Armed Conflicts in South Asia,Armed Conflicts Issues in South Asia,Studies on South Asia Armed Conflict,Articles South Asia Armed Conflicts,IPCS
Introductory Remarks: Mr. Dhirendra Singh
It is very encouraging to see that such a black subject is being dealt with in a detailed, continuous way, rather than just a snapshot. With the change in times, new writers need to be brought in. Even though there are peace agreements, they do not necessarily lead to conflict resolution with the first chapter using the term "excoriating" to describe the body politic of South Asia.
Prof. P. Sahadevan
This is a volume that really quantifies violence and the impact that it makes on the region. Interestingly, the volume reiterates the general perception of the world about South Asia as it too quantifies violence. For example, the recently released Global Peace Index ranks a country according to how safe a place is for civilians. In the Index, South Asia ranks the lowest possible with the only country above the rank of 25 being Bhutan showing how violence-ridden these states are.
The first chapter not only introduces the book but also summarizes the other chapters. One of the most critical messages that come across is that internal conflicts in South Asia have got roots in internal situations, outweighing the external threats. This is the tough reality. Externalization in South Asia is inevitable, given the close proximity of states, India's centrality, and the transnational linkages between groups and communities. Thus, the societies itself are sources of conflict, though external dimensions cannot be ruled out. In this context, Prof. Chari uses the term 'subterranean conflict' indicative of Kashmir referring to the proxy war strategy of Pakistan which aggravates the situation.
The second point that he makes is about the role of the state as a predominant factor in conflict-generation considering the states inability to fulfill people's expectations. It also reflects on the bad governance throughout South Asia referring to the common thread of corruption, domination of the state, lack of transparency of law, and so on, all of which are sources of conflict. As a result there is also the crisis of legitimacy augmented by the internal conflicts. These internal conflicts are manifestations of the crisis of legitimacy faced by some states. Thus, states appear to be losing control over certain pockets and use violence against their civilians, which are referred to in the book as 'black spots' that mock at state failure in terms of governability. However, the state also ends up being a victim by paying a price for it.
The third important point relates to how conflicts in South Asia have different manifestations, ranging from sectarian to ethnic to revolutionary to ideological that are fought simultaneously. The psychological and economic costs that are heavy and unbearable need to be looked at in more detail.
The role of communication in conflict generation is the fourth important point. Conflict can spread slowly through regions and states. Also, the role of communications in South Asia is a very negative one. Not only groups but states too, do not learn from others and when they do, they sometimes learn the wrong lessons.
The fifth point relates to peace processes, which as mentioned in the book have been very dismal in their outcome. Peace dividends as a whole are very hard to arrive at because sustaining the agreements is difficult because of the complexities involved. Also, South Asia traditionally has focused on a bilateral approach to peacemaking which is changing now due to India's liberalization policy. Although states are now looking towards the international community for peacemaking, the interesting thing is that they do not seek a regional contribution.
Two suggestions to the authors; one is the dilemma of definition. It has been rightly pointed out that the Uppsala Conflict Studies data is unacceptable as it defines the major armed conflicts as arbitrarily. This aspect needs to be looked into and researched by the IPCS, differentiating between the major and the minor conflicts from a South Asian perspective. The other issue is that of categorization of states into failed/failing states from the South Asian perspective. It is used very liberally in the international context but a separate study is required for South Asia.
The final point relates to India's role in the situation. India has a very formal hands-off policy, but many still believe that India has got an informal hands-on policy. There are two reasons for this. One is the policy of non-intervention; by not responding or maintaining silence, it is interpreted as support for the problem. By secretly supporting the state, India is alienating Sri Lankan society. Another point is that the chapter needs to look at the actors in a much broader way - there is a need to look at the opposition, radical nationalists, civil society, Muslims, paramilitary forces and so on.
Lt Gen VG Patankar
This book can become a reference if published annually, as it is comprehensive and easy to access. Why is the situation in South Asia, what it is today? How have the dynamics changed in the region? A strong point of this book is that it says different things to different people, however, the framework appears to be somewhat rigid. Prof. Chari has exemplified certain things, for example how South Asian have repeated mistakes, and put forward the arguments clearly.
In the chapter, "Afghanistan: Continuing Violence," the author defines the principal actors and gives a clear articulation of the activities, providing a good understanding of the evolution of the conflict. Nevertheless, certain repetitions could have been avoided by combining a few things; footnotes could also have been added sometimes.
In "Pakistan: the Sectarian Conflict," there is a clear explanation and argumentation of the situation. NWFP and FATA are different regions with essential differences existing between the two. There is one common factor, though, namely, the presence of Al-Qaeda. The relations between the actors are changing as for example, between the Pakistan Taliban and tribal chiefs - the Pakistan Taliban were pressurized by Mullah Omar's group to bring in the Sharia, which has changed the nature of society. Perhaps some information about Deobandi and Barelvi schools could have been added, because their approach on Islam and ideology are different.
The chapter, "Pakistan: the War of Tribes," is very well articulated. The Pakistan government is placed as the principal actor, it is not referred as the "military regime." The author has clearly identified the roles of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the US; and has succeeded in linking the happenings. The conclusion of this chapter is also rewarding.
The value of this volume could be enhanced with some maps that could help provide a better idea of armed conflicts, their locations and the borders at stake. There is also a lack of tabulated data that could be put in the appendices.
Mr AK Doval
In "J&K: from Militancy to Jihad," while the background and the actors are very well described, there are a couple of omissions, especially the 16 September 2006 Havana meeting in which Pakistan was declared as a terrorist victim state and not as a terrorist sponsor state. This has changed the strategic context of India-Pakistan relations. Thereafter, it has became difficult for India at both the bilateral and multilateral level to deal with Pakistan on terrorism-related issues
Also, in the period 2006-mid-2007, militancy and jihadism have spread from Kashmir to different parts of India. Militancy has been well examined the in context of changing public perception, especially for local people. However, the chapter have separated the problem of politics from governance, which are two different things. For example it is not clear what is meant whenit states that "the political approach has not been consistent." Very good suggestions are made in this chapter, but a small chronology of important events in appendix could have helped.
"Left Extremism: the Naxal Conflict in India," is a very comprehensive paper. One of the main elements in this conflict is the militarization of the movement, which began in September 2004 with the formation of CPI-Maoist. The fighters are paid and trained, and the organization is military. The weapons are also not only looted from local police forces, but are manufactured: the irregular militia is converting into a more militarized movement. Between 2006 and 2007, there has been a strategic and tactical shift, with the involvement of large number of people in the attacks.
To fight against this movement, India needs a very good intelligence service infiltrating the movement, but how do you respond to this movement? Local political parties are among the principal actors in this conflict, even if invisible: they can play the militias against each other and can control the police forces. Left-wing extremism is a political movement, so it has to be fought politically. Governments have to prove to tribal populations that democracy is better than Maoism to solve their problems; minds have to be won over from Naxal thinking.
"Nepal: State in Dilemma," is a very elaborate note. Today it is no longer a situation of armed conflict, but one of political conflict. There is in the chapter, an underestimation of the strength of Terai groups: their case will be important for the future, and particularly interesting for India, as the Terai region has a direct interface with India. In Nepal, some people even suspect that instability in Terai is being caused by India. Another important point to note is the progress on the deposit of weapons by Maoists in Nepal, done under UN supervision: 4,700 weapons have been deposited, but the total number of weapons is estimated to be over 16,000. Why has this process of depositing weapons not succeeded? Was it because leaders decided not to deposit weapons or was it because the militants groups were not ready to?
Two points need to be looked into further in the chapters on Bangladesh and the Northeast. With regard to Bangladesh, the leftist revolution that appeared to be in the offing after Mujib's death can be studied and where there was even talk of an army that would not be based on ranks and hierarchy. In the Northeast, corruption needs to be studied in more detail with special reference to the state of Manipur, which is perhaps in the worst shape of all northeastern states today.
North-East is a major source of internal security threats in India. Why does the government not make it a top priority discussion in Parliament? Corruption has permitted the militancy to thrive in the region; why can this problem not be put on the national agenda?
In the Northeast, the intention was to bring militants into the political process. Yet New Delhi has not found lasting solutions. What is more, as soon as an agreement is concluded with one group, it splinters to produce a group that is opposed to the agreement.
The state must continue to have the monopoly of force otherwise it is a failed state. The solution lies in maintaining adequate presence of the police. In a situation where it faces a proliferation of weapons, India should be able to maintain law and order by force.
There is certainly a need for maps and also for a chronology of events. While maps could be an issue with respect to J&K, regional maps can be looked into in the next edition.
The framework of the book was not rigid but designed so as to ensure that the essential points were not missed out. Though flexibility is needed by the writers a structure was also needed particularly in the country chapters.
There is certainly a need to define armed conflicts in the South Asian perspective. The use of the terms- failed/ failing/ weak, should also be looked into and not be used loosely. One option could be of trying to blend the failing states index with that of the UNDP, and how that could blend with the that of Transparency International, for example
As the topic was specifically related to armed conflicts and not political conflicts, certain actors such as political parties were not considered.