International Relations : Topics & book list
Are you preparing for the UPSC Civil Services Examination? If yes, then you might be aware of the crucial role that International Relations (IR) plays in your preparation. With more than 100 marks allocated to General Studies Mains Paper 2, IR is a crucial component. Also, that can make or break your chances of success. However, its importance is not limited to Mains only. Consequently, it can also impact your performance in the Essay, Prelims, and Interview rounds.
IR is a dynamic and current affairs-based subject and most intriguing parts of the UPSC syllabus. The majority of questions in recent years have been from the dynamic portion. It also emphasizes the need for candidates to stay updated on recent developments around the world. To excel in IR, one needs to have a holistic understanding of the subject. Furthermore, IR is one of the most analytical segments of the syllabus. Therefore, requiring candidates to master basic concepts before moving on to current developments.
In this blog, we will take a closer look at the IR syllabus and explore some essential sources for preparing this section. Read on to master the art of cracking the IR section in the UPSC exam.
Key topics you need to know
- India’s relations with its neighbors
- Bilateral, regional, and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
- The impact of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, including its diaspora
- Important international institutions, agencies, and fora, including their structure and mandate
If you’re preparing for the International Relations section of the UPSC exam, you’ll need to know about these sources for both the background (static) and dynamic parts of the syllabus:
Sources for background (static)
- Rajiv Sikri’s “Challenge and Strategy: Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy”
- Shashi Tharoor’s “Pax Indica” (supplementary reading)
- “Does the Elephant Dance?” (supplementary reading)
Key areas for the dynamic part
- Ministry of External Affairs website
- Think tanks such as IDSA, ORF, and Brookings India
- Newspapers like The Hindu and Indian Express
- Magazines such as Frontline and Diplomat
- Yojana issues related to IR
- Rajya Sabha TV’s “India’s World” program
To excel in International Relations (IR) in the UPSC exam, comprehensive planning, and execution are key. While the vast and current nature of the subject can be intimidating, a strong grasp of the background is essential for making sense of current developments and providing insightful analysis and projections for the future.
However, even with a thorough understanding of various sources, retaining all the information can be challenging, particularly during the exam when candidates have limited time to write analytical answers. Simply having extensive knowledge isn’t enough; candidates must be able to provide satisfactory answers in a short amount of time. Without this ability, all their efforts will go to waste.
Books for the static portion of IR syllabus
- Rajiv Sikri’s book, “Challenge and Strategy Rethinking India’s Foreign Policy,” is a valuable resource that provides a concrete summary of India’s recent diplomacy, serving as a good background for the subject.
- However, for a more comprehensive understanding of India’s Foreign Policy, supplementary reading is necessary.
- Specialized books such as Shashi Tharoor’s “Pax Indica” and David M. Malone’s “Does the Elephant Dance” are excellent resources for diving deeper into the subject matter.
Overall, to approach the static portion of the IR syllabus successfully, it’s important to study the key concepts and themes presented in the foundational resources, while supplementing that knowledge with additional reading to deepen your understanding.
Ref books for the dynamic portion of the IR syllabus
- Start with newspapers and focus on editorials and articles related to IR or those affecting India’s Foreign Policy.
- Rely on official government sources for a balanced and diplomatic account, rather than biased opinions in the media.
- Visit the Ministry of External Affairs website frequently for authentic and searchable bilateral documents.
- Use IDSA and ORF websites for well-researched, in-depth analysis of both bilateral and multilateral relations.
- Selectively use magazines and RSTV programs for a wider perspective.
- Stick to basic understanding and comprehensive reading from dynamic sources, and only pursue supplementary reading if time permits.
To approach the dynamic portion of the IR syllabus successfully, focus on reliable sources for balanced information, and prioritize understanding key concepts and developments over extensive reading.
Key focus areas to cover in international relations in the UPSC
- Understanding India’s Foreign Policy doctrine and its evolution over the years
- Examining the Foreign Policy direction under each Prime Minister
- Bilateral relations with various countries, particularly those of India’s neighbourhood such as South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, and Island States
- Multilateral relations with various groups and organizations including SAARC, BIMSTEC, BRICS, SCO, ASEAN, and other international organizations such as UN agencies, WTO, WIPO, IMF, World Bank, etc.
- Familiarization with Climate Change related agreements and protocols under UNFCCC and other environmental agreements
- Awareness of issues affecting the Indian Diaspora.