15 December 2017

GEO POLITICAL FORECAST FOR 2018

GEO POLITICAL FORECAST FOR 2018
--  Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM (Retd)

As the year 2017 is coming to an end it is time to take stock what all has happened this year and what can take place in next year. This is applicable in all fields including sports, entertainment etc.

George Friedman who heads Geopolitical Futures has attempted to forecast what is in the offing in geopolitics next year. He has concentrated on some of the most important geopolitical issues in 2018 – the future of Europe, China’s rise and the new configuration of the Middle East.

Europe’s Fragmentation

The integrity of the European Union, though, has been under duress since 2008. The global economic crisis of 2008 revealed structural divides within the bloc, and as its wealthier members refused to rescue its poorer members, the economic crisis morphed into a political crisis. The financial crisis also aggravated the divide between the elites and the lower classes within EU member states, galvanizing domestic political forces that rejected the right of Brussels to govern. Since then, Britain has voted to leave the bloc, and euroskeptic parties have gained prominence on the mainland. Meanwhile, the EU has lost credibility with nonmember states, particularly those of Central and Eastern Europe, which increasingly took advantage of being on the outside looking in, free as they were to float their own currencies and tailor their own regulatory environments toward competitiveness. In other words, Europe entered an era in which sovereign states began once again to reassert their sovereignty.

These trends largely continued through 2017 as Europe’s economy largely stagnated and as anti-EU forces on the right continued to rise. Technocrats in Brussels, meanwhile, were unable to reconcile the bloc’s inherent internal contradictions. And so it is that after nine years the EU still cannot function as it did pre-crisis. It is unable to make core decisions collectively, and now its defining features are regional and social tensions fueled by economic issues and different cultural values.

In 2018 these trends are not expected to accelerate dramatically, nor anything as profound as the Brexit is expected. But neither will the trends reverse. Europe will instead focus on coping with its new reality. And if it cannot spark more economic growth, the status quo will be further tested.

China’s Wary Rise

The Chinese government is trapped between conflicting economic and political realities. It cannot sustain breakneck growth on a foundation of low wage exports, but it does not yet have the middle class needed to boost domestic consumption to levels that would insulate it from downturns in distant consumer markets. The reforms required to put the economy on sound footing would be extremely painful, risking major job losses that would threaten the political standing of the Communist Party. China’s leaders have tried to split the difference by keeping the economy humming with credit-driven growth while implementing only modest reform. But this has merely left the country with enormous debt bubbles and a looming housing crisis, and only slightly closer to addressing its underlying problems. The risks of instability remain.

In 2017, the Communist Party consolidated its grip over society under President Xi Jinping. He has become China’s most powerful leader perhaps since Mao Zedong. There was a sufficiently widespread belief among Chinese elites that reconciling the country’s deep internal contradictions required a strongman at the helm. The only option is to try to contain the political fallout through authoritarian means as thinking in Beijing goes. The shortcomings of Xi’s authoritarianism are inevitable, and signs of a backlash will begin to emerge in 2018. Xi is already seeking to take advantage of the new political environment and the window of stable growth to double down on painful reforms. But the reforms themselves, particularly reducing industry capacity and introducing measures to cool real estate markets, will slow China’s growth, leading to job losses and discontent. Beijing will also attempt to streamline bloated industries by picking winners and losers. Some of the losers will have political clout and an axe to grind. Xi and his allies will respond forcefully to any signs of dissent. Xi is too powerful to be taken down in the near future, but the near future will be tumultuous anyway.

The Middle East 

The Middle East has never been a picture of consistently strong and coherent political structures. The structural shift in oil markets in 2014, have accentuated its political problems. Hence the Arab Spring, which helped to create the Islamic State and the vacuum of authority in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Political pressure within such pivotal Middle Eastern states as Saudi Arabia, moreover, has aggravated regional rivalries – all while the U.S. tries to divest itself somewhat from the region. In 2017, disintegration laid the groundwork for major changes in the region. The Islamic State’s territorial ambitions in Syria and Iraq have been quashed, reopening a vast vacuum of authority in the region. Saudi Arabia succumbed to a generational political crisis. The main beneficiary of both of these developments has been Iran. With its unmatched influence in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, Iran is uniquely positioned to fill the vacuum left by the Islamic State. Tehran’s historical rival, Saudi Arabia, is too weak and too internally occupied to decisively counter Iran – or to even maintain solidarity in the Gulf Cooperation Council. This will embolden Turkey and Israel to play a bigger part in shaping the coming geopolitical order.

Conclusion 

Disintegration is not the only defining characteristic of 2018. In East Asia, for example, events will be driven increasingly by the emerging competition between China and Japan and by efforts of the region’s heavyweights to adapt to a less pronounced U.S. presence — a dynamic that will become manifest no matter how the crisis on the Korean Peninsula unfolds. In Europe, divisions between the eastern and western parts of the Continent will become more pronounced, as illustrated by growing competition between Germany and Poland. In the Middle East, attention will be overwhelmingly focused on Iran, which sees a rare opportunity to cement an arc of influence spanning all the way to the Mediterranean. But each of these, in their own way, attest to much broader if more subtle processes underway. It’s in these larger themes that we’ll find the changes on the horizon.

** COLIN GRAY THOUGHT PIECE ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Dr. Colin S. Gray
Source Link

Strategic Sense and Nuclear Weapons Today

Colin S. Gray is the European Director and co-founder of the National Institute for Public Policy, and Professor Emeritus of Strategic Studies, University of Reading.

The Problem

The basic requirements for deterrence have been well understood for millennia, and for nuclear deterrence since the mid-1950s at least—well before the missile age dawned in the close of that decade. For the subsequent fifty years, it appeared to be the case that both the technical and the intellectual challenges of nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence had been met adequately. Would that such a satisfactory condition could hold indefinitely. Of course it could not and has not, which is the reason for this essay.

PROGRESS AND PERIL IN NORTH WAZIRISTAN

MICHAEL KUGELMAN

My visit was eye-opening — but it also raised some unsettling questions. There were clear signs that Pakistan has made progress in countering terrorism in North Waziristan, but also good reason to believe that a less positive picture lay beyond the small area I saw. Moreover, Pakistan’s efforts in the region cannot be designated an unqualified success, given its lack of decisive action against certain terror groups, particularly the Haqqani Network. I also was struck by how easily the progress made could be squandered, thanks to the enduring presence and appeal of extremism around the country. Ultimately, the North Waziristan counterterrorism campaign highlights the broader disagreements between the United States and Pakistan over the latter’s support for militants, a divide that has widened with the Trump administration’s threats to Pakistan over its ties to terrorists.

Western Options in a Multipolar World

By Mathew Burrows for Atlantic Council

Almost thirty years after the end of the Cold War, geopolitics looks like it’s poised for another turn, which this time might not be as favorable to Western interests. So what could this new world order look like? And what approach should the transatlantic community adopt towards it? In this paper, Mathew Burrows responds by describing three possible scenarios and argues that depending on how the West plays its cards, traditional Western values could end up enduring even if an exclusively Western-led order does not.

Chinese authorities collecting DNA from all residents of Xinjiang

Benjamin Haas
Source Link

Chinese authorities are collecting DNA samples, fingerprints and other biometric data from every resident in a far western region, Human Rights Watch has said. Officials are also building a database of iris scans and blood types of everyone aged between 12 and 65 in Xinjiang, adding to controls in a place some experts have called an “open-air prison”. The region is home to over 11 million Uighurs, a Muslim Turkic minority, and is occasionally hit by bouts of violence.

In 1955, America Threatened China with Nuclear War

Sebatien Roblin

The United States remains legally committed to the defense of Taiwan, even though it no longer recognizes it as the government of China. Despite a recent spike in tensions, China-Taiwan relations are still massively improved, exchanging university students and business investments rather than artillery shells and aerial bombs. However, the capabilities of the PLA have drastically increased in the interval as well. In the event of military conflict, most believe China would use the modern equivalent of the tactics used at Yijiangshan: a massive bombardment by long-range missile batteries and airpower well before any PLA troops hit the shore. We should all hope that scenario remains strictly theoretical.

Double-clicking on the Chinese consumer

By Wouter Baan, Lan Luan, Felix Poh, and Daniel Zipser
Source Link

A rising post-90s generation is emerging as a strong engine of consumption, in one of four important new trends in the Chinese consumer landscape.

If you’re looking for evidence that Chinese consumers are confident, look no further than the one-day online-sales phenomenon known as Singles Day, which falls every year on November 11. Singles Day has morphed from being a day dedicated to lonely singles to becoming the largest e-shopping day globally. With an estimated $25 billion in sales, or over $1 billion in transactions per hour, Singles Day this year easily bested last year’s sales by close to 40 percent, and was larger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States combined.

JERUSALEM, IN SEARCH OF AN HONEST BROKER

BEVERLEY MILTON-EDWARDS

There is an interesting link on the White House website. Click and you will find a blunt statement. “President Trump stands in solidarity with Israel to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our two nations and to promote security and prosperity for all. Stand with President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu.” There, of course, is no alternative link that asks the reader to stand with President Donald Trump and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the same way.

Why the ‘Arab street’ didn’t just explode

By Ralph Peters

In the wake of President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week, the “experts” crowding the media predicted strategic calamity: Vast, violent protests and a wave of terror would sweep the Muslim world in the coming days. Instead, the largest demonstration anywhere this weekend was the funeral procession for Johnny Hallyday, the “French Elvis.” Nothing in the Middle East came close. We have witnessed, yet again, the carefully phrased anti-Semitism of the pristinely educated; the global left’s fanatical pro-Palestinian bias; and the media’s yearning for career-making disasters.

Chronicler of Islamic State ‘killing machine’ goes public


He packed his bag with his most treasured possessions before going to bed: the 1 terabyte hard drive with his evidence against the Islamic State group, an orange notebook half-filled with notes on Ottoman history, and, a keepsake, the first book from Amazon delivered to Mosul. He passed the night in despair, imagining all the ways he could die, and the moment he would leave his mother and his city.
He had spent nearly his entire life in this home, with his five brothers and five sisters. He woke his mother in her bedroom on the ground floor.

Saudi Arabia Shifts Policy From Risk Averse to Downright Dangerous

Bruce Riedel

The Saudi system of consensus and family cohesion is broken, and the United States has leverage with its military support. Young and impetuous: President Donald Trump meets with then-Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia; Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is among the billionaire princess detained on corruption charges in Saudi Arabia

Israel and Iran in Syria


Israel fired missiles at a base near Damascus, Syria, over the weekend. According to Syrian news agency SANA, two Israeli missiles were shot down. Arab media reported that the target was an Iranian military base. After the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would not tolerate Iranian forces in Syria. Israel previously had chosen not to conduct airstrikes on this reported Iranian base as it had done against other targets – mostly Hezbollah weapons convoys – in Syria. Israel obviously knew this site was well protected, proven by the fact that it had anti-missile capabilities.

The Defeat and Survival of the Islamic State

By Scott Stewart

Several people have asked me lately whether I thought the Islamic State will become a "virtual caliphate" now that it has lost most of the terrain it once held, including the strategic cities of Mosul and Raqqa. At the same time, I've talked with people who claim that the Islamic State has been destroyed. Both viewpoints have some truth to them, but neither is the whole truth. Both miss where the Islamic State is really headed.
Charting the Islamic State

‘TIME RUNNING OUT’ TO AVOID WAR WITH NORTH KOREA, U.S. OFFICIAL SAYS

BY ZACHARY FRYER

Right now is the “last, best chance to avoid conflict” with North Korea and “time is running out,” President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said on Tuesday. H.R. McMaster, speaking at an event for the British think tank Policy Exchange, described dire circumstances as the administration tries to counter North Korea’s developing nuclear weapons program.He was previewing the new National Security Strategy, a document put out by each administration that shapes how it approaches foreign policy and national security issues during its tenure. Trump will unveil the full document on Monday.

Tillerson Rules Out a Containment Strategy for North Korea

Paul Sonne

WASHINGTON—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ruled out pursuing a traditional Cold War-style containment and deterrence strategy against a nuclear-armed North Korea, citing concerns that Pyongyang will transform its arsenal into a commercial business and sell nuclear weapons to other actors. Many people have asked the question, ‘Well, why can’t you live with a containment strategy? You lived with it with Russia. You lived with it with China,’” Mr. Tillerson said. “The difference is that with the past behavior of North Korea,...

Who’s Afraid of a Balance of Power?

BY STEPHEN M. WALT
If you took an introduction to international relations course in college and the instructor never mentioned the “balance of power,” please contact your alma mater for a refund. You can find this idea in Thucydides’s Peloponnesian War, Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan, and the ancient Indian writer Kautilya’s Arthashastra (“Science of Politics”), and it is central to the work of modern realists like E.H. Carr, Hans J. Morgenthau, Robert Gilpin, and Kenneth Waltz.

Amid Russian and Syrian Regime Triumphalism, Is the War in Syria Effectively Over?

MICHAEL YOUNG

The war in Syria is not over. However, a phase in this war is indeed behind us, the one dominated by the regime (with its Iranian and Shi‘a and Russian allies) and the armed non-jihadi opposition, in all its diversity and contradictions, which Russia dramatically weakened and isolated in its two-year intervention. The fragmented territory today, foreign military occupations, and conflicting political agendas might lead to new confrontations: In Idlib, where Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) is a potential target for different actors such as Russia, the United States, and local forces; in the north and northeast, where tensions between Turkey and Kurdish forces could escalate into armed conflict; and in the east, where the regime and pro-Iran militias on the one hand and Kurdish forces on the other might struggle for hegemony over large territories. This may be compounded in different parts of Syria by suicide bombings organized by defeated elements of the Islamic State, or by fighting around besieged opposition-held localities if the sieges are not lifted by the regime.

Andrew Bacevich, A Country Addicted to War


It's been going on for so many years -- Predators cruising, looking for their prey. Some attention has since been paid to the phenomenon and to the devastating effect their actions have had on their victims, but it hasn’t really mattered. The predation has only spreadOh, before I go any further, let me clear up one possible bit of confusion. I’m not talking about Charlie Rose, Roy Moore, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, or any of that crew of predators. I’m talking about America’s robotic killers, the drones that long ago were grimly named Predators (retired this year) and their more advanced cousins, the Reapers (as in Grim...), who have taken a once-illegal American activity, political assassination, and made it the well-respected law of the land and increasingly of huge swaths of the globe.

How North Korea recruits its army of young hackers

Bruce Harrison

He had just won silver for the third year in a row at the world’s premier high school mathematics championship, the International Mathematical Olympiad, which was held in Hong Kong in 2016.But the night before he was supposed to return to North Korea with his team, the 18-year-old walked off the campus of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and defected.According to Kim Heung-Kwang, a former science professor who also escaped from North Korea, Ri is now studying at a university in Seoul. Little else is known about him.Had Ri stayed in North Korea, says Kwang, who now runs a nongovernmental organization that advocates for defectors’ rights, he could have become a mathematician — or he could have joined the Kim regime’s advanced cyberwarfare unit. It features thousands of members.

Microbes by the ton: Officials see bioweapons threat as North Korea gains expertise

Joby Warrick

Five months before North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, U.S. intelligence officials sent a report to Congress warning that secret work also was underway on a biological weapon. The communist regime, which had long ago acquired the pathogens that cause smallpox and anthrax, had assembled teams of scientists but seemed to be lacking in certain technical skills, the report said.“Pyongyang’s resources presently include a rudimentary biotechnology infrastructure,” the report by the director of national intelligence explained.

BUILDING A FUTURE: INTEGRATED HUMAN-MACHINE MILITARY ORGANIZATION

By Mick Ryan

This essay is part of the #WarBots series, which asked a group of academics and national security professionals to provide their thoughts on the confluence of automation and unmanned technologies and their impact in the conduct of war. We hope this launches a debate that may one day shape policy.

Marines: New electronic warfare tech can’t lead to 40 lb packs


The Marine Corps - much like their land warfare brethren in the Army - are looking to improve their electronic warfare capabilities in the face of emerging and sophisticated threats in this space. “We’re looking to improve our mounted and dismounted capabilities. We want to be able to prosecute both ground threats and airborne threats as well,” Col. Brock McDaniel, portfolio manager in the command element systems at Marine Corps Systems Command, said during a panel discussion at a defense conference in Charleston, SC Dec. 7 hosted by the Charleston Defense Contractors Association.

Cybercriminals Go Cryptocurrency Crazy: 9 Factors

Mathew J. Schwartz

Many questions persist about bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. But as the value of bitcoin, in particular, has continued to soar, cybercriminals have increasingly turned to obtaining all types of cryptocurrency by any ruthless means necessary. Here are nine trends and observations:  Cryptocurrency mining refers to solving computationally intensive mathematical tasks, which, in the case of bitcoin, are used to verify the blockchain, or public ledger, of transactions. As an incentive, anyone who mines for cryptocurrency has a chance of getting some cryptocurrency back as a reward. 

Controlling machine-learning algorithms and their biases

By Tobias Baer and Vishnu Kamalnath

Myths aside, artificial intelligence is as prone to bias as the human kind. The good news is that the biases in algorithms can also be diagnosed and treated.

Companies are moving quickly to apply machine learning to business decision making. New programs are constantly being launched, setting complex algorithms to work on large, frequently refreshed data sets. The speed at which this is taking place attests to the attractiveness of the technology, but the lack of experience creates real risks. Algorithmic bias is one of the biggest risks because it compromises the very purpose of machine learning. This often-overlooked defect can trigger costly errors and, left unchecked, can pull projects and organizations in entirely wrong directions. Effective efforts to confront this problem at the outset will repay handsomely, allowing the true potential of machine learning to be realized most efficiently.

What’s the military’s role in fighting fake news?

By: Amber Corrin  

The U.S. military has numerous teams and major funding directed toward fighting cyber adversaries, with serious resources dedicated to protecting networks and delivering effects in the cyber domain. But what’s the military’s role when it comes to combating information warfare and the “fake news” that continues to evolve as a battlefront? While not a primary mission for U.S. forces, understanding information warfare and how it impacts areas of responsibility is something that is taken into consideration in U.S. cyber training and operations, according to Department of Defense officials.

14 December 2017

LETHAL AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS

LETHAL AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS

                                                                                    --  Maj Gen P K Mallick, VSM(Retd)

Introduction

Lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs) are a type of military robot designed to select and attack military targets (people, installations) without intervention by a human operator. LAW are also called lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS), lethal autonomous robots (LAR), robotic weapons, or killer robots. LAWs may operate in the air, on land, on water, under water, or in space. The autonomy of current systems as of 2016 is restricted in the sense that a human gives the final command to attack - though there are exceptions with certain "defensive" systems.

They might include, for example, armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate people meeting certain pre-defined criteria, but do not include cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all targeting decisions. Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is — practically if not legally — feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.

In May 2017, the first Meeting of Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems was held at the United Nations in Geneva. The participants recognized the potential of AWS to alter radically the nature of war, as well as a variety of ethical dilemmas such weapons systems raise. Worldwide concern has been growing about the idea of developing weapons systems that take human beings “out of the loop,” though the precise nature of the ethical challenges to developing such systems, and even possible ethical benefits, have not yet been clearly identified.

Issues

The idea of fully autonomous weapons systems raises a host of intersecting philosophical, psychological and legal issues. For example, it sharply raises the question of whether moral decision making by human beings involves an intuitive, non-algorithmic capacity that is not likely to be captured by even the most sophisticated of computers? Is this intuitive moral perceptiveness on the part of human beings ethically desirable? Does the automaticity of a series of actions make individual actions in the series easier to justify, as arguably is the case with the execution of threats in a mutually assured destruction scenario? Or does the legitimate exercise of deadly force should always require a “meaningful human control?” If the latter is correct, what should be the nature and extent of a human oversight over an AWS? 

“Killer Robots,” by their very nature, violate the ethics and laws of war. Robots cannot discriminate between combatants and civilians, because we cannot program a computer with the specification of what a civilian is. there is no way for a robot to make the proportional decisions required by International Humanitarian Law. it requires a specifically human form of judgment to decide whether a certain number of civilian casualties and damage to property is proportional to the military advantages gained.

Such debates have a philosophical dimension: robots cannot die, and so cannot understand the existential gravity of the decision to kill. We cannot hold robots accountable for their actions. Who then do we hold to account? The human commander? If the robot malfunctions or makes a terrible decision, who is to be blamed? The programmer? The manufacturer? The policymakers?

On the other side of this debate are those who argue that robots will make war less destructive, less risky and more discriminate. Human perception and judgment are inherently limited and biased, and war far too complex for any human mind to grasp. Some of the worst atrocities in war are due to human weakness. Emotions like fear, anger, and hatred or mere exhaustion can easily cloud a soldier’s judgment on the battlefield. From this point of view, the objection that robots will never be able to think and act like humans is anthropocentric and misses the point.

The question for advocates of lethal autonomous weapons is not whether the technology can mimic human psychology, but whether we can design, program, and deploy robots to perform ethically as well, or better, than humans do under similar circumstances.

The focus on lethal machine autonomy obscures how autonomous technology concentrates immense firepower in the hands of a few human beings. The crucial issue

here is not that of lethal machine autonomy, but of the capacity for humans to exert meaningful autonomy in the lethal human-machine interactions that will define future wars.

Lethal autonomous weapons will greatly expand the potential scope of violence, at the very moment when the complexity and speed of war has moved beyond the human ability to follow. This growing gap between the immense human capacity for violence and a limited capacity for judgment is perhaps the most dangerous implication of such technology.

Mapping the Development of Autonomy in Weapon Systems

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute recently has published the Report, Mapping the Development of Autonomy in Weapon Systems. It presents the key findings and recommendations from a one-year mapping study on the development of autonomy in weapon systems.

What are the technological foundations of autonomy?

· Autonomy has many definitions and interpretations, but is generally understood to be the ability of a machine to perform an intended task without human intervention using interaction of its sensors and computer programming with the environment.

· Autonomy relies on a diverse range of technology but primarily software. The feasibility of autonomy depends on the ability of software developers to formulate an intended task in terms of a mathematical problem and a solution; and the possibility of mapping or modelling the operating environment in advance.

· Autonomy can be created or improved by machine learning. The use of machine learning in weapon systems is still experimental, as it continues to pose fundamental problems regarding predictability.

What is the state of autonomy in weapon systems?

· Autonomy is already used to support various capabilities in weapon systems, including mobility, targeting, intelligence, interoperability and health management.

· Automated target recognition (ATR) systems, the technology that enables weapon systems to acquire targets autonomously, has existed since the 1970s. ATR systems still have limited perceptual and decision-making intelligence. Their performance rapidly deteriorates as operating environments become more cluttered and weather conditions deteriorate.

· Existing weapon systems that can acquire and engage targets autonomously are mostly defensive systems. These are operated under human supervision and are intended to fire autonomously only in situations where the time of engagement is deemed too short for humans to be able to respond.

· Loitering weapons are the only ‘offensive’ type of weapon system that is known to be capable of acquiring and engaging targets autonomously. The loitering time and geographical areas of deployment, as well as the category of targets they can attack, are determined in advance by humans.

What are the drivers of, and obstacles to, the development of autonomy in weapon systems?

· Strategic. The United States recently cited autonomy as a cornerstone of its strategic capability calculations and military modernization plans. This seems to have triggered reactions from other major military powers, notably Russia and China.

· Operational. Military planners believe that autonomy enables weapon systems to achieve greater speed, accuracy, persistence, reach and coordination on the battlefield.

· Economic. Autonomy is believed to provide opportunities for reducing the operating costs of weapon systems, specifically through a more efficient use of manpower.

The main obstacles are:

· Technological. Autonomous systems need to be more adaptive to operate safely and reliably in complex, dynamic and adversarial environments; new validation and verification procedures must be developed for systems that are adaptive or capable of learning.

· Institutional resistance. Military personnel often lack trust in the safety and reliability of autonomous systems; some military professionals see the development of certain autonomous capabilities as a direct threat to their professional ethos or incompatible with the operational paradigms they are used to.

· Legal. International law includes a number of obligations that restrict the use of autonomous targeting capabilities. It also requires military command to maintain, in most circumstances, some form of human control or oversight over the weapon system’s behaviour.

· Normative. There are increasing normative pressures from civil society against the use of autonomy for targeting decisions, which makes the development of autonomous weapon systems a potentially politically sensitive issue for militaries and governments.

· Economic. There are limits to what can be afforded by national armed forces, and the defence acquisition systems in most arms-producing countries remain ill-suited to the development of autonomy.

Where are the relevant innovations taking place?

· At the basic science and technology level, advances in machine autonomy derive primarily from research efforts in three disciplines: artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and control theory.

· The United States is the country that has demonstrated the most visible, articulated and perhaps successful military research and development (R&D) efforts on autonomy. China and the majority of the nine other largest arms-producing countries have identified AI and robotics as important R&D areas. Several of these countries are tentatively following in the US’s footsteps and looking to conduct R&D projects focused on autonomy.

· The civilian industry leads innovation in autonomous technologies. The most influential players are major information technology companies such as Alphabet (Google), Amazon and Baidu, and large automotive manufacturers (e.g. Toyota) that have moved into the self-driving car business.

· Traditional arms producers are certainly involved in the development of autonomous technologies but the amount of resources that these companies can allocate to R&D is far less than that mobilized by large commercial entities in the civilian sector. However, the role of defence companies remains crucial, because commercial autonomous technologies can rarely be adopted by the military without modifications and companies in the civilian sector often have little interest in pursuing military contracts.



The changing character of war 

Automated weapons are not merely new tools of war; they also change the very conditions of war itself. Innovations in robotics and artificial intelligence open up new possibilities, which will to some extent dictate the goals and strategies of future military operations. The dispersion of military power, made possible by autonomous technology, is already transforming military thinking. War is becoming less like a traditional conflict between clearly defined centers of power, and more like a global network of diffuse battlefields and highly mobile and dispersed firepower, further eroding the conventional distinction between “home front” and “battlefront.” The new swarm technology will contribute to this development, with small, fully autonomous drones dropping out of a “mothership” and returning hours later. Such technology promises to enhance military intelligence capacities, but once in existence there is nothing to stop the military from arming the drones. Imagine a swarm of drones, equipped with biometric data and orders to find and kill specific individuals, groups of individuals, or everyone in a designated area. Swarm technology, promoted by the industry as relatively inexpensive, could also fall into the hands of non-state actors.

Recent Developments

In August, more than 100 of the world’s leading robotics and AI pioneers called on the UN to ban the development and use of killer robots. The open letter, signed by Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, and Mustafa Suleyman, the founder of Alphabet’s Deep Mind AI unit, warned that an urgent ban was needed to prevent a “third revolution in warfare”, after gunpowder and nuclear arms. So far, 19 countries have called for a ban, including Argentina, Egypt and Pakistan.

Recently academics, non-governmental organisations and representatives of over 80 governments gathered at Palais des Nations for a decisive meeting on the future of LAWS. Organised under the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), the meeting was chaired by Amandeep Gill, permanent representative of India to the Conference on Disarmament. For countries that are hard at work nurturing the integration of technology into their domestic economies, the weaponisation of artificial intelligence represents yet another chasm that will require significant resources and immense R&D to overcome. Countries that are relatively ahead in the game are concerned with retaining their strategic advantage while not inadvertently kick-starting another global arms race. A loose coalition of technologists, academics and non-governmental organisations, gathered under the ominous sounding ‘Campaign to Stop Killer Robots‘ has instead cited the inadequacy of protections under international humanitarian law and the trigger-happy tendencies of technologically advanced nations to call for a pre-emptive ban on autonomous weapons.

Other countries, primarily ones that have developed and deployed weapons with semi-autonomous capabilities, have refused to endorse a ban. The US, that recently launched the ‘Sea Hunter‘, an autonomous submarine capable of operating at sea for months on its own, clarified that it will continue to promote innovation while keeping safety at the forefront. Similarly, Germany which has been fielding the automated NBS Mantis gun for forward base protection, called a ban premature. Russia echoed this position, warning against alarmist approaches that were “cerebral and detached from reality”.

Many AI experts gathered at the meeting seemed to share the notion that the threat associated with uncontrollable LAWS is far more severe than the possible benefits of more accurate targeting that may reduce loss of civilian casualties. One expert called LAWS the next weapons of mass destruction, owing to the ability of a single human operator to launch a disproportionately large number of lethal weapons.

A video, depicting autonomous explosives-carrying microdrones, wreaking havoc was screened at a side event organised by the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. The movie portrays a brutal future. A military firm unveils a tiny drone that hunts and kills with ruthless efficiency. But when the technology falls into the wrong hands, no one is safe. Politicians are cut down in broad daylight. The machines descend on a lecture hall and spot activists, who are swiftly dispatched with an explosive to the head.

The short, disturbing film is the latest attempt by campaigners and concerned scientists to highlight the dangers of developing autonomous weapons that can find, track and fire on targets without human supervision. They warn that a preemptive ban on the technology is urgently needed to prevent terrible new weapons of mass destruction.

The video, produced by Stuart Russell of the Future of Life Institute, has been criticised by others in the scientific community for sensationalism – that screening the video at a gathering whose mandate is to separate fact from apocalyptic fiction, is unhelpful.

Amidst the two ends of the spectrum, the CCW has managed to move the debate forward on issues relating to the use of autonomous weapons. The fact that a minimum amount of human control be retained and that the use of these systems be governed by IHL.

India for its part, advised for balancing the lethality of these weapons with military necessity – adopting a wait-and-watch approach to how the conversation evolves.

The question of human control which has been discussed at length both at the GGE and in conversations leading up to it, has concluded that at the bare minimum, human must retain operational control over these weapons – for instance, the ability to cancel an attack on realising that civilian lives may be endangered. However, the particulars remain elusive, due to the lack of uniformity and specificity of language used. While many countries agree on the need for ‘meaningful human control,’ few have offered clarifications on what ‘meaningful control entails.’ In an attempt to de-mystify these understandings, the US has offered, ‘appropriate level of human judgement over the use of force’ as a more accurate method of framing the issue.

Nonetheless, many issues remain unresolved even at the conclusion of the GGE. Technical questions around the operational risks associated with LAWS remains unanswered. Will technologically sophisticated weapons be vulnerable to cyber-attacks that can hijack control? How will deployment of LAWS change the strategic balance between nations? Are weapons review processes under Article 36 of Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, adequate to ensure that LAWS are compliant with the international humanitarian law? These and many other questions were highlighted by the Chair’s report, and remain to be resolved by the next iteration of the GGE in 2018.

As the chair, Gill put it, the distance between the attacker and the target has been increasing since the beginning of time. Have we finally arrived at a point where that distance is unacceptable?

It-and-watch approach to how the conversation evolves.



In all things digital, India is 10 years behind China


Indian IT giants are outstanding companies with great management teams, but they have been held hostage by their past success.

They seem to be unwilling to invest enough for the future, concerned as they are about short-term margins and stock prices.

The problem may be more with these companies' investor base, says Akash Prakash.

The Chinese internet sector has been an amazing success story.

From virtually nothing, China is now at the cutting edge, with the largest number of internet users globally (at 700 million more than the US, EU, and Japan combined) and the most pervasive adoption of digital and e-commerce business models.

Indus Water Treaty: Review is not an Option

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

Of late, there are increasing demands from experts and political scientists from Pakistan to revise the almost six decades old Indus Water treaty that had survived despite wars, near wars, acts of terrorism and other conflicts between the two countries.

A detailed paper on the subject was written in this site in paper number 3676 of 19 Feb, 2010 followed by another in paper no. 6174 of 26 September 2016. In these papers it was pointed out that Pakistan being totally dependent on glacial waters, the availability of water from the western rivers allotted to Pakistan are reaching critical proportions. It was also pointed out Pakistan’s own mismanagement of its scarce water resources is responsible for non-availability of water.

Why Disclaiming Pakistan Occupied Kashmir Isn’t Prudent – Analysis

By Priyanka Singh*


Former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah recently raised a furore by stating: “I tell them in plain terms– not only the people of India, but also to the world – that the part (of Jammu and Kashmir) which is with Pakistan (PoK), belongs to Pakistan and this side to India. This won’t change.”1 This statement on Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in general, and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) in particular, was made even as Dineshwar Sharma, the newly appointed interlocutor on J&K mandated to engage with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, made his maiden visit to the Valley. Within days, Farooq Abdullah supplemented his statement by noting: “How long shall we keep saying that (PoK) is our part? It (PoK) is not their father’s share.”2 He further cautioned that “they (Pakistan) are not weak and are not wearing bangles. They too have atom bomb”, which, in his view, must prevent India from thinking of retaking PoK.3

Maldives downgraded to ‘fragile state’ by IMF


The Maldives has been downgraded to a “fragile state” by the IMF because of the tense political situation, the way business is regulated and how the country’s finances and budgets have been run in recent years. The new classification is the latest blow to the Maldivian economy from the institution, which has repeatedly spoken of the high levels of debt being driven by the current administration’s ambitious infrastructure scale-up.

Sri Lanka signs share ownership agreement with China on Hambantota Port commencing operations

Dec 09, Colombo: Sri Lanka on Saturday signed share ownership agreement with China on Hambantota Port formally handing over the operation of port to the state-owned China Merchants Port Holdings Company (CMPort). The agreement was signed today between Sri Lanka Ports Authority and China Merchant Port Holdings, Hambantota International Port Group (HIPG) and Hambantota International Port Services (HIPS) under the patronage of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the parliamentary complex.

Myanmar emerging as key component in China’s Belt Road Initiative

Andre Wheeler

A recent public speaking trip through Asia discussing the ongoing developments within the China Belt Road Initiative (BRI) exposed a number interesting themes, one of which is the increasing influence Myanmar is having on China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI). Most discussion within the maritime, oil & gas and rail sectors focused on the growing improvements in rail infrastructure and the potential that this will be a significant disruptor to trade, logistics and supply chain within the region. 

Diverging Trajectories in Bangladesh: Islamic State vs al-Qaeda

By: Nathaniel Barr

Al-Qaeda and Islamic State have adopted divergent strategies in their competition for dominance in Bangladesh. Al-Qaeda has sought to build popular support by exploiting the grievances of the country’s political Islamists, and by employing targeted violence against secularists, atheists and those who are perceived to be advancing Western values, an approach that analysts have noted mirrors the Maoist insurgency model. [1] The group has also pursued a deliberate and cautious growth strategy, refraining from behavior that would expose its clandestine activities. IS, on the other hand, has adopted a more aggressive and confrontational approach, carrying out high-profile attacks against religious minorities, Westerners and security forces in an effort to sow sectarian tensions and destabilize the Bangladeshi state.

Why China Plans to Invade Taiwan

Ian Easton

China's rapid military buildup is focused on acquiring the capabilities needed to annex, or conquer, Taiwan.

A Chinese diplomat in Washington recently threatened that China would invade Taiwan if the U.S. Navy sent a ship to visit the democratic island, something that Congress has called upon the Pentagon to do in 2018. Is this just empty rhetoric? Or does it reflect Beijing's actual intentions? It's actually a bit of both.

China: 2017 Was 'Crossroads of History'

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By Charlotte Gao

Chinese Foreign Minister says the world is at a crucial stage of shifting balance of power.

As 2017 is coming to an end, the Chinese foreign ministry just issued its verdict on the year, hailing Chinese diplomacy throughout 2017 as a great success.

On November 9, the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) — the think tank of the Chinese foreign ministry — held the Symposium on International Developments and China’s Diplomacy in 2017. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended the conference and gave a 10,000-plus-word opening speech, reviewing in detail China’s “great achievements” in diplomacy over the year. 

Believing that 2017 is of “high significance” to China and the world, Wang claimed that the world is “at a crucial stage of evolving international landscape and shifting balance of power.”

Rich countries are reducing their emissions—by exporting them to China


Akshat Rathi David Yanofsky

Historical greenhouse-gas emissions data make clear that much of the burden of climate change lies with rich countries. The US, the UK, Germany, and others built their economies burning fossil fuels without thinking about the consequences. The unwillingness of wealthy states to take historical responsibility for climate change is one reason it took more than 20 years of negotiations before 195 countries could agree to sign the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

IMF Warns China of 3 Financial Stability Risks

By Charlotte Gao

On December 6, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released its assessment on China’s financial stability and identified three major “tensions” emerging in Chinese financial system. 

The first risk identified by the IMF is high corporate debt and household indebtedness. IMF argues that “the credit needed to generate additional GDP growth has led to a substantial credit expansion.” The problem, the IMF added, is mainly caused by the Chinese authorities, particularly at the local government level, as they have added strong “pressures to keep non-viable firms open — rather than allowing them to fail.”