May 05, 2018

PAKISTAN: NOT EVEN CLOSE TO NATION BRANDING

Sunday, 06 May 2018 | nadeem paracha | in Agenda

In her 2006 essay, “Branding the nation: What is being branded?” Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Michigan, Ying Fan writes, “People, culture, cuisines, heritage, celebrities, fashion, history and places of a country build perceptions in the minds of international stakeholders. A collective sum of all these perceptions can be termed a nation's brand.” According to Simon Anholt in the Handbook on Tourism Destination Branding, “the world is turning into a gigantic market where through nation-branding countries compete with each other to boost their exports, attract tourism and foreign direct investment.” In the last two decades, one can notice a more prominent emergence of ‘nation-branding’ in which Governments hire advertising agencies to advertise their countries as brands to attract tourists and investment. For example, Malaysia promotes itself as being “Truly Asia” which expresses an image of a country that has absorbed all the diverse elements of Asia. Switzerland flaunts its natural beauty by inviting people to go there to “Get Natural”. Similarly, Norway describes itself as a “Pure Escape”. India sells itself as a diverse and enchanting land and calls itself “Incredible India”.

In his 2010 paper “Country slogans and logos: findings of a benchmarking study,” Hungarian economist Dr Árpád Papp-Váry discusses the nation-branding slogans of over 50 countries. These include countries, which for long, have been popular tourist destinations. Thus, such countries concentrate more on promoting specific regions within them. For example, different States in the US have their own slogans in this context; same is the case in India after the success of the overall ‘Incredible India' campaign. However, there is no mention of Pakistan by Papp-Váry. Ever since the late 1990s and especially between the early 2000s and 2015, Pakistan faced severe political and economic crises and numerous terrorist attacks by extremist outfits. However, from 2015 onwards, the military has been largely successful in pushing them back. Also, the incumbent PML-N Government somewhat managed to arrest the slide that the country's economy experienced between 2007 and 2013. More importantly, the hefty economic investment by China in Pakistan through its CPEC project has raised tremendous economic projections and prospects.

Yet, not much has been done to capitalise on these achievements by kick-starting a nation-branding exercise. That's why, if you type ‘Pakistan' in Google Images, over 80 per cent of the images that appear are of wild clerics, suicide bomb attacks, riots and burqa-clad women. Nation-branding has now become an important field of study in the spheres of marketing and even economics. But it is not so new. Experts suggest that nation branding arose with the emergence of the ‘Jet Age' in the 1940s when, due to the commercial introduction of jet-powered planes, more and more people were able to travel to faraway countries in a matter of hours. Therefore, till at least the late 1980s, nation-branding was mostly the pursuit of national carriers who worked closely with their respective countries' tourism departments and advertising agencies. It is interesting to note that, between the mid-1950s and the late 1970s, Pakistan's national carrier, the PIA, was one of the most active airlines in this context.

Indeed, even though no real national branding exercise has been undertaken by the country's Governments ever since the 1980s, the scenario in this respect was quite the opposite till the 1970s. Between 1947 till the launch of PIA in 1954-55, much of the nation-branding for Pakistan was done by the now defunct national carriers of the British airline (BOAC) and the US airline (PanAm); and also by the still-operational Dutch airline, KLM. The 1950s' Press ads of these airlines promoted Pakistan quite the same way as they did India. Pakistan is described as an enchanting place of snake charmers, camels and lavish weddings. It was in the early 1960s, during the Ayub Khan regime that PIA rose to the top as an international airline. The regime also formed a dedicated Pakistan Tourism Department (PTD). PIA posters and ads and those designed by PTD (between 1960 and 1968), describe Pakistan as a captivating land of geographical contrasts. For example, in the PTD posters that were put up in all PIA offices abroad, “captivating contrasts” are expressed through posters about the tigers of the Sundarbans (in former East Pakistan), the beautiful mountains and women of Swat valley, the historical buildings and mosques built by the Mughals in Lahore, the ancient Mohenjo Daro site in Sindh; and the beaches, bars and nightclubs of Karachi.

In her paper, “Representing Pakistan Through Folk Music and Dance”, Shumaila Hemani, a PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology at the University of Alberta, Canada, informs us that Ayub explained Pakistan as a mixture of modernism and tradition. This maxim was largely adopted by the Z A Bhutto regime. PTD and PIA ads and posters of the 1970s were still promoting Pakistan as a land of enchanting contrasts. The Bhutto regime and PIA heavily promoted Mohenjo Daro as a prime tourist destination, whereas Lahore was highlighted as a place of unique historical sites. Karachi, by now, christened as the “gateway to Asia”, was advertised as a place of “pristine beaches” and a robust nightlife. Recently, in Boston, I came across an American political scientist who had travelled to Pakistan in 1969. She told me that when she first arrived in Karachi from New York, the image of Pakistan among most Americans at the time was of “a mysterious Asian land, which was cleaner than India but just as enchanting. And yes, it was exactly that when I visited in 1969, but I thought Pakistan seemed more modern than India.” She returned to Pakistan in 1984 to study the anti-Soviet Afghan insurgency. I asked her what was Pakistan's image (in American minds) in the 1980s. To this, she replied: “I knew Pakistan had changed. But we now see it as a conservative place but not as rabid as Iran.” She says she often planned to visit again but is always held back by travel advisories and her family. “To us, Pakistan is now no different than what, say, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria is,” she explains.

(Courtesy: Dawn)

 

 

May 04, 2018

Carina Jahani: The Swedish linguist on a quest to save Balochi

http://balochistantimes.com/carina-jahani-the-swedish-linguist-on-a-quest-to-save-balochi/

Photo by the author

Sajid Hussain January 9, 2018 Profiles

In November last year, a Swedish woman stood in front of a dominantly Swedish audience in Stockholm urging them to vote in favour of a presentation about a ‘dying language’ they had probably never heard of.

She is Carina Jahani, a professor of Iranian languages at the Uppsala University. She was taking part in a research competition.

“The Balochi language must be saved now. Otherwise, it might become extinct in 50 years,” she, dressed in traditional Baloch attire, appealed to the audience and three judges.

“We need resources to save Balochi. Next year I’m going to apply for funding from the organisers of the competition,” she told me during an interview conducted at her office in Uppsala University.

Born on June 11, 1959, in a small village of the province of Småland in southern Sweden, she has been working on Balochi for the last three decades. She has published a book on Balochi orthography and several research essays on the standardization and grammar of the language.

It all started in 1978 when she travelled to Iran with a Christian youth group to learn Persian. They soon realized it was not a good time to be in Iran as anti-Shah protests rocked the country. They fled to Pakistan.

“I wept because I wanted to be in Iran. I didn’t want to be in Pakistan,” she said.

Someone told her in Pakistan there was a language called Balochi, which is very close to Persian. She took note of it in the back of her mind.

Six years later, when she was struggling to choose a subject for her PhD research, it came back to her. She chose Balochi and the rest is history.

 

Sajid: How did you fall in love with Balochi? What’s the story?

Carina: It’s a long story. I hope I can cut it short. But I think I’ve to go back when I was a small child. I was always interested in other cultures. I was a follower of Jesus from the childhood. As were my mom and dad. And I was always dreaming about going to Africa.

I had no brothers and sisters, so my mom would play with me. We often played that we were in Africa.

Then as I grew older I got interested in other countries. At one time I was very interested in going to Puerto Rico.

Sajid: Puerto Rico?

Carina: Yes. There was a very strong Norwegian woman who had an orphanage in Puerto Rico. I think I was seven or eight when we met her for the first time. She talked about her work in Puerto Rico. She took in children whose parents, particularly their fathers, were in prison, and took care of them. I told myself that when I grew older I would go to Puerto Rico and work with her.

So that was a dream. A childish dream. Then I had other dreams too.

When I finished my college studies I got a chance to go to Iran in 1978. It was right at the time of the revolution. The revolution was just starting and it was a troubled time. But I was very determined and I had decided that I was going to Iran.

There was a Christian youth group which was working with some churches in Iran. So, yes, I went to Iran. But we couldn’t stay long because the revolution was getting stronger and the foreigners had to leave. We left and we went to Pakistan. I was very sad. I wept because I wanted to be in Iran. I didn’t want to be in Pakistan.

For some reason, there in Pakistan, someone told me: well, if you’re so interested in Persian there is a language in Pakistan which is very close to Persian. It’s the Balochi language.

I returned to Sweden and applied for a student visa for Iran. The revolution had taken place and nobody knew what was going to happen next in Iran but I managed to get a student visa and went back to Iran on my own in the autumn of 1979.

The university where I was studying was mostly closed. But during that one year when I was in Iran I managed to learn Persian, particularly speaking, quite well.

Then the war between Iran and Iraq started and I realized that it’s not a good time to stay. So I came back here.

In the meantime, I had met the brother of my husband as we went to the same church in Tehran. He had told me he had a brother in Sweden. When I came back to Sweden I met his brother. After a little while we realized we probably loved each other and we wanted to get married. After the marriage, I settled in Uppsala where he was. I had already decided that I was going to study Persian and Uppsala was the place to do that.

Photo by the author

I was looking for a subject for my PhD. I wanted something slightly more than just Persian because so many people were already working on Persian. I was looking forward to working on this language that is spoken in Caucasus, Georgia and in southern Russia. It’s an Iranian language called Ossetic. I thought I might be able to work on Ossetic for my PhD. But then I realized that most sources that I would need to read were in Russian and I didn’t know Russian. I either had to learn Russian first and return to my PhD studies later or I had to choose another subject for which more sources were available in English.

Since we had one child and we wanted more children without much gap I opted for the shorter route. I needed to go for a subject that I could deal with more directly. For some reason, it came to my mind that there is this language in Pakistan called Balochi that is quite close to Persian. From there on I started working on Balochi and I fell in love with it.

Sajid: Which year you chose Balochi?

Carina: I can say that I became interested in Balochi in 1984.

Sajid: So someone told you in 1978 that there is a language similar to Persian called Balochi and that thing came back to you in 1984. In between those years, you didn’t have any contact with Balochi?

Carina: No. I was busy learning Persian. Then we got married. I was busy doing my BA. My husband was studying. I hadn’t met any Baloch, I had no interaction with Balochi. That’s why I think this is from God.

Sajid: So when you started working on Balochi for your PhD or when you started learning the language, what was your first reaction to Balochi? You knew Swedish, you knew Persian, you knew English and other languages. As a person interested in languages, what was your first observation of Balochi?

Carina: Because I started with the Barker and Mengal’s course which I still have up here (in my library) and it is in the Nushki dialect I didn’t realize how many dialects there could be and how diverse Balochi was. I thought it would be easier than it turned out to be. When I was through those books I thought I knew Balochi quite well, but things proved different.

Sajid: When was the first time you heard someone speak Balochi?

Carina: That was when I went to Pakistan in October 1986.

Sajid: So you hadn’t met any Baloch during all those years?

Carina: No. I worked on Balochi with Professor Josef Elfenbein in England for about four or five months. We were staying in England. My husband was improving his English and I went to Cambridge once a week to study with Josef Elfenbein. But I hadn’t heard anybody speak Balochi until I went to Pakistan in 1986.

Sajid: As you had already been learning Balochi, how was the experience of listening someone speak the language?

Carina: It was sort of overwhelming. I realized that I could say some basic things (in Balochi) but I couldn’t speak much, and there was much to learn. I remember Abdullah Jan Jamaldini and his family took very good care of me. Mir Aqil Khan Mengal was very helpful too, as was Zeenat Sana and many other academics and intellectuals.

Sajid: How did you find Balochi different from or similar to Persian?

Carina: Of course, it’s very similar. The fact that I knew some Persian helped me a lot. In Persian you have these course books. In Balochi I had only this one course book by Barker and Mengal. That was basically it. The only thing I could do was to be among the people, and hear them speak the language. Yet, trust me, it has been only these past seven years that I’ve learnt good Balochi due to my intense involvement with the language. Till then, I knew a lot about Balochi. I knew the grammatical structure of some dialects. But I couldn’t say I really knew Balochi.

I am learning Balochi now. I can now speak without constantly making a lot of mistakes. I cannot speak about all subjects with ease. Perhaps I can’t talk about politics or literature with ease. But I can talk about the daily things.

Sajid: What’s the future of Balochi?

Carina: That’s a good question. That’s a very good question. The anthropologist Brian Spooner wrote in one of his essays that it’s yet too early to say whether the Balochi language is going to further split and disintegrate, or if it is going to unify and become a strong written language. My hope and desire for Balochi is that there will be a way ahead. That the language will find its shape as a written language. That there will be provisions for its use at schools and in the education system. That there will be more unity among the (Baloch) intellectuals. That there will be a way to promote a standard language which doesn’t necessarily need to be perfect but a standard that the people can agree upon.

Sajid: That’s your desire. But do you think it will survive if everything remains the same?

Carina: No. By no means. If things don’t change the (Balochi) language will not survive for another two or three generations, particularly in Iran where it’s already disintegrating and where young people don’t know good Balochi. But I don’t think it’s too late.

We need to have one million readers. The people should learn Balochi not since it’s compulsory in school, because it’s not; or since it gives them some economic benefit, because it doesn’t. They should learn Balochi because they want to keep their cultural heritage that is theirs alive; because they want to keep their identity that is theirs alive.

I mean, after all, there must be some sort of pride in being a Baloch and in the fact that a Baloch is as much a human being as anyone else. So why should I need to give up my identity and my language to be counted.

Sajid: How do you create one million readers? I mean you’re right that people should take pride in their language and culture but they usually don’t.

Carina: They don’t. The political environment is of course a serious hindrance. I mean Balochi soon needs to be established as a school language. If the language is taught at school, the children will get grades for mastering it. Then there will more incentive to learn to read and write it. Unless you have that support it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be very tough. But I don’t think it’s impossible. The Kurds have come a long way before they had any minority rights or any linguistic rights.

Photo by the author

So basically I think all the Baloch who don’t want their language to die should join forces and work towards preserving it. If I teach five people to read and write Balochi and each one of them teaches five others, that’s the way we have to go. We cannot expect to teach a million in one day or one week or one year.

The Baloch political organizations need to start using Balochi as their language of communication. The cultural and political organizations in Iran are using Persian and I think those in Pakistan are using Urdu. This needs to change. If Balochistan becomes a separate country in the future, is Persian going to be the official language, or Urdu, or English? You have to start now.

The Kurds have done it without a state. Kurdish is not going to die. The Baloch can do it too.

Sajid: Is there any language in the world that has lacked state support but has managed to survive only because of the quality of its content?

Carina: I don’t know. This language death is rather a new issue. It comes with television, literacy and schooling in foreign languages. It’s a recent phenomenon, particularly brought about by television. Because television steals the language from the children. You have television in Persian and Urdu, and the children watch and like it. They are not the least bothered about learning Balochi. Similarly, they are taught Persian and Urdu at schools. They don’t need to learn Balochi. If they can get away with not learning something they will not learn it.

Latin used to be the dominant language in Europe. Swedish survived because the people at that time were not literate. Due to illiteracy, people couldn’t speak Latin. But Latin was still the written language.

Then when the Swedish king broke with the Catholic Church and the Protestant movement started, he ordered the Bible to be translated into Swedish and he ordered books to be written in Swedish. All the priests had to start reading the Bible in Swedish.

Sajid: I think Balochi has also managed to survive so far only because of widespread illiteracy. Most people don’t have much interaction with Urdu or Persian as they don’t go to school.

Carina: But from now on they will not be illiterate. And even if they are semi-literate in Persian and Urdu and they have TV at home, they will slowly leave Balochi and opt for those languages. So it’s now or never. If Balochi is not promoted and accepted to be taught now, it’s not going to survive.

Not just any written literature, good written literature is important. One reason for the strength of the Persian language is its poetry. But good writing without readers doesn’t help. We need good writing and we need to promote the language to get more readers.

At the same time, we also need to streamline the writing system so that not everyone uses his or her own individual village dialect. We need to agree upon at least some grammatical rules so that variation in the written language is kept at a low rate. Agreement on script is also important so that people don’t have to learn three or four script systems.

Sajid: When I first started writing in Balochi I thought the standardization of the language was very important for its survival. But now I don’t want to write in a standard language because it sounds artificial.

Carina: I see what you mean. The vocabulary can be as broad as possible, but you have to agree on some grammatical structure. Even though it may seem artificial, you’re not required to speak the written language. Everyone must speak their own dialect. Like I speak Swedish with a very strong southern accent but I don’t use my own southern dialect when I write. I think a standard language will not seem that artificial if you mentally accept the fact that this is how we write. You become used to it.

My native dialect is very different from the standard Swedish. If I speak in my village dialect here (in Uppsala), many people would not understand. If I spoke my own dialect my children would say: “Mama, don’t speak like that. That’s not Swedish.” Of course it’s Swedish but the written standard Swedish is mostly drawn from the dialects spoken a bit further to the north. The two people who translated the Bible into Swedish were from Örebro. That’s how this dialect heavily influenced the emerging standard written language.

Sajid: The same way Makran’s dialect has become dominant in writing.

Carina: It’s most likely going to be the most influential dialect. The dialect spoken from Sarbaz through the Kech valley, is what we are building our standard upon, but at the same time we are, of course, not excluding other dialects, particularly when it comes to the vocabulary.

Sajid: Don’t you think the standardization of Makran’s dialect will alienate the speakers of other dialects?

Carina: There is always a risk. I discussed this with Professor Hamid Baloch from the Balochistan university in Quetta. He says even writers from the eastern Balochistan like Kohlu and Dera Bugti are starting using a more western variant these days. Still, the standardization process must be carried out with great caution. It must take its time.

Sajid: Previously, we used to have many writers from the eastern Balochistan. But since the dominance of the western dialect, the number of writers from eastern Balochistan has dwindled significantly.

Carina: Yes, we had Aziz Bugti, Soorat Khan Marri, Allah Bux Buzdar, Mitha Khan Marri, Gulzar Marri.

Maybe eastern Balochi will need its own standard. The future will have to show. But at this moment, we are trying to make a standard that is at least suitable for the western and southern dialects. Maybe the easterners will catch on.

But, of course, we should try to incorporate more eastern vocabulary and interact with more speakers of the eastern Balochi. Yet, that’s the second step. First, we need to standardize the western and southern dialects. Then we should study very carefully how the eastern dialect can be incorporated, or if they need their own standard.

Sajid: You recently presented your research proposal on Balochi in Stockholm. Can you tell us more about it?

Carina: Well, this was a researchers’ competition. Candidates presented proposals on different subjects. My main purpose of taking part was to bring some attention to what we are doing, both among the Baloch and the research financers in Sweden. The focus of the project was how to develop Balochi into a standard language and how to involve many people throughout Balochistan both from the western and the eastern side and across the Gulf.

You have to pay the people who work for you. This year we had a very low budget from the university, which funded some work on the Balochi dictionary in previous years. But there was no surplus money for 2017. I haven’t been able to finance even one project. Not even a book publication. Next year is going to be worse. They have notified that there is no money whatsoever. That’s why we need to get some funding.

I applied for a research project in 2016. But it was not taken into account. It was not even evaluated. I was a bit discouraged that whatever I do they don’t even look at it. But next year I’m going to apply again.

Sajid: Can you go into some details about the current Balochi projects you’re working on?

Carina: In addition to my teaching responsibility at the university and position at the supervisor of two PhD students, I work on Balochi to the best of my capacity.

We’ve been working on a dictionary for years. It’s a Balochi to English and English to Balochi dictionary. We need to finalize its first edition very soon as there is no such dictionary.

That’s one project. The second project is a grammar book I’m writing in the suggested standard language. I wrote some fifteen pages on phonology before I got busy with my teaching schedule. But I have to resume the work.

We’re also publishing a number of Balochi books in the standard orthography so that the book is coherent from page one to the end. Sometimes one single author follows different writing styles in a single book. They change their mind along the way. They spell the same word differently on different pages. There are all sort of inconsistencies in the books. We want to sort this problem out by publishing books in our agreed-upon standard language. We also have a spell-check available.

We have a couple of books in the pipeline for children and young people. We have two collection of poems awaiting publication: one by Taj Baloch and one by Mehlab Naseer. We have acquired rights to work on Dr Naguman’s short stories.

I mean we need a lot of readable books in a unified writing style.

We also have a primer in the pipeline. Outside my activities at the University, I am also heading up a Bible translation project.

So we’ve a lot of projects but unfortunately most of them are unfinished.

Sajid: You’re regarded as a leading linguist working on Balochi. But there are some critics who say your main interest is missionary work and the language comes second. How does your religious beliefs influence your linguistic work?

Carina: Everything for me started when I was a young girl. I asked God to guide my life. That’s how I got connected with Balochi. Without my faith I would not be here. I would have done something very different. I would probably become a historian as I liked history a lot.

I haven’t put any conditions that you’ve to share my faith, or else, I will discontinue my work. That would have been against everything I believe. To continue loving, to continue serving has nothing to do whether the other person shares my belief or not. I’ll continue to the best of my capacity serving the Balochi language.

If the Baloch want to believe the way I believe, or if they believe according to Mohammad’s teachings, or if they want to embrace Buddhism, or if they want to embrace atheism, that is not my problem. My problem is to do what I’m supposed to do with regard to the Balochi language. If the Baloch people want Christ as their saviour and Lord I can only congratulate them. But if they don’t, I have no problem with it.

GSTN Co from Private to Govt controlled finally …

Pgurus.com

The whole idea is preposterous that a private company controlled by foreigners was driving GST!

By

 Natraj Shetty

 -

May 4, 2018

GSTN Co from Private to Govt controlled finally …

PM Modi has asked MoF to increase the stake of the central government and the state governments in GSTN to 100%.

The GST implementation was done with GSTN Co as its backbone. GSTN Co. was incorporated in 2013 during UPA 2 and it is a company that is largely a private entity. Fifty-one percent of it is owned by private firms including two top banks, two housing finance companies and a subsidiary of India’s leading stock exchange – the National Stock Exchange. The few private stakeholders have foreign investors in their holding. The rest is owned by the central and state governments.

The fact of the matter is that many people still do not know the difference between GST & GSTN!


There was a malafide intention, a dubious angle to the formation of GSTN Co. in 2013, on the eve of Mr. Modi coming to power in May 2014 because it was known that GST would becomea certainty.

None except the single man army of Dr. Swamyobjected to it, and red flagged the private holding pattern of the backend Co entrusted with the handling of the crucial GST tax. He advised and wrote numerous letters to PM Modi on the subject. He suggested that GSTN Co should be fully controlled by the government with no private intervention or control. He opined that there is no role for private players, who indirectly have foreign investors, in an Indian Government tax management system. He was of the view that with private player involvement, there is a high possibility of the data leak, theft, exposure of confidential data and a general national security hazard.

We all know the chaotic scenario that prevailedafter GST implementation. There was confusion due to the unpreparedness of the GSTN Co, the inexperience of the personnel, complex tax structure, unexpected advance start, software glitches and so on.

Dr.Swamy has foresight & vision to oppose GSTN. The fact of the matter is that many people still do not know the difference between GST & GSTN! They are ready to be armchair critics without understanding! The whole idea is preposterous that a private company controlled by foreigners was driving GST!

This decision by the government is a big victory for Dr. Swamy. PM Modi has asked MoF to increase the stake of the central government and the state governments in GSTN to 100%. Dr. Swamy had foreseen the pitfalls on the GSTN when others were singing praises to it.

Innumerable times it has been proven: Dr. Swamy thinks and talks way ahead of his time.


He was the only one in parliament, in the Rajya Sabha, who took a stand and spoke against GSTN Co during the passage of the Bill. The entire opposition including the Congress remained mute spectators in the passing of Bill without any objection. He has once again been vindicated. GSTN henceforth will be a 100% Govt owned and controlled company.

It’s good that the Finance Minister and the MoF have finally realized their mistake and understood the GSTN issue. Good sense has prevailed!

Congrats to Dr.Swamy for his unrelenting efforts to eliminate corruption and the corrupt cabal. A gentle reminder to all those who criticized him on his open, blunt stand on GSTN Co Pvt stake issue; Dr. Swamy is always right and he does not hesitate to call a spade a spade in the national interest.

Innumerable times it has been proven: Dr. Swamy thinks and talks way ahead of his time, and sooner or later you have to agree with him.

Today once more, he stands vindicated on his opposition to GSTN Co as it was envisagedoriginally!

Visionary foresight…

Nation First, India First

Thanks to PM Modi as well for accepting Dr. Swamy’s advice and suggestion in the national interest.

Note:
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus

Picture of the day: Muslim women appreciative of Dr Subramanian Swamy

See this in Bengaluru Airport ! Muslim women appreciative of Dr Subramanian Swamy & even want to get photographed with him ! Speaks volumes of his role & how they want Triple Talaq to be banned ! Nation on the March !

U S Army wants to give soldiers a Netflix-like recommendation on the battlefield

Source: C4ISRNET.COM

By: Brandon Knapp    1 day ago

To develop and field the next generation of combat vehicles, the Army needs to overcome the current problem: Adding new capabilities and systems is complicated by the weight-bearing and power-generation constraints of the original platforms. (Image courtesy of DASA(R&T))

If you want to watch a movie at home, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon have a suggestion for you.

These companies aggregate massive amounts of user data and then leverage artificial intelligence algorithms to offer highly personalized recommendations to those very same users, all in a matter of seconds. Now, the Army wants to take a page out of Netflix’s playbook and use artificial intelligence to recommend decisions to soldiers on the battlefield.

Researchers at the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) have developed a new approach to “collaborative filtering,” the AI used by Amazon and Netflix to provide personalized recommendations. The new approach enables machines to learn 13 times faster than current AI methods allow and will soon become part of “an adaptive computing/processing system” for the Army, according to one of the head researchers on the project.

“It’s possible to help soldiers decipher hints of information faster and more quickly deploy solutions, such as recognizing threats like a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, or potential danger zones from aerial war zone images,” an Army press release on the technology reads.

The technique focuses on accelerating stochastic gradient descent, a widely used machine learning algorithm, and is outlined in an award-winning paper titled “FASTCF: FPGA-based Accelerator for Stochastic-Gradient-Descent-based Collaborative Filtering.”

This sped-up AI could eventually be used on the Army’s Next-Generation Combat Vehicle and other cognitive toolkits for soldiers, according to Rajgopal Kannan, one of the head ARL researchers working on the technology.

“The goal is to develop [machine learning] algorithms and models as part of a tactical computing framework for making localized decisions to enable intelligent edge-computing in contested environments under resource constraints,” Kannan told C4ISRNET.

The new artificial technology is also more efficient. Relying on lightweight, battlefield ready hardware known as a Field Programmable Gate Array, the new technique consumed only 13.8 watts, compared to the 130 watts burned by its closest competitor system, the graphics processing unit.

Researchers said their new algorithm may even be more intelligent than its competitors.

“The method we developed in the paper speeds up training but not at the cost of accuracy,” Kannan said. “In other words, training is faster, moreover, the accuracy of the final algorithm is the same or better than previous versions

Balochistan: Pakistani forces attacking funeral gatherings

They have begun attacking our funerals; condemn the shooting at AtifBaloch’s burial: Dr Allah Nazar

(Sangar News)

http://sangarpublication.com/home/page/690.html

Pro-independence Baloch leader Dr Allah Nazar strongly condemnedthe shooting atmartyrAtifBaloch’s funeral by Pakistani state backed death squad in Mand. The attack on the funeral is the worst example of state terrorism.

Dr Allah Nazar Baloch said, Pakistan is violating all international laws in Balochistan. Silence of the UN on those violations is licensing Pakistan Army, its death squads and religious extremists to continue their vicious activities in Balochistan. Today, the so-called nationalists who talk about tradition and values;the religious scholars who issue fatwa in the name of Islam,are blinded by greed and power. All are silent on onMand incident. Such deed is a slap on the faces of so called nationalists as well. Their silence on such acts of terrorism during such events ispart of their preparations for the up-coming general elections. NP, BNP and other so-called nationalists are not even familiar with the definition of nationalism and are far off being nationalists. The so-called representatives of Islam have also distorted the true teachings and face of Islam in the dirty politics of Pakistan.

Baloch leader said, Baloch nation and history will never forgive occupying state’s crime partners who are part of its parliament despite the gross violations of our culture and dignity, and the cruelty perpetrated during the funeral of Atif Jan. This shameful act is neither permitted in Balochi traditions nor in Islamic teachings. Today, the so-called nationalists and religious scholars in Balochistan have mortgaged the Balochi traditions and code of conduct to the GHQ in order to secure their vested interests and seatsin the parliament. Those forces are trying to keep Baloch nation in eternal slavery and are disrespecting Baloch history, traditions and identity.

Dr Allah Nazar Baloch paid rich tribute to martyr Atif Baloch and Khalil Baloch,the uncle of Atif Jan, who was martyred in the attack athis funeral. He said, it is the continuation of the sacrificesby Baloch nation for their independence. Pakistani forces saw their defeat in Balochistan, now the forces have started attacking the funerals of Baloch people. We have anticipated it since the day one as our enemy is uncivilized and can cross all limits. But we want to tell them that, Baloch national movement will not be weakened by their pathetic tactics. Such atrocities shall solidify our resolve.

RISK: If China invests in PoK

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/emerging-irritant/article23763858.ece

At a broader level, if China invests heavily in the region, it risks becoming party to what has been a troubling bilateral dispute between nuclear-armed rivals. *If CPEC gets operationalised and fortifies the emergence of a fully functional China-Pakistan axis, this would hamper India’s larger interests in the South Asian region and force a strategic rethink in South Block. *The incentives for this would be even stronger if CPEC’s potential success renders PoK more industrially developed, thus granting Pakistan greater legitimacy over the region.* Whether India has any road map to take the conversation on PoK forward is a different debate but no nation can be expected to wilfully forsake its territorial claims. *Had India not registered its protest, that would have been perceived as a weakness,* and would have been a setback for India’s emerging power status in the international system.

May 03, 2018

Mind the Gap: How France and Germany Can Spearhead Joint Foreign Policy Initiatives Now

 Download  📌

Mind the Gap: How France and Germany Can Spearhead Joint Foreign Policy Initiatives Now

15/02/2018 | by Claire DemesmayJana PuglierinLaure DelcourBarbara KunzStefan MeisterAndreas RinkeFrédéric CharillonLaura Lale Kabis-KechridDorothée Schmid

Given the current instability on Europe's borders and uncertainty about the international role of the US under President Trump, it is high time for Franco-German foreign policy initiatives. However, differences between the two, both on policy issues and in their strategic cultures, also limit their cooperation. This study shows how France and Germany can bridge - and exploit - these gaps to facilitate joint initiatives on four key topics: Russia, transatlantic relations, Syria and Turkey

https://dgap.org/en/think-tank/publications/dgapanalyse-compact/mind-gap-how-france-and-germany-can-spearhead-joint

EVENT: Pakistan and the Implications of the Rise of Islamic Militancy

EVENT


🔴 Pakistan and the Implications of the Rise of Islamic Militancy

➡INVITATION ONLY IN THE AUDITORIUM OF THE ANNEX BUILDING OF THE PARLIAMENT ARKADIANKATU 3, HELSINKI

➡ Date 15.05.2018

➡ Time 10:00 - 12:00

🔷INVITATION ONLY

As the Western allies in Afghanistan try desperately to come up with a solution to the ongoing war, the best-case scenario may be a less stable and more corrupt version of Pakistan. Pakistan is considered to be one of the most fragile places in the world, vulnerable to terrorist violence, political upheavals and huge economic challenges. Pakistan is also very much plagued by Islamic militancy that not only threatens Pakistan itself, but has broad ramifications in the South Asian neighbourhood and beyond.

This seminar addresses the current situation in Pakistan with these themes in mind. In what direction will the situation in Pakistan most likely develop? What do the developments in Pakistan mean for the neighbours and beyond?

The Southern Gas Corridor: Challenges to a geopolitical approach in the EU’s external energy policy Challenges to a geopolitical approach in the EU’s external energy policy

The Southern Gas Corridor: Challenges to a geopolitical approach in the EU’s external energy policy Challenges to a geopolitical approach in the EU’s external energy policy

PUBLISHED 03/02/2017BRIEFING PAPER 216

SUMMARY

Natural gas is considered an important component of the EU energy mix, both as a replacement for more polluting fossil fuels and as a back-up for intermittent renewable energy production. However, declining domestic production has led to an increase in EU import dependency on gas.

After the Ukraine crisis, the EU has become wary of energy interdependence with Russia, its main external supplier. This led the Union to accelerate the integration of its internal gas market and to support new pipeline projects, most notably the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC).

The SGC will transport Azeri gas to South Eastern Europe, but faces numerous challenges related to its geopolitical nature. These include the lack of access to significant gas resources, security-related risks along its route and geopolitical competition from Russia and China.

The EU can reduce its exposure to external supply shocks by pursuing market integration and a more ambitious agenda focusing on renewable energy and energy efficiency, which will decrease its reliance on fossil fuels.

 

INTRODUCTION: THE ROLE OF GAS IN THE EU’S ENERGY AGENDA

The European Union is heavily dependent on the import of natural gas. Gas consumption constitutes approximately 21% of the EU’s energy mix, where it is second only to oil (which amounts to approximately 34% of EU gross inland consumption).1 The significance of gas varies among EU member states. It plays an important role in the energy mix of several large members, such as Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, and in several East-Central European countries. The former have a fairly diversified portfolio of sources and back-ups, whereas the latter tend to be much more dependent on a single supplier (Russia) and do not have substantial back-ups for gas in the sectors where it is used (for instance, in heating).

While in terms of volumes, EU gas consumption peaked in the late 2000s (reaching 447 million tonnes of oil equivalent, Mtoe) and subsequently decreased for a few years (it was 358 Mtoe in 2015), gas continues to be an essential energy source for the Union, particularly in sectors such as electricity generation and heating.2 As gas pollutes less than oil and coal, it is envisaged to play an important role in Europe’s transition towards a low-carbon economy, both as a replacement for dirtier fossil fuels and as a back-up for intermittent renewable energy production. The planned phase-out of nuclear power production in some member states – most notably in Germany, the main industrial producer in the EU, which will close all its nuclear power plants by 2022 – further adds to the relevance of gas.

While EU gas consumption has decreased recently, a simultaneous reduction in domestic gas production has occurred, which is due primarily to the depletion of North Sea fields. Hence, EU import dependency on gas grew from around 57% in 2005 to over 67% of total gas consumption in 2014.3 As this trend is expected to last, the European Commission has paid increasing attention to the security of its gas supply.4 In particular, the Commission would like to diversify gas suppliers by building new import infrastructure. This briefing paper examines the Southern Gas Corridor, one of the key projects that the EU has supported as part of its diversification agenda. It explores both the economic and the geopolitical challenges faced by the project and provides an assessment of its impact on EU energy security. In this context, it also illustrates its potential competition with the Turkish Stream project, which is sponsored by the Russian state company Gazprom. Finally, the paper analyses some options for the EU to strengthen its resilience to external supply shocks and reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels.

EU GAS IMPORTS AND CHALLENGES TO THE SECURITY OF SUPPLY

As of 2016, the EU has imported its natural gas mostly via pipelines and from three producing countries and regions: Russia, Norway and North Africa. In 2014, Russia provided over 37% of EU imports, followed by Norway (31.6%) and Algeria (12%). Liquefied natural gas (LNG), transported by tankers at sea, offers an additional import option. The main supplier of LNG to Europe, Qatar, came fourth in the list of gas providers, covering nearly 7% of total EU gas imports.5 LNG imports have been constrained for a long time by higher prices compared to pipeline gas, the competition from other importers (especially in East Asia) and the large distances to producing regions. Following the US shale gas revolution, which is bringing additional LNG to international gas markets, the picture may partly change and LNG could increase its share of EU imports.

Currently, the European Commission supports additional import pipelines that would allow the diversification of suppliers. As large gas reserves are located in Central Asia, particularly in Turkmenistan and Iran, the EU has long attempted to gain direct access to these resources. An important stimulus for diversification came in the 2000s, from the combined effect of EU enlargement and the Russian-Ukrainian gas transit crises of 2006 and 2009. While enlargement meant the inclusion of new member states that were both vulnerable to Russian gas imports and anxious to diversify their suppliers, the gas transit crises called into question the reliability of Russia as a supplier and of Ukraine as a transit state. Russia’s answer to this conundrum came in the form of pipelines that bypass Ukraine, most notably Nord Stream (built in 2011–12), Nord Stream-2 and Turkish Stream (not yet built). On the other hand, the EU focused on integrating its domestic market (that is, interconnecting national markets and advancing common regulatory legislation) and creating a Southern energy corridor that would link it to Central Asian producers and bypass Russian territory.6

A large-scale EU project to tap into Central Asian gas, the Nabucco pipeline, failed in 2013 due to unfavourable market conditions and the Union’s ultimate inability to secure sufficient supplies. After the 2014 Ukraine crisis, however, the EU has revived its plans for a smaller (in terms of volumes) Southern gas corridor. The Commission has given priority to its implementation in both the Energy Security Strategy (2014) and in the Energy Union package (2015).7 Furthermore, EU officials have engaged in energy diplomacy in producing countries in an attempt to secure gas supplies for the project.

THE SOUTHERN GAS CORRIDOR

The Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) is currently under construction and consists of four sections, bringing gas from the Azeri fields in the Caspian Sea to Turkey, Greece and Italy. Its total length is approximately 3,500 kilometres, with an estimated construction cost of 45 billion dollars. The first section includes the Shah Deniz-2 gas field and extraction facilities in the Caspian Sea. The second part foresees the expansion of the existing South Caucasus pipeline, running from Baku to the eastern Turkish city of Erzurum. From Erzurum, the gas will be transported westwards by the Trans-Anatolian pipeline (TANAP), stretching as far as the Greek-Turkish border. Here, the fourth and last section of the SGC – the TransAdriatic pipeline (TAP) – will carry the gas across Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea to Italy.

The project is expected to start gas deliveries in 2020 and reach a capacity of 16 billion cubic metres per year (bcm/y) by the mid-2020s. Out of these volumes, 6 bcm/y are already contracted for sale to Turkey, while the remaining 10 bcm/y will be sold in the EU. These volumes are more modest than the ones envisaged for the Nabucco pipeline, which was expected to transport 31 bcm/y of gas to the EU, and will not significantly diversify European imports. They can, however, provide an additional gas source for those countries that are crossed by the SGC. For this reason, the EU has endorsed the project after the failure of Nabucco. The United States vocally supports the SGC too, as it regards it as an opportunity to decrease the dependence of South Eastern Europe on Russian gas imports. As of 2017, Russia is the main external gas provider to the region. The flow of Russian supplies largely depends on the Ukrainian transit pipelines, but Russia is developing alternative routes – most notably Turkish Stream – in order to bypass it in the near future.

Advocates of the SGC have argued that the volumes of exports could be doubled to 32 bcm/y in the future if additional gas becomes available. In fact, this appears an unlikely prospect, unless more infrastructure is built to connect the SGC to other potential suppliers, notably Turkmenistan and Iran. This would involve additional infrastructural costs that would question the economic competitiveness of the imported gas.8 Moreover, for the import of Turkmen gas, an offshore pipeline crossing the Caspian Sea would have to be built, an endeavour that is complicated by the uncertain legal status of the sea and the opposition of Russia and Iran (both are riparian states) to the project.9

 

 
SGC VS TURKISH STREAM?

While the SGC in its current shape will not have a significant impact on Russia’s position as Europe’s main gas supplier, its geopolitical dimension and its potential (though unlikely) future expansion have prompted a policy response from Moscow. Russia has pushed forward its own plans for further supplies to Turkey and South Eastern Europe, thereby strengthening the expected competition with SGC gas. In October 2016, the Russian and Turkish government signed the intergovernmental agreement for the construction of the Turkish Stream pipeline, which includes two lines of 15.75 bcm/y each connecting Russia and Turkey under the Black Sea. The first line will allow Russia to redirect its gas exports to Turkey, which are currently transported via Ukraine and the Balkans. This means that Russian gas exports to Turkey (the second largest customer of Gazprom after Germany) will no longer depend on transit in Ukraine and other countries.

The construction of the second line of Turkish Stream, which is meant for exports to South Eastern Europe, depends on broader market, political and infrastructural developments. If the construction of Nord Stream-2 is delayed or cancelled, or if plans to expand the SGC materialise, Gazprom will probably build the second line of Turkish Stream (parallel to the first one, but extending to the Greek-Turkish border). This would allow the company (and the Russian government) to compete in order to retain its market shares (and soft power) in the region. Turkish Stream could then supply Italy, a large gas consumer and hence a coveted market by both Gazprom and the SGC stakeholders. As of 2015, Italy was Gazprom’s third largest national customer. The Russian-Italian gas trade relied on Ukrainian transit pipelines. As Gazprom appears reluctant to depend on Ukrainian transit in the long run, Turkish Stream could eventually become the main route via which Russian gas is shipped to Italy.10

The potential competition between the gas transported by the SGC and Turkish Stream becomes evident if the adjoining pipelines on EU territory are analysed. As discussed earlier, the SGC will rely on the TAP pipeline for the transportation of 10 bcm/y of gas from the Greek-Turkish border to Italy. For this capacity, TAP has obtained an exemption from EU rules concerning third party access, which limit the capacity that one supplier can use; thanks to the exemption, the Shah Deniz consortium can use the entire pipeline. On the other hand, Gazprom would rely on the ITGI/Poseidon pipeline for the transportation of its gas from the Greek-Turkish border (where Turkish Stream ends) to Greece and Italy. For this purpose, in February 2016 the Russian company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Greek company DEPA and the Italian Edison, which are in charge of developing ITGI/Poseidon.

Contrary to the South Stream project, Gazprom would thus not control the ‘extensions’ of Turkish Stream on European territory, which eases regulatory issues. The EU has already classified ITGI/ Poseidon as a Project of Common Interest and given a 25-year exemption from the rule on third party access, meaning that Russian gas could use the entire capacity of the pipeline. Moreover, if the capacity of the TAP pipeline is expanded in the future (as often mentioned by its advocates), Gazprom could apply to have additional gas transported via the new TAP capacity, which is not exempted from the rule on third party access. Ironically, this would mean that TAP, an EU import diversification project, might end up carrying Russian gas too.11

GEOPOLITICAL CHALLENGES TO THE SGC

The competition between the SGC and Turkish Stream illustrates how an EU-driven geopolitical project has been met by a Russian response in the geopolitical playing field. While both projects partly respond to a market logic (diversifying imports for the EU, defending its market position for Gazprom), geopolitical considerations are a key driver for their implementation. For the EU, the main risk of a geopolitical approach to energy involves challenging Russia, as well as other competing actors (such as China), in a field where they are particularly resourceful. Ultimately, the success of EU diversification projects such as the SGC depends on securing access to resources that are located in Central Asia. A closer look at the geopolitics of this area reveals that competition from infrastructural projects such as Turkish Stream is only the tip of an iceberg of challenges for the EU. 

While the SGC has secured access to the Azeri gas field of Shah Deniz-2, its resources are limited and will not allow significant import diversification for the EU. Access to Turkmen and Iranian gas is constrained by the economic and legal issues mentioned above. Most significantly, China has already built the infrastructure to import large quantities of Turkmen gas and tied the Turkmen government to long-term deliveries in exchange for multibilliondollar loans. Hence, the EU faces strong Chinese competition for access to these gas reserves. On the other hand, if relations between the West and Iran remain positive and international investments in the Iranian gas sector are made, the EU might be able to purchase Iranian gas. However, if this scenario materialises, it is more likely that Iranian gas will be imported by sea in the form of LNG (rather than via a pipeline), as this would allow avoiding the costs and security risks of a long land route.

Even without an extension to Iran or Turkmenistan, the SGC already faces considerable security issues, which are related to the volatility of the South Caucasus. Following the route of the pipeline East to West, the first major source of uncertainty concerns the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh is a de facto independent region controlled by the Armenian army, which occupied it (together with some adjacent Azeri territories) following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The conflict has been frozen ever since, but with regular skirmishes and casualties on both sides. Moreover, Azerbaijan has been using its large revenues from oil and gas sales to modernise its army, with the hardly concealed objective of eventually reconquering Nagorno-Karabakh by force.

The conflict zone is only a few kilometres away from the South Caucasus pipeline, the local section of the SGC. In preparation for a potential conflict with Azerbaijan, in February 2016 Armenia purchased Russian military hardware, including advanced missile systems. Moreover, the Armenian air force has also simulated attacks on Azerbaijan’s energy infrastructure. In early April 2016, heavy fighting took place along the Armenian-Azeri contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh. The clashes lasted four days, and a wider conflict was avoided; however, the events highlighted the risk of a major conflagration in the area.12

Moving along the SGC route westwards, the pipeline crosses two additional areas that have proved to be volatile in the recent past. In Georgia, it lies within easy reach of South Ossetia, another de facto state that has been recognised by Russia since the 2008 Russian-Georgian war and which hosts Russian troops. During the 2008 conflict, the Russian army reached the Georgian transit pipelines, some of which had to be closed temporarily due to security risks. Further to the west, the SGC transits Turkish territory where clashes between the Turkish military and Kurdish militias have taken place in the past. Such clashes escalated in the summer of 2015 when the Turkish armed forces resumed their military operations against the Kurds. In August 2015 an explosion occurred on the Turkish section of the South Caucasus pipeline, for which the Turkish press blamed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

WHAT OPTIONS FOR EUROPE? THE REGULATORY AND CLIMATE APPROACH

Given the multiple security and economic challenges to the SGC, its actual contribution to European energy security remains dubious. The SGC would have a substantial impact on the diversification of EU gas imports only if it secured additional supplies from Central Asia, which would require a much stronger EU strategic presence in the region. However, the EU appears unlikely to emerge successful from the ensuing geopolitical competition, which would involve militarily or economically stronger regional players (Russia and China) and a high degree of volatility. Moreover, the need to establish a partnership with producing countries, most notably with authoritarian regimes such as Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, questions the EU’s proclaimed commitment to promoting norms and democratic values.

On the other hand, pursuing the integration of the internal energy market seems to be the most promising path to strengthening EU energy security. This is an area where the EU has already made considerable progress thanks to recent legislation – in particular the third energy package, which aims at increasing the competitiveness, sustainability and supply security of the electricity and gas market. In order to strengthen its resilience to external shocks, the EU should support the interconnections of the energy systems of its member states. As building additional infrastructure will be costly, the financial commitment of member states is required, especially of those that have not yet managed to diversify their import portfolios and are particularly concerned about dependence on external suppliers.

It is important to note that, in the field of natural gas, EU import capacity already exceeds import needs. In 2012, capacity was 597 bcm/y (405 bcm/y through pipelines and 192 bcm/y through LNG import terminals) whereas EU annual gas consumption needs were approximately 435 bcm/y.13 Interconnections among member states may thus allow access to the currently stranded (unused) import capacity. An integrated and well-regulated EU energy market would constitute the world’s largest single export market for energy producers, who would thus be stimulated to compete in order to secure their shares.

While market integration can help reduce the costs and risks of external energy dependence, reducing energy consumption – and particularly fossil fuel consumption – appears to be the only way of progressively solving the EU’s energy conundrum. This can be achieved by increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix and by strengthening energy efficiency. The EU has set targets in these areas for the years 2020 and 2030. By 2020, the EU is expected to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% (from 1990 levels), produce 20% of its energy from renewables and improve its energy efficiency by 20%. For 2030, the European Commission has already set a 40% goal for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but targets for renewables (27%) and energy efficiency (27%) appear modest if the Commission’s goal of achieving a low carbon economy by 2050 is used as a benchmark.

Paradoxically, some member states that are most concerned about external energy dependence and most affected by fossil fuel-related pollution are the staunchest opponents of an ambitious climate agenda. The case of Poland is particularly striking. According to the World Health Organisation, the country has 33 of the 50 worst polluted cities in Europe due to its large-scale reliance on coal. Moreover, the Polish government has often lamented the EU’s excessive dependence on fossil fuels imported from Russia. Nevertheless, in order to defend the domestic coal industry, Warsaw has consistently opposed ambitious climate targets, which contributes to perpetuating Europe’s dependency on fossil fuel imports.

While the EU strengthens the integration of its internal market and pursues its climate agenda, it can also translate its related domestic achievements into a successful external energy policy vis-à-vis neighbouring countries. The recent past has shown that ‘rule export’ is indeed the field in which the Union’s external energy policy has been most successful. Through the establishment of the Energy Community, the EU has managed to extend its acquis communautaire on energy, environment, competition and renewables to some of its Eastern and South Eastern European neighbours (Ukraine, Moldova and the West Balkan countries). The Energy Community provides for mutual assistance at times of stress and contributes to the resilience of countries that are important (for instance, as transit states) for EU energy policy.

WHAT NEXT? A NORM-BASED TRANSITION TO A LOW CARBON ECONOMY

In the short and medium run, the EU will continue to rely on large imports of energy, including natural gas. However, the EU can considerably influence the extent, duration of and approach to this dependence. Investments in domestically produced renewable energy and in energy efficiency would reduce both the extent and the duration of the Union’s dependence on fossil fuel imports. Moreover, the ensuing reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would have positive effects on air pollution, which has reached preoccupying levels in many European cities. Simultaneously, market integration will strengthen the energy resilience of individual member states.

As long as the EU needs to import fossil fuels from abroad, a pragmatic approach towards its main external providers will be necessary. This is particularly important when it comes to the Union’s main external supplier, Russia. While the Ukraine crisis has understandably heightened the concerns of member states that are more vulnerable to supply disruptions from Russia, a major gas transit crisis (such as that of 2009) has been avoided.14 In 2014, the early warning mechanism between Russia and the EU (created in 2009) functioned and EU member states were able to take the necessary action to secure gas deposits in underground storage facilities.15 In fact, the EU has even managed to supply gas to Ukraine by redirecting its own imports of Russian gas. Hence, the EU has an interest in preserving the institutional framework that regulates its energy trade with Russia and in pursuing a rule-based relationship.

Furthermore, the EU’s external energy policy will benefit from a domestic legislative framework that promotes the Union’s decarbonisation and competition among its external energy suppliers. Resilience to external shocks affecting energy supplies is best pursued through the overall reduction of fossil fuel dependence, the integration of the internal energy market and reliance on stranded import capacity (such as LNG terminals). Conversely, geopolitical projects such as the Southern Gas Corridor involve large investments that lock the EU into fossil fuel dependence. Moreover, they push the Union towards geopolitical competition with traditional geopolitical actors, such as Russia and China, with meagre chances of concretely contributing to its energy security.

ENDNOTES

1 EU energy in figures, Statistical pocketbook 2016.

Eurostat, energy statistics, available at http://ec.europa.eu/ eurostat/web/energy/data/database, last accessed 28 Feb 2017.

3 EU energy in figures, Statistical pocketbook 2016, p. 24.

The Commission shares competences in the field of energy policy with member states (see Article 194 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

5 EU energy in figures, Statistical pocketbook 2016, p. 26.

 See M. Siddi, The EU-Russia gas relationship: New projects, new disputes?, FIIA Briefing Paper 183 (2015), available at http://www.fiia.fi/en/publication/533/the_eu-russia_gas_relationship/, last accessed 28 Feb 2017.

7 See M. Siddi, “The EU’s Energy Union: a sustainable path to energy security?”, The International Spectator 51 (1), 2016.

8 See S. Pirani, Azerbaijan’s gas supply squeeze and the consequences for the Southern Corridor, Oxford: Oxford Institute of Energy Studies, July 2016.

See M. Verda, “The Foreign Dimension of EU Energy Policy: The Case of the Southern Gas Corridor”, in J. M. Godzimirski, ed. (2016), EU Leadership in Energy and Environmental Governance, London: Palgrave, pp. 69–86.

10 See also M. S. Vicari, “TurkStream and its second line: challenge for some, opportunity for others”, Vocal Europe, 17 January 2017.

11 See also I. Gurbanov, “Perspective for Turkish Stream project: possible scenarios and challenges”, Natural Gas Europe, 21 January 2017.

12 For background details on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the April 2016 clashes, see L. Broers, The Nagorny Karabakh Conflict: Defaulting to War, London: Chatham House, July 2016.

13 S. Schubert et al. (2016), Energy Policy of the European Union, London: Palgrave, p. 225.

14 A. Stulberg (2015), “Out of gas? Russia, Ukraine, Europe, and the changing geopolitics of natural gas”, Problems of Post-Communism, 62:2, pp. 112–130.

15 A. Belyi (2015), Transnational Gas Markets and Euro-Russian Energy Relations, Basingstoke: Palgrave, p. 151.

https://www.fiia.fi/en/publication/the-southern-gas-corridor

The “European Approach” to Fighting Disinformation


The “European Approach” to Fighting Disinformation: Lessons for the United States

April 27, 2018

Bradley Hanlon

Research Assistant, Alliance for Securing Democracy

    

The European Commission published a communication on April 26 to the European Council and Parliament outlining the “European Approach” to combatting disinformation. The Commission’s report was the result of a several month process including consultations with citizens, stakeholders, and experts. The document focuses on four key principles: improving transparency in the way information is produced or sponsored, promoting diversity of information, fostering credible information, and fashioning inclusive solutions to disinformation. The Commission specifically calls for a broad, unified effort involving “cooperation of public authorities, online platforms, advertisers, trusted flaggers, journalists, and media groups.” The communication also explicitly identifies Russian disinformation campaigns as a driver behind the EU’s developing policy response.

The report provides an important opportunity for reflection across the transatlantic space, as the United States seeks to inoculate its democracy from ongoing hostile foreign interference activities. Takeaways from the “European Approach” to fighting disinformation can help U.S. policymakers develop more targeted policy measures, and identify potential shortcomings in the U.S. response.

Several aspects of the European Commission’s report provide valuable examples for the United States to pursue, develop, and expand upon. First, the European Commission appropriately identifies the need for a unified, multi-stakeholder response to disinformation, including participation from governments, civil society, and the private sector. Recognizing the need for cooperation and buy-in from these sectors is essential, as each has a unique role to play in ensuring accountability, high journalistic standards, and responsible media consumption in the contemporary information space.

Second, the “European Approach” embraces long-term, forward-looking measures to protect democracies against foreign interference. Ideas like embracing developing technology (such as blockchain and AI) to help verify information and developing media literacy and digital competency education programs, present innovative and sustainable methods to build long-term societal resilience to disinformation.

Third, the European Commission’s report offers prescient insight into the underlying issues driving the rise of disinformation, namely instability as a result of rapid societal change. The combination of an increasingly decentralized, profit-driven media environment, along with a growing anxiety over “economic insecurity, rising extremism, and cultural shifts,” have led to the formation of exploitable fissures within Western societies. Defending against the potential exploitation of these divisions will require Western citizens to embrace the preservation of democratic norms and values in spite of deep partisan divides.

The “European Approach” also provides U.S. policymakers with insight into potential weaknesses in the response to disinformation. The Commission’s “EU-level” approach highlights the dependency of counter-disinformation efforts on achieving buy-in from political parties and leaders. While the Commission can threaten the private sector into compliance through regulation, it is limited to providing encouragement and recommendations to member states to implement the changes necessary to protect against disinformation. For parties and leaders who benefit from the proliferation of false narratives and the degradation of credible media institutions, such as Czech President Milos Zeman and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, there is little incentive to invest in higher journalistic standards or fact-checking. Further, disinformation narratives are often targeted to co-opt the support of specific political and social groups, who then facilitate the dissemination and amplification of false narratives within a country. This manipulation of domestic actors significantly complicates attempts to combat hostile foreign interference. As long as those who benefit from disinformation continue to value their own personal profit over the sanctity of their country’s democratic institutions, disinformation will continue to plague public discussion.

Although the European Commission’s report offers a valuable analysis of disinformation, it is important to contextualize this threat within the wider scope of asymmetric, illiberal challenges to democracy. Disinformation is just one piece of the foreign interference toolkit employed by state actors to undermine democratic societies. States like China and Russia continue to make use of a diverse set of tactics in projecting asymmetric foreign interference, including disinformation, but also cyber capabilities, malign financial influence, corruption, the weaponization of energy, and support for extremist political and social groups. Successfully protecting democratic institutions from this malign foreign interference will require that U.S. policymakers understand and address this toolkit as a whole.

The Commission’s report is the most recent step in the EU’s escalating fight against disinformation. In September 2015, in response to “Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns,” the EU launched the East Stratcom Task Force to help combat disinformation, strengthen media institutions, and better communicate the EU’s policies across the Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine). In June 2017, the European Parliament called on the European Commission to analyze the potential for “legislative intervention” to combat the dissemination of disinformation, while simultaneously pressuring online platforms to “provide users with tools to denounce fake news.” In November 2017, the Commission announced that it would establish a High-Level Expert Group, and seek public consultations to help develop its “EU-level strategy” for combatting fake news. The High-Level Expert Group published their final report in March 2018.

Overall, the European Commission’s approach to tackling disinformation presents an important and valuable contribution toward generating a unified response to hostile foreign interference. U.S. policymakers would do well to learn from the Commission’s report, both in its successes and in its limitations

http://securingdemocracy.gmfus.org/blog/2018/04/27/european-approach-fighting-disinformation-lessons-united-states

How pro-Kremlin Accounts Influence Western Public Opinion

http://securingdemocracy.gmfus.org/blog/2018/05/03/syria-swarm-how-pro-kremlin-accounts-influence-western-public-opinion

The Syria Swarm: How pro-Kremlin Accounts Influence Western Public Opinion

May 3, 2018

Bret Schafer

Coordinator, Communications, Social Media and Digital Content, Alliance for Securing Democracy

    

As the United States, Britain, and France launched targeted airstrikes against suspected chemical weapons sites in Syria on April 13, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis predicted that there would be “a significant disinformation campaign over the coming days by those who have aligned themselves with the Assad regime.”

Data collected by Hamilton 68, an online dashboard that tracks the messaging of roughly 600 Russian-linked accounts, revealed a significant spike in pro-Kremlin activity in the aftermath of the strike, lending credence to Mattis’ prediction. On April 14, accounts monitored on Hamilton 68 tweeted 32,083 times, a 35 percent increase from the day before and an 85 percent increase from the previous Saturday. While this increase was far less than the “2,000 percent increase in Russian trolls” noted by the Pentagon,[1] it was the most activity recorded in any 24-hour period during the previous 30 days, and one of the most active days of posting since the launch of the dashboard in August 2017. The surge in activity was notable not only for its volume but also its focus. The day after the strikes, #Syria was by far the most-used hashtag by monitored accounts, and seven of the ten most linked-to URLs on Hamilton 68 focused on either the allied campaign or the chemical weapons attack in Douma. Also of note were the two most linked-to domains: Kremlin-funded outlets RT and Sputnik.

This represents a shift from the weeks and months prior (with the notable exception of activity around the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the U.K.), when American issues were the primary focus of the network’s tweets and geopolitics played a secondary role. In January, for example, less than 10 percent of the top URLs focused on Syria, with the so-called “release the memo” controversy and partisan political content dominating the top URLs section on the dashboard. And while RT and Sputnik were among the ten most linked-to domains during the month, they were less prominent than several hyper-partisan U.S. sites, and the messaging patterns during this period were far more fungible. Both the Skripal case and the Douma attack suggest that when Moscow perceives a direct threat to its interests, Russian-linked accounts shift to not only overtly pro-Kremlin messages, but also pro-Kremlin messengers.


Daily Tweet count showing spike in pro-Kremlin activity after the allied strikes

The Kremlin’s Long Game

While the focus on Syria has intensified since the Douma attack, Moscow’s efforts to influence Western public opinion are as old as the conflict itself. Since the earliest days of Russia’s involvement in Syria, pro-Kremlin trolls have amplified anti-Western and pro-Assad narratives, attacked critics, and promoted conspiracy theories in an effort to undermine Western resolve. Hamilton 68, in fact, is in many ways a byproduct of the Syrian war — many of the accounts monitored on the dashboard were first identified by counterterrorism analysts who discovered them almost accidently while monitoring ISIS propaganda in Syria.

Over the past eight months, results from the dashboard have highlighted the centrality of Syria in Moscow’s information war with the West. While American wedge issues — from NFL protests and gun control to the Mueller investigation — have, for the most part, proven to be transient, pro-Kremlin Syrian narratives have been ever-present, as evidenced by the fact that #Syria has been the most-used hashtag by monitored accounts since the launch of the dashboard. The activity following the allied strike must therefore be viewed as a continuation, albeit certainly an escalation, in a prolonged campaign of influence.

The near-constant insertion of anti-Western narratives related to Syria has also conditioned American audiences to be more receptive to the specific narratives that have emerged in the wake of the Douma attacks. This has been most directly evidenced by the sustained campaign to discredit the White Helmets, a group that has become a bête noire of sorts for Moscow. Long before the White Helmets were accused by pro-Kremlin media of staging the Douma attacks, they were routinely presented as a nefarious, Western-backed group running cover for anti-Assad terrorists. The seeds of disinformation were thus planted in advance and merely harvested at an opportune time.

Less direct, but equally effective, has been the consistent promotion of conspiratorial content writ large. This has been most readily visible after mass shootings, when Russian-linked accounts have pushed false flag narratives that suggest that the U.S. government is willing and able to stage mass murders in the pursuit of certain policy objectives. If targeted audiences have been conditioned to accept that the United States is capable of such acts on domestic soil, it certainly would be conceivable to think that the U.S. government would condone similar activity overseas.

Russian-linked online activity over the past few weeks therefore needs to be understood as both a unique event, and one that is entirely consistent with long-term efforts to engage American audiences. Influence requires a long, sustained effort, and the Kremlin has proven to be willing and able to play the long game. 

 

[1] Chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White’s claim was analyzed, in detail, by the Atlantic Council’s DFR Labhttps://medium.com/dfrlab/trolltracker-disinformation-surge-from-skripal-to-syria-f44f92a476cd.

 

The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.

Japan Should Increase Military Ties With Taiwan, Says Former Japanese Navy Chief


The Epoch Times

May 3, 2018 11:34, Last Updated: May 3, 2018 22:58

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), foreground, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) transit the Philippine Sea on April 28, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers)

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By Paul Huang

WASHINGTON – As the Chinese regime continues to flex its military muscle, the former chief of Japan’s naval forces said that it is high time for Japan to increase its military exchanges and cooperation with its close neighbor Taiwan, which is also being threatened by Beijing’s aggressive activities in the region.

In a Sasakawa Peace Foundation forumin Washington on May 2, Tomohisa Takei, the retired Admiral and former chief of staff of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), said that Japan should remain vigilant in ensuring that China doesn’t get an opportunity to change the status quo in the region.

Takei also called for Japan to increase military communication and exchanges with its southern neighbor Taiwan, and said that currently there is “almost nothing” in terms of cooperation between the Taiwanese Navy and the JMSDF.

“Taiwan has a strong navy, there must be more interactions between Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force ships and Taiwanese navy ships to avoid accident situation,” said Takei, “Japan and China already agreed to set up maritime and air communication mechanism. Japan should also establish such communication with Taiwan.”

Takei, who was the head of Japan’s naval forces from 2014 to 2016 and is now a fellow at the U.S. Naval War College, also said that Beijing’s military buildup and ever-increasing aggression in the region is primarily aimed at retaking Taiwan. In addition to Taiwan, Takei also said Japan needs to increase engagement with “like-minded countries” in the Indian Ocean to resist the expansionist power.

The United States maintains a close military relationship with Japan as the two countries have a mutual defense treaty in place. Due to political pressure from Beijing, however, Japan does not have any established military cooperation or exchange mechanism with Taiwan, which is Japan’s closest neighbor to the south.

“There is a lot of potential for Taiwan to cooperate more with Japan, especially in military aspects.” David An, a senior research fellow with the Global Taiwan Institute told The Epoch Times, “Since much of their equipment [of Taiwan and Japan] are of U.S. origin and already have military communication systems in common, there is a lot of interoperability between Taiwan and Japan’s militaries.”

An, a former U.S. State Department political-military affairs officer, cautioned, however, that Taiwan’s military cooperation with countries outside of the United States is often done in a quiet and low-profile manner, so as to avoid interference by Beijing.

“If cooperation is quiet, then it is hard to tell the exact extent of cooperation–whether high, medium, or low.” An said, citing Taiwan’s military exchanges with Singapore, which does not formally recognize Taiwan’s statehood but regularly sends troops to Taiwan for training and exercise, a low-profile program that has been in existence for decades that Beijing has consistently opposed

Mediating Security Arrangements in Peace Processes: Critical Perspectives from the Field

In this pa­per, Je­remy Brick­hill pro­vides an in­tro­duc­tory un­der­stand­ing of me­di­at­ing and im­ple­ment­ing se­cu­rity arrange­ments in peace processes as well as the tools, con­cepts and mech­a­nisms avail­able to man­age se­cu­rity tran­si­tions. More specif­i­cally, Brick­hill fo­cuses on 1) the re­cur­ring prob­lems of se­cu­rity arrange­ments me­di­a­tion; 2) the se­cu­rity and mil­i­tary as­pects of peace processes, and how to in­te­grate these crit­i­cal el­e­ments into me­di­a­tion and peace-build­ing strate­gies; 3) the phases of se­cu­rity tran­si­tions from war to peace; 4) how to pro­vide the at­ten­tion to de­tail nec­es­sary in se­cu­rity arrange­ments me­di­a­tion, and more.

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