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In Development

THE STATE-MILITANT

RELATIONSHIP

Case Studies from South Asia

Hari Prasad, Principal Investigator

On December 29, 2019, the Iranian backed group Kataib Hezbollah killed a US contractor during a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base. This was part of a series of escalatory actions which sparked fears of an expanded military conflict between Iran and the US. Throughout the Middle East and South Asia, non-state actors have been employed to suppress uprisings and insurgencies, as well as providing a less costly means of power projection.

The use of armed non-state actors is hardly a unique dilemma. Some states use these groups to conduct attacks against their rivals, while groups are used as auxiliary forces to aid conventional security forces. While the threat of conventional war might have subsided, it is increasingly likely that the utilization of militant groups will increase.

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The Women of the LTTE, 2009 (Salix Oculus) 

This state-militia relationship creates several different policy implications as well as providing various new research avenues. First, various mapping projects on the militant and militia landscape for relevant conflicts or insurgencies of interest. Second, examining tension within the state-militant relationship. Third, researching the political, military, and social ramifications of state support for militant groups.

South Asia provides an ideal region for examining and studying this issue. The subcontinent remains a fragile region, prone to interstate and intrastate violence. With an international system full of weak states, the use of non-state actors remains rampant. Countries like Afghanistan have witnessed the use of pro-government militias by international powers as well as the Afghan government. Neighbors like Iran and Pakistan have sponsored their own militant groups in a bid to achieve their own objectives and project their power. Nearby, India provided support to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka to coerce the Sri Lankan government into making concessions to Indian hegemony. To deal with insurgency, India used the Ikhwan militia in the 1990s to suppress and uprising in Kashmir, as well as the Salwa Judum against the Naxalites in the forests of Chhattisgarh. 

But the relationship between armed groups and nation-states brings its own risks.

The relationship between armed groups and nation-states brings risks.

  1. It undermines the legitimacy of the state and the rule of law.

  2. It threatens to escalate conflict and could even bring nations to the bring of war.

  3. Armed groups are independent, meaning they could turn against their former sponsors.

  4. Human rights violations by state-sponsored groups remains a major issue in the rest of the world. 

Hari Prasad, Principal Investigator

Research currently undergoing peer review.

Contact Hari Prasad
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