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Towards a Political Economy of
Intra-State Conflicts
Rakesh Gupta*


The world has witnessed an increasing incidence of intra-state conflicts since 1945, and this trend has escalated dramatically after 1989. This has substantially been a product and consequence of the project of modernity and globalisation at the international level. Within India, intra-state wars have frequently been framed in the mould of terrorist movements, and can also be understood within the paradigm of modernity and globalisation.

Three aspects of these conflicts within India are notable. The first of these is their escalating incidence and their conceptualisations on the basis of death rates and the process of war. The second is the character and pattern of the divergent perceptions of terrorism in India, by security personnel, journalists and security analysts. Such analyses have been considerably useful at the ideological and political levels, although there are frequent contradictions. Among the various patterns of such analyses, there is a trend towards a search for explanations other than the conventional 'death rate' or 'process of war' model, and significant among these is a specific focus on political and economic dimensions of the malaise, and on the competing political elites who manipulate the legitimisation process. The third element, the central thesis of this paper, is that it is the current process of capitalist globalisation that creates its own Faultlines, and that these coincide with internal fissures to produce a new turbulence and terrorist politics.




There is evidence to show that intra-state conflicts have markedly increased in the post-Second World War international community. [1] The escalation of intra-state conflicts especially after the 1989 phase marked by the end of the Cold War, and the decline of the USSR in 1991, shows that intra-state conflicts are mostly post-modern in that they are non-Westphalian [2] , that is, wars are no longer being fought among sovereign states owing to the anarchy of the international system. Democratic states have not fought amongst themselves, it is claimed, at least not since the end of the Second World War. They have no doubt had 'economic wars'. Wars are being fought within states that have been traditionally marked by hierarchy. Now this hierarchy is itself disturbed, while the international system itself is marked by a diminution of anarchy. The distinguishing characteristics of contemporary wars are the following:

1.     The neo-realist paradigm posited anarchy externally and hierarchy internally. However, there is now increasing evidence that external anarchy is being replaced by order and that internal hierarchy is being replaced by anarchy.  This is most evidenced in the decline of structures of governance in the face of internal wars. In some cases parallel authorities are seen to emerge and hold sway.

2.     The fights are not between states. There are more than two parties to it internally.

3.     One of these is a regular force of the state – military, para military and police.

4.     Contemporary wars are on issues of territoriality, [3] scarce natural resources, [4] for primordial, instrumental [5] and constructivist use of ethnicity. [6] The constitutive theory suggests that ethnic constructs emerge from within the webs of social interactions. As social interactions change, the conceptions of ethnicity also evolve. For instance, federal arrangements in Yugoslavia led to the growth of Yugoslav identity. The failure of federalism may force the same individuals to return to their more particular ethnic roots. In India's case, we notice that the category of the 'secular Indian' made people identify themselves with Indian nationalism. With the rising attack on political nationalism from a religious and communal perspective, cultural nationalism is becoming the basis of identity of both individuals and groups. At the time of Indian independence, similarly, when Assam was asserting its linguistic identity, there was no sub-regional linguistic demand for the Bodo language to be recognised. However, once the Assamese language was granted official status, and Indian nationalism was confronted with the agitation in Assam in the context of immigration, the Bodos raised the issue of their linguistic identity. This led to inter-ethnic conflict and war.

5.        Conflict resolution has been achieved through military means. It may lead to the restoration of electoral and democratic processes in J&K. In the Punjab it was police action and the goodwill built by the Army that led to the restoration of the political process.

6.        These wars are protracted, often lasting for more than twenty years, e.g. Angola, Philippines, Kurdistan, Columbia and Myanmar, the last of which commenced in 1948 and is yet to be resolved. In India, the intra-state conflict in Nagaland has persisted since the 1950s.

7.        Many of these conflicts involve foreign intervention­­­ – both overt and covert. The anti-regime fighters are not regulars, and they include mercenaries, women, children, and civilians. In some cases doctors, dentists, ancient holy men, farmers, professors and workers are involved in the conflict. [7]

8.        The methods of warfare include gang wars, genocide, repression, ethnic cleansing, communal violence, assassinations, contamination, bomb blasts, hijackings, visits abroad to plan and commit acts of terror, and to select targets. In some cases, the danger of the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) has been hinted. [8]

Intra-State wars have been defined on two bases: quantitative and qualitative. The quantitative basis relates to the death casualties. Wars in which less than 1000 deaths are inflicted are regarded as minor wars. If there are 1000 deaths or more in the history of a war, but less in one year, these are termed intermediate wars, while those in which there are over 1000 deaths in a year constitute major wars. The second and the third categories are regarded as wars proper, and have accounted for two-thirds of all conflicts in 1998.

The most-affected regions have been Asia and Africa. Out of 13 wars in 1998, nine were in Africa. Over the decade 1989-99, there were 108 conflicts in 73 locations, out of which 36 remained active in 1998; another five new ones broke out in 1998, and 7 were listed in 1997. Intra-state conflicts escalated from 43 in 1989, to 92 in 1998. The number of those that had foreign intervention rose from one in 1989 to 9 in 1998. [9] In India, in Punjab alone 21,469 lives were lost over the period 1981-93. [10]

The qualitative dimension relates to the processes of war. [11] A Study Group at the Hamburg University suggests that a war is a violent mass conflict, fulfilling the following three characteristics.


1.     Two or more armed forces are involved in the fighting, where at least one of them is a regular-armed force of the government in power.

2.     Both sides show a centrally directed organisation of battles, even if this means only organised defence or strategically planned attacks.

3.     Armed operations show a certain degree of continuity, and are not simply spontaneous, occasional confrontations. The involved actors are acting according to a recognisable strategy.

A different process is highlighted in another study. Three questions are identified here as well.

1.     Does the activity involve lethal force by a political entity for a political end?

2.     Does the activity involve the reciprocal use of lethal force against the cohesion of the employment of the targeted political entity?

3.        Does this activity involve the reciprocal use of lethal force by both sides, employed in accordance with the principles of combat?

 These three elements define the new face of wars in the context of the post-nuclear war scenario. [12]

From the perspective of the Indian experience we notice that intra-state conflicts involve:

1.     Military training of combatants of the home country in the neighbouring country.

2.     Existence of trained foreign mercenaries.

3.        Financed by the arms-drugs covert trade across borders with foreign planned actions to engage military forces or attack military buildings and civilian targets. The post-Kargil winter offensive demonstrated a new strategy, in that the attacks were increasingly against military targets.

The three variants outlined above represent a qualitative identification of elements of the war process in inter-state and intra-state conflicts. The Hamburg school noted that there were 196 wars in the period between the end of World War II and the New Year’s Eve of 1996. In 1996, it registered 28 wars of which two, in Chechnaya and Mali, definitely ended in the same year. The number of wars fought per year had steadily increased until the year 1992, which marked, with 52 wars, the peak since 1945.  Secondly, during the period under study, 129 out of 196 wars were intra-state wars, while only in 43 cases did wars, in the classical sense of interstate wars, occur. The remaining cases were mixed, showing components of the two. Anti- regime wars and other intra-state wars waged over issues of secession or autonomy of regions have been the most frequent types of war in the last few decades. Thirdly, most of the wars have been in the Third World, and Great Powers were involved in most of these Third World conflicts. The most war-torn regions were the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia. In the case of India, the war process of inter-state and intra-state conflicts blurs, especially since the major Indo-Pakistan wars have been preceded by irregular operations and massive infiltration. Since 1979, the intra-state conflicts in Punjab and J&K have had the character of state-sponsored proxy wars. The focus, therefore, is also on the training of infiltrators across the borders in these two states, and earlier, in the Northeast. Kargil represents a new category, described as ‘near War’. The Executive Summary of the Committee in the Kargil Committee Report describes it as 'aggression'. It was war by stealth and could not be regarded as an intra-state conflict. Discussion on the Kargil 'war' is, however, outside the scope of this paper, though the significance of such a discussion cannot be minimised.

Table 1: Classification of Major Internal Conflicts in India



Tai Asom, ULFA, Boro/Bodo.


West Bengal: Himalaya: Gorkha


Nagaland: Naga (RGN, NNC, NSCN-IM and K),

Manipur (KNA, NSCN, Meitei).

Mizoram: Mizo (MNF)


Ethno-nationalist, anti-regime and inter-ethnic.

Anti-regime, ethno-nationalist and inter-ethnic.

Anti-regime, ethno-nationalist & inter-ethnic.


Anti-regime & inter-ethnic.

Anti-regime & ethno- nationalist.


Jammu & Kashmir

Kashmir, Jammu, Ladakh & Chamba






Ethno-nationalist, inter-ethnic and inter-religious.





Anti-regime, communal (inter-religious)




Anti-regime, gang-war



In India, there have been no gang wars except in Bihar, no genocidal campaigns, and no wars of decolonisation, in contrast to some other Third World countries. India has primarily experienced anti-regime, ethno-religious and inter-ethnic wars. In Western literature, the ethno-religious is often reflected as ethno-nationalist. Table 1 represents the classification of major Indian conflicts under these categories.




Within the broad streams of interpretation in India, perceptions of these conflicts refer to a range of super-structural factors, including demography (Northeast), ideology and politics (J&K, Punjab and the Northeast). The terrorist challenge is to the so-far-dominant secular and political nationalism, as well as to the original amiability of religious persuasions. A sampling of some of the various patterns of commentary is given below:

·      "Terrorism elevates politics to the level of quasi-religious movements." [13]

·      "The growth of Muslim fundamentalism in Kashmir has unfortunately been more by default." [14]

·      "The contemporary Kashmir Problem dating from 1988-89 contains a volatile mix of self determination (including national self determination) and Islamic fundamentalism." [15]

·      "The very essence of the Pandit is a Challenge to attempt a total Islamisation of the valley and reversal of its cultural traditions that are fundamentally Hindu in essence." [16]

·      "Launched in the early 1980s by a group of bigots who discovered their justification in a perversion of the Sikh religious identity, and supported by a gaggle of political opportunists both within the country and abroad, this movement had consumed 21,469 lives before it was comprehensively defeated in 1993." [17]

·      "The fear that the immigrant population- the outsiders- would one day dominate them is keeping most of secessionist movements alive in the Northeast." [18]

·         "Religious and ethnic cleavages created by the activities of various political groups have further aggravated the internal stability situation." [19]

Common to all these writings is a nuanced appraisal of the external linkages of this politics and its roots in bad governance. Invariably all accounts blame the political class, or segments of it, and the operation of the political process, especially the politics of vote banks. The view that terrorism is high voltage party politics [20] has found its expression in comments on the activities of the RSS, the Akali Party, the Congress, the National Conference, the Naxalites and regional parties. Over the decades, the party system in India has shifted from one dominant party to coalition party governments at the Centre, and to a multi-party system from a two-party system in the States. Terrorism in India took roots after 1967, but especially after 1971.These two dates are related to the emergence of the coalition governments in the States and the crisis of the Congress government at the Centre, and to India's victory against Pakistan, respectively. The continuous erosion of the Centrist political system, accompanied by the gradual escalation of terrorism, is in conformity with Leonard Wienberg’s thesis that the proliferation of parties leads to the phenomenon of terrorist politics. The role of political parties and existing power elites in these circumstances has been observed in virtually every theatre of terrorist strife in India.

In Assam, the political process was threatened with disruption through demographic changes that were recognised both by the political parties in Assam and the then Chief Election Commissioner, S. L. Shakdher, in 1978. It was prognosticated that by 1991 ‘…the State would have to reckon with the foreign nationals who may probably constitute a sizeable percentage, if not a majority of the population of the State.’ The growth of the militant United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) followed the Assam agitation for the identification and expulsion of these 'foreigners'. Militancy was conceptualised in terms of the failure or impotence of democratic processes to achieve a satisfactory resolution of conflict. The ULFA leadership spoke of their belief that the All Assam Students Union’s (AASU) proposed agitation against the immigrants would not work, that a long term solution was needed, and that Delhi would not listen to mere satyagrahas but only to a more militant voice. The ULFA, consequently, spoke of a swadhin (free) Assam, where "scientific socialism, would be the way of life and where its natural resources would be exploited for the benefit of its own people - all its people, including the immigrants - and not to benefit unscrupulous power elites in Delhi." [21] .

In Punjab, according to K.P.S. Gill, "The Sikh religious leadership - and prominently among them the Alkalis… picked up the fundamentalist card; moreover, it was this leadership that either participated in, encouraged, or failed to oppose or, dissociate itself, from the campaign of terror for Khalistan." [22] .

In Kashmir, "Barring a solitary exceptions of the 1977 Assembly elections, rigging punctuated every election in the State, particularly the Valley. However, in 1987, fundamentalists got an opportunity on a platter to whip up anti-India feelings. Had the 1987 elections been fair, the secessionists would have invented another reason to advance their nefarious designs. But the people surmised that Rajiv Gandhi and Dr. Farooq deliberately took away their right to vote and betrayed them by massive rigging. The MUF came in for favourable mention in every home, in every office and in every lane and by-lane of Kashmir. People began to perceive bad administration, rigged elections, etc., as a consequence of Kashmir’s accession to India.’ [23]

Briefly put, the logic is that the political process and the formulation and implementation of policy added to the crisis in qualitative terms. Most of these analyses treat the administrative dimension of the problem in a manner that blames the governments of the day, even as they blame them for treating the problem of terrorism purely as a law and order problem or a problem related to development. Marwah expresses this position succinctly in the context of the Punjab militancy: "The government treated terrorism merely as a law and order problem. The solution to terrorism, as the policy makers in New Delhi wrongly believed, did not lie in taking over the administration directly by New Delhi…. This mistake was repeated by the V. P. Singh government in 1990 when it left Farooq Abdullah with no option but to resign by appointing Jagmohan as the governor of Jammu and Kashmir." [24] . Marwah's criticism, however, extends well beyond the political executive, and is directed equally at various 'security experts' who endorse a reductionist approach to the terrorism. "It is not the political leaders alone who fail to grasp this essential fact and the complex nature of the problem." [25]

The administrative seclusion of the Northeast has been widely commented upon. "The unapproachable land and the little known ways of the people kept them isolated from the mainland with no interaction with the rest of India in social, economic and political fields." [26] With reference to the Constitution-making process, Jafa notes: "The notion of independence had created amongst the tribal elite a sense of expectation which was partly romantic and partly political, and which they could not articulate except through the projection of identity in the vastness of India. The Constituent Assembly failed to meet these expectations or to adequately involve the hill tribes in the process of determination of the ways in which their territories were going to be governed in a free India." [27]

A more rigorous analysis of the situation in internal terms comes with reference to the Northeast from Ajai Sahni and J. George. Their focus is on the internal dynamics in a situation of terror, [28] and offers an alternative perspective to the conventional law and order and developmental approaches. Sahni & George's premise is that "irrespective of underlying causes, objections or ideology, once levels of violence and of general civil administrative collapse have exceeded certain parameters, they set into motion dynamics that are entirely autonomous and independent of the antecedent or ‘triggering’ mechanisms and motives." Consequently, they make no attempt to analyse any such 'causal factors', [29] and reject the developmental theory because they believe that the Northeast has had enough of development funds, and that more funds will not help the situation. Instead, they raise issues related to the destination of these funds. They argue that the cycle of terrorism cannot be broken through such a strategy of massive investment in development, since the destination of all such monies is, on the one hand, the corrupt elite composed of the politician-bureaucrat and contractor, and, on the other, the terrorist groupings themselves. 

Nor, indeed, will the law and order approach meet the challenge. This perspective ignores the fact that once insurgent violence reaches a certain level it is accompanied by the collapse of the institutions of governance, including the justice system, throughout the affected areas. Terrorism affected regions are transformed into a mobile battlefield between the extremists and the security forces. Instead of the State government, which inevitably collapses, a corrupt elite emerges and establishes complex linkages with the terrorists and insurgents. The result is that a terrorist economy develops with the following features: a thriving economy of extortion, smuggling, gun running, narcotics, and an oligopolistic control over government contracts. Sectarian conflicts within terrorist outfits then take on the character of turf wars to retain or gain control over "lucrative areas of influence," especially important routes of illegal cross-border trade, including the drug trade.

Terrorist groups also progressively usurp government functions, namely, protection to life and property and provision of 'justice' to local communities. They are described as 'criminal entrepreneurs' and in their group life they represent the processes and operations of organised crime. The collusive terrorist-elite regime has symbiotic relations with the market: public distribution assets are transferred to the open market to be sold in black. A major chunk of rural development funds goes to them. As a result, terrorist groupings become centres of employment and give salaries that are much higher than those given to the police and security forces officers. All this leads to a decline in the government’s capacity to perform essential functions and roles, specifically, to protect lives, enforce ordinary laws, reward and punish, collect taxes, carry out functions of financial management, enforce discipline among State employees, and evoke a fear of sanctions.

This insightful analysis has parallels with studies of other intra-state conflicts. Jung and Schlichte, [30] for instance, explore the economy of intra-state wars in a variety of theatres and interpret it within the context of the emergence of 'warlordism'. Wars in Columbia and Afghanistan, in Liberia and Myanmar, they assert, have become the primary sources of support and livelihood for large numbers of persons living in the affected areas. In this sense, conflict has become a system of social production, which inflicts enormous costs on the larger population, but proves significantly profitable for the dominant minority. In this context, war and trade are not mutually exclusive. The economy itself becomes a means of warfare. In the post- modern phase of intra-state wars, the actors in regional wars are more and more compelled to secure their material resources and reproduction beyond inspired political support. As the institutions of the state collapse, wars become more and more an essential resource gathering exercise. New warlords thus emerge to carry out these functions, with or without external links. The warlord is the political and military leader, and becomes an entrepreneur whose activities are grounded in military power and the use of force. This analysis applies equally to the conflicts in Cambodia and Sri Lanka.  

These internal circumstances coalesce with the external factor. Afsir Karim analyses the transnational character of the terrorist menace as well as its All- India linkages in terms of the Pakistan factor, gun running, hawala transactions, the role of the LTTE and the geographical reach and spread of this network into Europe. The analyses show that the trends in the expansion of the network are not only centred on the role of foreign states, but that they have also assumed an autonomous character, establishing independent networks within India and across sovereign states. [31] Every Indian commentator has referred to the transnational character of contemporary terrorist and other intra-state conflicts. 

Religious fanaticism has played a critical role in a number of recent terrorist conflicts, and has been an important factor in the trans-national 'export' of terrorist movements. Nevertheless, religious fanaticism alone, with or without external linkages, is inadequate to explain the multiplicity of factors that fuel terrorism. Martha Crenshaw notes that, to arrive at a correct perception of the causes of the terrorism, one needs to study a complex of motivating factors. [32] The issue of motivations may lead one to look at Freudian analysis, but need not militate against structural analysis. Both these can enrich our understanding of terrorism, and complement each other. For Crenshaw, the causal chain that leads to the commission of acts of terror is intricate. While a consensus between the perpetrators may precede the decision to commit a terrorist act, there is not automatic link between such an act and its causal factors. As with any other political decision, such an act is influenced by psychological considerations and internal bargaining, as well as by reasoned or strategic reactions to opportunities and constraints, perceived in the light of organisational and personal goals. Looking at motivations in Kashmir, both Arjun Ray [33] and V.N. Narayanan [34] find that religion has not been the motivating factor for the terrorists. The 'good things of life', the lure of quick gains, and the acquisition of status and its attached symbols play a crucial role. These proximate motives are clearly illustrated by the life led by the ULFA Chief, Paresh Barua. The girl who became a human bomb, killing Rajiv Gandhi, reportedly spent the last few days of her life happily eating chicken biryani and watching movies. [35] There is, however, no denying the fact that religion is used for the purpose of mass mobilisation in order to cause the crisis of legitimacy, [36] especially by the rightwing forces. [37]

Irrespective of causal factors and mechanisms identified, the entire gamut of analyses point to the crisis of Indian democracy with reference to the political class, bureaucrats and businesses. Decision making, and policy formulation and implementation are repeatedly defined as 'knee jerk' responses, in that they treat the phenomenon of terrorism either as a law and order problem or as a problem of developmental funding. The policy options are, consequently, limited to an exclusive emphasis on policing, on the one hand, or to throwing money at the problem with the hope that this will lead to an eventual resolution, on the other. All hopes are belied, since policing does not even pretend to address the causal or proximate dynamics, and funds simply feed corruption and the growth of criminal entrepreneurs or warlords. The latter phenomenon is often related to the larger issue of chronic corruption in the economy.

Corruption in general is a psychological and structural problem, with enduring linkages that find their sources within the government and in private efforts to secure advantages within legitimate businesses. This symbiotic relationship is expressed in ‘criminogenic asymmetries’. [38] The existence of illegal markets furnishes opportunities for illicit profit, reduces transparency, prevents accountability and weakens social controls.

Corruption is the abuse of legitimate power for illegitimate ends. It includes benefits secured improperly for an organisation (e. g. government, agency, political party, company, or business house), family, or individuals. Its primary expressions are domestic and international bribery, illicit political contributions, other illicit payments, fraud, buying and delivering of votes, abuse of power, breach of trust, and misappropriation of public funds. Other offences play a supportive role by facilitating the commission of malpractice, the processing of illegal proceeds, or destruction of evidence of the initial crime. At the political level, the process begins with lobbying, which can be seen as institutionalised polyarchy. Corruption is covert privatisation and is systemic rather than individual, based in structural disjunctions, mismatches and inequalities in the sphere of politics, culture, economy and the law.

The criminal dimensions of corruption include: the creation of opportunities for illicit profit; the production or strengthening of the demand for illegal goods and services; the generation of incentives for particular actors to participate in illegal transactions; and the reduction of the ability of authorities to control illegal activities. These would evidently have both domestic and international dimensions and consequences. Asymmetries are conducive to corruption both directly and indirectly, through the creation of illegal markets, which operate through the collusion of authorities. Economic and political asymmetries create flight of capital, foster attitudes that justify corruption as functional and beneficial to local economies, or as a way to redistribute wealth. Passas suggests in the global context, "So-called free markets, which are more of a theoretical construction than an empirical reality, have repeatedly and frequently demonstrated the scope of corruption." [39] The dialectic of the process is that, while the international market may thrive with all the manifestations of corruption in evidence, developing governments may be delegitimised by these. The piracy of flurocarbons, for instance, may help the local economy; but the region most dominated by intra-state wars is also the region dominated by piracy. [40] Markets fail, they get distorted and the success stories lead to corruption. Depending on the needs of the dominant interests, certain activities are given certain evaluative labels. Today, piracy is regarded as bad, but once upon a time it led to privateering and buccaneering in the context of the Anglo-French rivalry. Later on the buccanneers were incorporated in the local administration in the Caribbean. The processes of corruption are related to the global economy as much as they are to the local polity. They are the products of the process of modernisation as much as is the resurgence of religious and cultural ideologies, and contribute directly, as we note below, to the escalating pattern of intra-state conflicts.





The post -Second World War globalisation has crumbled, and with it the liberal \ socialist \ national liberation agenda. The crisis of liberalism is clear in this threefold collapse if one looks at each element as a variant of the liberal paradigm, which came into being in 1789. [41] Even if the Marxist paradigm is not read in this manner, it must be recognised that the three intellectual trends have now, at the empirical level, given way to a neo-liberal agenda that seeks to contain the newer tensions generated by larger groups of people who now occupy the global stage, and the emerging complexities of their political and institutional intercourse. Two hundred years of a history of accelerating global transformations have been marked by the break up of the world into new axes around various macro and micro regional variables. The NAFTA and the European Union with a common currency exist within micro regions that seek to go beyond the confines of the state boundaries for purposes of integration. The "…macro-regions are political economic frameworks for capital accumulation and for organising inter-regional competition for investment and shares of the world market. They also allow for development through internal struggles of different forms of capitalism. Macro-regionalism is one facet of globalisation, one aspect of how a globalising world is being restructured." [42] .

These twin restructuring processes comprehend the political and cultural implications of the new movements that have emerged around issues of feminism, environment and peace, led by new social groups belonging to the better placed sections of society. At the political level such restructuring might involve, not local, but integrated governance, e.g. as in Switzerland. Restructuring has also generated massive and permanent unemployment within USA, Europe and Japan, now further joined by erstwhile eastern bloc countries in Europe. Here, the welfare agenda of the state has been eroded and the neo-liberal agenda is being fostered, even foisted. A typical case of what is happening in the new Europe is the instability of states that emerged out of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the meltdown that began in the Russian federation in 1998. [43] . The Russian meltdown has resulted in spiralling crime, in which contract killings are followed by suicides. It has meant deconstruction of the Russian federal state into regional business and political elites that deal with Europe independently. The growth of an All-Russian elite that inhibits the reconstruction of the state, is the new reality that Putin faces. A new managerial capitalism is also developing in the earlier East European polities. [44]

Within the context of the restructuring process, the Third World can be divided into three categories. The first of these includes the 'emerging countries': Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, along with China. The second category comprises the marginalised countries of Latin America and India, whose industrial capacities are not being utilised owing to lack of regional integration, and whose modest growth rates combine with huge inequalities, according to these theorists.  The third category of the African, Arab and the Islamic world, is the 'excluded' one in the international division of labour. [45] In this last category are, on the one hand, the swelling numbers of people who have been pauperised as a result of the processes of modernisation and globalisation and, on the other, some of the extremely rich 'oil dollar' countries, where real growth is non-existent. Both these are not active agents in the contemporary world system.

India is on occasion also included in this category since, it is alleged, its contribution in the world capitalist division of labour is marginal. Nevertheless, this point of view is difficult to support, given India's record of growth. Such a categorisation is also rejected by theorists of the centre-periphery. It must, moreover, be noted that India is not a peripheral state since it is not governed, as are other South Asian and Middle East countries, by auxiliary and intermediate classes who have turned themselves into governing castes. It is governed by a broad coalition of classes with a national agenda and not a regime agenda. As a result the gap between the state and civil society is the least in this country, in comparison to the other countries of the Third World / South Asia.   Furthermore, its capitalist class has been developing constantly since the period of the freedom struggle, as are its other classes. Their commitment to the nation-state is well founded and recognised in the public sphere. Finally its industrial capacity is the most advanced in the Third World. In the sense that India has its own industrial capacity, skilled labour, a liberalised financial sector and an agenda of its own, it cannot be regarded as a peripheral entity. It has established its own position on as wide a range of issues as terrorism, human rights, nuclear proliferation and ecology, to mention a few issues connected with the processes of globalisation. At the internal level it has a shown capacity to alleviate poverty and meet threats to its sovereignty and integrity in a manner that reflects the state’s functional flexibility. These characteristics also manifest themselves the Indian government's dealings with episodes of tension, strife, challenge, angst, revolt and open and clandestine war born of both relative and absolute deprivation, as also in relation to trans-national terror.

There is a need to distinguish between active and marginalised peripheries. China and India belong to the category of active peripheries (or the semi-periphery). These two are now at different stages of state capitalism, with attendant problems of relative and absolute deprivation, and with the difference of communist and coalition governmental arrangements, each pursuing its own agenda of liberal reform.

Others who are at lower levels of activism, are countries in Southeast Asia, and some Latin American countries. They have their own national projects that confront the global project. The marginalised peripheries have specific problems that do not  allow them to be viewed as living under civil, nay civic, conditions of rule of law or a system in which there is condition of primitive accumulation. For example in Africa, which is the centre of major intra-state conflicts, the story is one of failure. "Along with the failure of socialism, there is the still larger and much more failure of whatever, in Africa, has been introduced as capitalism; the failure, that is to say, to solve by the methods or systems of capitalism any great social or economic problem of indigenous African development." [46] There is hopeless bankruptcy and by 2025, Africa will be a continental slum. Starvation is the naked truth. Petty crime, gang warfare, lineage solidarity among those not yet severely divorced from their rural origins, and a host of ingenious escape routes from starvation are witnessed. Civil society is fast vanishing. In certain states, capitalism has not even created the conditions of primitive accumulation.

The processes of globalisation have thus created a global society, which is deeply fragmented, "…divided by fractures of many kinds – of income, wealth and class; of knowledge and power; of gender, life style and culture; and of course of nation, race and ethnicity. The obstacles to social integration (of the kind classically understood by sociologists) are so many that even a comprehensive description and analysis would actually be very different." [47]

Thus, as the advanced West moves towards its own re-integration, sidelining the nation states, the Third World states are seen to be disintegrating along faultlines created by the processes of modernity and globalisation. Critically, both the forces of globalisation and of cultural deconstruction  are responsible for weakening the state as its sovereignty is sought to be eroded by supra-state institutions, and its authority is simultaneously challenged by sub-national agendas. India is among the nations that are currently witnessing a change in its political vocabulary as a result of causes that have roots within the country; at the same time, these are getting integrally linked to globalising forces that trigger and reinforce localising ethnic phenomena. [48] Contemporary theory and national policy will have to grapple with this twin phenomenon if the spiral of violence is to be unwound.


*       Dr. Rakesh Gupta is a Professor at the Centre of Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

[1]      Gurr, Ted and Haarf, Barbara, Ethno Political Conflicts in World Politics, Oxford, 1994, p. 6-7.

[2]      Moller, Bjorn, 'The Faces of War', inWiberg, Hakem and Scherrer, Christian P., Ed., Ethnicity and Intra-State Conflicts, Types Causes and Peace Strategies, Ashgate, 1999, pp. 15-34.

[3]      Forsberg, Toumos, 'Terrible Territoriality? Issues in Recent Literature on Conflict over Territory', in Wiberg & Scherrer, ibid., pp. 92-105.

[4]      Haugue, Wenche, 'The Role of Development and Environmental Change in Conflict Over Territory', in Wiberg & Scherrer, ibid., pp. 108-121.

[5]      Vukovic, Gojko, Ethnic Cleavages and Conflict: The Sources of National Cohesion and Disintegration, The case of Yugoslavia, Ashgate, 1999; Stavenhagen, Rudolfo, Ethnic Conflicts and Nation States, UNRISD, 1996.pp. 1-15

[6]      Lake, David A., and Rothchild, Donald, 'Spreading Fear: The Genesis of Ethnic Conflict', in Lake & Rothchild, Ed., The International Spread of Ethnic Conflict: Fear, Diffusion and Escalation, Princeton, 1998, pp.1-20

[7]      Bell, J. Bower, The Dynamics of the Armed Struggle, London: Frank Cass, 1998, p. 75.

[8]      Dishman, Chris, 'Trends in Modern Terrorism', Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, Volume 22, No. 4, October-December, 1999, pp. 357-362;Stern, Jessic, The Utimate Terrorists, Cambridge, M. A.: Harvard University Press, 1999, pp. 1-160.

[9]      Wallensteen, Peter & Sollenberg, Margareta, 'Armed Conflict', Journal of Peace Research, Volume 36, No. 5, Sage/Prio, Oslo, 1999, p. 593-595.

[10]     Gill, K.P.S., 'Endgame in Punjab: 1988-93', in Gill, K.P.S. & Sahni, Ajai, Ed., Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution, Volume 1, ICM-Bulwark Books, New Delhi, 1999, p. 1. The paper is also accessible at

[11]     Jung, Dietrich and Schlichte, Klaus, 'From Interstate War to Warlordism: Changing Forms of Collective Violence in the International System', in Wiberg & Scherrer, Ed., op. cit., p. 42-47.

[12]     Hanle, Donald F., Terrorism: Newest Face of Warfare, NY: Pergamon-Brassey'sInternational Defence Publishers, 1989, pp. 103-130.

[13]     Marwah, Ved, Uncivil Wars: Pathology of Terrorism in India, New Delhi: Harper Collins, 1995, p. 6.

[14]     Nayar, Lt. Gen. (Retd) V.K., PVSM, SM, Threat from Within: India's Internal Security Environment, New Delhi: Lancer Publishers, 1992, p. 70.

[15]     Narayanan, M.K., National Security: The Internal Dimension, RGIS, New Delhi, 1994, p. 5.

[16]     Maheshwari, Anil, Crescent Over Kashmir: Politics of Mullaism, New Delhi, 1993

[17]     Gill, K.P.S., op. cit., p. 80.

[18]     Marwah, Ved, op. cit., p. 227.

[19]     Karim, Afsir, Transnational Terror, New Delhi: Lancer Publishers, 1993, p. vii.

[20]     Wienberg, Leonard, Political Parties and Terrorist Groups, London: Frank Cass,  1992, pp. 125-139.

[21]     Hazarika, Sanjoy, Strangers of the Mist: Tales of War and Peace from India's Northeast, New Delhi: Penguin, 1996, p. 168.

[22]     Gill, K.P.S., Knights of Falsehood, Har Anand, Delhi, 1997, p. 22. Also accessible at

[23]     Maheshwari, Anil, op. cit., p. 47.

[24]     Marwah, Ved, op. cit., pp. 168-69.

[25]      Ibid., p. 169.

[26]     Nayar, Lt. Gen. V.K., op. cit., p. 188.

[27]     Jafa, Vijendra Singh, "Administrative Policies & Ethnic Disintegration: Engineering Conflict in India's Northeast," Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution, Volume 2, 1999, New Delhi: ICM-Bulwark Books, p. 93. The paper is also accessible at

[28]     Sahni, Ajai & George, J., "Security & Development in India's Northeast: An Alternative Perspective," Faultlines: Writings on Conflict & Resolution, New Delhi: ICM-Bulwark Books, 2000, pp. 43-67.

[29]      Ibid. p. 45.

[30]     Jung, Dietrich & Schlichte, Klaus, op. cit., p. 45-49

[31]     Karim, Afsir, op. cit., pp9-21.

[32]     Crenshaw, Martha, Terrorism in Context, University Park PA: Pennsylvania Press, 1995, p. 1-25.

[33]     Ray, Arjun, Kashmir Diary: Psychology of Militancy, New Delhi, 1997.pp.70-73

[34]     Narayanan, V.N., Tryst with Terror: Punjab's Turbulent Decade, Delhi: Ajanta Books, 1996, p. 3.

[35]     Sharma, Rajeev, Beyond the Tigers: Tracking Rajiv Gandhi's Assasination, New Delhi: Kaveri Books, 1998, pp. 17-19.

[36]     Marwah, Ved, op. cit., p. 11.

[37]     Sprinzak, Ehud, "Rightwing Terrorism in A Comparative Perspective: The Case of Split Delegitimation," Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 7, Spring 1995,No.1, Frank Cass, London. 1995, pp.18-19. 

[38]     Passas, Nikos, "A Structural Analysis of Corruption: The Role of Criminogenic Asymmetries', Transnational Organised Crime, Volume 4, No. 1, Spring, London: Frank Cass, 1998, pp. 42-55.

[39]      Ibid., p. 53.

[40]      The Ocean Our Future, The Report of the Independent Commission on the Oceans, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, pp. 1-27.

[41]     Wallerstein, Immanuel, "The Collapse of Liberalsim", in Milibind, Ralph, and Panitch, Leo,  Ed., New World Order, Socialist Register, London: Merlin Press, 1992, p. 96.

[42]     Cox, Robert W., "Global Perestroika," In Miliband andPanitch, op. cit., p. 34.

[43]     Herd, Graeme P., "Systemic Transformation or Federal Collapse", Journal of Peace Research, Volume 36, No. 3, Oslo: Sage/Prio, May 1999, pp. 259-70.

[44]     Szelenyi, Ivan, The Rise of Managerialism: the 'New Class' After the Fall of Communism, Discussion Paper No. 16, Institute of Advanced Study, Budapest, November 1995, pp. 1-25.

[45]      Amin, Samir, "For a Progressive and a Democratic New World Order", in Adams, Francis,Gupta, Satya Deve & Mengisteab, Fidane, Ed., Globalisation and the Dilemmas of the State in the South, UNRISD, London: Macmillan Press, 1999, p. 18.

[46]     Davidson, Basil, "Africa: the Politics of Failure," in Miliband, Ralph and Panitch, Leo, Ed., The New World Order, Socialist Register, London: Merlin Press, 1992, p. 212.

[47]     Shaw, Martin,  Global Society and International Relations: Sociological Concepts and Political Perspectives, Cambridge, Polity Press,1994, p.11.

[48]     Kloos, Peter & de Silva, Purnaka L., Globalisation, Localisation and Violence: Annotated Bibliography, Amsterdam: V.U. University, 1995, p. 7.





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