|Welcome to the latest issue of Diplomat Brief. This week our top story looks at the mysterious arrest of 10 Chinese nationals by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency. We also have an interview with Kadyr Toktogulov, Kyrgyzstan’s former ambassador to the United States and Canada, about Kyrgyzstan’s political drama and the regional context.|
|Story of the week|
SECURITYDid China Build a Spy Network in Kabul?
What Happened: In December 2020, 10 Chinese nationals were arrested, with little fanfare, on murky charges of contact with the Haqqani Network. They were just as quietly released without charge and deported to China – but the damage to Afghanistan-China relations was done.
Our Focus: “With few exceptions, Afghanistan has historically been a geopolitical hot-spot for rivalry and tension between global and regional powers,” Omar Samad, former Afghan ambassador to France and Canada, told The Diplomat. “These rivalries have taken on new forms in recent times, intensifying the Afghan conflict and further complicating a search for a peaceful outcome.”
What Comes Next: Even as the peace process continues, the fate of the Haqqani Network in particular is unclear – and, as this case suggests, the Taliban’s “sword arm” continues to pose an attractive option for foreign powers looking to advance their interests in Afghanistan through non-state actors.Read this story
|Behind the News|
Kadyr Toktogulov, Kyrgyzstan’s ambassador to the United States and Canada from 2015 to 2019, on the country’s continuing political challenges: “What is more or less certain is that Kyrgyzstan will likely be going through a couple of national votes, parliamentary elections and a constitutional referendum. And pretty much every national vote is a test of political and economic stability for Kyrgyzstan.”Read the interview
|This Week in Asia|
Northeast AsiaWho Will Be the New Tokyo Olympics Chief?
Last week, Mori Yoshiro resigned at the head of the Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee after widespread backlash over his sexist comments. That didn’t end the scandal, however, with his handpicked replacement quickly reversing course to refuse the job after revelations Mori would have been asked to stay on as a consultant. Now all eyes are on the Organizing Committee as it chooses another leader – a critical decision for a beleaguered Games in its final stretch.Find out more
South AsiaThe China-India Disengagement Continues
China and India have both confirmed that they are mutually disengaging troops at key friction points in the months-long military standoff in eastern Ladakh. If the drawdown continues as planned – and that’s no guarantee, as previous efforts have fallen apart – it would mark the beginning of the end to a tense standoff that began in May 2020 and has claimed at least 20 lives.Find out more
Southeast AsiaAung San Suu Kyi Faces Junta Charges
Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi is due in court this week in the capital Naypyidaw, where she faces charges that include breaches of COVID-19 rules and the arcane crime of illegally importing walkie-talkies. “The Lady’s” scheduled appearance comes as protests continue to spread across the country, and the new junta government girds itself for what depressingly looks like another crackdown.Find out more
Central AsiaUzbekistan Turns to Pakistan
Although double landlocked Uzbekistan already uses a route through Iran for exports, Tashkent has set its eyes – and shaken hands with Afghan and Pakistani officials – on pursuing a railroad route through Afghanistan to the Pakistani ports of Gwadar and Karachi. Keep an eye on Uzbekistan as it looks to South Asia for sea access and new markets.Find out more
SOCIETYAre the Uyghurs Safe in Turkey?
Uyghur women stand outside the Chinese consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, next to binders with files on people missing in Xinjiang, demanding answers about their families. Photo by Nicholas Muller. See the full picture
|Word of the Week|
Tuwei: Mandarin, literally means something that has the flavor of soil. Figuratively it refers to something that is either tacky-cool, outdated, or cringe-worthy and sometimes of bad taste.Find out more