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Sino-American rivalry goes underwater: no, it's not the submarines

Anmol Jain

May 23, 2024, 07:51 PM | Updated 07:51 PM IST

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The Ground Reports Project 2024
The Ground Reports Project 2024

Dear Readers,

How's it going? Before we start today's newsletter, we have a request.

You may have heard about our 50 Ground Reports Project. If not, or if you're wondering what's new, here it is.

  • Even with two phases of elections still left, we have surpassed our target of 50 ground reports and going past it.

  • Our colleagues are still on the ground crisscrossing different constituencies.

These ground reports cost money and resources. And as a new-age media startup, we rely on YOU — the modern Indian reader.

Thank you for your steadfast support!

In today's newsletter, we bring to you one such ground report by my colleague Jaideep Mazumdar — straight from the temple town of Puri.

Next, we will look at a fresh undersea battle that is building up between China and US — no, it's not the submarines.

Have a good one!

- Anmol N Jain

Puri's wrath will help BJP unseat BJD from the temple town

Everybody is angry in Puri — be it the priests of the Jagannath Dham, traders, pata-chitra painters, farmers, residents, or even the pilgrims.   

Why it matters: The growing resentment against the BJD is significantly boosting the BJP's chances in Puri's temple town.

The discontent: Caused by actions, or inactions, of BJD govt — particularly those of VK Pandian, CM Patnaik's key aide and touted successor.

Temple Troubles:

  • Interference in Dham: Jagannath Dham servitors are upset with BJD's (read Pandian's) interference in temple affairs.

  • Treasury: There's suspicion of state govt stealing gold and valuables from the ‘ratna bhandar’ (treasury). The keys to the 'bhandar' have been "misplaced".

  • Traditions: Servitors claim Pandian pressures them to simplify age-old rituals — like canceling the 'mangal aarti'.

  • Crowd Mismanagement: Inexplicable changes in temple entry points have caused overcrowding and long waits for devotees.

  • Financial Mismanagement: State govt is accused of taking temple donations but spending little on the mandir or servitors.

Broken Promises:

  • Rehabilitation: Traders displaced by the Srimandir Heritage Corridor project were promised new shops and compensations that never materialized.

  • Fishermen: Penthakata fishermen struggle with dwindling catches and lack of support from the state government. Many turn to Andhra Pradesh for benefits.

  • Artists: Pata-chitra artists in Raghurajpur have low earnings and lack of support from the state. They hope for inclusion in central government schemes.

Political Impact: Edge to BJP

  • This dissatisfaction is providing strong momentum to BJP's candidate, Sambit Patra.

  • His continuous engagement with Puri's people and his promise of development have gained him substantial support.

The bottom line: The deep-seated anger against the BJD, especially among key community groups, is poised to swing Puri in favor of the BJP.

Read Jaideep Mazumdar's Ground Report on the temple town in full detail.

Sino-American rivalry goes underwater — it's internet cables, not submarines

The next stage in the US-China spy game is unfolding under the sea with Chinese repair ships supposedly tampering with vital internet cables.

Context:

  • Chinese repair ships, operated by state-controlled SB Submarine Systems (SBSS), are raising suspicions due to unexplained gaps in their location tracking.

  • These ships repair the undersea cables that carry 95% of international internet traffic.

High Stakes:

  • These cables are crucial, transmitting everything from emails and banking transactions to military secrets.

  • They could be tampered for espionage, data mining, mapping military communication links, or stealing intellectual property.

  • Expert insight: Justin Sherman from the Atlantic Council calls undersea cables a "surveillance gold mine" for intelligence agencies.

American Concerns:

  • Military security: Ensuring cables carrying sensitive data to US military bases are secure.

  • Espionage risk: Encrypted data is also vulnerable as it often travels over commercial lines.

  • In April 2023, two cables connecting Taiwan with its Matsu islands were cut, leaving residents without internet. Taiwanese suspected Chinese vessels but lacked direct evidence.

American Response:

  • Warnings: Biden administration has alerted companies like Google and Meta about the risks.

  • Countermeasures: The US is funding Pacific cable projects and supporting SubCom, a US-owned cable ship company, to handle critical repairs.

  • Challenge: Moving cable repair away from Chinese vessels is tough due to the ageing fleet of non-Chinese repair ships.

Big Picture: The potential for afresh conflict is high as battle for control of subsea cables is becoming central to the US-China tech war.

US cybersecurity official Nathaniel Fick sums it up — "When our adversaries tell us what they intend to do, we should believe them."


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