New working paper on India, democracy, and IR

This is the renewal of a long-dormant paper, co-authored with Vipin Narang.

“Democratic Accountability and Foreign Security Policy: Theory and Evidence from India”

Abstract: Identifying the links between democracy and foreign security policy has proven elusive. This paper engages this research agenda by developing a novel theory of “accountability environments” and exploring it in the case of India. We hypothesize that the varying electoral salience of foreign security policy and the clarity of responsibility for policy outcomes combine to create different accountability environments in which politicians operate. Accountability environments determine the incentives that politicians face for devoting effort to external security issues. We illustrate the argument with evidence from India, over time and across issueareas (India, Pakistan, and defense procurement/development). Scholars need to incorporate the complexities and diversity of representation and rule into the study of democratic politics and international relations.

Peace processes collapsing

Two of the region’s most interesting/challenging peace processes are grinding to a halt. In Nagaland, it seems like the ever-ongoing negotiations following the 2015 announcement of a deal are in deep freeze. The Nagaland Post reports that the NSCN-IM talks with RN Ravi are stalled due to the unrest in Manipur. This was always going to be an uphill process because the NSCN-IM has deep interests in including parts of Manipur in a settlement and without getting that concession, a de-mobilizing deal will be a tough sell to its social constituency (especially in the shadow of potential spoilers like the Khaplang faction). And it still has the kind of presence and fighting power that lets it avoid a de facto surrender like the 1975 Shillong Accord. Back to “armed politics” it may be, probably in the form of another protracted stretch of ceasefire.

Over in Myanmar, the situation is a bit different, in that the main fighting in the north does not involve signatories to an ongoing peace process. But the broader effort to forge some kind of encompassing national deal can only be harmed by the escalating combat, which seems to be occurring without a huge amount of international attention. The conflict in the north with the KIA, MNDAA, TNLA, and AA (the so-called “Northern Alliance”) – backed in some ambiguous ways by the UWSA – isn’t going away anytime soon. And there’s little reason for other armed groups to move forward with a deal if they can avoid it, even if they’ve already signed a ceasefire accord; trust in the tatmadaw is rarely a great idea, especially as it shows its teeth in the north.

Something I’ll return to in a future post is the complexity of negotiating peace after or during democratization – the processes of democratization may act against some of the needs of deal-making, while authoritarian legacies can create further blocks on major political change. In the meantime, however, the much-vaunted Myanmar peace process seems to be going nowhere fast, even if the “21st Century Panglong” conference concludes with gauzy rhetoric.