Many readers have heard of China’s northwesternmost region of Xinjiang for the first time through the governmental documents leaked by The New York Times and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism last spring. Since then, people around the world have come to know of China’s Muslim minorities and their difficult co-existence with the Han majority. Ethnic grievances have shaped life in Xinjiang for decades.
On 5 August 2019, India's BJP-led central government changed the geographical and political status of Indian-administered Kashmir. Together with the abrogation of Article 370 and 35a that protected permanent residents’ exclusive rights over jobs, education and land, Kashmir was divided into two federally administered territories.
It is the dawn of a “new era of peace”. The Bangsamoro armed struggle in Mindanao has come to an end. The conflict between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has gone through different phases of the peace process and has culminated in the passage of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
For several governments, including those in South Asia, the Covid-19 pandemic is today’s 9/11: sudden and deadly, global in impact and an opportunity for establishing a deeper security state to mitigate risk through surveillance, regulation of citizens’ mobility, and at times, even centralized control. These signs of the times are manifest in Sri Lanka as well, noticeably in how the country has veered towards greater militarization in its “war” on the virus and a constitutional crisis.
Even before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2020 had started as a tough year for vulnerable people in Asia. From the battle for the Rohingya rights at the International Court of Justice, to the assimilation of the state of Jammu&Kashmir in accordance with Narendra Modi’s nationalist agenda, the resurgence of sectarian politics over the last few years has aggravated ethnopolitical conflicts in the region.
In times of lockdowns and home office, people yearn for beautiful holiday destinations. Not only in Europe, the Maldives with hundreds of white-beached islands and bright-blue waters are the materialisation of paradise imaginations and as such prominent target of lockdown-induced desire.
The intersection of Covid-19 and conflict in Asia is likely to compound the difficulties in effectively responding to the pandemic as well as increase the likelihood of the escalation or recurrence of armed conflict. There are, however, a number of measures that can be taken to help avoid this outcome.
One small bright spot amidst the gloom of the global pandemic can be found in the far south of Thailand, a region blighted by over fifteen years of bloody and seemingly intractable conflict. In April 2020, the main rebel armed group, Barisan Revolusi Nasional or the National Revolutionary Front, announced a ceasefire until the COVID-19 crisis abated and offered their support for the public health response.
The Covid-19 pandemic overturned the world as we knew it as much as governments resorted to extraordinary measures to stop infections and disease spreading. China was the first country to rely on such extraordinary measures, implementing strict lockdowns and employing sophisticated control technologies throughout the country.