The independent resource on global security

4. Armed conflict and peace processes in Asia and Oceania


Overview, Ian Davis

I. Key general developments in the region, Ian Davis

II. Flashpoints in the conflict dynamics in East Asia, Fei Su

III. Armed conflict and peace processes in South Asia, Ian Davis and Jingdong Yuan

IV. Armed conflict and peace processes in South East Asia, Ian Davis

Nine countries in Asia and Oceania experienced active armed conflicts in2021, two more than in 2020. Three were in South Asia—Afghanistan (major

internationalized civil war), India (low-intensity, combined interstate border and subnational armed conflicts) and Pakistan (high-intensity, combined interstate border and subnational armed conflicts); four were in South East Asia—a major armed conflict in Myanmar and low-intensity, subnational armed conflicts in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand; and there was a new low-intensity interstate conflict in Central Asia between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Total conflict-related fatalities in Asia and Oceania increased by 59 per cent in 2021 (having fallen by nearly 50 per cent in 2020).


Three trends remained a cause for concern in 2021: (a) the growing Chinese–United States rivalry, combined with an increasingly assertive Chinese foreign policy; (b) the various threats and conflicts falling within the broad terrorism/counterterrorism rubric, involving both states and non-state actors; and (c) the ongoing impact of weather and climate hazards.


Peace processes

Only a few of the armed conflicts were being addressed by ongoing or new peace processes in 2021. The Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea), China and the USA agreed ‘in principle’ to declare a formal end to the Korean War. There was a new ceasefire between India and Pakistan regarding their ongoing interstate armed conflict over Kashmir, as well as a slight thawing in China–India relations. There were five multilateral peace operations active in the region in 2021—the same number as in 2020.



In Myanmar a military coup at the beginning of February 2021 ended the recent short period of civilian rule and led to escalating protests and violence throughout the country. The armed conflict was transformed from a low-intensity to a major armed conflict, with over 11 000 conflict-related deaths in 2021. At the end of the year, government forces and resistance forces—a loose coalition of ethnic armed groups and civilian militias—were locked in a violent stalemate, which regional diplomacy seemed unlikely to break. In addition to armed violence and regime oppression, Myanmar faced a growing humanitarian crisis characterized by deepening economic recession, rising internal displacement, collapsing healthcare, and surging poverty and food insecurity. 

Dr Ian Davis , Fei Su and Dr Jingdong Yuan