Ep. 631: The Game of Drones

The attack on Merchant Vessel Mercer Street, allegedly by an Iranian drone, has been grabbing headlines. Beyond all the hype, drones have proven to be simple but effective tools in any country’s asymmetric arsenal. Whether state actors, irregulars, or something in between, drones have key advantages including deniability and standoff capabilities. Aditya Pareek joins Aditya Ramanathan to discuss the latest developments and some possible future trajectories for drones including autonomous systems.

Link to resources mentioned in the episode:

  1. Technopolitik Newsletter with Aditya Ramanathan’s section

  2. The article in Japanese Press discussing Russian Orlan – 10 UAVs that use off the shelf components, including Japanese engines without the OEM knowing about it

Ep. 630: Digital Communication Networks and their Harms

Over the years, a number of harms have been attributed to Social Media platforms/messaging apps. Despite their high adoption over the last decade, estimates suggest that approximately 50% of the world’s population do not use them yet. This implies that there is still significant headroom for adoption and therefore further amplification of the harms (and benefits) attributed.
In this episode, Prateek Waghre joins Rohan Seth to discuss a Takshashila Working Paper that defines Digital Communication Networks (DCNs) and categorizes the harms attributed to them as potential market failures, social problems, and cognitive biases.

Click here to read the paper

Ep. 629: The Far Side of the Indo-Pacific

Japan is a major pillar of the Indo-Pacific strategic vision and has a seat at the table when security in the region is discussed. However, Japan’s interests and anxieties vis a vis the Sea of Japan and Pacific Russia are rarely part of the discussion despite their implications on the Indo-Pacific. Aditya Pareek joins Yoshihiro Inaba to discuss Japan’s Self Defence Forces and the international law dimension to all parts of the Indo-Pacific.

Yoshihiro Inaba is a freelance writer living in Japan. He is particularly familiar with Japan’s Ground, Maritime, and Air Self-Defence Forces. He currently writes for multiple Japanese military magazines as well as for Naval News, a France-based web media outlet. He is one of the few young military writers in Japan and is currently a student studying international law (especially self-defence and use of force) at a Japanese graduate school.

Ep. 628: What if Vijayanagara Won?

What if the South Indian empire of Vijayanagara had won the fateful Battle of Talikota in 1565? The answer is more complex than we might think. Anirudh Kanisetti and Aditya Ramanathan explore the culture, society, and geopolitics of the Vijayanagara empire and its nayaka successors in search of answers.

Links mentioned in the episode:

Anirudh’s alternate history exercise.

Anirudh’s video on Talikota

Season finale of Yuddha for a deep-dive into the last days of Vijayanagara

Ep. 627: Making sense of feed algorithms

Much of our online activity is mediated by algorithms. Whether we are shopping online, binge-watching TV shows, or scrolling through social media, algorithms watch over us and feed us what we see. Algorithmic content curation has associated accountability and ethical challenges that have no easy answers.

Mihir Mahajan joins Rohan Seth to talk about feed algorithms, how they work, and how technologists, regulators, and individual users can promote healthy information diets.

Links mentioned in the show:

  1. Why we need to audit algorithms (Article)
  2. WSJ video on TikTok’s algorithm

Ep. 626: Defence of Japan

Recently Japan issued its 2021 Defense White Paper, which serves as a window into the priorities and activities of the Japanese Ministry of Defense and Self-Defense Forces. This year the publication has garnered much more attention merely from its cover that indicates a more assertive posture. Aditya Pareek and Suyash Desai join Ameera Rao to discuss the publication in detail vis a vis Japan’s concerns about Russia, China, Taiwan, and the Indo-Pacific.

Ep. 625: Can Genomic Surveillance Tackle COVID Variants?

As the Delta variant spreads, there is fear of new mutations causing further waves of COVID-19. Genomic surveillance is key to identify and contain the spread of these new variants. In this episode, Shambhavi Naik, Ruturaj Gowaikar and Priyal Lyncia D’Almeida discuss India’s genomic surveillance efforts and the ways in which it can increase its capacity to track new variants.

Ep. 624: Living together, separately: What the Pew survey says about religion in India

What is the role of religion and caste in Indians’ lives? How do we think about our identity as Indians? What do our choices about how we worship, what we eat, and what we wear say about our identity? Pew Research Center conducted face-to-face interviews with 29,999 Indians across India to obtain answers to these questions and more.

In this episode, Neha Sahgal and Jonathan Evans from the Pew Research Center, and authors of the report “Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation” join Mihir Mahajan and Apurva Kumar to talk about their findings and help identify metaphors that describe contemporary India.

About the speakers: Neha Sahgal is associate director of research at Pew Research Center, specializing in international polling on religion. Sahgal is involved in all aspects of survey research, including designing the questionnaire, monitoring fieldwork, evaluating data quality, and analysing results. Jonathan Evans is a research associate at Pew Research Center, where he contributes to international polling projects focused on religion and national identity.

Further readings:
1. “Key findings about religion in India” by Jonathan Evans and Neha Sehgal
2. Full report – “Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation
3. Survey questionnaire
4. Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s article on the survey

Ep. 623: Bangladesh – The New Miracle Economy?

Bangladesh’s per capita GDP has been on a rise as it emerges as the garment factory of the world. Has Bangladesh defied the received wisdom that countries outside East-Asia and Europe can’t have an export-led growth? Sarthak Pradhan and Apurva Kumar discuss the new miracle economy of Bangladesh and the factors that contributed to its growth story.

Further readings:
Noah Smith on Bangladesh’s industrial policy
ADB’s report on Bangladesh’s export-led growth
Arvind Subramanian on Bangladesh miracle
Kaushik Basu on Bangladesh’s economic growth

Ep. 622: Tackling Mis/Disinformation on Vaccines

Only around 6% of Indians have been fully vaccinated. While there are supply-side constraints, demand-side bottlenecks such as vaccine hesitancy are a challenge. With a new virus variant hitting several countries, vaccine hesitancy in a vast country like India can reverse the gains made in the past few months. One of the factors that are driving vaccine hesitancy is incorrect information about the efficacy of vaccines and its side effects.

Kamesh Shekar and Apurva Kumar discuss how mis/disinformation leads to vaccine hesitancy and what steps can be taken to address the problem.Kamesh is a technology & policy researcher. He is currently pursuing his PGP in Public Policy at Takshashila Institution. His research interests are data protection, intermediary liability, issue of mis/disinformation on social media, AI in media, etc. You can read his work here- https://kameshsshekar.in/writing/

Further readings:

Ep. 621: How Social Media is Reshaping Politics

Over the last 10 years, the optimism surrounding social media platforms has given way to skepticism and concerns about their impact on democracy. In this episode, Nitansha Bansal and Prateek Waghre discuss some of the defining characteristics of social media and digital communication networks, and how they can affect strong or weak, liberal or authoritarian regimes.

Further readings:

Technopolitik #4

The Political Effects of Social Media Platforms on Different Regime Types

MisDisMal-Information Newsletter 

Ep. 620: China’s New Missile Silos

China has reportedly begun the construction of more than 100 new silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in a desert near the northwest city of Yumen. Pranav Satyanath and Suyash Desai join Aditya Ramanathan to discuss what this development means for China’s evolving nuclear strategy, and the US-China and Sino-Indian nuclear dyads.

Pranav Satyanath is a researcher and foreign policy analyst focusing on arms control, nuclear strategy and space policy issues.

Ep. 619: The Queens of Medieval Kashmir

Royal men and their conquests dominate our imagination of medieval India – but they are merely one part of an enormously diverse and complex group of societies. Medieval Kashmir offers fascinating examples of how women could rise to power and rule as successfully as any man. From women’s erasure in history-writing to the legacy of the queens of medieval Kashmir, academic and author Dr Devika Rangachari joins Anirudh Kanisetii for a fascinating discussion on women in the making of Indian history.

You can buy From Obscurity to Light here: https://www.amazon.in/gp/product/B085RB5BRR/
You can buy Queen of Ice here: https://www.amazon.in/Queen-Ice-Devika-Rangachari/dp/9383331186/

Ep. 618: How Indians Shaped their Constitution

The Constitution of India forms the basis of the republic and influences all aspects of our lives. But is it really that powerful? Suman Joshi and Apurva Kumar talk about the role common citizens played in building constitutional values through the years.
This discussion is premised on Rohit De’s book, A People’s Constitution, in which the author challenges the notion that the constitution was a document created by the elites and for the elites.

Further readings:
What is constitutional morality? By Pratap Bhanu Mehta
Rohit De – Law and Life in India
Two cases from the book, Hanif Quereshi vs state of Bihar and Pesikaka vs state of Bombay

Ep. 617: Cracking Down on Didi

The Chinese state is cracking down on the ‘barbaric growth’ of its tech companies. Twenty-five apps from Chinese tech giant Didi were removed from Chinese app stores last week. Rohan Seth talks to Manoj Kewalramani to understand what’s driving this dramatic move by China’s authorities.

Link to Manoj’s book:

Ep. 616: India, the Moon and the Artemis Accords

Humans have always been fascinated by the Moon, but have never managed to agree on a common set of rules governing our activities on the lunar surface. As outer space becomes increasingly commercialized, competitive, and contested, the US is pushing for the Artemis Accords, a series of bilateral agreements, meant to lay down rules for lunar activity. While Russia and China have publicly expressed their skepticism, India is yet to take a stand on signing the Accords.

Nitansha Bansal, Aditya Ramanathan and Aditya Pareek discuss the advantages and drawbacks of the Accords and examine the choices that lie ahead for India.

Ep. 615: Theatre Commands: Are they Necessary?

India has ambitious plans for setting up theatre commands for its armed forces. These are expected to facilitate better planning and unified military response to any future contingency. But, are these theatre commands really necessary?
In this episode, Nitin Pai discusses this with three former decorated officers from India’s armed forces, Lt. General Prakash Menon, Vice Admiral Anil Chopra, and Air Marshal Anil Chopra.

Ep. 614: The Syncretic Rituals of South Indian Catholics

Christianity in India is as diverse and complicated as anything else in the subcontinent. Though the story of the Portuguese and the Goan Inquisition might dominate airwaves today, the history of Catholicism in Tamil Nadu offers fascinating examples of local Indian beliefs evolving in continuity with the veneration of Catholic saints. Anirudh Kanisetti speaks to independent researcher Vivek Joseph to learn about the peoples and practices involved in these connected dynamics.

Ep. 612: The Constitution & India’s Democracy

How does the Constitution of India codify democratic principles? Why does it see an overarching role for a centralized state? How does it address the issue of representation? In this episode, Apurva Kumar and Sarthak Pradhan discuss the motivations and intentions of the framers of India’s constitution.
This episode is based on the book – India’s Founding Moment: The Constitution of a Most Surprising Democracy by Madhav Khosla (https://www.amazon.in/Indias-Founding-Moment-Constitution-Surprising/dp/0674247981)