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International Studies 2009 Bajpai 109 28

International Studies 2009 Bajpai 109 28

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Published by Priya Naik

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Published by: Priya Naik on Aug 21, 2012
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International Studies
International Studies 
Kanti Bajpai
Obstacles to Good Work in Indian International Relations
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International Studies 
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at Dehli University Library System on August 7, 2012isq.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
The author
is Professor in the Politics and International Relations of South Asia, Oxford University,Oxford, UK. E-mail: kanti.bajpai@area.ox.ac.uk. He would like to thank the twoanonymous reviewers whose comments have enriched the final version of the article.
Obstacles to Good Work in Indian International Relations
Kanti Bajpai
This article suggests that, from 1947 to the late 1980s, Indian International Relations (IIR)led the developing world and certainly Asian IR. Since then, China, Korea and Japan seem tohave taken the lead. The article defines the nature of ‘good work’ as ‘good published work’and argues that there are five key obstacles to better published work in IIR: the neglect of theory; the failure to define a series of animating puzzles, problematiques and problem-solvingagendas; the lack of methodological training; the quality of teaching; and the mismanagement of professional life. Three reasons are advanced for the origins and persistence of these ob-stacles: post-colonial parochialism; the influence of the formative moment of the field in India;and the relationship of Political Science/IR to the Indian state. The article concludes that theremedies are primarily in the hands of Indian scholars and not with the government.
Indian IR, theory, methodology, puzzles, problematiques, teaching, post-colonialism
In the late 1980s, India could boast of the strongest International Relations (IR)scholarship in Asia if not the developing world in terms of the number of teachingand research programmes, the enrollment of students, the breadth of the curriculumand most importantly, the nature of journal and book publishing.
While the stand-ard of Indian IR (IIR) was questionable even then,
both quality and quantitywere impressive relative to the output of other developing countries. Today, thatis no longer the case. Why?
INTERNATIONAL STUDIES 46, 1&2 (2009): 109–28
SAGE Publications
Los Angeles/London/New Delhi/Singapore/Washington DCDOI: 10.1177/002088171004600208
I assert this as the common sense of the field based on conversations with fellow IR scholarsfrom India and Asia over the years.
See Rana (1988a), which reviews the field until 1970. Other reflections on the field include:Appadorai (1987); Bajpai (2005a and 2005b); Behera (2007 and 2008); CDC (1991); Mallavarapu(2005a and 2005b); Misra and Beal (1980); Rajan (1978, 1994, 1997); Rana (1988b and 1988c) andRana and Misra (2005).
 at Dehli University Library System on August 7, 2012isq.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
 / K 
 International Studies 46, 1&2 (2009)
: 109–28
Until the late 1980s, IIR was ahead of IR in China and the rest of Asia. In the2000s, Chinese, Japanese and Korean IR scholars are closer to the cutting edgeand have a liveliness lacking in IIR.
A comparison with India’s economy is reveal-ing. For years, it was claimed that India was exceptional. While the East Asiancountries chose export-led growth and brought in foreign investment andtechnology, Indians argued that this would not work for their country—India hadtoo big an economy for export-led development; social justice concerns did notpermit economic openness; domestic industry needed protection for balancedgrowth; political and foreign policy concerns precluded an alien presence in Indiaand so on.Parallel arguments could be advanced for Indian academic life, including IIR.Thus, India’s IR community chose not to engage with the Anglo-American (orany other) IR community. After the 1950s, the number of Indian scholars goingabroad for Political Science and IR programmes declined. The Ford Foundationand other foreign funding institutions reduced their support of IR in India, at leastpartly because the Indian government frowned upon external funding.
The IndianSchool of International Studies (ISIS) became the School of International Studies(SIS) in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and was the main training ground forIndian IR scholars. Foreigners were not hired to teach IR in India, and few spentany length of time in Indian universities.
Hard currency restrictions made it diffi-cult to buy books and journals and to fund trips abroad, thereby shutting JNU andothers off from foreign IR and from foreign competition.Ironically, India had several advantages in the 1950s that could have made itan economic power. The country was blessed with natural resources, includingexcellent endowments of arable land and water. The railway system was largeand well run. The economy featured an industrial base and big hard currencyreserves left over from World War II. India could count on a good workforce and abusiness community of some depth. It had strong laws, a stock exchange, a politicalleadership conversant with the workings of the free market and the language of global commerce, English. The middle class was substantial and sophisticated.And Indian civil servants were among the best in the non-Western world.India’s academic life too was the envy of Asia and Africa in the early yearsafter independence. The country had several universities with a global reputationand could boast of respected teachers in all disciplines, including in most of the
This is a personal impression from conferences in India and Southeast Asia. My sense is thatothers who have encountered East Asian scholars have come to a similar conclusion. On non-WesternIR, see the contributions in the special issue of the
 International Journal of the Asia-Pacific
, vol. 7,no. 3, 2007, and Tickner and Waever (2009). See also Acharya and Buzan (2010).
Personal communication from a former member of the Ford Foundation, 31 January 2010.
The longest stints of foreign scholars in India were probably those of Quincy Wright, JohanGaltung and Hedley Bull.
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