16 March 2016

Officers rue ‘timid’ strategy on China

March 14, 2016  
Military upgrade on border lags Chinese modernisation.
India will only be making incremental improvement in its military infrastructure along the border with China, even as its most ambitious plan for dealing with the neighbour’s military prowess is stuck due to a resource crunch.
Military officers call India’s China strategy “timid” and in no way matching the aggressive modernisation by the communist neighbour of its border capabilities and overhaul of its military structure. “The momentum is lost,” a senior officer said, on the adverse impact of lack of resources for the military infrastructure upgrade along the border.
The Indian Air Force, which re-launched two upgraded Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) on Saturday in Arunachal Pradesh, will upgrade six more of those World War II vintage strips in the border State. The entire project, approved in 2009 and budgeted at about Rs.1,000 crore, has been inching ahead to provide better logistical access for airdropping troops and equipment in forward areas.
The IAF has upgraded three of the ALGs with paved runway surfaces and facilities such as aprons for ground manouevring, air traffic control towers etc. It says the new runway surfaces and other infrastructure are at par with any other modern airfield in the country. Three more ALGs — Mechuka, Pasighat, Tuting — are scheduled to be inaugurated in the next three months.

“Those are good moves, but not good enough,” a senior military officer dealing with the China border says, pointing out that these are incremental but not enough to catch up with the Chinese modernisation and threat from across the border.

*** The Wonder That Is Sanskrit

Most Indian languages, in greater or lesser degree, trace their roots in Sanskrit. In that sense, more than a mother tongue, Sanskrit is a grandmother tongue.
The Censuses do not indicate how many people in India actually speak Sanskrit.
It is clear that Sanskrit was not restricted to kshatriyas and brahmanas.
If we do not learn Sanskrit, a vast and profound body of knowledge will be lost to us forever
An event for International Mother Tongue Day was organised by UNESCO in Paris on 3 March. The Government of India (HRD Ministry, in conjunction with India’s Mission at UNESCO) took active interest and decided to project Sanskrit. The following essay is based on the talks given in that event by Dr. Bibek Debroy who was nominated as a representative by the Government-

I stand before you as a representative of an old civilization, to speak about an old language. This is a celebration of International Mother Language Day. Acknowledging Bangladesh’s role in getting the UN system to give 21 February that recognition, let me refer to it as আন্তর্জাতিক মাতৃভাষা দিবস. I wish to speak to you about संस्कृत (Sanskrit). I cannot say that Sanskrit is my mother language, my mother tongue, my মাতৃভাষা. It is much more than that. 
Indians are multi-lingual. Because of the fuzzy border between language and dialect, I can’t even tell you how many languages are spoken in India. Around 125 are major languages, but another 1500 minor languages are spoken. In a way, each of these is a mother language. 22 languages are listed in a Schedule to the Constitution. This gives them an official kind of status. Sanskrit is one of these and Sanskrit also has official language status in a State like Uttarakhand.

Once every ten years, we have a Census. The last Census was in 2011, but we still don’t have the details from that Census on India’s great linguistic diversity. For the preceding Censuses, the number of people who reported Sanskrit as a mother tongue was 2,212 in 1971, 6,106 in 1981, 49,736 in 1991 and 14,135 in 2001. That is no indicator of how many people in India actually speak Sanskrit. 
As I have said, India is multi-lingual. Indians speak more than one language. For Sanskrit to be the first language or mother tongue is rare. But it can be the third or fourth language. We don’t capture that. Hence, we don’t know how many Indians speak Sanskrit. We capture this imperfectly and inadequately. That’s also probably the reason why those Census numbers show that kind of fluctuation from one Census to another.

In case, someone has told you Sanskrit is a dead language, please disabuse that person. As I have said, there are 14,135 people who still declare it their mother tongue. A slightly dated 2005 study listed more than 3000 books written in Sanskrit, published after India’s Independence in 1947. We have something called the Sahitya Akademi. It is like a National Academy for Letters. Every year, it gives awards to literary works. Since 1956, there has been an award for Sanskrit.Sahitya Akademi Award

In the initial years of these Sahitya Akademi awards, works on Sanskrit, not necessarily in Sanskrit, were also given awards. However, since 1967, those awards have been restricted to works written in Sanskrit. True, there hasn’t been an award every year. But since 1967, forty-two authors have been given such awards on works straddling research, poetry, epic poetry, biography, novels and short stories. In a separate Sahitya Akademi category of literature written for children, compositions in Sanskrit have been conferred awards.

There are many Sanskrit academies which give awards to works in Sanskrit. There are 15 Sanskrit universities. Several schools teach Sanskrit. There are thousands of Sanskrit colleges and traditional “toll”s which are affiliated to the Sanskrit Universities. Since 1970, the Rashtrya Sanskrit Sansthan, a deemed university, has existed to propagate and develop Sanskrit. Films have been made in Sanskrit; not thousands of years ago, films didn’t exist then. Adi Shankaracharya, conventionally dated to 788-820 CE, was a great philosopher and religious teacher. In 1983, a film in Sanskrit was produced on his life.

Think West: Modi’s Visit to Saudi Arabia

New Delhi has made no secret of its interest in ties with Riyadh. 
By Kabir Taneja, March 13, 2016
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi won a resounding victory in the Indian general elections in 2014, leaders from around the world rushed to congratulate the new prime minister-elect of the world’s biggest democracy. In the Persian Gulf, however, the reaction was cautious. Egypt and Qatar were initially the only two countries from that region to congratulate Modi on his win.
According to analysts in the region, Modi’s personal reputation among the public and polity alike in the Gulf has suffered because of the riots between Hindus and Muslims that took place in Gujarat while he was chief minister of the state in 2002.
However, Modi’s meeting with Saudi Arabia’s sixth king, the late Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia later in 2014 made clear that even if the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) had reservations, India was too important to risk upsetting relations.
A trip to Saudi Arabia next month will be Modi’s second visit to the Gulf after a previous stop in UAE. It comes at a turbulent time. The Syrian crisis, the war in Yemen, the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which has helped depress global oil prices, are all events with direct implications for Indian interests.
The India-Saudi relationship has historically been cordial, based on mutual needs and transactional interests. There are nearly 2.5 million Indians working in Saudi Arabia, and nearly 7 million working in the larger Gulf region. India also imports nearly 80 percent of all its oil, with much of it coming from Saudi Arabia.
The two pivotal diplomatic events between Riyadh and New Delhi have taken place within the last decade or so, namely the Delhi declaration (2006) and the Riyadh declaration (2010). The former was a historic moment, as then King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud became the first head of the House of Saud to visit India in 51 years. During his visit and following consultations with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his administration, the two countries revisited ties to strengthen cooperation and engagement. More importantly, this visit also laid the groundwork for much greater security, intelligence sharing and counterterrorism cooperation.

** Expanding Chinese Infrastructure On Indian Border – Analysis

Three key focus areas of China’s massive infrastructure build up along the Sino-Indian border are: integrating the border region to Chinese mainland, accessibility to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and strengthening counter offensive capabilities. This calls for an urgent attention from New Delhi as a reactionary policy would not suffice.
By Jhinuk Chowdhury*
Some positive developments in past years notwithstanding, Sino-Indian bilateral relations continue to be marred by the war both countries fought 54 years ago. The Line of Actual Control (LAC) that divides both is not recognized by China. Many Indian thinkers acknowledge the LAC is drawn with an ink of perception. India’s perception of what constitutes part of its territory is vastly different from that of the Chinese. An extension of its unambiguous claim over the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, Beijing in the past years has stepped up its border infrastructure projects. This enables the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to retain a clear advantage in military mobilization and capabilities vis-a-vis their Indian counterparts. Indian response, on the contrary, has been reactionary.

Beijing’s steadily growing infrastructure build up along LAC include roads, railway line, and fibre optics following a three pronged strategy. Firstly, it aims at integrating its front lying region with Chinese mainland – a strategy most visible in China’s infrastructure projects in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), which it occupied in 1949. A defense buildup for quick mobilization supported by a strong air defense system and an uncomplicated administrative framework, is the second objective of this strategy. And thirdly, the strategy is all about extending China’s accessibility to the LAC through rail networks, and in many cases using some of the bordering countries like Nepal and Pakistan to strengthen its strategic hold in the border areas.
Highways to ‘Sinocize’ Tibet
Entire TAR is connected to China’s mainland and interiors by ‘all weather’ road networks. Key TAR highway networks of China are: 
The Eastern Highway that connects Chengdu in Sichuan Province and Linzhi (Ngiti) in the TAR up to Lhasa. The highway, originally called the Kangding-Tibet Highway, is a high-elevation road starting from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, on the east and ending at Lahsa, capital of TAR, on the west. With a South Line length of 2,115 kilometres and North Line length of 2,414 kilometres, building of Eastern Highway started in April 1950, and was opened for traffic on 25 December 1954. 
The Central Highway connects Xining in Qinghai Province to Lhasa. Also called the Qinghai-Tibet Highway, this road network was opened along with the Eastern Highway in 1954. It was asphalted in 1985 and is said to be the world’s longest asphalt road. More than 80 percent of freight transport go via this highway. Three major overhauls of the highway has cost nearly three billion yuan ($362 million). 
The Western Highway connects Xinjiang Province to the TAR, by linking Kashgar and Lhasa. After a diversion to Khunjerab Pass it subsequently becomes the Karakoram Highway and touches Gilgit in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). It is 3,105 kilometres long. 
The 716 kilometres-long Yunnan-Tibet Highway connects the provinces of Yunnan and the TAR. It branches off from the Eastern Highway and then connects to Yunnan and the TAR.(Figure 1: Road Map of Tibet, Source: Tibet Travel Planner
In November 2013, China opened an all weather road linking Medog County in the TAR, which is also close to the Indian border in Arunachal Pradesh (referred as ‘South Tibet’ by China), to the rest of China. With this, every TAR county is connected to a highway network in China. In July 2013, the Chinese government announced that it will spend about 200 billion Yuan or $32.3 billion to build a road network centred around Lhasa and extend the combined length of the TAR’s highways to over 110,000 kilometres.
Expanding its communication network is yet another important feature of integrating the border region with the Chinese mainland. As many as 665 townships of the TAR have been connected with Optic Fibre Cable (OFC). This project effectively covers 97.5 percent of all townships in the TAR. About 3231 villages (61.4 percent of all villages) have access to broadband internet.
Support system for border forces
As per a 2015 estimate, China has positioned about 300,000 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops and six Rapid Reaction Forces or RPF at Chengdu in the TAR. The focus seems to be on creating a reliable and robust support system for this front line force. For instance all Military Supply Depots are connected to Lhasa by radio and OFC establishing real-time connectivity. China has a single unified Commander responsible for the armed forces in the TAR and along Indian border.
The most important line of support for the border forces, however, is the air mobility and helicopter-borne military operations. China already has five operational airfields in the TAR region- at Gongar, Pangta, Linchi, Hoping, and Gar Gunsa. Plans are underway to construct newer airfields and upgrading advanced landing grounds (ALGs) and helipads which will strengthen People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) fighter aircrafts’ striking range. The PLAAF operations has apparently intensified since 2012 when it carried out weapon firing trials at high altitude ranges in the TAR for the first time. Currently, two regiments of 24 aircraft, J-10s and J-11s, operate virtually on a permanent basis from the TAR airfields. Their operational philosophy in TAR is said to be focusing on strong air defence to create local air dominance, and support to ground forces primarily for integrated airborne assault operations.
Karakoram Highway

The Karakoram Highway (KKH) that connects Abbottabad in Punjab (Pakistan) to Kashgar in Xinjiang region of China has generated much concerns in New Delhi. The Karakoram ranges also form the de facto border along the LAC. It consists of the Ladakh region in India, Gilgit-Baltistan region in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and touches the Aksai Chin region occupied by China. The construction of Karakoram Highway, China’s only overland link to Pakistan, began in 1967. Initially built jointly by Pakistan and China, it is maintained by China. There are proposals to transform KKH into an economic corridor, also referred to as the Karakoram Corridor (KC), by making it into an all-weather expressway. Five 7 seven kilometre-long tunnels have been constructed to ensure year-round land connectivity. In September 2015, the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the tunnels, also called Also called the Pakistan-China Friendship Tunnels. Fears have been expressed in New Delhi that these tunnels could be used not only for rapid movement of troops and material from China and Pakistan or for stationing missiles in PoK. During the Soviet War in Afghanistan the highway was used to equip the Taliban. Pakistan had also used this road network to ship American weapon systems to China for reverse engineering. China can indeed use the KKH network to watch over Indian activities in the region through listening posts and advanced surveillance bases in PoK. The air fields in PoK might be used against India by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) to its benefit.
With the unveiling of the $46 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in April 2015, the KKH has assumed a new strategic dimension. The corridor will extend the KKH till Pakistan’s port city of Gwadar in Balochistan. Once the Gwadar port is connected to the KKH through the CPEC, it will help transport of goods docked at Gwadar port directly to China. Analysts suggest the corridor will help China evade any threat from Indian or US naval presence in the Indian Ocean.
Trains to LAC

Railway networks seem to be the next line of strategy for China to enhance accessibility to the LAC. Networks like the well known Qinghai-Tibet Railway connecting to Lhasa, is said to be focusing on mobility of troops in the LAC.
(Figure 2: Qinghai Tibet Railway Map, Source: Tibet Discovery)
The Lhasa–Shigatse or Lari Railway line, which was completed in July 2014, connects Lhasa to the city of Shigatse or Xigaze, which borders India’s Sikkim, apart from Nepal and Bhutan. Similarly, China has also started construction of the Lhasa-Nyingchi railway line in 2012. Nyingchi is a prefecture-level city in southeast of the TAR. As per reports, the Lhasa to Nyingchi line will be 402 kilometers long, costing $6 billion.

(Figure 3: China-Tibet train route, Source: Tibetan Review)

The Aadhaar coup

The Aadhaar Bill opens the door to mass surveillance. This danger needs to be seen in the light of recent attacks on the right to dissent. No other country, and certainly no democratic country, has ever held its own citizens hostage to such a powerful infrastructure of surveillance.
The Aadhaar project was sold to the public based on the claim that enrolment was “voluntary”. This basically meant that there was no legal compulsion to enrol. The government and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), however, worked overtime to create a practical compulsion to enrol: Aadhaar was made mandatory for an ever-widening range of facilities and services. It became clear that life without Aadhaar would soon be very difficult. In these circumstances, saying that Aadhaar is voluntary is like saying that breathing or eating is voluntary. Legal or practical, compulsion is compulsion.

Sweeping powers
It took the Supreme Court to put an end to this doublespeak. In March 2014, the court ruled that “no person shall be deprived of any service for want of Aadhaar number in case he/she is otherwise eligible/entitled”. This was a very sensible interpretation of what it would really mean for Aadhaar to be voluntary. Throughout the proceedings, incidentally, the Central government stood by the claim that Aadhaar was a voluntary facility. The Supreme Court did nothing more than to clarify the implications of that claim.
It is important to note that Aadhaar could work wonders as a voluntary facility. A certified, verifiable, all-purpose identity card would be a valuable document for many people. But the UIDAI has never shown much interest in the Aadhaar card, or in developing voluntary applications of Aadhaar. Instead, it has relentlessly pushed for Aadhaar being used as a mandatory identification number in multiple contexts, and for biometric authentication with a centralised database over the Internet. That is a very different ball game.
The Supreme Court order caused consternation in official circles, since it ruled out most of the planned applications of Aadhaar. The Aadhaar Bill, tabled last week as a money bill in the Lok Sabha and passed by it, is the Central government’s counter-attack. Under Section 7, the Bill gives the government sweeping powers to make Aadhaar mandatory for a wide range of facilities and services. Further, Section 57 enables the government to impose Aadhaar identification in virtually any other context, subject to the same safeguards as those applying to Section 7.


Tuesday, 15 March 2016 | A Surya Prakash
Pseudo-secularists, who are now also pseudo-nationalists, are unwilling to address the primary issue and don't seek punishment for those who mock the Constitution and the country's unity and integrity
There may indeed be a case for a fresh look at Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code dealing with sedition, but one must not allow this academic debate on the validity of such a provision to cloud the core issue that is before us, namely, the shameful assault on our Constitution and the challenge posed to India’s unity and integrity by a bunch of students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and in the Jadavpur University campus in West Bengal.
Just read the contents of the poster put up in JNU for the controversial event held on February 9 last and you will realise that centrifugal forces have begun to exert pressure on the nation’s core. The poster said it was a “cultural evening of protest” (whatever that means) with poets, artists and singers. It said this event was “against the judicial killing of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat; in solidarity with the struggle of the Kashmiri people for their democratic right to self-determination”.
Further, it said there would be an art exhibition and a photo exhibition portraying “the history of the occupation of Kashmir and the people’s struggle against it”. It invited everyone “to join us in protest, in rage against the occupation and in solidarity with the valiant people of Kashmir”.
A recent Delhi High Court order on a bail application moved by a student arrested in this connection, quoted the slogans that the students were raising at this alleged cultural evening. Just read them and decide for yourself whether any Indian citizen who stands committed to the unity and integrity of India; who has any respect for our Constitution; and for the soldiers defending our borders, would ever raise such slogans? Here they are:
Afzal Guru, Maqbool Bhat, zindabad’; Bharat ki barbadi tak jung rahegi, jung rahegi; Go India, Go Back; Indian Army murdabad; Bharat tere tukkde honge, Inshaallah, Inshaallah; Afzal ki hatya nahi sahenge, nahi sahenge; and finally, Bandook ki dum par lenge azadi.

The High Court judge was apprised of the sequence of events leading to the controversial incident on February 9. A group of students initially sought and secured permission for a ‘cultural evening’ at the Sabarmati Dhaba in JNU campus. Later, JNU authorities realised that some mischief was afoot when they saw the posters put up in all the hostels. These posters referred to the ‘judicial killing’ of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat. Apprehending trouble, the university authorities cancelled the permission given to the organisers and also called in the police. That evening ‘the shouting of anti-national slogans continued unabated.
The High Court was also given a set of photographs which showed students holding posters with photographs of Afzal Guru, who was one of the masterminds behind the attack on India’s Parliament in December 2001. In other words, in the name of ‘democracy’ and ‘free speech’, they were espousing the cause of a terrorist who planned the assault on our temple of democracy!
The posters put up in Jadavpur University went even further. One poster said: “Hum kya chahe — Azadi: Kashmir ki azadi; Nagaland ki azadi; Manipur ki azadi” .
Shockingly, there are professors in JNU and elsewhere who claim that these slogans fall within the ambit of ‘freedom of expression’ guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution!

Why blame only Mallya?

Mar 14, 2016,  Mohan Guruswamy
We are forgetting the officials of the banking services department of the finance ministry, many of who served on the boards of the banks that lent Kingfisher Airlines money, and the many board directors who sanctioned the loans. 
Let’s get something right about Vijay Mallya. The popular narrative is that he milked the banks for Rs 9,000 crore to support his hedonistic lifestyle in India and abroad, and took off when the debt burden became excessive or no more money was forthcoming to evergreen his debts. But we seem to forget that he enjoyed a hedonistic lifestyle much before Kingfisher Airlines and he had much money to spread around even before Kingfisher Airlines.
The Rs 9,000 crore he is now found to owe the public sector banks and others is the money he lost on Kingfisher Airlines. I understand the loan money is about Rs 4,000 crore and the rest is interest and the interest on interest. The banks just kept lending him money to evergreen its loans. This was not possible without political and bureaucratic support. Even if one little joint-secretary or one little MP or one little bank manager red-flagged the growing stain of red on Kingfisher Airlines’ debts, the bleeding would have been staunched. Mr Mallya did not milk just the banks to keep Kingfisher Airlines afloat; he also milked his own companies, such as United Breweries and United Spirits, to support its flight into the deep red.
When a business makes a loss, it doesn’t always mean the money was stolen. It often means that it has spent more money than it has earned. This means Kingfisher Airlines employees got paid for all the years, except the last year, most of the time when the airline did not fly, the oil companies got paid for aviation turbine fuel supplied, the leasing companies got paid for the planes hired, the caterers got paid for the meals supplied on board, the airports got paid their landing and parking fees, and the taxes and cesses due for the most part were paid. All during this period, Kingfisher Airlines did not sell enough seats to cover the costs, or just spent more money than it earned.
The question then is why was Mr Mallya lent money when quite clearly Kingfisher Airlines increasingly showed it had a business model that precluded it from earning money?

Schisms in Islamic World Guide Pak’s Foreign Policy

By G Parthasarathy
Published: 12th March 2016 
The 20th century saw two developments that shook the Islamic world. The first was World War I, which triggered the collapse of global Islamist ambitions, with the dismantling of the Ottoman empire and end of the Caliphate. The creation of Israel and the dispossession of Palestinians in 1948 brought Muslims worldwide together to destroy the Jewish state determined to end the injustice done to fellow Muslim Palestinians. The 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict proved disastrous for such ambitions, as the Arab armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan were routed, with Israel capturing large tracts of their territory and, most importantly, taking control of the holy sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, in Jerusalem. The defeated Arabs responded in 1969 by establishing the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in a summit meeting of Islamic countries in Morocco, with the aim of uniting the Muslim “Ummah” against Israel.
Not surprisingly, Pakistan had its own aims in participating in the OIC, which now has 57 members, with headquarters in Saudi Arabia. Its ambition was to mobilise the Islamic world against India and secure support for its claims in Jammu and Kashmir, while pledging allegiance for the Arab cause, on ending Israeli occupation of Muslim lands. This was accompanied by a worldwide effort to persuade Muslims and Islamic countries to unite against alleged atrocities targeting Muslims in India, particularly in J&K. Pakistan also used its nuclear ambitions to persuade Saudi Arabia, Iran and others that it would transfer nuclear capabilities to enable them to counter Israel’s formidable stockpile. What followed was massive flow of money to Pakistan from oil-rich Islamic states, together with diplomatic support, with OIC recognising and backing the Hurriyat as the sole and legitimate representatives of Muslims in Kashmir.
Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts are now coming apart, as the mirage of religion-based unity among Islamic countries is being torn apart by sectarian strife between Shias and Sunnis, and civilisational fault lines between Iran and its Sunni Arab neighbours. The carnage in Yemen and Syria reflect these fault lines. The conflict in Syria is pitting Shias backed by Iran, Iraq and the Hezbollah, against Sunnis backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. It has led to 0.25 million Syrians losing their lives and 11 million fleeing homes. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia is determined not to allow an Iranian-backed regime dominated by Shia Houthis to take charge of the country. Saudi Arabia has put together a coalition of 34 Sunni Islamic countries to take on the ISIS, which is seen as a threat to its conservative monarchy. More importantly, the Saudi effort is geared to containing Iranian influence in Syria and elsewhere in its neighbourhood.

What the US Gets Wrong About India's Relationship With China

India’s relationship with China goes far beyond security issues. 
By Tridivesh Maini,  March 13, 2016
The India-China relationship is a far more complex and multi-layered one than many U.S. analysts realize. Both countries are trying to find common ground in a number of areas. It was surprising to discover that the views of many U.S. analysts mirror skeptics in the strategic community in India. Both tend to view the India-China relationship solely from the prism of security issues and territorial disputes while ignoring key state-level economic ties.
I met off-the-record with about 40 strategic analysts and policymakers in Washington, D.C., during a SAV visiting fellowship at the Stimson Center. Some Americans, I found, had a good grasp of South Asian politics, while others were way off the mark. Perhaps the greatest misconception I came across in D.C. concerns the India-China relationship. Most conversations focused on the contentious aspects of the relationship, and ignored an unnoticed transformation taking place between Beijing and Delhi. If Americans fail to recognize the nuances in the relationship between China and India, their Asia policy is bound to be heavy-handed and Washington could lose an opportunity to shape regional politics in a positive way.
I found that there are a handful of reasons why U.S. analysts are out of sync with the changes taking place in the Beijing-New Delhi relationship. First, a focus on hard security issues and territorial disputes detracts from serious analysis of the India-China economic relationship and progress in other areas. While there are certainly major divergences in the strategic sphere apart from territorial disputes between the two countries, the strongest stress on the relationship does relate to China’s inroads into South Asia.

BACKGROUNDER Myanmar in China’s Push into the Indian Ocean

Joshy M. Paul, March 14, 2016

China, of late, has been pitching to increase its influence in the Indian Ocean through Myanmar by building a deep-water port, which includes a special economic zone (SEZ) at the cost of US$280 million. The project is coming up at Kyaukphyu in the troubled southwestern Rakhine Province of Myanmar. The Kyaukphyu SEZ project was awarded to a six-member international consortium headed by one of China’s biggest conglomerates, Citic Group, through a “fair and open bid” in December 2015.1 Four other Chinese industrial and investment groups and one of Thailand’s biggest conglomerates, Charoen Phokphand, are the other members of the consortium. The project is expected to contribute about $10 billion to Myanmar’s annual GDP by 2025, while 90 per cent of the project managers would be Myanmar citizens. The Kyaukphyu project would provide China an effective connectivity with the Indian Ocean than any of the so called “string of pearls”, including the Gwadar port in Pakistan.
The current military government of Myanmar has set aside 1708 hectares (4289.32 acres) for the Kyaukphyu SEZ, which would comprise two deep-sea ports of 148 hectares and 95 hectares, a 978-hectare industrial zone, and a high-end housing project covering 494 hectares. The project is adjacent to the landing point of the dual pipeline that transports gas and crude oil to China. During President Thein Sein’s visit to Beijing in May 2011, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Myanmar’s rail transport ministry and China’s state-owned Railway Engineering Corporation to build a rail line linking Kyaukphyu with Kunming, capital of the Yunnan Province of China. Later, in July 2014, the construction ministry of Myanmar announced that the No. 2 Union Highway and the Kyaukphyu-Magway route will be upgraded for better connectivity with the SEZ.

Since Kyaukphyu SEZ is an economic-cum-strategic asset for China, it seeks to avoid provoking local resistance similar to the ones it experienced in Sri Lanka and Africa and even in Myanmar earlier. Efforts have been made to ensure that the Chinese-led consortium collaborates with the Myanmar Government and accommodates the interests of the local community. According to U Myint Thein, Deputy Rail Transportation Minister of Myanmar, who also chairs the Kyaukphyu SEZ management committee, local residents have been invited to join a monitoring group that will watch out for any potential social, economic or environmental damage. He added that the SEZ was a long-term development project that enjoyed public support and would provide local job opportunities.2

Courting National League for Democracy
It is noteworthy that after the reformist government of President Thein Sein re­placed the military junta in 2011, Chinese investment in the na­tion had plummeted – from approximately $12 billion between 2008 and 2011 to just $407 million in 2012-13 due to the suspension of $3.6 billion Myitsone Dam project by the Myanmar Government in view of strong domestic opposition. The then Myanmar Government instead encouraged Western investment to modernise the nation. Until 2012, Chinese state-owned companies had dominated Myanmar's oil and gas sector. However, of the total 36 oil and gas blocks Myanmar awarded to 47 companies in 2013-14, none were given to any Chinese firm. During this period, Thai, Singaporean and Hong Kong companies were among the top three direct investors in Myanmar.
China is careful of the regime change in Myanmar. Generally Beijing works well with dictators and gets concession for trade and investment. However, the latest episode in Sri Lanka, where it lost strategic ground to India after the new president Maithripala Sirisena renegotiated the $1.4 billion Colombo port city project after a nine-month suspension of the project. China had earlier faced trouble in Myanmar itself in the form of local protests against the Letpadaung copper mine project in the northwest of the country. Before, in 2010, Myanmar Government had to suspend a $3.6 billion Chinese-led Myitsone Dam project because of the local opposition, as almost 90 per cent of the power was expected to have gone to China. Beijing now wants to avoid similar situation in the case of Kyaukphyu project given its huge strategic value.

Making of a shrine in Pakistan

March 14, 2016 
A narrative is gathering force that, nudged by Pakistan’s civil-military leadership, the country is recovering liberalism. An examination of a new shrine, to Salman Taseer’s assassin, tells another story
Could anyone imagine even six months ago that Shahbaz Taseer, son of Pakistan’s slain Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, would be freed from his Taliban or Uzbek captors after nearly five years in captivity? Despite friends’ prayers, his circle of admirers and onlookers had given up hope. Perhaps the Taseer family had better hope as it was secretly negotiating with the captors. But his return remains as much of a mystery as his disappearance. No one knows why he was kept for five years and why it took so long to negotiate his return.
However, the release is made to look like a turn of events from the sordid and the tragic to a new beginning for Pakistan. This despite the fact that there is an absolute lack of clarity regarding the role of security agencies in the release. So, for all one cares, the younger Taseer’s release was, by coincidence, a week after Mumtaz Qadri, his father’s killer, was hanged on the orders of the Pakistan Supreme Court. But it has been all made to look like things were following a natural sequence indicating Pakistan’s metamorphosis from a Taliban-ridden state to a haven for liberalism.

A mirage?
Glancing through Pakistan’s English-language press, it seems that we are back to discovering the good old Pakistan. Many in the national and international media have presented these events as a much-awaited shift towards peace and stability that was made possible only due to a perceived change in the military’s thinking. Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which begun in June 2014 and was aimed at terrorists ensconced in the tribal areas in the north of the country, is viewed as a precursor to some kind of a metamorphosis.
We hear of some sort of mutation in the attitude of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was earlier criticised by liberals as representing a soft form of the Jamaat-e-Islami. It’s his President Mamnoon Hussain who bravely ventured to reject Mumtaz Qadri’s appeal against his death sentence. Moreover, he was quick in announcing “prompt action” against the perpetrators of the Pathankot attack, and a police report was indeed initiated against un-named assailants.
But almost 400 km away from where the Taseer family is rejoicing its reunion with its son is the evolving shrine of Mumtaz Qadri in the Bara Kahu neighbourhood in the suburbs of the capital city, Islamabad. The grave, which was dug in the middle of an empty ground and is likely to turn into a blooming shrine, attracts hundreds of people every day who come to pray for his forgiveness and salute his bravery for and commitment to standing up for his religion and dying for it. There are flowers strewn on his grave every day and free food served to whoever visits, which is bound to attract more people. Over 2,50,000 people attended the funeral of a man who is a criminal in the eyes of Pakistan’s Supreme Court.

The US Pivot to Everywhere

Reality Check 
A daily explanation of what matters and what doesn't in the world of geopolitics. 
March 14, 2016 , By Jacob L. Shapiro 
The United States' strategy demands more of a pirouette than a pivot. 
In October 2011, then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton penned an article for Foreign Policy magazine about America’s “pivot” to Asia. Since then, it has become commonplace to speak about the United States attempting to rebalance its resources away from the Middle East and Europe towards the Asia-Pacific region, and to refer to this specifically as “the pivot to Asia.” But Europe and the Middle East have not diminished in importance for the United States – if anything their importance has only increased. The U.S. is a global power. Its perspective is therefore global; it cannot pivot between interests.

The main objective of U.S. grand strategy is to prevent the rise of a challenger to American power, and when the “pivot” is brought up, it is usually done in the context of the United States seeking to block China from assuming the mantle of the world’s next global power. We view this as a misunderstanding of geopolitics. China has neither the desire nor the capability to project that kind of power, and to develop such abilities would take decades. Chinese strategy is focused on strengthening its ability to resist a potential American attack or blockade – its development of ships, missiles, rockets and mines all point toward this goal.
This is not to say that the U.S. is unconcerned with the Asia-Pacific region. This is one of the problems with thinking in terms of pivots – it suggests that the U.S. wasn’t already invested. Since its victory in the Spanish-American War in 1898, the U.S. has been deeply involved in Asia – fighting the Germans in the Pacific in WWI, the Japanese in WWII and separate wars in Korea and Vietnam. Today, the U.S. maintains alliances with many Asian countries, such as Japan, South Korea and Australia, in order to ensure that a balance of power, with the United States as the ultimate security guarantor, remains in place. Just two weeks ago on March 1, a U.S. aircraft carrier group arrived in the Philippine Sea to hold exercises with India and Japan – in case China needed a reminder of U.S. naval superiority. But none of America’s moves in Asia mean that the U.S. can withdraw from Europe or the Middle East.

In terms of economic growth, East Asia may well be the world’s most dynamic region. But the combined GDP of the countries that make up the European Union is larger than any country’s GDP. According to 2014 International Monetary Fund figures, the EU’s GDP was over $18 trillion. That’s more than the United States – and it’s more than China, Japan and India combined. More important, however, is that the European Peninsula is the most strategically important area over which to hold influence in order to present the rise of a Eurasian hegemon. Europe emerged from World War II demoralized and critically wounded, but Europe is still the likeliest place for a potential challenger to U.S. hegemony to arise.

China's Greatest Fear: Dead and Buried Like the Soviet Union

Harry J. Kazianis,  March 11, 2016 
Twenty-five years ago, the mighty Soviet Union was finally thrown onto the ash heap of history—never to rise again. And yet, the fall of one of the most powerful empires in human history, we often forget, was never a sure thing. Indeed, looking back just ten years’ time, to 1981, very few people foresaw the demise of the USSR. In fact, many made predictions that it was America who was in for a rough patch in the years to come. Even a cursory survey of history from that era depicts an America still struggling to overcome a deeply ingrained malaise: the Soviets seemed on the march almost everywhere, the U.S. economy was in shambles, the nation was still reeling from the emotional scars of the Vietnam War as well as the resignation of a sitting president. The hits just kept on coming—a seemingly never-ending crisis, and what must have felt like a true “crisis of confidence.”

But here we are. The USSR is no more. The Warsaw Pact is gone. Gorbachev is doing Pizza Hut commercials. America clearly prevailed in one of the most spectacular geopolitical contests of our time—all without the burning embers of a nuclear fire that could have killed billions.
And while American’s today might make light of the past Soviet threat and its subsequent rapid collapse, one nation and its leadership is still very much interested in the death of the Soviet Empire: The People’s Republic of China.
Indeed, one could make a compelling argument that Beijing’s leaders—certainly burning the midnight oil over the state of their economy and America’s pivot to Asia—when pressed, clearly fears ending up like the old Soviet state. In my travels throughout Asia in the last several years as well as at the sidelines of various conferences and gatherings it seems the Soviet collapse ends up being something Chinese officials make clear they will avoid. They fear the power they hold today could be swept away tomorrow—cast aside by corruption, overspending on the military, political paralysis, divisions in society and so on.
So what does Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party think really brought down the USSR? And what can they do to prevent it?

Has the China ASEAN affair come to an end

Mar 08, 2016 
For decades, rapid economic expansion in China has had a positive spillover effect on the Southeast Asian region, sparking unprecedented economic growth among smaller nations that lifted millions of people out of dire poverty and swelled the ranks of their middle class.
The wealth effect gave impoverished villagers access to benefits Western nations take for granted: better roads, health care and education. Meanwhile, major infrastructure projects such as hydroelectric dams, bridges and airports opened up remote areas where previously only the indigenous and hardy were able to tread.
The long-running, double-digit economic growth enjoyed by China specifically bolstered manufacturing south of the border, resulting in exports to China from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) surging by about 20% a year for more than two decades. ASEAN comprises ten countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Recently, Southeast Asia further sharpened its clout as a trading bloc with the launch of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Economic Community (AEC).
But the gravy train could now be screeching to a halt. Fiscal realities are setting in, with China’s GDP growth slowing amid slumping commodity prices, regional currency devaluations and stock market volatility. It is a fall from grace that could threaten the broader region. “China’s growing prominence as a key market for ASEAN exports has increased the vulnerability of many ASEAN countries to China’s economic slowdown,” says Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist for IHS Global Insight.
Chinese Dominoes
Chinese economic growth slowed to an estimated 6.9% in 2015 and is expected to decelerate further to 6.3% this year, potentially the worst performance since the country’s economy was opened to the global market by leader Deng Xiaoping in the midst of the Cold War. His policies fueled a resources boom that enabled China to transform itself into the world’s factory floor and second largest economy.
China expanded overland routes into Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand through heavy investment that incorporated much of Southeast Asia into Chinese supply chains. Annually, ASEAN enjoyed 20% export growth. That growth gave China stature in the region, tempered by caution. However, few seemed to care while so much money was rolling in even as China asserted spurious territorial and maritime sovereign claims.

*** How Saudi Arabia Turned Its Greatest Weapon on Itself

FOR the past half-century, the world economy has been held hostage by just one country: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Vast petroleum reserves and untapped production allowed the kingdom to play an outsize role as swing producer, filling or draining the global system at will.
The 1973-74 oil embargo was the first demonstration that the House of Saud was willing to weaponize the oil markets. In October 1973, a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia abruptly halted oil shipments in retaliation for America’s support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War. The price of a barrel of oil quickly quadrupled; the resulting shock to the oil-dependent economies of the West led to a sharp rise in the cost of living, mass unemployment and growing social discontent.
“If I was the president,” Secretary of State Henry Kissinger fumed to his deputy Brent Scowcroft, “I would tell the Arabs to shove their oil.” But the president, Richard M. Nixon, was in no position to dictate to the Saudis.
In the West, we have largely forgotten the lessons of 1974, partly because our economies have changed and are less vulnerable, but mainly because we are not the Saudis’ principal target. Predictions that global oil production would eventually peak, ensuring prices stayed permanently high, never materialized. Today’s oil crises are determined less by the floating price of crude than by crude regional politics. The oil wars of the 21st century are underway.

In recent years, the Saudis have made clear that they regard the oil markets as a critical front line in the Sunni Muslim-majority kingdom’s battle against its Shiite-dominated rival, Iran. Their favored tactic of “flooding,” pumping surplus crude into a soft market, is tantamount to war by economic means: the oil trade’s equivalent of dropping the bomb on a rival.
In 2006, Nawaf Obaid, a Saudi security adviser, warned that Riyadh was prepared to force prices down to “strangle” Iran’s economy. Two years later, the Saudis did just that, with the aim of hampering Tehran’s ability to support Shiite militia groups in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere.
Then, in 2011, Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former chief of Saudi intelligence,told NATO officials that Riyadh was prepared to flood the market to stir unrest inside Iran. Three years later, the Saudis struck again, turning on the spigot.

But this time, they overplayed their hand.
When Saudi officials made their move in the fall of 2014, taking advantage of an already glutted market, they no doubt hoped that lower prices would undercut the American shale industry, which was challenging the kingdom’s market dominance. But their main purpose was to make life difficult for Tehran: “Iran will come under unprecedented economic and financial pressure as it tries to sustain an economy already battered by international sanctions,” argued Mr. Obaid.
Oil-producing countries, especially ones like Russia, with relatively undiversified economies, base their budgets on oil prices not falling below a certain threshold. If prices plunge below that level, fiscal meltdown looms. The Saudis expected a sharp reduction in oil prices not just to hurt the American fracking industry, but also to hammer the economies of Iran and Russia. That in turn would weaken their ability to support allies and proxies, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

Underestimating the Islamic State

Philip Seib  Professor, University of Southern California 
If the Islamic State's brutal activities were confined to its original home in Iraq and Syria, a minimal amount of optimism on the part of counterterrorism strategists might be justified. Air strikes by the United States and its allies have taken their toll, not only in reducing the number of IS fighters in the field, but also in damaging its administrative infrastructure, such as by blowing up some of its money warehouses.
But the residual strength of the Islamic State is its ability to metastasize. It has an estimated 6,500 fighters in Libya, it is actively recruiting in Pakistan, it is competing for influence with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and it has alliances of sorts with terrorist groups ranging from central Africa to Southeast Asia.
And yet, we hear from top officials in the U.S. government, such as Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk, that the "caliphate is shrinking." In truth, it is expanding and becoming more dangerous. Consider the threat to Tunisia, which is the one country to emerge from the "Arab spring" on a path toward democracy. IS operatives from Libya have infiltrated into Tunisia, where a March 7 attack by IS gunmen left at least 53 dead.

The Obama administration is considering a campaign of air strikes to hit IS in Libya. That is a tactical response, not a strategy. So too is the notion that the United States and its allies can kill IS fighters faster than the organization can recruit new ones. There is no evidence, outside the Iraq/Syria theater of operations, that this is happening.
Over the long term, it will be crucial to turn off the IS recruiting faucet. Doing so will require counterterrorism officials to better understand that that the "snuff videos" for which IS has become so well-known are not the principal enlistment tools. Rather, than "come kill" the strongest message is "come build the caliphate."

Germany’s About-Face on Greece, hoping to save Europe

Summary: Mass immigration and the collapse of Greece’s economy have combined to bring the European Union to the breaking point. Now the two issues have merged as Greece becomes a gateway into Europe. Germany has loosened its grip on Greece, hoping to use it as a buffer state for the flow of migrants. It buys time for more drastic solutions, which so far they’re unwilling to take.
— False NYT headline. German’s leaders embraced mass immigration. It’s people were not consulted.
Stratfor, 3 March 2016
Germany and Greece were on opposing sides during last year’s negotiations over Athens’ third bailout program, but the European refugee crisis is forcing them to form a tactical alliance. The German government tried for months to treat the bailout program and the migration crisis as separate issues, but Berlin has now come to terms with the idea that Greece needs help on both. The Greek government, in turn, understands that cooperation with Germany is essential to prevent Greece’s isolation in the European Union and to receive the next tranche of bailout funds.
Berlin is still trying to push for a unified European response to the refugee crisis. From the German government’s perspective, Europe needs to cooperate with Turkey to reduce the influx of asylum seekers entering EU states and member states need to enforce the EU plan approved in late 2015 to apportion asylum seekers among member states. Greece is key to both goals. Germany needs Greece to become more efficient at receiving and identifying those eligible for asylum, so that redistribution efforts are more effective. Berlin also needs Athens to cooperate with Ankara on the plan to coordinate intelligence sharing by NATO vessels in the Aegean Sea on human trafficking organizations.

In addition, Germany is wary of the multiplication of unilateral and regional moves in Europe. The refugee crisis has only exacerbated Europe’s political fragmentation, and a growing number of countries, especially those along the Balkan migration route that connects Greece with Austria, are defending the reintroduction of border controls.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel fears that Berlin and Brussels are losing control of the political process in Europe. The end of free passage under the Schengen Agreement would hamper European economies by, among other things, increasing transportation costs. Closing borders would have serious political consequences, as countries could try to sever other aspects of the process of Continental integration in the future. Merkel is also worried that the current climate in Europe would have political repercussions at home, as anti-immigration groups gain traction.

Ukraine-Style Hybrid War Unlikely in Latgale

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 13 Issue: 49
March 11, 2016 
On the second anniversary of the start of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the BBC gave its viewers a chance to “look inside the war room” with a program featuring a committee of former senior British military and diplomatic figures. In a quasi-documentary titled World War Three: Inside the War Room, the participants are faced with a simulated crisis in which Russia uses “hybrid warfare” techniques to invade the eastern Latvian region of Latgale. And with absolute devotion and seriousness, the British officials on the program need to resolve the situation without it leading to a nuclear showdown or World War III (Baltic Review, February 5).
After Russia’s conflict with Ukraine exploded into all-out war, it raised the alarming question of who might be Russia’s next target and what the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) might do if the Kremlin indeed turned its attention to the Baltic States, which, contrary to Ukraine, are Alliance members. The BBC program’s producers strived to generate the most imaginable and realistic scenario of a conflict in the region, which would reflect Russia’s previous and ongoing actions in Ukraine. World War Three: Inside the War Room was widely discussed among Latvian politicians and officials, who have mainly focused on the program’s demonstration of the decision-making processes within NATO, and whether or not Article V would be activated in a real conflict situation (Skaties.lv, February 4; Diena, February 24). But the relevance of the documentary’s crisis scenario itself, which essentially directly replicated Russia’s Ukraine strategy in the Baltics, is seriously questionable.
Crucial differences between the situations in Latgale and southeastern Ukraine suggest that the BBC’s simulated scenario is actually quite unrealistic. In fact, there is little reason to believe that Russia would use the same strategy in Latvia as it employed in Ukraine. This is due to three major factors: First, unlike in southeastern Ukraine, Russia does not have specific economic or military interests in Latgale that would justify a military intervention there and bring Moscow in direct conflict with NATO. Second, unlike with the vast distances in Ukraine, Latvia’s small territorial size would invite a more traditional “blitzkrieg”-type invasion strategy by Russia. Moscow would presumably try to immediately militarily secure critical infrastructure throughout the Baltic country, rather than focusing on or opening with a limited “hybrid war”–style operation in the Latgale region. And finally, even if Russia were to choose to pursue a hybrid war strategy in Latvia, it would be unlikely to find sufficient support among Latgale’s population.

Don’t Let the Pentagon Get Stuck in Silicon Valley

By August Cole and Chris Meissner
If Secretary of Defense Ash Carter did a Google search for who would make the biggest splash as the head of the Pentagon’s new innovation panel from Silicon Valley, he couldn’t have gotten a better answer than the executive chairman of the eponymous search engine’s parent company, Eric Schmidt. The move announced at the RSA cyber security confab in San Francisco makes clear to the Beltway the military is serious about closing its innovation gap with the commercial sector by reestablishing ties to the Bay Area’s tech heartland.
Yet if the Defense Department’s innovation scouts get too focused on the corridor between San Francisco and San Jose, they risk missing out on existing or nascent technologies from America’s other innovation hubs. There are many U.S. centers of entrepreneurship and innovation in areas such as software, robotics, gaming, aerospace and life sciences.

Of course, starting out in Silicon Valley makes sense. Giant tech firms like Google capture the headlines in America’s Bay Area innovation heartland, which accounts for a third or more of all venture capital money nationwide. The National Venture Capital Association tallied up venture investing in the United States at $48 billion in 2014, a decade high. Going to Silicon Valley and joining forces with titans like Schmidt sends a powerful signal that the status quo defense establishment needs a reboot. The Pentagon must not get stuck there, however. It needs to look nationwide.
This approach requires embracing decentralization, which is not how the Pentagon sources military hardware and services. While today’s defense industrial base is distributed throughout the country for largely political reasons (Congress and contractors seed taxpayer dollars throughout the 50 states to ensure support of the biggest defense programs), a handful of major defense companies sit astride the market.
An update of America’s defense industrial base — call it DIB 2.0 — is about expanding the roster of new players and innovators, to include entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and inventors throughout the country.

Complacency in Cyberspace May Be Our Biggest Vulnerability

Is the best defense a strong offense in cybersecurity? 
Summary: The US government appears to assume that — as with nuclear war — “the best defense is a strong offense” Cybersecurity expert Emilio Iasiello asks if this makes sense with cybersecurity, given the difficulty of identifying the attacker (attribution) and striking back at them (often amorphous non-state actors).
By Emilio Iasiello
The volume of cyber incidents that have impacted the United States has caused more than just economic damage, it has become so mainstream that it has become a daily reality and accepted course of action. A recent article posed the question if advanced persistent threat activity – a sloppy term that refers to suspected nation state or nation state-sponsored cyber operations – has become the new normal. The sheer volume and magnitude of cyber espionage activity attributed to these groups has escalated to such a degree that they are ceasing to instill the same concern as they did just a few years earlier.
The problem is that the frequency of these events, the escalating damages and data stolen, and the lack of the perpetrators suffering any real consequences is causing calls to improve cyber security procedures to fall on deaf ears.

Instead of focusing on trying to actually improve security, which means having dedicated professionals engaged in daily activities of mitigating cyber threats, we seek to develop advanced cyber weaponry and instill a cadre of “cyber warriors” to take care of the bad guys. There seems to be growing support for this hacking-back approach as part of a cyber war pre-emption plan to bolster our cyber defenses. The idea is that while it is generally believed that the United States has advanced cyber weapons, until they are actually deployed, their deterrence value won’t be realized. In other words, when a bully sees how hard we punch, he may move on to someone else.
However, such an approach, while aspirational, is actually limited. The diverse threat actor landscape consists of various levels and numbers of state and non-state actors. And while it may make sense on a political level to go after those individuals who conduct high-profile attacks that steal millions of dollars or puts millions of personal identifiable data at risk, improved cyber weaponry at the national level cannot be leveraged by most organizations and individuals.
At best, we can “strike back” at the perpetrators, destroying the computer systems that launched the attack (assuming of course they only have one), or if we’re lucky, be able to track him down and with the help of international law enforcement, arrest and prosecute those responsible. That’s a lot of effort and investment of time, resources, and if necessary, facilitating collaborative strategies.

A Proposed Connecticut Law to Ban Putting Guns on Drones Has a Really Big Hole


Should your weird neighbor be allowed to mount a handgun on a drone and fly that drone around, firing the gun from midair via remote control? No, probably not. But there’s not much that you can do to stop him from launching his Glock-drone into the sky. The FAA does not specifically prohibit private citizens from owning and operating weaponized drones, and most states have not yet passed laws that would ban them. This is sort of scary, sure, but what can I say? It’s 2016 in America.
Now, the Connecticut state legislature is considering two bills that, if passed, would make it one of the few states in the country to specifically prohibit the operation of weaponized drones. They are good bills with one major flaw, which I’ll get to later. But, first, some context is in order. The Connecticut bill comes as a direct response to the flamboyant antics of an anti-authoritarian teenager. In July 2015, an 18-year-old Connecticut man named Austin Haughwout posted to YouTube a video of a drone he had rigged to fire a handgun from mid-air.
A few months later, Haughwout posted a sequel. This time, he had equipped a drone with a flamethrower, which he used to barbecue a turkey.
The videos racked up millions of views and nearly as many aggrieved comments from people who couldn’t believe that what they were seeing was legal. And yet Haughwout—a private citizen operating his contraption on his own property—claimed that he had violated no laws. The local police chief reluctantly agreed, telling CNN that “It would seem to the average person, there should be something prohibiting a person from attaching a weapon to a drone. At this point, we can't find anything that's been violated.”

What about the FAA? Surely there’s some federal statute that would explicitly prohibit weaponized drones, you might reasonably ask. Nope. The only FAA regulation that comes close to addressing this situation is this one:
No pilot in command of a civil aircraft may allow any object to be dropped from that aircraft in flight that creates a hazard to persons or property. However, this section does not prohibit the dropping of any object if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property.

Who really hacked Sony? Cybersecurity researchers say they finally know

A group they've dubbed "Lazarus Group" is well organized and tied to numerous other attacks on governments, banks, and military institutions in the US and South Korea since 2009.
By Jack Detsch, Staff writer FEBRUARY 24, 2016
More than a year after the devastating Sony Pictures hack, a trio of cybersecurity firms claim to have pinpointed the culprits behind the breach that rattled Hollywood and invigorated President Obama's cybersecurity agenda.
The companies said in a report released Wednesday that an outfit it dubs "Lazarus Group," which has carried out high-profile attacks on government agencies, militaries, and banks in the US and South Korea since 2009, is responsible for the Sony Pictures incursion in November 2014.
The firms didn't connect Lazarus Group directly to North Korea, which US law enforcement and many security experts believe funded the Sony Pictures hack in retaliation for the "The Interview," a comedy distributed by Sony about an assassination plot against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
"What we've found clearly communicates a very well resourced organization that is extremely well-motivated, extremely well-organized, and has demonstrated since 2009 their ability to operate," said Andre Ludwig, the senior technical director at Novetta, a Virginia cybersecurity firm. It published the report along with AlienVault and Kaspersky Lab.
Their research also connected Lazarus Group to distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks that targeted South Korea's government, military, and major banks in 2011, as well as to "Operation Troy," a military espionage campaign targeting South Korea.

The report found traces of the Lazarus Group's malware in China, India, Japan, and Taiwan. That could indicate the Sony hack was the work of one group – or closely linked networks – that potentially collaborated on technical resources, attacks, and coordinated server infrastructure. The hackers appeared to communicate in Korean, according to malware samples the researchers analyzed. 
The security researchers say they based their finding on hundreds of millions of malware samples related to Sony and other hacks – ultimately attributing 2,000 samples and 45 families of malware to the Lazarus Group. 
"We embarked on this pursuit to understand what occurred," said Mr. Ludwig. "We want to share our knowledge in a way that people can leverage to better protect themselves."