By Ms. Sreya Maitra

The struggle for control over natural resources has been a legitimate enterprise by states to augment national power. But instances of shared or scarce resources have often been a cause for conflict or at least fierce competition. Some international relation theorists have described conflict as a ‘social situation in which a minimum of two actors strive to acquire at the same moment in time an available set of scarce resources’. The rich resource base of the continent of Africa has been of paradoxical consequences for its nations. While it has rendered strategic advantages to the region, thereby proving to be an asset the nations can utilize for development, it has also instigated various degrees of conflict at the inter-state and intra-state levels. The resolution of such resource related disturbances has either prolonged or been mediated by external, third-party interference. The case of the Nile River Basin Initiative though, is conspicuous as an exception. It is not only a landmark feat in bringing about peaceful resolution of dispute over Nile river-water-sharing through institutionalized cooperation among the ten affected countries but also a remarkable method to bring about sustainable development of the Nile basin by harnessing a common resource. Detailed Paper



By Ms. Sreya Maitra

Democratisation, in contemporary politics has been considered a sine-qua-non of political maturity and modernisation. However, the process of democratisation involves not just the transition to democracy but also its subsequent consolidation. While scholars across the world have deliberated on the requisites of accomplishing democratisation, most concede that the process requires a crucial role to be played by the civil society. Zambia has served as a case in point. Democratisation process in Zambia has been considered by most as a success story. The electoral defeat of the United National Independence Party (UNIP) under the leadership of Kenneth Kaunda after twenty-seven years of rule and the abolition of the one-party state were primarily instigated by mass-based popular movements. The subsequent multi-party elections on 31st October 1991 ushered the regime of another political party the ‘Movement for Multi-Party Democracy’ (MMD) and led to peaceful change of government. Detailed Paper



By Ms. Sreya Maitra

The knowledge of a nation’s history is crucial to the understanding of its socio-political evolution and dynamic as an actor in international affairs. An attempt to analyse the political events in Sudan in contemporary times in the light of its political history may thus help us gain useful insights. The paper argues that the present political dilemmas in Sudan are largely a product of its prolonged history of centralised, non-secular nature of administration by successive rulers. An attempt will be made to recount the critical junctures of Sudan’s political history which have shaped the political-social fabric of the country. The emphasis would be on drawing a causal relationship between the trend of monopolised power in the hands of the Islamic Arabs in the past and the present political culture of unilateral power-wielding by the democratic rulers.
Detailed Paper



By Ms. Sreya Maitra

Sudan has been at the centre of international attention, concern and speculation in the recent past. For years now, it has remained a hotbed of contesting claims and conflicts involving the state and contending rebel factions demanding greater autonomy and control over the rich resource bases. Extensive coverage by the media and expert reflections have resulted in detailed analyses of the problems between the Khartoum government and the rebels in the South, the trouble in Darfur and the conflict brewing in South Kordofan state. But solutions are yet to be reached and the steps proposed through international and national negotiations are yet to be adopted. Amidst the painful intractability, the vehemently defensive response of President Omar al- Bashir against the International Criminal Court’s decision to indict him for atrocity crimes, have rudely highlighted the limited scope of externally imposed solutions. It is indeed imperative that the answers to the ongoing problems are found from within the country itself such that sustainable methods of conflict-resolution can be implemented. The forthcoming national elections of 2010 offer one such unique opportunity to the people of this resource rich country. But conducting a successful election Sudan must be precluded by: (a) confronting existing political challenges as faced in implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and seeking peace in Darfur, and (b) adopting necessary electoral measures. The present paper attempts to focus on these dual aspects of political preparation which are imperative for improving conditions in Sudan. Detailed Paper



ByMs. Sreya Maitra

The mosaic of international relations witnesses extensive interaction between states for mutual advantage. Each state attempts to frame foreign policy in a manner that maximizes its strategic, political and economic benefits. India’s legitimate aspiration to emerge as a major player in world politics has rendered crucial significance to the articulation of comprehensive and dynamic foreign relations with nations endowed with crucial natural resources as well as strategic geo-political advantages. In pursuance with this objective the continent of Africa has gained ascending importance in India’s foreign policy calculations.

India and Africa have a relationship that can be traced back to ancient times. Contacts and trade between the people of the eastern seaboard of Africa and the western seaboard of India have been going on for centuries. However, the relationship has swung from a period of great emotional and political solidarity in the 1950s and 1960s (on the principles of Decolonization and Non-alignment) to selective engagement in the 1970s and 1980s. (1) Formulation of foreign policy pertaining to interaction with these nations in recent times has become complex as many of the African nations are embroiled in inter-state and intra-state conflicts. These are underlined by deep-rooted ethnic and non-ethnic characteristics which indicate failing governance and threaten to jeopardize political, economic and social stability. Hence, it becomes pertinent for the framers of India’s foreign policy to examine the nature and causes of conflict and deepen the understanding about the possibilities and consequences of engaging in active political and economic relations.
At the outset it maybe observed that scholars have described ‘conflict’ as a situation in which two or more actors pursue incompatible, yet, from their individual perspectives, entirely just goals. (2) In Africa a common set of inter-related factors underline the diverse nature of conflicts plaguing the nations. Scholars opine that a majority of these prevalent conflicts stem from the faultlines in the political, economic, culture and military fabric and in turn reiterate them, thereby weaving dynamic yet discernible patterns of discord.

African nations have witnessed conflicts since the time that they were enmeshed in the colonial yolk. To that extent, some of the patterns which have been identified by leading scholars like I William Zartman maybe summarized as follows: (3)

Decolonization power struggles that preceded and accompanied independence movements in nations like Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Western Sahara.

Runaway means for example Soviet aid to Somalia after 1963 and Soviet aid to Ethiopia in 1977. These essentially refer to the inter-state and intra-state conflicts fuelled by the Cold War bloc politics.

New independence consolidation as witnessed in countries like Chad, Angola and Ogden.

Leftover liberation movements conducted by political organizations like UNITA in Angola, Frolinat in Chad and the Western Somali Liberation Front.

Ill-defined territory causing clashes as between Libya-Chad, Togo-Ghana and Eritrea-Ethiopia.

Structural rivalries as between Algeria and Morocco, Ethiopia and its neighbors and Nigeria.

It may thus be observed that conflicts fall within the two broad patterns of inter-state and intra-state. However, both these forms of conflict may overlap and crucially affect one another. Intra-state conflicts could easily become inter-state as seen in cases of civil wars which get diffused and transcend national boundaries easily thereby becoming potent sources of insecurity for neighbouring states.

Conversely inter-state conflicts could have decisive effects on a domestic power struggle. Territorial disputes often reshape or perpetuate domestic power structures. In Africa, these find clear illustration in the cases of conflicts among the factions in Chad and the linkages with the Libyan-Chadian war (for the former) and Tanzanian- Ugandan war.

The above mentioned patterns have paved the way for discerning certain broad causes of conflicts. Some experts on Africa like Olatunde JCB Ojo, D K Orwas and C M Utete (4) observe that certain conflicts stem from internal sources (domestic factors) while other are fuelled by external sources (trans-national factors).

Support for liberation movements in the past, had often brought retaliatory raids from the colonial or white minority regimes leading to what Ojo and others calls a ‘militarization and regional arms race’. The latter scenario found ample demonstration in the Tanzania –Uganda conflict, the Ethiopia and Somalia war of 1977, Egypt-Libya conflicts and the subsequent military stalemate.

The struggle for self-determination in Africa has also fuelled considerable conflicts. The fight of the nomadic inhabitants of the western end of Sahara to establish the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (by organizing themselves into the Polisario Front) against the creation of Greater Morocco in the 1970s is a case in point. The self determination movements of the Eritrean people and the population in Southern Sudan have been particularly intense. Internal matters like the adoption of a radical ideology by one country have also contributed to the intensification of these self-determination movements within a particular nation. The prolonging of such movements has spawned inter-state conflicts where the contiguous regions have subscribed to an anti-thetical, conservative ideology.

Ideology maybe supplemented by and competing socio-political systems to cause conflicts. The clearest illustration of this was probably the racist ideology of the dominant Afrikaner regime in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. The racist regime was in perpetual conflict with the legitimate aspirations not only on the country’s black majority but of all citizens who sought a normal society in South Africa. The guardians of the apartheid regime relied on the use of overwhelming force against those neighbouring countries that continued to support Africans and others fighting for freedom and justice in South Africa. Incessant and highly destructive raids were conducted by the South African Defense Force against the Frontline States in order to destabilize and subdue the neighbouring states in the region.

The struggle over common yet scarce resources is another type of conflict springing from internal factors. Africa is home to precious natural resources but these are unevenly distributed. There are thus, numerous cases of individuals and groups competing for power for the greater allocation of such resources both within a particular state as well as between states. While the former is an example of internal struggle over the distribution of national resources and collective wealth, the latter obviously involves clashes between states over territories that are believed to contain valuable physical or mineral resources. Such clashing claims over natural resources have often assumed violent forms, thereby undermining the security of region in question. This was witnessed in the Libyan-Chadian conflict over the Aouzou strip, in Western Sahara conflicts over phosphates, in the Nigerian-Cameroonians dispute over border area which is believed to contain crude oil and the Nigerian-Chadian clashes over fishing rights in Lake Chad.(5)

Ethnic divergences form another complex source of discord in Africa. In ethnic conflicts, the primary faultline of confrontation is one of ethnic distinctions. Wolf opines that ethnic conflicts are a form of group conflict in which at least one of the parties involved interprets the conflict, its causes and potential remedies along an actually existing or perceived discriminating ethnic divide. In Africa, the first years of African independence were marked by secessionist movements in eighteen out of fifty-two states. Though these were mostly suppressed, the urgency of ethnic communities to establish themselves as distinct from any national identity was visible. Scholars point out that in recent times, domestic ethnic conflicts have been more common than inter-state conflict, but when these are diffused and escalate, they threaten regional security. Diffusion generally involves information flows from one state or ethnic community to another state or ethnic community that already contains high potential for ethnic conflict. (6) Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda have witnessed sharp ethnic clashes since the past decade.

Tactics such as the termination of secessionist movements in Katanga and Biafra by force of arms and the legalization of the colonial boundaries by the Organization of African Union have not resolved the issue of self-determination in Africa.

The political situation and conflicts in Africa have gained worldwide attention. The United Nations and the African Union have been consistently devising policies for mediation and resolution. But scholars opine that the result of extra-African intervention in both inter-state and intra-state conflicts has worsened and prolonged the levels of violence.

It must, however, be recognized that despite these innumerable instances of political instability and their spiraling effect on economy and governance, African nations have gradually begun to tread on the paths of democratization and modernization. While the viability of the nature of democracy remains a matter of debate among scholars, the African leaders have demonstrated a strong sense of confidence and inclination for responsible engagement in their interactions with other emerging powers. In the recent Indo-Africa Summit of April 2008, attended by the leaders of 14 African nations and the heads of the continent of regional economic grouping, the representatives categorically stated that they wanted the partnership with India to be on ‘equal terms’. Also, alluding to the blatant external interference of the developed countries in the internal affairs of the nations, they stated that today’s Africa does not need a ‘guiding hand’ from any country. India too has responded by saying that it truly understood the African continent’s needs and aspirations. In this vein, the countries of Africa and India have pledged to establish a ‘new framework’ of cooperation based on the principles of ‘equality, mutual respect and understanding’ (7)

The formulation of pragmatic foreign policy demands close and constant observation of the African situation to identify the nature of the conflicts in the nations and their likely impact on trade and other initiatives. For India, this would provide the scope to choose partners which have strategic advantages as well as the capability to maintain to long-term political-economic ties. Sufficient caution must be exercised by the Indian policy-makers to ensure that the economic initiatives are not subverted due to internal political or military unrest in the countries of Africa. The recent allegation by Human Rights activists that the Indian investment in oil companies in Sudan is being utilized by the authoritarian Khartoum regime to suppress the secessionist movement in the South (spearheaded by the Animists and the Christians) is a case in point. The efforts of comprehensive engagement in the economic (agriculture as well as industry), cultural, educational and technical sectors thus must be conditioned by these factors. As the situation is dynamic, continuous evaluation and policy corrections would be required to achieve strategic objectives.



1. Ruchita Beri, ‘India’s Africa Policy in the Post-old War Era: An Assessment’, Strategic Analysis, Vol. 27, No. 2, Apr-Jun 2003, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi, accessed electronically at:

2. Stefan Wolff, ‘Ethnic Conflict; A Global Perspective’, Oxford University Press, 2006, Accessed electronically at:

3. Francis Mading Deng and I William Zartman, Conflict Resolution in Africa, Brookings Institute Press, p xv, Accessed electronically at

4. Ibid, pp xvi-xvii.

5. Ibid.

6. Edmond J. Keller, ‘Trans-national Ethnic Conflict in Africa” in David A. Lake and Donald Rothchild, (ed.) The International Spread Ethnic Conflict; Fear, Diffusion and Escalation, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1998, pp 276-277.

7. John Cherian, ‘Engaging Africa’, Frontline, Volume 25, Issue 09, April 26-May 09, 2008, accessed electronically at: