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Editors’ Note: How do states manage their armed forces, domestic politics, and foreign affairs? Stephen Cohen, senior fellow with the India Project at Brookings, has studied this and a range of other issues in Southeast Asia since the 1960s. In a new book, titled “The South Asia Papers: A Critical Anthology of Writings,” Cohen reflects on more than a half-century of scholarship on India, describing the dramatic changes he has personally witnessed in the field of research. The following is an excerpt from the book’s preface.

[In the 1960s, questions about how states manage their armed forces] were not only unasked in the South Asian context by scholars; they were also frowned on by the Indian government. This made preparation both interesting and difficult. It was interesting because a burgeoning literature on civil–military relations in non-Western states could be applied to India. Most of it dealt with two themes: the “man on horseback,” or how the military came to power in a large number of new states, and how the military could assist in the developmental process. No one had asked these questions of India, although the first was relevant to Pakistan, then still governed by the Pakistani army in the form of Field Marshal Ayub Khan.


During my first and second trips [in the 1960s] my research was as a historian, albeit one interested in the army’s social, cultural, and policy dimensions. I discovered, by accident, that this was part of the movement toward the…

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