Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Views from The Diplomat and South Asia Intelligence Review

The Diplomat this week ran an opinion piece attempting to draw lessons from current events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya for India.

I have a number of issues with this article.  For one, it all but neglects surely the most serious internal threat for India in 2011: the raging Maoist movement. 

Secondly, it trumpets the ability of democracy to nullify "the edge" of insurgencies.  Some of the most respected scholars on the northeast (such as Sanjib Baruah in his 2005 book Durable Disorder) have persuasively argued that, although there are performances of democracy in the form of local governments in the northeast, it is the parallel autocratic system of governance, allowed by the AFSPA and executed by the centrally-appointed governors, that is dominant in the region.  The article suggests that is is India's vibrant democracy that has brought ULFA to the negotiating table.  The informed consensus is that it has more to do with a friendly government in Dhaka cracking down on insurgent bases in its borderlands.  Moreover there is a long way to go before a victory can be claimed of the current ULFA talks. 

Finally, the links to the current political upheaval in the Arab world are tenuous.  What the overthrow of a 40 year autocracy in Egypt in a manner of weeks has to do with 50 years of attrition in Manipur and elsewhere in the northeast is unclear.

Another article this week that used the 'Jasmine revolution' as a starting point to assess the state of affairs of South Asian conflicts is to be found in the South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR).  This more factually-based account points to the Maoist insurgency as the exception to a general improvement in the region's conflicts in the last couple of years, including in the northeast.

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