Internal security strategy in India India Review
Paul Staniland  |  January 1, 2018

The conventional wisdom among many analysts and policy-makers is that India’s central government has followed a fairly consistent internal security policy by deploying an “iron first in a velvet glove” that attacks irreconcilable armed groups, while holding open the door to mainstream politics for moderates. This article argues that this wisdom is incorrect. It instead offers a more political explanation of government strategy, showing that Delhi cares much more about some kinds of groups and conflicts than others, leading to a diverse pattern of strategies toward armed actors. Central government strategy is driven by varying political resolve for crackdowns and varying political space for either deal-making or neglect. Rather than a shared general approach, there is a far more selective and complex pattern of strategy. The paper examines both counterinsurgent conflicts and the murkier realm of private armies and armed political parties that blend “normal” politics with violence.