Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Research Student: Alex Waterman

Managing’ insurgency: Counterinsurgency and order negotiation in Northeast India

Photo of Alex Waterman

The project seeks to explore the negotiation of order between state and non-state actors in India's Northeast, which has faced dozens of ethno-separatist insurgencies since Independence in 1947. In managing these conflicts, the various arms of the Indian state have adopted a variety of approaches, ranging from the large-scale deployment of central army and paramilitary forces to roll back insurgency to political negotiations, peace accords, tacit bargains, ceasefire arrangements, the exploitation of internal divisions and collusive relationships. These various approaches represent different forms of ‘order’ in which the state negotiates or renegotiates its relationship with insurgent groups based on a multitude of political considerations.

The project develops upon the theoretical notion of ‘order’ by disaggregating the various actors into smaller ‘interest’ groups, conceptualising their interactions in conflict as an intensified renegotiation process featuring a considerable degree of uncertainty. It then seeks to explore key Indian state actors’ attempts to negotiate their position in political order, situating this within themes such as the common problem of ‘unity of effort’ in counterinsurgency and counterinsurgent interactions with non-state actors in order to forge alliances, strike bargains and exploit divisions, areas that remain significant gaps within the counterinsurgency literature, applying these notions to an understudied region of rich case studies such as Assam, Nagaland and Mizoram. While retaining a counterinsurgency focus, the project’s engagement with theoretical notions of the state, society and the notion of ‘order’ offer multiple contributions to the study of politics in counterinsurgency, as well as long-standing debates within the literature on Indian politics and state-society relations more broadly.

Background

I completed my Bachelor’s in International History with Politics within the School of History at the University of Leeds in July 2013, during which I developed an interest in the study of counterinsurgency, insurgency and civil wars. Impressed by the expertise offered by the School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) in the subject area, I then moved to POLIS to undertake my MA in Security, Terrorism and Insurgency, studying this to completion in September 2014. Having written on Indian counterinsurgency during my Master’s dissertation and having personal experience of the School’s strength in the subject area, I then began doctoral research in October 2014 to further explore the topic at doctoral level.

I have also worked as a Conflict and Terrorism Research Associate for consultancy analyst firm Consultancy Africa Intelligence (CAI), and I was awarded the Santander University Fee Scholarship (2013-14) and the University of Leeds 110th Anniversary Scholarship (2014-17).

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

Already with an interest in insurgency and counterinsurgency following my undergraduate and Master’s study, I realized that I had barely scratched the surface of the research out there and wanted to continue to expand my knowledge of this ever-changing field. A PhD provided me with a unique opportunity to immerse myself within both the field and a fascinating case study, Northeast India, which I discovered during my Master’s research.

I was also particularly excited by the prospect of conducting my own primary research, giving me the opportunity to expand my horizons while making a contribution to scholarly and practical debates. 

What makes me passionate about my subject?

I had always retained an interest in the conflicts being fought in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. I commenced academic study of this field during my undergraduate studies, during which many of the key debates surrounding counterinsurgency were still fresh due to NATO’s continued involvement in Afghanistan. Current events such as the rapid expansion of Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria along with events across the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and Eastern Europe continue to demonstrate an urgency to better understand conflict, and keep me determined and passionate about pursuing the study.

What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?

I would love to lecture and teach security studies, conflict, civil wars, insurgency/counterinsurgency and terrorism/counterterrorism, as well as broader international relations.

Publications

Waterman, A. 2015. Review: India and Counterinsurgency: Lessons Learned. Civil Wars [Online]. 15 (3) [Accessed 03/02/15], pp. 369-372. Available from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13698249.2014.987471#.VNH3UC4ZOig

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