International Relations (IR) is one of those topics under UPSC General Studies Paper 2 that is both highly dynamic and challenging to study at the same time.

To study international relations for your UPSC is an inevitable part of your IAS preparation. You will not only have to refer to great international relations books for UPSC but also keep up with the recent developments over the world, especially with regards to India.

In this article, you will explore what are international relations? The syllabus for international relations, and also study important concepts of international relations and international affairs from the UPSC CSE perspective.

Syllabus for International Relations of India for UPSC

  • International relations
  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
  • India and its neighborhood- relations
  • Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
  • Indian diaspora

Expert Tip on International Relations for UPSC

To make the most of your preparation, make it a point to understand your syllabus well. Besides a strong foundational knowledge, you must read the newspaper daily, especially the columns related to foreign policies and India’s Relations with other nations.

Also Read: Check-out the Entire Political Science and International Relations Syllabus for UPSC Exams

Plan for Preparing International Relations for UPSC CSE

Every year, there are questions asked for around 100 marks from this section. Taking this topic lightly should not even be a thought for you.

Let’s first explore some general tips on how to tackle this crucial subject for your examination: –

Mind the Syllabus, Always!

It is best to keep your syllabus in mind during the preparations. Sticking to the syllabus will give you an idea of how to form the outline of the topics to cover.

Pick Up the Previous Years’ Question Papers

Before getting started with your study, you must pick up the previous years’ question papers. This will help you gain insight on the quality and nature of questions asked. It is important to understand the style of questions asked as now, you will know how to infer bookish knowledge and break it down conceptually/ diagnostically on paper.

Pick Up the Newspaper Daily

International relations is a dynamic topic. You must keep abreast of all latest happenings in India and the world when it comes to news on this. The Hindu is a great newspaper for all your international relations news.

Surf Online for Newsmakers

It is a great idea to hit up the internet to gather crucial current affairs and opinions on this topic. But, give this secondary importance above others.

Make Concise Notes

Like any other subject, for this one too, note making is unavoidable. The right way to make notes for international relations is by making country specific notes.

For example,

Our prime minister visited the Republic of South Korea recently to bolster strategic ties.

Now, from the perspective of your preparation, you should know all the details of international exchange between India and South Korea till date.

Preparation Process to Tackle International Affairs for UPSC

Let us now take on the preparation process based on the three major areas you must concentrate on: –

What to Study Under the Foundations of IR:

  • Clearly understand the basic philosophy aiding the international relations.
  • You must know the evolution of India’s foreign policy
  • You must be aware of all big changes in the international arena over the past few years. Clearly define India’s role and response to it.
  • You must highlight the role of India in all the major international organizations.

What to Study for India’s International Relations Based on Location

  • You must study India and its relations with its neighbors. These include the countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Myanmar, China, Sri Lanka, and Nepal
  • You must pay attention to India’s take and contribution to various organizations including the United Nations, ASEAN, G20, GCC, EU, World Bank, IMF, etc.
  • Make it a point to study the relationship between India and other international regions like Central Asia, The Americas, Middle East, Africa, Europe, etc.)
  • It is also important to study India’s relations with the affluent nations of the world, like Germany, Japan, USA, etc.
  • You must also read up on India and the 5 UNSC members i.e., USA, China, France, Russia and UK.

What to Study In Bilateral Relations and Foreign Policy

Make it a point to study in-depth about bilateral relations between India and the following:

  • Neighbors
  • Russia
  • USA
  • China

While studying India’s foreign policy, study it from the perspective of the following stages:

  • After independence era
  • The cold war and non-alignment time
  • Wars between china and Pakistan
  • Fall of the USSR
  • After 9/11

Also Read: What to Study for IAS UPSC? Click Here to Know in Detail

How to Study International Affairs for UPSC?

  • International affairs are as important as international relations for your UPSC mains GS 2 paper.
  • The major difference lies in the kind of questions that will be asked under international affairs.
  • Unlike international relations, where questions are framed around India and its ties with other nations, here, you will be asked about the relationship existing between other countries.
  • For example you might be asked about the current state of affairs between the USA and china.

The Right Approach to Study

While the foundational preparation tips remain the same for both, for International Affairs, you must concentrate on the following topics:

  • The United Nations
  • Crucial international organizations:
  • European Union
  • League of Nations
  • Organization of American States
  • G8
  • G20
  • African Union
  • Arab League
  • CIS
  • Organization Of Islamic Cooperation
  • International Legal Bodies
  • The Important Economic Institutions

Best International Relations Books/ Websites/ Newspaper to Study  for UPSC

  • Official Website of The Ministry of External Affairs
  • Pax Indica – Shashi Tharoor
  • Institute For Defense Studies And Analyses (Idsa) Website
  • The Hindu Newspaper
  • Frontline Magazine
  • India’s Foreign Policy: Coping With The Changing World – Muchkund Dubey
  • Ncert Books
  • Official Websites Of IMF/ World Bank/ UN

Also Read: Here’s the List of Best International Relations Books that Help You Prepare for UPSC


Hopefully, this article will give you a clear idea on the strategy you should follow to study International Relations and Affair of India for UPSC. For more informative posts that will help you boost up your preparation, keep your eyes here on this page. You can also share your thoughts upon the topics you would want us to cover. To comment, write your text in the below box.

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International Relations and Affair of India for UPSC: Notes and Strategy to Ace IAS Exam
What are international relations? What are the important notes of international relations of India? Which books to refer? Click here to know it all.
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About the Author


Shilpa is a professional web content writer and is in deep love with travelling. She completed her mass communication degree and is now dedicatedly playing with words to guide her readers to get the best for themselves. Developing educational content for UPSC, IELTS aspirants from breakthrough research work is her forte. Strongly driven by her zodiac sign Sagittarius, Shilpa loves to live her life on her own notes and completely agrees with the idea of ‘live and let live. Apart from writing and travelling, most of the time she can be seen in the avatar of 'hooman' mom to her pets and street dogs or else you can also catch her wearing the toque blanche and creating magic in the kitchen on weekends.

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