Security in South Asia: India's Emerging Role

Led by Åshild Kolås

Dec 2005 – Dec 2014


The IDSA-PRIO cooperation is an institutional cooperation between the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (New Delhi) and the Peace Research Institute Oslo. Started in early 2006, the cooperation furthers joint research, networking and scholarly exchange. The objective of the cooperation is the development of new knowledge and expertise on topics of mutual academic interest, within the fields of conflict management, mediation, peacebuilding and non-traditional security. Main activities under the cooperation are organized in subprojects, currently covering research on 'Frameworks of South Asian Cooperation on Conflict Management' and ‘Modelling Climate Change and Environmental Challenges in South Asia'. The cooperation also facilitates academic exchange with a focus on research methodology.


Frameworks of South Asian Cooperation on Conflict Management

Project duration: December 2010 - December 2013Main researchers: Uttam Kumar Sinha (IDSA), Smruti Pattanaik (IDSA), Jason Miklian (PRIO) and Åshild Kolås (PRIO)

This project focuses on Indian responses to conflict in its neighbouring countries, with an emphasis on cooperative avenues to resolution. Historically, India has alternated between active engagement, neutral brokerage, and subtle persuasion in attempting to achieve desired conflict management and foreign policy goals with its war-torn neighbours, including Nepal and Sri Lanka. While the immediate post-Cold War period was driven by a mix of liberal internationalism and strategic Realpolitik, India's diplomatic relations with its small state neighbours are now more nuanced, colored by not only domestic experiences of conflict, but also by the increasingly transnational nature of non-state insurgent actors in South Asia. This project will examine Indian perspectives on South Asian regional conflicts, and how they influence India's regional and intenational political role. As an emerging power in Asia, it is important to understand Indian perspectives on peacebuilding, conflict management and human security through its intenal conflict management strategies, in anticipation of Indian actions and policies outside of its borders. In order to explore this interrelation, we will account for the multiple definitions of peacebuilding and human security that exist within India's diverse society. A comparative review of how regional issues are viewed by Indian policymakers and their counterparts in neighbouring countries may reveal new understandings and better strategies to deal with the challenges to states inherent in increased transnationalism, the ease with which

Modelling Climate Change and Environmental Challenges in South Asia

Project duration: December 2010 - December 2013

Main researchers: Halvard Buhaug (PRIO-CSCW) and Nihar Nayak (IDSA)

The South Asian sub-continent is shaped by widespread environmental stress and the continent is probably more exposed to natural hazards than any other region in the world. Climate change is expected to accentuate these trends. Moreover, the region hosts a number of violent conflicts today and faces major demographic, developmental, and security challenges in the years to come. The joint prospect of further population growth and increasing scarcities of renewable resources are usually viewed with much concern, though it may also create opportunities for inter- and intraregional cooperation and development. This project will develop a rigorous statistical methodology for studying the empirical links between rapid environmental degradation, population pressure, and local organized violence in India. A key contribution in this regard will be the development and use of high-resolution geo-referenced data on environmental conditions (e.g. freshwater availability, drought, flood, etc) and violent conflict events. The project thus seeks to evaluate the likely future human security threats directly linked to demographic and environmental stress. The project will also provide an assessment of transnational waters and interstate relations in the region. Water is important not only for household consumption and sanitation but increasingly also for power production (energy security) and irrigation (food security). Anticipated changes in rainfall patterns combined with melting of Himalayan glaciers are likely to put further strains on an already scarce transboundary resource. This part of the project seeks to identify how India and neighboring countries prepare for these challenges and identify instruments, such as proper water management arrangements and early warning systems, which might remedy possible security threats.


Conceptual Frameworks on Conflict Management

Project duration: July 2007 - July 2010Main researchers: Namrata Goswami (IDSA), Jason Miklian (PRIO) and Åshild Kolås (PRIO)

The focus of this subproject is intra-state conflict in India. The literature on intra-state conflict, particularly in the domain of irregular warfare and low intensity conflict, suggests that most of the theoretical/conceptual work on this topic has been drawn from the study of inter-state warfare. The project will assess the current theoretical frameworks and offer policy recommendations relevant to the re-conceptualization of intra-state conflict. The methodology will be comparative, using the Naxalite and Naga insurgencies as case studies. The Naxal movement mobilizes on a Maoist ideological basis and has currently spread to nearly 200 of India’s 602 districts across several states; Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Bihar. The Naxal insurgency is a conflict in which recurrent encounters between rebels and Indian security forces contribute to shaping the conflict and maintaining it over time. The Naga movement has a long history of mobilization around Naga ethnic identity and nationalist ideology. In the Naga case a peace process has been evolving over a number of years. The focus in both cases is on attempts to address the conflict through counterinsurgency, ceasefire agreements and peace negotiations.

More: Frameworks of Conflict Management

Organization and Recruitment in Rebel Groups

Project duration: January 2006 - July 2010Main researchers: Nihar Nayak (IDSA), Jason Miklian (PRIO), P.V. Ramana (IDSA) and Scott Gates (CSCW)

This subproject researches the organizational structure of Indian Left Wing Extremist (LWE) groups to understand patterns of group formation, recruitment, desertion and defection, strategies and tactics, as well as to gain a better perspective on conflict management efforts. The study focuses on the root causes, origins, growth, organizational structures, and geographical reach of Indian LWE (Maoist or Naxalite) movements. A central feature of the project will be an evaluation of the role of democratic institutions, with an emphasis on conflict management efforts. The existing conflict management strategies, and their implementation by federal and state governments, constitute the analytical focus. Ultimately, the study will evaluate the role of civil society to resolve conflicts. Specific hypotheses tested include: (1) States have failed to resolve the Maoist conflict due to lack of institutional initiatives and political willingness; and (2) Maoist outfits operating in India have larger standing armies (successfully recruit more members) in poorer districts with fewer economic opportunities than groups with more economic opportunities.

Human security and Development

Project duration: January 2006 –December 2007
Main researchers: Uttam Sinha (IDSA), J. Peter Burgess and Åshild Kolås (PRIO)

In the post-Cold War era, traditional military-political interstate security concerns have increasingly been replaced by non-traditional intrastate, transnational and global concerns such as the depletion of non-renewable resources, population pressure, pollution, environmental degradation, poverty and social inequality, epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, transnational crime, terrorism and civil strife. Some of these non-traditional issues have found their way into the security agendas of states. The concept of human security captures this trend, and encourages a leap of consciousness in security thinking. However, there is as yet little consensus on the policy relevance of the concept, especially in the ‘human security-development nexus’, which defines the linkages between socio-economic development and human security. This subproject explores a human security approach to two core issues on the human security agenda; water supply and health care provision (focusing on vaccinations). By investigating the roles and relationships of federal and state-level actors, the central government and multilateral agencies, and public/private partnerships in the provision of immunization services as well as water supplies, the project questions the state-individual dichotomy which can be seen as intrinsic to the concept of ‘human security’

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