Studying international relations in India

Thank you for asking me to the All India International and Area Studies Convention 2019. You have chosen an ambitious topic: “Ascending India: Reflections on Global and Regional Dimensions” and have a packed agenda in the next three days.

I must confess to being a bit surprised at being asked to speak to this convention, and to be given the honour of a keynote address. The last time I was asked to the convention in 2013, I spoke in some detail about what I thought was wrong with IR studies in India. I spoke about the disconnect between theory and practice, about the apparent irrelevance and over-reliance on methodology and theory to the exclusion of fine work that could be done in the archives, and about what I saw as the absence of quality in Indian IR studies. I will not repeat what I said then as it lives forever on the web and you can google it if you are interested. But you can see why I am surprised to be asked back.

When I spoke then in 2013 it was as a practitioner, as someone who was involved in actual diplomacy and international relations and could therefore be expected to be impatient with theory and would look for practical utility. Today I am on the other side, as I try to teach a course on geopolitics in a university and write and lecture, older but not necessarily wiser, closer and closer to my anecdotage.

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