International relations is a very important component of the UPSC exam. It is part of the General Studies Paper II in the UPSC Mains exam. It is also relevant for the UPSC Prelims exam. In this article, you will get an overview of the international relations segment of the IAS exam, a strategy on how to tackle this section, a list of books for IR and also a comprehensive set of UPSC Notes for International Relations.
UPSC Syllabus for International Relations
In the UPSC Prelims exam, the IR segment is covered in GS Paper I as “Current events of national and international importance”. It is evidently interlinked with the current affairs segment.
Download the UPSC Prelims Syllabus in the link.
In the UPSC Mains exam, IR is part of the General Studies Paper II.
Under IR, GS Paper II may have questions based on the following topics:
- India and its neighbourhood
- Relations between India and neighbouring countries
- 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
You can download the UPSC Mains Syllabus in the link.
UPSC International Relations Trend Analysis
(Marks worth of questions asked from IR in the various years in IAS Mains)
The following graph shows the break-up of the international relations topics asked in the UPSC Mains 2020:
The next chart shows the same information for the preceding two years:
Crash Course on International Relations for Prelims 2021
How to approach International Relations for UPSC?
Although the IR section is a mix of both static and dynamic topics, questions are generally asked based on current affairs. Hence, it is extremely important to keep abreast of the latest international events and developments, and also how it can affect India and her relations with other countries.
For convenience during IAS preparation, we can divide the topics into various heads, as follows:
India’s international relations based on location:
- India and neighbours (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, China and Nepal)
- India and various organizations (UN, G20, ASEAN, GCC, IMF, EU, World Bank, etc.)
- India and the different regions (the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Europe, etc.)
- India and the rich nations (Australia, Japan, USA, etc.)
- India and the 5 UNSC members (USA, France, China, Russia and UK )
India’s foreign policy during the different phases:
- Cold War
- Non-alignment Movement
- Wartime with Pakistan and China
- Fall of the USSR
- Post 9/11
- Current events (Coronavirus, Vaccine diplomacy, etc.)
When you start reading the IR study material, you must begin by reading about:
- The basic philosophy underlying international relations.
- Evolution of the foreign policy of India.
- Major changes in the world in the last few decades and how India has been affected by those changes.
- Role of India in the major international organizations.
In bilateral relations, you must focus on:
- India – neighbours
- India – US Relations
- India – Russia Relations
- India – China Relations
In every relationship, look for the following:
- Historical relations
- Economic relations
- Contemporary issues
- Areas of confrontation
- Landmark agreements or movements
- Way to the future
- Unique opportunities or challenges
- Indian diaspora
International Relations Notes for UPSC
The important topics on international relations are linked in the table below:
International Relations UPSC Books
IR Books for UPSC Prelims
- NCERT XII (Contemporary World Politics)
- Current Affairs (News Analysis)
IR Books for UPSC Mains
- International Relations: Pushpesh Pant
You can get comprehensive video lectures on International Relations for the UPSC Exam here.