Research on Indo-Pak deterrence

Political scientists and analysts have been churning out work on the India-Pakistan nuclear and conventional balance and its political implications, particularly since both countries tested nuclear weapons in 1998. Below are a few prominent books and articles worth looking at for those interested in how escalation, deterrence, and the nitty-gritty of war-fighting might play out. I don’t work on this topic, so I defer to these colleagues for their expertise (though there is often a range of differing opinion!).

This is just a limited sample of a much broader and richer literature, but a good starting point for people trying to figure out what is make of the current situation:

Vipin Narang, Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Age; article version here. Also a Washington Quarterly piece on India’s nuclear posture.

Sumit Ganguly and Devin Hagerty, Fearful Symmetry.

Paul Kapur, Dangerous Deterrent. See Ganguly and Kapur in this issue of International Security summarizing key arguments.

Walter Ladwig, “A Cold Start for Hot Wars?”

Shashank Joshi, “India’s Military Instrument: A Doctrine Stillborn.”

Clary, Kampani, and Sankaran, “Correspondence: Battling Over Pakistan’s Battlefield Nuclear Weapons.”

Scott Sagan, ed., Inside Nuclear South Asia.

Krepon and Thompson, eds., Deterrence Stability and Escalation Control in South Asia.

Tellis, Fair, and Medby, Limited Conflict Under the Nuclear Umbrella.

Ashley Tellis, India’s Emerging Nuclear Posture.

George Perkovich, India’s Nuclear Bomb.

Chari, Cheema, and Cohen, Four Crises and a Peace Process.

Christine Fair, Fighting to the End.

Peter Lavoy, ed., Asymmetric Warfare in South Asia.

Where Balochistan Police got killed

I noted in an earlier post that we’d been working through some data on Balochistan Police killed in action. There are a million caveats with these data, but they provide at least a rough handle on some aspects of the conflict.

Today I want to show some preliminary evidence on the spatial distribution of violence. There is a problematic curiosity here, however: two “districts” are actually units of the police: Balochistan Constabulary (BC) and Anti-Terrorism Force (ATF).

Here are the top 15 areas/units of casualties (covering 93% of the fatalities):

District Freq. Percent Cum.
Quetta 265 39.14 39.14
B.C 96 14.18 53.32
Naseerabad 51 7.53 60.86
Jaffarabad 47 6.94 67.80
Pishin 27 3.99 71.79
Lasbela 21 3.10 74.89
Khuzdar 20 2.95 77.84
ATF 19 2.81 80.65
Mastung 14 2.07 82.72
Kech 13 1.92 84.64
Sibi 13 1.92 86.56
Panjgoor 12 1.77 88.33
Kachhi 11 1.62 89.96
Kalat 11 1.62 91.58
Noshki 10 1.48 93.06

We were able to do some digging on the B.C. fatalities. Of the 96 BC KIA, we found some evidence of where members were killed in 28 cases. All 28 were in the vicinity of Quetta, which could be 1) due to reporting being more likely around Quetta, or 2) the BC being heavily used in Quetta.

We’ll be doing more work, but it’s notable how much of the police targeting seems to have been in and around Quetta. The Army and Frontier Corps may be out in the rural areas disproportionately absorbing casualties that aren’t systematically publicized. There are also the Balochistan Levies’ “B areas”; I have been able to find basically nothing from this force. But even given all of this, the police data are a reminder that Balochistan is not simply a conflict of distant, rural, mountainous guerrilla warfare.


Please don’t use Wikipedia (alone)

Just an example: the Wikipedia entry on the Khilafat movement argues of its collapse in 1922 that “In wake of the ignominious statute of the Nehru Report, the Ali brothers began distancing themselves from Gandhi and the Congress.”

Yet, the entry on the Nehru Report (linked to in the very same Khilafat entry) correctly notes that the Report actually happened in 1928. Unless the Ali brothers had remarkable foresight, the original claim seems rather problematic.

Wikipedia is really useful in many ways. It is also wildly unreliable, something that too many students don’t fully seem to grasp. Don’t make that mistake.

You can’t beat something with nothing

That’s the basic message of Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s most recent Indian Express column, on the failures of the opposition to construct a plausible alternative to Narendra Modi:

“But the sheer self-destructive pettiness and parochialism of the other parties is making it likely that the BJP’s failings will not be challenged by a credible Opposition, but by an outbreak of infantilism, where each alternative leader seems to get smaller by the day.. . .

The danger is that new forms of social conflict may no longer be channelled through political parties. Besides the total loss of control in Kashmir, we have seen violent agitations in the economic powerhouses of Gujarat, Karnataka and Haryana this year. Kerala is emerging as a new hotbed of violence, its model now under serious social strain. Maharashtra is on the verge of major caste conflict, and criminality and communalism still define UP’s identity. India will need deeper political resources for social mediation. All it might get is an Opposition that seems not to want to rise to challenges; they are all making Modi look larger than he is.”

Serendipitous research gold

My Sri Lanka project sporadically moves along in parallel to my more regular preoccupation with Chapter 4 of my book. I made a very lucky find recently – while wandering the footnotes of a pop military history of the Eelam wars, I found a reference to a book called Sri Lanka Army: 50 Years On (1999), which looked to be an official history of the Army. But it turned out that only three libraries in WorldCat own a copy (the Marines, the Army, and the Library of Congress).

I got a copy ILL-ed. . . .and lo and behold, in addition to a history of the army and its activities, the last ~200-odd pages are a Roll of Honour that lists the name, rank, unit, date, and place of death for over 10,000 SLA combat fatalities between 1981 and 1999. I told my RA’s to scan the whole book before we had to return it. Being less than thrilled with scanning 1,000 pages, they went looking for a copy to buy. Even though Amazon showed no available results when searching by name, for some reason one came up when they searched by ISBN. A random used bookstore had a copy which we got for $7 (then refunded when delivery got messed up).

Initial scanning and OCR suggests we’ll be able to turn the combat fatality data into a dataset fairly easily, which will allow a new mapping of SLA deaths by date and place during the LTTE and JVP revolts of the 1980s (it’s less interesting post-1990, when it’s a series of conventional clashes with the Tigers). There’s also a lot of useful nitty-gritty security studies stuff on organizational structures and army combat operations.

Of course, the Sri Lankan Police have not responded to my ~12 emails to them about police data, so you can’t always get what you want, but some footnote digging and luck can open unexpected new doors.



SAMP Sources

The South Asia Materials Project (SAMP) at the Center for Research Libraries is an amazing collection of political sources. It’s particularly useful for the colonial period, but also has some interesting stuff on the post-independence period (especially in India).

For grad students looking for things to study, I suggest wandering the microfilms of these collections (hyperlinks below to PDF guides):

Confidential Publications and Home Political Files – lots from the Indian press as monitored by the British.

Documentation of Emergency Period in India (June 1975 – March 1977) – various correspondences and documents, including among underground activists, political prisoners, from the wildly under-studied Emergency.

Indian Proscribed Tracts, 1907-1947 (note: there is a 1954 Naga tract in here, so 1947 seems like a fuzzy end-date)

And, above all, the Norman Gerald Barrier collection of South Asian political tracts. This collection is most interesting to me because 1) it is mostly post-1947 and 2) it sheds light on the full spectrum of parties, movements, and intellectual currents in post-colonial India, moving beyond the historian’s focus on the colonial era and the political scientist’s obsession with the Congress and mainstream electoral politics. It has documents by and about socialists, communists, the Indian right (in both its Hindutva and Swatantra strands), separatists, activists, and provincial politicians, plus of course the Congress and its rivals.

Microfilm is terribly old-fashioned, but there is amazing stuff in the SAMP, and I hope it gets more use from scholars of contemporary South Asia.