, it is the latter that has been ruling the roost and steadily downgrading the military in every facet.

We now have a new government, which most soldiers believe will bring back the old days. I am a big sceptic, as the bureaucracy has so entrenched itself that even a bold, pragmatic, highly aware and no-nonsense political leader like Prime Minister Modi is likely to find it tough to bring about change to the desirable extent.

Pakistan May Face a Water Shortage

By Ankit Panda
February 11, 2015

Following a blackout that left 80 percent of the country in total darkness and an attack by Baloch rebels, Pakistan now could face a major water shortage. Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif has said that a water shortage is imminent in Pakistan. Asif delivered his remarks to a seminar in Lahore.

If the minister’s predictions prove true, criticism of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government would likely intensify. Prior to January’s blackout, the Sharif government deal with a major fuel shortage in Pakistan despite plummeting global oil prices. The crisis forced Sharif to cancel planned international travel to deal with the domestic fallout of the fuel shortage.

In addition to his warnings about an impending water crisis, Asif issued reassurances that the government would successfully address the country’s current power shortage issues. Currently, major cities including Rawalpindi and Lahore face major power outages daily. In some cases, these outages last over 12 hours a day. Asif, however, seemed to shift part of the blame to energy use patterns in the country: ”As citizens of Pakistan, we are in a habit of wasting energy,” Asif told the seminar.

A water shortage is probably the last thing the Sharif government needs at this point. The recent fuel shortage and power blackout, though caused by different factors, have put Pakistan’s infrastructure capacity gaps on display. As I noted in the wake of January’s historic blackout, energy and utility-related fumbles could intensify public criticism against the Pakistani government. Over at War On the Rocks, Michael Kugelman makes a similar argument, highlighting the dangerous challenge energy and utility issues pose for the government:

Pakistan’s energy insecurity is deeply destabilizing—and not just because militants prey on fragile infrastructure. Streets often swell with angry protestors railing against power outages. They have blocked roads, and attacked the homes and offices of members of Pakistan’s major political parties.

The China-Pakistan Alliance: The Key to Afghan Stability?

February 11, 2015

On February 9, China’s assistant foreign minister, Liu Jianchao, joined his Afghan and Pakistani counterparts in Kabul for the first round of a new trilateral strategic dialogue. The dialogue, attended by Liu, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai provided a tantalizing glimpse of what trilateral cooperation between these neighbors could mean for Afghan stability.

As Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying noted in her press conference today, Afghanistan’s security situation was “a major topic” at the trilateral dialogue. All three countries “reaffirmed their commitment to [the] peace and stability of Afghanistan and the region” and China and Pakistan emphasized their support for a peace process “led and owned by the Afghans.”

Though the emphasis was on security, most of the deliverables from the meeting were actually in the economic realm, where China is most comfortable. China committed to helping build a hydro-electric dam on the Kunar River and to constructing new road and railroad connections between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Kunar dam, to be constructed within Afghanistan but close to the Pakistan border, is expected to provide electricity for both countries.

Indeed, the whole theme of the meeting seems to have been greater Afghan-Pakistani cooperation, facilitated by China. Afghanistan’s representatives at the talks specifically asked China to “play a constructive role in promoting bilateral interactions between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” according to Hua. China has a close relationship with Pakistan, often described as an “all-weather friendship.” Kabul hopes that China can use its unique ties with Islamabad to pressure Pakistan into playing a constructive role in Afghan security. Afghanistan in particular wants Pakistan to nudge the Afghan Taliban into negotiations over a true unity government – rather than supporting the group’s more militant ambitions.

Growing Number of Armed Clashes Between Pakistani Taliban and Defectors Who Have Joined ISIS

February 10, 2015

Another new enemy for the Pakistani Taliban are members who have defected to ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and gone to war with a Taliban they see as sell-outs and reactionary Islamic radical pretenders. There have already been some fatal clashes between ISIL and Taliban in northwest Pakistan. ISIL has also attracted recruits from the Afghan Taliban and released a video showing a former leaders of a Pakistan Islamic terrorist faction now becoming a leader of the Pakistani branch of ISIL. 

Pakistan and Afghanistan are trying to get a better idea of how many Islamic terrorists and their families have fled from Pakistan to Afghanistan since June 2014. What has been discovered so far is that not all of these Islamic terrorists fled to eastern Afghanistan. Some are showing up in Taliban controlled areas in the south (Helmand). Most of these recent Islamic terrorist refugees from Pakistan are al Qaeda or groups from Central Asia (especially Uzbekistan). In December American, Afghan and Pakistani military leaders met in Pakistan and agreed to coordinate operations against Taliban operating on both sides of the Afghan border in northwest Pakistan. Many Islamic terrorists, including leaders have fled the Pakistani offensive in North Waziristan and headed for neighboring Afghanistan. These terrorists believed they would be safer but that proved to be untrue. Another problem these displaced Pakistani Islamic terrorists have had is growing armed resistance by local Afghan tribesmen. The Pakistani Taliban have always tried to get along with their fellow Pushtun tribesmen just across the border but over the years the constant violence (including the American bomb and missile attacks and thousands of rockets and mortar shells fired from Pakistan by the army and police there into these border areas) turned the tribes against the Pakistani Islamic terrorists and that is reflected in increased sniping, ambushes and armed confrontations on roads. The tribes are also supplying the Americans and Afghan security forces with more information, which often leads to precise UAV missile attacks or helicopter raids by commandos on Pakistani Taliban hideouts. This is causing heavy losses among key people in the Pakistani Taliban and other Islamic terrorists in the area. This has led to discussions about moving to a safer area. The options are not good. Going back to Pakistan is dangerous and given the feuding between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, moving to other parts of Afghanistan (except the south) is not a good idea. Meanwhile the Islamic terrorists in eastern Afghanistan are getting hammered as the Pakistani offensive against North Waziristan that began in June grinds on. 

Meanwhile the fighting in Pakistani North Waziristan continues as it has since June 2014. So far over 2,200 Islamic terrorists and at least 200 security personnel have been killed. Many of the Islamic terrorists who long had sanctuary in North Waziristan have fled to adjacent areas and especially across the border in Afghanistan. The Pakistani military has pursued those who fled to other parts of the country and is cooperating with Afghanistan to deal with those who are trying to hide out in eastern Afghanistan. Unfortunately most of the 210,000 Pakistanis who fled to Afghanistan from North Waziristan are civilians, While many are families of Islamic terrorists most are not but all are vulnerable to injury from the increasing counter-terrorist activity in eastern Afghanistan. For once the Pakistanis are really cooperating with the Afghans on this issue, although the December terror attack on a school that led to the deaths of 132 children (many of them from military families) has a lot of do with this new attitude. The Afghans do note that the Pakistanis are still not enthusiastic about attacking Haqqani Network members. This is a group that dates back to the 1980s and has never carried out attacks in Pakistan but only in Afghanistan and has often carried out specific missions for ISI in Afghanistan. Haqqani is much hated in Afghanistan but apparently still has some support in Pakistan. 


Michael Kugelman
February 10, 2015

Sometime around midnight on January 25, separatist fighters in the insurgency-riven Pakistani province of Baluchistan attacked a power transmission line.

They probably didn’t anticipate the immense ripple effects this single strike would have across the country.

The assault, which blew up two key towers near a major power station, tripped the national grid. Eighty percent of the country—including most major cities—plunged into darkness. Many in Pakistan described the outage as the worst in the nation’s history. In some cities, hours went by before power was restored.

This wasn’t the first time militants attacked Pakistan’s electricity infrastructure. Baluch separatists targeted more than 100 gas lines over the last four years, including a February 1 assault that reduced gas supplies to Punjab and Khyber-Pakthunkhwa provinces by 25 million cubic feet. In April 2013, the Pakistani Taliban blew up the largest power station in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Half of Peshawar, the provincial capital with a population nearly as large as that of Los Angeles, lost power.

The fact that one isolated attack can inflict such widespread damage underscores the severity of Pakistan’s national energy crisis. Even in an era of cheap oil, Pakistan is experiencing a power shortfall of roughly 5,000 megawatts (in recent years, energy deficits have soared to 8,500 megawatts—more than 40 percent of national demand). In parts of rural Pakistan, residents are lucky to have four hours of electricity a day. The crisis’s economic costs are stark; shortages have cost the country 4 percent of gross domestic product. Some Western companies, citing electricity deficits, are suspending operations in Pakistan. On January 26, the Moody’s ratings group warned that energy shortages will damage Pakistan’s credit worthiness.

5 Predictions for Xi Jinping's US State Visit

By Ankit Panda
February 10, 2015

As The Diplomat reported earlier this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping will make his first official state visit (Sunnylands 2013 doesn’t count here) to the United States sometime this year. What should interested observers of U.S.-China relations keep an eye on leading up to this visit and what should we expect out of the visit itself? Well, gather around dear readers, as I attempt to peer into The Diplomat‘s crystal ball and try my hand at the perilous task of predicting the future of U.S.-China ties.

First things first: when will the visit occur? Most prognosticators currently predict September as a likely date for this state visit given that Xi will already be in New York then for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. What’s interesting about that timing is that it will allow plenty of time for other major bilateral visits to occur — as my China-focused colleague Shannon points out, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet Xi, Xi will meet Russia’s Vladimir Putin and possibly even Kim Jong-un, and Obama will meet Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Additionally, a fall state visit would allow U.S. and Chinese diplomats to iron out the details of ongoing bilateral initiatives including the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), a likely subject on the agenda of any impending U.S.-China state visit.

The agenda will likely focus on positive areas of mutual benefit and sideline points of contention. In general, the United States and China prefer to address positive areas for mutual benefit in grand state visits. When Hu Jintao visited the United States, bilateral joint statements focused mostly on economic cooperation, building “strategic trust,” expanding military-to-military ties, and addressing fairly uncontroversial “global challenges.” When the two sides do address areas of disagreement, they tend to evade issues affecting China’s core national interests. For example, last November, U.S. President Barack Obama managed to leave Beijing with a guarantee that China would cut greenhouse gas emissions and increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption – a development that was heralded as a diplomatic coup for the United States. However, the issue of climate change wasn’t a sensitive issue in the same way that cybersecurity and South China Sea issues are today. If Obama and Xi do discuss the United States government’s indictment of five PLA officers for cyber espionage last year or China’s most recent legal position paper on the South China Sea, expect it to be done entirely out of the public eye. In a best-case scenario, we could see both sides acknowledging a divergence of opinion on these matters in a joint statement (similar to how previous statements have handled the issue of human rights). Remember, it’s legacy-building time for Obama — meaning his administration will seek to use this visit to showcase the progress they have made on U.S.-China relations.

Are China's Leaders Disciples of Machiavelli?

By Jin Kai
February 10, 2015

Recently, two articles on The Diplomat (here andhere) discussed an interesting and very important issue: relations between proclamations by Han Feizi (the so-called Chinese Machiavelli) and contemporary Chinese (or, more specifically, Xi Jinping’s) political philosophy. These two pieces raised very good points, and I would like to add some comments from a different perspective. In particular, I want to answer a more realistic question that has repeatedly occurred in my own research: Are Chinese leaders the disciples of Machiavelli?

In The Twenty Years’ Crisis: 1919-1939, E. H. Carr regarded Niccolo Machiavelli as the very first important political realist (importantly, Carr also claimed that “more than four centuries after he wrote, the most conclusive way of discrediting a political opponent is still to describe him as a disciple of Machiavelli”). Carr pointed out three essential tenets of Machiavellian thought that later constructed the whole theoretical basis of classical realist political philosophy: first, history is a sequence of cause and effect and cannot be directed by “imagination;” second, practice creates theory; and third, ethics is a function of politics (or to put it another way, ethics is the product of politics).

So we can discover whether Chinese leaders truly are the disciples of Machiavelli by probing into these three tenets, while roughly evaluating China’s domestic politics and foreign affairs.

Tenet one: History is a sequence of cause and effect and cannot be directed by “imagination.” This is a view that has some roughly historical-materialist elements and particularly targets the weakness of utopian beliefs. Interestingly, historical materialism has an essentially important role in the CCP’s political ideology and philosophy, although the CCP also acknowledges that subjective consciousness may have certain impacts on the objective development process – see, for example, the role of historical figures and heroes. Nevertheless, in view of historical materialism, Chinese thinkers may find Machiavelli’s viewpoint on history agreeable to a certain degree.

Is Artificial Intelligence Helping China Spy on Its Citizens?

February 11, 2015

China has a right to access globally available intellectual property on artificial intelligence (AI) by legal means. It also contributes to the global fund of knowledge on AI. In May 2014, China’s search engine giant, Baidu, recruited Hong Kong born Andrew Ng, the head of Google Brain, to head its AI research. Chinese researchers are among the world’s leaders in this field.

But if recent observations by Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking are right, that artificial intelligence presents a threat to society in general, is that threat any greater or less in the case of China? If it is greater, is there any merit in considering export controls on artificial intelligence software and systems to China? What is the most effective policy response to China’s acquisition of advanced AI technology?

China has constructed the largest and most automated system for surveillance of its citizens ever seen in human history. As argued in my book, Cyber Policy in China, when it comes to choosing between e-democracy and i-dictatorship, the Chinese government has opted for the latter. China is already using highly automated systems for taking down internet traffic that it deems offensive. It has constructed a national database of all of its citizens, and it is building key grid-by-grid locality surveillance maps, including residency data, for sensitive parts of the country (such as Beijing and Lhasa). While the surveillance task China has set itself is for now beyond its technological means, a rapid development and application of AI to political censorship and surveillance by China could shift the current balance of power between Chinese netizens and their government heavily in favor of the latter.

The more famous gainsayers of artificial intelligence have not documented their concerns in any detail.Hawking went so far as to suggest it might spell the end of the human race. It would be a brave futurist who would attempt an assessment. But think what AI will come to mean in China’s case as long as the government continues to improve the automation of its regime of i-dictatorship.

Chinese Authorities Snuff out Last Online Remnants of theNew York Times

By David Dawson
February 11, 2015

On Monday the Chinese authorities played one of the last cards in their war against the New York Times in Chinese cyberspace. Although the newspaper’s English and Chinese websites have been blocked since October of 2012, when the newspaper reported on the vast wealth of the family of Wen Jiabao, then China’s prime minister, the publication recently still had a presence on Sina Weibo. But this ended on Monday, when it was taken offline, to the chagrin of its 70,000 followers.

This wasn’t the first time this has happened, but it was unusual in that on the same day, two weibo accounts labeled as belonging to New York Times staff were also taken offline – even though one of them had recently left the newspaper. The real-name verified weibo accounts of the paper’s technology writer as well as the former executive editor both disappeared along with the main account. Both journalists had been listed as employees of the New York Times.

Inquiries with Sina Weibo regarding the reason for the shutdown were answered with three very telling characters – 网管办 (wang guan ban) – the Internet control authorities.

Given the timing of the removal of all three accounts on the same day as well as the reasons cited, it seems clear this is a direct move to remove the last vestiges of the New York Times from Chinese cyberspace – regardless of what content they were spreading. If this is the case, this shutdown is likely to be permanent.

The New York Times’ Sina Weibo account didn’t tackle subjects with the same sensitivity as those in the publication, which is probably why it outlasted the other social media accounts of the Chinese edition of the newspaper. The Times previously boasted a number of verified Sina Weibo accounts as well as a WeChat account and a mobile app. One by one they have all succumbed.

It’s been clear for quite some time that the Chinese authorities take a dim view of critical news coverage. This attitude was highlighted at a press conference in November of 2014, when Xi Jinping, standing next to U.S. President Barack Obama, responded to a question regarding foreign press coverage and visa restrictions on journalists by stating: “When a car breaks down on the road, perhaps we need to step down and see what the problem is.” The comment was seen as the most pointed reference yet to the government’s approach to critical press coverage.

China's Biggest Fear: U.S.-Indian Encirclement

Lyle J. Goldstein
February 11, 2015

President Obama’s recent trip to India seems to have yielded some modest successes, including an agreement to break through obstacles that have arisen related to civil nuclear cooperation.

Fitting the general pattern of U.S. interactions in the Asia-Pacific region, this visit also took place against the backdrop of China’s rising profile on the world stage, and questions are emerging about the future direction of the highly sensitive triangular relationship between New Delhi, Washington and Beijing.

A good deal of ink has been spilled on the subject of China’s alleged “string of pearls strategy.” But this rather electrifying terminology, [珍珠连战略] actually does not have a Chinese origin. In fact, it was first introduced by a Booz Allen study, commissioned by the U.S. Office of Net Assessment at the Pentagon under the direction of Andrew Marshall. Rather than speculate on the nature of Chinese motives with respect to the Indian Ocean, this edition of Dragon Eye will discuss two recent Chinese-language scholarly assessments in order to gain a deeper appreciation of China’s evolving approach to India and the vital India-U.S.-China triangle more generally.

Maritime issues are not the only difficult issue in Sino-Indian relations, but they have come to form a core flash point in recent years – a development underlined recently by a pair of visits to Sri Lanka undertaken by PLA Navy submarines. Therefore, it seems quite appropriate to look closely at a study published by three researchers at the Beijing Naval Research Center [海军军事学术研究所] in a recent edition of the Mandarin-language academic Pacific Journal [太平洋学报]. The paper is entitled: “The Structure of Sea Powers in the Indian Ocean and the Expansion of Chinese Sea Power in the Indian Ocean.”

Welcome to Hell: Life Under ISIS

Brendan Thomas-Noone
February 10, 2015

For revolutionaries and radical groups alike, appearing to govern (setting policies, laying out standards, regulating) is essential to establishing legitimacy in the eyes of the population they seek to rule.

Many Islamist insurgency groups have tried to do this across the Middle East and parts of Africa.

During the seven years of its rule in Afghanistan, the Taliban stipulated social and educational rules on the population. In Somalia, Al Shabaab was known for its strength in policing and taxation, and derived significant local legitimacy from it. There are now fears that Boko Harammay be beginning the transition from insurgency to administration as well, with reports that the group is providing security so that the weekly markets in the Nigerian city of Mubi can operate. Last year, the Libyan city of Benghazi was declared an “Islamic emirate” by the same militants that attacked the U.S. consulate in 2012.

One of the most interesting cases was in Mali. In 2013, after the French intervention, a letter from the leader of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb was found that chastised local Islamic militants for implementing Sharia Law too quickly. The letter goes on to state that the long-term goal was to “make it so that our Mujahedeen are no longer isolated in society, and to integrate with the different factions, including the big tribes and main rebel movements and tribal chiefs.”

Of course ISIS has also declared itself a “state” and made known its ambitions to form a fully-fledged Caliphate. But it has also started to reshape the local social, political and ethnic fabric in more fundamental ways.

Sarah Birke, in an essay for the New York Review of Books this month, takes a close look at the way ISIS has attempted to govern the Syrian city of Raqqa, taking over the administration of everything from education and health to providing “consumer protection” by regulating the price and quality of products. There is even talk of ISIS establishing its own currency. As Birke describes, the detail and reach of administration is somewhat remarkable:

Relax, Iran Is Not Taking Over the Middle East

Alireza Nader
February 11, 2015

Critics of U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran have focused on Iran’s regional policies as a framework for the negotiations. Some argue that the Obama administration has “conceded” the Middle East to Iranian influence. Others unconvincingly argue that Iran is creating a new “empire” in the Middle East. For the most part, the critics argue that a nuclear deal that leaves Iran with the ability to enrich uranium somehow permits it to establish itself as the paramount power in the Middle East. However, most of these arguments fail to consider the reasons for Iran’s influence in the region.

The nuclear program, which has cost Iran tens of billions of dollars through sanctions, has hardly been a boon to Iranian power. Rather, the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Arab uprisings, and the collapse of weaker regional states have allowed Iran to fill the regional vacuum. But Iran is not alone in this. Tehran faces competing powers such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, both of which are also expanding their influence, and not always in line with U.S. interests. The corrosion of state authority in the region is hardly just due to Iran’s “malign” influence. Nevertheless, Iran does pose certain challenges to the United States, and devising the right approach to dealing with them should remain a key focus. This effort must begin by first identifying key American interests.

Tying the current nuclear negotiations to Iran’s foreign policies is deeply problematic. For starters, key decision-makers in Iran, especially the conservatives, view the nuclear negotiations as a ploy to roll back Iran’s regional influence, a possible first step in challenging the regime’s hold on power at home. Iran’s national security establishment would like to see Iran fight its enemies, especially the United States, far away from its borders. At this point, challenging Iran’s regional position too aggressively would raise opposition to nuclear negotiations in Tehran. Many Americans who argue for more aggressive U.S. action believe that Iran only responds to pressure, and that pressuring it in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen would force the regime to concede on the nuclear program. However, the reverse is more likely to be true.


Daveed Gartenstein-Ross
February 9, 2015

Estimates of the number of fighters in the ranks of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are extraordinarily wide-ranging. On the low end of things, CNN’s Barbara Starr recently reported that “U.S. intelligence estimates that ISIL has a total force of somewhere between 9,000 to 18,000 fighters.” In late 2014, the CIA’s estimate of ISIL’s numbers was slightly higher, as its analysts assessed that the group had between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters between its Iraq and Syria holdings.

Other estimates are far higher. Rami Abdel Rahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, has said that ISIL has more than50,000 fighters in Syria alone. The chief of the Russian General Staff recently said that Russia estimates ISIL to have “70,000 gunmen of various nationalities.” In late August of 2014, Baghdad-based security expert Hisham al-Hashimi claimed that ISIL’s total membership could be close to 100,000. By November, Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff to Kurdish president Massoud Barzani, told Patrick Cockburn of The Independent that the CIA’s estimates were far too low, and that ISIL had at least 200,000 fighters.

Given this range of estimates, questions naturally arise: Who is right? Which estimate is closest to ISIL’s true numbers? To assess these questions, it’s necessary to consider which parts of ISIL’s force the estimates are attempting to count, the total amount of territory ISIL is occupying, and the attrition that coalition forces have inflicted upon ISIL. Bearing in mind all of these factors, it becomes clear not only that the high-end figures are plausible, but also that they are far more likely than the unrealistically low numbers propounded by U.S. intelligence.

The figure of 200,000 ISIL fighters advanced by Fuad Hussein includes support personnel (ansar), police-style security forces (hisba), local militias, border guards, paramilitary personnel associated with the group’s various security bodies (mukhabarat, assas, amniyat, and amn al-khas), and conscripts and trainees. The actual number of ISIL front-line and garrison fighters is much lower, which are divided between their regular forces (jund), the elite paramilitary (inghimasiyun, which alone may have up to 15,000 members), and death squad (dhabbihah) personnel. Unless one is able to objectively evaluate these bodies, merely throwing out raw numbers is meaningless.

Step up the war against ISIS, not the rhetoric against Islam

Days after the video appeared of a Jordanian pilot horribly burned to death by an Islamic State death squad, President Obama told the National Prayer Breakfast that all faiths can be “twisted and misused in the name of evil” and that terrorists who profess “to stand up for Islam” are, in fact, “betraying it.” Critics found Obama’s timing offensive and his message about Islam naive: He should avoid moral equivalence, stop playing the theologian and recognize that Islam has a unique problem with violence and extremism. 

Days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — in which temperatures inside the collapsing World Trade Center reached 2,000 degrees and the bodies of many passengers on the airplanes were consumed by burning jet fuel — George W. Bush took off his shoes, entered a prayer room at the Islamic Center of Washington, spoke with Muslim leaders and made a short statement. “These acts of violence against innocents,” he said, “violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. . . . The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.” 

Michael Gerson is a nationally syndicated columnist who appears twice weekly in The Post. 

On Sept. 20, 2001, speaking to a joint session of Congress, Bush called the teachings of Islam “good and peaceful.” “The terrorists,” he said, “are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.” 

Later in his presidency, when the charge came that America was fighting a war against Islam, Bush answered that it was radicals who had “spread the word that this really isn’t peaceful people versus radical people or terrorists; that it is really about America not liking Islam.” 

“I believe that Islam is a great religion that preaches peace,” Bush said. “And I believe people who murder the innocent to achieve political objectives aren’t religious people, whether they be a Christian who does that — we had a person blow up a federal building in Oklahoma who professed to be a Christian, but that’s not a Christian act to kill innocent people.” 

Escape Artist: How a Legendary Hezbollah Terrorist Eluded the CIA

2/6/15 AT 

Beirut, 2003: The trap was set. U.S. counterterror operatives were ready to move. The plan called for a Lebaneser CIA asset to lure Imad Mugniyah, the terrorist kingpin of Hezbollah, to a place where he would be captured and flown to a U.S. Navy ship in the Mediterranean. From there he would be flown to a U.S. courtroom, where he would eventually stand trial for the murder of hundreds of Americans in Lebanon two decades earlier. 

But something went wrong. According to a former top U.S. counterterrorism official, the Lebanese go-between was murdered. The wily Mugniyah, variously known as “the fox” and “the father of smoke” (for his ability to disappear like a wisp after one of his spectacular terrorist attacks), had foiled yet another plot to capture him. The U.S. plan, the former counterterrorism official suspected, had leaked.

“We had him!” the official said, still exasperated years later about the failure to capture Mugniyah. Upon investigating, the official concluded that idle chit-chat by a careless U.S. intelligence official at a small party attended by Americans and Lebanese in Beirut on the eve of the operation had foiled the plot. 

“Some guy was shooting the shit at an embassy social event,” he told Newsweekon condition of anonymity “We had the whole network set up. Everything was done, everything was in place. And then this guy runs his mouth.”

In February 2008, however, the CIA, working hand in glove with Israeli intelligence, finally caught up to Mugniyah. The details of how they assassinated Mugniyah with a car bomb, as reported by Newsweek and The Washington Postin independently sourced stories last weekend, remain a deeply held secret at the CIA.

Firm Led by Israeli SIGINT Veterans Raises Money for Israeli Cyber Security Startups

February 11, 2015

TEL AVIV, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Team8, an Israeli venturecapital fund focused on the cyber-security industry, said on Tuesday it had raised $18 million in its first round of funding, including investment from Alcatel-Lucent and Cisco .

Also participating in the round were Bessemer Venture Partners, Marker LLC and Innovation Endeavors, which was founded by Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt.

Led by veterans of the Israeli army’s 8200 intelligence and electronic espionage unit, Team8 aims to develop cyber-security companies that offer more in-depth protection than the usual defence against hacking attempts by generic malware.

Bessemer partner David Cowan said that could set them apart from the legions of security start-ups in Silicon Valley.

"When you are being targeted by human-driven campaigns you need a much deeper skill set in cyber operations that you won’t find in Silicon Valley and is nearly impossible to find outside of criminal organisations and governments," he told Reuters.

Team8’s approach is “not going to be quick or cheap” since there is no silver bullet to solve the problem, he said.

Team8 co-founder Nadav Zafrir, who spent 25 years at 8200 and 10 years running the unit, said he aims to build four to six companies in the next few years — each focusing on a specific domain such as cloud computing, industrial firms and enterprises.

He described 2014 as a turning point for cyber security in the wake of attacks on retailer Target — in which up to 70 million customers had their personal information compromised - and Sony, and that a new approach was critical.

To that end, Israel’s government has made cyber security a priority, in the hope of building on the country’s military-grade technology and innovation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allocated 2 billion shekels ($515 million) in 2012 to set up a cyber security agency within his office and there are a range of venture funds based in southern Israel, where the army is moving its headquarters.

Zafrir told Reuters the firms to be created would have to stay one step ahead of hackers, whom he divided into three segments: hard-core cyber criminals whose motivation was to make money through stolen credit cards and other financial information, state-sponsored attackers, and ideologists who hack for a cause.

What Does North Korea’s Latest Missile Test Tell Us?

By Prashanth Parameswaran
February 11, 2015

On Sunday, the South Korean defense ministry confirmed that North Korea had fired five short-range missiles off its eastern coast. While the rogue state is no stranger to missile tests, some analysts are warning that this particular test may signal Pyongyang’s growing capabilities which could prove a threat to Seoul and Washington.

According to a South Korean defense ministry spokesman, the five missiles flew about 125 miles northeast before plunging into the sea. The launch came just a day after North Korea announced its leader Kim Jong-un had witnessed the test firing of a new antiship missile, though the relationship between the two developments is unclear because specifics – like the time and location – were not disclosed as is sometimes the case in the hermit kingdom.

In terms of intentions, the incident itself is very much in line with North Korea’s usual tantrums – even if defense wonks have noted that the pace of the missile testing has been quite high of late. Pyongyang has been known to ratchet up the rhetoric and flex its military might before major bilateral military exercises involving Washington and Seoul, which it regularly condemns as provocations. True to form, it had recently stepped up its own air and naval military drills just as the two allies prepare to hold Key Resolve and Foal Eagle.

North Korea had earlier offered to enter into talks if the allies stopped their exercises, but that suggestion was read as dead on arrival and its usual antics now appear to have resumed. The recent test also dampens hopes of renewed inter-Korean talks which had been initially broached by South Korean president Park Geun-hye. Given the Stalinist dictatorship’s penchant for timing its bluster and brinkmanship, it is also probably no coincidence that the missile launch also occurred so close to the 67th anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s armed forces.

North Korea's New Anti-Ship Missile: 'Cutting Edge' Threat or No?

By Ankit Panda
February 11, 2015

North Korea tested an anti-ship missile on Sunday off its eastern coast. Prashanth covered the test in some detail on these pages, noting that the test “may signal Pyongyang’s growing capabilities.” This is certainly the case with almost any new asset North Korea adds to its aging repertoire of military assets. As several commentators and experts have noted, its interesting that the missile tested appears to be Russia’s Zvezda Kh-35 subsonic anti-ship missile (whimsically nicknamed the “Harpoonski” for its analogous appearance and function to the McDonnell Douglas Harpoon). Working with the assumption that this rocket is indeed a base-spec Kh-35 or a Kh-35 variant (currently reported as the KN-09), how specifically can North Korea leverage its capabilities against Seoul, if at all? Is this missile indeed “cutting edge” as the Rodong Sinmun would have us believe?

First things first: what are the capabilities of the Kh-35? Designed for air-to-surface and surface-to-surface use (only the latter use case concerns North Korea), the Kh-35 is designed to take out vessels up to 5000 tonnes. Naturally, given the missile’s sub-sonic spec and relatively primitive homing capabilities, any ships with sophisticated contemporary missile defense systems would likely be able to defend themselves against the missile. This certainly include South Korea’s advanced Aegis-equipped destroyers. Other relevant points on the Kh-35′s spec sheet include a range of roughly 130 km with a warhead weight of 145 kg. The missile is equipped with active radar homing and can travel at a maximum speed of 300 m/s (Mach 0.8).

Based on South Korean estimates from when the Kh-35-esque missile was first shown in a North Korean propaganda film last summer, Pyongyang may have made some changes to the Russian design. Without addressing the question of where exactly Pyongyang managed to acquire these missiles (one possibility is a direct sale from Russia), North Korea has been known to modify existing Russian missile designs for its own purposes. As Jeffrey Lewis has noted over at Arms Control Wonk in the past, one North Korean missile test involved a modified extended-range SS-21 Tochka 600 mm missile. The North Korean Kh-35 could similarly have important modifications. The South Korean defense ministry reported that the missiles flew to a safe sea landing 125 miles in a northeasterly direction off the North Korean coast, putting the total range at roughly 200 km, a 53 percent increase over the base Kh-35 design. (This estimate is naturally ignorant of warhead weight — a key variable in gauging whether North Korea made any range modifications).