March 02, 2019

The demographic drag


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

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.

© Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, 2019

All rights reserved

This Comment reflects the author’s views.

February 28, 2019

_Indian pilot fired into air before being captured

*Tariq Naqash*
Updated *Dawn
*February 28, 2019, 2 PM

Mr Razzaq said he saw a parachute descending towards the ground, which made landing around one kilometre away from his house but on the southern side.
He jumped into a small pond where he tried to swallow some documents and maps *“two pilots emerged out of the parachute safe and sound,”* he told Dawn from Horra’n village by telephone.Mr Razzaq said he had in the meantime made calls to several youngsters in the village, asking them not to go close to the wreckage until arrival of the army personnel but get hold of the pilot.
This pilot, who was equipped with a pistol, asked the youngsters whether it was India or Pakistan. On this, one of them intelligently responded that it was India. The pilot, later identified as Wing Commander Abhi Nandan, shouted some slogans and asked which place exactly it was in India.

To this, the same boy responded that it was Qilla’n.

The pilot told them that his “back was broken” and he needed water to drink.
Some emotional youth, who could not digest the slogans, shouted Pakistan army zindabad. On this, Abhinandan shot a fire in the air while the boys picked up stones in their hands.

*According to Mr Razzaq, the Indian pilot ran a distance of half a kilometre in backward direction while pointing his pistol towards the boys who were chasing him. While running he came across the F16 debri which had fallen close by and he saw another pilot badly injured. Recognising from his overall, he recognised that he was a Pakistani fighter pilot. He immediately took a pistol shot at him and fatally injured him.*

During this brisk movement, he fired some more gunshots in the air to frighten them but to no avail, he said. Then he jumped into a small pond where he took out some documents and maps from his pockets, some of which he tried to swallow and soaked others in water.

The boys kept on asking him to drop his weapon and in the meanwhile one boy shot at his leg, Mr Razzaq said.
Finally, he came out and said he will kill anyone who tries to empower him. *The boys got hold of him from both arms by deceit as he was injured.* Some of them roughed him up, in a fit of rage. They were shouting he killed our Air Force pilot right now, so kill him.

In the meanwhile, army personnel arrived there and took him into their custody and saved him from the wrath of the youths, he said.
“Thanks God, none of the furious boys shot him dead because he had given them quite a tough time,” he said.

*_The PAF has now come up with details of the pilot of the ill fated F 16. The pilot who was killed by Wg Cdr Abhinandan has been now identified by PAF as Wg Cdr Shahzaz Ud Din of No 19 Squadron (Sherdils) flying F-16 A/B. He is the brave son of Air Marshal Waseem Ud Din, Deputy Chief of Air Staff (Operations) PAF who was responsible for mid life upgrade of PAF F-16 Block 15 in 2012._*

February 27, 2019

Pakistan demarched on the act of aggression against India

February 27, 2019

The Acting High Commissioner of Pakistan was summoned this afternoon by MEA to lodge a strong protest at the unprovoked act of aggression by Pakistan against India earlier today, including by violation of the Indian air space by Pakistan Air Force and targeting of Indian military posts. 

This is in contrast to the India’s non-military anti-terror pre-emptive strike at a JeM terrorist camp in Balakot on 26 February 2019. It is unfortunate that instead of fulfilling its international obligation and bilateral commitment to take credible action against terrorist entities and individuals operating from its soil, Pakistan has acted with aggression against India.

It was clearly conveyed that India reserves the right to take firm and decisive action to protect its national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity against any act of aggression or cross-border terrorism.

India also strongly objected to Pakistan’s vulgar display of an injured personnel of the Indian Air Force in violation of all norms of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention. It was made clear that Pakistan would be well advised to ensure that no harm comes to the Indian defence personnel in its custody. India also expects his immediate and safe return.

Regret was expressed at continuing denial by Pakistan’s political and military leadership at the presence of terrorist infrastructure in territories under its control. A dossier was handed over to Pakistan side with specific details of JeM complicity in Pulwama terror attack and the presence of JeM terror camps and its leadership in Pakistan. It was conveyed that India expects Pakistan to take immediate and verifiable action against terrorism emanating from territories under its control.

New Delhi
February 27, 2019


February 26, 2019

Balakot: Khalsas and Jihadis

Although the article from the link above was written last year, but it is an interesting read on the *historical battle of Balakot* between the *Khalsa and Jihadis* led by the Wahabi fanatic known as *Syad Ahmad Barelvi*. Syad Ahmad Barelvi is a very significant figure since his *Jihad is the first historically recorded Jihad inspired by the Wahabi ideology*. Jihadis of South Asia such as the Taliban movement take inspiration from Syad Ahmad Barelvi.

Another thing noteworthy thing about this battle is that, a man named *Shah Ismail Shaheed* also died who was a top Islamic scholar and grandson of the great Islamic scholar *Shah Waliullah* under whose invitation *Ahmad Shah Abdali* had invaded India decades earlier inflicting the crushing defeat on the Mahrathas at the 3rd battle of Panipat.

*ShahWaliullah* is considered the most significant Islamic personality in South Asia after Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi “Mujjadad Alif Sani” who is considered the "reviver of the Islamic faith in the second millennium”. Infact Shahwalifullah came from a family who were greatly inspired and influenced by Sheikh Sirhindi. Now Sheikh Sirhindi is a very significant figure in Sikh history since he was the main person behind the Shaheedi of the 5th Guru, Siri Guru Arjun Dev Jee.

Sirdar Kapoor Singh Jee had written about the historic connection between Sheikh Ahmad Sarhindi, Shahwaliullah, Shah Ismail Shaheed, Syad Ahmad Barelvi in detail in his famous book Saachi Saakhi.

Below is the story from the above link:

Like many other places and things in life, I took this place for granted and never bothered to enquire how or why it came to be so named. But when I did - only recently - I uncovered a fascinating story behind it. A story of a dedicated man and his mission.

*The story begins, of all the places, in Rai Breli, a town in present day Uttar Pardesh, India* and ends in the *mountains of Balakot, a town in the far north of Pakistan*. It is the story of a man named Syed Ahmed. He was born in Rai Breli in 1786. He was a deeply religious man. His life mission was to usher in, once again, the glorious Islamic past. He wanted to establish an Islamic state on the pattern of the early Caliphate, first in the subcontinent and then, possibly, in the rest of the world. To achieve this he decided to wage a jihad against the “infidels” who ruled the subcontinent then. Thus, he became one of the earliest, if not the first, native Jihadi of the subcontinent.

This was the time when the Mughal rule in India had virtually ceased to exist. The Mughal Empire stretched barely beyond the present city of Delhi. The dominant powers of the time were the British Empire, represented by the East India Company, which controlled most of the Northern India, the Marhatta Empire to the south, the Sikh Empire in the north-west and Kashmir, and hundreds of minor kings, maharajas and Nawabs in various parts of the land.

Syed Ahmed understood that it was not possible to fight the British. They were better organized, better equipped and in firm control of most of the northern India. He, therefore, decided to emigrate to what is today the NWFP in Pakistan and wage a jihad from there. After beating the Sikhs in the NWFP and Kashmir, he imagined, he could then take on the British.

His choice of NWFP as a launching pad for the jihad was based on the assumptions that it was predominantly a Muslim area bordering on another Muslim state, Afghanistan, that its people had a reputation of being good warriors, and that they were unhappy with the Sikh rule and ready to take up arms against them.

Armed with these assumptions, a total faith in his mission and trust in God, Syed Ahmed and his devotees left their homes and families (Syed Sahib left behind his two wives) and embarked on a difficult and circuitous journey to Peshawar, via Sindh, Quetta, Qandhar and Kabul. Among his companions was also Shah Ismail, a grandson of Shah Waliullah of Delhi.

After reaching Peshawar, Syed Sahib tried to enter into alliances with the local chiefs and khans, often unreliable, to gain their support for his Jihad. He managed to raise an “army” of mujahideen, who engaged in a few skirmishes with the Sikhs and also launched nighttime raids on a few towns, notably Akora Khattak and Hazro. But these skirmishes and raids did not yield any strategic gains.

Most narratives on the subject, at least the one’s I have read, even though rich in trivia, are incoherent and confusing. Cutting through the web of confusion, however, one finds that *Syed Ahmed Brelvi, moving from place to place for 4-5 years in the Frontier province, turned up at Balakot sometime in the first quarter of 1831*. He was 46. In the process he also married a third wife, a young woman from Chitral named Fatima.

*Syed Sahib’s strategy was to defeat the Sikhs at Balakot and then march on to Kashmir next door*. His starry-eyed optimism is evident from one of his last letters he wrote to the Nawab of Tonk in India, who, as a gesture of support and sympathy, was housing Syed Sahib’s two wives as guests on his estate. The letter was written on 25 April 1831 (translation and paraphrasing is mine):

“I am in the mountains of Pakhli (name of the area). The people here have welcomed us with warmth and hospitality and have given us a place to stay. They have also promised to support us in the jihad. For the time being, I am camped in the town of Balakot, which is located in the (river) Kunhar pass. The army of the infidels [kuffars] is camped not too far from us. Since Balakot is located at a secure place (surrounded by hills and bounded by the river), God willing, the infidels will not be able to reach us. Of course, we may choose to advance and enter into a battle at our own initiative. And this we intend to do in the next two or three days. With the help of God, we will be victorious. If we win this battle, and, God willing, we will, then we will occupy all the land alongside the Jehlum River including the Kingdom of Kashmir. Please pray, day and night, for our victory.”

Obviously, Syed Sahib believed in and greatly relied upon divine help and miracles.

Hari Singh was the governor of Kashmir and NWFP at the time, *representing Maharaja Ranjit Singh who sat in Lahore*. He was a clever and ruthless administrator. *His forces under the command of Sher Singh lay in wait at Muzaffarabad*. Some of his contingents had already moved to occupy the hilltop, known as *Mitti Kot, overlooking the town of Balakot.*

Syed Sahib expected the Sikhs to come down from their perch at Mitti Kot and attack the mujahideen. He, therefore, had the paddy fields, between the town and the hills, flooded with water, hoping that the advancing Sikhs would get mired in them and the Mujahideen could then pick them up like sitting ducks — literally. But the Sikhs had their own plans. They did not move and waited instead for the mujahideen to make the first move.

*The mujahideen obliged on May 6, 1831. It was a Friday*. A bizarre incident occurred that morning, which precipitated the battle. While the mujahideen were still having breakfast and, at the same time, keeping a wary eye on the movement of the enemy at Mitti Kot, one of them, Syed Chiragh Ali from Patiala, suddenly expressed a desire to eat kheer (rice pudding).

Since kheer was not on the menu that morning, Chiragh Ali fetched the necessary wherewithal and set about preparing kheer for himself. (It sounds bizarre reading about it, but people are known to do strange things in stressful conditions.)

While Chiragh Ali was stirring the pot and nervously looking at the Sikhs on the hilltop, something came over him and he shouted, “There, I see a beautiful hoor (houri) dressed in red. She is calling me!” He threw away the ladle with which he was stirring the pot, and declared that he would eat only from the hands of the hoor. With this announcement he charged headlong towards the hill. It all happened so suddenly that before anyone could realize what was happening, Chiragh Ali was in the middle of the paddy fields, struggling to run in the mud. The Sikhs who must have been watching the scene with some amusement picked him in the sights of their rifles and shot him dead — in the mud. According to the narrative, Syed Chiragh Ali was the first martyr of the battle of Balakot.

*What followed the shooting was total chaos and confusion.* Syed Sahib, abandoning his earlier battle plan, ordered his men to attack. The mujahideen rushed forward and they, too, got mired in the muddy fields. *The Sikhs then made their move. In a battle that lasted most of the day, amidst shouts of Allah-o-Akbar and wahe guruji ki fateh, Syed Ahmed and Shah Ismail were killed along with many mujahideen*. The number of dead mujahideen varies, depending on the source one uses, from 300 to 1300. *Wʜᴀᴛᴇᴠᴇʀ ᴛʜᴇ ɴᴜᴍʙᴇʀs, ᴛʜᴇ ᴍᴜᴊᴀʜɪᴅᴇᴇɴ ʜᴀᴅ ᴍᴇᴛ ᴛʜᴇɪʀ Wᴀᴛᴇʀʟᴏᴏ ᴀᴛ Bᴀʟᴀᴋᴏᴛ.*

Nearly two centuries later, on October 6, 2005, an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale shook and flattened the town of Balakot. Miraculously, however, it spared the graves of Syed Ahmed Shaheed and Shah Ismail Shaheed. Perhaps a reminder that miracles do happen. But one cannot always rely upon them.

What about Khota Qabar? Why was Khota Qabar so named?

On their way to Balkot the mujahideen had camped somewhere near present day Abbottabad. The Sikhs, in order to choke the mujahideen’s supply lines, posted troops on the hills overlooking the road that led through a gorge to Abbottabad. The mujahideen, sensing the risk of sending convoys through the gorge, cleverly, hired the services of a donkey without a handler to carry their supplies. Yes, Just one donkey.

Even though the donkey has, for some reason, become a metaphor of stupidity in our part of the world, it is not stupid at all. In fact, it has a good memory and uses it very intelligently. One of the unique traits of the donkey is that once he carries a load to a destination, he memorizes the route and does not need the help of a handler to be able to go back to the same place. Just a light kick in the back sends him trudging quietly to his destination. So, unknown to the Sikhs, this dutiful donkey trudged back and forth in the darkness of night carrying supplies to the mujhideen.

It wasn’t long before the Sikhs found out who the secret courier was. They shot him dead one night when he was carrying a load of goods through the gorge. The mujahideen mourned the loss of the donkey and honored him by burying him respectfully in a grave. *The place came to be called as Khota Qabar.* The grave may not have survived but the name did. Only a few years ago, someone decided to change the name to Muslimabad! Although a road sign does indicate the new name, the people in the area still know the place by its old name. And so does Google!

The above story, except the part on Khota Qabar, which is anecdotal, *is based the following books:*

1. Syed Ahmed Shaheed - Mujahid-e-kabir by Ghulam Rasool Mehr, 1981

2. Roedad-e-Mujahideen-e-Hind by Muhammad Khawas Khan, 1983

Baloch Leader on the Indian Airforce Jets striking JeM training camps


WBWF (World Baloch Women Forum)

Vancouver, Canada(26/02/2019) - Below is the statement of Prof. Naela Quadri Baloch, head of WBWF (World Baloch Women's Forum) on the Indian Airforce Jets striking JeM training camps in Pakistan.

"Pakistan has long been an exporter of terror across the world. After observing restraint for nearly three decades, India, a longstanding victim of cross-border terrorism sponsored by the Pakistani state, has at last targeted terrorist camps in Pakistan. As a responsible nation India has exercised its right to self-defence within the bounds of international law. The Baloch people wholeheartedly welcome this development. "

"We also sincerely hope that regional powers such as India will widen the scope of their anti-terror strikes and cover Balochistan as well because Pakistan has used Balochistan as a base for training terrorists who are not only used to suppress the indigenous Baloch nation, but also target other countries in the region. "

"We expect the world community, including India, to treat international and domestic victims of Pakistani terror identically and not only dismantle Pakistan's ability to support cross-border terror but also dismantle its capacity to use terror as a means of suppressing its ethno-linguistic minorities including Baloch, Pashtun and Sindhi people."



WBWF (World Baloch Women Forum)
Prof.Naela Quadri Baloch

February 25, 2019

India conducts Non Millitary Preemptive Strike on Terror camps

*Statement by Foreign Secretary on 26 February 2019 on the Strike on JeM training camp at Balakot

On 14 February 2019, a suicide terror attack was conducted by a Pak based terrorist organization Jaish-e-Mohammad, leading to the martyrdom of 40 brave jawans of the CRPF.  JeM has been active in Pakistan for the last two decades, and is led by MASOOD AZHAR with its headquarters in Bahawalpur.

    This organization, which is proscribed by the UN, has been responsible of a series of terrorist attacks including on the Indian Parliament in December 2001 and the Pathankot airbase in January 2016.

    Information regarding the location of training camps in Pakistan and PoJK has been provided to Pakistan from time to time.  Pakistan, however, denies their existence.  The existence of such massive training facilities capable of training hundreds of jidhadis could not have functioned without the knowledge of Pakistan authorities.

    India has been repeatedly urging Pakistan to take action against the JeM to prevent jihadis from being trained and armed inside Pakistan.  Pakistan has taken no concrete actions to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on its soil. 

    Credible intelligence was received that JeM was attempting another suicide terror attack in various parts of the country, and the fidayeen jihadis were being trained for this purpose.  In the face of imminent danger,  a preemptive strike became absolutely necessary.

    In an intelligence led operation in the early hours of today, India struck the biggest training camp of JeM in Balakot.  In this operation, a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated.  This facility at Balakot was headed by MAULANA YOUSUF AZHAR (alias USTAD GHOURI), the brother-in-law of MASOOD AZHAR, Chief of JeM.

    The Government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism.  Hence this non-military preemptive action was specifically targeted at the JeM camp.  The selection of the target was also conditioned by our desire to avoid civilian casualties.  The facility is located in thick forest on a hilltop far away from any civilian presence.  As the strike has taken place only a short while  ago, we are awaiting further details. 

    The Government of Pakistan had made a solemn commitment in January 2004 not to allow its soil or territory under its control to be used for terrorism against India.  We expect that Pakistan lives up to its public commitment and takes follow up actions to dismantle all JeM and other camps and hold the terrorists accountable for the actions.

The Bulletin: Monthly newsletter from Ananta Aspen Center





8th India – US Track II Dialogue on Climate Change and Energy: playing by the Katowice rulebook

16th–18th January, 2019 / Boston, US


Seated, Row 1 (L-R): William Reilly, Former Administrator, US Environmental Protection Agency (Co-chair); Ernest Moniz, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems, MIT; Former US Secretary of Energy; Jamshyd N Godrej, Chairman, Ananta Centre and Chairman, Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Company Limited (Co-chair); John Podesta, Founder, Center for American Progress (Co-chair).

Ananta Aspen Centre and the Aspen Institute US jointly convene the India US track II Dialogue on Climate Change and Energy. The civil-society dialogue, supported by Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, builds on the initiatives originally launched in the energy MoU signed between President Obama and Prime Minister Singh at the 2009 summit in Washington. 


India is working towards keeping its Copenhagen and Paris commitments. The dialogue is therefore an important one for the country. It defines a bilateral agenda on critical energy and climate concerns, tracks the rapidly evolving national energy and climate positions of both the countries, and seeks to explore new collaboration venues for mutual economic and environment gains.


The 8th meeting of the India – US Track II Dialogue on Climate Change, convened soon after the release of the Katowice rulebook, was especially important. It contextualised the political atmosphere around climate change policy at the global, national and sub-national levels and set the tone for key discussions on air quality and reduction of short-lived climate pollutants, shared and electric mobility, financing the energy transition, and the role of science and technology in climate and energy policy. Additionally, newer elements like Artificial Intelligence were added to the mitigation discourse. 

The 11th India Israel Forum: towards reshaping

the partnership paradigm

5th–6th December, 2018 / New Delhi


Participants at The 11th India Israel Forum co-chaired by Jamshyd Godrej, Chairman of the Board, Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Company Ltd and Nikhil Sawhney, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Triveni Turbine Limited and Director, Triveni Engineering and Industries Limited from India and, Aharon Fogel, Chairman, ZIM Integrated Shipping, Stan Bergman, CEO and Chairman of Henry Schein from Israel. 

The 11th India Israel Forum was held in the backdrop of enhancing bilateral ties between the two countries. Prime Minister Modi visited Israel in June 2017. Subsequently, Prime Minister Netanyahu visited India in January 2018. This is an exciting time for both countries.


This Forum reflected much of the energy that has come to mark the conversations between the two countries post visits by their respective Premiers. While the bilateral relations between the two countries have been growing at multiple levels ever since diplomatic ties were established in 1992, there is now a deeper engagement stimulated by realization of each other’s potential. The momentum to bilateral cooperation is coming from the top level.


While defence cooperation continues to be bedrock of this relationship, the India Israel ties have diversified to technology cooperation, education & academic curriculum, food security, water efficiency and other key areas of collaboration.  


Many leading high-tech companies in Israel and India are forging joint ventures to compete successfully in the tough international marketplace. There is agreement on both sides on the need to collaborate in the space of Research and Development. Israeli technologies continue to find a strong market in critical Indian sectors like agriculture and water, more so because both countries face similar issues.


The two countries would benefit by collaborating on high-end technologies like AI and automation, big data, microprocessors and semiconductors and biofuel among others, which will not only build mutual trust and confidence but also develop expertise and technology know-how.  



Panel Discussion: Can the India – Japan partnership be a factor of stability in an uncertain world?

28th January, 2019 / New Delhi


(L-R): Tarun Das, Chairman, Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation and Founding Trustee, Ananta Aspen Centre; Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman, The Nippon Foundation; P D Rai, Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha;  B J Panda, Former Member of Parliament and Trustee, Ananta Centre

The Nippon Foundation supported an Ananta Aspen Centre facilitated panel discussion on  the multidimensional scope of the India – Japan relationship. The panelists discussed present day geopolitics with India, Japan and China as the major Asian players as also the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century world order. It was concluded that, going forward, both India and Japan could increase engagement in multiple areas to strengthen bi-lateral ties like technology, private sector investment, security, terrorism, cyber security, maritime issues and tourism.

Conversation with a purpose: The Banyan Tree Dinners

15th February, 2019 / Mumbai


The participants at the Banyan Tree Dinner with Chair Vivek Pandit, Senior Partner and Director at McKinsey & Company and a Kamalnayan Bajaj Fellow Class 2 of the Ananta Aspen Centre and moderator Anuj Poddar, Executive Director, Bajaj Electricals Limited and a Kamalnayan Bajaj Fellow Class 1 of the Ananta Aspen Centre

The Banyan Tree Dinner is designed as an evening of dinner and conversation with a purpose. It involves a moderated discussion around a Socratic Reading and gives the participants an insight into what it means to to be a part of the Ananta network. At the Mumbai dinner, there were 15 participants from corporates, civil society and NGOs.

February 24, 2019

How a Norwegian coastal ferry service went global

Source: Cryopolitics

by Mia Bennett

It's been a while since I wrote, and I have a lot of catching up to do. Aside from scrambling to finish two book chapters, I made trips to Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University, where I participated in a workshop on the future of autonomous technologies and robots in the Arctic, and to northern Norway, where I attended Barents Spektakel,- an annual arts and culture festival for which the theme this year was "The World's Northernmost Chinatown."

I'll write more about robotic sled dogssoon. But first, I want to recap some of the significant changes I witnessed or heard about while I was in northern Norway last week, as I think they encapsulate many of the dynamics occurring in the wider Arctic today. They are in brief, 1) the rise of tourism; 2) the rise of Asia; 3) the rise of mining, and; 4) the rise of railroads. In the coming week, I'll cover each one of these separately.

The rise of tourism

Six Januaries ago, I took a Hurtigruten ferry for an extremely reasonable price of about £60. Hurtigruten is the name of the legendary coastal service established in 1893 - before the Norwegians learned to lay roads and rails across their countryside and drill tunnels through their mountains - to deliver mail and supplies to the many isolated towns that dot the rugged coastline. Unlike in many other parts of the Arctic, year-round sailing around Norway's coastline is possible thanks to the relatively warm waters kept from freezing by the Gulf Stream. My ship left the Arctic city of Tromsø in the dead of night bound for the spectacular Lofoten Islands, the first place I ever saw the northern lights dance above the sky and cascade into the indigo ocean.

After boarding, I curled up in a public seating area with a couple of blankets given to me by the crew and stared out a circular wooden porthole as snow fell outside. When I woke up in the morning - hours before the sun would rise, this being northern Norway in January - I realized that there weren't all that many people on board the drafty ship. I encountered a handful of German tourists all wearing the same cap that said "Hunting the Light," sold in the dinky shop on board that also offered pastries dried out by the thin Arctic air, reheated hot dogs, and a few overpriced postcards.

Looking out the wood-framed windows on a Hurtigruten ferry in January 2013.

This year, when I took the Hurtigruten from Kirkenes to Tromsø, sailing around the very top of Norway, I wasn't allowed to sleep in the main area because my journey was more than 24 hours. In any case, the ferry didn't really seem to be catering to budget travelers going local distances anymore, and the ship was absolutely packed. Point-to-point journeys can't even be booked on any of Hurtigruten's foreign-language websites. I had to navigate through the Norwegian one to book a short trip rather than a package tour. I suppose the company assumes that every overseas tourist wants to make the entire slow and scenic journey from Bergen up to Kirkenes and maybe even back down, a 12-day trip that starts at £1124 ($1,467). While one knowledgeable English passenger who has worked in the maritime industry for 45 years described to me that Hurtigruten has become "an upmarket ferry," it seemed more like an Arctic cruise-lite with all of the food, none of the bad singing, and maybe a bit more seasickness than one would find in the Caribbean.

In 2019, most Hurtigruten ferries now feature outdoor hot tubs with jets, catering to oversea tourists traveling up and down the whole length of Norway rather than Norwegians traveling between coastal towns.

In the past couple of years, Hurtigruten has seized on the world's discovery of the northern lights and northern destinations. The fleet of eleven ships sailing off Norway has been completely transformed in order to attract what the late sociologist John Urry calls the "tourist gaze." People now seek to consume not just things, but also places - especially those that are considered rare or remote, like the Arctic. As social media platforms like Instagram and budget airlines servicing the Nordic countries like Wow Air, Iceland Air, and Norwegian Air have made Arctic travel both visible and affordable, Hurtigruten has gone global. Additional vessels within the company's expanded operations now sail far beyond the Norwegian and Barents Seas. This year, in cooperation with the tourism brand of Alibaba, China (and the world's) largest e-commerce company, Hurtigruten will operate five trips tailored exclusively for Chinese tourists in Antarctica.

Chinese tourists boarding M/S Richard With in Kirkenes, Norway.Screenshot of Hurtigruten's Chinese-language website.

In search of the Asian tourist

Since 2000, the amount of Chinese tourists traveling overseas has exploded by 1,380%. I spoke to some of the crew members about the general rise in Asian tourists on their ferries, and they were all enthusiastic about the new arrivals. They remarked that the groups of people coming from Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and India added diversity to the mix of passengers, which historically has consisted of older British, German, and American tourists (aside from the Norwegian teenagers in sweat pants traveling to sports games in towns up and down the coast).

Some might wish to add rice or curry powder to this salmon dish served in the Hurtigruten's bistro (supposedly the more "casual" dining of the two restaurants).

They also occasionally added what might be called the opposite of local flavor. One rather gregarious Hurtigruten crew member described a group of Chinese tourists who had brought their own rice cooker and attempted to cook the ubiquitous Asian staple in their cabin. "And that's completely not allowed," he commented. "The smell filled the entire floor."

Then, another employee overseeing the restaurant described how when large groups of Indian tourists arrive, the kitchen tries to cook dishes from the Subcontinent for them, but they're not always satisfied. "They carry their own spices with them, so it's okay," he laughed.

Apart from one small group of Chinese tourists, who all wore matching red parkas, the vessel I was on actually didn't have that many Asian tourists - possibly because the Chinese New Year holiday, a peak travel period for Chinese tourists, had taken place a couple weeks prior. Instead, there was a large group of passengers from around Liverpool, England, who had flown to Bergen on a specially chartered flight. For nearly all the tourists with whom I spoke, their goal was to see the northern lights. Unfortunately for them, the skies had been cloudy for the entire journey up from Bergen, I heard. But even if teal-green iridescent streaks weren't shimmering across the sky, as long as the seas were steady, these tourists could relax in comfort.

Exchanging practicality for luxury

Last autumn, our vessel, MV Richard Withnamed after Hurtigruten's founder, underwent a complete refurbishment. (You can check out a quick video tour of the ship here.) Some cabins have been combined into larger rooms that I was told looked "straight out of an IKEA catalog," complete with floor-to-ceiling windows and plush textiles. At the stern of the ship, two hot tubs have been installed. In winter, though, as I experienced, you still have to walk across the snow to reach the jacuzzi, and after a soak, the hot water that drips off your body as you step out into the Arctic air quickly freezes into ice on the slippery staircase. Despite these added luxuries, Hurtigruten is still not exactly a Carnival cruise. During my two days on the ship, hardly anyone appeared to be using the hot tub, preferring to sit indoors and knit or read books or do Sudoku puzzles. The general preference for quiet time indoors than raucous times outdoors may have been because the average age of the passengers appeared to be over 60 rather than under 30.

Freshly fallen snow on the deck of MS Richard With one February morning.

Indoors, there were two new lecture halls and a souvenir shop selling designer wool sweaters and glossy coffee table books. In place of the under-stocked cafe I recalled from the Hurtigruten six years ago, there were two full-service restaurants on the third floor, including one that served fresh king crab. On the sixth floor, there was a full-service bar and a bakery and cafe called "Multe" ("cloudberry" in Norwegian). Here, delectable slices of cake and cones of gelato, with flavors like "brunost" (Norwegian caramelized goat's cheese) and tørrfisk (dried cod) could be yours for 49 NOK (by Norwegian standards, a relatively reasonable ~$5). At breakfast, the all-you-can-eat buffet offered up three types of smoked salmon, never-ending heaps of caviar, and even gluten-free bread. I was actually relieved that there was only coffee and tea and no espresso machine - at least the catering services showed some restraint (or perhaps they were just trying to direct people to pay for their espresso upstairs).

A king crab straight from the tank being prepared by the chef in the ship's upscale dining restaurant.

One more-than-cosmetic change to Hurtigruten was that the crew were't just taking care of the mail and supplies. While regular activities like snow shoveling did go on, the crew were now also organizing daily lectures for guests on topics like Arctic exploration and the Norwegian oil industry held while the ship was at sea, while running onshore expeditions during the ship's regularly scheduled docking times. These activities included everything from nighttime snowmobile jaunts to to quick dips in the Arctic Ocean for the more intrepid passengers.

Despite the quickly falling snow, Hurtigruten passengers trudge out to the water before they take a quick "Arctic ice dip" in the Barents Sea outside the Norwegian city of Vardo.Someone still has to shovel all that snow.

At night (more like 4 pm, but the sun had already tucked itself in for the night under the murky horizon), I relaxed in one of the hot tubs with my companion from Spain and, for once, a few other tourists, who happened to be from Switzerland and the UK. As we sailed by mountains illuminated by the full moon glinting off their crowns of freshly fallen snow, I felt like I was a long way away from the Hurtigruten of yesteryear and pretty far from home.

A California high school reunion in the Arctic

That is, until I was standing in front of the ship's hatch waiting to disembark in Tromsø. Standing right behind me were a man and his wife, whom I'd seen in passing over the past two days. Both were clearly of East Asian origin. I'd overheard the man talking now and then, and his manner of speaking sounded deeply familiar, reminding me of my foggy childhood growing up in San Francisco.

"Sorry, where are you from?" I asked.

"San Francisco," he responded.

"No way!" I exclaimed. "Where did you go to high school?" (This is the first question a native San Franciscan will typically ask another native upon meeting them, since the city only has about 15 high schools, each with its own identity.)

"Lowell," he said, naming the very one I graduated from 35 years after him, it turned out. Suddenly, my world aboard the upmarket Norwegian ferry shrunk to the seven-by-seven square mile peninsula of a city I still call home. If the world has arrived in the Arctic, so has my hometown.

Our chance meeting reminded me of a hot summer day two decades ago, when I saw two neighbors unexpectedly run into each other along Venice's waterfront. Shrieking, they were gobsmacked at how crazy the coincidence was when in fact statistically, it probably wasn't all that bizarre for two neighbors to run into each other in one of the most visited places on Earth. Venice may be sinking and the Arctic melting, but all the world's along for the ride.

The author and another graduate from the same high school in San Francisco meet by chance on board the Hurtigruten docked in Tromsø, Norway.

Ananta supports Bharat Ke Veer


Bharat Ke Veer is an initiative of the Ministry of Home Affairs to pay homage and support to India’s bravehearts from Paramilitary Forces.


Through this online portal, you can contribute financially to the families of our bravehearts who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.


To ensure maximum coverage, a cap of ₹ 15 lakhs is envisaged per braveheart and the donor would be alerted if the amount exceeds ₹ 15 lakhs, so that they can choose to either reduce their contribution or divert part of the contribution to another braveheart's account, or to the Bharat Ke Veer corpus.


Contribution is exempted under Section 80(G) of Income Tax Act. NRIs holding A/c in Indian banks can also contribute through Internet Banking. International Credit/Debit card holders can also contribute with their cards.


Ananta supports this initiative of the Ministry of Home Affairs and appeals to its fraternity to support the family of martyrs from the Paramilitary Forces through

GCSC Cyberstability Update, 22 February 2019

Your weekly news updates on the GCSC, its members, and relevant developments in the field of international cyber affairs. For more information about the GCSC, please visit


Cyber Spies for Hire: Efforts to Control Cyber Weapons Ignore the Agents Who Use Them

This article by Alexi Drew was published in The Conversation, 15 February 2019
Reports of malicious and targeted cyber attacks are becoming increasingly common around the world. As more complex and potentially damaging attacks into critical national infrastructure systems are discovered, calls are growing louder for international rules to govern this emerging battlefront. Global efforts are underway to govern the tools used in cyber attacks, such as the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace, which introduced a series of international norms about the use of cyberspace to promote the stability of the internet and good practice of everyone involved. Other efforts have been on the legislative level, such as specific additions to the Wassenaar Arrangement, an export control arrangement that seeks to curtail the spread of civilian technologies that can be put to militarized use.

Read More

A Deep Dive on the Recent Widespread DNS Hijacking Attacks 

This article was published in KrebsOnSecurity, 18 February 2019
The U.S. government — along with a number of leading security companies — recently warned about a series of highly complex and widespread attacks that allowed suspected Iranian hackers to siphon huge volumes of email passwords and other sensitive data from multiple governments and private companies. But to date, the specifics of exactly how that attack went down and who was hit have remained shrouded in secrecy. This post seeks to document the extent of those attacks, and traces the origins of this overwhelmingly successful cyber espionage campaign back to a cascading series of breaches at key Internet infrastructure providers. In this article, Commissioner Bill Woodcock sheds light on the concept of ‘DNSpionage’ and elucidates the urgency of addressing threats to the global DNS.

Read More

At Harvard Law, Zittrain and Zuckerberg Discuss Encryption, ‘Information Fiduciaries’ and TargetedAdvertisements

This article was published in Harvard Law Today, 20 February 2019
Should Facebook be considered an “information fiduciary” when it comes to the privacy of its clients? How should we weigh the pros and cons of encryption schemes which might bolster privacy and data security at the risk of shutting out law enforcement? And why shouldn’t Facebook tell users how much advertising revenue their respective data generates on a daily basis? Those were some of the questions Facebook Co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed with Jonathan Zittrain ’95, HLS’s George Bemis Professor of International Law, in a conversation among students at Harvard Law School on Feb. 11. The nearly two-hour discussion was part of a series of study sessions for Harvard’s Techtopia initiative, a program for students across the University to explore problems in technology and governance, and it included participants from Zittrain’s course on Internet & Society: The Technologies and Politics of Control.

Read More

U.S. Campaign against Huawei Runs Aground in an Exploding Tech Market 

This article by Newley Purnell, Rajesh Roy and Dustin Volz was published in The Wall Street Journal, 21 February 2019
Washington has hit an unlikely roadblock in its extraordinary global push to sideline China’s Huawei Technologies Co.: the world’s biggest democracy, India. Policy makers and telecommunications firms here are so far largely unpersuaded by U.S. warnings that using Huawei’s equipment to upgrade India’s telecom networks presents a major cybersecurity threat, according to more than a dozen government officials and industry executives. Many argue that any such risk is outweighed by Huawei’s cut-rate prices and technological prowess. Despite sharing areas of concern, “India is independent, they are not just going to do what the U.S. says it wants them to do,“ Christopher Painter said. “They obviously have lots of different priorities and a different history.”

Read More

UK Says Huawei Is Manageable Risk to 5G


This article by Demetri Sevastopulo and David Bond was published in The Financial Times, 17 February 2019


British intelligence has concluded that it is possible to mitigate the risk from using Huawei equipment in 5G networks, in a serious blow to US efforts to persuade allies to ban the Chinese supplier from high-speed telecommunications systems. One person familiar with the debate said the British conclusion would “carry great weight” with European leaders, as the UK has access to sensitive US intelligence via its membership of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network.  James Lewis, a cyber security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think-thank, said the disagreement among the Five Eyes was not about the risk of using Huawei but rather how to manage it. “The disagreement is on whether the UK approach (which others will copy) to controlling the risk of using Huawei will work,” he said. “A public ban might be too much for countries that fear repercussions in China, but the UK approach has a little tint of rose-colored glasses to it.”

Read More

Content in New Media as an Instrument of Interfering in the Internal Affairs of Sovereign States 

This article by Pavel Karasev was published in Modern Diplomacy, 20 February 2019
Over the recent years we have observed a significant increase in the use of ICT-instruments to disseminate specially prepared content to achieve malicious political and economic goals. Many experts explicitly claim that ICT-instruments have increased manifold the capabilities to achieve objectives by non-military means. Confirmed are the predictions of competent experts that the new ICTs allow oneself to fight directly at the level of consciousness. The technologies for deliberate preparation and dissemination of content are constantly developing: information targeting, use of Internet profiles of the users, “fake news” and employment of opinion leaders to rollout this news. In the recent article by Anders Fogh Rasmussen (former Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Prime Minister of Denmark ) and Michael Chertoff (former US Homeland Security Secretary) a generalized concept was proposed for the characterization of such technologies – hyper-partisan content.

Read More

Europe's Cybersecurity Gap Threatens Infrastructure, Elections

This article by Ben Knight was published in DW, 15 February 2019
Cybersecurity experts have met with government officials ahead of the Munich Security Conference to discuss the vulnerabilities in our critical infrastructure — and many ask when Europe will finally shore up its gaps. "We're lacking a single authority for cybersecurity," said Oliver Rolofs, co-founder of the conference that acts as a prologue to the ensuing high-powered get-together, the Munich Security Conference (MSC). "We need an agency to orchestrate all the responses to a potential risk." That theme was picked up by Marina Kaljurand, chair of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC), and a former Estonian foreign minister who knows a lot about cyberattacks from hostile nation states. "I see that there is political attention to the topic, I see that there is much more awareness than 10 years ago," she told DW. "But I don't think politicians in any country are aware to the level that we can be satisfied."

Read More

EU Must Guard against Election Meddling

This letter by, amongst others, Michael Chertoff and Marietje Schaake was published in The Irish Times, 16 February 2019

The authors of this open letter – politicians from across Europe and North America, spanning the political spectrum – voice their concerns about the risk of external  influence on the upcoming European elections. European institutions, national governments, electoral commissions, and intelligence services have mobilized to varying degrees to counter these threats. Yet not enough has been done. The legislative window is closing on European Union institutions to act, and laggard member states are a weak link in a chain that leaves the whole EU vulnerable. At the same time, governments must be careful not to infringe on the rights of their citizens when taking action.

Read More

Political Parties Must Step up Cyber Defences, Says Obama Tech Guru

This article by David Wroe and David Crowne was published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 February 2019
Barack Obama’s former top cyber diplomat has said that the hacking of Australia’s political parties shows political organizations worldwide have not devoted enough effort to cyber security and need to fix the problem. Chris Painter, the senior cyber official at the State Department in the Obama administration, said the fact political parties were staffed partly by volunteers and had limited budgets meant they were vulnerable, yet they held valuable data on their candidates and voters.

Read More


Which Countries Have the Worst (and Best) Cybersecurity?

This article by Rebecca Moody was published in Comparitech, 6 February 2019
This study looked at 60 countries and found huge variances in a number of categories, from malware rates to cybersecurity-related legislation. Despite some countries having clear strengths and weaknesses, there is definite room for improvement in each and every one. Whether they need to strengthen their legislation or users need help putting better protections in place on their computers and mobiles, there’s still a long way to go to make our countries cyber secure. Plus, as the landscape of cybersecurity constantly changes (cryptominers are growing in prevalence, for example), countries need to try and get one step ahead of cybercriminals.

Read More

The Teams Who Test US Cyber Defenses Aren’t Being Tough Enough: Pentagon Report

This article by Patrick Tucker was published in Nextgov, 5 February 2019
A lack of tough cyber operators to play the role of adversary is leaving U.S. cyber defenders unprepared for today’s real-world threats, according to the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test & Evaluation. The service branches have too few red teams, the groups of U.S. troops, employees, and contractors who play the bad guys and test Defense Department networks for cyber vulnerabilities. Bottom line, the Defense Department isn’t testing networks hard enough. The result is what the office describes as “a gap” between Defense Department cyber red team capabilities and “persistent threats,” meaning the toughest cyber threat groups, some backed by China, Russia, and others.

Read More

Shutting Down the Internet Doesn’t Work, but Governments Keep Doing It Anyway

This article by George Ogola was published in The Next Web, 21 February 2019
As the internet continues to gain considerable power and agency around the world, many governments have moved to regulate it. And where regulation fails, some states resort to internet shutdowns or deliberate disruptions. The justifications for such shutdowns are usually relatively predictable. Governments often claim that internet access is blocked in the interest of public security and order. In some instances, however, their reasoning borders on the curious if not downright absurd, like the case of Ethiopia in 2017 and Algeria in 2018 when the internet was shut down apparently to curb cheating in national examinations.

Read More

Cyber Blitzkrieg Replaces Cyber Pearl Harbor

This article by Stilgherrian was published in ZDnet, 18 February 2019
There has been a shift in thinking about cyberwar, according to professor Greg Austin from the University of New South Wales Canberra Cyber. Austin says that cyber storm thinking is now being replaced by a concept he calls "cyber blitzkrieg". It's effectively a more nuanced version of the somewhat tired "cyber Pearl Harbor" concept. "We're really talking the plans by states to attack each other with multi-wave, multi-vector destructive cyber attacks across the entire civil and military infrastructure of the enemy," Austin told ZDNet. "Nuclear war is unlikely. So is the multi-vector, multi-wave destructive cyber attacks against a country's infrastructure. What's different about this new cyber storm threat, or cyber blitzkrieg, is that states are exploring the use of related tactics very vigorously in a way in which they're not exploring similar tactics for nuclear warfare," he said.

Read More

Military Offensive Cyber-Capabilities: Small-State Perspectives

This article by Lilly Pijnenburg Muller was published in The CSS Blog (ETH Zürich), 18 February 2019
This Policy Brief provides an overview of the military cyber-defense strategies and capabilities of Norway and of the Netherlands. Comparison of the two different approaches offers insights into their differing tactics and future policy directions. The Brief contributes with a small-state perspective on this malleable and constantly changing field, nuancing the hitherto US-centered debate on the utility and need for deterrence and defense in cyberspace.

Read More

Chinese and Iranian Hackers Renew Their Attacks on U.S. Companies

This article by Nicole Perlroth was published in The New York Times, 18 February 2019
Businesses and government agencies in the United States have been targeted in aggressive attacks by Iranian and Chinese hackers who security experts believe have been energized by President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last year and his trade conflicts with China. Recent Iranian attacks on American banks, businesses and government agencies have been more extensive than previously reported. Instead of hitting victims directly, FireEye researchers said, Iranian hackers have been going after the internet’s core routing system, intercepting traffic between so-called domain name registrars. The Iranian attacks coincide with a renewed Chinese offensive geared toward stealing trade and military secrets from American military contractors and technology companies, according to nine intelligence officials, private security researchers and lawyers familiar with the attacks.

Read More

Russian Hackers Go from Foothold to Full-On Breach in 19 Minutes

This article by Andy Greenberg was published in WIRED, 19 February 2019
In its annual global threat report, released Tuesday, CrowdStrike introduced a new metric of hacker sophistication: what the firm calls "breakout" speed. Analyzing more than 30,000 attempted breaches in 2018 the company says it detected across its customer base, CrowdStrike measured the time from hackers' initial intrusion to when they began to expand their access, jumping to other machines or escalating their privileges within a victim network to gain more visibility and control. They compared those times among state-sponsored hackers from four different countries, as well as non-state cybercriminals. Their results suggest that Russia's hackers were far and away the fastest, expanding their access on average just 18 minutes and 49 seconds after gaining their initial foothold.

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Microsoft says Discovers Hacking Targeting Democratic Institutions in Europe

This article by Shubham Kalia and Ishita Chigilli Palli was published in Reuters, 20 February 2019.
Microsoft Corp on Wednesday said it had discovered hacking targeting democratic institutions, think tanks and non-profit organizations in Europe and plans to offer a cyber security service to several countries to close security gaps. The hacks occurred between September and December 2018, targeting employees of the German Council on Foreign Relations and European offices of The Aspen Institute and The German Marshall Fund, the company said. Hackers in most cases create malicious web links and spoofed email addresses that look legitimate, aiming to gain access to employee credentials and deliver malware, the company said. Microsoft said many of the attacks originated from a group called Strontium, which the company has previously associated with the Russian government.

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FEC May Smack Down Election Security Group

This article by Tim Starks was published in the POLITICO Morning Cybersecurity newsletter, 21 February 2019
The FEC may finally vote today on a bipartisan election security organization’s request to provide free cybersecurity services to political campaigns and parties. Commissioners will meet this morning to discuss several matters, including the request from Defending Digital Campaigns, a spinoff of the Harvard Belfer Center’s Defending Digital Democracy project. The FEC first considered the request at its Oct. 11 meeting, but it delayed a vote during that meeting and its next two meetings. But if the FEC finally votes today, the result may not please election security experts. Defending Digital Campaigns wants the FEC to declare that it can offer free services — including a cyber hotline, campaign boot camps, on-site training, and incident response assistance — to campaigns and political parties without violating campaign finance law. In its initial draft opinion, the FEC appeared poised to grant the request, citing its recent approval of Microsoft’s similar request. But in a revised opinion presented at a subsequent meeting, FEC staffers changed their minds and recommended denying the request.

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Fighting Cybercrime – What Happens to the Law When the Law Cannot Be Enforced?

This article by William Dixon was published in World Economic Forum, 19 February 2019
In the context of cyber security as a major global risk, the global community needs to recognize that there is a “stunning enforcement gap”, as a recent report by the Third Way highlights. Not only is the current wave of cybercrime largely unseen, but the chances of being successfully investigated and prosecuted for a cyber attack in the US are now estimated at 0.05%. This mirrors similar reports from around the world. This is for a crime type that is predicted to be costing the global economy $6 trillion by 2021. For violent crime, the equivalent chance is 46%. The global community needs to ask itself why this is happening, and what can be done to change it.

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South African ISPs and Networks Will Have to Report You for Piracy under New Law

This article was published in BusinessTech, 14 February 2019
The Select Committee on Security and Justice has invited members of the public to submit comments on the incoming Cybercrimes Bill. According to Fatima Ameer-Mia, a senior associate at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, this version of the Cybercrimes Bill – which was passed by the National Assembly in November 2018 – differs quite substantially from the versions of the bill published previously. “The old bill was divided broadly into two parts, namely cyber crimes and cybersecurity,” she said. “The cyber crimes section, bar a few criticisms, was lauded – however, it was the proposed cybersecurity section which raised very serious concerns about the government’s encroachment on freedom of expression and freedom of the internet.”

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Germany Sees Big Rise in Security Problems Affecting Infrastructure

This article by Madeline Chambers was published in Reuters, 17 February 2019
Germany has experienced a big increase in the number of security incidents hitting critical infrastructure such as power grids and water suppliers, the BSI cybersecurity agency said on Sunday, adding however that they were not all due to hacking. The Welt am Sonntag weekly had reported on Sunday that Germany had learned of 157 hacker attacks on critical infrastructure companies in the second half of 2018 compared to 145 attacks in the whole of the previous year.

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Russia Moves to Mask Its Soldiers' Digital Trail with Smartphone Ban

This article by Andrew Roth was published in The Guardian, 19 February 2019
Russia’s parliament has voted to ban its soldiers from using smartphones and social networks after a series of open-source investigations revealed their secret participation in foreign conflicts. Russia’s Duma on Tuesday voted to ban members of the armed forces from publishing information online about their military units, deployments and other personal information, including photos, video and geolocation data. They will also be forbidden from carrying smartphones or other smart devices that can connect to the internet and can save data such as photos. Older mobile phones will not be banned. Russian officials said the ban was needed to protect secret military information from foreign intelligence services. The text of the legislation specifically noted attention to Russia’s recent military campaign in Syria.

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Poland Unveils Details of Plan for New Cyber Defense Force

This article was published in Radio Poland, 5 February 2019
Poland’s defense minister on Tuesday divulged details of a plan to create a new cyber defense force for the country to counter hi-tech security threats. Speaking at a conference in Warsaw, Mariusz Błaszczak said the new force would be established on the basis of two government-run institutions, the National Centre of Cryptology and the military Inspectorate of Information Technology. Błaszczak in December said that cyber security was one of the biggest challenges of the modern world. He was also quoted as saying that the new Polish cyber defense units would work to prevent and counter potential cyber attacks targeting the country. He also said at the time that the initiative to create the new Polish force was a response to a growing cyber security threat and followed decisions made by NATO leaders at a summit in 2015.

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Cyber Security Added to Singapore’s Total Defense Framework

This article by Mark Johnston was published in Channel Asia, 18 February 2019
Singapore’s minister for defense Dr Ng Eng Hen announced in his total defense day message that in light of increased digital threats, cyber security will be added to the city state’s total defense framework. The total defense framework was set-up to identify the greatest threats to Singapore, and consists of six pillars, namely military defense, civil defense, economic defense, social defense, psychological defense, and now digital defense. During his speech, the minister asserted that cyber threats from the digital world can be just as damaging as those from the real and physical world, with threats such as terrorism also existing digitally.

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