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Contemporary Policy Challenges

Rajesh Rajagopalan

Edited by E.Sridharan
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 368 & 417, Rs. 750.00

VOLUME XXXV NUMBER 8-9 August-September 2011

International Relations (IR) theory has been a relative latecomer to South Asia. Until a few years ago, much of the IR literature in South Asia—and indeed on South Asia—had been unabashedly untheoretical. But the last decade has seen a flowering of very deliberately theoretical work in South Asian IR. This flowering was made possible by renewed interest in South Asia in American academia and by a growing crop of South Asian IR scholars, some of them trained outside the region. It has been propelled by a strong sense among many South Asian IR scholars that the region had neither engaged with nor contributed much to the global IR theory debates and by a determined commitment to reverse this lacuna. E. Sridharan has been at the forefront in this endeavour. This two volume set of essays was preceded by an earlier collection of South Asian IR theory works focused on nuclear weapons and deterrence in the region which also Sridharan edited. And several years back, Kanti Bajpai and Siddharth Mallavarapu edited another two volume set of Indian IR theory essays. The volumes are a good barometer of how far IR theory has developed in the region but also of how far it has to go. The good news first: what these volumes demonstrate is that there are now a fairly large number of IR scholars in the region who are interested in theoretical explorations and actively engage with IR theory. This suggests that the traditional antipathy among South Asian IR scholars towards theory has diminished. Diminished, because experience suggests that there is still a residual level of dismissiveness towards theoretical concerns among IR scholars. Another caveat that needs to be mentioned is that much of this work is being carried on in India. In this two volume set, for example, sixteen of the twenty-two essays are from Indian contributors. These essays suggest a number of other conclusions also about the state of IR theory in the region. One of the most notable features of these essays is their inordinate focus on large issues and questions and almost complete avoidance of analysis of specific and narrow policies or issues. There are three essays that analyse regional issues: Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Aparajita Biswas examine regional integration and Varun Sahni looks at regional security. Others focus on bilateral relations: Nalini Kant Jha and Mohammad Humayun Kabir spotlight Bangladesh-India relations. Ayesha Siddiqa ...

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