International relations and the IAS interview

A UN Security Council meeting in progress.  

The arena of international politics occupies a significant place in the landscape of civil services exam personal interview. The board tends to ask questions on international issues and trends as part of general studies, current affairs or as academic pursuit of the candidates. Whenever the interviewees prefer Indian Foreign Service as a career choice the interview panel is predisposed to ask questions elaborately on global issues and concerns.

There are five broad areas of focus here: Indian foreign policy, international institutions (WTO, UNO, IMF and World Bank), international problems, international regional organisations (SAARC, ASEAN, EU, NAFTA) and the foreign policy of major powers (United States of America, Peoples Republic of China, Russia, etc).

Indian foreign policy

The interview board seeks to identify the candidates’ understanding of the elements, components and objectives of Indian foreign policy. The candidates must make a SWOT analysis of Indian foreign policy in the landscape of international diplomacy in the contemporary world, especially if students have indicated Indian Foreign Service as the first service option in the main application form. The interview panel is bound to engage more on the diverse issues, concerns, innovations, strategies and problems of Indian foreign policy including Look East Policy, Gujral Doctrine of Non-Reciprocity, Pancha Sheel Principles or Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, Look East and Link West Policy, FDI (First Develop India) and modifications in foreign policy under the new government.

India stands at the threshold of a new era of economic growth, military might, science and technology achievements and a largely successful democratic model of governance. Students must analyse the major advantages of India, especially the vital components of its expanding soft power resources. Past panels have asked the candidates to display the array of arguments that can be advocated to demand a place for India in the permanent membership of the Security Council of the United Nations Organization. Candidates can concentrate on preparing arguments such as the expanding economy, second largest population, seventh largest geography, function democracy, impressive military capabilities and equally admirable self-restrained military behaviour, constructive and peace-loving diplomacy and steadfast adherence to the basic charter and objectives of United Nations Organization, greater participation in the numerous peace-keeping operations of UNO in many continents and countries so as to bolster India’s case for a permanent membership of the Security Council.

New terms and concepts

Candidates ought to study comprehensively the new concepts in international policies, economics and relations and such a detailed preparation will pay rich dividends in the written tests of the civil services exam, especially in the General Studies Papers 1 and 2 and General Essay of the main test, too. For example, concepts like Soft State, Overdeveloped State, Failed State, ISIS, Orphan States are debated in the realm of international politics. Last year, the interview panel asked a candidate probing questions on the over powering presence of the military in the democratic political life of Pakistan and in the course of the discursive engagement it asked the candidate a specific factual question as to what is meant by the term “Milbus.”

The candidate answered that the term “Milbus” is a neologism from the combination of two words military and business and was coined by the Pakistani academic Ayesha Siddiqa. It refers to the non-military economic activities of the army which in normal democratic politics will be outside the professional domain of the military falling under the sphere of civil society and the State.

Candidates should concentrate on understanding and analysing the new concepts and doctrines and the opportunities offered through these new concepts can prove to be most fortuitous ones for the candidates.

American policy

The foreign policy of the United States of America has considerable significance in the personal interview of the civil services exam. Pax Americana rules the world in the last two decades after the breaking down of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic and collapse of communism and the nature of its influence in the international system is of utmost importance for interview candidates. The Islamic State, Kobane Battle, Afghanistan crisis, American stand on multilateral environmental conferences, AFPAK policy, Asia Pivot policy, clash of civilization theory, drone attacks in Pakistan, Emerging American Chinese rivalry, American economic slowdown and its repercussions on world economy, energy diplomacy, earlier doctrine of Isolationism, American Russian relations in the contemporary world, Indian American relations in the post-Cold War era are among the plethora of issues and concerns, concepts and strategies that the civil services career aspirants must thoroughly prepare.

International organisations

International organisations and institutions such as the United Nations Organization, International Bank of Reconstruction and Development, International Monetary Fund and regional international organizations like SAAR, ASEAN, EU, NAFTA play a prominent role in the personality test of the civil services exam. The challenges that each of these organisations grapples with are significant aspects, especially concerning Indian interests and priorities. The panel tends to ask questions on the structural and functional reforms that are needed to be infused into UNO as new issues and forces impinge on its functioning such as deepening environmental crisis, irresolvable North-South inequalities and the demand for the democratisation of global institutions.

The writer is an associate professor of political science at Government Arts College, Coimbatore. He provides free coaching for the civil services exam. Email:

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Printable version | Nov 23, 2020 12:57:11 AM |

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