Understanding Conflict Dynamics: A Comparative Analysis of Ethno-Separatist Conflicts in India and the Philippines

A.G. Reed

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


This thesis is a comparative analysis of three contemporary separatist conflicts in Asia: The Naga Insurgency, the Punjab Crisis and the Moro Rebellion. The objective of this thesis is the understanding of conflict dynamics: how and why conflicts escalate or de-escalate over time. Previous research has tended to focus on the beginning and final phases of conflicts, seeking to understand how and why conflicts start and end. In contrast this research project has taken a holistic view of conflicts, investigating the dynamics of escalation and de-escalation over the lifespan of the conflict. Historical analysis was applied to trace the development of the conflicts, and to identify the causal processes that drove the violence. The three conflicts were broken down into a series of phases, which allowed the analysis of the different stages of the conflict revealing how the conflicts changed over time. Each phase was examined through an analytical trinity of context, State actors and non-State actors. In which the following factors were examined: Context: Social cleavages; popular support; grievances; local politics; national politics; international politicsState: State action – coercive force; state action – policy solution; state capacity; strong/weak government Non-state: Strategy of armed groups; capacity of armed groups; factionalisation; criminalisation The research highlighted the complex web, of inter-locking factors that acted to both escalate and de-escalate the violence. These included the contextual dynamics across the local, national and international levels, as well as the internal dynamics of the state and non-state actors. One important finding was how the state was a dynamic actor. In each case the initial response of the state inflamed the situation, not only escalating the conflicts and but also becoming in itself a driving force behind the conflict. Whilst the Naga Insurgency and the Moro Rebellion ultimately moved towards a political solution, the Punjab Crisis, would prove to be a special case were a military approach successfully ended the conflict, although this was due to a unique set of circumstances. Over time the state would learn from its mistakes and develop more effective strategies , however so would the insurgent groups. What develops is a situation in which both sides go through a learning curve, and the one that achieves the steepest learning curve maintains a crucial advantage.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Hellema, Duco, Primary supervisor
  • de Graaff, Bob, Supervisor
  • Duyvesteyn, I.G.B.M., Supervisor
Award date18 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2013


  • Conflict Dynamics
  • Ethno-separatist conflicts
  • Punjab Crisis
  • Naga insurgency
  • Moro
  • Insurgency
  • Terrorism
  • Counter-terrorism


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