April 13, 2019

Election 2019: Representation Gap, Trend to track


Written by Christophe JaffrelotGilles Verniers |Updated: July 24, 2015 12:00:12 am

Since the late 1980s, one of the most significant trends in Indian politics has been the gradual decline of upper-caste representation in the Lok Sabha, and the concomitant rise of OBCs. This phenomenon was essentially due to the decline of the Congress — a party dominated by upper castes — and to the rise of regional parties, primarily supported by large, dominant OBC groups. In 1989, the proportion of OBCs in the Lok Sabha had jumped from 11 per cent to 21 per cent, and continued to grow in the post-Mandal phase until 2004, when it peaked at 26 per cent. In parallel, the representation of upper castes persistently fell, from 49 per cent in 1984 to 37 per cent in 1989 and 34 per cent in 2004. The gap between OBCs and upper caste MPs returned from the Hindi-speaking belt had never been so small. The 2009 general elections marked a reversal of that trend, as upper caste representation shot up to 43 per cent, and the share of OBCs fell to 18 per cent.

The 2014 general elections confirmed that reversal, with upper caste representation further rising to 44.5 per cent, and OBC representation stagnating at  around 20 per cent. It is the first time since Independence that the proportion of upper castes in the Lok Sabha has increased two times in a row.

OBCs, who have occupied the centre of the political space in northern India since the early 1990s, are now back at their pre-Mandal level of representation.
Among OBCs, Yadavs are the main losers. Dominant in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar politics, where they respectively represent 8 and 11 per cent of the population, they have seen their representation slump from 11 per cent of MPs from the Hindi-speaking belt to 6 per cent over the last two elections. They currently stand below the Jats (7.5 per cent), who have been gaining ground over the same period. The representation of Kurmis, another important group, has also decreased by a third since 2004.

Among the upper castes, the Brahmins are the main winners. Their share of MPs has jumped from an all-time low of 9 per cent in 2004 to 17 per cent a decade later. They have caught up with the Rajputs — the group counting the highest number of MPs among the upper castes in the Hindi-speaking belt since 1998.

Naturally, there are geographical variations. In Bihar, the share of OBCs remains high, at 30 per cent. The upper castes have about 45 per cent of the seats. The gap in Uttar Pradesh is wider, at 43.5 per cent for upper castes against 26 per cent for OBCs.

Who is responsible for this significant transformation of the social profile of the Hindi-speaking belt’s representation in the Lok Sabha? Not the regional parties, which remain largely dominated by OBCs. Not the BJP alone, since the biggest jump of upper caste representation took place in 2009. In fact, both national parties – the Congress and BJP – are responsible for this reversal, since the two parties tend to proportionally field more upper caste candidates, as compared to other parties. In 2009, 44 per cent of Congress MPs from the Hindi belt came from the upper castes, and 57 per cent in 2014. The fewer MPs the Congress has, the higher the proportion of upper caste among them.

The BJP’s case is the most interesting. The party has never had less that 40 per cent of its Hindi belt MPs coming from the upper castes. This proportion rose to 58.5 per cent in 2009. It dropped by 11 percentage points in 2014 to 47.5 per cent, but remained above the average.

Such an evolution shows that the classic tropes of OBC politics — quotas and simple descriptive representation — no longer work. Quota politics ceases to be effective when no party — not even those dominated by OBCs — can promise an extension of the quota regime. The “vote for me and you will get reservations” slogan has lost traction.

The second lesson is that social, economic and political divisions among OBCs, between jatis, and between OBCs and other backward groups have prevented the formation of durable backward fronts in the Hindi Belt, hurting the prospects of erstwhile-socialist regional parties. In fact, the non-dominant OBCs, which constitute the majority of the OBC population, seldom get any representation at all, other than in a few pockets where they have a numerical advantage. The Bihar elections will tell us if Yadavs and Kurmis can put aside their differences and work together in an election that will be more about state-level caste interests than national considerations.

Third, class dynamics have gained considerable importance over the last two decades, a period of unprecedented growth of the neo middle classes, particularly in small towns and also in rural areas. These class dynamics not only increase social differentiation between groups but have reinforced social differentiation within particular castes. Voting patterns among OBCs in India at large show that these groups no longer vote as cohesively as they used to. According to the CSDS-Lokniti National Election Survey 2014, richer OBCs have voted for the BJP more than poorer OBCs (37 per cent against 28 per cent). In Uttar Pradesh, poorer Yadavs have stayed faithful to the Samajwadi Party (82 per cent), but the higher the class, the more Yadavs shifted towards the BJP. In 2014, 32 per cent of “lower class” Yadavs voted for the BJP, as against 49 per cent for the SP.

These aspiring Yadavs supported the BJP, as many other neo-middle class voters did, for its development promises. They followed Narendra Modi, who was projected as an OBC leader, because of their aspirations for higher standards of living. The personalisation of the campaign meant that the BJP could afford to distribute more tickets to its historical core support base, the upper castes. As is the case for the Congress, the BJP remains a party heavily dominated by the upper castes.

This could create a conundrum for the BJP. Are all these MPs pursuing an upper-caste agenda in the House? How does this new configuration of the sociology of the Lok Sabha affect MPs’ positions on issues such as land acquisition, on which OBCs are at loggerheads with the established old elites? One could argue that the personal opinions of MPs are irrelevant in a highly centralised party and in a political system dominated by a centralising executive — but that could be true only up to a point.

Despite the claims of inclusiveness or the sophistication of electoral strategies, both the BJP and Congress remain upper caste dominated, unwilling to make space for other groups unless they absolutely have to. For the moment, the class dynamics among those groups are in favour of the BJP. But should the party be unable to deliver on job-creation or shed its current pro-rich tag, the cards could be reshuffled. The Bihar elections will be a crucial test.

Jaffrelot is senior research fellow at CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS, Paris, professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at King’s India Institute, London, and non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Verniers is assistant professor of political science, Ashoka University

April 12, 2019

The Future Of The Fight To Preserve Uyghur Culture

The Future Of The Fight To Preserve Uyghur Culture

As the Chinese government crushes Uyghur culture in Xinjiang, Uyghurs abroad are making new efforts to preserve their traditions — but will they succeed? Some scholars say a revival is possible.


Top photo: A village meshrep, or Uyghur community gathering incorporating music, dance, and other arts in 2009 featuring female singer Sanubar Tursun. Credit: Aziz Isa Elkun.


“Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes,” sang the kids gathered at an education center in Virginia, to the tune of the classic children’s song — except they were not doing so in English, but in Uyghur language. These are among the 60 Uyghur students — ages ranging from two to early 30s — who come to Ana Care & Education on Sundays to learn their mother tongue.

Marketing manager Irade Kashgary started the school in Fairfax, Virginia, with her mother, Sureyya, in February 2017. It is one of many projects by the Uyghur diaspora across the world fighting to keep the community’s customs and traditions alive amidst the Chinese government’s crackdown in Xinjiang.

Children learning Uyghur language in a recent class at Ana Care & Education.

Adrian Zenz, an independent researcher on China’s ethnic policies said last month that an estimated 1.5 million Uyghurs and other Muslims could be held in so-called re-education centers in the Xinjiang autonomous region in northwestern China, up from his earlier figure of 1 million.

There are approximately 400,000 Uyghurs residing outside China, especially in Central Asian countries, like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, as well as in Turkey.

In an attempt to push back against the Chinese government’s repression of their culture, members of the diaspora all over the world have been reasserting their identity, such as through Uyghur language classes, artistic endeavors, and eateries, among other forms. But how far can this form of identity preservation go?

“With the elders being locked up in concentration camps, our fear is that younger generations of Uyghurs will not want to identify as Uyghurs, or may not even have any connection to Uyghur culture,” said Kashgary. The 25-year-old moved to the United States two decades ago. “The hope is to keep it thriving in the diaspora, and maybe someday, to even have Uyghur recognized as a second language here.”

“With the elders being locked up in concentration camps, our fear is that younger generations of Uyghurs will not want to identify as Uyghurs, or may not even have any connection to Uyghur culture.” —Irade Kashgary, co-founder of Ana Care & Education


High school student Kunduz Ablimit, who is enrolled in Ana Care’s language class, said: “I think it’s very important that we get a stronger grasp of our culture at the same time that the Party tries to destroy our culture.”

The 17-year-old has written a collection of short fiction stories, titled We Are Uyghur, which are inspired by the ongoing crackdown in Xinjiang. He says it will be published later this year.

Uyghur language schools have also been set up in Australia and Turkey, among other countries outside China.

The Uyghur language is part of the Turkic family of languages, which comprises at least 35 documented languages spoken by ethno-linguistic communities spanning Eurasia — from Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and large parts of Asia. Xinjiang, where the majority of ethnic Uyghurs reside, became part of China when the Manchu-ruled Qing empire (1636–1912) conquered it in the eighteenth century, during its westward expansion that also included the annexation of Mongolia and Tibet.

Uyghurs identify as Muslims, but their religious practices differ noticeably from Muslims in the Middle East. For instance, Uyghur prayer often involves chanting, dancing, and music. Brightly colored costumes, strumming music, scents of melded spices, and steaming naan bread are among many distinct elements of Uyghur culture that differentiate it from not just the Han Chinese majority culture of China, but also other Muslim ethnic groups around the world.

Uyghurs abroad work to preserve cuisine, writing, and poetry

YANA Kebab Express in midtown Manhattan, New York City, found itself as an accidental ambassador of Uyghur culture and cuisine when it opened in 2017 — just as China was escalating its pressure on Muslim minorities while not explicitly admitting to locking up the Uyghurs.

“We are happy that we have a chance to present this culture, which is something I didn’t really think too much of when I started this out in the beginning. Now we have people coming every day asking about the food, where it is from, the history,” said its founder Kudret Yakup, 36. “I am myself trying to enhance my knowledge on these [topics] too.”

A Harvard-educated investment banker by training, Yakup returned to the United States from China in 2016, when he first started selling kebabs on the street. Cumin-spiced mutton and rice pilaf cooked with carrots and olive oil take the centerstage on YANA Kebab Express’ authentic platters. Yakup said: “I wasn’t interested in finding some Uyghur food and changing it to the taste of the American audience. I chose to make kebabs because it has a wide customer base. People already are familiar with it.”

“I think as long as we think our culture has value, and we do love this culture, and we know what it really means, I think as long as we have this in mind, we will never lose it,” he said.

The traditional Uyghur food on offer at YANA Kebab Express (formerly Kebab Empire) in New York City.

Bahram Sintash, who was born in Xinjiang but now lives in Virginia with his family, has been building Uyghurism.com to preserve digital copies of the popular Uyghur journal Xinjiang Civilization.

The 36-year-old fitness instructor, whose father was detained by the authorities at a re-education camp about a year ago, said he grew up during a cultural renaissance which saw a revival of Uyghur literature, art, music, and television programs. Sintash is optimistic that the Uyghur identity will prevail despite the current crackdown — as it did during the Cultural Revolution, he said.


“I think it’s very important that we get a stronger grasp of our culture at the same time that the Party tries to destroy our culture.” —Kunduz Ablimit, a 17-year-old student at Ana Care & Education


“We have survived similar things in the past. I am optimistic because there are many Uyghur writers and intellectuals overseas who will persist in preserving Uyghur practices,” Sintash said. “This is a community that has had a long history. It’s not easy to force us to assimilate.”

In London, Uyghur academic Aziz Isa Elkun, 49, publishes poetry written in his mother tongue on his personal website. These pieces are also translated into English, so that he can “show how nice the Uyghur language is” to a larger audience. Elkun, who is actively involved in the global writers’ association PEN International, has been pushing for Uyghur language books to be digitized and made available via the British Library.

But is digitizing resources, or even getting inscribed into heritage lists — a number of Uyghur arts and cultural practices have made it onto the United Nation’s lists for intangible cultural heritage — the same as actually preserving culture in practice?

“That is why we still have to actively target our younger generation of Uyghurs and let them understand how beautiful Uyghur culture is. Otherwise they may start to boycott it,” said Elkun.

“I am very, very worried about the Uyghur cultural identity. But we’re not giving up.”

Will Uyghur identity actually see a revival?

While the crackdown in Xinjiang appears to be fuelling a revival of Uyghur culture and customs abroad, some observers are not optimistic.

Darren Byler, a scholar of Uyghur culture who lectures at the University of Washington’s anthropology department, sees the crackdown as the Chinese government’s attempt to eradicate all unique aspects of the Uyghur identity. “I am not hopeful that the identity will continue to survive. I think children of the future generations, especially, might lose touch with their Uyghur heritage or just see it as backward, or lacking,” he said.

On the other hand, Rachel Harris, who specializes in ethnomusicology at the University of London, feels hopeful that people living outside China will do what they can to preserve the culture. In October last year, Harris received a grant from the British Academy to revitalise a form of community gathering known as meshrep, which incorporates music, dance, drama, and acrobatics, among other arts. Meshrep is maintained by ethnic Uyghurs in southeast Kazakhstan.

“I don’t think it’s so easy to eliminate a national identity. There was a huge resurgence of interest in Uyghur culture, language and identity after the end of the Cultural Revolution, and even if the current policies continue for years, I expect the same thing would happen as soon as the policies relax,” she said.


“There was a huge resurgence of interest in Uyghur culture, language and identity after the end of the Cultural Revolution.” —Rachel Harris, University of London


Timothy Grose, who researches Uyghur ethno-national identity, said the violent, state-led dismantling of the pillars of Uyghur culture can adversely affect the Uyghur identity in the short term. “In the short term, few Uyghurs in Xinjiang will likely dare to express their ethno-national identity with these cultural markers,” he said.

But the Chinese Communist Party may be overestimating the long-term efficacy of its attempt to stifle Uyghur culture.

“If we look at other colonial endeavors, we see that ethnic consciousness is regularly activated or strengthened as a result of systematic oppression,” he said, citing the revival of Hindu nationalism in the 20th century as an example. “I, perhaps optimistically, don’t see the Uyghur case being an exception.”


There's still no American solution for 5G


Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios


Axios reported this morning on the Trump administration's plans to unveil a big 5G push:

Details: At a White House event today, [President] Trump and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai plan to make two announcements.

1. Airwaves: The FCC will auction off three big slices of millimeter-wave airwaves that are crucial to connecting new devices at high speeds...

2. Funding: The agency will announce a "Rural Digital Opportunity Fund" to spend $20.4 billion over 10 years in rural broadband.

Between the lines: This plan does not look it will do anything to address the fact that there are really only four hardware firms that can built a 5G network: Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland’s Nokia and China’s Huawei and ZTE.

As Brian Fung explains in the Washington Post:

“There is no U.S.-based wireless access equipment provider today that builds those solutions,” said Sandra Rivera, a senior vice president at Intel who helps guide the chipmaker’s 5G strategy ...

The rising global demand for 5G equipment highlights how the United States, a technology leader in other respects, is largely absent from the wireless networking industry. It reflects the decline of a once vibrant ecosystem of American companies that formerly went toe-to-toe with the likes of Nokia and Ericsson.

Earlier this week, the Global Times crowed about the success of state-led drive for high technology:

A new trend in the world economy is emerging, as national industrial strategies are mapped out across major countries, ranging from the US and Germany to Japan and South Korea ...

While China is trying to develop strength in advanced technologies that have until now been the domains of the US and European countries, they also view China as a major competitor. China should not reduce support for state-led projects under pressure from the West. 

In contrast, more effort is needed to push forward China's national industrial goals to further invest in state-led research projects, especially in strategic industries such as 5G networks, aerospace, advanced numerical control tools, and energy-efficient and new-energy vehicles.

The bottom line: Huawei's lead in 5G is evidence to Beijing that its model is working, and no one should be under any illusion that it will give up the goals of its Made in China 2025 program.

GCSC Cyberstability Update,12 April 2019

GCSC Cyberstability Update,12 April 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 www.cyberstability.org.

European Union Embeds Protection of the Public Core of the Internet in New EU Cybersecurity Act

This article was published on the GCSC website, 11 April 2019
The Council of the European Union adopted the EU Cybersecurity Act, including a clear commitment to protect the Public Core of the open Internet. The protection of the public core of the Internet is a principal norm developed by the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC).

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G7 Dinard Declaration on the Cyber Norm Initiative

This declaration by the G7 Foreign Ministers was published in France Diplomatie, 6 April 2019

The G7 Foreign Ministers met in Dinard and Saint Malo on 5 and 6 April 2019. One of the outcomes of this meeting is the Dinard Declaration on the Cyber Norm Initiative. In the Declaration, the Foreign Ministers state the following: “We affirm our willingness to establish a Cyber Norm Initiative (CNI) dedicated to sharing best practices and lessons learned on the implementation of previously recognized voluntary, nonbinding norms of responsible State behavior. We encourage, where possible, other interested partners to join us in this endeavor or to complete a similar exercise. This would contribute to the work by the UN Open-ended Working Group and Group of Governmental Experts, and by regional organizations, and would aim to demonstrate strong examples of adherence to these norms.”

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Breaking Down the Hacking Case Against Julian Assange

This article by Andy Greenberg was published in WIRED, 11 April 2019
For the first time since 2012, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange no longer has the legal protections of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. He now faces the criminal charges he's always suspected and feared—although it's now clear that he's accused of criminal behavior not as a journalist, or even a spy, but a hacker. The indictment centers on an incident nine years ago, when Assange allegedly told his source, then Army private Chelsea Manning, that he would help crack a password that would have given her deeper access to the military computers from which she was leaking classified material to WikiLeaks. It's not clear if Assange ever successfully cracked the password. Furthermore,  the Justice Department is charging Assange under a statute that labels his alleged hacking an "act of terrorism." But prosecutors have at least skirted a potentially bigger source of controversy: the First Amendment.


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Building confidence in the cybersphere: a path to multilateral progress

This article by Theresa Hitchens and Nancy W. Gallagher was published in the Journal of Cyber Policy, 9 April 2019
As use of the internet has become critical to global economic development and international security, there is near-unanimous agreement on the need for more international cooperation to increase stability and security in cyberspace. This paper compares what the United Nations’ (UN) Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE) norm-building processes have achieved so far and what disagreements have impeded these efforts. It identifies several priorities for cooperation identified by participants in both forums. It also proposes three practical projects related to these priorities that members of regional or global organisations might be able to work on together, despite political tensions and philosophical disputes. The first would help state and non-state actors share information and communicate about various types of cybersecurity threats using a flexible and intuitive effects-based taxonomy to categorise cyber activity. The second would develop a more sophisticated way for state and non-state actors to assess the risks of different types of cyber incidents and the potential benefits of cooperation. The third would identify aspects of the internet that might be considered the core of a public utility, worthy of special protection in their own right and for their support of trans-border critical infrastructure.

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How Android Fought an Epic Botnet — And Won

This article by Lily Hay Newman was published in WIRED, 9 April 2019     
In March 2017, the Android security team was feeling pleased with itself. The group had detected, analyzed, and neutralized a sophisticated botnet built on tainted apps that all worked together to power ad and SMS fraud. Dubbed Chamois, the malware family had already cropped up in 2016 and was being distributed both through Google Play and third-party app stores. So the Android team started aggressively flagging and helping to uninstall Chamois until they were sure it was dead. Eight months later, though, in November 2017, Chamois roared back into the Android ecosystem, more ferocious than before. By March 2018, a year after Google thought it had been vanquished, Chamois hit an all-time high, infecting 20.8 million devices. Now, a year after that zenith, the Android team has whittled that number back down to fewer than 2 million infections. And at the Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit in Singapore this week, Android security engineer Maddie Stone is presenting a full post-mortem on how Google fought back against Chamois—again—and how personal the rivalry became.


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Internet of Things Devices as a DDoS Vector

This article by Steve Olshansky and Robin Wilton was published in Internet Society, 11 April 2019
As adoption of Internet of Things devices increases, so does the number of insecure IoT devices on the network. These devices represent an ever-increasing pool of computing and communications capacity open to misuse. They can be hijacked to spread malware, recruited to form botnets to attack other Internet users, and even used to attack critical national infrastructure, or the structural functions of the Internet itself. The problem this poses is what to do about IoT as a source of risk. This blog post includes reflections on events that came to light in recent weeks, sets out some thoughts about technical mitigations, and sketches out the boundaries of what we think can be done technically.


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Australia’s New Social Media Law Is a Mess

This article by Evelyn Douek was published in Lawfare, 10 April 2019

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on March 30 that the internet could use more regulation of “harmful content,” maybe he should have been more specific. Less than a week after Zuckerberg’s statement, Australia’s Parliament passed the Criminal Code Amendment (Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material) Act 2019, with no public or expert consultation. Passed in response to the horrific terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, that occurred on March 15, Australia’s attorney-general said the act “will send a clear message that the Australian government expects the providers of online content and hosting services to take responsibility for the use of their platforms to share abhorrent violent material.” The message is indeed clear: The law creates new offenses and liability, including imprisonment and huge fines for failing to take down violent content, such as the video of the Christchurch attack that was broadcast live on Facebook, quickly enough from online platforms. However, it has received widespread condemnation from internet rights organizations, the tech industry (both within Australia and abroad) and academics who study freedom of expression online. And the critics have a point. The legislation is riddled with ambiguities that make its legal effect and effectiveness uncertain. One concerning element is the fact that the law applies not only to platforms or content services but also to internet service providers (ISPs). One Australian professor has commented that the law potentially creates “an expectation for ISPs to apply deep packet inspection monitoring of everything that is said.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation has called indirect hosts of content such as ISPs “free speech’s weakest links” because they are often unable to remove individual posts and so, if facing liability, will remove entire websites or domains.


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Dutch opposition to Huawei grows after report ASML hit by Chinese spying

This article was published in Telecompaper, 11 April 2019
Opposition to allowing Huawei to build 5G networks in the Netherlands is growing among Dutch MPs following a report that ASML, the Dutch supplier of lithography machines to produce semiconductors, was a victim of corporate espionage that may have been driven by the Chinese state. An investigation by the Dutch paper FD found that ASML employees had been passing information to rival XTAL, a company with allegedly indirect backing by the Chinese science and technology ministry. ASML said it did not recognize the version of events as reported by FD, noting that it initiated and won the trade secrets case against XTAL. While some of the employees involved were of Chinese nationality, other nationalities were involved as well. "We resent any suggestion that this event should have any implication for ASML conducting business in China," the company said in a statement. 

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Inside the 2014 hack of a Saudi embassy

This article by J.M. Porup was published in CSO, 8 April 2019

An attacker claiming to be ISIS took control of the official email account of the Saudi Embassy in the Netherlands in August, 2014 and sent emails to more than a dozen embassies at The Hague demanding $50 million for ISIS, or they would blow up a major diplomatic reception, documents seen by CSO reveal. The attack compromised the Saudi embassy's non-classified computer network. They deployed a garden-variety rootkit on the workstation of the ambassador’s secretary and took over the embassy's official email account. No one was ever formally held accountable, despite an internal investigation. Given the low sophistication of the attack, experts tell CSO it's impossible to say whether the attacker really was part of an organized effort by ISIS, a random supporter, or a nation-state intelligence agency masquerading as ISIS for motives unknown.

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Russia passes bill to allow internet to be cut off from foreign servers

This article by Agence France-Presse in Moscow was published in The Guardian, 11 April 2019
Russian politicians have approved a controversial bill that would allow Moscow to cut off the country’s internet traffic from foreign servers, in a key second reading that paves the way for the bill to become law on 1 November. Lawmakers in the State Duma, parliament’s lower house, voted 320 to 15 to pass the proposed bill. The proposed measures would create technology to monitor internet routing and steer Russian internet traffic away from foreign servers, ostensibly to prevent a foreign country from shutting it down. The legislation has been dubbed a “sovereign internet” bill by Russian media. Critics say implementing the measures would be expensive and give vast censorship powers to the government’s new traffic monitoring centre. The bill’s authors insist however that the measures only outline a plan to make Russian internet “more secure and reliable”.


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Dropbox uncovers 264 vulnerabilities in HackerOne Singapore bug hunt

This article by Eileen Yu was published in ZDNet, 6 April 2019
Dropbox has uncovered 264 vulnerabilities, paying out US$319,300 in bounties, after a one-day bug hunt in Singapore that brought together hackers from 10 nations around the world. Hosted by bug bounty platform HackerOne, the live event saw 45 of its members from countries such as Japan, India, Australia, Hong Kong, and Sweden, and some as young as 19, band together in the city-state in an attempt to infiltrate Dropbox's targeted systems. Noting that the company already had a mature bug bounty program, the Dropbox spokesperson said it had established a "well-defined process" for reviewing bugs reported from such initiatives as well as determining their severity and necessary remedies.


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Microsoft publishes SECCON framework for securing Windows 10

This article by Catalin Cimpanu was published in ZDNet, 11 April 2019
Microsoft published today a generic "security configuration framework" that contains guidance for systems administrators about the basic security settings they should be applying in order to secure Windows 10 devices. "We sat down and asked ourselves this question: if we didn't know anything at all about your environment, what security policies and security controls would we suggest you implement first?," said Chris Jackson, Principal Program Manager at Microsoft. The end result was what Microsoft has named the SECCON framework, which organizes Windows 10 devices into one of five distinct security configurations. "Mimicking the DEFCON levels used to determine alert state by the United States Armed Forces, lower numbers indicate a higher degree of security hardening," Jackson said.


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How Cloud Shifts Security Balance of Power to the Good Guys

This article by Barbara Darrow was published in InformationWeek, 11 April 2019
Many people see the black hat/white hat struggle to break into or protect data as never-ending spy vs. spy one-upmanship. In their view, the bad guys and good guys take turns using the same increasingly smarter tools to attack and defend data stores. But others now argue that cloud changes that equation drastically and shifts the power balance in favor of good guys. At a recent Center for Strategic and International Studies event in Washington D.C., Edward Screven, Chief Corporate Architect at Oracle, said the idea that there is rough parity between attackers and defenders is no longer accurate. Companies that handle troves of customer data and traffic have aggregate knowledge of usage patterns that no hackers can replicate, he argued. Nor is it easy for companies that run their own data centers using diverse hardware and software to keep all that gear updated and patched. That means hackers can roam from company to company in search of vulnerabilities to exploit, and all too often, find them. Last year research found that 60% of companies that suffered a breach attributed it to the use of unpatched software. “It is very difficult for most organizations to apply updates and patches as quickly as attackers can turn them around for exploits,” James Lewis, senior vice president of CSIS and director of its technology program said after the event. “It’s a race that large enterprises can almost never win.”

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The Cybersecurity 202: Nielsen departure could deal a blow to Trump administration's cybersecurity efforts

This article by Joseph Marks was published in The Washington Post, 8 April 2019
Kirstjen Nielsen’s resignation as secretary of homeland security could deal a blow to the Trump administration's cybersecurity efforts -- as she was one of the last civilians in its top ranks with extensive cybersecurity expertise. That’s a dangerous position, experts say, as the nation barrels toward a 2020 election that will likely be targeted by Russian hackers and the Homeland Security Department launches a major campaign to get government and industry to stop buying technology from China's Huawei and other companies deemed national security threats. “Hopefully whoever runs DHS will prioritize its vital cybersecurity mission, but it makes a difference if the person at the top has a background in cyber and knows from experience how important it is rather than just being told,” former State Department cyber coordinator Chris Painter told me. “DHS is spread thin among multiple priorities as it is, and without a clear mandate from department leadership that cybersecurity is a prime mission, their efforts risk being sidelined.”


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The Pentagon Wants to Streamline Security Clearances by Using AI. That’s a Dangerous Idea

This article by John Bowers was published in Just Security, 8 April 2019
In June of 2018, the White House announced that the government’s security clearance program would be consolidated under the Department of Defense. This reorganization, largely motivated by an enormous backlog of clearance investigations, is aimed at streamlining the clearance process, and in particular the “reinvestigation” of individuals with clearances that require periodic review. At the core of these new efficiencies, the DoD claims, will be a “continuous evaluation” system which autonomously analyzes applicants’ behavior – using telemetry such as court records, purchase histories, and credit profiles – to proactively identify security risks. The rollout is already underway – the DoD had enrolled upwards of 1.2 million people in continuous evaluation as of November 2018. But the program is far from uncontroversial, raising credible privacy concerns and the hackles of advocacy groups including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. As the DoD takes over millions of new civilian clearances, these worries will find a broader audience. The attractiveness of an autonomous system capable of identifying security risks before they become security failures is obvious. But pinning individuals’ clearance statuses – upon which many rely for their livelihoods, and to work effectively in service of national security – to automated inference-making raises a range of troubling questions. Jonathan Zittrain of the Berkman Klein Center is fond of dividing challenges in machine learning into two broad categories – those that arise when machine learning goes off the rails, and those that arise when it works as intended. 


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Annual SonicWall Cyber Threat Report details rise in worldwide, targeted attacks

This article was published in IT Web, 8 April 2019
The 2019 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report delivers an in-depth look at threat intelligence obtained from its more than 1 million sensors from around the world. Analysed by the SonicWall Capture Labs, an elite team of threat researchers, threat data collected over the course of 2018 indicates an escalation in the volume of cyber attacks and new, targeted threat tactics used by cyber criminals. "The concern over security and privacy is more prevalent than ever before. Industry and government must collaborate to build a more secure environment, mitigate risk, and build citizen trust in government and consumer trust in business," said Michael Chertoff, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of The Chertoff Group, and former US Secretary of Homeland Security. "This report provides critical analysis into the evolution of cyber adversaries' threat tactics and methods. As organizations increasingly rely on metrics to understand and forecast risk, this intelligence will help enterprises and governments make informed decisions on their security investment."

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Chinese Intruder at Mar-a-Lago 'Very Troubling,' CISAC's Painter Says

This video was published in Bloomberg, 9 April 2019
Former U.S. State Department Cybersecurity Coordinator Chris Painter discusses the breach of security at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, and the departure of U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen from her position. He speaks with Bloomberg's Emily Chang on "Bloomberg Technology."

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The 40 MEPs Who Mattered in 2014-2019

This article by Ryan Heath was published in POLITICO, 11 April 2019
#17 Marietje Schaake ran the first successful digital-first campaign to get elected to Parliament in 2009, and went on to became one of the savviest legislators on digital issues, leaving her mark on export control rules governing dual-use technologies (those that often end up being used for spying or illegal activities). An outspoken advocate for free trade, Schaake has some of the EU’s strongest transatlantic links. Schaake is retiring from Parliament at 40 and switching to a new tech-focused career.


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The Best of RSA Conference 2019

This article was published in Bank Info Security, 8 April 2019
At RSA Conference 2019 in San Francisco, Information Security Media Group's editorial team conducted more than 150 video interviews with industry thought leaders. ISMG's editorial team leveraged the power of two video studios - a closed studio within the confines of the nearby Marriott Marquis and an open studio along the new Broadcast Alley at the Moscone West main venue. Editors conducted more than 150 exclusive video interviews with some of the top thought leaders in the industry. These include CEOs, CISOs, analysts, researchers, law enforcement agents and educators. The topics included DevSecOps, GDPR compliance, security orchestration and automation, supply chain risk and how to improve cybersecurity education. Among those interviewed was GCSC Commissioner Christopher Painter.

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There's still no American solution for 5G


Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios


Axios reported this morning on the Trump administration's plans to unveil a big 5G push:

Details: At a White House event today, [President] Trump and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai plan to make two announcements.

1. Airwaves: The FCC will auction off three big slices of millimeter-wave airwaves that are crucial to connecting new devices at high speeds...

2. Funding: The agency will announce a "Rural Digital Opportunity Fund" to spend $20.4 billion over 10 years in rural broadband.

Between the lines: This plan does not look it will do anything to address the fact that there are really only four hardware firms that can built a 5G network: Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland’s Nokia and China’s Huawei and ZTE.

As Brian Fung explains in the Washington Post:

“There is no U.S.-based wireless access equipment provider today that builds those solutions,” said Sandra Rivera, a senior vice president at Intel who helps guide the chipmaker’s 5G strategy ...

The rising global demand for 5G equipment highlights how the United States, a technology leader in other respects, is largely absent from the wireless networking industry. It reflects the decline of a once vibrant ecosystem of American companies that formerly went toe-to-toe with the likes of Nokia and Ericsson.

Earlier this week, the Global Times crowed about the success of state-led drive for high technology:

A new trend in the world economy is emerging, as national industrial strategies are mapped out across major countries, ranging from the US and Germany to Japan and South Korea ...

While China is trying to develop strength in advanced technologies that have until now been the domains of the US and European countries, they also view China as a major competitor. China should not reduce support for state-led projects under pressure from the West. 

In contrast, more effort is needed to push forward China's national industrial goals to further invest in state-led research projects, especially in strategic industries such as 5G networks, aerospace, advanced numerical control tools, and energy-efficient and new-energy vehicles.

The bottom line: Huawei's lead in 5G is evidence to Beijing that its model is working, and no one should be under any illusion that it will give up the goals of its Made in China 2025 program.

April 11, 2019

Why NOTA may be an emerging trend in the Lok Sabha elections

Economic Times, India

View: Why NOTA may be an emerging trend in the Lok Sabha elections

NOTA constituted 1.1 % of the total votes polled in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, despite overwhelming mandate given to the Modi’s BJP.

By ET CONTRIBUTORS | Apr 11, 2019, 11.57 AM IST

By Prasad Nallapati

Many of my acquaintances that I spoke to recently have shown a general apathy toward the general elections currently underway in the country and expressed their intention to vote for NOTA, a provision on the ballot paper to vote for “None Of The Above”. The mood is not just an expression of displeasure against the candidates in the fray but a general anguish over the way the political parties are conducting themselves.


Although they do not form a big enough sample to draw broader conclusions, there is visible anger and disillusionment with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) among the electorate. This is further accentuated by the fact that they do not see any worthwhile alternative party to turn to.

Rahul Gandhi, the Prime Ministerial candidate of the Grand Old Party, is seen as an amateurish descendant of the dynasty, surrounded by same old `bhajantries’ (sycophants). His conduct, though improved, does not yet meet the expectations of the people. Memories are still afresh of the corrupt scandals that plagued the Congress government, headed by Dr. Manmohan Singh.

The ‘Mahagatabandhan’ (the so called Third Front) of the regional parties is a ‘Kichdi’ (incoherent mixture) of differing personal agendas that prevented them to agree on anything except unseating Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even that did not prove to be good enough to keep the flock together as the polls approached.


Five years ago, Modi was a new hope. His words had resonated among the people when he promised to end corruption and bring a new era of all-round development that guarantees jobs to burgeoning youth of the country. People, irrespective of religious faiths and communal differences, overwhelmingly responded to give him a massive mandate.

The report card of the performance of the Modi’s government is nowhere close to fulfilling those promises. Barring some foreign policy credentials, its performance on domestic front has not brought it any glory.


He demanded patience and suffering from common man and woman during the implementation of demonetization but maintained stoic silence when his own party colleagues put on an awkward display of wealth at wedding ceremonies of their wards. Statistics have been fudged to show growth rates and employment generation even when facts cry otherwise. Fringe killing squads were let loose that murdered unsuspecting Muslim traders in the name of `cow protection’. These elements are in the forefront of the BJP election campaigns and some of them may even be in the fray for elections.

There is growing perception that political opponents, in contrast, are harassed and chased using (rather misusing) nationalinstitutions like the CBI, Election Commission, Revenue department, etc.,

While some of the foreign policy achievements are a work in progress, with significant contributions from previous governments, Modi’s ability to make personal friends of world leaders is singularly commendable. He has taken courageous steps to teach a lesson to Pakistan against its support to terrorism.

Modi is an adept orator, but his charm offensive has its own limitations. There is significant decline in his popularity ratings, but they are still far above any of the other national political leader.

Hence the dilemma how to punish Modi and his BJP without giving any undue advantage to the Congress and the ‘Mahagatabhandan’. In normal course, most of them would have preferred to sit out rather than vote for anybody.

The Supreme Court, in its judgement in 2013, cleared the way for registering a negative vote to express popular protest against candidates and their political parties.

NOTA has, thus, emerged.

Although critics underrate the proviso saying that it has no teeth to annul an election even where it gets majority votes, it did appear to have an impact. In the Gujarat Assembly elections in 2017, the NOTA polled more than the margin of winning votes in 21 constituencies. The BJP was defeated in twelve of these seats by a margin, which is less than the votes secured by NOTA.

The party has come to the conclusion that their candidates would have won these seats easily had it not for the NOTA. The protest vote, though a mild punishment, has cost the party dearly. The margin of defeat in these seats was between 170 to 3000 votes whereas the NOTA polled 3000 to 6000 votes. Similarly, the Congress too lost in some seats with similar margins.

The votes polled for NOTA were larger than the winning margin in 261 Assembly constituencies which went to the polls since 2013, and in 24 constituencies in the last Lok Sabha elections. Assembly elections held in Bihar in 2015 recorded a 2.49% vote for NOTA, which is by far the highest negative vote polled in any state elections. Polls held for five State Assemblies in 2016 recorded an average of 1.6 % votes for NOTA. The Telangana state, which went to polls in December 2018, also saw an increase in NOTA votes to 1.00% from 0.7% in 2014.

NOTA constituted 1.1 % of the total votes polled in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, despite overwhelming mandate given to the Modi’s BJP. With all the political parties facing growing popular disenchantment, the NOTA vote may see a significant increase and a substantial loss of seats with narrow margins in this year’s elections.

It, therefore, makes sense for many people to express their wish to vote for the NOTA. It increases the chances of more people coming out to cast their votes even if it is for exercising their right to `not to vote to anybody’. It may thus prevent alleged misuse of votes. Opposition parties complained of instances where election agents were bought over to stuff unpolled votes in favour of ruling parties in the closing hours of the polling.

As the Supreme Court observed, the NOTA may, in the long run, bring about “a systemic change in polls and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates.” The provision has to be given more teeth to make such a difference and empower common people to say `no’ to corrupt and criminal politicians.

(The author is President of the Hyderabad-based Centre for Asia-Africa Policy Research and former Additional Secretary to GoI)

April 10, 2019

Indian Elections 2019: Five Things You Should Know

India’s general election kicks off on 11 April, and with more than 900 million eligible voters, 1 million polling stations and seven phases spread across five weeks, it will be the world’s largest exercise in democracy. Dr Gareth Price explains five things you should know about what to expect.

Chatham House

Apr 8

The Indian Parliament building stands in the background behind a statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Photo: Getty Images.

Why are these elections important?

The Indian elections are important on two levels. First, the Indian elections are the biggest democratic event in history. This year, around 900 million Indians will be eligible to vote and around two-thirds of them are likely to do so.

Second, these elections are of particular importance because they are likely to determine the type of country India will be over the next decade or two. The opposition parties argue that they celebrate India’s diversity — of religions, languages and ethnicities. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, argues that this emphasis on division — a colonial legacy — has weakened India. It claims that the opposition parties first target the Muslim vote while side-lining Hindus in what is a Hindu-majority country.

The BJP’s aim is to consolidate all the Hindu votes although the party is not immune from playing ‘caste politics’ at the local level. Its intention to ‘strengthen’ India by prioritizing Hindus, however, by default makes the position of religious minorities — which account for around 20 per cent of the population — less secure.

An Indian man reads a Indian voting pamphlet during an awareness drive about the voting procedure in New Delhi. Photo: Getty Images.

Modi vs. who?

Incumbent Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s, popularity ratings are high — higher than those of his party. Consequently, the BJP will run a presidential style election campaign since Modi’s strengths compare favourably to the leaders of the opposition parties.

The BJP will focus its criticism in particular on the latest generation of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to run the Congress Party whereas the opposition parties are expected to run a more granular campaign focusing on local issues rather than on personalities.

The opposition comprises a number of mostly regional parties, along with the Congress Party, whose status as a ‘national’ party is under increasing threat. Back in 2014 it controlled 13 out of 29 Indian states, but by 2018, this had fallen to just two although it did perform well in state elections in December last year.

When the opposition parties compete among themselves, the rule has held in recent state and national elections that they lose to the BJP. When they unite they win. While alliances are in place in some states, India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, faces a three-way contest. More than any party’s record in office or electoral promises, this factor alone makes the BJP favourite to emerge as the largest party.

If the BJP and its allies fall short of a majority, post-election horse-trading will determine the next government. Expectations soared after the 2014 election in part because — for the first time in decades — a single party had won a majority. However, some of India’s peak years for economic growth have occurred when it has been run by apparently weak central governments. India is a federal system after all and how states are governed is at least as important as what happens in Delhi.

A final determinant of the election is likely to be cash. Indian elections are expensive operations with money doled out in the hope of attracting votes. While some question the effectiveness of this strategy, what seems clear is that the BJP will have much more money to spend than any other party.

Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, speaks at a public rally on 3 April 2019 in Kolkata, India. Photo: Getty Images.

Is it all about the economy?

Almost certainly, and if so, that probably benefits the opposition. In mid-March, 108 economists wrote a letter questioning the reliability of India’s economic statistics, arguing that they appeared to be being manipulated in a positive direction for political purposes. Many indices have been re-based making historical comparisons difficult while growth rate numbers appear at odds with other evidence.

If economic growth is being exaggerated, this would not be for the first time. In 2004 the BJP campaigned under the slogan ‘India shining’, and when enough Indians disagreed, it was out of power for a decade.

That said, even though the government has not lived up to pre-election promises, including a 50 per cent increase in farmers’ incomes, it will, not unreasonably, argue that it needs more time and that the main opposition party, Congress, has failed to deliver despite having ruled for decades.

An Indian officer walks past the entrance of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in Mumbai, India. Photo: Getty Images.

Why did India shoot down a satellite and why will this be important?

Probably for the same reason it conducted airstrikes further into Pakistan than it has since 1971 in response to a suicide attack in Kashmir — to project strength and demonstrate that, unlike in the past, India is now a force to be reckoned with.

In this endeavour it is helped by an increasingly jingoistic and uncritical media. Social media helps too. A BBC report last year argued that ‘Hindu power and revival of lost Hindu glory are being shared widely without any attempt at fact-checking’. In stressing national pride, the BJP is able to shape the terms of debate. If opposition politicians question India’s actual achievements, they can be accused of being anti-national. Recently, several politicians from the ruling party have even described opposition politicians as ‘pro-Pakistan’.

Still, while India’s exploits in space may appeal to the urban middle class, many poorer rural Indians may question the benefits for them of India’s new military capabilities. Concerningly, if the government fears the outcome of the election and at the same time believes that projecting strength against Pakistan is a vote-winner, logic implies that there is a serious risk of further tension before the election is over.

The Indian military communication satellite GSAT-7A is pictured as it is launched into orbit in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, India on 19 December 2018. Photo: Getty Images.

How will foreign policy play a role?

With the exception of Pakistan and China, not much. India’s politics is domestically-focused and economic issues such as job creation are far more important.

Possibly, however, the UK may feature in the campaign. In 1919, General Dyer ordered his troops to fire on a group of Sikhs gathered in Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar where around 1,000 people were killed. The 100th anniversary of the massacre falls on 13 April 2019 — two days after the first round of voting — and India may use the anniversary to demand some kind of recompense.

An Indian army helicopter flies near the border with Pakistan. Photo: Getty Images.

This article was written by Dr Gareth Price, Senior Research Fellow, Asia-Pacific Programme, Chatham House.



The next decade will be defining for the future of Europe and Europe's role in the world. Seismic global power shifts; pressure on liberal democracies; challenges to global governance; the transformation of economic models and the very fabric of societies; new uses and misuses of technology; contrasting demographic patterns; and humanity's growing ecological footprint - the world is well on its way towards a new geopolitical, geo-economic and geotechnological order. What role will Europe play in this fast-changing world?  


Against this backdrop, the ESPAS Global Trends to 2030: Challenges and Choices for Europe Report is a contribution to support policy- and decision-makers as they navigate the world into 2030.

Download Report

Afghanistan’s Rivers Could Be India’s Next Weapon Against Pakistan


Wednesday, November 14, 2018
By: Foreign Policy 

Most of Afghanistan is currently experiencing a 60 percent drop in the rain and snowfall needed for food production. The rapid expansion of Kabul’s population, extreme drought conditions across the country, and the specter of climate change have exacerbated the need for new water infrastructure. But building it is politically complicated; the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region is defined by its complex maze of transboundary rivers and there is no legal framework in place to avoid major conflict between the nations.

It’s no surprise, then, that in the Chahar Asiab district of Kabul, on a tributary of the Kabul River, the Maidan, work is scheduled to begin soon on the Shahtoot Dam. The dam will hold 146 million cubic meters of potable water for 2 million Kabul residents and irrigate 4,000 hectares of land. It will also provide drinking water for a new city on the outskirts of Kabul called Deh Sabz. Afghanistan is finally, after decades of devastating wars, in a position to begin to develop its economy and electricity from hydropower.

But this ambitious development is fueling fears downstream in Pakistan that the new dam will alter the flow of the Kabul River and reduce the water flows into Pakistan that could severely limit the country’s future access to water. The Pakistani media outlet Dawn has reported that there could be a 16 to 17 percent drop in water flow after the completion of the Shahtoot Dam and other planned dams.

Beyond reducing water flow to Pakistan, the Shahtoot Dam has a unique capacity to escalate tensions in the region thanks to its funding from India. India has made major investments in Afghanistan’s infrastructure in recent years—from highway construction to repair of government buildings and dams damaged by conflict.

Since 2001, India has pledged about $2 billion total in development projects in Afghanistan. And while Afghan analysts have made the case that the dam is critical to surviving future water shortages in Afghanistan, Pakistani officials in Islamabad are casting India’s investment in a harsher light, contending that the dam is merely the latest move in India’s grand plan to strangle Pakistan’s limited water supply. Because Pakistan has failed to build enough hydropower infrastructure at home, some Pakistanis fear it might have to buy electricity from Afghanistan in the future.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’ 2011 report on water security in Central Asia identified coming water pressures as a regional security threat. The report captured the balancing act India must successfully pull off as a stakeholder in the construction of the Shahtoot Dam. “Providing the right support can have a tremendous stabilizing influence, but providing the wrong support can spell disaster by agitating neighboring countries.” The committee suggested that if competition over limited water resources soured Pakistan’s relationship with its neighbors, the repercussions “will be felt all over the world.”

Water shortages are often the underlying catalysts for war. Lack of water leads to food shortages, price increases, and famine—all of which can cause instability and conflict. Recent conflicts in Syria and Yemen grew out of destabilizing water shortages that, along with other factors, led to all-out war. A similar dispute has been brewing between Egypt and Ethiopia as Egypt fears Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will reduce its share of the Nile River’s flow.

Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, has made it clear that improving water availability via dams is a top national priority, and it’s not hard to see why: Afghanistan’s wells are drying up. A 2017 study by Afghan, German, and Finnish universities stresses that Afghanistan desperately needs better water infrastructure and water management.

The city of Kabul was only built to support 1 million people, but in 2018 it is rapidly expanding toward a population of 5 million. Most Kabul residents currently depend on groundwater sources, which are depleting rapidly in part due to thousands of unregulated wells. The Shahtoot Dam could provide desperately needed clean drinking water and would irrigate thousands of acres of land in a country where 85 percent of people rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

But Afghanistan’s pressing needs do little to diminish neighboring Pakistan’s anxieties, as both countries are water-stressed and depend on the Kabul River for drinking water, irrigation, and power generation. Pakistan has a legitimate concern over India’s investment in Afghan dams, as the Kabul River’s water flows into Pakistan could be cut or severely limited by the storage dams, greatly increasing tensions in a region that is already on edge. It is not just one dam that is alarming for Pakistan. India has assisted Afghanistan with studies on the feasibility of a total of 12 dams to be built on the Kabul River, which could generate 1,177 megawatts of power and further reduce water flow into Pakistan.

That’s a threat to a country like Pakistan, which is highly dependent on agriculture. A World Resources Institute report states that Pakistan could become the most water-stressed nation in the region by 2040, before accounting for the potential of reduced water flow from the Kabul River.



Apr 9, 2019

CPD Faculty Fellow Nicholas J. Cull is Professor and Director of the Master of Public Diplomacy program at USC and a prolific historian in the field of public diplomacy. His latest book, Public Diplomacy: Foundations for Global Engagement in the Digital Age, is out this spring. We sat down with Cull to ask him about this latest contribution to the field.

As technologies continue to forge ahead at breakneck speeds, how should today’s public diplomats integrate foundational lessons from history?

It is clear to me that while technologies change, human beings are basically as they were in the age of the Ancient Greek sages. I was thrilled to find that the thinker Bias of Priene from 500 BCE hit many of my core points. He is mentioned much more than Mark Zuckerberg in my text! My objective was to provide the core tools for understanding the practice of public diplomacy—how it differs from propaganda; the role of listening, advocacy, culture, exchange and broadcasting in its practice and, more recently, the rise of nation branding as an approach and (as I see it) the superior approach of partnership.

Why is Public Diplomacy: Foundations for Global Engagement in the Digital Age crucial reading for students of public diplomacy?

The book is designed to be a "one stop" starting point for both students and practitioners. While rooted in history, it brings in material from IR, psychology, cultural studies, communications, management, brand studies and other fields. It is truly cross-disciplinary—and now that it's done, I’m a little nervous that that will mean people in other disciplines will be cross with me!

In this social media-driven era of information and disinformation, what are some emerging digital practices that can shape public diplomacy for the better?

I see the process as essentially the same as when people wrote with quills. Listen first; know your audience; craft your message with eye to it being memorable, emotionally engaging and shareable. One change in the digital era is that it is much easier to get information from the most credible source: someone like yourself. This is an extra challenge for the public diplomat who is necessarily not like their audience. 

Your book introduces “partnerships” as an emerging paradigm. Where are we in the evolving partnerships landscape, and where are we headed?

I see partnerships as one way of getting around the problem of digital bubbles—public diplomats must stop thinking: "What I can say to persuade audience X," and instead begin to think: "Who can I empower who is credible to persuade audience X." That means partnership. It’s at the heart of the push-back against ISIS/DAESH.

Partnerships have to be the way ahead. The world’s problems are too big, credibility is too diffuse and budgets too small for any one actor to go-it-alone. Tragically, this is just the wrong time for the world to "fall off the wagon" and go back on the "bottle" of closed-minded nationalism.

What surprised you in writing this book?

I was surprised how much fun I had seeking out examples—especially for the listening chapter, which is the least theorized of all the subjects covered. There are Icelandic bird calls, British Airways pilot training and the zombie apocalypse in short succession. 

I was also surprised by the rapidity of the deterioration of the international scene during the writing of the book. From 2014 onward, propaganda was emphatically back on the global stage, and the West was scrambling to respond. My conclusion goes so far as to propose that we need to rethink soft power in terms of vulnerability rather than a bonus and that countries need to consider their "reputational security" as the international situation darkens.

But in the last analysis, I was surprised how optimistic the book is. These things are cyclical. Optimism may be hard to find now, but when it comes back people will want something to read, and my book will be waiting.

April 09, 2019

Why China won’t call JeM terrorists?

Why has China consistently refused to categorize Kashmiri militant Masood Azharand his group, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), as terrorists? Writing in Foreign Policy, Yelena Biberman and Jared Schwartz offer a plausible theory:

China and Pakistan are facing a delicate balancing act. They both want to push the Taliban to engage with Kabul. But the Taliban, which have extensive ties to groups such as JeM, can generate instability in the region through operations similar to the February 14 attack in response to pressure.

China and Pakistan, in order to protect the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), must simultaneously remain on the militant groups’ good side and cajole the Taliban. The potential costs of failure, such as regional chaos and lost investment, are high. But the potential benefits of success — snatching Afghanistan from India while building a massive economic corridor with security benefits likely to follow — are highly alluring.

Another blow against freedom of assembly in Hong Kong

The BBC reports:

Nine pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have been found guilty of public nuisance charges for their role in a civil disobedience movement that called for free elections in the city.

Among them are three prominent activists, seen as figureheads of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement.

They could be jailed for up to seven years for their part in the "Umbrella Movement" protests of 2014.

—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief

April 08, 2019

EVENT: Foundation for Advancing Cultural Ties

Washington D.C. Schedule:
Guest Speaker: François Gautier On The Need To Rewrite Indian History.
Organization: FACT, USA - Foundation for Advancing Cultural Ties.

*Durga Hindu Temple,*
Time: 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM Date: Sunday, April 14 2019.
Location: Durga Hindu Temple, 8400 Durga Place, Fairfax Station, VA 22039
Home: http://durgatemple.org/

To RSVP: https://factdc.eventbrite.com
FB Invite: https://www.facebook.com/events/400483594075462

*India International School.*
Time: 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM
*Date: Sunday, April 14*
*India International School & Cultural Center*
4433 Unit R, Brookfield Corporate Drive, Chantilly, Virginia 20151
+1 703-817-9733

Welcome to take volunteer.

To Join FACT US Whatsapp Group https://chat.whatsapp.com/BvTAcENfqZNKvJ14RVl2j0

About: Francois Gautier, a French author & journalist, covering India & South Asia for the last 35 years. In decades of reporting he noticed most western correspondents were projecting issues, warts & shortcomings of India. When Mr Gautier got a coveted journalism prize, Natchiketa Award of excellence in journalism, from India PM, he used the prize money to mount a series of conferences & exhibitions highlighting the magnificence of India & threats to its sovereignty. FACT creates Awareness Campaigns, Conferences, Exhibitions, Films & Papers on Art, Culture, History & Human Rights abuses. Our team works with supporting organizations on research, analysis, design & presentation of the issues. FACT strives to bring attention to these forgotten or neglected issues & to pressure governments and international organizations to take corrective action.

Dhayavaad! We Thank You For The Continued Support.

China's Digital Raise: Challenges for Europe

China's efforts at home and abroad to become a global leader in digital technologies is a challenge for Europe. The ambitions of telecommunications giant Huawei to participate in building European 5G networks are just one example of many, say MERICS researchers Kristin Shi-Kupferand Mareike Ohlberg, authors of a new MERICS study, "China's digital rise. Challenges for Europe.”

Click here to download this MERICS Paper on China as PDF or read the Executive Summary below.

Executive Summary

China is making headway in achieving global leadership in 5G, AI and quantum computing and in other digital and disruptive technologiesThe Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is pursuing a comprehensive digital strategy encompassing the search for new economic growth drivers, cyber governance and global power projectionSelected leading Chinese ICT companies are co-shaping the global digital architectureWith its proactive approach to standardization, China sets operational rules for foreign businessesChina’s weak regulatory environment will impact on the development of digital ethics on a global level

The reach of Chinese IT companies into global digital infrastructure is raising growing concerns in Europe. Large and partially state-backed companies like Huawei, Alibaba or Tencent are already involved Europe-wide in telecommunications networks, data centers and online payment systems. The introduction of the new telecommunications standard 5G will likely contribute to Huawei’s hard- and software becoming yet more entangled in Europe’s critical infrastructure. China is the only country that is ahead of the UN’s International Telecommunication Union’s “2020 5G development schedule”. Chinese experts have taken the lead role in the 5G group of the International Standardization Organization (ISO), known as 3GPP, by submitting 40 percent of the standards and 32 percent of the documents.

The global leadership of Chinese telecoms giants in 5G is just one example of how China is on its way to becoming a digital innovation powerhouse. President Xi Jinping has emphasized the importance of China becoming a leader in emerging technologies – including artificial intelligence (AI), nanotechnology, quantum computing, big data, cloud computing, and smart cities. China has spent at least ten times more on quantum R&D than the United States; estimates start from USD 50 billion. In the AI sector, China filed 30,000 patents in 2018 alone, 2.5 times more than the United States. China has also announced plans to invest USD 411 billion in upgrading its telecommunications systems to 5G between 2020 and 2030.

China is well on its way to being a global leader in key emerging and digital technologies. It is a leading digital marketplace and home of one third of unicorns, privately held start-up companies valued at over USD 1 billion. China has made substantial headway in AI-based applications like facial recognition, in blockchain technologies and quantum computation. It has achieved substantial growth across multiple other sectors, such as logistics, e-commerce, fintech, autonomous driving, and digital health.

And Chinese companies are competing successfully worldwide in ICT products and services. Beijing is proactively shaping international standards for emerging technologies including blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G, by securing leadership positions in international standard setting bodies.

For Europe, the loss of economic competitiveness in these fields is becoming a pressing concern. At the same time, the fact that Chinese high-tech enterprises are gradually conquering European markets and their digital technologies are increasingly found in fintech, e-commerce and telecoms structures in Europe feeds into worries over potential security risks. The ongoing transfer of dual-use technologies from Europe to China adds to these concerns.

China's digital ambitions are backed by strong policy coordination and a nexus of party state and private interests

China’s digital strategy covers its entire economy and society. It envisions rapid technological advances to generate fresh economic growth, foster effective governance and control, and project global power. The strategy combines economic targets with broader normative and security goals. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wants to advance technologically, amplify China’s “discursive power” and shape global standards and norms.

Multiple major policy initiatives support these goals: the National Informatization Strategy (2016 – 2020) calls upon China’s internet companies to “go out” into the world and support the creation of a “Digital Silk Road”. The “Made in China 2025” roadmap and “Internet Plus” were launched in 2015 to drive domestic industrial and digital innovation. The digital sector has been a major beneficiary of President Xi’s policy style, which relies on taskspecific Leading Small Groups to quickly implement decisions made by the top leadership in sectors that are considered a priority.

On the ground, a unique party-state-private nexus in the ICT sector underpins China’s digital policies. The CCP has nurtured the home-grown IT champions Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (known as “BAT”) by blocking foreign competitors from the domestic market. The party state also allowed BAT to expand internationally and to access foreign capital with listings on overseas stock markets. In the case of ZTE and Huawei, the two major Chinese telecommunication equipment manufacturing companies, party-state co-optation in the form of government funding and preferential procurement has been particularly evident. It can be hard-to-impossible to track the web of party influence, state control mechanisms and international linkages that surrounds China’s sprawling ecosystem of innovative startups, venture capital funds, local and provincial governments – and the military. 

China enjoys structural advantages in advancing its bold plans to digitize the economy and achieve global technological leadership. Beijing channels massive amounts of capital through state guidance funds into emerging technologies. In line with the unofficial slogan “First develop, then regulate,” the government enables commercial actors to innovate and swiftly produce market-ready products for a digital ecosystem protected from foreign competition.

China is investing heavily in different areas of technological innovation: For instance, training new talent is a prioritized sphere of action. In AI, China intends to establish at least 50 academic and research institutes by 2020. China’s government hopes to gain substantial economic benefits by pushing digital innovation within and beyond its borders: for instance, it is estimated that products and developments for the Internet of Things (IoT) alone could add up to 1.8 trillion USD in cumulative GDP growth for China by 2030.

However, China’s digital strategy should not be viewed as a purely economic exercise. Civilmilitary integration has been a top-level national strategy since 2014. Efforts to become a “science and tech superpower” should be seen in close connection with ambitions to dominate in emerging dual-use technologies, advance cyber warfare capabilities, weaponize AI and achieve quantum supremacy.

Utilizing digital innovation for political and societal control

China’s drive for digitization goes beyond economic ambitions: Beijing wants to use digital technologies for effective governance and control over companies and citizens. It is focusing on two main goals:

a) protecting critical infrastructure and data from foreign access, and
b) establishing big data-based control mechanisms to monitor enterprises and citizens in order to enforce compliant and conformist behavior.

The CCP has invented powerful tools to pursue its vision of cyber governance, social management and control. The Cyber Security Law, effective since July 2017, regulates the protection of IT infrastructure and systems, data management for public services, and governs the regulatory compliance of economic and societal actors. Access for foreign companies to China’s digital and telecommunications markets will remain restricted due to informal barriers created by strict regulations on cyber and data security.

Plans to introduce a nationwide “Social Credit System” (SoCs), a big data-fueled toolkit to enforce laws, regulations, or party-state targets by scoring companies and individuals, are progressing. Currently, they consist of more than 40 fragmented local government SoCs pilot programs and numerous commercial pilots set up by technology firms. However, they could become a powerful and comprehensive instrument to steer the behavior of citizens and organizations.

Weaknesses in China's approach

Despite the structural advantages described above, China’s digitization strategy faces multiple internal and external challenges that could derail its ambitions. Internally, conflicting goals and stakeholder interests create substantial tensions. Heightened party control over private companies and inefficient allocation of capital may ultimately also come at the expense of innovation. China will still depend on foreign core technologies in the years to come. This became apparent last year, when ZTE almost went bankrupt after the United States threatened a ban on selling microchips to the telecommunications supplier.

More broadly, Beijing’s industrial and technology policies, as well as digital-related laws and regulations such as the Cyber Security Law are increasingly putting China in conflict with other international actors, in particular the United States. The global backlash against China’s digital and technological rise has probably only just begun.

In spite of these challenges, China will pursue its drive for digital innovation and leadership. China’s leaders view achieving leadership of global technological progress as a political project charged with nationalist and ideological significance.

China's digital policies put pressure on Europe 

China’s digital ambitions already have an impact on Europe’s politics, economics, and security. The “Digital Silk Road” is likely to deepen China’s digital reach into Europe. Going forward, the EU faces the growing commercial presence of, and critical dependence on, China’s most competitive IT players. IP protection in research collaborations and other new regulatory challenges in managing interlinked digital markets will emerge as major challenges going forward.

In cyber security, the EU is confronted with a direct challenge from China’s digital outreach. European companies and government bodies have suffered commercial espionage and cyber-crime originating from Chinese institutions. The growing presence of major Chinese ICT suppliers including Huawei and ZTE creates substantial uncertainties and potential security risks for EU member states.

China’s growing digital reach is likely to have more direct negative consequences for European politics and core values. Many aspects of China’s social credit system run counter to the EU’s values, including the lack of privacy protection and freedom of expression, and to EU efforts to establish digital ethics standards. European citizens’ privacy, safety and rights need protection from Chinese government encroachment and – by extension – from commercial actors who could collect and use data on EU citizens and others within EU territory. 

China’s high-tech rise is not a threat to the EU per se: if innovation were based on reciprocal and transparent cooperation, transcending protectionist logic, all sides could benefit from new ideas and developments. But if China pursues a path of self-reliance this will pose fundamental challenges to co-operation and mutual confidence. The EU’s current lack of a truly European innovation eco-system and its politically inconsistent responses to China suggest it will struggle to cope.

European decision-makers need to prevent a worst-case scenario in which a fragmented EU faces a digitally aggressive China competing with the US in a fragmented digital global economy. An immediate concern should be how the EU manages transatlantic relations in such as context, i.e., how European governments deal with the lure of economic opportunities related to China’s digital transformation in a situation where the United States anticipates this space as crucial for strategic competition with China.

Unless Europe catches up and becomes competitive in key digital technologies, it faces an imminent risk of finding itself trapped between China and the United States. The EU and its member states need to join forces to prioritize strengthening the European digital market, by developing secure supply-chains among trusted partners for core digital technologies and devising strategically effective and autonomous digital policies.

Digital China is challenging Europe on several levels. Opportunities for collaboration exist, however, Europe needs to safeguard its interests in a fast changing economic and technological environment. European policy makers need to double down on developing a strategically autonomous, unified digital policy and strive for a joint approach in tackling cyber security issues in Europe.

Facing China’s digital rise, Europe needs to seek greater alignment with third countries like the United States, South Korea or Japan in pushing back jointly against China’s subsidized industrial policy and its emphasis on indigenous innovation that fosters digital protectionism. Europe also needs to rapidly expand work with like-minded partners towards agreements on privacy, data localization and cyber standards, as well as free and safe data flows. Vigilance, unity and leverage will be needed to prevail in a digital world that is increasingly shaped by China.

You can download a PDF version of the full report here.