Five reasons to pay attention to India and Pakistan

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They agree…

1. The terrorists who are linked to the recent attack on the Indian Army Brigade are of the same ilk as Al Qaeda and ISIS

On Sunday, four heavily armed terrorists launched a pre-dawn grenade attack on Indian Army Brigade headquarters near the Line of Control in the town of Uri. Eighteen soldiers were killed and 30 were injured. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government says they have evidence that Pakistan was working with the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists who were responsible for the attacks. JeM often colludes with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), one of the largest and most active terrorist organizations in South Asia, operating mainly from Pakistan. LeT was founded in Afghanistan with funding from Osama Bin Laden.

2. There’s a lot of talk about war and nukes

The US has told Pakistan to limit its nukes and Pakistan has said “No”.

NEW DELHI: Even as India considers military options to deal with cross-border terror after Sunday’s Uri attack, a comment from Pakistan today — especially its timing — should give pause to anyone in New Delhi considering ill-thought-out plans of retaliation.

“Pakistan’s nuclear program cannot be restricted,” said Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, today in a New York press conference, Pakistani media reported.

Lodhi said that at a meeting with US secretary of state John Kerry urged Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to limit Pakistan’s atomic program . In response, Sharif told Kerry that what was expected of Pakistan must also be implemented by India, according to Lodhi.

“The world should first put an end to nuclear activities undertaken by India,” Lodhi told reporters, adding that Pakistan’s inclusion in the Nuclear Suppliers Group was also discussed during the meeting with Kerry.

Pakistan’s foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, who addressed the press conference with Lodhi, said that “no other state had acted against terrorism as much as Pakistan had.”

Apparently Pakistan is trying to use the threat of an unbridled expansion of its nuclear program to gain influence

The Pakistani defiance came even as the country’s Defense Minister Khawaja and top generals rattled their nuclear weapons in a familiar show of bravado to warn off retaliation from India for the terrorist attacks that New Delhi says are launched from Pakistan. It renewed the long-running debate about Pakistan using its nuclear cover to initiate terror strikes on India, and the pressure on New Delhi to call Pakistan’s bluff.

Separately, Pakistan is also using the threat of an unbridled expansion of its nuclear program to seek a membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, with a section of US domain experts arguing that may be one way to contain a runaway program. Others caution that American permissiveness is precisely what allowed Pakistan to come to this stage.

But recent developments, including North Korea’s ramped up nuclear program and tests, and Pakistan’s own growing reputation as a terrorist hub on top of its proliferation record, is putting a crimp on Islamabad’s effort to seek the kind of legitimacy India’s nuclear program has.

3. According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is a disaster waiting to happen.

Militants have already targeted at least six facilities widely believed to be associated with Pakistan’s nuclear program. To hide weapons from the prying satellite eyes of the United States, Pakistan moves warheads around in unmarked vans with low security profiles down busy roads. In fact, Pakistanis see jihadists as less threatening than Washington, which they believe wants to seize their nuclear weapons. After the Abbottabad mission, Kayani wanted to know what additional steps Kidwai was taking to prevent an American raid on their nuclear arsenal. Kidwai promised to redouble efforts to keep his country’s weapons far from the long arms of the Americans.

What that means, in essence, is this: In a country that is home to Muslim fundamentalist groups — al‑Qaeda, the Haqqani network, and Lashkar-e-Taiba (which conducted the Mumbai raid that killed nearly 200 civilians in 2008) — nuclear bombs capable of destroying entire cities are transported in delivery vans on congested and dangerous roads. And Pakistani and U.S. sources say that since the raid on Abbotta­bad, the Pakistanis have increased the pace of these movements. In other words, the Pakistani government is willing to make its nuclear weapons more vulnerable to theft by jihadists simply to hide them from the United States, the country that funds much of its military budget. In response, the Pentagon has devised secret plans to secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, amplifying Pakistani fears.

4. Jaish-e-Mohammed and the group they often co-ordinate with, Lashkar-e-Tayiba, have been implicated in many attacks against Indians and Americans.

According to Wikipedia:

  • JeM and LeT were suspected in the murder of Daniel Pearl in Karachi.
  • An informant posing as a member of Jaish-e-Mohammed helped police arrest four people allegedly plotting to bomb a New York City synagogue as well as to shoot Stinger missiles at military aircraft in the United States.
  • Like the 9/11 hijackers, these groups get a lot of financial support from Saudi Arabia.

5. Both candidates agree — they’re exasperated with Pakistan’s support of terrorism.

In keeping with his persona of acting tougher and making better deals, Donald Trump has frequently suggested that he would be harder on Pakistan. At a town hall last week, Trump indicated that because Pakistan had nuclear weapons and was “semi-unstable,” he might continue giving that country money although that would go “against [his] grain.” However, Trump also implied that such aid would be temporary and that he would try to find a longer-term solution: “We’re going to look into it,” he said.

“If you look at India and some of the others, maybe they’ll be helping us out,” Trump added, without elaboration. Though not explained well, this could fit with Trump’s worldview of allowing regional powers, such as India, to deal with local problems, rather than the United States always taking the lead.

On May 1, Trump upped that ante against Pakistan during an interview with Fox News last Friday, suggesting that he would stay in Afghanistan to keep an eye on Pakistan and by saying that he would use the full weight of the presidency, if elected, to free Shakeel Afridi, a Pakistani doctor under arrest for assisting the CIA in tracking down Osama bin Laden. Afridi is being held under vague charges and there have been many proposals to arrange for his release by U.S. agencies and politicians. Trump boasted: “I think I would get him out in two minutes. I would tell them, ‘let him out,’ and I’m sure they would let him out.”

The Pakistani government quickly hit back. On Monday, Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan calledTrump “ignorant,” argued that only the Pakistani government would decide Afridi’s fate, and declared that “Pakistan is not a colony of the United States of America.”

More, surprising, however, were Hillary Clinton’s recent harsh words directed at Pakistan. Clinton, unlike Trump, favors maintaining and reinforcing existing relationships with U.S. partners and allies. Even when critical, she has seemed less likely to share President Barack Obama’s worries about free-riders or the value of relationships with countries like Saudi Arabia.

Perhaps, however, Clinton was expressing a common bipartisan exasperation with Pakistan when she said that she knew that senior Pakistani leadership knew that Osama bin Laden was hiding in a compound at Abbottabad in 2011, when the United States killed him in a raid there.

In an interview with CNN on Monday, Clinton said that “It was just too much of a coincidence that that house, that unusual-looking house would be built in that community near the military academy, surrounded by retired military professionals, even though, we couldn’t prove [that Pakistani officials knew].”

It’s an area of the world that deserves a lot more attention.

For more info and an insightful take on the issues, follow C. Christine Fair, Former Political Affairs Officer at United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan and Associate professor of stuff and things pertaining to South Asia on Facebook and Twitter.

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How Turks Mobilized Against the Coup | Foreign Affairs

The anti-coup protests produced a flood of digital data with millions documenting the events and protesting against the coup online. We gathered this information using a combination of algorithms that can comb social media and other open data sources in real-time and capture data with a high level of spatial and temporal granularity. On top of this first layer of data, we mapped Istanbul’s extensive mosque network, which served as a traditional, grassroots channel for mobilization. We found that the mosques, in addition to digital media, did play a significant role in mobilizing Turks who were against the coup to frustrate rogue military forces, such as by physically blocking their movements and overwhelming their defensive positions in the strategic areas of Istanbul.

Surprisingly, our analysis showed that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan played a belated role in mobilizing Turks to his defense.

via How Turks Mobilized Against the Coup | Foreign Affairs

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Who Are All These Trump Supporters? – The New Yorker

Somewhere in the crowd, a woman is shouting “Fuck you, Trump!” in a voice so thin it seems to be emanating from some distant neighborhood, where a girl is calling home her brother, Fuckhugh Trump.

The shouter is Esperanza Matamoros, tiny, seventeen years old. The crowd now halts her forward progress, so she judiciously spins and, still shouting, heads toward the exit. As she passes a tall, white-haired, professorial-looking old man, he gives her a little shove. He towers over her, the top of her head falling below his armpit. She could be his daughter, his granddaughter, his favorite student. Another man steps in front of her to deliver an impromptu manners lesson; apparently, she bumped him on her way up. “Excuse me,” he says heatedly. “Around here, we say excuse me.”

An ungentleness gets into the air when Trump speaks, prompting the abandonment of certain social norms (e.g., an old man should show forbearance and physical respect for a young woman, even—especially—an angry young woman, and might even think to wonder what is making her so angry), norms that, to fired-up Trump supporters, must feel antiquated in this brave new moment of ideological foment. They have thought and thought, in projective terms, about theoretical protesters, and now here are some real ones.

via Who Are All These Trump Supporters? – The New Yorker

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Mohammad Javad Zarif: Let Us Rid the World of Wahhabism – The New York Times

Though it has attracted only a minute proportion of Muslims, Wahhabism has been devastating in its impact. Virtually every terrorist group abusing the name of Islam — from Al Qaeda and its offshoots in Syria to Boko Haram in Nigeria — has been inspired by this death cult.

So far, the Saudis have succeeded in inducing their allies to go along with their folly, whether in Syria or Yemen, by playing the “Iran card.” That will surely change, as the realization grows that Riyadh’s persistent sponsorship of extremism repudiates its claim to be a force for stability.

The world cannot afford to sit by and witness Wahhabists targeting not only Christians, Jews and Shiites but also Sunnis. With a large section of the Middle East in turmoil, there is a grave danger that the few remaining pockets of stability will be undermined by this clash of Wahhabism and mainstream Sunni Islam.

via Mohammad Javad Zarif: Let Us Rid the World of Wahhabism – The New York Times

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Anti-Wahhabism spreading in Muslim world

There are clear sensitivities against Wahhabis from Muslims outside Shiite Islam due to Wahhabis’ bad reputation following the rise of radical jihadi currents such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) that have adopted Wahhabism as their principal influence.

An Islamic conference was held Aug. 25-27 in Chechnya’s capital, Grozny, and senior Sunni scholars from various Sunni schools attended. The meeting was sponsored by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. The conference aimed at introducing “Sunni identity” and determining its adherents.

The closing statement limited the Sunni community to “Ash’aris, Maturidis by belief, followers of the four jurisprudential schools of Sunnism (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali) and followers of pure Sufism in terms of ethics and chastity. Any other sects are not included in the Sunni community.” This clearly indicates that, in the participants’ view, Wahhabism is not considered part of Sunni Islam, but rather an emerging innovation (Bid’ah) in Islam.

The closing statement also restricted the big Islamic schools to deep-rooted religious institutions in “Al-Azhar University (Cairo, Egypt), University of Al-Quaraouiyine (Fez, Morocco), Al-Zaytoonah University (Tunisia) and Hadhramaut University (Yemen).” The statement did not mention Islamic centers and religious institutions in Saudi Arabia.

via Anti-Wahhabism spreading in Muslim world

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Elon Musk: Yep, We’ve Ordered Extreme Disaster, We Must Go To War On Climate Change

The thing is, we’re massively behind schedule. We needed to shift dramatically 5 years ago … or 15 years ago. We didn’t. We are going in the right direction, theoretically, but it’s like we’re in a race with Usain Bolt and we have a broken ankle or two. The market is still heavily biased toward fossil fuels due to inadequate pricing (distortions in the market known as massive, we-are-totally-screwing-ourselves, wake-the-f***-up externalities). We are giving fossil fuels trillions of idiotic, insane dollars in subsidies every year. And it seems we are just genuinely slower to figure things out than a Golden Retriever puppy.

via Elon Musk: Yep, We've Ordered Extreme Disaster, We Must Go To War On Climate Change

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Are Shipping Containers the Future of Farming? – WSJ

Great for a colony on Mars – or in your basement:

led_farmingINSIDE THE CAVERNOUS INTERIOR of a former Boston-area taxi depot—walls covered in graffiti, pools of water on the concrete floors—three gleaming green-and-white containers sit side by side. The steel boxes are former “reefers”—refrigerated shipping containers used to transport cold goods. Bone-chilling rain is falling outside, but inside the 320-square-foot boxes, it’s a relatively balmy 63 degrees, and the humid air is heavy with the earthy smell of greens. Filling each box are 256 neat vertical towers of plants, bathed in a noonday-intense pink light.

The crops being cultivated here—lettuce, herbs and other leafy greens—are not what we’ve come to expect from this kind of operation. But the company behind this agricultural innovation owes a large debt to America’s pot farmers. Freight Farms was founded in 2010, its existence predicated on a bet that LEDs would soon become efficient enough for farming as if the sun had disappeared—without breaking the bank. Co-founder Brad McNamara puts it this way: “Traditional research said, yeah, LEDs are good, but the more important research was that they were improving at a Moore’s-Law rate.” Moore’s Law, used to describe the exponential increase in computing power over the past 50 years, can be applied to LEDs thanks in part to the needs—and considerable resources—of marijuana growers.

In addition to 128 LED strips, each “farm” has a water circulation system, 8 gallon-size tanks of liquid fertilizer and a propane tank for producing supplemental CO2—all running on as little as 10 gallons of water and 80 kWh of energy per day. Under the right conditions, a grower can go from seeds to sellable produce within six weeks. According to data pooled by the company, an average Freight Farms box can produce 48,568 marketable mini-heads of lettuce a year—the growing power of two acres of farmland.

Freight Farms is part of a rapidly expanding field: Food and agricultural technology startups received $4.6 billion in investment in 2015, almost double the $2.36 billion that poured into the sector in 2014, according to a report from agriculture investment platform AgFunder. Companies like John Deere and Monsanto have long invested in new technology for conventional farming, but we’re now seeing a disruption of farming itself.

More…

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