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International Relations for UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam

International Relations for UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam

International Relations (IR) plays a pivotal role in the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) examination, specifically in the General Studies Paper II of the Mains exam and as part of “Current events of national and international importance” in the Prelims exam. A comprehensive understanding of global affairs is crucial for aspirants aiming to excel in the civil services examination. This article provides an overview of the International Relations segment of the UPSC exam, a strategic approach to tackle this section, and a list of recommended books along with comprehensive UPSC notes for International Relations.

International Relations for UPSC

International Relations (IR) plays a crucial role in the UPSC Civil Service Mains exam, particularly in General Studies Paper-II. In the Prelims exam, IR is assessed under the “Current Events” category.

The IR topic encompasses various aspects such as:

  1. Foreign policy of India
  2. Bilateral relations
  3. Regional cooperation

In the Preliminary round, IR typically consists of 2 to 3 questions. In the Mains stage, the IR section involves around 4 to 5 questions, totaling approximately 40-50 marks.

Effective preparation for IR involves studying:

  1. The fundamental philosophy underlying international relations
  2. The evolution of India’s foreign policy
  3. Major global changes in recent decades and their impact on India


UPSC Syllabus for International Relations

India and its Neighborhood – Relations

Country Relations
China Border disputes, economic ties, BRI concerns, diplomatic dialogues
Pakistan Border disputes, Kashmir issue, terrorism concerns, diplomatic relations
Myanmar Economic ties, regional stability, Rohingya crisis
Bhutan Bilateral ties, Friendship Treaty, border issues
Bangladesh Water disputes, economic cooperation, regional stability
Sri Lanka Fishermen issue, ethnic tensions, economic cooperation
Afghanistan Regional stability, terrorism, strategic cooperation
Nepal Fluctuating ties, economic cooperation, regional dynamics
Maldives Geostrategic importance, recalibration of ties, FTA with China

Bilateral, Regional & Global Groupings & Agreements Involving India and/or Affecting India’s Interests

Grouping/Agreement Description
SAARC South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation
BRICS Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa
BBIN & BCIM Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation & Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation
BIMSTEC Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation
IBSA India, Brazil, South Africa
ASEAN & RCEP Association of Southeast Asian Nations & Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership
SCO Shanghai Cooperation Organization
Ashgabat Agreement Multilateral transport agreement between Oman, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and India
FIPIC Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation
IOR-ARC Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation
Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) Initiative involving six Mekong region countries and six Indian Ocean littoral states
Raisina Dialogue Multilateral conference on geopolitics and geoeconomics
Heart of Asia Conference Regional security and economic cooperation initiative focusing on Afghanistan
East Asia Summit Forum for strategic dialogue and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region
G-20 Group of Twenty major economies
Asian Development Bank Regional development bank
National Security Summit Forum for discussions on national security
Multilateral Nuclear Export Regulatory Regimes Wassenaar Arrangement, MTCR, Australia Group
APEC Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation

Effect of Policies & Politics of Developed & Developing Countries on India’s Interests

Global Issues Impact on India
One Belt One Road Concerns about sovereignty, connectivity projects
Global Trade War Trade implications, economic stability
Global Currency War Exchange rate fluctuations, economic impact
Syrian Crisis Diplomatic stance, refugee crisis
UN Reforms Advocacy for India’s role in global governance
WTO Reforms Trade negotiations, dispute resolutions
South China Sea Conflict Regional stability, maritime concerns
Brexit Economic relations with the UK, EU dynamics
Deglobalisation & Protectionism Trade policies, sanctions, H-1B visa issues, climate agreements
OPEC Oil Prices Manipulation Impact on India’s oil import bills

Indian Diaspora

Diaspora Aspect Description
Spread of Indian Diaspora Global presence of Indian communities
India’s Diaspora Policy & Initiatives Government initiatives, OCI, Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, Know India Programme
Role played by Indian Diaspora Cultural, economic, and diplomatic contributions
Issues Concerning the Diaspora Dual nationality, remittances, and other challenges

Important International Institutions

Institution Description
UN & its Agencies United Nations and its specialized agencies and programs
WTO World Trade Organization
World Bank International financial institution for development
IMF International Monetary Fund
World Economic Forum Annual meeting of global political and business leaders
Commonwealth of Nations Inter-governmental organization of countries with historical ties to the British Empire

International Relations UPSC Notes

India And Neighbourhood


  • Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan: Delhi


  • Ramna Kali Temple: Bangladesh
  • India-Bangladesh Commercial Railway Link Restored


  • China Builds Bridge across Pangong Lake
  • China’s New Border Law
  • Dalai Lama
  • India’s Trade with China
  • Developing Country Tag to China: WTO
  • China-Taiwan Issue
  • China’s New Sea-Road-Rail Link to Indian Ocean
  • China’s New Maritime Regulations for Foreign Ships


  • New Bridge: India & Nepal


  • Prohibition of Attacks against Nuclear Installations and Facilities: India-Pakistan
  • India-Pakistan Joint Protocol on Religious Pilgrimages 1974
  • Pakistan Violating Freedom of Air
  • Kulbhushan Jadhav Case
  • Provincial Status to Gilgit-Baltistan: Pakistan
  • Protests in Balochistan

Sri Lanka

  • Four Pronged Strategy on Sri Lanka Crisis

International Relations


  • US Imposes New Sanctions on China
  • East Asia
  • American Sanctions Over North Korea
  • Zen Garden – Kaizen Academy

South Asia

  • Forum of the Election Management Bodies of South Asia (FEMBoSA)
  • BHIM – UPI Launched in Bhutan

Important International Institutions

  • Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)
  • United Nations Security Council
  • Antonio Guterres: 2nd Term UN Secretary General
  • Pledge to Stop Nuclear Proliferation: Permanent Five of UNSC
  • Resolution 2593 on Taliban: UNSC
  • UNITE Aware Platform
  • Davos Summit: World Economic Forum
  • Humanitarian Trust Fund for Afghanistan: OIC
  • IEA Invites India to be a Full-Time Member
  • 13th BRICS Summit
  • 6th Eastern Economic Forum
  • FATF Retains Pakistan on Grey List
  • G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting
  • Build Back Better World (B3W) Initiative


  • Mission Sagar
  • Stand-Off on GERD
  • Violence in South Africa

India-Central Asia

  • India-Central Asia Summit
  • 3rd India-Central Asia Dialogue
  • CICA 6th Foreign Ministers Meeting


  • Homeland Security Dialogue between India and US
  • Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue: India-US
  • US-India Strategic Clean Energy Partnership (SCEP)
  • The America COMPETES Act
  • Nuclear Submarine Alliance: AUKUS


  • Russia-Ukraine Conflict
  • Nord Stream Pipeline
  • Global Gateway Plan: EU
  • Renegotiation of BTIA: India-EU
  • 4th India-Swiss Financial Dialogue
  • One Sun, One World, One Grid (OSOWOG)

Multilateral Engagements

  • Second ASEAN Digital Ministers Meeting
  • Connectivity Projects: India and Southeast Asia
  • India Joins OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework Tax Deal
  • Atlantic Charter
  • Antarctic Treaty

Gulf Region

  • Houthis Attack UAE
  • India and Oman
  • Enriched Uranium Stockpile by Iran
  • CEPA: India-UAE
  • India and Israel Relations
  • Al-Aqsa Mosque & Sheikh Jarrah: Israel-Palestine

Indian Ocean Region

  • Indian Ocean Naval Symposium
  • India First Responder In Indian Ocean Region
  • Indian Base in Mauritius’ Agalega Islands

Central America

  • Chile Rewrites Its Constitution
  • Protests in Cuba


  • Indian Military Dependence on Russian Equipments
  • Barbados: World’s Newest Republic
  • Tax Inspectors Without Borders Programme
  • New Quad
  • India-Australia First 2+2 Dialogue
  • Congressional Gold Medal
  • Queen Ketevan’s Relics: Georgia
  • Global Expansion of Nuclear Arsenal: SIPRI Report