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Geopolitical boundary narratives, the global war on terror and border fencing in India

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This article investigates how expansive new security projects have gained both legitimacy and immediacy as part of the ‘global war on terror’ by analysing the process that led to the fencing and securitising of the border between India and Bangladesh. The framing of the ‘enemy other’ in the global war on terror relies on two crucial shifts from previous geopolitical boundary narratives. First, the enemy other is described as not only being violent but also as outside the boundaries of modernity. Second, the enemy other is represented as posing a global and interconnected threat that is no longer limited by geography. These two shifts are used to justify the new preventative responses of pre-emptive military action abroad and the securitisation of the borders of the state. This article argues that in India the good and evil framing of the global war on terror was mapped onto longstanding communal distinctions between Hindus and Muslims. In the process, Pakistan, Bangladesh and increasingly Muslims generally are described as violent, irrational and a threat to the security of the Indian state. These changes led to a profound shift in the borderlands of the Indian state of West Bengal, where fencing and securitising the border with Bangladesh was previously resisted, but now is deemed essential. The article concludes that the framing of the war on terror as a global and interconnected problem has allowed sovereign states to consolidate power and move substantially closer to the territorial ideal of a closed and bounded container of an orderly population by attempting to lock down political borders.
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Keywords: Bangladesh; India; borders; global war on terror; security; sovereign state system

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-07-01

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