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Tag Archives | United States

Battleground Cyberspace: My article in Pragati

In this month’s Pragati, I lay out the state of India’s defense preparedness in the theater of cyberspace and argue for a sustained commitment to the proactive defense of the nation’s information assets, as well for the augmentation of India’s capabilities in conducting offensive IO operations.  Both of these can only be effective when operating under a legislative framework that is attuned to global trends in the proliferation and use of information technology in the conduct of both conventional and unconventional warfare in this Information Age.

DECEMBER 24, 2008.  Barely a month after the 26/11 attacks, a group calling itself “Whackerz Pakistan” hacks into the Indian Eastern Railways website, defacing it with a series of threats against Indian financial institutions and Indian citizens.  Earlier that year, hackers from China attacked the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) website. Despite official denials, at least one website reported that the hackers stole login identities and passwords of several Indian diplomats.

The proliferation of information technology in India, coupled with low levels of security awareness (at personal, corporate and government levels) means that this vulnerability to attacks from hostile national and sub-national entities will only increase.  The rapid adaptation of new technologies in today’s world presents challenges that India, and other nations, will be forced to address.  Due to the nature of cyber warfare and cyber terrorism, no nation can truly be invulnerable to attacks.  Indeed, cyber attacks will continue to be weapons of choice to many, given issues of jurisdiction in bringing offenders to book, relative anonymity of operating over the Internet, and the negligible cost associated with mounting a cyber attack (and indeed, each incremental cyber attack) against a specific adversary.

Read more about it on Pragati ( PDF; 2.5 MB)

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Where do we go from here?

The people of India have spoken.  A clear mandate for the UPA government has been given.  While this blogger doesn’t consider the verdict to be optimal (considering UPA’s unforgivable lapses in security and foreign affairs), the decisiveness of the victory is pleasing because it allows a less fractious Central government to go about its business.  The mandate against the BJP is very clear — the people don’t want any part of their divisive politics.  A campaign that was overshadowed by the venom spewing bigotry of Varun Gandhi was only bound for failure.  Uttar Pradesh has told Mayawati what it thinks of her self glorifying statues in Lucknow.   And Prakash Karat stands amidst the shattered pieces of his non-ideology.

Where does India go from here?  The Filter Coffee has repeatedly drawn attention to the dilapidated state of our local law enforcement forces, and national and border defense mechanisms.  They need addressing immediately.  When Chidambaram took over as Home Minister, he instituted a few changes, come cosmetic, some concrete.

The Congress must stop pretending that it is tied at the hip to the Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Act and work with the Opposition to construct a meaningful anti-terror law for the nation.  Our local law enforcement agencies need money, equipment and training.  Our national forces face severe shortages in equipment, which can only be addressed by correcting India’s defense procurement mechanism.  The shackles need to be loosened from our intelligence agencies.

India faces two immediate threats with regard to terrorism, from the Maoists and Jihadi groups.  With regard to external Jihadi threats, there are some elements that India can control and some that it can’t.  However, the Maoist menace is well within India’s realm and decisive action is needed to eliminate this plague that has consumed a third of India.

On the foreign affairs side, the Subcontinent is on fire.  Sri Lanka has found itself an effective counterweight to India in China, and its dismissal of India’s pleas was the most telling aspect of this relationship as war against the LTTE drew to a close.  Similarly, India lost the plot in Nepal during the UPA administration and as tensions continue to rise between the army and the Chinese backed Maoist government, India has a great opportunity to play the honest broker and demonstrate to that nation that India wants peace and stability in Nepal.

The United States is blowing a sigh of relief that the month long elections in India are at an end.  Obama’s immediate concern is to get India to focus on the Af-Pak issue.  The repeated calls for India to reduce troop levels along the western border are as absurd as they are misplaced and the UPA would do well not to wilt under American pressure as they have so often done in the past.

With Pakistan, India must continue to use every tool at its disposal to pressure that country to dismantle not just “terror” infrastructure, but specifically the Punjabi-terror outfits that target India.  The Pakistanis must be pressed to ensure that those responsible for 26/11 are brought to justice.  Pakistan’s “investigation”, as farcical as it was, is now a casualty of all the attention to the existential threat that country faces today.  Above all, the UPA must impress upon Islamabad that for India to show any interest in rekindling the “peace process”, there needs to be very credible action from Pakistan on both dismantling terror infrastructure armed at India, and bringing to justice those that were responsible for 26/11.

The mandate for the Congress is conclusive.  Manmohan Singh can either show the country that he can act convincingly to address the challenges that face us, as he did in 1991, or he can falter and stumble from one embarrassing embroilment to another as he has done over the past five years.  The ball is in his court.  What’s it going to be, Mr. Prime Minister?

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Wither Pakistan?

Fatalistic articles about the future of Pakistan are nothing new. This is a subject that Indian, American and indeed, even Pakistani writers have opined on. Conflict with India in Kashmir, sectarian violence in Sindh, secessionist movements in Balochistan, a war in Swat, and the talibanization of FATA, do not help in dispelling the prophecies of dismemberment that the US’s National Intelligence Council (NIC) highlights in its paper Global Trends 2025: A Word Transformed (PDF). Ahmad Faruqui’s article on Outlook builds on that report and asks, given the current state of affairs, if it is possible to envision a rosy future for the State.

Alas, the advice to focus on the future was not taken as the nation soon plunged into reliving the battles of the past. The storm over Mumbai will eventually pass but what about the gathering storm in Swat and the full force gale that is blowing through Fata? The tussle between the ISI, the army and the civilian government continues. A new tussle appears to have emerged between the civilian president and prime minister, both of the PPP. There are few signs that the judges will be restored or that the nefarious constitutional amendments dating back to the Zia era will be annulled.

I’ve pointed to the gradual talibanization of Pakistan in previous posts because this is a matter that should be of significant concern to India. As the writ of the state of Pakistan diminishes in the western provinces, the tussle will be between the US military and the Pashtuns. While India’s relations with the United States have improved since they hit nadir in December 1971, any future presence of US forces within the territory of present day Pakistan will be viewed by India with some discomfort. Increasingly, as we move from a unipolar to a multipolar world (with India being one of the poles), India will consider the Subcontinent to be part of its sphere of influence. The presence of foreign forces within this realm of influence will bother India. India’s growing economic and political clout notwithstanding, our leaders would also do well to learn from the collapsing political engine in the Pakistani federation. With regard to Pakistan, Faruqui proposes:

To avoid a meltdown, first and foremost, a change in political culture needs to occur. Extremism has to be taken out and replaced with tolerance. The government cannot do this by fiat. The clergy, the academics, the literati and the media — they have to bring this about, from the grassroots up.

Secondly, law and order has to be restored on the streets. It is not possible to envision a rosy future if kidnappings, robberies, murders and beheadings dominate the headlines.

Vigilante justice and moral police mobs inflict chaos, increasingly with impunity in the streets of Indian cities. States’ inability to enforce law and order and the mob’s ability to unleash its own version of moral code will have very dire consequences for the Indian State. Instead of dealing with this scourge, India’s netas are quick to utter that timeless Indian phrase — “politically motivated” — to weasel their way out of taking concrete action. Pakistan’s quagmire should be a lesson to India and our leaders would do well to learn from Pakistan’s mistakes.

[CROSSPOSTED]

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US – UAE Nuclear Deal

Very quietly, the United States and the United Arab Emirates have signed a deal that will allow the UAE to develop nuclear reactors and obtain nuclear fuel from the US, under the 123 Agreement framework. Under the agreement, the UAE, which is already a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), will be subjected to nuclear safeguards inspection from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and will forgo the right to enrich/reprocess spent Uranium fuel. The whole nuclear program of the UAE will apparently be under US management, pending IAEA approval.

Since its birth in December 1971, the UAE has experienced massive economic growth on account of its petroleum reserves. This initial economic growth gave rise to two main economic power centers in this federation of seven emirates — Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE and largest emirate by area, whose revenues are driven by oil, and Dubai, the most populous emirate, whose revenues are driven by trade and financial services.

Economic growth lead to investments in infrastructure and construction, resulting in the arrival of hoards of blue – and white collar workers, primarily from the Indian subcontinent, to fill the employment vacuum. This sustained population growth, particularly in Dubai, has forced the UAE to consider alternative sources of energy. By some estimates, UAE’s demand for electricity is likely to rise to 40,000 megawatts (MW) by 2020. However, UAE’s energy sector is projected to be capable of meeting only about 50% of this demand.

The 123 Agreement is yet to be ratified by Congress, and will still need to be approved by the President of a new US administration. Barack Obama has not publicly stated his views on the issue. The deal has already met with vociferous disapproval from members of Congress. Rep. Brad Sherman, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade subcommittee, said:

“Any (nuclear cooperation) agreement between the United States and the UAE should not be submitted to Congress until, at a minimum, the UAE has addressed the critical issue of transshipments and diversion of sensitive technologies to Iran.”

If that’s the Congressman’s line of thought, then this is yet another classic example of the kind of cluelessness that has come to typify the thinking of successive US administrations on matters concerning the Middle East. Indeed, Iran is the one country that can be counted on to get irked by the proposed deal.  Relations between “Shi’a” Iran and “Sunni-Arab” UAE have always been icy.

A major bone of contention between the UAE and Iran is with regard to the Abu Musa and Lesser Tunb islands, unilaterally occupied by Iran, but claimed by the UAE. The Abu Musa archipelago lies within the strategic Straits of Hormuz corridor, an area vital to the petroleum driven economies of the Arabian Peninsula. In addition, as Anthony Cordesman points out, there are two specific areas of concern for Abu Dhabi — (a) the presence of a significant Iranian immigrant (potential “fifth column”) population in the UAE, and (b) the strategic proximity of Dubai and Sharjah to the old Iranian port-town of Bandar Abbas. The vulnerability of the northern emirates’ shipping channels to Iran’s airbase in Bandar Abbas is a source of worry for UAE’s rulers.

For its part, Iran can’t be too pleased with the cosiness exhibited smaller Arabian Peninsular countries like the UAE and Qatar towards the United States. US military bases in the UAE, like those in Jebel Ali and Al Dhafra, and UAE’s ambivalence towards the US invasion of Iraq can’t have helped matters much either.

This nuclear deal is a bad idea — not because of an alleged UAE-Iran nexus, but because the UAE will be susceptible to an Iranian military assault either if Iran-UAE relations deteriorate, or if Iran has its back to the wall in any future US-Iran military confrontation. The UAE can ill afford be in a military conflict with Iran — the repercussions will be felt far beyond the region, given that expatriates make up about 80% of the total population of the UAE.

Allowing the accumulation of nuclear material in a politically and militarily weak country situated in the most unstable region on earth, and in the proximity and cross-hairs of Iran, is foolish. To think that this will impress upon Iran the virtues of towing Washington’s line with regard to nuclear technology is an exercise in naiveté. Far from making the UAE politically and strategically more secure, the deal will prove to be an albatross around Abu Dhabi’s neck.

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