March 13, 2018        Reading Time: 2 minutes

Your weekly digest of foreign policy commentary:

Reading Time: 2 min read

Warwick J. Mckibbin provides countries with an alternative strategy to dealing with the Trump administration’s tariff hikes. Image credit – rabbit75_dep / deposit photo


Anti-Muslim Riots in Sri Lanka Signal a New Social Fissure
, The Economist

“Political analysts fear that Sinhalese extremists are trying to transfer lingering hostility against Tamils onto Muslims (most of whom speak Tamil as their mother tongue).”

  • The Economist highlights possible reasons for recent violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka, which commentators say were encouraged by Buddhist monks.
  • Sinhala extremists believe that the slightly higher birth rate of Muslims threatens their demographic dominance.
  • Muslim ownership of many small-scale businesses also makes Muslims a target of extremist rhetoric, which paints the Muslims as commercial ‘oppressors’ of poor Sinhalese.

LKI Take: Buddhist majority countries like Thailand limit the political participation of monks in different ways. Sri Lankan institutions could study how other democracies – especially in Buddhist majority countries – regulate their clergy, to restrain clerical extremism.


How AI Can Help the Indian Armed Forces
, Livemint, by R. Shashank Reddy, Carnegie India

“AI has a number of non-lethal uses for militaries across the world, and especially for the Indian military.”

  • R. Shashank Reddy identifies three non-controversial ways that India could use artificial intelligence (AI) technology to improve the efficiency of its military.
  • These three ways are to use AI in: logistics and supply chain management; cyber operations; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations.
  • If the Indian military is to fully realise the potential of AI, New Delhi would need to develop a closer relationship with private technology companies and start-ups in India.

LKI Take: While AI promises significant military benefits, civil society and governments – including in Sri Lanka – should monitor and regulate the relationship between technology companies and the military, to avoid excessive militarisation of the economy.


How Countries Could Respond to President Trump’s Trade War
, Brookings, by Warwick J. Mckibbin, Brookings Institution

“For decades trillions of dollars of global savings have been pouring into buying US treasury bills and other government securities.”

  • Warwick J. Mckibbin explains that instead of starting a trade war, countries should stop buying US government securities to counter President Trump’s tariff hikes.
  • This would have a far more significant impact on US consumers and producers than retaliatory tariff increases, as it would reveal US dependence on global savings to sustain domestic consumption beyond its means.
  • Such a move would not violate globally accepted trade rules, and redirecting funds away from US government securities may lead to increased investments in emerging economies.

LKI Take: This proposal could be effective if several countries collectively pursued it, including major US creditors like China and Japan. Such a move may, however, lead to the depreciation of the US dollar, which could negatively impact countries like Sri Lanka, whose exports depend on the US market.

Written by Barana Waidyatilake and Malinda Meegoda, and edited by Anishka De Zylva. The opinions expressed in this Weekly Brief are the authors’ own and not the institutional views of LKI, and do not necessarily reflect the position of any other institution or individual with which the authors are affiliated.

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