|Welcome to the latest issue of Diplomat Brief. This week our top story explores life in “no man’s land” along the India-Pakistan dividing line. We also have an interview with General Kataoka Haruhiko, vice president of the Japan Institute for Space and Security (JISS), about what Japan should do to enhance security in space.|
|Story of the week|
|What the Indo-Pak Ceasefire Means to Locals Along the LoC|
What Happened: On February 25, 2021, villagers living along the Line of Control (Loc), which separates the India- and Pakistan-administered sides of Kashmir, woke up to the news that from now on India and Pakistan were to strictly adhere to all ceasefire agreements. For villagers living in settlements right along the LoC, the 17 months since have been quiet. Yet villagers along the border continue to experience the repercussions of residing in a region that has continuously inflicted trauma and terror during seven decades of conflict between the two nuclear-armed nations.
Our Focus: The ceasefire has held since February 2021, but locals have not yet overcome the pervasive fear of living in a conflict zone. Haji Asadullah Lone, 88, a resident of Uri town, says that personal loss is a characteristic of the region. “Everyone has lost something: limbs, lives or livelihood,” Lone tells The Diplomat. Ghulam Mohammed Bhat, a former teacher who lost a leg to cross-border shelling, confirms this lingering sense of loss. “Yes, the ceasefire exists, but life doesn’t change with it. We live with our losses. We now consider our losses as normal. You will find plenty of victims of shelling and landmine blasts here, almost in every home.”
What Comes Next: Despite the ceasefire, locals are not planning out new chapters of their lives. “We don’t think about the future like you do,” says Mohammed Ayyub, a local farmer. “We just manage to stay alive, as long as we can.” Many locals told The Diplomat they were actively trying not to get used to the peace, fearing that the ceasefire could be broken at any moment. Those with the money to leave the war-torn border region are doing so; those without continue to bear the burdens of uncertainty and generational trauma. “Today is ours, we may not live to see the next day,” as one local puts it. Such is life along the LoC.Read this story
|Behind the News|
General Kataoka Haruhiko, a former chief of staff of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) and the current vice president of the Japan Institute for Space and Security (JISS), on the limits of Japan’s space capabilities: “As I always say, Japan cannot be like America, China, or Russia. Japan has capabilities, but considering various things such as budget and human resources, we will have to cooperate with the Western world centering on the U.S. or Five Eyes, to build space systems together.”Read the interview
|This Week in Asia|
|Biden, Xi to Hold Another Virtual Meeting|
U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters last week that he would hold another virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping before the end of July. It will be the leaders’ third virtual tete-a-tete, following conversations in November 2021 and March 2022. The two have yet to meet in person, as Xi has not left China since the pandemic started. Taiwan – and specifically U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reported plans to visit the island – will feature heavily in the conversation.Find out more
|Sri Lanka’s New President Gets Off to a Rocky Start|
Ranil Wickremesinghe was unpopular even before Sri Lanka’s Parliament elected him president – the former prime minister is seen as a close ally, if not an outright puppet, of the protesters’ main target, the Rajapaksa clan. Wickremesinghe then added fuel to the political fire by using security forces to clear out a longstanding protest camp within a day of taking office. That’s hardly going to endear him to either the Sri Lankan public or the opposition parties, both of whose support Wickremesinghe will need to seal a much-needed bailout deal with the IMF.Find out more
|World Reacts to Myanmar Prisoner Executions|
Condemnations continue to pour in following the Myanmar military regime’s execution of four pro-democracy activists, including a former lawmaker for Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government, over the weekend. Since the announcement of the death sentences on Monday, the move has been roundly condemned by the West, the United Nations, and civil society groups within Myanmar and abroad. The cruel act even prompted ASEAN chair Cambodia to condemn the move as “highly reprehensible” and call out the junta’s “gross lack of will” in implementing the bloc’s peace plan. The executions, Myanmar’s first since the late 1980s, are likely to deepen the junta’s isolation and inflame the conflict within the country.Find out more
|In a Difficult Year, Central Asian Regionalism Carries On|
It’s been a difficult year in Central Asia: unrest in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, a generational leadership transition in Turkmenistan, and the continuing economic and diplomatic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Yet despite it all, the five Central Asian leaders made time to gather for their annual summit in Kyrgyzstan on July 21. It’s only the fourth such meeting, and the continued commitment to the relatively new forum bodes well for continued regional cooperation.Find out more
China’s $560 million in total military aid during 2013-2018 pales in comparison to the U.S. total of over $35 billion over the same period.See the full picture
|Word of the Week|
Hinanmin, Japanese for “evacuee,” is the word Japan’s government uses to describe Ukrainians admitted to the country since the war began – not 難民 (nanmin, refugee).Find out more
|Indonesia's Plans for the G-20|
Indonesia’s G-20 presidency has faced major headwinds following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Indonesia's hosting of the G-20 at this crucial time has plunged the Jokowi administration, not known for its foreign policy ambitions, into global politics. And President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo seems to be embracing the moment, embarking on trips to both Russia and Ukraine earlier this year and a rare post-pandemic visit to China in July.
What does Indonesia’s handling of the Russia-Ukraine War, and its G-20 presidency more generally, tell us about Jokowi’s foreign policy approach?
Join us for an online webinar on August 2 at 9:30 p.m. U.S. Eastern / August 3 at 8:30 a.m. Western Indonesia Time.Sign up for the webinar