The Cubbyhole of Area Studies: Why Indian IR is at an Analytical Cul-de-Sac

1 March 2019

Indian IR appears today to be caught in a Dickensian moment of sorts, signalling both momentum and inertia at the same time. At a time when Indian diplomacy appears to be turning a discursive corner, the intellectual discourse is all but stuck in an analytical culde-sac. The fatigue of attempting to reconcile geopolitical and geoeconomic countercurrents has meant that the idea of the region has ended up being an oddball of sorts in Indian IR. At the very least, mainstream research needs to systematise the diversity of this growing regional engagement by border regions in terms of its nature (formal or informal); activities (social, economic, cultural, political); duration (sustained or episodic) and actors (public or private). If it is willing to do so, the subregional turn in India’s foreign policy can bring a longoverdue attention to the borderlands both as a missing level of analysis as well as a governance actor in its own right besides nudging Indian IR towards innovative intellectual pathways.