Every year, the day comes and goes by. This year the Pakistani nation should celebrate Defence of Pakistan Day (Sept 6) as a day of introspection. Let us do some soul searching. India is arming itself to the hilt. Despite economic setbacks due to Covid 19, Indian economy has stayed put. They do not have to go country to country with a begging bowl.
On this day, we should take stock of Pakistan’s geo-political environment. What is the plight of the weak Muslim countries? How remorselessly their territorial integrity was trampled by a super power for not toeing the line. India is arming its land and marine forces to the hilt. She is refurbishing its old assets and stockpiling new equipment. India’s Defence Acquisition Council convened by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh delegated powers to the forces to procure equipment worth up to ‘300 crore under the emergency clause, which does away with the lengthy procurement process that can drag on for years.
Here is a bird’s eye view of India’s arms build-up.
Vikrant aircraft carrier
With the $3 billion Vikrant, India will join only a small number of nations with more than one aircraft carrier or helicopter carrier in service. It has become the third country, after the UK and China, to have commissioned a domestically built aircraft carrier in the past three years.
John Bradford, senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said India’s commitment to the ship reflected its “long-term vision to maintain a world-class naval force.”
“There are looming questions about the survivability of any carrier in the missile age, but major navies, including those of the US, Japan, China and the UK, have doubled their carrier investments.
The Vikrant is India’s first domestically built aircraft carrier. It joins the carrier INS Vikramaditya, a refurbished Soviet-era carrier bought from Russia in 2004, in India’s fleet.
With a displacement of around 40,000 tons, the Vikrant is slightly smaller than the Vikramaditya and the carriers of the US, China and UK though it is larger than Japan’s.
But analysts praised its potential firepower.
When its air wing becomes fully operational over the next few years, it will carry up to 30 aircraft, including MiG-29K fighter jets to be launched from its ski-ramp style deck, and helicopters as well as defensive systems including surface-to-air missiles.
Powered by four gas turbine engines, its top speed is estimated at 32 mph (52 kph) with a range of 8,600 miles (13,890 kilometers). India’s message to its neighbours is “India has the power, it has the aircraft carriers and therefore the air power to dominate the distant reaches of the Indian Ocean”.
The Vikrant has a range of 8,600 miles (13,890 kilometers).
Besides, India is balding Scorpion submarines (costing Rs 20,000 crore) with 11,000 km range being built in India. These subs can stay at sea for 50 days and can carry missiles, mines and torpedoes to attack surface vessels.
India has eight P-3C Orion long-range maritime patrol aircraft, costing Rs 13000 crore. They can fly 4,000 km, stay airborne for 12 hours and attack surface targets with missiles or patrol coastline. Add to it procurement of Rafael jets from France.
India has 14 mobile multiple rocket launchers which can carpet bomb targets 90 km away. One hundred air defence missiles, costing over Rs 4,000 crore, to shoot down enemy aircraft. Four hundred 155 mm self-propelled guns, costing over Rs 3,200 crore. These are howitzers on tank chassis. They also include wheeled and towed variants like Bofors howitzers. They provide mobile fire cover for advancing infantry by hitting targets 90 km away.
Backed up by nuclear cooperation with the USA, India wants to increase its store of thermo-nuclear bombs manifold. To achieve this aim, it wants to set up new breeder reactors. India has told the USA point-blank that ‘it would not put its breeder reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency’s safeguards’. Already, a 13 MWe Fast Breeder Test Reactor is operational at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) at Kalpakkam. Another 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor is also under construction here. India’s Department of Atomic Energy built four more breeder reactors of 500 MWe capacities.
India has enhanced its cooperation with France in breeder-technology development. Interestingly, France surreptitiously stepped in to supply enriched uranium for the Tarapur-1 and 2 reactors when the U.S. stalled contractual supplies after Pokhran-1 test explosion. Capacity of Kalpakkam fast breeder reactor has been increased from 13 MWe to the 500 MWe.
Breeder reactors develop nuclear energy first by using thermal reactors to produce plutonium and, then using the plutonium with depleted natural uranium, produce more plutonium in the fast breeder reactors. Besides India and France, Russia, Japan, and China have an active interest in fast breeders. Pakistan’s upcoming facility at Khoshab has been blown out of proportion in international media. But, India’s nuclear enrichment activities are not in focus.
Rising defence outlays
Each year India increases her defence budget manifold to strengthen her nuclear and conventional warfare capabilities. India believes that Pakistan will continue to be forced to increase her defence expenditure each time India increases her defence expenditure.
India’s assessment is that if she spends 2.5 per cent of her gross Domestic Product on defence, Pakistan would have to spend 13 per cent of GDP to match the Indian military budget in absolute size, Pakistan’s economy being 19 per cent the size of India’s economy. In India’s strategic estimation, even with stable economic growth, Pakistan could only afford to allocate 6.5 per cent of its GDP to defence. A higher allocation would sap resource potential for sustained growth in future. India thinks Pakistan has to choose between Scylla and Charybdis that is economic collapse or defence preparations (same quandary as of former USSR).
Will every new baby be born in Pakistan indebted forever? We consume debts as if they were freebies. We made no effort to get our “odious debts” written off.
Pakistan’s debt burden has a political tinge. The USA rewarded Pakistan by showering grants on Pakistan for joining anti-Soviet-Union alliances (South-East Asian Treaty Organisation and Central Treaty Organisation). With advice from a Harvard group of economists, Ayub Khan tried to steer the economy in a planned and prioritized manner. A Perspective and five-year plans were drawn up, implemented and evaluated after the due period. The less said about the subsequent period, the better.
The grants evaporated into streams of low-interest loan which ballooned as Pakistan complied with forced devaluations or adopted floating exchange rate. Soon, the donors forgot Pakistan’s contribution to the break-up of the `Soviet Union’. They used coalition support funds and our debt-servicing liability as `do more’ mantra levers.
In economics there are burden-of-debt models that could help decide how productively the debt should be so used that both principal and debt-service could be repaid. Unfortunately we spent the debt as if it were a non-repayable windfall bonanza.
Apparently, all Pakistani debts are odious as they were thrust upon praetorian regimes to bring them within anti-Communist (South East Asian Treaty Organisation, Central Treaty Organisation) or anti-`terrorist’ fold.
Several IMF and US state department delegations visited Pakistan. But, Pakistan could not tell them point-blank about non-liability to service politically-stringed debts. The government’s dilemma in Pakistan is that defence and anti-terrorism outlays (26 per cent) plus debt-service charges leave little in national kitty for welfare. Solution lies in debt forgiveness by donors (James K. Boyce and Madakene O’Donnell(eds.), Peace and the Public Purse.2008. New Delhi. Viva Books p, 251).
What a pity! Whenever the International Monetary Fund’s delegation’s visit, Pakistan’s representatives keep mum about the politically-motivated odious nature of our debt burden. They lack the nerve to tell them point-blank Pakistan’s non-liability to service politically-stringed debts. They government’s dilemma in Pakistan is that defence and anti-terrorism outlays plus debt-service charges leave little in national kitty for welfare. Solution lies in debt forgiveness by donors (James K. Boyce and Madakene O’Donnell (eds.), Peace and the Public Purse.2008. New Delhi. Viva Books, p. 251).
Benefits of Write-Off: Debt forgiveness (or relief) helps stabilise weak democracies, though corrupt, despotic and incompetent. Research shows that debt relief promotes economic growth and boosts foreign investment. Sachs (1989) inferred that debt service costs discourage domestic and foreign investment. Kanbur (2000), also, concluded that debt is a drag on private investment.
Political parties without economic agenda
Parties win elections by pandering to base sentiments of the people. A key element of election slogans is always ‘change’. But, the nitty-gritty of the ‘change’ remains a strictly guarded mumbo jumbo. Sincerity demands that the parties should spell out their policies with regard to various factors of production, i.e. land, natural resources, the socio-economic milieu, labour, capital and organisation. But, they keep mum about their agenda. In their hearts, the leaders knew that the voters have little choice. They would vote either for the charisma of one leader or against the hatred of another. The voters do not force the leaders to give a dispassionate perception of the country’s problems along with an inventory of prioritised solutions.
Intellectual apathy has been the hallmark of elections. There is no tradition of political parties having shadow cabinets with a bagful of alternative policies.
The taxation proposals do little to squeeze the haves. Nothing is done to reduce inequitable distribution of wealth and economic power. No heed is paid to the structure of our society. How did the filthy rich, the feudal lords and the industrial robber barons come into being? If accumulated wealth in a few hands is rooted in wrongdoing, a considerable chunk of it should be mopped up. Vested interests resist the change.
The British created a class of chieftains to suit their need for loyalists, war fundraisers and recruiters in the post-‘mutiny’ period and during the Second World War. A royal gubernatorial gazetteer states: “I have for many years felt convinced that the time had arrived for the Government to try to introduce some distinction for those who can show hereditary services before the Humble Company’s rule in India ceased. I have often said that I should be proud to wear a Copper Order, bearing merely the words ‘Teesri pusht Sirkar Company ka Naukar’ (Third generation Company’s servant).” A feudal aristocracy was created whose generations ruled post-independence governments. Some pirs and mashaikh (religious leaders) even quoted verses from the Holy Quran to justify allegiance to the Englishman (amir), after loyalty to Allah and the Messenger (PBUH). They pointed out that the Quran ordained that ehsan (favour) be returned with favour. The ehsan were British favours like titles (khan bahadur, nabob, etc), honorary medals, khilat with attached money rewards, life pensions, office of honorary magistrate, assistant commissioner, courtier, etc. A Tiwana military officer even testified in favour of O’Dwyer when the latter was under trial. Ayub Khan added the chapter of 22 families to the aristocracy, a legacy of the English Raj.
About 460 scions of the pre-partition chiefs along with industrial barons created in the Ayub era are returned again and again to the Assemblies. They do not allow agricultural incomes, industrial profits or real estate to be adequately taxed.
Economic advisor’s view of the economic malaise
In his book Growth and Inequality in Pakistan: Agenda for Reforms (pages 383 to 403), Hafiz A. Pasha has unwound the tangled skein of Pakistan’s economic malaise. He laments that income-and-wealth-tax rules and regulations are so drafted as to facilitate `state capture by the elite’.
The tax-concession-and-exemption laws” give special privileges to different vested interests. The privileges are in the form of “preferential excess to land, bank credit, etc, which facilitate faster accumulation of assets”. He visualises “elite “as “the conglomeration of rich powerful people in society”. Among the “elite state captors”, he includes “large land-owners, defence establishment, multinational companies, urban property developers, and owners, and so on” (page 383, ibid.).
Health-care and education
Why have successive Pakistani governments failed to provide universal healthcare and education to their people? There are several points to ponder.
Pakistan’s healthcare system is in shambles. There is only one hospital for federal civil servants that are Federal Government “Services” Hospital. Instead of establishing new hospitals. The successive civil governments allowed non-employee civilian residents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad and those who happen to have CNICs of the said cities to get free treatment at the said hospital. Because of overcrowding, the hospital has become good for nothing for civil servants.
Elderly civil centres have to queue up with unauthorised non employee civilians. There are no separate queues for “civil servants”. Doctors give preferential treatment to non-employees who pay them hefty fees at their private clinics. Civil servants are given long dates for operation theatre procedures. I, for one, am a septuagenarian retiree with cumulative 40 years service. I have been directed to wait for next year to get operated by urologist. The FGSH is the only hospital in the world where beds have been allocated to doctors whose names are printed on walls. The lavatories stink. Essential medicines are unavailable.
Even senior civil servants with a lifetime of service have to stink in general wards. The officers’ wards are allotted to non-civil-servants who have a way with the muckraker doctors. There is a need to transfer non-employee patients to nearby PIMS hospital. Or non-employees should be treated as private patients. A thorough probe into hospital funds, medical procurements and unethical practices by doctors is warranted.
The politically expedient burden of residents of Rawalpindi/Islamabad on Federal Government Services Hospital should be taken off.
The ‘civilian officers, serving and retired, paid out of defense services’ should be impaneled to the military (CMH/AFIC) to reduce the FGSH patient load. A revolving fund may be created to entitle them and their families for 7/24 treatment subject to payment of contributory share to a revolving fund or actual expenses payable by a patient.
No healthcare system, not even the US ‘system’, in the world is perfect. Yet, each, by and large, delivers the goods. The familiar medical system of wealthy countries is the Bismarck model (multi-payer health-insurance model), the Beveridge model, the National Health Insurance Model, the out-of-pocket model, and the US model. The government should pick up good points of medical systems of wealthy and poor countries alike. The Bismarck model is being followed in Belgium, France, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland.
Generally, healthcare providers in this model are private entities. The government neither owns nor employs most physicians. Health insurance also is provided by private companies, not by the governments. Governments strictly regulate costs and other aspects of healthcare (no arbitrary fees and fleecing). The US outspends its peer nations on health. Yet it has no universal health insurance, nor universal health coverage.
Thailand’s successful healthcare plan reflects three lessons: being prepared, exercising tight control, and being pragmatic and politically broadminded.
Thailand took opposition and other stakeholders aboard. As such, the plan remained intact despite the change of governments. Thailand’s per capita income, health expenditures, and tax base are comparable to India. Yet, it achieved universal healthcare in 2002.
It spends around four percent of its Gross Domestic Product on health. In Thailand, the out-of-pocket medical expense has fallen to 12 percent, as compared to 40pc to 60pc percent in wealthy countries. The proportion of children dying in the first five years of life fell to less than 1.2 percent.
Pakistan is doubtlessly an Islamic republic, but not a theocracy, as envisioned by the founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah. AK Brohi has in his The Fundamental Law of Pakistan highlighted the contours of a theocracy very well. The Islamic preamble (Objectives Resolution) was inserted in the draft constitution under Pakistan’s prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan’s influence. Unlike the US and many other secular constitutions, the Objectives Resolution (now Preamble to 1973 Constitution) states sovereignty belongs to Allah Almighty. The golden words of the constitution were warped to continue an interest-based economy. We pay interest on our international loans and international transactions. Do we live in an interactive world or in an ivory tower?
The Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan enforced Shariah Governance Regulations 2018. This regulation is a follow-up to Article 38 (f) of the Constitution of Pakistan, and Senate resolution No. 393 (July 9, 2018) for the abolition of riba (usury).
The regulation is welcome but there are unanswered questions about the Islamisation of finance in Pakistan. We pay interest on our loans and international transactions. Let Pakistan face the truth. It needs to evolve and showcase a politico-economic model of Islam that is compatible with international practices. Or else, dispense with hypocritical patchwork, and go for the secularist IMF model. What is the justification of the top-heavy paraphernalia of a civil government if it can’t even provide healthcare and education to its people?
Future trading is a hub of modern commerce. Yet, it is forbidden under Islam. Islamic law of contract does not even allow advance contracts concerning raw fish, fruit, or anything involving an element of uncertainty. Islam does not allow even tallaqi-ur-rukbaan buying camel-loads of goods from the caravan before they reached Madina open-market.
Converting consumerist Pakistan into a productive economy
Let China help expand Pakistan’s manufacturing capacity and thereby reduce unemployment in Pakistan. All policymakers should act in unison. They include policy formulators (prime minister, finance minister, et. al), policy detailers (chief economic adviser, statisticians), and technocrats. The policy-makers should decide upon a balance of priority, agriculture or industry, a “closed” economy with import substitution, “living within means” and a balanced budget or deficit budget. Will increased spending “crowd in” or “crowd out” private investment?
Monetary policy objectives and the role of the central bank stability of employment and inflation, growth rate, balance-of-payments issues, the role of foreign direct investment and non-bank financial institutions? Their impact on capital formation, consumption trends, and other macroeconomic aspects.
Building Kalabagh and other dams
The first priority of most countries, including the USA, Russia, Brazil, and China, was to build hydel projects, a clean source of energy.. China’s big push into industrial progress was due to a chain of hydel projects like the Three Gorges, Gezhouba, Xiluodu, Xiangjiaba, Longtan, Hengshui, Nuozhadu, Jinping-I and II, Yalong, Laxiwa, Xiaowan, Goupitan, Guanyinyan, and Ahai.
The Kalabagh Dam Project was approved by the Technical Committee on Water Resources 2003-2005. It was composed of eight technical experts, two from each province. To store monsoon flows of the upper reaches of the Indus River, they approved the project. The committee looked into all aspects including the effect of dilution of seawater with freshwater, seawater intrusion into the groundwater, riverine irrigation, and forest fisheries, besides the growth of Mangrove forests. Later, the 3500 megawatts KBD was approved by the World Bank Indus Special Study Group in its report titled Development of Water and Power Resources of Pakistan: A Sectoral Analysis (1967).
The estimated cost of constructing the dam was US$6.12 billion, over six years from 1977 to 1982. After the commissioning of the Tarbela Dam in 1976, the dam could have been built in six years by 1982. The cost per unit of 12 billion units the hydel electricity was Rs.1.5 as compared to Rs. 16.5 per unit from thermal sources. We are losing Rs. 180 billion per year due to ten times costlier production (12billion xRs.15 billion). Add to it loss of US$ 6.12 billion per annum due to the superfluous flow of 30 Million Acre Feet of water from Kotri Barrage into the Arabian Sea (one MAF valued at US$1-1.5 billion).
Our water resources reserves have not risen pari passu with growth in population. Three provincial assemblies resolved against building the KBD. A politician alleged the dam would convert Sindh into a desert. Apprehensions against the dam could be allayed by reviewing Water Apportionment Accord (as directed by Lahore High Court also vide its Order dated November 29, 2012, case no. WP 8777). No justification to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
We could learn a lot from the planning and development experience of the Ayub era. Is it fair to devolve dam building to provinces? Pakistan has abolished interest (riba) in accordance with its fundamental law. Yet its banking sector and international transactions are interest-based.
To make Pakistan strong, its citizens should contribute their moitié.
Weaponizing Intelligence: How AI is Revolutionizing Warfare, Ethics, and Global Defense
Is artificial intelligence the future of global warfare?” If you find that question compelling, consider this startling fact: The U.S. Army, by leveraging AI in its logistics services, has saved approximately $100 million from analyzing a mere 10% of its shipping orders. In an era defined by rapid technological advances, the marriage of artificial intelligence (AI) with military applications is shaping a new frontier. From AI-equipped anti-submarine warfare ships to predictive maintenance algorithms for aircraft, the confluence of AI and defense technologies is not only creating unprecedented capabilities but also opening a Pandora’s box of complex ethical and strategic questions.
As countries around the globe accelerate their investment in the militarization of AI, we find ourselves at a watershed moment that could redefine the very paradigms of global security, warfare ethics, and strategic operations. This article aims to dissect this intricate and evolving landscape, offering a thorough analysis of how AI’s ever-deepening integration with military applications is transforming the contours of future conflict and defense—across land, cyberspace, and even the far reaches of outer space.
AI on Land, Sea, and Air – A Force Multiplier
The evolution of AI in military applications is reshaping the traditional paradigms of land, sea, and air warfare. In the maritime realm, take DARPA’s Sea Hunter as an illustrative example—an unmanned anti-submarine warfare vessel that can autonomously patrol open waters for up to three consecutive months. This autonomous behemoth promises to revolutionize the cost metrics of naval operations, operating at a daily cost of less than $20,000 compared to $700,000 for a conventional manned destroyer. On land, the U.S. Army’s Advanced Targeting and Lethality Automated System (ATLAS) represents another significant leap. By incorporating AI into an automated ground vehicle, the military aims to accelerate target acquisition, reduce engagement time, and significantly lower the logistical and human costs associated with ground operations. The ATLAS program follows earlier attempts like the remotely controlled Military Utility Tactical Truck, essentially taking the next logical step toward full autonomy.
While the United States is making significant advancements in this arena, it is not alone. China’s autonomous Type 055 destroyers and Russia’s Uran-9 robotic combat ground vehicle are testaments to a global acceleration in AI-based military technologies. The international competition makes the ethical and strategic implications even more intricate
In the aerial domain, the fusion of AI with drones and combat aircraft is reaching new heights—quite literally. The Kratos UTAP-22 Mako Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV), powered by the Skyborg Autonomy Core System, recently underwent a 130-minute test flight where it demonstrated capabilities ranging from basic flight patterns to intricate combat tasks. This experiment lays the groundwork for the “Loyal Wingman” project—a system that allows a single human pilot to command multiple AI-powered drones, thus expanding the operational reach and impact of aerial units exponentially. Beyond singular platforms, AI is leading to the development of ‘swarm intelligence,’ where multiple autonomous units, whether they are drones, boats, or land vehicles, can work in concert, amplifying their capabilities beyond the sum of their individual parts.
As these AI applications manifest across different operational theaters, they serve as ‘force multipliers,’ amplifying the effectiveness of military assets without proportionately increasing the resources invested. They provide higher operational tempo, improve decision-making, and most critically, enhance the speed and accuracy of threat neutralization. However, the enhancement in operational effectiveness comes at the price of navigating complex ethical waters. Decisions that were once the sole purview of trained human operators are increasingly being delegated to algorithms, raising fundamental questions about accountability, the rules of engagement, and even the very nature of conflict.
Cyber Warfare and Information Operations – The Invisible Front
In the evolving landscape of military strategy, cyber warfare has transitioned from a futuristic concept to an immediate reality. The testimonies and actions of top military brass, including Admiral Michael Rogers, former commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, underscore a pressing need for integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into our cyber defensive and offensive operations. According to Rogers, the lack of machine-assisted predictive capabilities essentially puts us “behind the power curve.” This is not just a conceptual shift but a strategic imperative. The reactive cybersecurity paradigms of the past, characterized by a so-called “fortress mentality” of building digital walls, have faltered in the face of increasingly sophisticated attacks. It’s here that AI steps in as a force multiplier. By enabling a predictive form of cybersecurity that analyzes potential threats in real-time, AI shifts the balance from a defensive posture to proactive engagement. The DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge, which encouraged the creation of AI algorithms for real-time vulnerability assessment and patching, signaled an official acknowledgment of AI’s critical role in cyber defense. More to the point, The United States isn’t the only player focusing on AI in cyber warfare. Countries like Israel, China, and Russia are investing heavily in AI-based cybersecurity solutions. Russia’s focus on information warfare, in particular, presents an evolving challenge that AI aims to mitigate.
But the invisible front of cyber warfare is not just about repelling hacks or malware attacks; it’s also about the war on perception and truth. The emergence of AI-assisted deep fake technologies presents a profound challenge, morphing the battleground from just code and firewalls to the manipulation of reality itself. The incident involving U.S. Army Stryker vehicles in Lithuania in 2018 is a case in point, where deep fake technologies were deployed to manipulate public sentiment. While DARPA’s Media Forensics program aims to counterbalance this threat by advancing deep fake detection algorithms, the real concern is the adaptive nature of this technology. As AI-based deep fake creation techniques evolve, so must our detection capabilities, creating an endless loop of technological one-upmanship. This arms race in information warfare adds an entirely new dimension of complexity to military strategy.
The amalgamation of AI in cyber warfare and information operations isn’t merely an enhancement of existing systems but a radical transformation that augments and, in some cases, replaces human decision-making. This transition mandates not just technological adaptation but an ethical reevaluation of the principles governing warfare and security. In summary, AI isn’t an adjunct to the new age of cyber warfare and information operations; it’s a sine qua non—a necessity we can neither ignore nor underestimate.
Space and Beyond – The New Frontier in Defense and Security
The Space Force’s establishment by the United States in 2019 didn’t just signify the birth of a new military branch; it was a formal recognition of space as a contested theater where AI-driven technologies have serious geopolitical implications. In this evolving landscape, AI serves as both a facilitator and a disruptor. While it offers unparalleled capabilities in satellite management, from collision avoidance with floating space debris to optimizing the end-of-life of satellites, it also introduces a new set of vulnerabilities. China’s AI-driven simulation of space battles targeting high-value assets, such as SpaceX’s Starlink constellation, signals a worrisome development. This isn’t merely a rehearsal of theoretical combat scenarios; it’s an overt strategic move aimed at nullifying communication advantages facilitated by these satellite constellations.
Yet, the AI-driven militarization of space isn’t simply an extension of earthly geopolitics; it fundamentally alters the dynamics of warfare at an orbital level. China and Russia’s aggressive tests against high-value American satellites underscore the indispensable role of AI in developing real-time, autonomous countermeasures. With space assets becoming intrinsic to everything from communications to Earth observation, the AI capability to make split-second, data-driven decisions becomes invaluable. For instance, AI can not only preemptively analyze mechanical failures in satellites but also execute automated defensive counteractions against adversarial moves, potentially limiting or preventing damage. In essence, AI isn’t merely supplementing our existing capabilities in space; it’s rewriting the playbook on how we strategize, implement, and protect space-based assets. As such, the urgency for international norms to regulate this new battleground has never been greater. Without some form of oversight or control, the risk of a disproportionate escalation—a ‘space race’ in the most dangerous sense—becomes a looming possibility with wide-reaching consequences.
Can We Trust AI on the Battlefield? Ethical Fixes for Tomorrow’s Robo-Soldiers
Ethical Frameworks and Human-Centric Decision-Making
One of the most compelling ethical questions surrounding AI in military applications is the notion of decision-making, particularly where lethal force is involved. The debate here often oscillates between a “human-in-the-loop” versus fully autonomous systems. The assumption underpinning the human-in-the-loop model is that humans, endowed with higher-level ethical reasoning, should be the final arbiters in consequential decisions. It provides for diverse human perspectives and enables the AI to serve in an advisory capacity. However, relying solely on human judgment comes with its own set of ethical pitfalls. Humans possess inherent biases and cognitive flaws that can lead to suboptimal or even dangerous decisions, especially in high-stress military situations.
Testing, Transparency, and Explanation Facilities
Robust testing frameworks are another vital component for mitigating ethical issues. Given the complexity of AI software, especially machine-learning models, exhaustive testing is essential to minimize harmful mistakes or unintended lethal actions. However, conventional testing techniques like “fuzzing” are often inadequate for the dynamically learning nature of AI. Approaches like “cross-validation” offer a more robust testing environment for these evolving systems. This takes us to the realm of “explanation facilities,” tools designed to illuminate the reasoning pathways of AI algorithms. Explanations can help bridge the ethical chasm by providing transparency and legal justification. Yet, they remain challenging in the context of complex numerical calculations, like those made by artificial neural networks. Furthermore, sensitive or classified data may restrict the transparency of military algorithms, requiring a nuanced approach that respects both ethical and security imperatives.
Automated Ethical Reasoning and Bias Detection
Arguably, the most radical avenue for ethical improvement lies in automated ethical reasoning within the AI systems themselves. The idea is to integrate ethical principles directly into the AI’s decision-making algorithms. This could manifest as separate neural networks dedicated to assessing the potential harm to civilians in a given military operation. While these systems would require complex, probabilistic assessments, they offer the promise of objective, data-driven ethical reasoning that is free from the emotional and cultural biases that can skew human judgment. Simultaneously, robust algorithms for detecting and correcting biases—whether based on height, nationality, or other factors—can help in building AI systems that are both effective and ethical.
The increasing integration of AI in military and defense strategies is irreversible, yet there remains a substantial gap in our ethical comprehension of this complex relationship. While no single approach provides a silver bullet, a blend of human-centric models, robust testing frameworks, and automated ethical reasoning can pave the way for a more ethically sound AI-powered defense landscape.
In sum, the fusion of artificial intelligence with military applications is a double-edged sword that enhances capabilities while simultaneously raising moral and strategic dilemmas that cannot be easily resolved. Whether it’s optimizing traditional warfare on land, sea, and air, fortifying the invisible fronts in cyber and information spaces, or pushing the envelope in the uncharted territories of outer space, AI is both an enabler and a disruptor. It accelerates operational effectiveness but leaves us navigating a labyrinth of ethical, legal, and strategic implications.
The real challenge lies not in harnessing the powers of AI for military advancement but in governing its usage to prevent strategic imbalances and ethical lapses. This need for governance becomes more critical as we stand at the brink of an AI-induced transformation that could redefine the very nature of conflict and security. With the accelerating pace of AI militarization, the window for establishing ethical norms and international regulations is rapidly closing. It’s not just about who has the most advanced AI but about how we manage this transformative technology responsibly.
As the global competition intensifies over the integration of artificial intelligence into military operations, the focus must extend beyond merely adopting this technology. The critical issue at hand is not just whether AI will define the future of warfare, but how we can navigate this future in an ethical and responsible manner. This pivotal moment calls for a collective approach to decision-making that transcends individual national agendas. The decisions taken today are set to sculpt the geopolitical realities of tomorrow. Therefore, it’s imperative for policymakers, ethicists, and military experts to come together now to address the complex ethical and strategic dimensions of AI in warfare, before we reach an irreversible tipping point.
U.S. Sanctions and Russia’s Weapon Systems: A New Game in the Quest of High-Tech Microchip
Modern warfare places a great deal of emphasis on semiconductors and microchips because they are the fundamental building blocks for a wide range of military technology, such as drones, radios, missiles, and armored vehicles. Russia has consistently used modern weapons in its military operations against Ukraine since the start of the war between Russia and Ukraine in 2022, thereby prolonging the ongoing war.
In the year 2022, Moscow initiated a comprehensive military intervention in Ukraine, while the nation of Russia saw an increase in the importation of semiconductor technology, with a value of $2.5 billion, compared to $1.8 billion in the preceding year of 2021. Microprocessors originating from Western countries are used in smartphones and laptops, which are progressively being integrated into Russia’s military inventory. Moscow has been procuring a higher quantity of superior Western technology by using intermediate nations, such as China.
The Russian military incorporates a diverse range of foreign-manufactured components throughout its 27 advanced military systems. These systems include various technologies such as cruise missiles, communications systems, and electronic warfare complexes. A significant majority, exceeding two-thirds, of the foreign constituents detected in Russian military equipment may be traced back to corporations based in the United States. Additionally, a portion of these components are sourced from Ukraine, as well as other allied nations like Japan and Germany. Russia continues to successfully import the essential Western-manufactured components required for its military operations. Nevertheless, the influx of microchips into Russia continues via trade lines through China, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and other nations, contributing to the expansion of the country’s prewar inventories.
China is the primary supplier of microchips and other technological components used in critical military equipment to Russia. This represents a substantial increase compared to the same period in 2021 when Chinese sellers accounted for just 33% of the imports. Furthermore, Moscow has seen a notable rise in its imports from nations situated in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East. In 2022, there was a notable increase in exports to Russia from Georgia, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan. This rise mostly consisted of automobiles, airplanes, and warships, which played a key role in driving the overall growth. Simultaneously, there was an increase in exports from the European Union and the United Kingdom to these nations, although their direct commerce with Russia saw a significant decline.
The increasing trade flows have led Western partners to advocate for expanding the number of countries participating in sanctions or imposing secondary restrictions on specific companies operating inside those countries to suppress Russia’s military capabilities. In June 2023, the European Union implemented a fresh set of sanctions that include an anti-circumvention mechanism aimed at limiting the trade, provision, or export of specifically sanctioned commodities and technology to certain third nations serving as intermediaries for Russia. In addition, the aforementioned package expanded the roster of corporations that directly endorse Russia’s military by including 87 newly incorporated entities across several nations, including China, the United Arab Emirates, and Armenia. Furthermore, it imposed limitations on the sale of 15 specific technological goods that are often found in Russian military apparatus deployed in Ukraine.
The use of microchips originating from the United States is contributing to the enhancement of Russia’s military capabilities, even amidst the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, facilitated via clandestine channels including intermediate nations like China. American technological companies like Intel, Micron Technology, Texas Instruments, and others produce a portion of these microchips. The United States and other Western countries have put restrictions in place to make it more difficult for Russia to trade certain technologies.
While the Russia-Ukraine war is ongoing, Hong Kong ranked as the second-largest exporter of microchips to Russia in terms of monetary value and as the third-largest exporter in terms of transaction volume. In 2022, Finland ranked as the fifth-largest supplier of microchips to Russia in terms of dollar value and Germany ranked as the third-most significant supplier of microchips to Russia in terms of dollar value and held the fifth position in terms of the number of transactions conducted. Germany is a significant supplier of semiconductor equipment to the Russian market. In 2022, the Netherlands and Estonia held the position of being the fourth-largest exporters of microchips to Russia in terms of dollar value. ASML Holding NV, a prominent Dutch company, is globally recognized as the foremost provider of lithography equipment, a critical component in the production of sophisticated microchips.
Subsequently, the United States has implemented sanctions on Russia, which include prohibiting the shipment of American semiconductors, as well as items manufactured using American equipment, software, and designs, to Russia. The United States has engaged in collaborative efforts with its allied nations, including the European Union, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand, to effectively enforce such limitations. The United States Commerce Secretary has issued a warning over the potential termination of Chinese firm’s access to essential American technology required for chip manufacturing in the event of their non-compliance with the ban on chip supply to Russia. The United States has also called upon China to participate in international endeavors aimed at exerting pressure on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. The United States employs diverse methodologies to oversee and trace the transportation of chip shipments that have the potential to reach Russia.
The sanctions imposed on Russia have had a substantial and diverse effect on its military capability. To develop modern weapons, Russia is heavily dependent on purchasing a variety of high-tech goods from Western nations, such as microchips, engines, composite materials, and semiconductor machinery. The implementation of Western sanctions has limited Russia’s ability to produce and maintain its modern military hardware, including aircraft, missiles, drones, tanks, and radar systems. Russia’s military-industrial complex, which includes more than 800 businesses engaged in defense and related industries, is largely responsible for the country’s defense capabilities. Western sanctions have been imposed on several companies, including Rostec, Mikron, Tactical Missiles Corporation, Sukhoi, MiG, and Kalashnikov Concern. The implementation of these sanctions has resulted in the cessation of their ability to get funding, access technological advancements, and engage in market activities, leading to a decline in their overall financial gains and profitability.
The Russian economy and energy industry exhibit a significant reliance on the exportation of oil and gas to Western countries. The industries have also been subject to Western sanctions, which have imposed limitations on their ability to access financial markets, technology, and services. This resulted in a decrease in their ability to produce new weapons. Additionally, this has led to a decline in the government’s foreign exchange reserves, both of which are essential for funding its military activities and defense expenditures. Also, these sanctions have resulted in the isolation of Russia from the international community since they have curtailed Russia’s ability to engage in diplomatic, political, and security collaborations with other nations. Russia’s influence and power in regional and international affairs have decreased, which has also made it more vulnerable to pressures and challenges from abroad. Furthermore, this has undermined Russia’s perceived credibility and standing as a dependable and trustworthy collaborator.
In conclusion, the imposition of Western sanctions has effectively sent a resolute and unified message from Western nations in reaction to Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine. However, there is little proof that these sanctions have caused Putin to behave differently or withdraw from Ukraine. Hence, the efficacy of the imposed restrictions in restraining Russia’s military aspirations remains uncertain.
Three Sahelian Interim Military Leaders Sign Security Pact
Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have taken an admirable strategic step by signing trilateral security pact in collective efforts to battle extremism and terrorism threats in the Sahel region. It is an opportunity, especially this critical moment, to work relentless for peace and tranquility, a necessary factor that could determine their sustainable development.
These three Sahel states are under the interim military administration. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the 15-member regional bloc, has put political pressure on them to return to constitutional democracy since after removing the elected civilian governments. The African Union (AU) and the ECOWAS have jointly suspended their membership, and further imposed stringent sanctions on them.
Backed by the AU, ECOWAS has even gone as far as threatening the use of force to reinstate constitutional governance in Niger. In response, Mali and Burkina Faso have solemnly pledged to extend their support to Niger if it is eventually attacked by ECOWAS Standby Forces. Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger also have considerable strain on their relationships with neighboring states and international partners.
Nevertheless, in a significant development on September 16th, three West African Sahel states came together to ink a security pact. Currently grappling with formidable challenges of combating Islamic insurgents associated with groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS), this accord offers the possibility to tackle any rebellion or external aggression.
The security pact, known as the Alliance of Sahel States (ASS), unequivocally indicated that an assault on the sovereignty or territorial integrity of any of its signatory nations would be deemed an aggression against all parties involved. The agreement outlined their unwavering commitment to provide assistance, either individually or collectively, and further categorically stipulated the deployment of armed forces.
The signed charter binds the signatories to assist one another – including militarily – in the event of an attack on any one of them. “Any attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of one or more contracting parties shall be considered as an aggression against the other parties and shall give rise to a duty of assistance… including the use of armed force to restore and ensure security,” it states.
Malian leader, Col. Assimi Goita, announced the establishment of the Alliance of Sahel States through his social media account. He emphasized their primary objectives of establishing a framework for collective defense and mutual assistance. Its aim is to “establish an architecture of collective defence and mutual assistance for the benefit of our populations”, he wrote.
The Liptako-Gourma region – where the Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger borders meet – has been ravaged by jihadism in recent years. A jihadist insurgency that erupted in northern Mali in 2012 spread to Niger and Burkina Faso in 2015.
“This alliance will be a combination of military and economic efforts between the three countries. Our priority is the fight against terrorism in the three countries,” Mali’s Defence Minister Abdoulaye Diop also said after the signing the document.
Mali and Burkina Faso have vowed to come to Niger’s aid if it is attacked. “Any attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of one or more contracted parties will be considered an aggression against the other parties,” according to the charter of the pact, known as the Alliance of Sahel States.
The three French-speaking West Africa states were previously members of the France-backed G5 Sahel alliance joint force, (with with Chad and Mauritania) initiated in 2017 to combat Islamist extremist groups in the region. However, Mali withdrew from this alliance following its own military coup, and relations between France and these three Sahel states have severely deteriorated. France has been compelled to withdraw its military presence from Mali and Burkina Faso, leading to a tense standoff with the junta that assumed power in Niger after requesting the withdrawal of French troops and its ambassador. France has firmly declined to recognize the authority of the interim military governments.
The situation in the Sahel region including Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger still remains extremely difficult with internal conflicts, extremism and militant attacks, economic development is undeniably at its lowest points in history. In fact, Sahelian states are consistently looking for strategic ways to effectively address the sustainable development in the region. These three French-speaking states and the entire Sahel region are the most volatile and have large impoverished population in Africa.
The African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union (EU), the United States and the United Nations (UN) are all asking for quick transition to civilian governments, and that efforts are taken to resolve outstanding issues relating to sustainable development and observing strictly principles of democracy in these French-speaking states in West Africa.
East Asia4 days ago
Al-Assad’s Beijing Visit: A Stepping Stone to a Strategic Partnership Between the Two Nations
Economy4 days ago
IMF Conditions vs. Pakistan’s Economic Future
Economy4 days ago
Why Global Goals Are Global Holes in Need to Be Filled With Entrepreneurialism?
Middle East4 days ago
Iran and Sudan’s Rapprochement in 2023: New Changes in the Regional Geopolitics of the Middle East
World News4 days ago
Foreign Affairs: Will the West abandon Ukraine?
Finance4 days ago
Why the West’s sanctions on Russia miss the mark
Southeast Asia4 days ago
Biden’s ASEAN Summit Absence Sparks Multilateral Concerns
Europe3 days ago
Bangladesh-UK strategic dialogue: Significance in the post-Brexit era