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This week our top story explores the erosions of Ladakh’s traditional culture due to a combination of tourism, militarization, and climate change. We also have an interview with Bolor Ganbold, Mongolia’s first female general, about women in Mongolia’s military and society more broadly.
The Diplomat Brief
August 31,
Welcome to the latest issue of Diplomat Brief. This week our top story explores the erosions of Ladakh’s traditional culture due to a combination of tourism, militarization, and climate change. We also have an interview with Bolor Ganbold, Mongolia’s first female general, about women in Mongolia’s military and society more broadly.
Story of the week
Ladakh at the Crossroads


Ladakh at the Crossroads

What Happened: Nestled between the Himalayan and Karakoram mountain ranges in northern India, Ladakh is a remote, picturesque region culturally distinct from the rest of India. It is also extremely sensitive from a security perspective; China claims the region and Indian and Chinese troops have never fully pulled back from their disputed border after a 2020 clash. The region’s natural beauty brings tourists; the disputed border brings troops. Both have resulted in surging demand for scarce resources like water and wood, disrupting Ladakh’s traditional way of life.

Our Focus: “Along with tourists came the army because of the conflict with China,” Dr. Mohammed Deen, president of LEHO, an organization promoting sustainable development building on Ladakhi traditions, tells The Diplomat. “Last year we got more than 400,000 tourists in one year, more than our entire population,” Deen says, and Ladakh also hosts around 60,000 Indian troops. This influx of visitors puts an additional strain on the region’s already scarce resources even as climate change is beginning to be keenly felt in Ladakh. Glacier melt is disrupting the traditional waterflows, upending agriculture in the region and forcing more people to rely on tourism for their livelihoods – which in turn further exacerbates water scarcity and pollution.

What Comes Next: With major changes underway, most of them out of locals’ control, Ladakh is struggling to figure out its future without abandoning its traditions. Whether that means changing agricultural practices to embrace new crops suited to a new climate, or shifting away from mass tourism to more tailored ecotourism, Ladakhis are testing out ways to preserve their unique cultural heritage.

Read this story
Behind the News


Bolor Ganbold

Brigadier General Bolor Ganbold, the head of the Military Training and Education Department of the General Staff of the Mongolian Armed Forces, on the changing role of women in the Mongolian military: “When I first joined the military there was no professional military female personnel… Today, 28 years later, there are women in every sector of the Mongolian armed forces. Now 14 percent of the Mongolian armed forces are female.”

Read the interview
This Week in Asia

Northeast Asia

Japan’s Triennial Africa Conference

Over the weekend, Tunisia hosted the 8th Tokyo International Conference on Africa Development, the premier platform for Japan-Africa cooperation. The conference, attended by 21 African heads of state (although not Japan’s prime minister, who had tested positive for COVID-19), highlighted Japan’s priorities for Africa policy, including healthcare, human security, and multilateral cooperation.

Find out more

South Asia

Pakistan’s Devastating Floods

Pakistan is in the throes of devastating floods, which have killed over 1,000 people since the onset of this year’s monsoon season. Scientists say the flooding, driven by rainfall nearly 10 times the average level, is linked to climate change and could happen again as the Earth continues to warm. Meanwhile, Pakistan remains ill-prepared for natural disasters, especially in its poorest province.

Find out more

Southeast Asia

A General Election in Malaysia?

Talk of an early general election is swirling in Malaysia, after a senior minister said that the government would announce the national budget on October 7, three weeks earlier than planned. The government insists that there is nothing unusual about the announcement. But powerbrokers within the ruling United Malays National Organisation have increased the pressure on Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to call a general election before the arrival of the monsoon in December, to capitalize on the party’s strong showings at state elections.

Find out more

Central Asia

A Grey Cardinal Falls in Kazakhstan

Once speaker of the lower house of Kazakhstan’s parliament, Nurlan Nigmatulin was sidelined like many Nazarbayev allies in the months after “Bloody January.” He’s now reportedly being investigated, alongside his twin brother, businessman Yerlan Nigmatulin, for a criminal corporate raid against a rival businessman.

Find out more
Visualizing APAC

China’s loans to Sri Lanka have risen markedly since 2009, but international bondholders still control the lion’s share of Sri Lankan debt.

See the full picture
Word of the Week



Turkmen for “the nephews.” In Turkmenistan, it generally refers to Shamyrat Rejepov and Hajymyrat Rejepov, two of the most influential nephews of former President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and cousins to current Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedov.

Find out more
How China’s Party Congress Actually Works

The Diplomat Magazine | September 2022

How China’s Party Congress Actually Works

This month, our cover story delves into the mechanisms driving the CCP’s National Party Congress, which will anoint China’s leadership for the next five years. We also unravel the intertwined factors that led to Sri Lanka’s current economic catastrophe, examine the challenges faced by ethnic minorities in Uzbekistan, and analyze the implications of North Korea’s turn toward tactical nuclear weapons. And, of course, we offer a range of reporting, analysis, and opinion from across the region.

Read the Magazine
Diplomat Risk Intelligence