MARTAND JHA | 11 AUGUST, 2017
A Subject That Needs To Be Taught
Institutions play a crucial role in the nation-building and great power making. It’s been almost 70 years since India became an independent nation. Still, we lack the ‘culture of institution building’ in our country. Most of our great institutions are either the products of colonial legacy, while only few reputed institutions have been built in the last seven decades.
Among these institutions, educational institutions have a vital role to play in shaping the future of the nation. These institutions are not just buildings made of concrete, but are the building blocks of nation itself. Till now, our education system lacks ‘multi-disciplinary’ approach. We are still teaching our students the same old subjects and each of these subjects have ‘water-tight’ compartments.
International relations and defense as a discipline is still being treated as an ‘elite’ subject and is offered by only a few institutions like Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jadavpur University, that too in the post-graduate level. Even fewer institutions provide a quality education in these subjects. Mostly, these subjects are taught as part of the syllabus of Political Science. Maybe, this was sufficient earlier when India just began its journey as a nation but now when it is gaining maturity, policies needs to be changed.
In a globalized world, courses like International relations must be offered to the students so that they have a theoretical knowledge and know-how of how nations behave with each other. It is not just limited to the knowledge of ‘political relations’ between two states in the international system but it is also about knowing the global economy, trade, societies, arts and many other areas.
Courses like these enhance the knowledge of students in varied areas which can lead them to become area experts in future. Today, International Relations is largely dealt by career diplomats who are a part of the Indian Foreign Service. Other than that, India lacks experts in these fields. All great powers usually have a team of highly specialized and skilled experts in all these fields. It’s because of the knowledge that a nation possesses which makes its great. Knowledge itself has been hallmark of great civilizations throughout history.
Educational institutions are places where the seeds of great nations are sown. For India, to become a great power, the time has come to start taking the discipline of international relations seriously. This course should be introduced in undergraduate level in all the universities which have courses on humanities. It’s not like there is no demand for this course, the problem is that there is a dearth of its supply.
Youngsters are pretty interested in areas like foreign policy, security studies, defense and geo-politics. To quench their thirst for knowledge on these issues, most of them have to rely on petty news channels who in the name of covering international relations; feed pure propaganda. A balanced and rational view of representing facts is often missing from our news channels. Secondly, by reading articles in newspapers and magazines, nobody can become an area expert. For that, one needs to have a good academic knowledge which comes by going through research works in these fields.
Today, with reports of decrease in the quality of Indian Foreign Service last year, questions arise that would we have faced the same problem had our universities offered full-fledged courses on International Relations? A full-fledged undergraduate course in this discipline will lead a long way towards strengthening the discourses on foreign policy. A nuanced understanding of this subject will lead to productive debates in this area. It is because India lacks a genuine domestic debate on its foreign policy (except a dominant discourse on Pakistan and China) that we are still an ‘emerging power’ and not a ‘rising power’. Though, there are many other reasons too for this problem to persist, but this is surely one of the problems.
Another problem is that those students, who do get to pursue international relations as their major subject, often don’t end up being the experts of this subject. This is primarily because of lack of teaching jobs in the field of International Relations as very few universities have established departments in this area. Most of them end up teaching political science in universities. Hence, a lot of skill goes waste because political science and international relations are very different from each other, even though they are inter-related.
Even the number of think tanks in India, in the area of international relations is very few and as a result very few jobs are available for those who have pursued research in the area of International Relations.
To sum up, introducing the courses on International Relations is the need of the hour. This will not only open up a career option for many of the students but would also lead to the academic growth of this field in India.