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Fears of Anarchy?

Sonali Huria

Edited by T.V.Paul
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 352, Rs. 750.00

VOLUME XXXV NUMBER 8-9 August-September 2011

It is commonly argued today that the greatest threats to world order and security come not from strong and well-organized sovereign states, but the world's most fragile states, alternatively called 'failing', 'quasi', 'faltering' or 'weak' states. While the first murmurs about these so-designated 'failed states' began to be heard around the time of the Clinton adminis-tration, the notion was popularized by Robert Kaplan's seminal work The Coming Anarchy which sought to warn western governments of the impending threats to global security from the 'regressive developments' in West Africa and most of the developing world—'the withering away of central governments, the rise of tribal and regional domains, the unchecked spread of disease, and the growing perva-siveness of war.' The events of 9/11, in the aftermath of which the US identified states like Afghanistan and Somalia as potential terrorist havens that it believed would be used to train, arm, and attack the developed world (a fear reflected in its 2002 and 2006 National Security Strategies), provoked significant academic and policy interest in the issue, resulting in a substantial increase in the literature on the subject. While a great deal of the extant 'state failure' literature relates to Africa, there is little academic work on the subject in the context of other regions such as South Asia. Given this lack of scholarly literature on weak/failed states in regions outside the African continent, South Asia's Weak States: Understanding the Regional Insecurity Predicament is a welcome addition. The principal aim of the book is to assess the perennial insecurity, both domestic and regional within South Asia. Paul contends that South Asia's multifaceted insecurity predicament can be explicated by two important factors—the presence of weak states and weak cooperative interstate norms. The book has a fair mix of the theoretical and empirical. It devotes substantial space to both, the conceptual analysis of state weakness and regional insecurity in South Asia, and individual country case studies. In particular, the essays in the second section on the theoretical aspects of state weakness are refreshingly nuanced and offer useful insights into the subject. Benjamin Miller, in his essay 'State, Nations, and the Regional Security Order of South Asia', uses a historical-sociological lens to view the region's insecurity. He identifies the 'state-to-nation incongruence' or the 'incompatibility between political boundaries and national identification' as a potent underlying factor for the region's 'war-proneness'. Matthew Lange's essay on 'State Formation, Consolidation, and ...

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