Managing Diversity: Power-sharing or Control? A Comparison between India and Sri Lanka

  • Radu Carciumaru (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


Based on the case studies of India and Sri Lanka, the paper combines conceptual and empirical findings on power-sharing arrangements as a key to conflict management in deeply divided, post-colonial societies. The two countries were chosen because of the similarity of their ethnopolitical conflicts but also because of their differences in conflict management practices and outcomes. For the case study on India, I argue that by applying power sharing principles the conflicts resulting from demands of minorities, such as homeland and linguistic recognition, were met through provisions based on the principle of segmental autonomy; demands for proportional representation in political decision-making were met through the specificity of “centric-regional” parties and through policies of reservation; whereas demands for security, such as preservation of cultural identity were met through segmental autonomy as well as formal and informal blocking rights. Conversely, Sri Lanka was originally blessed with favorable conditions at independence, but sub-optimal political choices after independence turned “milder ethnic conflict” into a protracted civil war. I argue that a policy based on a majoritarian control system was at the root of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. Two interrelated claims are advanced. Based on the consociational approach, 1) in a deeply divided society, conflict regulation can be achieved only through adoption of power sharing arrangements; and based on the majoritarian “control” approach: 2) in a deeply divided society majoritarian practices will exacerbate rather than regulate a conflict.


Divided Societies; Conflict; Consociationalism; India; Sri Lanka