After a deadly skirmish in June and shots fired in September, Sino-Indian tensions have escalated to a level not seen in decades. Both countries’ foreign ministers recently agreed to a five-point framework to manage the situation, showing both sides want tensions to plateau rather than deteriorate further. But the Line of Actual Control (LAC) will not easily go back to a well-managed bilateral irritant—right now, it’s a dangerous flashpoint and likely to stay that way. USIP’s Vikram Singh and Patricia Kim look at the recent discussions, what’s driving the escalation, how the conflict affects the region, and what history can tell us about how it might be resolved.
The diplomatic agreements being signed this week among the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel present formidable challenges to the long-standing paradigm for peacemaking in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and are yet to provide a viable substitute. While final contours of the agreements remain to unfold, their approach undermines the paradigm of providing an incentive for Israel to accept Palestinian self-determination as part of normalized relations with its Arab neighbors. With the Israeli-Palestinian divide wider now than any time since 1967, the erosion of these cornerstones for peacemaking is a precursor for an eventual new crisis.
The intra-Afghan negotiations that began on Saturday represent a watershed moment in the war: the first direct, official talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. These historic talks commenced 19 years and one day after al-Qaida's 9/11 terrorist attacks drew the United States into Afghanistan's civil war. Just getting the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban to the table is an accomplishment. The main reason the talks materialized is the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in February of this year; that agreement delivered a timetable for the eventual withdrawal of foreign troops, which met the Taliban’s years-long precondition for opening talks with the Afghan government.
A little over a year ago, U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s third meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was making headlines as much for its historic nature—it was the first time that a sitting U.S. president had set foot in North Korea—as for what it represented about the lack of progress in U.S.-North Korea relations. The next U.S. administration, whether it is led by Trump or former Vice President Joseph Biden, will face a more emboldened regime in Pyongyang and, according to experts, must rethink past failed strategies for dealing with this challenge.
Last year was one of the most dramatic years of nonviolent action in recent memory, with millions taking to the streets to push for greater economic equality, democratic representation, and social justice. Some of the most dramatic uprisings took place in Africa, where longstanding repressive political regimes were forced from power in Sudan and Algeria, and protests over fuel prices in Zimbabwe led to a government crackdown. The recent almost entirely bloodless coup Mali, in which soldiers abducted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and forced him to resign capped a similar uprising, but is complicated by the role of the military in the president’s ouster and the COVID-19 pandemic.
People power is a defining feature of our time. In 2019, movements in Sudan and Algeria forced entrenched military dictators from power. In Hong Kong, millions of citizens have taken to the streets to demand democratic self-rule. Chile, Colombia, Lebanon and Iraq faced popular uprisings by citizens railing against corruption, government incompetence and dysfunctional political and economic systems. These protests are happening at a time of resurgent authoritarianism, marked by a 13-year global decline in civil and political rights and an erosion of the rule of law. Widening inequality, rampant corruption, and the fraying of social contracts between governments and their citizens are at the roots of many of these conflicts.
Thailand’s recent protests have burgeoned into a powerful movement that is challenging the country’s longstanding social and political orders. Along with calls for democratic and constitutional reform, many Thai youth and activists have begun openly criticizing the monarchy’s role in public life—something that has long been unthinkable in a country where the monarchy plays a central role in society. USIP’s Brian Harding examines what sparked these unprecedented demonstrations, the resistance protesters have faced from Thailand’s powerful military and government, and where the movement might lead.
For decades, many Arab states were united in their hostility toward Israel and support for the Palestinian cause, even though in some cases that backing was simply rhetorical. In recent years, however, Israel and some Arab countries have engaged in a quiet rapprochement, spurred by common concerns over Iran’s influence in the region, among other things. The August 13 announcement of the “Abraham Accord” between Israel and the UAE was the most public and dramatic demonstration of these shifting regional dynamics. But what does this mean for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role of the region in finding a resolution?
At age 15, Shamima Begum ran away from home in England and, with two girlfriends, ventured into Syria’s war to join ISIS. Within days, she was married to an ISIS fighter; she has since had three children, all of whom have died. Begum, one of 70,000 former residents of the ISIS-declared state now confined in a displacement camp in Syria’s desert, is asking a British court to overturn a government order that stripped her of her citizenship. As nations worldwide seek justice, accountability—and their own security from ISIS’ violent extremism—Begum’s story shows how a “peacebuilding” approach is needed.
Afghanistan’s government is optimistic that the delayed peace talks with the Taliban can start soon, acting Foreign Minister Mohammed Haneef Atmar told an online audience. Atmar’s comments are the latest sign that one reason for the five-month delay, disputes over the two sides’ release of prisoners they have been holding, may be nearly resolved. Taliban attacks on government forces have continued, and civilian casualties have remained high, as the two sides have wrestled over conditions for starting the talks as envisioned in a February agreement between the United States and the Taliban.