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This week our top story explores the potential for an electoral shift in India’s Hindi heartland, long a stronghold of the ruling BJP. We also have an interview with academic Park Yu-ha about her nine-year legal battle following publication of her book, “Comfort Women of the Empire.”
The Diplomat Brief
May 8,
Taiwan Fellowship
Welcome to the latest issue of Diplomat Brief. This week our top story explores the potential for an electoral shift in India’s Hindi heartland, long a stronghold of the ruling BJP. We also have an interview with academic Park Yu-ha about her nine-year legal battle following publication of her book, “Comfort Women of the Empire.”
Story of the week
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Will India’s Hindi Heartland Propel Modi to Power Once More?

What Happened: On May 7, Indian voters took part in the third phase of voting for the country’s 2024 general election. Based on turnout figures thus far, the BJP has reason to be nervous: Turnout is especially low in the Hindi heartland that has historically supplied 60 percent or more of the party’s parliamentary seats. To secure a third term, the BJP must hold its ground in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, and Delhi.

Our Focus: The BJP bagged an impressive performance, particularly in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, in 2019. This time, it set its sights ever higher. Political analysts, however, expect the BJP’s performance to fail to live up 2019’s high standard. “Since the BJP has already peaked in the Hindi heartland, its tally can only go down,” Sanjay Kumar, a political analyst at the Lokniti-CSDS, told The Diplomat. Even a BJP spokesperson told The Diplomat, on condition of anonymity, that the party hadn’t seen a “Modi wave” this time around, with local issues like unemployment and infrastructure gaining more prominence instead.

What Comes Next: The BJP, while officially expressing confidence, is showing some signs of nervousness. It has adjusted its astronomically high aspirations back down, while switching up campaign styles to play up Hindu-Muslim tensions. Few expect the Modi juggernaut to be ousted from power after the polls, the significant change in the BJP’s strategy is worth noting as voting continues. The BJP spokesperson frankly stated that the party hoped to “overshadow the local issues” through the shift in tactics.

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Behind the News


Park Yu-ha

Sejong University Professor Emerita Park Yu-ha, author of the book “Comfort Women of Empire,” on how scholarship on sensitive history faces attack from both sides: “Several conservative academics in Japan and South Korea refute the forced mobilization [of comfort women] narrative entirely. In my book, I criticize both the progressives’ stubborn adherence to the forced mobilization theory as well as the conservatives’ outright denial. In that regard, my argument is distinct from these two views.”

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This Week in Asia

Northeast Asia

Xi Jinping Visits Europe

China’s president is in Europe from May 5-10, his first visit to the continent since 2019. Xi is visiting France, Serbia, and Hungary. The first stop was the most contentious, with Paris pressing Beijing over economic issues as well as its position on the Ukraine war. Serbia and Hungary, by contrast, are China’s most vocal supporters in Europe. Xi will be hoping to dial down criticism – and hopefully convince Europe, and especially France, to break with the United States’ hawkish approach toward China.

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South Asia

Local Elections in Bangladesh

Just four months after the general election returned the Awami League to power for a fifth term, Bangladesh again went to the polls – this time to elect representatives to subdistrict-level bodies. Just like in the general election, the main opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, boycotted the local polls, citing an unfair playing field and a biased Election Commission.

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Southeast Asia

Myanmar Junta Bans Men From Working Abroad

Myanmar’s military junta has banned men from leaving the country for employment purposes if they are eligible for military conscription, according to local media reports published this week. The policy has not been officially announced, but appears to be an attempt to stem the flow of young people seeking to evade service. In February, the ruling military council announced that it would begin enforcing a 2010 conscription law, in an apparent bid to strengthen the army’s depleted ranks after six months in which it has seen a string of embarrassingbattlefield reversals. The conscription policy has led thousands of young people to seek ways of leaving the country, but banning legal work-related travel is unlikely to deter those most fearful of enlistment.

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Central Asia

Central Asian Leaders Showing Up for Russia

On May 9, all five Central Asian presidents are expected to attend Moscow's Victory Day celebrations for the second year in a row. Even as the holiday loses salience in the region, its importance for Russia – and Vladimir Putin – has skyrocketed. Although Central Asia's presidents have, for the most part, pragmatically courted both sides of the conflict epitomized by the war in Ukraine, their appearance in Moscow is a reminder to the West that there’s no divorcing Russia from Central Asia – at least at the political level.

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Visualizing APAC

Source: Uzbekistan Statistics Agency (2000-2022), (2023)

Uzbekistan’s birthrate has surged over the past 20 years, straining its education system.

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Word of the Week



Wàixuān nèixuānhuà: A phrase in Mandarin referring to the trend of China’s external-facing propaganda (外宣) adopting the same strident tones and blunt methods as internal-facing propaganda (内宣).

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Thailand’s Grand Reconciliation

The Diplomat Magazine | May 2024

Thailand’s Grand Reconciliation

This month, our cover story traces the tumultuous saga of the Shinawatra clan – now back in the establishment’s good graces 10 years after a coup sidelined both the family and Thailand’s democracy. We also analyze the duopoly formed by Kyrgyzstan’s president and security chief, and probe the contours of the Afghanistan-China-Pakistan trilateral. And, of course, we offer a range of reporting, analysis, and opinion from across the region.

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