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4. Armed conflict and peace processes in Asia and Oceania


Overview, Ian Davis [PDF]

I. Key general developments in the region, Ian Davis [PDF]

II. Armed conflict and peace processes in South Asia, Ian Davis [PDF]

III. Armed conflict and peace processes in South East Asia, Ian Davis [PDF]

Seven countries in Asia and Oceania experienced active armed conflicts in 2020 —the same number as in 2019. There were three in South Asia: Afghanistan (major internationalized civil war), India (high-intensity, interstate border and subnational armed conflicts) and Pakistan (low-intensity, interstate border and subnational armed conflicts). The other four in South East Asia—Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand—were all low-intensity, subnational armed conflicts. Total conflict-related fatalities in Asia and Oceania fell by nearly 50 per cent in 2020 compared with 2019.


Three emerging trends in the region remained cause for concern in 2020: (a) the growing Chinese–United States rivalry combined with an increasingly assertive Chinese foreign policy; (b) the growing violence related to identity politics, based on ethnic or religious polarization (or both); and (c) the increase in transnational violent jihadist groups. Some of the most organized of these groups were active in South East Asia, most notably in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.


There were five multilateral peace oper­ations active in Asia and Oceania in 2020—the same number as in 2019.



The war in Afghanistan remained the deadliest armed conflict in the world, with nearly 21 000 fatalities in 2020—a 50 per cent reduction on 2019. There were grounds for optimism following a conditional peace agreement between the Taliban and the USA in February 2020 and the start of intra-Afghan peace talks in September 2020. By the end of the year, however, the talks had faltered, violence was continuing, and the future of the peace process remained uncertain.



In Myanmar an ongoing peace process made little headway during the year against a backdrop of continuing violence, especially in Rakhine state. However, Japan brokered a diplomatic break-through between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar military in November 2020 that included a de facto ceasefire. The agreement created a vital space for dialogue and allowed the return of several thousand displaced people. Nonetheless, at the end of 2020, the prospects for the wider peace process and the voluntary return of almost a million Rohingya people forcibly displaced in 2017 remained uncertain, despite worsening humanitarian conditions in the refugee camps in Bangladesh. 

Dr Ian Davis