I(K)R! Two students on what they (K)now IR to be

Meher Manga

If I were to ask multiple students to convey their understanding of the term “International Relations,” I am fairly certain that each would have a unique answer. Therein lies the beauty of the term – it embodies a vast number of meanings that span a plethora of regions and issue-areas. Keeping the above in mind, the first issue of the Ashoka Review of International Affairs has introduced several concepts that explain the complexities of the meaning of “International Relations” as we know it. However, to simplify matters to a foundational level, I have interviewed two students of the discipline – a freshman and a senior – to deconstruct its very meaning. In the process, I have attempted to highlight the varying perceptions that embrace the discipline and its understanding. 

Shruti Kraleti is a freshman at Ashoka University who hopes to minor in International Relations, while Shauryavardhan Sharma is a senior who has nearly completed his minor, and is currently serving as the President of the Ashoka Society of International Affairs. Here’s what they had to say:

Q1: When I say “International Relations,” what is the first word that comes to your mind?

Shruti: Diplomacy or the United Nations Organization. 

Shaurya: Connections

Q2: What is “International Relations,” according to you?

Shruti: According to me, International Relations is a field within the social sciences that explores ties between nations not just from a politico-diplomatic standpoint but also from one that explores the effects of history on the relationship between nations at present and in the future. In addition, it also delves into cultural, economic and social understanding of countries and their ideologies.

Shaurya: At an International level, it is an understanding of the relations that shape how entities – including individuals – and concepts, view, deal and interact with each other, and more importantly how they got here so in the first place. 

Q3: What are you expecting from a minor in International Relations?

Shruti: I believe that studying International Relations will provide me with an understanding of the current structures of relations between different countries – as reasoned with the aid of history – and the major global events that have significantly shaped these relations, such as the World Wars. In addition, being particularly interested in South Asia, I hope that the discipline allows me to explore India’s complex relations in the continent and how it impacts its place in the global network as a whole. 

Q3: After having nearly completed a minor in International Relations, how has your perspective on the discipline changed?

Shaurya: Prior to taking my first course in International Relations, I viewed the discipline as being narrowly defined by the exercise of Power by the United States of America. I’d like to think that this view has fundamentally changed by now; in my three years of studying the discipline, I have seen that:

a)You can’t see International Relations from the point of view of just one country, and 

b) International Relations goes beyond the concept of power to advance that it is a lot more nuance, perspective and context that has shaped not just how countries see each other, but also individuals. 

Thus, it is difficult to characterise International Relations as falling within the purview of several key words and concepts – the discipline encompasses diplomacy as much as it does connections between and among entities. This opens up the possibility of approaching the multidimensional field of study from differing viewpoints that can then be grounded in an analysis of theory and practice. It is precisely this that A.R.I.A. is attempting to do. 

Meher Manga is a Sophomore at Ashoka University who is majoring in Political Science with a minor in International Relations. She is interested in public policy.