Emergent powers in the field of peacebuilding: modalities, interactions and impact of Indian and Chinese engagement in the peace processes of Nepal and Myanmar
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date30/11/2021
The global emergence of countries like India and China has given rise to questions about how these emergent powers will engage with the various manifestations of the West-led liberal world order, including fields of humanitarian assistance, human rights, peace processes, and international development. This thesis explores this broader debate in the field of peacebuilding. Using the cases of Nepal and Myanmar, it probes how emergent powers, India and China, engage in the peace processes in countries in their region of influence or their immediate neighbourhood. In doing so, it explores how this engagement of emergent powers interacts with, and impacts, liberal peacebuilding projects on the ground. Finally, it examines how such plural and diverse sources of international engagement impact the political settlements in Nepal and Myanmar, at a precise moment when these countries are undertaking a peace process. Standing at the juncture of the three distinct bodies of scholarship, namely, regional foreign policies of India and China, liberal peacebuilding, and political settlements, this research takes a qualitative and inductive approach. It draws primarily on document analysis and elite interviews in Nepal and Myanmar, both countries having closely witnessed the simultaneous engagement of India and China and of liberal peacebuilders. Empirical evidence from Nepal and Myanmar shows that India and China speak a distinct vernacular of peace that cannot be encapsulated within the domain of liberal peacebuilding. This thesis proposes an alternative framework, conceptualised as Emergent Power Regional Conflict Management (EPRCM). It argues that the key features of EPRCM approach are: stability, development, unevenly applied state-centricity, rejection of the universality of liberal peace, prioritisation of regional actors in conflict resolution, and an underlying pragmatism that disdains the use of templates and policies in conflict-resolution. It contends that though EPRCM co-exists with liberal peacebuilding projects, this co-existence is defined by limited interaction, and a few instances of active contestation between the two, specifically when liberal peacebuilders are thought to be detrimental to the interests of emergent powers. A core area of convergence between them, however, is their joint focus on supporting peace agreements, which attempt to end conflicts. Within this negotiated co-existence between the two forms of international engagement, EPRCM is entrenched and vested, while liberal peacebuilding is weak and compromised, both by the strength of the EPRCM but also through the agency of local elites, who undercut and co-opt liberal peacebuilders. This thesis also argues that plural forms of international engagement, defined by the pragmatism and strength of EPRCM, and the timidity of liberal peacebuilding, with little interaction between the two, enables elites in Nepal and Myanmar to co-opt and hedge against all forms of international pressure. This increased autonomy of domestic elites leads them to renounce international and domestic pressure to make the political settlements inclusive, leading to hybrid peace structures. These structures embody some liberal precepts grounded on the agendas of the peace process, but are largely status quoist and illiberal. These illiberal hybrid peace structures continue to buoy the dominance of the elites and compromise on the key agenda of the peace process: the change of the political settlements.