March 19, 2019

Meet Aurora

AXIOS FUTURE Steve Levine

The TITAN supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Photo: DOE

 

A new supercomputer to be built at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois will be the most powerful in the country when it begins operating in 2021 — more than five times faster the current leader, the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Axios Science Editor Andrew Freedman reports: The Energy Department, Intel and subcontractor Cray Inc. announced Monday an agreement worth "more than $500 million" to provide Argonne with the country's first "exascale" computer system.

Why it matters: The transition to exascale computing involves a thousandfold increase in computing power from the petascale systems installed during the past decade, and it promises to open up a broader array of applications, such as precision medicine and AI

Details: The Aurora computer will have the performance of one "exaFLOP," which is equal to a quintillion floating point computations per second, according to a press release and briefing from Intel. The potential uses for this computer include:

Complex cosmological simulations to better understand the universe.Precision medicine, such as testing new approaches for drug response prediction to treat cancer and other diseases.Climate and extreme weather prediction.Mapping the human brain down to the neural level.

Context: There's a race heating up between the U.S. and China for who has the most powerful supercomputer.

While it will be the most powerful system in the U.S. when it goes online in 2021, an Argonne National Lab spokesperson said it's not clear whether it will be the fastest computer in the world at that time.Raj Hazra, vice president of Intel's enterprise and government group, told Axios that leading in computing power isn't nearly as important as what that nation does with its capabilities.

"From the perspective of winning the race, it’s not just getting to exascale, but what does exascale get you to that is important. The race matters in terms of stoking innovation. To compete you have to be able to compute."

— Raj Hazra, Intel

Go deeper:

How the U.S. plans to stay ahead in the quantum raceCreating the first quantum internetThe West’s China blind spot

THE RACE FOR AI SUPREMACY

 

 

ASIA IN INFOGRAPHICS


For decades, the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been dominated by the US. However, the picture is changing and China is determined to take over the top spot. China has already overtaken the US in the funding of AI start-ups: In 2017, China accounted for 48 percent of the world’s total AI start-up funding, compared to 38 percent for the US. Various other metrics also show that China’s government is working hard to win the race. Read and download the infographic here

March 18, 2019

Twenty Leading China Specialists Selected for Sixth Round of Public Intellectuals Program

Twenty Leading China Specialists Selected for Sixth Round of Public Intellectuals Program

The National Committee on United States-China Relations is pleased to have selected the sixth cohort of its Public Intellectuals Program (PIP), generously funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York. The twenty fellows comprise a wide range of research interests, geographic locations, and types of institutions.

Launched in 2005, PIP identifies outstanding members of the next generation of American China specialists – in the academic, professional, or policymaking spheres – who, in the tradition of earlier China hands, have the interest and potential to venture outside of academia or their professions into areas relevant to foreign policy and public education.

The two-year program is designed to enrich the twenty new fellows’ understanding of policymaking processes in both the United States and China; help them establish useful relationships both with their academic colleagues and with policy practitioners; encourage them to move beyond the confines of their own disciplines; and nurture their ability to engage with the public at a national, regional, and local level. PIP is implemented through a series of activities. These include seminars in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco; a study tour of China; opportunities to participate in National Committee delegations as scholar-escorts; and public education initiatives.

PIP is an enrichment opportunity intended to complement the primary academic or professional positions held by the fellows. The program offers unique opportunities for professional development, mentoring by senior scholars, networking, and exposure. Fellows gain access to senior policymakers and experts in both the United States and China, and to individuals and fields they are not typically be exposed to, such as the business, arts, health, and civil society sectors in China, as well as to the media in both countries. Fellows have access to media coaches to help edit and place op-eds and develop a social media presence.

The sixth cohort joins an accomplished community of 100 PIP fellows who have formed a strong network of mutual support and academic collaboration.
 MEET THE PIP VI FELLOWSJude Blanchette

Senior Advisor & China Practice Lead, Crumpton GroupKeisha A. Brown

Assistant Professor of History, Tennessee State University

Lenora Chu

Author and Journalist

Iza Ding

Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of PittsburghPeilei Fan

Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, School of Planning, Design, and Construction, Michigan State UniversityDiana Fu

Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of TorontoArunabh Ghosh

Assistant Professor, History Department, Harvard UniversityKelly Hammond

Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of ArkansasIsaac B. Kardon

Assistant Professor, China Maritime Studies Institute, U.S. Naval War CollegeYa-Wen Lei

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Harvard UniversityYingyi Ma

Associate Professor of Sociology & Director of Asian/Asian American Studies, Syracuse UniversityTabitha Grace Mallory

Founder and CEO, China Ocean InstituteRussell Menyhart

Partner, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLPScott Moore

Director, Penn Global China Program, Office of the Provost, University of PennsylvaniaJonas Nahm

Assistant Professor of Energy, Resources, and Environment, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International StudiesPU Xiaoyu

Associate Professor, Political Science, University of Nevada, RenoMeg Rithmire

F. Warren McFarlan Associate Professor, Business, Government, and International Economy, Harvard Business SchoolGary J. Sampson

Commandant of the Marine Corps Fellow, International Security Studies Program, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts UniversityChristian Sorace

Assistant Professor, Political Science, Colorado CollegeTaisu Zhang

Associate Professor of Law, Yale Law School

For press inquiries, please contact:

Joseph Weed, Director of Communications
jweed@ncuscr.org | 646-604-8001

March 13, 2019

Experts project how IoT will be used to transform agriculture.

According to the U.N., we will need to produce 70% more food in 2050 than in 2006. Smart sensors combined with big data will help farmers meet the demands of a growing and hungrier world. Experts project how IoT will be used to transform agriculture. 

https://www.hpe.com/us/en/insights/articles/precision-agriculture-yields-higher-profits-lower-risks-1806.html

Women and automation

AXIOS FUTURE Steve Levine

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

 

The most visible faces in the predicted coming wave of job displacement belong to the likes of factory workers and truck drivers — primarily men threatened by robots and AI.

Kaveh writes: But the wave will crash harder over women, who do the majority of highly automatable jobs. Policymakers thus far appear blind to the coming job losses for women, experts say, and risk putting in place training programs and safety nets that mainly rescue men.

Automation is expected to devastate jobs that involve routine tasks, such as back-office clerical jobs like accounting and service jobs in retail and fast food. Women do the majority of this repetitive work, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Key stat: Women will make up 57% of the Americans likely to see their jobs either eliminated or changed significantly by 2026, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). That's despite women making up less than half of the workforce.At the same time, women risk missing out on the fastest-growing jobs of the future, like data analysts and AI experts, because relatively few are in these occupations or are training for them.As of 2018, only 22% of people working in AI were womenaccording to WEF and LinkedIn.

"We risk living in a world where the clearest winners from technological change and the growth from it are disproportionately men," says Molly Kinder, a researcher at New America. In this scenario:

"Women fall further behind in terms of gender parity and upward economic mobility, and we design policies that try to buffer the fall for men and improve their ability to do jobs for the future — but we don't do the same for women."

— Molly Kinder, New America

What's happening: On March 8, WEF announced a new project meant to curb this potential impact on women.

WEF will work with companies to identify the 5 fastest-growing jobs in each firm and try to persuade them to commit to hiring equal numbers of men and women into those roles.The surging jobs vary by industry, according to WEF data shared with Axios, but in most sectors, the top 5 include engineers, scientists and computer experts.

Currently, there are too few women trained for many such jobs.

But increasing demand for women in high-growth jobs will likely encourage more women to obtain the skills for them, says Era Dabla-Norris, head of fiscal affairs at the IMF. This would take a bite out of the so-called "pipeline problem," which describes the relative lack of women in STEM education.Widening the pipeline, programs like AI4ALL, a nonprofit that began at Stanford University, are teaching AI skills to high schoolers from groups that are underrepresented in computer science — like women. And Silicon Valley, drawing fire for sexism, is under pressure to fix it.

But, but, but: Another surging future-proof industry that skews heavily female is home care for older or disabled patients (84% female), along with child care (94% female).

Many of these jobs do not pay well, can be unsafe and offer no career advancement.One frequent suggestion: Subsidize this care work, turning the sector into an anchor for the coming choppy waters.

March 12, 2019

Remarks by spokesman of Islamic Emirate regarding conclusion of latest round of talks

Remarks by spokesman of Islamic Emirate regarding conclusion of latest round of talksin Statements

March 12, 2019

Talks that began with the United States on the 25th of February 2019 came to an end today, 12th March 2019.

This round of talks saw extensive and detailed discussions taking place regarding two issues that were agreed upon during January talks. Those two issues were the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan and preventing anyone from harming others from Afghan soil; how and when will all foreign forces exit Afghanistan and through what method? Similarly, how will the United States and her allies be given assurances about future Afghanistan?

Progress was achieved regarding both these issues. For now, both sides will deliberate over the achieved progress, share it with their respective leaderships and prepare for the upcoming meeting, the date of which shall be set by both negotiation teams.

It should be mentioned that no agreement was reached regarding a ceasefire and talks with the Kabul administration, nor were other issues made a part of the current agenda. Reports by some media outlets in this regard are baseless.

Spokesman of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

Zabihullah Mujahid
05/07/1440 Hijri Lunar
21/12/1397 Hijri Solar                  12/03/2019 Gregorian

Pakistan to offer gas fields to foreign explorers, investors -official

Pakistan to offer gas fields to foreign explorers, investors -official

Much of the mineral-rich Pakistan remains unexplored despite gas discoveries dating back to the 1950s.

By Reuters | Mar 12, 2019, 10.11 AM IST

Pakistan also plans to introduce measures that ensure auction rights are unaffected by government or policy changes.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan plans to offers dozens of gas field concessions in the coming year to fill in a fuel shortage, a senior official said, with Islamabad hoping a sharp drop in militant violence and changes to exploration policy will attract foreign investors.

Much of the mineral-rich South Asian nation remains unexplored despite gas discoveries dating back to the 1950s. Conventional gas reserves are estimated at 20 trillion cubic feet (tcf), or 560 billion cubic meters, and shale gas reserves, which are untouched, at more than 100 tcf.

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Italy's ENI and U.S. oil major Exxon Mobil are jointly drilling for gas offshore in Pakistan's Arabian Sea, but many other Western companies have not returned after leaving more than a decade ago because of Islamist militant violence.

CONSTRUCTION

Turbulence for airport developers

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Nadeem Babar, head of Prime Minister Imran Khan's Task Force on Energy Reforms, told Reuters the government was amending its natural gas regulation and drawing up its first-ever shale gas policy, with licensing rounds to follow later this year.

The government hopes improving security in recent years and the country's extensive pipeline network will attract investors.

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More than 30 onshore gas blocks have been identified and the government plans to auction a large chunk of them in one or two licensing rounds by the end of 2019, Babar said in his office in the capital Islamabad.

"I expect in the second half of this year we will be auctioning at least 10, if not 20 blocks for exploration."

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Pakistan's domestic gas output has plateaued in the last five years, falling to 1.46 trillion cubic feet in 2017/18, from 1.51 trillion cubic feet in 2012/2013, according to an annual report from the Petroleum Ministry.

This has led to severe gas shortages as Pakistan's population, now at 208 million people, has risen sharply over the same period, driving fuel demand from industries and new power plants higher.

Gas demand was estimated at 6.9 billion cubic feet per day for 2017/18, according to Pakistan's Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority, nearly 3 billion cubic feet more than daily output.

To help plug the deficit, Pakistan has built two liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals, and demand is expected to hit 6.97 billion cubic feet a day for 2018/19, and 7.06 billion cubic feet a day in 2019/20.

But LNG is expensive, so Islamabad wants foreign companies to ramp up domestic exploration.

Babar said Pakistan was also drafting its first shale gas policy and it should be finished this year, with a licensing round in the first half of 2020.

One recent study by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) put Pakistan's shale gas reserves at more than 100 tcf in the Lower Indus Region alone, enough to meet current demand for at least a few decades.

One of the keys to developing natural gas production is to give investors affordable and reliable access to a pipeline network, Babar said, and such a plan is being drafted.

"The entire mechanism of how the pipeline system is working today is being is being re-looked at, to make it more deregulated, make it more open access," Babar said.

Prolific blocks and good data
Babar said the blocks for auction were "prolific and ... (had) good data", with interested companies including Saudi Arabia's Aramco, Exxon Mobil and Russia's Gazprom.

Only about 4 percent of Pakistan's landmass has been explored, and the success rate, with one out of three wells making a find, is above the international average, he said.

Babar said at least three more offshore blocks have also been carved out near where Eni and Exxon are searching for gas.

"We will be auctioning those ... probably next year."

To address security concerns, Babar said a military or a paramilitary unit will be created to guard companies that are exploring in the riskier parts of Pakistan, with the companies paying the costs.

"A mechanism like what was done in CPEC will be developed," Babar said, referring to a 15,000-strong army division set up to safeguard Beijing-funded infrastructure projects in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Pakistan also plans to introduce measures that ensure auction rights are unaffected by government or policy changes, to give investors greater regulatory certainty.




https://m.economictimes.com/news/international/world-news/pakistan-to-offer-gas-fields-to-foreign-explorers-investors-official/articleshow/68368939.cms

Wanted: Scholar to Document Progressive Perversity

Besacenter.org


By Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldMarch 11, 2019

Erasmus of Rotterdam, painting by Hans Holbein via Flickr CC

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,109, March 11, 2019

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The academy needs a competent and ambitious historian to document the many instances of progressive perversity throughout the centuries. Topics to be examined should include the antisemitism of Erasmus of Rotterdam, the “Prince of Humanism”; the French Revolution, during which progressives guillotined other progressives; the antisemitism of progressives like Voltaire, most French socialist leaders of the nineteenth century, and Karl Marx; communism; and the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, which was an iconic example of progressive perversity.

Progressive perversity has an extensive history over many centuries, and it is high time the phenomenon were subjected to scholarly analysis. A valid starting point for a competent and ambitious historian’s research might be the antisemitism of Erasmus of Rotterdam, often called the “Prince of Humanism.” He lived at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century.

Dutch theologian Hans Jansen investigated Erasmus’s antisemitism, which was extreme even for his time. This “humanist” called Judaism the “worst pest.” He even turned down an invitation to visit Spain in 1517, 25 years after the last non-converted Jews had left the country, because he claimed there was no more “Judaized country” than Spain.

In the history of Christianity, the Reformation can be considered a progressive upheaval though its aim was to return to the religion’s sources. The major reformer and antisemite, Martin Luther, neatly fits the description of a perverse progressive. Luther recommended that synagogues be burned to honor God and Christianity. He advised that Jewish books be confiscated and Jews expelled from Christian countries.

Luther also said no people were as thirsty for money as Jews. He believed that if a Christian met a Jew he should make the sign of the cross because a “live devil” was standing before him.  This went far beyond the mainstream antisemitism of his time.

While it would be a mistake to associate progressive incitement exclusively with antisemitism, the phenomenon has often been an indicator of huge misdeeds by individuals and societies.

Voltaire (1694-1778), the great thinker of the Enlightenment, was an extreme antisemite. He once wrote that all Jews were born with raging fanaticism in their hearts, and said the Jews surpassed all nations in bad conduct and barbarism.

The French Revolution, which began in 1789, was a major milestone of progressive perversity. First, the French king and queen and adherents of the old regime were executed. Subsequently, progressives started to send other progressives to the guillotine. For some time this was a daily event. The French Revolution brought about long-term societal renewal – but it was accompanied by mass murder.

During an interview with the late Robert Wistrich, the leading academic antisemitism scholar of our generation, he mentioned inter alia many progressive intellectuals who were antisemites. “Among the heirs of the Enlightenment traditions were the early French Socialists of the 19th century,” he said. “With rare exceptions, they laid the groundwork for late 19th century French antisemitism. They included Charles Fourier, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon – founder of anarchism and a seminal figure in the French labor movement – and Alphonse Toussenel.”

He went on to say, “Proudhon’s great rival and antagonist Karl Marx penned a work that Marxists always include in the pantheon of his writings, Zur Judenfrage (On the Jewish Question). Among the many pearls of intellectual inspiration in this work, one finds phrases like ‘Mammon is the worldly god of the Jews,’ or ‘The present Christian world in Europe and North America has reached the apex of this development and has become thoroughly Judaized.’”

Yet all this pales in comparison with another huge milestone of progressive perversity, the Communist Revolution in Russia. Not only were the Tsar, Tsarina, and adherents of the old regime executed, but in later years under Stalin, many communist leaders were themselves condemned to death. They included Lev Borisovich Kamenev (born Leo Rosenfeld) and Grigory Yevseyevich Zinoviev (born Hirsch Apfelbaum) in the show “Trial of the Sixteen” in 1936. Both had been members of the first politburo. That trial started what became known as the “Great Terror.” Trotsky would be assassinated by a Soviet agent in 1940.

National Socialism is generally considered a reactionary movement, but one should note the opinion of Polish-born sociologist Zygmunt Baumann. He linked the Holocaust to structural elements of modern society and civilization. Baumann pointed out that the Holocaust was the product of men who had been educated at the most refined level of Western society, and said Nazism was closely linked to modernity.

There were several progressive elements in Nazism. French philosopher Luc Ferry noted that Nazi laws to protect nature and prohibit hunting were the first in the world “to reconcile a sizable ecological project with the desire for a real political intervention.” The Nazis were indeed precursors of current animal protection movements that are usually considered progressive.

The historian of progressive perversity could devote many pages to contemporary progressives. In our time, progress is partly linked to left-wing politics. Left-wing antisemitism is a major force directed against the State of Israel. We find it among many Greens, Socialists, and Communists. Three now-deceased socialist European leaders compared Israel’s acts to those of the Nazis: Swedish PM Olof Palme, Greek PM Andreas Papandreou, and French President François Mitterrand. The tenacious antisemitism in the British Labour party to a large extent derives from supporters of its extreme leftist leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

For the scholar of progressive perversity who writes this magnum opus, antisemitism would be a good guideline with which to analyze the contemporary world. Academia is the logical place to start identifying perverse progressives. Outside academia, the BDS movement has its main supporters on the left. Other areas to look into are human rights and other NGOs, trade unions, liberal churches, and so on. As the issuer of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN might be considered progressive, even if it is mainly a collection of non-democratic states voting for heavily biased resolutions against Israel.

The NGO conference adjacent to the “World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance” in Durban, South Africa in September 2001 can be considered an iconic example of progressive perversity. Irwin Cotler, former Minister of Justice of Canada, who participated in the gathering, wrote: “For us, ‘Durban’ is part of our everyday lexicon as a byword for racism and anti-Semitism, just as 9/11 is a byword for terrorist mass murder.”

Progressive perversity overlaps humanitarian racism. The latter means criticizing the transgressions of one side in a conflict and closing one’s eyes to the much worse misdemeanors of the other side. The Goldstone Commission was a paradigm of humanitarian racism as it remained silent about the crimes of Hamas, a genocidal terror movement, and focused instead on the faults of the Israeli democratic state.

The challenges for the scholar who writes this history are great. It demands much knowledge and a clarity of view that can span many centuries. Books on the topic, even if brilliant, will likely be attacked by progressive scholars who cannot stand the truth.

Yet the potential is huge. A scholar who succeeds in this enormous task would become a star historian, all the more so as he or she would lay the foundation for the analysis of the many more perverse progressives yet to come.

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Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ is a Senior Research Associate at the BESA Center and a former chairman of the Steering Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He specializes in IsraeliWestern European relations, antisemitism, and anti-Zionism, and is the author of The War of a Million Cuts.

In Search of Explainable Artificial Intelligence

Geopolitical Monitor

OPINION - March 8, 2019

By Alessandro Bruno

Today, if a new entrepreneur wants to understand why the banks rejected a loan application for his start-up, or if a young graduate wants to know why the large corporation for which he was hoping to work did not invite her for an interview, they will not be able to discover the reasons that led to these decisions.

Both the bank and the corporation used artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to determine the outcome of the loan or the job application. In practice, this means that if your loan application is rejected, or your CV rejected, no explanation can be provided. This produces an embarrassing scenario, which tends to relegate AI technologies to suggesting solutions, which must be validated by human beings.

Explaining how these technologies work remains one of the great challenges that researchers and adopters must resolve in order to allow humans to become less suspicious, and more accepting, of AI.  To that effect, it’s important to note what AI is not. The very term AI conjures up images of sentient robots able to understand human language and act accordingly. While it may one day reach that point, for the time being, in the vast majority of cases AI refers to a complex software, programmed to make decisions based on the inputs it receives.

The big leap occurred when such software moved beyond being able to play and win at chess against humans (Google’s DeepMind) to being able to approve or deny credit such as Lenddo. In other words AI now largely consists of software, based on decisional algorithms. The self-driving apps that Apple, Google, and Tesla are developing are based on the same principles. Similarly, many humans come literally face to face with AI every day when they ask Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant to help them with a search or in finding a good restaurant.

AI, therefore, for most people, is a decisional system that produces results based on the data that feed a given algorithm. And while we’re discussing the subject of AI explainability, algorithms (derived from the IX century Baghdad mathematician al-Kharawazm who first recognized these) are procedures that resolve a specific problem through an established number of basic steps.

In a sense, explainable AI offers a solution to enable the relevant humans to understand how an AI algorithm made a particular decision. Why does anyone need to know this? Because the algorithms take decisions with serious ethical and legal ramifications. Therefore, in order for AI to advance and spread, it can only do so in a context of ‘explainability.’ Let’s consider self-driving cars. In case of an accident, the obvious question is ‘who is responsible?’ The issue of repairing the damage, to a vehicle, person, or property begs to be asked. Legal systems have been slow to adapt, even as automated systems are making decisions in situations, which not even the human algorithm programmers can predict.

The issue of self-driving vehicles may be the most obvious.

Who is responsible? Insurers and lawyers are already debating the issue. And despite the fact that related experimental vehicles have driven millions of miles in tests on actual roads, before drivers will be allowed to exploit the full potential of self-driving technology, legal knots will have to be worked out. And in order for that to happen, the AI algorithms will have to be able to explain how they make their decisions.

Until then, humans will have to take responsibility for decisional processes. And this limits the potential of AI.

Therefore, the future of ‘AI explainability’ is the future of AI itself.

AI will also need to explain itself, given its enormous philosophical implications.

In the Bible, the Creator asked Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Creator offered no explanation for the demand; and his two most valuable creations, Adam and Eve, defied the command. In the Bible, God expelled the two from eternal life. Mankind will not have this luxury. AI technology, like all other technology before it, cannot be expelled from the world-no matter how hard luddites may try. Yet, the ‘forbidden fruit’ story does pose two crucial A.I. problems:

Will AI systems also become independent enough to think for themselves and defy human orders (as many fear and as science fiction has suggested)? And why should humans abide by decisions taken by AI systems?

Of the two, the one that must be addressed first is the latter question.

In the opinion of many, including unlikely sources involved in selling AI dependent technologies – such as Elon Musk of Tesla Motors and SpaceX – artificial intelligence suffers from excessive opacity. Artificial intelligence technologies have generated programs that peruse curricula, cover letters, medical diagnostics or loan applications. Nevertheless, these programs make decisions in ways that seem arbitrary. Or, rather, they make decisions that neither the humans in control nor the programs can explain. Programmers and users simply cannot track the multitude of calculations that the AI program has used to reach its conclusion.

AI technology—if we can even use that plebeian term to describe something that’s as revolutionary as the discovery of fire—will be a turning point for humanity, not just the economy, making our lives better. It’s on the brink of devising systems, whether machines or processes, that can think, feel and even worship their creators…humans. Indeed, humanity has truly reached an Olympian moment. It has evolved to the point of having reshaped the world physically, it has now reached a stage where it can literally play ‘God’. If humans are now in a position to create ever more sentient ‘machines’, there are no guarantees that the machines will be happy to serve and obey their creators all of the time.

March 09, 2019

What the Speed of Life Means for Security and Society

ESSAY

March 6, 2019

Rand.org

Kathryn Bouskill, a social scientist at RAND

Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

The envelope arrived with no explanation but a New York City postmark. Kathryn Bouskill tore it open and shook out a small, silvery coin. It was stamped with a “20,” she saw as she turned it over in her hand—not 20 cents, or 20 dollars, but 20 minutes.

Bouskill studies health and human behavior as an anthropologist at RAND. She and another researcher, Seifu Chonde, teamed up to examine our scramble for new technology, our headlong rush to make everything go a little faster. We are hurtling toward a time of transformation, they concluded, without asking what all this speed means for our society, our security, and our sanity.

She knew the value of that coin right away.

Do We Have "Hurry Sickness"?

There's a word in German for that discombobulated feeling that life is just racing by: Eilkrankheit, “hurry sickness.” It means rushing home from work just to flip open your laptop. Or checking your cellphone more than 50 times a day, the U.S. average.

Bouskill wondered whether we might be coming down with a case of societal hurry sickness. She partnered with Chonde to test that idea. He came at the question from the opposite perspective, as an engineer and data scientist. He reminded Bouskill that a train can jump the tracks by going too fast, but also by going too slow.

He looked at how quickly technology will advance in the next 20 years. She looked at what that could mean for the human experience.

They concluded that we are about to shift into hyperdrive. The experts they interviewed, the research they reviewed, all pointed in the same direction. Dozens of technologies with the power to transform human life, from 3D printing to cognitive implants, could become as ordinary as a cellphone by 2040.

Society will have to adapt, on the fly, in ways it never has. It took the telephone 85 years to become a household mainstay; color television, 21 years; and the smartphone, 13 years. A key difference was the infrastructure involved. It took a long time to connect every household to a telephone line. In the digital world, it takes no time at all.

Years Until Technologies Became Mainstays of Life

TechnologyYearsSmartphone13Internet15Color Television21Car71Telephone85

As Technology Transforms Life, Can We Adapt?

The speed of change is already testing our ability to respond. In 2010, for example, a high-speed trader working from home executed a series of split-second sales by algorithm, triggering a “flash crash” that briefly wiped nearly $1 trillion from the Dow Jones Industrial Average. In 2013, a law student prompted a regulatory crisis by posting designs for a 3D-printed gun on the internet.

By 2040, the researchers concluded, the speed of life itself could pose a security challenge. In a crisis, the people making decisions will have less time to react, and more information coming at them. That's already a concern at the highest levels of national security and government. As Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned in a recent essay: “Decision space has collapsed and so our processes must adapt to keep pace.”

By 2040, the speed of life itself could pose a security challenge.

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“As we accept new technology, we need to question whether or not it's the right move in each situation,” Chonde said. “Our daily lives are going to get faster in many ways, and something I fear is that we might miss the consequences.”

He and Bouskill followed the technological trend lines—“deep into the sci-fi realm,” Chonde acknowledged—to start thinking through what those consequences might be.

By 2040, they imagined, it's possible that the sharing economy, heralded by the Ubers and Lyfts of the world, will have evolved to the point that we don't really own much at all. Superfast hyperloop trains might whisk commuters from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than 30 minutes. Cognitive implants—the researchers called them “iBrains”—might allow us to learn faster, perform better, and communicate at the speed of thought.

This video is hosted by YouTube. RAND is not responsible for any materials originating from this third-party server.

It was more than just an exercise in creative thinking. The researchers used those scenarios in a series of workshops to test how people around the country think about speed. Most accepted the accelerating pace of life as inevitable. They thought that they'd be left behind if they tried to slow down; better to burn out, one said, than to rust out. They worried about a loss of privacy, cultural traditions, and a sense of community, as well as worsening inequalities in a future defined by technology.

That's a conversation we need to have more often, the researchers concluded, before we find ourselves in a future we're not really prepared for. Their message was not “slow down,” but “watch for blind spots.” Hurry sickness, like motion sickness, might ease with a good look at the horizon.

“We've sort of just been in this hamster wheel, and people are feeling the crunch, but they're not always thinking critically about when it might be better to go faster, or slower,” Bouskill said. “We live in a world where it's the tweet of the minute and we get lost in the here and now. We have forgotten to think deeply and considerately about what's coming down the pike.”

Do We Know the Value of Time?

Bouskill presented their findings at a recent TEDx conference. The title of her speech was “Stone Agers on Speed.”

Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

Afterward, she struck up a conversation with a fellow presenter, a New York artist named Otis Kriegel. He was just starting a new public art project, he explained. He was planning to hand out hundreds of coins starting in late spring, for 20 minutes each, with a request that people send him a sentence or two about how they spent their gift of time. A friend, for example, kept one of the coins in his pocket, a reminder not to waste time when he reached for his cellphone. After all, Kriegel said, “time is the common currency for all of us.”

“What could we do if we started a social movement where people would give themselves, or give one another, 20 minutes of time?” Bouskill asked. “What if we flipped 'time is money' to 'money is time'? What would that mean? What could we change? What would happen if we just stopped and talked to each other? What would we find out about ourselves?”

But in the hustle and hurry of modern life, those 20 minutes can be hard to come by. Bouskill decided the best thing she could do with her coin was save it as a reminder.

— Doug Irving

Skripal anniversary


 
This week marks a year since two GRU-linked Russian assassins travelled to the English town of Salisbury, posing as hapless tourists keen to view the 123-metre spire of Salisbury Cathedral, and smeared a deadly, military-grade nerve agent on the handle of ex-spy Sergei Skripal’s front door in a botched attempt to fatally poison him. The operation not only failed to kill Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, but its mishandling and public aftermath reaped spectacular humiliation for the Kremlin and the Russian intelligence services.
 Naturally, the pro-Kremlin disinformation machine has pursued frenetic damage control since news of the attack first broke, churning out all manner of denials, fabrications, and feverish conspiracy theories to obscure Russia’s responsibility for the poisoning, cast doubt on the findings of the British investigation, and find a scapegoat (or fifty) to blame for the attack. Here’s a look back at the (d)evolution of the pro-Kremlin media’s mendacious coverage of the Skripal case over the last year.
 
What happened to the Skripals? 150+ alternatives to choose from!
 
Since last March, EUvsDisinfo has compiled 151 disinformation cases about the poisoning that have been tailored to both international audiences and the domestic Russian public. The narratives can be roughly divided into seven categories:
 
1. It’s all just a Russophobic witch-hunt!
Following the tradition of much pro-Kremlin disinformation, most of the narratives about the Skripal case portray Russia as the victim of unfounded persecution, Russophobia, and anti-Russian provocation and conspiracy. According to Kremlin-aligned media, the Skripal affair is simply justification for increasing the NATO budget or fuelling anti-Russian hysteria in the West to lay the groundwork for a new Cold War. As a result of this deflection and obfuscation, only 3% of Russians believes that the Kremlin had something to do with the assassination attempt.
 
2. Britain did it!
At times, the originality of pro-Kremlin disinfo leaves something to be desired. Since the Skripal attack took place in the UK, suggesting that it was a British false flag operation was an obvious choice. Britain apparently had ample motive for such an attack: to trigger a boycott of the 2018 World Cup, to influence Russian elections, or to divert attention from Brexit (and from Britain’s “mass paedophilia” problem). The poisoning was most likely Theresa May’s idea, carried out by the British secret services at her request. Alternatively, though, the whole affair was an accident – the result of an internal control problem at Porton Down laboratory!
 
3. It was somebody else!
Even if Britain wasn’t responsible for the attack, there are plenty of other potential culprits to blame – but of course, Russia isn’t among them! Here, Kremlin-aligned media got creative, with a suspect list ranging from Georgia, Ukraine, Czechia, Slovakia, Sweden, and the US to terrorists and Yulia Skripal’s mother-in-law.
4. There is no evidence that Russia did it!
In its duty to deflect blame from Russian authorities and establish their “innocence”, the pro-Kremlin media regularly insist that there is no evidence in the Skripal case that implicates the Kremlin. Apparently, the British investigation into the attack has produced no proof of Russian involvement – the GRU agents identified as the would-be assassins were just “tourists” visiting Salisbury from London (twice in two days!) to see the “world-famous cathedral”. And anyway, neither the Soviet Union nor post-Soviet Russia have ever assassinated anyone!
 
5. It wasn’t Novichok!
Another set of narratives revolves around the use of Novichok in Salisbury. Pro-Kremlin media have not only claimed that no chemical weapon was used in the Skripal attack, but that Novichok doesn’t even exist – or, if it does, that it was manufactured by another country, and certainly not Russia! Most likely, Sergei Skripal just overdosed or tried to commit suicide.
 
6. The Skripals are kidnapped or hidden away!
Sergei and Yulia Skripal have either been kidnapped or deliberately hidden away to prevent them from telling the truth about the attack. The British secret services are most likely behind this, and are even preventing the Skripals from having any contact with their relatives.
 
7. The Skripals are dead!
After their alleged kidnapping, the Skripals were in fact killed and even cremated, according to pro-Kremlin media. London has sought to hide the truth of their death and even faked the interview with Yulia Skripal to bolster the deception. This conspiracy theory is likely to have a long life among pro-Kremlin sources, seeing as even the British ambassador’s official assurance that the Skripals are safe has failed to shut down this narrative.

Click here for the FULL COLLECTION of recent stories repeating disinformation.

March 05, 2019

A world and web divided

AXIOS Media

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

 

2019 has seen massive shifts in the way big countries reckon with the future of the web, a departure from years of optimism.

Why it matters: The next version of the internet could be balkanized by two emerging trends.

Autocratic regimes are looking to increase censorship.New internet tech, such as blockchain and 5G, is heating up conflicts between the U.S. and China.

Driving the news: India recently announced a proposal that would install a Chinese-style of internet censorship ahead of its elections.

The move brings India, which has the second-largest internet population, farther from other democratic republics around the globe.

Elsewhere, nations are using election security risks and geopolitical threats as a means to introduce heavy-handed censorship rules.

Russia is considering a plan to temporarily disconnect from the internet as a way to test its cyberdefenses. President Vladimir Putin has indicated that the country is mulling creating an autonomous Russian internet in the event that foreign adversaries cut off Russia from their networks.Some African nations are continuing to use censorship to manipulate elections. The Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, for example, have faced international pressure to reduce efforts to censor or shut off the internet ahead of elections.China has long used a firewall to block access to certain sites from being accessed within its borders. Some users try to avoid such barriers by using illegal VPNs (or network access points).

What's next: New technology and shifting economics will also be driving forces in how the internet develops around the world.

Blockchain: Some experts see blockchain, the open-source technology that powers bitcoin, as a tool that will drive the expansion of an open web.5G: The fifth generation of mobile connectivity (5G) will be so much faster than the current network (4G) that experts think the first region or corporation to create an expansive 5G network will create its own version of the web.

"This is a fundamental strategic competition for who builds the platform for the next round of the internet. That is just as important if not more than who builds the state of the art harbors, railways and highways over the next 20 years ... I think it is the biggest strategic issue that overarches everything else."

— Janice Stein, political science professor, University of Toronto

Share this storyby Axios' Alison Snyder and me.

Negative energy: Berlin’s Trumpian turn on Nord Stream 2

ECFR.EU

European Council on Foreign Relations



Note from Berlin

Gustav Gressel 
@GresselGustav
27th February, 2019

Berlin's handling of the controversial Nord Stream 2 project reveals double standards and neglect of the pipeline's security repercussions. 

Berlin has handled the dispute over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with unilateralism and clumsiness worthy of US President Donald Trump. On 8 February, the EU Committee of Permanent Representatives was to vote on a proposal to tighten the rules of the common energy market – which have thus far enabled states and companies, particularly Germany and Gazprom, to circumvent EU law. Paris signalled on 7 February that it would support the proposal, igniting debate among European policy analysts and prompting hasty diplomatic interventions from Berlin. Although this eventually led to a Franco-German compromise of sorts, the incident reflected Germany’s increasing isolation on the issue.

While it loves to rant about Trump’s disruptive and confrontational behaviour, the German government hardly behaves any differently when its interests are at stake.


Paris has a direct interest in Nord Stream 2 through French firm Engie’s involvement in the project. Yet the French government appears to be less worried about commercial interests than the prospect that German insistence on completing Nord Stream 2 will drive other EU member states into the hands of the Trump administration. Portraying itself as a fearsome opponent of the project, the administration likely sees Poland and other opponents of Nord Stream 2 as potential allies in a coming trade war with the European Union. For Eurosceptic-led governments such as that in Italy, the debacle over the pipeline vindicates their view of the EU as a club whose rules twist to accommodate the tactical preferences of Berlin.

What happened to the proposal?

The proposal would probably not have prohibited the construction of the pipeline outright but rather made it more expensive and transparent. The proposal would also have given concerned EU countries a greater say in the project and the European Commission a pivotal role in supervising energy contracts, thereby diminishing Gazprom’s ability to distort the European gas market.

When it came out in support of the proposal, France did not perceive this as being an affront to Germany: the pipeline had drawn increasing criticism from across the EU and constant attacks from Trump. Greater EU oversight of the project would have allowed the German government to deflect much of this condemnation without giving in to Trump (which is widely seen as something close to domestic political suicide). By bridging the political divide, the proposal would not only have reduced Germany’s isolation but also reduced the risk that the United States would exploit disagreements over Nord Stream 2 to split the EU.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has only added to the confusion with her inconsistency on the matter. She voted down the European Commission’s first attempt to change EU energy regulations in November 2017, but acknowledged the following spring that Germany needed to addressthe security concerns about Nord Stream 2 of Ukraine and other countries. Hence, many diplomats thought she would accept the proposal.

The EU’s reaction

Nonetheless, Berlin’s reaction was far from accepting. Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier immediately pressured Paris and, particularly, Bucharest (which currently holds the EU presidency) to water down the proposal. The resulting compromise denies other EU member states and the European Commission any influence on the process of commissioning the pipeline. Gazprom will still be forced to transfer operative ownership of the project to another company – most likely, a Gazprom subsidiary similar to the one that operates the European Gas Pipeline Link interconnector – and to allow other providers to access to the pipeline. Neither provision will change much: such a subsidiary would have the opportunity to hire loyal politicians as board members and thereby widen the Russian corruption network in Germany. And other, non-Russian suppliers cannot access the pipeline because it lies on the seabed. The decision of whether to involve other Russian companies in Nord Stream 2 rests with President Vladimir Putin. As such, the watered-down version of the proposal is only a compromise in the sense that it is better than nothing.

The German government’s handling of the project will cause lasting damage. Several of the arguments Berlin put forward in support of Nord Stream 2 have been revealed as lies:

Nord Stream 2 is a commercial project. 
This argument holds that the pipeline will fit within the EU’s legal framework and that there are no grounds to interfere with business initiatives unless they violate existing rules. It is now clear that the German government actively intervenes to preserve a regulatory ecosystem in which the project can survive.
 German energy supply is separate from German foreign policy. 
German pipelines only come about due to the heavy political support they receive. This erodes the trust placed in Germany to uphold EU sanctions, for two reasons. Firstly, because the Yamal gas field – which feeds the Nord Stream pipelines – is difficult to exploit, the project will only be a long-term commercial success if the EU lifts its sanctions on the Russian energy sector. Secondly, if many smaller states are prevented from conducting business with Russia but Berlin provides political cover to deals with the country it sees as strategically important, the European sanctions debate will descend into cynicism.
 The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) have substantively different views of Nord Stream 2. 
In the past, SPD cadres led the way in openly advocating for the pipeline project, while the chancellery remained silent on the issue. Many of Germany’s European allies hoped a new German government would take a different approach to Nord Stream 2 or that Merkel and other key figures would prove trustworthy because they had no personal involvement in pushing for the project. But Merkel has now personally defended the project, citing the usual arguments of lobbyists for Nord Stream 2 and thereby toxifying her and the CDU on the European stage. Indeed, many European opponents of the project now see Germany as a whole as the problem.
 The German government is a multilateralist protector of the rules-based order. 
Germany’s behaviour shows that it only accepts the rules when convenient, and otherwise uses unilateral bullying tactics to preserve regulatory loopholes that favour German interests. While it loves to rant about Trump’s disruptive and confrontational behaviour, the German government hardly behaves any differently when its interests are at stake.
 The EU is a rules-based organisation in which all member-states have equal rights. 
While this is the case on paper, the Nord Stream 2 case is widely perceived as one more example of double standards that favour Germany. The EU has prevented Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, Greece, and Slovakia from engaging in bilateral pipeline projects with Russia under its Third Energy Package. Yet Germany has used a loophole in European regulations to launch the kind of project that others have been denied, and to strengthen its position in the European gas market. Having seen another major European power become increasingly willing to bend and break the rules, Italy is now more likely than ever to demand exemptions from the Stability and Growth Pact.

Security concerns

While southern EU member states perceive Nord Stream 2 as further proof of unjust German economic hegemony in Europe, eastern and northern European states will probably adopt an ever more sceptical, if not hostile, attitude towards Berlin on security issues. Germany’s role as an advocate for Gazprom in Europe, combined with its failure to live up to its commitments on defence, reinforces fears that the Russo-German cosiness of the Schröder era is now a permanent feature of Berlin’s strategy. Efforts to hedge against German influence will become all the more essential in post-Brexit Europe (although they may take more a polite form in Stockholm than in Warsaw). Poland may recognise that siding with the US in a trade war against Germany will have negative economic side-effects, but its security fears are likely to come before economics.

Meanwhile, Belarus and Ukraine will experience most of the negative consequences of the Russian-German energy partnership. Nord Stream 2 will make pipelines that pass through Ukraine and Belarus redundant. And it is not just the loss in transit money that worries these countries. The Russian regime relies on exports of oil and gas. And dependence on access to pipelines in Belarus and Ukraine currently constrains Russian military activity in these countries. For example, in 2014 Moscow refrained from providing military support to pro-Russian separatist groups in Kharkiv due to the presence of important installations on the gas transit line in the north and northwest of the city. Yet, after initiating the Nord Stream 2 project, Russia started to militarise the Belgorod-Kursk border region, deploying the 20th Guards Army just across the frontier. Under growing pressure to cede its sovereignty to Russia, Belarus may accept an increased Russian troop presence in its territory and subordinate its armed forces to the Russian general staff. This would drastically change the security situation in Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania.

Thus, there is little sense to Berlin’s argument that Russia was a reliable supplier of gas to Germany even during the cold war. In that era, the Russian gas-delivery system had no effect on the military security or sovereignty of other neutral and non-allied states – thereby allowing for the separation of energy policy and security policy. This is no longer the case. However, because it does not see Russia as a direct threat, the German political establishment tends to ignore the security implications of Nord Stream 2.

Germany has no capacity or domestic mandate to deal with the geopolitical fallout of its choices on Nord Stream 2. It cannot prevent Russia from absorbing Belarus, nor from escalating the war in Ukraine. In environmental and climate politics, German leaders often emphasise that one should not commit to policies whose ramifications one cannot control. But, in a mirror image of Trump’s approach to climate policy, Merkel simply bows to ideological stubbornness and the lobbying efforts of domestic industry and special interest groups.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. This commentary, like all publications of the European Council on Foreign Relations, represents only the views of its authors.

March 02, 2019

The demographic drag

AXIOS CHINA Bill Bishop

China's National Bureau of Statistics' issued a communiqueyesterday that provides more data on the looming demographic challenges for the country.

By the numbers: China's employment population has shrunk for the first time ever, Caixin reports...

At the end of 2018, the number of people employed fell to 776 million, a drop of 540,000 from 2017, according to annual census data...

The working-age population, or people between the ages of 16 and 59, also shrank — for the seventh consecutive year, down a total of 2.8% from 2011 to 2018, a clear sign that China’s population is aging rapidly.

Plus, now there are more people 60 or older than under 15, the Global Times reports...

The population aged 60 and above in China has for the first time surpassed those under 15, showing how the country's demographic structure is aging.

According to the [NBS] statement ... the population of China was about 1.4 billion at the end of 2018. Among them, the number of people aged 15 and under is 248.6 million; those who aged 60 and above are 249.5 million.

Why it matters: China is getting old before it gets rich. Policymakers have woken up to the challenge but so far measures like ending the one child policy have not sparked a baby boom.

Fighter Abhinandan: Minute by Minute combat details

Minute by Minute details

9:52 AM – Indian Netra and Northern Air command (?) detected ten F 16 took off from 3 Airbases from Pakistan. They came in 3 groups and merged in attack formation near POK.

9:54: AM – India scrambled 2 Mig21 Bisons and 4 Sukhoi MKi to intercept 10 PAK F16

9.58 AM – India sounded alert to PAF fighters that, you are about to encroach Indian air space. Please evade.

9.59 AM – India sounded alert # 2, to PAF with IFAC protocols and they didn’t respond

10:00 AM - PAF violates Indian airspace. With Swarm merge attack formation (which is tactical in nature)

10:01 AM - Nine F 16 forced to deviate path and within 1 KM of airspace they returned to POK side after heavy surface to air ground artillery and valiant fight from our Sukhoi and MIGs.

10:02 AM -  One PAK F16 went deep inside Indian territory probably 3 KMs to destroy an Oil storage at an Army Brigade HQ

10:03 AM – One IAF Sukoi and one Mig 21 Bison (Flt Lt Abhinandan Varthaman) continued engaging the F16 in a dog fight maneuver called “Defensive split”. Mig 21 was in the front, then F16 and then a sukoi. Due to firing from sukoi, F16 flee the scene using a dog fight maneuver called “Wingover”.

10:04 AM – Sukhoi hovered around oil field guarding it and Mig 21 Bison (Wg Cdr Abhinandan) chased F16 out of Indian territory. While chasing he engaged F16 in a lock-in position for his onboard R-73 air to air missile to be deployed.
Here you have to applaud the courage of Abhinandan. He could have returned to base. But if he returns to base then the missile lock in would have been disengaged (due to out of radar coverage) and he will not be able to shoot F16 down. So he decided to chase him down to POK and shoot him down.

10:08 AM – He engaged his R 73 missile that hit the F 16 and downed him

10:08 AM – After shooting him down he performed a highly dangerous maneuver called “High-g barrel roll”. He had to do this because he had been in the vicinity of PAK surface to air artillery and SAM. While doing so he has to vertically climb at high speed and reverse its direction towards India. While doing so his old outdated MIG 21 Bison’s engine thrust had a problem and he became almost non-maneuverable for few secs. And during that time either a SAM or air artillery hit his plane.

So people questioning his valour and skill should understand what has happened.

*Just upgrading radar and avionics doesn’t give you the edge.

It requires a huge piloting skills, ability and courage to down a F-16 with a Mig-21.

So Salute to Abhinandan
🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼

March 01, 2019

India’s New Israel Policy

Swp-berlin.org

P. R. Kumaraswamy

How the Decline of the Palestinian Issue and Economic Reorientation Accelerate Indo-Israeli Cooperation

SWP Comment 2019/C 11, March 2019, 4 Pages

In January 2019, about two weeks before India’s Republic Day, Israel’s National SecurityAdvisor, Meir Ben-Shabbat, flew to New Delhi and met Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi. While such consultations have been routine for the past two decades, the Israeli official chose the direct Air India flight from Tel Aviv – a new flight connection that could only be established due to an unprecedented permit for Israel-bound flights to fly over Saudi airspace. The small incident highlights the distance that India and Israel have traveled since the normalization of diplomatic relations in 1992. Today, the two states share an ever-growing cooperation, especially in the areas of security and eco­nomic development. This rapprochement with Israel is embedded in India’s broader Middle East strategy, in which especially the Gulf Arab states are important partners. Thus, India-Israel relations have also been catalyzed by the improvement in ties be­tween Israel and the Gulf States as well as the diminishing role played by the Palestin­ian issue. This, in turn, has led India, especially under Modi, not only to strengthen its ties with Israel, but also to de-hyphenate those ties from the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, leading to a marginalization of the Palestinian question in Indian foreign policy.

The rapprochement between Israel and India in recent years has been brought about at the expense of the Palestinians’ standing in India’s regional policy. This marginalization could be seen in India’s abstentions at the UNHCR votes on the Gaza conflict in 2014 and the challenges to Jewish historical links to Jerusalem at UNESCO in 2016. It was even more clearly visible when PM Modi avoided making any reference in 2017 to East Jerusalem being the capital of the future Palestinian state – with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas standing by his side.

In delinking the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict from its relations with Israel, India had concluded a shift that began in the early 1990s. Prior to that, India had been a staunch supporter of the Palestinian posi­tion, in line with its anti-colonialist stance. This policy had been responsible for India’s lack of diplomatic relations with Israel for more than four decades – despite recogni­tion in 1950 – and began with India voting against the 1947 partition plan for Palestine in the UN General Assembly. Only after the end of the Cold War did India display a wil­lingness to come to terms with the new non-ideological international order and subsequently normalize its rela­tions with Israel. However, it pursued a delicate bal­ance vis-à-vis the parties to the conflict until the latter part of the 1990s, even tem­porarily endorsing East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

It was only in the 2000s – during the rule of the center-left Congress Party (2004–2014) – that India delinked its bi­lateral ties with Israel from the peace pro­cess. Even though the coalition demands of the Left parties precluded highly visible political contacts, relations with Israel were primarily driven by India’s defense and agri­cultural requirements.

In the following decade, especially after Modi became prime minister in May 2014, another trend emerged, whereby the nor­mali­zation of Indo-Israeli relations became integral to India’s extensive engagements in the broader Middle East. India’s approach to Israel during this period was no longer dominated by the Palestinian issue but by economic cooperation. Thus, Israel has be­come an important partner for India, with­out these relations being harmed by the conflict. This also mirrors India’s changing national interests due to its great power aspirations, as New Delhi is seeking to shed the “developing country” tag. At the same time, rapprochement between India and Israel was only possible because the impor­tance of the Palestinian question has also been steadily losing urgency for other impor­tant partners of India, especially in the Gulf.

India’s Changing Interests

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) coun­tries are of considerable importance to India for political as well as economic reasons. A total of 42 percent of India’s oil imports come from the GCC, and more than 7.6 million Indians are gainfully employed there. India also has the second-largest Mus­lim population after Indonesia. The pace of Indo-Israeli engagement could not have been improved without the Palestinians being marginalized in the regional dis­course, as this would have upset the Gulf States. Hence, criticisms of Israel and its policies are no longer prominent in joint statements, and India and its Arab inter­locutors now refer to the two-state solution and the need for Israeli-Palestinian coexist­ence. Under Modi, the Palestinian issue has only been raised in statements during his meetings with leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but not with other leaders in the Middle East.

Thus, the declining influence of the Pal­es­tinian factor in regional politics strongly facilitated rapprochement with Israel. And although the marginalization of the Pales­tinian cause is not necessarily true for the Arab street, Arab governments are ex­pressing ever-more interest in cooperation with Israel and have gradually come to terms with Israel’s political legitimacy – most well-known is Muhammed bin Sal­man’s de facto recognition of Israel’s right to exist. Other Gulf States have also shown openness toward Israel: For example, at the Warsaw conference in February 2019, several Gulf foreign ministers were seen as being on friendly terms with PM Benjamin Netanyahu. The shared enmity of the Gulf Arab States and Israel vis-à-vis Iran has proven to be a catalyst in improving their relations.

These developments have coincided with India’s economic ascendance: India is the third-largest importer of oil after the United States and China, and in 2017, it overtook France and became the sixth-largest global economy. Along with these developments, India has shifted its diplomatic focus from associations that concentrate on developing countries to the G20 and BRICS nations. It is also giving preference to relations with economically successful states, reversing its previous anti-colonialist stance. Israel fits in here well, since it offers economic and tech­nological prospects. This strategy nurtured the de-hyphenating of the Palestinian issue with India’s ties to Israel, and New Delhi ceased to view Israel as a special case in the Middle East.

Areas of Cooperation

India’s relations with Israel operate along two major planks: military-security co­opera­tion and economic issues, although the role of decentralization in the promotion of bilateral relations is also instrumental. Since the 1990s, India has been import­ing weapons systems from Israel and has benefited from the latter’s expertise in up­grading Soviet military equipment. While Israel has become India’s number three de­fense supplier after Russia and the United States, India has become the largest market for Israeli military exports. Since 2013 it has been the biggest buyer of Israeli equip­ment, purchasing 49 percent of Isra­e­li mili­tary exports in this period. In 2017 alone, India imported equipment worth $715 mil­lion, including items such as the Harop drone, the Phalcon AWACS aircraft, and the Barak 8 LR-SAM air and missile defense systems.

Secondly, both countries have been focusing on the civilian agenda to cement their ties. Israeli expertise in agriculture, water management, dairy farming, waste management, etc., has been pushing the pace along: Bilateral trade in 2001 was only valued at $785 million, but it grew by 600 percent to $5 billion in 2015. Value-adding methods such as technology transfers and trainings are shoring-up bilateral relations through a specialized and diversified trade approach. Agriculture-related investments in India are aimed at training farmers in modern cultivation skills in 26 Centers of Excellence all over India. In 2017 the Indo-Israeli Agricultural Project was one of Isra­el’s largest overseas commitments ser­viced through MASHAV – Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation. Hence, agriculture and training pro­grams are becoming a game changer for mutual relations, especially since the agri­cultural sector in India generates around 15 percent of national GDP and employs 58 percent of India’s population. One example of the impact of Israeli technology on agri­culture is the intro­duction of protected environment cultivation, where water use and fertilizer costs are reduced by 90 per­cent, and harvest yields increase by a factor of at least 4 to 5. In addition, a $40 million technology fund (the Israel India Innovation Initiative Fund) was set up to increase research cooperation and address India’s food security challenges.

This economic cooperation was additionally facilitated by India’s federal structure. While the Union Government in New Delhi is preoccupied with high politics, such as the question of Palestinian statehood, the state governments are primarily concerned with their agenda to further economic growth and diversification. Hence, the latter – ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress, and other regional parties – have looked to Israel for apolitical and non-controversial cooperation on economic issues. Even the communist parties, which have ideological differences with Israel, were not averse to economic partnership with and investments from Israel. This pro­cess has enabled many political parties to criti­cize Israel at the national level while seek­ing robust bilateral economic cooperation at the provincial level. One can speak thus of the decentralization of bilateral rela­tions with regional cooperation as a catalyst.

Limitations of Cooperation

In the context of the Middle East, India has so far been successful in building up its level of cooperation with Israel without en­dangering its relations with others. Never­theless, limits to the cooperation are visible, especially in the field of security cooperation, as this remains a somewhat sensitive issue for some Arab states. Contrary to the pre-visit media hype in both countries, no military deals were signed during Modi’s visits to Israel in 2017 nor Netanyahu’s to India the following January. Both leaders instead focused on civilian issues. Thus, although security cooperation remains important, a stronger securitization of the ties would draw unnecessary attention and criticism, both within India and the Middle East. Hence, softer issues are emphasized.

Hence, despite his perceived fondness of Israel, PM Modi has been cautious. Contrary to initial expectations within the country, his Israel visit took place more than three years after he assumed office and after visits to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Qatar. This shows the importance of the Gulf for India, not least since the trading volumes between those states surpass those with Israel by far: Trade with the Gulf Cooperation Council was about $104 billion in 2017/8; trade with Is­ra­el never exceeded $5 billion. Thus, Israel-India relations are subject – at least to a certain extent – to changes in the status of Israeli-Arab relations.

In addition, ties with Israel are an area of potential disagreement between India and the Islamic Republic of Iran. This often manifests in Iranian leaders’ flagging of the issue in Kashmir, a Muslim-majority state claimed by both India and Pakistan. How­ever, India and Iran have managed to side­step their disagreement over Israel and seek closer ties. That becomes evident, for exam­ple, in India, which is investing massively to develop the Chabahar port in southeast Iran. In addition, India negotiated a waiver on US sanctions against Iran and continues to import Iranian oil. Mutual interests have so far prevented Israel from seriously ob­structing their relations. Although India cannot ignore Iran’s importance in the region, the Islamic Republic has been too preoccupied with greater challenges from the United States to worry about Indo-Israeli relations.

Conclusions and Perspectives

The growing marginalization of the Pales­tin­ian issue has immensely benefited Indo-Israeli relations. The decreased focus on the conflict has enabled India to expand its ties, allowing New Delhi to pursue its broader interests in the region without worrying about its growing ties with Israel. In addi­tion to the de-securitizing of relations with Israel, India’s overall approach has been to focus on economic cooperation, which is less controversial.

Also domestically, there is a greater con­sensus regarding Israel. If the center-left Congress Party, which governed much of post-independence India, normalized ties with Israel, the Hindu nationalist BJP con­solidated them through high-profile visits and political contacts. The decentralization of relations even resulted in regional parties contributing to the growth of economic-related contacts. One could notice a subtle shift in Israel’s diplomatic strategy in mov­ing away from New Delhi to state capitals.

Thus, even though Indo-Israeli relations are interest-driven and mutually beneficial, no strategic alliance is being formed. The growth of relations with India has been ac­companied by India seeking closer ties with Arab-Islamic countries in the region, in­clud­­ing Iran, which is hostile to Israel. The upward trajectory of the bilateral relations with Israel runs parallel to the diminishing regional relevance of the Palestinian issue. Although the re-emergence of the Palestine question to the center stage could affect this balance and might even slow down the pro­cess, the chance of India reverting to its pre-1992 hostility toward Israel is unlikely. Mutu­al interests run deeper than mere super­­ficial, short-term cooperation. The interest-based development of bilateral ties – espe­cially between Israel and the Indian prov­inces – is likely to prevail and result in future cooperation, even if the Pales­tinian issue regains prominence.

P. R. Kumaraswamy is a Professor at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and was a visiting fellow for the research project “Israel and its regional and global conflicts: Domestic developments, security issues and foreign affairs.” The project is located within SWP’s Middle East and Africa Division and is funded by the German Foreign Office.

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This Comment reflects the author’s views.