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date: 13 June 2024

India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh: Civil-Military Relationslocked

India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh: Civil-Military Relationslocked

  • Sumit GangulySumit GangulyDepartment of Political Science, Indiana University, Bloomington


Civil–military relations in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh constitute an interesting puzzle because all three nations are inheritors of the British colonial tradition of military subordination to civilian authority. The patterns that have emerged and evolved in these countries stand out in marked contrast to one another. In India, barring important and marked exceptions, the military has mostly remained away from politics and has, for the most part, been subordinate to civilian authority. In the early part of the 21st century, however, there have been some disturbing developments which call into question the political neutrality of the military. Yet it is unclear if these will lead to an erosion of the mostly apolitical ethos of the military. In Pakistan, in marked contrast, the military took part in four coups (1958, 1969, 1978, 1999), ruled the country for extensive periods of time and has secured a position in the country’s governing structure. Barring extraordinary endogenous or exogenous shocks, it is hard to envisage a dramatic change in the structure of civil–military relations in the country. In Bangladesh, the military led coups in 1975, 1982, and 2007. Even though it does not have a formal role in government, it nevertheless remains an important force in the politics of the country. No national leader can act on critical questions of public policy without taking into account the views of the uniformed military. More to the point, elements within the military have remained restive and have chafed at civilian control.

What explains the three divergent pathways in these countries despite their common colonial heritage? What are the salient features of civil–military relations in these states? How have India and Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons affected the scope and dimensions of their civil–military relations? What does the future hold for civil–military relations in all three states? These are the principal questions that will addressed be drawing on a substantial swath of extant literature.


  • History and Politics
  • World Politics

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