Asia Latest Updates


Amid concerns for peace process, Eid al-Fitr holiday brought some respite, with brief ceasefire between Taliban and Afghan govt forces and periods of reduced violence after initial spike in deadly attacks and sharp increase in civilian casualties mid-month.

Afghan forces early May resumed high-intensity operations against Taliban in several provinces including Balkh (north), Ghanzi and Laghman (both east). Following 12 May terrorist attacks on hospital in capital Kabul that killed at least 24 and on funeral in Nangarhar (east) that killed some 32, President Ghani same day said govt forces would resume offensive operations against all insurgent groups; Taliban denied responsibility for attacks while Islamic State-Khorasan Province claimed funeral bombing. Taliban 14 May exploded suicide car bomb in Gardez city, Paktia (east), killing at least five, making it first Taliban-claimed suicide attack in a provincial capital since Sept 2019. Taliban night of 19 May attacked Kunduz provincial capital (north), assaulting at least seventeen security posts around strategic city, at least one soldier and eleven militants killed; hours after attack, Afghan air force bombed hospital in nearby Taliban territory. Unidentified armed groups 20 May attacked mosques in areas with Taliban presence including in Paktia and Khost (east), killing over a dozen. U.S. military action remained at low-level, while U.S. officials publicly reiterated commitment to draw down to 8,600 troops by 15 July as per U.S.-Taliban Feb agreement. Conflict reportedly dipped in some areas, including north east and north west, during Ramadan that ended 23 May. In surprising move, Taliban 24 May announced three-day ceasefire to mark Eid al-Fitr holiday; govt responded they would observe ceasefire and Ghani pledged to release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners; both gestures appeared spurred by U.S. diplomatic pressure. Both sides followed Eid ceasefire with unannounced periods of reduced violence, increasing speculation intra-Afghan negotiations may soon be possible. Ghani and main opponent Abdullah Abdullah 17 May signed deal to form inclusive govt that will see Ghani remain president, both to choose equal number of ministers and Abdullah to lead any peace talks with Taliban.

India (non-Kashmir)

Tensions flared at border with China, security forces continued to confront Maoists, and COVID-19 measures continued to spark social unrest. At disputed Indo-China border, Indian and Chinese soldiers 5-6 May clashed leaving dozens injured on banks of Pangong lake in Ladakh union territory (north); 9 May clashed again leaving several soldiers injured in Naku La area in Sikkim state (northeast). China 15 May denied any wrongdoing, while Indian foreign ministry 21 May said: “All Indian activities are entirely on the Indian side of the LAC [Line of Actual control]. In fact, it is the Chinese side that has recently undertaken activity hindering India’s normal patrolling patterns.” Despite diplomatic and local talks to ease tensions, military build-up reported in multiple locations on both sides of border until end of month, particularly near Pangong lake and in Galwan valley, where China apparently objects to India building new road. Chinese foreign ministry 27 May said border situation “overall stable and controllable”; India’s defense minister 30 May said border row would be resolved through diplomacy. In Uttarakhand state (north), defense minister 8 May inaugurated road linking India and China, and crossing Nepal-claimed Lipulekh pass, triggering strong protests from Kathmandu (see Nepal entry). In Chhattisgarh state (centre), clashes between Maoists and police 8 May left four Maoists and one policeman dead near Pardhoni village; Maoists 11 May opened fire on security forces killing one in Bastar district; security forces 23 May shot and killed two Maoists near Mankapal village. In Maharashtra state (west), security forces 2 May killed senior Maoist commander during search operation near Jaravandi village; clashes between Maoists and police 17 May left two policemen dead in Poyerkothi-Koparshi forest. In Jharkhand state (east), security operations 17-28 May left four Maoists dead in Simdega and West Singhbhum districts. COVID-19 measures continued to fuel tensions across country: notably, the return home of tens of thousands of jobless migrant workers amid lockdown restrictions fuelled protests, including clashes with security forces.


Militant attacks and counter-insurgency operations inside Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) continued at high intensity, while clashes across Line of Control (LoC, dividing Pakistan and Indian-administered Kashmir) persisted. Security forces 2 May killed two militants in Pulwama district; five security forces next day killed during operation which also left two militants dead in Handwara area, Kupwara district; grenade attack injured paramilitary soldier in Srinagar city 4 May. After security forces 6 May killed Riyaz Naikoo, top commander of Hizbul Mujahideen militant group, and three other militants in Pulwama district, protesters clashed with police, and mobile phone and internet services cut for three days in region. Soldier and another Hizbul Mujahideen commander 17 May killed in gunfight in Doda district. Militant commander and son of separatist Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chairperson next day killed in Srinagar along with another militant; 22 houses burnt down during encounter, with local residents accusing security forces of using them as “human shields” and looting their belongings; security forces 24 May detained four alleged Lashkar-e-Tayyaba-linked militants in Budgam district and 30 May three in Baramulla district. Govt continued crackdown on political leaders in J&K; authorities 5 May extended for three months detention under controversial Public Safety Act (PSA) of former Kashmiri Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, of former Minister Mohammad Sagar, and of Mufti’s uncle, Sartaj Madani; former Kashmiri Chief Minister Omar Abdullah same day said PM Modi “single handedly pushed J&K back decades”. Detention of Shah Faesal, who founded J&K People’s Movement party last year, also extended for three months under PSA on 13 May. Cross-LoC fire continued amid hostile rhetoric on both sides; Indian army claimed Pakistani fire 1 May killed two soldiers and injured three civilians; Islamabad 7 May accused India of “deliberately targeting” civilians, said fire had injured total of ten civilians on 7, 18, and 20 May. Indian army chief 4 May accused Pakistan of “limited agenda” of sending terrorists into J&K, warning of “proportionate response to all acts of infringement”; Pakistani foreign ministry 7 May rejected “baseless Indian claims”, said allegations were attempt to create “false flag” military operation against Pakistan.