Research Blog

Media appearances on Kashmir and more

  1. I wrote a skeptical op-ed in the Hindustan Times about the government’s move on Article 370. As I note, I could easily be wrong, but my judgment is that this is a much riskier and less straightforward policy shift than much of the hyperbolic, government-line-backing discussion in India (to a lesser extent, the US) suggests: “Kashmir: A bold strategy isn’t always wise”
  2. I participated in podcasts on the topic: Deep Dish with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and The World Unpacked by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  3. Drew Stommes and I published a piece in The Print summarizing some data we have gathered on the demography of India’s main paramilitary forces (the Central Reserve Police Force and Border Security Force) and Army. The academic version, with way more stuff, is here, and the dataset is available here.
  4. Austin Carson and I went on the Thank You for Your Service podcast to discuss civil-military relations around the world and in the US, as well as a huge variety of other topics.

All about Weber

I vividly remember reading Max Weber’s “Politics as a Vocation” as a college freshman; mixed with passages that baffled me were remarkable insights that still stick with me. Here are 2 articles discussing its meaning on its 100th anniversary:

  1. Pratap Bhanu Mehta, “Reading 1919 in 2019,” The Indian Express.
  2. Robert Zaretsky, “Max Weber Diagnosed His Time and Ours,” Foreign Affairs.

Asia and foreign policy podcasts

I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts while doing dishes, mowing the lawn, etc. When not listening to photography shows (i.e. the Classic Lenses Podcast), I focus on Asia and foreign policy podcasts. Here are a few recommendations, in no order (I listen to all of them on iTunes, but links are to whatever pops up most easily when I googled):

The Diplomat/Asia Geopolitics – a very granular, background-to-the-news podcast ably hosted by Ankit Panda. Covers all of Asia, including places/topics that tend not to get much attention in US media.

National Security Conversations with Happymon Jacob. Jacob, a JNU academic with a broad public profile in India’s security debates, interviews a guest on a specific topic each week. Excellent for giving a wide variety of perspectives on India’s security and foreign policy from prominent Indian journalists, scholars, analysts, and former policymakers.

Bombshell. A now-classic War on the Rocks podcast, often with a female NatSec-focused guest. Mostly built around the insights and personalities of Erin Simpson, Radha Iyengar, and Loren DeJonge Schulman. Very enjoyable and covers a wide range of US and international topics; manages to stay fresh.

Three Things from the Indian Express. I listen to this news summary show when I want to immerse in day-to-day happenings in Indian politics. It’s too much to keep up with otherwise, but was invaluable in the aftermath of Pulwama and through the 2019 general election, and when I was teaching my IR of South Asia class.

Grand Tamasha. Milan Vaishnav’s show blends interviews with summaries of what’s been happening in Indian politics. It does a really nice job bringing in journalists and academics to provide analysis.

Ganatantra. A primarily-academic show on Indian politics and society – based on interviews with scholars of particular topics; good for selected deep-dives.

Tea Leaves. Kurt Campbell and Rich Verma’s interview-based show. More a celebration of the guests than back-and-forth analytical, but still often insightful.

Asia Chessboard. Hosted by Mike Green at CSIS, a new interview-based focus on Asia strategy and geopolitics. Similar to Tea Leaves, in ways good and bad.

Jaw Jaw. Another War on the Rocks podcast; Brad Carson does a great job pushing interviewees hard on their views of the rise of China – lots of willingness to get into debates and push back on guests’ arguments. The first season was on China and is now finished; not sure what will come next but the China interviews were diverse and fascinating.

Power Problems. I’m not a Cato Institute person in my general politics, but their views of foreign policy are often thought-provoking. Hosted by Emma Ashford and Trevor Thrall.

New data on Indian internal security force fatalities and demographics

Drew Stommes and I just published an article in India Review that introduces a set of new data we’ve collected in the last four or so years on fatalities among India’s internal security forces. It is fairly comprehensive, we hope, on the CRPF and BSF, substantially less so on the Army, and, unfortunately, incomplete and problematic (with huge variation in both) on the state police forces.

The project began while I aimlessly googling around and found a pair of massive PDFs that MHA had published to commemorate those who died in service, which then begin a multi-year process of trying to more systematically gather relevant information. I personally found the demographics of the MHA forces to be the newest and most interesting set of findings – with important caveats, there appear to be substantial regional imbalances in the composition of these forces (some intended, some perhaps not).

The data are available in the Data section of my website – we’d love for researchers and analysts to use and improve them.

Laksmana on “micro” military politics in Indonesia

Evan Laksmana has a really interesting article out in the Journal of Contemporary Asia that examines how internal promotion patterns have influenced the politics of the TNI after democratization. I have found research on military politics in Indonesia (i.e. Kammen and Chandra) a real inspiration for my own work, with Dann Naseemullah and Ahsan Butt, on “Pakistan’s Military Elite.” Here’s the abstract of the Laksmana paper:

“This article seeks to explain the increasingly regressive (or illiberal) behaviour on the part of the Indonesian military. It focuses on the expansion of the Army’s Territorial Command structure, the growing military intrusion into civilian polity and the stunted progress of military professionalism. It provides an organisational, rather than political, perspective. Conceptually, the article synthesises various approaches to comparative politics to explain why and how military personnel policies affect political behaviour. Empirically, using a series of original datasets of hundreds of officers, the article demonstrates how promotional logjams – too many officers but too few positions available – over the past decade help explain the regressive behaviours we recently witnessed. It is further argued that the lack of institutionalisation in personnel policies gave rise to and prolonged these logjams. This article draws attention to the importance of intra-organisational dynamics in understanding the state of civil–military relations in post-authoritarian Indonesia.”

Malik and Siddiqui on violence & politics in Karachi

This is a fascinating new report for the United States Institute of Peace by Mashail Malik and Niloufer Siddiqui on exposure to violence and politics in Karachi. Some key takeaways:

“individuals exposed to violence are less likely to trust that elections would be free and fair, and more likely to expect and fear electoral violence. The impact of violence on political behavior was greater for respondents exposed to violence perpetrated by political or state elements, and such individuals are less likely to turn out to vote.”

“the survey also found very low baseline levels of trust between ethnic communities in Karachi. Exposure to violence is correlated with higher levels of intolerance”

“Narratives that framed Karachi’s history of violence in distinct ways had minimal effect on decreasing prejudice, indicating that intergroup trust may be difficult to alter in the short term”

Publishing your first academic book

I’ve recently had several in-person and electronic conversations about the process of publishing a first academic book. I thought it might be useful to offer some thoughts and advice because it can seem like a very murky and opaque process. I’m drawing here on my own experience and that of friends and colleagues: others’ advice will surely differ, but I hope this gives at least a broad sense of how to think about approaching publishing.

One key step is to meet or speak with an editor about the project. You probably don’t want to approach before the book is even remotely ready (this appears to be different for more senior scholars), but I also don’t think there is any reason to have the full revised manuscript done. You can provide a timeline of when you expect a full manuscript or specific chapters.

I would suggest emailing press editors 6-8 weeks prior to a major academic conference (ISA, MPSA, APSA, etc). You can ask friends or advisers who have worked with an editor to make a connection ahead of time if you feel comfortable doing so. This doesn’t actually seem necessary, though; my sense is that the best editors have a pretty good nose for topics they are interested in, regardless of who has or hasn’t emailed them ahead of time.

It would be a big disservice if people talk themselves into not contacting top editors because they don’t have the pedigree/connections to get an introduction – I’d suggest just going ahead and doing it once you have a polished prospectus, a credible timeline, and a good sense of what you want the book to look like.

It can, however, be very useful to ask around among colleagues or looking through recently published books for a clear idea of which editors are most relevant to your project. If at all possible, don’t email the general email address for the press.

This email should ask if it would be possible to meet, provide a very brief overview of who you are and 1-paragraph summary of the book, and include an attached 4-6 page book prospectus. As an example, this is the prospectus I sent to Cornell in 2011 (note: much changed since!). I drew this from several older friends, so it seems like a useful general template. You may attach an introductory chapter or some other chunks of the book if you want; I didn’t but know others who did. You can also propose an email or phone conversation if you or the editors won’t be heading to relevant conference anytime soon.

The editor will hopefully write back and set something up, or let you know that he or she doesn’t see a great fit for the project. I’d recommend either contacting several editors at once or having a back-up list to go to if your top choice declines. Try to be gracious (easier said than done, I know. . .) if there is a rejection – you may end up wanting to work with this person again and they get many times more proposals than they could possibly publish.

At the meeting/in the conversation, try to get your basic argument and contribution across in a clear and engaging way – why would someone pay money to read your work? Why does this need to be a book instead of an article or set of articles? Which audience/s do you want it to appeal to? How far into the process are you? Engage the editor about the shape and direction of the manuscript, since they have tons of experience on the different ways books can be structured, what works and doesn’t, etc. You want them on your side, since all of their incentives are to pass on books given the crush of proposals/submissions they face and the alarming economics of academic publishing.

The editor may express interest and ask to see more of the book when it’s ready, or politely decline to move forward. Follow his or her lead on how to keep in touch and how to submit if there is interest. I personally have found book manuscript workshops staggeringly useful (I just had an amazing lineup of scholars break my current project down and rebuilt it on Tuesday) prior to submitting for review, but your rhythm, resources, and needs will vary of course.

Some people get interest from multiple presses. You can definitely ask about or even push for multiple submissions for review (i.e. to both Cambridge and Princeton, or Oxford and Chicago), but don’t expect it.

If you don’t have a finished manuscript ready to go, you can send an occasional brief email to the editor keeping them up to date on what you are up to. And then the review process is not unlike journals – off it goes into the ether, for some undetermined period of time, without much certainty about results. People tend, I think, to share their book rejection stories far less than their journal rejection stories, but they very much do happen, so don’t let your submission get too close to promotion time if at all possible. Even if it does get accepted, then there will likely be another year or more of the production process. Long-term thinking is important here – there is a limit to how fast even a supportive editor can move things along, and none can guarantee good news.

There is a whole complicated world after acceptance – contract negotiations, copyediting, indexing, etc, but those are ultimately secondary to getting someone to offer a contract. This is just my limited take on the process, so if you have more thoughts, feel free to leave them in the comments.

PS. My colleague Austin Carson offered a set of valuable thoughts and tips on this process in this Twitter thread.

Approval of Chinese and American leadership in South Asia

I’ve been crashing on a whole variety of things: teaching a new IR of South Asia lecture class, finishing the first full draft of my Armed Politics book manuscript for a late May book workshop, keeping up with the news and new research, and trying, and mostly failing, to not catastrophically fall behind on absolutely everything. So I am basically accomplishing almost nothing beyond frantically building Powerpoint slides and triaging my email.

That said, a project I am *thinking* about as my next book is the domestic politics of foreign policy in South Asia. I have several data collection projects of various forms going on regarding India, and am finding various interesting pieces of quantitative data and case studies to explore in the rest of the region.

I’ve been particularly interested in tracking down public opinion data, which seems like a potentially under-explored area. The internal breakdowns are of greater theoretical interest (what explains variation within each country in views of China?), but here’s an aggregate comparison of “Approval of China’s Leadership” from the Gallup World Poll, 2006-18 (the chart can also be found here if you have trouble reading it embedded in this post):

Pakistan (red) is by far the highest approval overall, and has increased a good bit in the last decade, at 73% in 2018, with 55% the lowest in 2009 and 82% the highest in 2016. Nepal follows up (light blue), hitting 52% in 2018, up from a low point of 29% in 2012.

Sri Lanka (yellow) and Bangladesh (green) sit in the middle – both have bounced around a bit, but broadly in the 30-40% approval range over time. India brings up the rear, from 8%-24% depending on the year.

Now here’s the equivalent for the United States (link to chart here):

There’s a substantially lower spread – Nepal brings up the top at 55% in 2018 (low point 28% in 2011), followed by a clustering of India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka at 39-41%, and Pakistan the lowest at 14%. Pakistan has ranged from 7% (2006) to 26% (2011), India is currently at its highest approval (lowest in 2011 at 16%), Sri Lanka has bounced from 48% (2002) to 14% (2012) back up to 39% in 2018. Bangladesh’s low was 19% in 2007 and its high was 48% in 2013.

Obviously there are massive caveats with this kind of work, but I thought these were interesting patterns across countries and time.

Indian foreign policy & domestic politics

Vipin Narang and I published an article in Security Studies last year. It’s currently free and ungated here. We’ve been thrilled to see the article engaged by three excellent young scholars and analysts:
1. Rohan Mukherjee reviewed it for H-Diplo/ISSF.

2. Kunal Singh (heading off to MIT for a Political Science PhD next year) used it in this article on why Pakistan attracts so much more attention in Indian politics than China, which poses an objectively much bigger challenge.

3. Neelanjan Sircar explores what the Kargil war can, and cannot, tell us about the links between international security and electoral outcomes.