“Conquest without Rule: Baloch Portfolio Mercenaries in the Indian Ocean.”
The central question this dissertation engages with is why modern states in the Persian Gulf rely heavily on informal networks of untrained and inexperienced recruits from the region of Balochistan, presently spread across Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The answer, it argues, lies in the longue durée phenomenon of Baloch conquering territories abroad but not ruling in their own name. Baloch, I argue, conquered not to establish their sovereign rule, but to open channels of mobility for others. The rise of nation-states and citizen-armies in the twentieth century limited the possibility of Baloch conquest. Yet, the Baloch continued to find a place in the Gulf’s protection industry through historically shaped informal, familial, commercial, and parapolitical transnational networks. Flexible and persistent Baloch networks provided territorially bounded states the ability to access resources outside their boundaries without investment in formal international contracts.
Moreover, this dissertation makes the argument that mobile Baloch operated as ‘Portfolio-Mercenaries’, offering their military-labor to foreign states in order to build their own portfolio of transnational economic, social and political activities. At times these portfolio projects contradicted state interests; at other moments they corroborated them. In either situation, the non-soldiering activities of mercenaries went on to transform the nature of political order in the twentieth-century space of the Indian Ocean. They shaped the nature of international law, carried state order beyond borders, stabilized unpopular regimes, and provided ready sources of labor. Through the example of Baloch Portfolio-Mercenaries, the dissertation thus highlights the thick and enduring relationships between state and transnational networks.
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