UPSC CSE (Mains) International Relations Previous Years Solved and Model Questions

International Relations Toppers Strategy

International Relations are an important part of the USPC mains exam. It is part of General Paper II. The GS Paper II syllabus mentions the following:

• International relations: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

• India and its neighbourhood- relations; Important International institutions, agencies, their structure, mandate

• Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

This is an unavoidable part of your IAS preparation because every year the UPSC asks questions worth around 100 marks from this section.

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This topic contains more dynamic than static portions. It is important to keep abreast of the latest happenings with respect to India and her relations with other countries in the world, to prepare suitable notes for this topic.

For your convenience, while preparing for these topics from the UPSC syllabus, we have divided it into sections.

India’s international relations based on location:

  • India and neighbours (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, China and Nepal)
  • India and various organizations (UN, G20, ASEAN, GCC, IMF, EU, World Bank etc)
  • India and the different regions (The Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Europe, etc)
  • India and the rich nations (Australia, Japan, USA, etc)
  • India and the 5 UNSC members (USA, France, China, Russia and UK)

India’s foreign policy during the different phases:

  1. Post-independence
  2. Cold war
  3. Non-alignment Movement
  4. Wartime with Pakistan and China
  5. Fall of the USSR
  6. Post 9/11
  7. Current events

When you start reading the IR study material, you must begin by reading about:

  • The basic philosophy underlying international relations.
  • Evolution of the foreign policy of India.
  • Major changes in the world in the last few decades and how India has been affected by those changes.
  • Role of India in the major international organizations.

In bilateral relations, you must focus on:

  • India – neighbours
  • India – USA Relations
  • India – Russia
  • India – China Relations

In every relationship, look for the following:

  • Historical relations
  • Economic relations
  • Contemporary issues
  • Areas of confrontation
  • Landmark agreements or movements
  • Way to the future
  • Unique opportunities or challenges
  • Indian diaspora

Talking of significance, here are few pointers that you shall keep in your mind:

  1. Is the country concerned a major economic/military/nuclear power?
  2. Does location of the country offer unique opportunities or may be challenges?
  3. Does India have significant trade dealings with the country?
  4. Does substantial foreign investment flow to India from the country in question?
  5. Is there any important defence/security tie with the country?
  6. Is there any dependence on the country for energy or food security?
  7. Is Indian diaspora present in the country?
  8. Has the country contributed in India’s growth?
  9. How do events/developments/outlooks/regimes/policies in the country affect India’s interests?

Similarly pointers for the rest headings can be constructed as follows:

Historical background:

  1. Immediately after independence, where did the country fit in IFP?
  2. Contribution of the country in developing India’s industrial, defence and scientific base
  3. Deals or treaties signed between the countries
  4. Conflicts in the past and their consequences

Note- Identifying the Four Cs i.e. areas of Convergence, Confrontation, Competition and Cooperation


  1. Democratic form of government
  2. Pluralistic societies
  3. Development imperatives
  4. Common problems


  1. Border disputes
  2. Resource sharing
  3. Cross border terrorism
  4. IPR
  5. Global environmental negotiations
  6. Trade disputes


  1. Exploration and development of resources in different parts of the world
  2. Role in sensitive areas
  3. Geo-strategic competition


  1. Dealing with terrorism, drug trafficking, environmental pollution
  2. Common stance on environmental negotiation forums and WTO
  3. Defence and security ties
  4. Trade development
  5. Infrastructure development
  6. Science and technology
  7. Global peace and stability

Note- Remember these pointers. We will be using them below to understand the significance of them one by one with an example.

Finally, projecting the future is something that requires in depth understanding and also the aptitude to extrapolate history and current developments to predict the future. Don’t worry about this part as for now. Once you evince interest in the subject, you shall be able to develop this quality as well.

So, we have developed our tools. You can add upon these tools as per needs and demands of the topic.

You shall notice during preparation of IR that all the news paper reports and articles hover around these pointers only. There is rarely a possibility of any information, views or opinions going beyond these pointers.

Since you have these pointers already, simply put the information received in the respective compartment.

For example if you have read articles on Indo-US relations in the past one year or so, you would have realized that the issues were centered on the following components:

  1. Convergence: Repeated reference to democracy, pluralism and equity by leaders of both nations
  2. Cooperation: Finalization and operationalization of the Indo US Nuclear deal, deals for sharing tax information to curb money laundering etc
  3. Confrontation: Contentions regarding IPR and Trade Facilitation Agreement at WTO, divergence at UNFCC, Devyani Khobragade issue etc
  4. Competition: Their roles in Africa, Maritime Asia etc

POLITICAL SCIENCE & INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: Strategy by IAS Topper – Mirant Parikh, Rank 67

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