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This paper contributes to a growing literature on state capacity with reference to the early modern Asian empires. The historiography of these states, and especially the Mughal empire of South Asia, has moved away from an image of unrestrained despotism towards that of a constrained state, but has yet to explore fully what these constraints were and what the state did to overcome them. Using a new dataset on conflicts in Mughal South Asia, and an analytical model, the paper shows how forgiving rebel leaders was used as a strategic tool to secure stability, in a setting where high information costs made intermediaries indispensable to the state. The paper also offers some comparison between Asian empires on the role of intermediaries in shaping state constraint and fiscal policies.