The goal of this rubric is to filter and promote the recent scholarship on South Asia coming from the leading IR and Area Studies journals. The Regional Security Knowledge Hub team periodically refreshes the list, in winter, spring, summer and autumn. If you are interested in getting updates on the new content, please subscribe to our newsletter.


Autumn 2021


India’s security dilemma: engaging big powers while retaining strategic autonomy, by Alexey D. Muraviev, Dalbir Ahlawat, Lindsay Hughes, International Politics, published online 4 September 2021.

Abstract: India currently faces a security dilemma specifically because of the rise of China, Russia’s strategic convergence with China, and the US’s indeterminate Indo-Pacific policy stance. To overcome this dilemma, India’s shift from non-alignment to strategic autonomy poses several questions about its future strategic orientation, notably: Will India enter into a formal alliance with the USA, will India continue to engage China, will India retain close historical relations with Russia or will it more robustly pursue its ‘Act East’ policy? This article attempts a critical analysis of the different strategic options available to India and argues that while entering into a quasi-alliance with the USA, it will retain its strategic autonomy. India could simultaneously retain relations with Russia, China and the ASEAN. However, to the extent possible, its tendency will be to support a multipolar-Asia paradigm rather than a zero-sum alliance system to play a leading role in international fora.


Singapore Comes to Terms with its Malay Past: The Politics of Crafting a National History, by Michael D. Barr, Asian Studies Review, published online 16 September 2021.

Abstract: Ethnic tensions were central to Singapore’s birth as an independent republic, and they left the government in a quandary: how to talk about the country’s history when its birth was mired in contention between its dominant Chinese population and its large Malay minority? The surprising answer to this dilemma involved crafting a new national narrative that started in 1819, with the arrival of British imperialism. This move had the intended effect of excluding earlier centuries of Malay agency completely from the record, thus delegitimising the claims of one of the main communities in contention. The key element in the construction of the new national narrative was the implicit acceptance of colonial claims about Singapore’s achievements during the colonial era: that they were British achievements, building upon terra nullius. This mythology gave no credit or recognition to the Malays who had lived and traded in the region and on the island for centuries. This article explores the shifting politics of Singapore’s official historiography, paying particular attention to the role of scholars and education professionals in facilitating and reforming the national narrative. It posits that academic collaboration has been an overlooked feature of Singapore’s national myth-making.


The Emergence of Populist Nationalism and ‘Illiberal’ Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka”, by DB Subedi, Asian Studies Review, published online 7 October 2021.

Abstract: This article examines Sri Lanka’s ‘illiberal’ peacebuilding through the lens of what is referred to as populist nationalism, a distinct form of post-war political order characterised by nationalist politics with a populist orientation. It shows that the notion of ‘victor’s peace’ has facilitated a shift from ethnolinguistic nationalism to populist nationalism. It identifies three interrelated dimensions of populist nationalism – leadership, new social polarisation, and the narratives of crisis and securitisation. This analytical framework is applied to discern how and why ‘illiberal’ peacebuilding emerged in post-war Sri Lanka. The article argues that populist nationalism and ‘illiberal’ peacebuilding have a symbiotic relationship. Populist nationalism provided political justifications to legitimise ‘illiberal’ peacebuilding, which, in return, empowered the war victors, disempowered conflict victims, and enabled populist-nationalist leaders to manipulate peacebuilding resources to consolidate power. Emerging as a leader-centric political discourse, populist nationalism is reinforced by new social polarisations and securitisation, which further deepens social conflicts.


Women’s Political Participation in Post-conflict Settings: The Case of Timor-Leste”, by Sara Niner, Deborah Cummins, Selver B. Sahin, Stella Mulder, Emily Morrison, Asian Studies Review, published online 22 September 2021.

Abstract: Tackling gender gaps in political representation is a key pillar of peace building and development interventions in conflict-affected environments, which has been addressed using special measures (e.g., gender quotas and reserved seats). We argue that although this is a necessary first step, these interventions privilege descriptive or quantitative indicators that may not equate to the substantive participation of women. Instead, a focus on qualitative transformation of deeply entrenched inequitable social structures is required. Our argument is illustrated by the case study of Timor-Leste, where control of political institutions is held by a small group of privileged, male leaders, legitimised by a rigidly defined social hierarchy. We argue that any special measures need to be accompanied by social change that provides equality of opportunity for participants within political parties, political institutions and electoral systems. By providing this analysis the article aims to contribute to the discussion of the ways in which gendered structural limitations can be better identified and addressed to promote more effective participation by women in politics in post-conflict settings.


From securitization to security complex: climate change, water security and the India–China relations”, by Anjan Kumar Sahu, Surinder Mohan, International Politics, published online 28 May 2021.

Abstract: Interstate and intrastate linkage of water security and climate change in India and China has significantly impacted the two states’ relations, particularly over their shared transboundary river water. Being an upstream riparian state, China enjoys an advantageous position that extends it a significant edge to regulate the flow of the Brahmaputra River. China’s unilateral moves to build dams, and unwillingness to negotiate any water sharing agreement with the downstream neighbor or agreeing to have bilateral/regional bodies for effective transboundary water governance of the river, raise serious water security concerns for the Indian policymakers. By employing ‘securitization’ and ‘security complex’ theories, we argue that the securitization of climate change policy at the national level—particularly in the domain of water—not only increases the prospects of conflict formation and security dilemma between India and China but also draws them into traditional security complex that diminishes their prospects to secure a negotiated transboundary river water sharing agreement in the near future.


India’s multi-alignment management and the Russia–India–China (RIC) triangle, by Frank O’Donnell, Mihaela Papa, International Affairs 97 (3): 801–822 (2021). 

Abstract: In its Eurasian diplomacy toward Russia and China, India has preferred to engage these states bilaterally and through the Brazil–Russia–India–China–South Africa (BRICS) and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) multilateral alignments. By contrast, India views the Russia–India–China (RIC) triangle as a less effective mechanism. However, despite its ongoing militarized crisis with China in the spring/summer of 2020, India surprisingly agreed to participate in a meeting of RIC foreign ministers and initiate RIC defence ministers’ engagements. India also initiated the revival of RIC summits in 2018. This article analyzes the drivers for India’s recent shift toward enhancing RIC. Drawing upon Indian policy statements and alignment documents, the article firstly argues that India generates policy agenda overlaps across RIC, BRICS and SCO, which facilitate forum-shopping. Introducing the case-study of Indian counterterrorism diplomacy across the three alignments, the article secondly argues that Indian dissatisfaction with its progress in advancing a security policy agenda within one grouping leads it to refocus on building this agenda in alternative alignments. This article contributes to conceptualizing multi-alignment management, while providing new insights into Indian relations with Russia and China within multilateral institutions and diplomacy in the era of regime complexity.



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