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STRATEGY FOR INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
The syllabus of International Relations (IR) in GS Paper II is given below:
- India and its neighborhood- relations.
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
- Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
Sources and resources:
- Pax Indica by Shashi Tharoor- Voluntary
- India’s Foreign Policy: Coping with the Changing World by Muchkund Dubey
- World Focus Magazine
- The Hindu
- Live Mint
- Indian Express articles by C Rajamohan
- MEA Website
- MEA Annual Report
Note– Do not panic about lots of sources. IASbaba will be covering them all 🙂 Pax Indica and Muchkund Dubey- Any one of them will suffice.
IR is the most dynamic portion of the UPSC Mains syllabus. One needs to keep a tab on all the recent developments happening around the world that directly or indirectly affect India. IR is also one of the most analytical segments of the syllabus. A thorough understanding is required and thus superficial knowledge is of no use as far as IR is concerned. Many candidates find it difficult to manage IR because of its vast and contemporary nature for the simple fact that not only one must be acquainted with history to make sense of the current developments but also be intelligent enough to make projections for the future. Although candidates start preparing for IR with much zeal and enthusiasm but all of that fizzles out soon for the reasons explained before. It is thus important to have a clear understanding of some basic concepts related to the syllabus before we lay out a detailed plan for the same. You have to equip yourself with the following static portion before you start reading and appreciating current developments in the field of IR:
- Basic philosophy and assumptions underlying IR
- Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy
- How the world has changed in the past few decades; impact of those changes
- How India’s Foreign policy has responded to those changes
- Role being played by India on a regional, global and institutional levels in the past
The best books for this purpose are India’s Foreign Policy: Coping with the Changing World by Muchkund Dubey or Pax Indica by Shashi Tharoor. Initial few chapters of both these books have dealt with all the basic information that is required to expand your knowledge base with respect to IR. You shall be able to better understand and appreciate India’s Foreign Policy (IFP) thereafter. For example:
- All our policies are aligned to primarily serve India’s national interests, secure India’s borders, ensure military and non-military security and promote global peace.
- We as a nation-state believe in certain cardinal principles which include non-alignment, nuclear disarmament, multilateralism etc.
- An understanding of aforesaid philosophies and principles would make you aware of the underlying rationale behind India’s stance on various issues, fora, events and developments.
Moreover, you shall get acquainted with the following dimensions of IR which will broaden your horizon further:
- How changes in the past few decades for example end of Cold War, disintegration of USSR, end of bipolarity, emergence of capitalism, nuclear arms race, evolution environmental regimes etc have changed the world and also how India responded to them.
- What sort of strategies India adopts in exercise of its Foreign Policy.
After having already made a strong foundation, you can delve into the subsequent chapters of the books. We shall recommend Pax Indica over Muchkund Dubey in this case as the former is more exhaustive, analytical and elaborate than the later. India’s relations with various countries, groupings and sub groupings have been dealt under following heads:
- India and it’s neighbors
- Indo-US relations
- Indo-Russia relations
- Indo-China relations
- Arab World and rest of Asia
- Europe, Africa and Latin America
Only after completing these components you should look forward to news papers. You would be able to make sense of the editorials in a much comprehensive manner. But there is a little problem here. Even if one goes through all these sources and develops a thorough understanding of the same, it is not possible to retain the truckload of information and perspectives provided therein. In fact in the examination, this problem gets accentuated where one has to write an analytical answer in less than 8 minutes.
So no matter how many sources you have referred to and how diverse your understanding is, if you are not able to produce a satisfactory response to a question, all your efforts are wasted. UPSC doesn’t give you consolation prize for being a laborious aspirant! 🙂
So, what it is the way out? How one can extract maximum from his preparation to get the ultimate reward by UPSC? The answer lies to extensive planning and execution. Basically all the subjects and topics that you are studying are having souls. You have to try to be as close as possible to the soul of the subject and channelize your efforts in that direction. It means you first need to identify all the dimensions of a subject in the current scheme of things. Then you must organize them in easily understandable compartments to ease your preparation. In the age of internet, everyone knows everything but what makes one unique is his/her ability to streamline all the scattered info to generate a logical response. It helps you like tools and equipments. All topics of the syllabus can be prepared with the help of different tools. But since our attention here is IR, we demonstrate to you how such tools can be developed and actually be employed during the examination.
So, here is a word of advice for you. Although, the books referred here are systematic and lucid in their presentation, while you read these relations from these books or any other source of your liking and of course news papers, make sure that you compartmentalize the given wisdom in the following separate headings. In fact it would be even better if you prepare short notes or mind maps of the same: (IASbaba will provide detailed Mind Maps for the same)
- Significance of the relation
- Brief historical background i.e. major landmark moments
- Identifying Four Cs i.e areas of Convergence, Confrontation, Competition and Cooperation
- Projecting the future
You will be amazed to notice how simple it becomes if we further breakdown these broad headings and superimpose relations with any country, grouping or sub grouping to extract maximum information from our memory particularly during examination. We shall take up a case to demonstrate the same but before we do that let’s expand these headings.
Talking of significance, here are few pointers that you shall keep in mind:
- Is the country concerned a major economic/military/nuclear power?
- Does location of the country offer unique opportunities or may be challenges?
- Does India have significant trade dealings with the country?
- Does substantial foreign investment flow to India from the country in question?
- Is there any important defence/security tie with the country?
- Is there any dependence on the country for energy or food security?
- Is Indian diaspora present in the country?
- Has the country contributed in India’s growth?
- How do events/developments/outlooks/regimes/policies in the country affect India’s interests?
Similarly pointers for the rest headings can be constructed as follows:
- Immediately after independence, where did the country fit in IFP?
- Contribution of the country in developing India’s industrial, defence and scientific base
- Deals or treaties signed between the countries
- Conflicts in the past and their consequences
Note- Identifying the Four Cs i.e areas of Convergence, Confrontation, Competition and Cooperation
- Democratic form of government
- Pluralistic societies
- Development imperatives
- Common problems
- Border disputes
- Resource sharing
- Cross border terrorism
- Global environmental negotiations
- Trade disputes
- Exploration and development of resources in different parts of the world
- Role in sensitive areas
- Geo-strategic competition
- Dealing with terrorism, drug trafficking, environmental pollution
- Common stance on environmental negotiation forums and WTO
- Defence and security ties
- Trade development
- Infrastructure development
- Science and technology
- Global peace and stability
NOTE- Remember these pointers. We will be using them below to understand the significance of them one by one with an example.
Finally, projecting the future is something that requires in depth understanding and also the aptitude to extrapolate history and current developments to predict the future. Don’t worry about this part as for now. Once you evince interest in the subject, you shall be able to develop this quality as well.
So, we have developed our tools. You can add upon these tools as per needs and demands of the topic.
You shall notice during preparation of IR that all the news paper reports and articles hover around these pointers only. There is rarely a possibility of any information, views or opinions going beyond these pointers.
Since you have these pointers already, simply put the information received in the respective compartment.
For example if you have read articles on Indo-US relations in the past one year or so, you would have realized that the issues were centered around the following components:
Convergence: Repeated reference to democracy, pluralism and equity by leaders of both nations
Cooperation: Finalization and operationalization of the Indo US Nuclear deal, deals for sharing tax information to curb money laundering etc
Confrontation: Contentions regarding IPR and Trade Facilitation Agreement at WTO, divergence at UNFCC, Devyani Khobragade issue etc
Competition: Their roles in Africa, Maritime Asia etc
On the basis of these pointers you can thematically examine the articles/chapters/news and prepare your own notes/mind maps. Thereafter, your ideas shall take shape in a logical manner and you would be able to answer any question. Similar strategy can be adopted with respect to International Organization, diaspora issues etc.
Now, we take a case to demonstrate our strategy. Consider the question that was asked in CSE 2013:
The proposed withdrawal of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afganistan in 2014 is fraught with major security implications for the security of this region. Examine in light of the fact that India is faced with a plethora of challenges and needs to safeguard its own strategic interests.
The asked question was in news during that time and anyone regular with the newspapers and some background could answer the question without much difficulty. Let us apply our strategy here to answer the same question.
The question is talking of strategic interests of India in the region. It means we have to first identify its strategic interests and only then we could answer the main question that is the challenges that ensue after the departure of ISAF. If you remember, we talked about significance. Now refer to those pointers and identify the most suitable ones for this question. You would accept that except points 2,6 and 7 all other points are irrelevant for this question. Let us enumerate these points and expand them to have a fair idea:
Pointer 2. Does location of the country offer unique opportunities or may be challenges?
Afganistan is gateway to Central Asia and West Asia and a natural frontier in the North west of South Asian landmass.
This location has created potential to develop a hub of energy trade and transport corridors. It means that the region is strategic to India’s energy security.
The region has mostly been a fertile ground for terrorist activities. ISAF withdrawal would leave a void that can be seized by terrorists again jeopardizing India’s security i.e. fertile ground for ISI, resurgence of Taliban, another Kandhar hijack type incidents etc
Pakistan may seize the opportunity provided by US withdrawal to devour the regime that compromises with them.
Pointer 6. Is there any dependence on the country for energy or food security?
Already discussed above.
Pointer 7. Is Indian diaspora present in the country?
Yes. A number of engineers, doctors, teachers and many other professionals are present in this region involved in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afganistan. Their lives would be severely under threat of security in the region is not ensured.
So, more than half of our job is done by merely recollecting information from our pointers. Now we can frame the answer by being a bit suggestive i.e. How we can secure our interests? For framing this part also, we can refer to our headings of the Four Cs. Clearly, we have to focus upon cooperation here as all other Cs are irrelevant.
Let us examine it further. Have a close view of what pointers 1, 3 and 5 say.
- Dealing with terrorism, drug trafficking, environmental pollution
India must work to improve state capacity of Afganistan to combat terrorism and reduce vulnerability for extremist takeover.
- Defence and security ties
Capacity building and up gradation of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to ensure peace and stability in the region.
- Infrastructure development
To ensure prosperity in the region that shall ensure long term stability in the region.
Finally let us consolidate all the information to produce our answer:
Afghanistan is gateway to Central Asia and West Asia and a natural frontier in the North West of South Asian landmass.
This location has great potential to develop as a hub of energy trade and transport corridors. It means that the region is strategic to India’s energy security.
However, the region has mostly been a fertile ground for terrorist activities. ISAF withdrawal would leave a void that can be seized by terrorists again jeopardizing India’s security i.e. fertile ground for ISI, resurgence of Taliban, another Kandhar hijack type incidents etc
In fact, Pakistan may seize the opportunity provided by US withdrawal to devour the regime that compromises with them.
Moreover, a number of engineers, doctors, teachers and many other professionals are present in this region involved in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan. Their lives would be severely under threat if security in the region is not ensured.
Therefore, India must work to improve state capacity of Afghanistan to combat terrorism and reduce vulnerability for extremist takeover.
Also, India can contribute to capacity building and up-gradation of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to ensure peace and stability in the region.
Finally, India must continue the reconstruction and rehabilitation work in the region to ensure prosperity in the region that shall ensure long term stability in the region.
End Note– Similarly, pointers for other parts of the syllabus can be developed to streamline our understanding of the topic and help us recollect information in a quick and efficient manner. We shall come up with similar strategies and more detailed Mind Maps to make your preparation exciting and easy. Hook for more strategies and expert guidance on other aspects of Mains preparation to be aggressively covered after PRELIMS 2015.
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