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This week our top story explores India’s Zojila Tunnel, a route with both local and strategic value. We also have an interview with Gregg A. Brazinsky, a professor of History and International Affairs at George Washington University’s Elliott School for International Affairs about the Korean Armistice Agreement, 70 years on.
The Diplomat Brief
July 26, 2023
Welcome to the latest issue of Diplomat Brief. This week our top story explores India’s Zojila Tunnel, a route with both local and strategic value. We also have an interview with Gregg A. Brazinsky, a professor of History and International Affairs at George Washington University’s Elliott School for International Affairs about the Korean Armistice Agreement, 70 years on.
Story of the week
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The Zojila Tunnel: A Strategic Lifeline to Ladakh

What Happened: The Zojila Pass, situated between Srinagar and Leh, has long been a crucial route through a mountainous area prone to heavy snow and avalanches in winter. In 2018, India inaugurated a herculean tunnel project to provide year-round access for the army and residents of the region, ensuring safer and more secure transport. The project is estimated to cost around 68.09 billion Indian rupees.

Our Focus: Located near the tense China-India border, the Zojila Tunnel is a deeply strategic project. The distance from Baltal to Meenamarg will come down to 13 kilometers from the present 40 kilometers once it is finished; travel time is expected to be cut by an hour and a half and the journey is expected to be less strenuous. The terrain is characterized by steep slopes, rocky surfaces, and unstable glaciers, making the construction process challenging. “We toiled hard,” one worker told The Diplomat about overcoming construction and environmental challenges.

What Comes Next: The Zojila Tunnel is expected to be completed by 2026. On a local level, it will change lives. “The Zojila Tunnel will change our lives for the better… This will bring economic opportunities and prosperity to our remote villages,” one resident told The Diplomat. On a strategic level, the tunnel will solve a logistical problem for India, allowing transport between Srinagar and Leh even in winter when the present route, a national highway through the pass, is impassable.

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Behind the News


Gregg A. Brazinsky

Gregg A. Brazinsky, also director of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies and co-director of the East Asia National Resource Center, on the lessons learned by South Korea from the Korean war: “South Korea is now a flourishing democracy and this has enabled it to have wide-ranging and serious reflection on the meaning and consequences of the war. There is much disagreement in South Korea about how the war should be viewed but there is perhaps consensus on the fact that it was a horrific tragedy that must nor be repeated.”

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This Week in Asia

Northeast Asia

Japan’s Drone Budget is Growing

Tokyo’s spending on uncrewed systems and capabilities appears to have risen considerably, if an overview of the Fiscal Year 2023 budget request published by the Ministry of Defense is anything to judge by. The overview describes a trio of projects aimed at studying and developing various types of armed drones. In all, Japan will spend 182.7 billion yen ($1.37 billion) on drones in Fiscal Year 2023, which began in April.

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South Asia

‘INDIA’ Versus the BJP

India’s new opposition alliance has given itself a smart name. But can its constituent parties hold together and unseat the ruling BJP? The 26-party INDIA alliance, which includes the country’s grand old party, the Indian National Congress, aims to take on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in general elections that are due to take place in 2024. India’s multifarious opposition has struggled since Narendra Modi rose to power in 2014 to coalesce into the kind of national-level opposition that’s required to unseat the BJP at the center.

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Southeast Asia

Prime Minister Hun Sen Dominates Cambodian ‘Election’

This week, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s party claimed a crushing victory in a national election in which it faced virtually no opposition, paving the way for the impending handover of power to his son Hun Manet. According to preliminary results, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won 120 of the 125 seats in the National Assembly, after the main opposition party, the Candlelight Party, was barred from participating. The 70-year-old leader said last week that he plans to hand power to his son, after more than 38 years at the helm, in “three or four weeks,” but it may come at a cost, with the U.S. government announcing a “pause” in aid programs and impending visa restrictions against individuals who have “undermined democracy” in the country.

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Central Asia

What is the Cost of Uzbekistan’s ‘Pragmatic’ Taliban Policy?

Tashkent’s approach to the Taliban’s resurrection in Afghanistan has been called ‘pragmatic’ by many. It has shifted from strict non-engagement to a now steady stream of diplomatic outreach efforts. While Uzbek officials say that Tashkent isn’t going to recognize the Taliban government first, it’s increased pace of engagement suggests Uzbekistan hopes to get back to “normal” business as soon as possible with Afghanistan. Major transport projects, including a railway, hang in the balance, as does Uzbekistan’s ambition to be a bridge between Afghanistan and the world.

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Visualizing APAC

Taiwan’s current energy mix (regarding electricity consumption and primary energy supply) remains dominated by oil, coal, and natural gas, while nuclear and renewables (water included) contribute only marginally. It’s shifted only slightly since 2016.

See the full picture
Word of the Week


Бүтүн Кыргызстан

Butun Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyz for “United Kyrgyzstan,” is an opposition political party led by Adakhan Madumarov.

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The Continued Imprisonment of Idris Hasan

The Diplomat Magazine | July 2023

The Continued Imprisonment of Idris Hasan

This month, our cover story examines the detention of Idris Hasan, whose case epitomizes China’s oppression of the Uyghurs – at home and abroad. We also revisit the legacy of the RAMSI mission in Solomon Islands, trace the history of the Korean War armistice, and examine the state of Bangladesh’s democracy as the country gears up for general elections. And, of course, we offer a range of reporting, analysis, and opinion from across the region.

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Taiwan Fellowship

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