Paul Staniland, Avinash Paliwal

Strategy, Secrecy, and External Support for Insurgent Groups

Abstract: States support transnational insurgents in an important variety of ways, from highly public efforts to transform the status quo to covert backing with limited ambitions. In this paper, we introduce a new theory to help explain variation in these strategies of external support. We argue that the offensive or defensive goals of state sponsors interact with their fears of escalation to shape how they support armed groups. Four strategies of state sponsorship emerge from different combinations of sponsor goals and escalation fears. We empirically investigate this argument with a unique medium-N study of Indian support and nonsupport for insurgents in South Asia. Based on fieldwork, primary sources, and specialized secondary literature, we uncover a rich landscape of links between India and armed groups in its neighborhood. We show a systematic connection between the strategies of support that India chooses with its aims in supporting rebels and its fears of escalation from doing so. However, there are mispredictions between our theory and empirical reality that we use in the conclusion to suggest new directions for research.

International Studies Quarterly

The University of Chicago