India as a 'Great Power': Economics and International Relations

Convenors: Professor Matthew McCartney and Professor Kate Sullivan de Estrada

As India grabs headlines as an emerging power, this course surveys its role within its regional neighbourhood and on the world stage. Using a unique combination of theoretical lenses drawn from both international Relations and Economics, it addresses the question: will India become an international ‘great power’—and what kind of power will it become?

Through a course of eight lectures and classes, we will adopt a critical approach to the concept of a great power in the disciplines of International Relations (IR) and Economics and so examine the extent to which India might be considered a powerful state according to a range of measures; military, economic, and ‘social’. We will study India in relation to widely accepted characteristics of power and influence in world politics, but we will also be attentive to India’s particular sense of identity—a self-projection that has had, and will increasingly have, implications for India’s relations with its neighbours, Asia, and the wider world. We examine both India’s achievements and shortcomings and explore their outward projection. 

We begin the option with one conceptual lecture that explores competing theories and perspectives on great power in IR, and one historical lecture that engages with scholarship that positions India’s political and economic power and influence in broader global and historical relief. In six subsequent lectures we focus on the political and economic aspects of power and influence in turn. Each lecture offers a thematic approach to India’s political or economic power and focuses on specific empirical case studies to enable concrete discussion of future projections about India’s emergence and growth. For example, we survey India’s hard power, its role in international institutions, and its ‘soft power’ and status, and we look into India’s economic boom, its performance as a technological leader, and its role in the global economy.

Students will develop a critical ability to understand the theoretical assumptions that have shaped much of the scholarship on great powers and, by extension, appraisals of the extent of India’s global power and influence. The course will offer students a range of measures by which to assess the extent of, and the limits to, India’s international power. Central learning outcomes will include the development of an awareness of the complexity of selecting indicators of power, and an appreciation of the need to explore the roots of power projection in domestic political and economic processes, as well as in their regional and international context.

Take a look at…

Deepa Ollapaly and Rajesh Rajagopalan.  2012.  'India: Foreign Policy Perspectives of an Ambiguous Power’, in: Henry R. Nau and Deepa M. Ollapally, eds.  Worldviews of Aspiring Powers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.73-113.

Pranab Bardhan.  2012.  Awakening Giants, Feet of Clay: Assessing the Economic Rise of China and India. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


The image above shows the BRICS Summit 2015 (courtesy of