International Relations Indian Perspectives on International Relations, War, and Conflict
Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 October 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0245


There are a few studies on Indian perspectives on international relations (IR), war, and conflict. Most of these studies focus on post-independence Indian developments and juxtapose Indian thinking with dominant IR theories. The evolution of Indian thinking on these subjects, however, could be traced to the ancient period. One example would illustrate this point. India’s national emblem is inscribed with Satyameva Jayate (Truth alone triumphs), which is from the ancient scripture Mundka Upanishad. The essay, hence, while exploring the Indian perspectives on IR, war, and conflict, examines their origins. Notably, a rigid compartmentalization of disciplines is foreign to traditional Indian thinking, though most of the available studies attempted to understand Indian scholarship through rigid disciplinary boundaries. This is probably one of the reasons that ancient Indian knowledge on issues related to international developments remained unexplored. There is not yet a clear-cut school of Indian IR. There are a few exceptions, such as the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. This article will focus on Indian thinking on IR, war, and conflict since the ancient period. It takes an interdisciplinary approach to study the perspectives. It will be one of the first studies detailing IR thinking in India through categorizing the works since the ancient period. An integral perspective on life and society largely shaped ancient thought on IR. The medieval period was marked by succeeding empires and infusion of culture and ideas from different regions. Inter- and intra-kingdom relations remained the subject of focus of the early Indian writings. European Enlightenment arrived in India in the 19th century. Reformers such as Raja Ram Mohun Roy adopted a rational outlook on state and society. The leaders of independent India, including the first prime minister, J. L. Nehru, a disciple of Gandhi, influenced IR in India. The superpower rivalry, the end of the Cold War, globalization, and the rise of the Global South also shaped Indian thought on IR.

The Early Writings

In this section, the focus is on the writings in ancient and medieval India.

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