International Relations UPSC Notes [Strategy, Booklist]

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
    • Structure
    • Mandate

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)

2018 80
2019 75
2020 55

The following graph shows the break-up of the international relations topics asked in the UPSC Mains 2020:

IR Trend Analysis

The next chart shows the same information for the preceding two years:

IR Trend 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:

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:

  1. Historical relations
  2. Economic relations
  3. Contemporary issues
  4. Areas of confrontation
  5. Landmark agreements or movements
  6. Way to the future
  7. Unique opportunities or challenges
  8. Indian diaspora

International Relations Notes for UPSC

The important topics on international relations are linked in the table below:

Iran Nuclear Deal Immunization Agenda 2030
World Cities Cultural Forum Codex Alimentarius Commission
CPTPP India-Mauritius Relations
Suez Canal Blockage 2021 Afghanistan Peace Process
Myanmar Coup D’etat 2021 UN75 Declaration
Abraham Accords Five Eyes Alliance
Kalapani Territory Issue China’s Five Finger Policy
Gilgit Baltistan Issue Oslo Peace Accords
Beca Agreement Currency Manipulation Watchlist
Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) Hambantota Airport
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM): Yugoslavia BRICS Summit 2020
WTO’s Latest Doha Round World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
WTO – World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference
World Sustainable Development Summit 2018 World Meteorological Organisation (WMO)
Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict World Investment Report 2020
World Health Organisation (WHO) India-Israel Relations
Israel-Palestine Conflict World Happiness Report 2021
World Food Programme (WFP) World Federation Of Trade Unions
Conflicts in West Asia World Employment & Social Outlook 2021
World Confederation Of Labour World Customs Organisation
United Nations World Water Development Report United Nations Security Council (UNSC)
United Nations University (UNU) – UPSC Notes United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
United Nations (UN) Principal Organs United Nations Special Committee Peacekeeping Operations
United Nations Peacekeeping United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) United Nations: UPSC Notes
United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) – UPSC Notes
United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) – UPSC Notes
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – UPSC Notes United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) – UPSC Notes
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – UPSC Notes UNESCO – UPSC Notes
United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) – UPSC Notes United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) – UPSC Notes
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – UPSC Notes United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC)
United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) – UPSC Notes United Nations Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development
UN Alliance of Civilizations United Nations Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development
White Shipping Agreement Trans-Pacific Partnership: Notes for UPSC
Syrian Refugee crisis The World Bank Group On Governance
Heart of Asia Diplomatic Immunity: Notes for UPSC
International Court of Justice (ICJ) – UPSC Notes TAPI (Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Pakistan – India Pipeline)
Blue Dot Network Teesta Water Dispute
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ashgabat Agreement
Bay of Bengal Initiative on Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) – UPSC Notes
India – Pakistan Relations India-Oman Relations
COP24 – UNFCCC United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)
Copernicus Programme Conflicts in West Asia: Notes for UPSC Exam
CITES – Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Can China stop flow of Brahmaputra River?
NATO India – US Relations
India – France Relations India-Japan Relations
India-Bhutan Relations India-China Relations
India-Afghanistan Relations India-Australia Relations
India-Myanmar Relations India – Africa Relations
India-Maldives Relations List of Joint Military Exercises of the Indian Army
Indo-US Military Agreements LEMOA
India-China border clash India – Taiwan Ties
Act East Policy India’s bilateral relations
Look East Policy India-Malaysia relations
India-Nepal relations Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA)
India-Pakistan relations India-Sri Lanka relations
India-Oman relations India-Bangladesh relations
Wassenaar Arrangement Missile Technology Control Regime
Australia Group India-Mexico relations
India-Vietnam relations List of International Organizations’ Reports
Global Indices and India’s Rankings Difference Between UK, Great Britain and England
Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA)
Broad-Based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA)
SAARC Indonesia
Rwandan Genocide Important Headquarters of International Organisations

International Relations UPSC Books

IR Books for UPSC Prelims

  1. NCERT XII (Contemporary World Politics)
  2. Current Affairs (News Analysis)

IR Books for UPSC Mains

  1. International Relations: Pushpesh Pant

You can get comprehensive video lectures on International Relations for the UPSC Exam here.

Also read: International Relations Questions in UPSC Mains GS 2

Related Links:

UPSC Books UPSC 2022 UPSC Current Affairs
UPSC Mains NCERT Notes For UPSC UPSC Prelims
IAS Eligibility UPSC Calendar 2022 UPSC Question papers


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