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date: 26 September 2022

Disciplinary History of International Relations (IR) in South Asialocked

Disciplinary History of International Relations (IR) in South Asialocked

  • Rashed Uz ZamanRashed Uz ZamanDepartment of International Relations, University of Dhaka
  •  and Lailufar YasminLailufar YasminDepartment of International Relations, University of Dhaka


The discipline of International Relations (IR) started its journey in 1919, to understand why wars occur, reflecting the concerns arising out of World War I. The origin of the discipline thus has carried a Western bias since its inception and often remained oblivious to investigate the concerns of non-Western countries. In this context, the aim is to locate the centers of learning about the development of institutional IR in South Asia, by probing into the academic development of IR in different countries of the region. While doing so, it is necessary to emphasize how the concept of “international” emerged in South Asia much before the ideas of international relations in modern sense made their ways in the region. While there is a rich heritage of “international” in South Asia, the modern statehood often juggled between the old and the new. The institutional development shows that South Asian IR, despite a rise in local contribution to global IR, still yearns to follow Western path in educating about IR.

The investigations on South Asian IR and its institutional set ups take two broad views into concern. First, it elaborates on the root and the expanse of the idea of “international” indigenously prior to the idea of modern statehood penetrated South Asia. This discussion also highlights on how the region building itself has gone through transformation and finally the political region emerged through institutionalization of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The institutional expanse of IR in South Asia, its rise, location and development of IR in different countries of the region are worth a serious study. It should be noted here that the first institutional beginning of IR took place in modern day Bangladesh, established by the British colonial ruler in 1947, right before the partition of the subcontinent. However, one must take into account of the trend in South Asian IR of how the concept of “international” is imbued in the teaching and research of IR. In the case of Afghanistan, very few academic resources are available to ascertain if this is the case, like in other South Asian countries. Bhutan is seeing a development in the understanding of “international” as well as expanding on research in this area except it has not institutionalized the study of IR like other South Asian countries. The discussion concludes by arguing that while South Asian IR has made its distinct contribution in developing IR as a discipline, it is yet to create its own foothold as it is influenced by Western traditions in its teachings.


  • International Relations Theory

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