International Relations of South Asia

International Relations of South Asia

Convenor: Professor Kate Sullivan de Estrada

No other region is as dominated by a single country as South Asia is by India: India has three times the population of all of the other South Asian countries combined; it is more powerful militarily, politically, economically, and some would say culturally. Viewed in comparative perspective, South Asia’s regional cooperation is very weakly institutionalized, leading to often pessimistic prognoses about the region’s potential for deep economic and political integration. Moreover, South Asia is not an isolated region. During the Cold War the Great Powers played an often divisive role, and China’s influence in the region is growing in significance. India’s hegemony in South Asia has evoked a range of responses from India, its neighbours and the wider world, and this option seeks to understand some of these.

Through a course of eight lectures and classes, we adopt a critical approach to some of the major theoretical paradigms in the discipline of International Relations (IR), and explore the ways in which they have shaped—and at times limited—the study of inter-state relations in South Asia since 1947. We unpack the unique historical, geographical, political, economic and demographic features of South Asia and open up a conceptual terrain for understanding key regional dynamics. We then engage with three distinctive approaches to framing and narrating events within (and beyond) the region: conflict and competition, including the enduring antagonistic (and recently nuclearized) relationship between India and Pakistan, and disputes over territory between India and Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh; cooperation, for example in respect of the riverine resources of the region, and through the regional institutional apparatus of SAARC; and the interplay of identities, both cultural and political, arising, for example, from internal secessionisms, insurgencies, and religious/ethnic disputes affecting parts of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, that spill across state boundaries.

Students will develop a critical ability to understand the theoretical assumptions that have shaped much of the production of IR scholarship on South Asia and that condition readings of events in the international politics of the region. They will develop a comparative perspective from which to understand inter-regional dynamics and the role of regional powers, an empirical foundation with which to narrate key moments in the bilateral and multilateral interactions between states in the region, and a sense of South Asia’s place and significance in the broader international arena.

Take a look at…

Devin T. Hagerty.  2005. South Asia in World Politics. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. 

E. Sridharan, ed. 2014.  International relations theory and South Asia: security, political economy, domestic politics, identities, and images. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.