Research Projects

Insurgent Groups. My first project examines how insurgent groups are organized and the circumstances under which they can survive counterinsurgency. My book, Networks of Rebellion: Explaining Insurgent Cohesion and Collapse (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, Cornell University Press, 2014), explains the roots of insurgent cohesion and fragmentation, the causes of organizational change over time, and the implications of these arguments for broader dynamics of civil war. It combines research on institution-building, social networks, and state counterinsurgency to build an integrated theory of militant organizational trajectories.

The book provides detailed comparative evidence from civil wars in South and Southeast Asia, specifically Kashmir, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and communist insurgents in the Philippines, Malaya, and French Indochina. Networks of Rebellion won the Peter Katzenstein Book Prize and the Joseph Lepgold Book Prize. Related papers examine intra-insurgent conflict, urban insurgency, insurgent organization, counterinsurgency, and transnational insurgency.

Violence and Political Order. My current book project, tentatively entitled Armed Politics: Violence, Order, and the State in South Asia, examines the politics that develop when states and armed groups clash, cooperate, and become intertwined with one another. The project has two agendas. First, it seeks to subsume the conventional study of civil war, state building, and electoral violence under the broader analytical framework of armed politics. Armed political parties, insurgents, militias, and private armies interact with states in remarkably diverse ways. We need to explain the emergence, evolution, and collapse of these armed orders across varying levels and forms of violence.

Second, the book argues that regimes’ political ideologies of state and polity determine how they assess the political status by armed groups. Political ideas are central to political conflict. Governments try to carve out and defend their vision of the political arena, privileging or marginalizing certain class, religious, and ethnic cleavages and symbols. These ideological projects contribute to dramatic variation in which armed groups are viewed by rulers as enemies, allies, and unsavory but tolerable business partners. The political meaning of armed mobilization shapes the orders that governments seek to forge, and the ways they try to terminate these orders.

My Armed Orders in South Asia (AOSA) research project is gathering and generating a variety of new qualitative and quantitative data from South Asia on regime ideological projects, collusion, combat, and incorporation, systematically measuring a set of state-group armed orders across space and time. This evidence is drawn from interviews, extensive archival and primary materials, and secondary sources. Data collection is under way and should be mostly complete in the next two years. All of the qualitative and quantitative data will be made publicly available. Other data on security force casualties from India and Sri Lanka that the research team happened upon while researching armed orders will also be made available.

Related papers examine armed orders, peace deals and military offensives on Pakistan’s northwest frontier, militia politics, conflict data, and the relationship between elections and violence.

Other Ongoing Research. I have current research projects on Indian foreign security policy and how it can inform broader debates about the domestic politics of international relations, military politics (mostly in Pakistan but also in comparative perspective), and leftist insurgency in democratic regimes.


Networks of Rebellion: Explaining Insurgent Cohesion and Collapse. Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, Cornell University Press, 2014. Indian edition 2015, Munshiram Manoharlal.

Refereed Publications

“Pakistan’s Military Elite.” With Adnan Naseemullah and Ahsan Butt. Journal of Strategic Studies, forthcoming.

“How and Why Armed Groups Participate in Elections.” With Aila M. Matanock. Perspectives on Politics, forthcoming.

“The Politics of Pakistani Strategy on the North West Frontier.”  With Asfandyar Mir and Sameer Lalwani. Security Studies, forthcoming.

“Internal Security Strategy in India.” India Review Vol. 17, No. 1 (2018).

“Armed Politics and the Study of Intrastate Conflict.” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 54, No. 4 (July 2017).

“Indirect Rule and Varieties of Governance.” With Adnan Naseemullah. Governance, Vol. 29, No. 1  (January 2016), pp. 13-30.

“Armed Groups and Militarized Elections.”International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 59, No. 4 (December 2015), pp. 694-705.

“Militias, Ideology, and the State.” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol 59, No. 5 (August 2015), pp. 770-793.

“Review Essay: Violence and Democracy.”Comparative Politics, Vol. 47, No. 1 (October 2014), pp. 99-118.

“Kashmir since 2003: Counterinsurgency and the Paradox of ‘Normalcy.’” Asian Survey, Vol. 53, No. 5 (September/October 2013), pp. 931-957.

“Organizing Insurgency: Networks, Resources, and Rebellion in South Asia.”International Security, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Summer 2012), pp. 142-177.

“States, Insurgents, and Wartime Political Orders.”Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 10, No. 2 (June 2012), pp. 243-264. Copyright American Political Science Association.

“Institutions and Worldviews in Indian Foreign Security Policy.” With Vipin Narang. India Review, Vol. 11, No. 2 (2012), pp. 76-94.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Insurgent Fratricide, Ethnic Defection, and the Rise of Pro-State Paramilitaries.” Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 56, No. 1 (February 2012), pp. 16-40.

“Cities on Fire: Social Mobilization, State Policy, and Urban Insurgency.”Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 43, No. 12 (December 2010), pp. 1623-1649.

“Explaining Civil-Military Relations in Complex Political Environments: India and Pakistan inComparative Perspective.”Security Studies, Vol. 17, No. 2 (April 2008), pp. 322-362. [Note: there is a typo on page 350 – the phrase “did not feel it could not” has an extra “not.” This is why proofing galleys from a Delhi hospital bed is a bad idea.]

“Ten Ways to Lose at Counterinsurgency.” With Kelly Greenhill. Civil Wars, Vol. 9, No. 4 (December 2007), pp. 402-419.

Book Chapters

“Counterinsurgency in India.” In Sumit Ganguly, Manjeet Pardesi, and Nicolas Blarel., eds., The Oxford Handbook of India’s National Security (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).

“State and Politics.” With Vipin Narang. In David Malone, C. Raja Mohan, and Srinath Raghavan, eds., Oxford Handbook on Indian Foreign Policy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

“America and Pakistan after 2014: Toward Strategic Breathing Space.” In Christine Fair and Sarah Watson, eds., Pakistan’s Enduring Challenges (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).

“Insurgencies in India.” In Atul Kohli and Prerna Singh, eds., Routledge Handbook of Indian Politics (London: Routledge, 2013).

“Foreign Policy Making in India in the Pre-Liberalization and Coalition Era.” In Amitabh Mattoo and Happymon Jacob, eds., Domestic Politics and Foreign Policy: India’s ‘Neo-Federal’ Foreign Policy (New Delhi: Har-Anand, 2010).

“Resentment, Fear, and the Structure of the Military in Multiethnic States.” With Roger Petersen. In Stephen Saideman and Marie-Joelle Zahar, eds., Insecurity in Intrastate Conflicts: Governments, Rebels, and Outsiders (London: Routledge, 2008).

Selected Other Publications

Periodic posts on The Monkey Cage.

“America Has High Expectations for India. Can New Delhi Deliver?” War on the Rocks, February 22, 2018.

“Whither ISIS? Insights from Insurgent Responses to Decline.”Washington Quarterly (Fall 2017).

“Spoiler’s Limits.”Indian Express, January 11, 2016.

“Rethinking Internal Security in India.”India in Transition, Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania, August 10, 2015. Reprinted in The Hindu: Business Line.

“Every Insurgency is Different.”International New York Times, February 15, 2015.

“Insurgent Organization and State-Armed Group Relations.” In The Political Science of Syria’s War, POMEPS Brief #22, Program on Middle East Political Science, December 18, 2013.

“Naval Gazing.” WIth Vipin Narang. Foreign Policy online, June 25, 2013.

“The Future of Violence in Afghanistan.”The National Interest online, July 18, 2012.

Caught in the Muddle: America’s Pakistan Strategy.” The Washington Quarterly, Vol. 34, No. 1 (Winter 2011), pp. 133-148.

“Correspondence: What Makes Terrorists Tick.”International Security Vol. 33, No. 4 (Spring 2009), pp 180-202.

“Counterinsurgency is a bloody, costly business.”Foreign Policy online, November 24, 2010.

“Pakistan’s Stakes in Afghanistan.”The Friday Times (Lahore), May 8-14, 2009.

“Improving India’s Counterterrorism Policy after Mumbai.”CTC Sentinel, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, Vol 2, No. 4 (April 2009), pp. 11-14.

“When talking with terrorists makes sense.”Christian Science Monitor, May 29, 2008.

“The Challenge of Islamist Militancy in India.”CTC Sentinel, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, Vol. 1, No. 2 (January 2008), pp. 14-16.

“Pakistan on the Brink: Regional Perspectives and Implications.”Audit of the Conventional Wisdom 07-21 (MIT Center for International Studies, November 2007).

The US, India, and the Persian Gulf: Convergence or Divergence in a Post-Iraq World: Workshop Summary Report (MIT Center for International Studies Persian Gulf Initiative, 2007).

“Diversify Iraqi security forces.” With Roger Petersen. Christian Science Monitor, March 7, 2006.

“Defeating Transnational Insurgencies.”The Washington Quarterly, Volume 29, No. 1 (Winter 2005-2006), pp. 21-40.