Sharing my 1st Lecture on International Relations at World Times Academy Lahore.

The study of relations among nations has fascinated scholars for several centuries. However, the term international was first used by Jeremy Bantham in the latter part of the eighteenth century. But he had used this term in respect of that branch of law which was called law of nations, which later became 'International Law'. During the nineteenth and twentieth century, international relations have grown rapidly. Today nation-states have become far too interdependent; and relations among them whether political or those related to trade and commerce, have developed into an essential area of knowledge. In this unit, we are mainly concerned with the political relations among sovereign societies called nations, or nation-states.
No nation is an island. Because domestic policies are constantly affected by developments outside, nations are compelled to enter into dialogue with target or initiating entities or form alliances for the purpose of enhancing their status quo, or increasing their power or prestige and survival in' the international system. Because international relations is in transition following emerging realities in the international system, it has become complex and even more difficult arriving at a more universally acceptable definition of the subject. Nevertheless scholars have persisted in their attempt to define international relations.

Definitions of IR

The simplest definition of IR can be as: The official and non-official interactions among nation-states, IGOs, non-IGOs , NGOs and MNCs is called international relations. However, the international Politics revolves around the international political, social and economic events and thus shapes the changes in IR.

International Relations vs International Politics

In most cases international relations and international politics are interchangeably found to have been used. The first Chair in International Relations was established at the University of Wales. (U.K) in 1919. The first two occupants of the chair were eminent historians, Professors Alfred Zin~merna nd C.K. Webster. At that time, International Relations as a subject was little more than a diplomatic history. During the next seven decades this subject has changed in nature and content. Today the analytical study of politics has replaced descriptive diplomatic history. Hans Morgenthau believes that "the core of international relations is international politics", but a clear distinction between the two is to be made. International Relations, according to him, is much wider in scope than International Politics. Whereas politics among nations is, as Morgenthau says, struggle for power, international relations includes political, economic and cultural relations. Harold and Margaret Sprout opine that international relations include all human behavior on one hand a national boundary affecting the human behavior on the other side of the boundary, deals with conflicts and cooperation among nation-states essentially at political level. As Padelford and Lincoln define it, international politics is the interaction of state policies within the changing pattern of power relationship. Palmer and Perkins express similar views when they say that international politics is essentially concerned with the state system. Since international relations include all types of relationships between sovereign states, it is wider, and international politics is narrower in scope. As students of IR, we shall indeed examine political conflicts and cooperation among states. But, we still also study other aspect of relations among nations as well including economic interaction and role of the non-state actor.IR is wider in scope than international politics. International politics focuses on various styles of politics: the politics of violence, the politics of persuasion, hierarchical policies and pluralistic politics.Yet IR embraces the totality of relations among people and groups of people in global society, which go beyond looking at political forces to an examination of socio-cultural and economic processes as well.

Ingredients of IR

The study of IR involves looking at the nature and principal forces of international organization as well as the political, social, economic organization of political life. IR is also concerned with an examination of elements of national power, including the limitation of national power and examining how it can be controlled.

IR also focuses on the instruments available for promotion of national interest, with foreign policies of major powers and of smaller (strategic) powers and considers other historical ingredients as a background for events affecting the current sphere of International Relations.
International Institutions
Contemporary international institutions in which groups of states or other actors can participate include International Non Government Organizations (INGOs) or the UN system. The European Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Association for South East Asian Nations or South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation are also other regional groupings with multiple functions.

Nature& Scope of International Relations

International Relations, like the world community itself are in transition. In a rapidly changing and increasingly complex world, it encompasses much more than relations among nation states and international organization and groups. It includes a variety of transitional relationships at various levels, above and below the level of the nation states. International relations are a multidisciplinary field gathering together the international aspects of politics, economics, geography, history, law, sociology, psychology, philosophy and cultural studies. It is a meta-discipline. The context and nature of IR have undergone major changes after the Second World War. Traditionally, world politics was centered around Europe and relations among nations were largely conducted by officials of foreign offices in secrecy. The common man was hardly ever involved, and treaties were often kept secret. Today public opinion has begun to play an important role in the decision-making process in foreign offices, thus, changing completely the nature of international relations. Ambassadors, once briefed by their governments, were largely free to conduct relations according to the ground realities of the countries of their posting. Today, not only have nuclear weapons changed the nature of war and replaced erstwhile the balance of power by the balance of terror, but also the nature of diplomacy changed as well. We live in the jet age where the heads of state and government and their foreign ministers travel across the globe and personally establish contacts and conduct international relations. Before the First World War a traveler from India to Britain spent about 20 days In the sea voyage. Today, it takes less than 9 hours for a jet aircraft to fly from Delhi to London, telephones, fax machines, email, internet and other electronic devices have brought all government leaders direct in contact. Hotline communications between Washington and Moscow, for example, keeps the top world leaders in constant touch. This has reduced the freedom of ambassadors who receive daily instructions from their governments.

Scope of International Relations

Beginning with the study of law and diplomatic history, the scope of international relations has steadily expanded. With growing complexity of contacts between nations, the study of international organizations and institutions attracted the attention of scholars. The outbreak of the Second World War gave a strong stimulus to area studies and strategic aspect of foreign policy. This led to efforts to understand better the dynamics of national liberation struggles and anti-colonial movements. The foundation of the United Nations during the war encouraged thinking about post-war restructuring of the relations among nations. The study of cooperation became important even as the study of conflict remained central. The immediate aftermath was marked by a constructive outlook. New topics like ideology and disarmament assumed unprecedented importance in the era of cold war. So did the system of alliances and regionalism. Contemporary international relations embrace the whole gamut of diplomatic history, international politics, international organization, international law and area studies. Writing about the contents of international relations, a few decades back, Palmer Perkins had said that the then international relations were a study of "the world community in transition."

This conclusion is largely true even today. The transition has not reached a terminal point. While the underlying factors of international relations have not changed, the international environment has changed and is still changing. The state system is undergoing modifications; a technological revolution has taken place in a very big way; new states of Asia and Africa are playing increasingly important roles. India, in particular, is in a position to assert and take a rigid stand, as in 1696 on the question of signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). There is also a "revolution of rising expectations." The United Nations and its various agencies are engaged in numerous socio-economic and political activities. International terrorism is a cause of serious concern for the human existence. Multinational Corporations (MNCs), wlzo are giant companies operating the world over, are important non-state actors of international relations.

Thus, the scope of international relations has become vast, and, besides international politics, it embraces various other inter - State activities as well. It is known by now that international relations encompass a myriad of discipline. Attempts to structure and intellectualize it have often been thematically and analytically confined to boundaries determined by data. The core concepts of international relations are International Organization, International Law, Foreign Policy, International Conflict, International Economic Relations and Military Thought and Strategy. International and Regional Security, Strategic Studies, International Political Economy, Conflict or War and Peace Studies, Globalization, International Regimes. Moreover it covers , state sovereignty, ecological sustainability, nuclear proliferation, nationalism, economic development, terrorism ,organized crime, human security, foreign interventionism and human rights. These have been grounded in various schools of thought (or traditions) notably Realism and Idealism.

Crisis: A condition of instability or danger, as in social, economic, political, or international affairs, leading to a decisive change.
Conflict: a fight, battle, or struggle, especially a prolonged struggle; strife.

ANARCHY: a state of society without government or law.Political and social disorder due to the absence of governmental control.

Paradigm: a typical example or pattern of something; a pattern or model.

Nationalism: an extreme form of patriotism marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries.


Background and Approaches

The nation promotes emotional relationship amongst its members, while states provide political and legal foundation for the identity of its citizens. The term nation-state has been used by social scientists to denote the gradual fusion of cultural and political boundaries after a long control of political authority by a central government. The nation-state plays a dominant role in international relations.

Nation and Government

While governments come and go, a state has more permanence. Students and scholars of international relations can depend upon the continued existence of a state as a viable political entity.

Historical Background

The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 created the modern nation-state. The treaty established the principle of internal sovereignty and external sovereignty.

England, Spain and France obtained independence from dominance by the Holy Roman Empire. It is often said that the Peace of Westphalia initiated the modern fashion of diplomacy as it marked the beginning of the modern system of nation states.

Subsequent wars were not about issues of religion, but rather revolved around issues of state. This allowed Catholic and Protestant Powers to ally, leading to a number of major realignments.

Another important result of the treaty was it laid rest to the idea of the Holy Roman Empire having secular dominion over the entire Christian world. The nation-state would be the highest level of government, subservient to no others.
Scholars like Machiavelli, Bodin and Grotius defended the authority of the state and provided justification for the secular state independent from the authority of the Pope.

Approaches to IR

There are three approaches to studying the social-cultural, political and economic forces at work within different nation-states.
i. Objective (Attributive) Approach: identifies nationalism and the nation-state in terms of observable and quantifiable attributes, including linguistic, racial and religious factors.
ii. Subjective (Emotional) Approach: views nationalism and the nation-state as a set of emotional,
ideological and patriotic feelings binding people regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.
iii. Eclectic (Synthetic) Approach: A more subjective than objective approach, seeking to supplement notions of nationalism and patriotism with interethnic interaction and education processes to explain creation of a common identity.\

Further Evolution of Nation-State

State systems underwent further evolution on account of rise of representative government, the industrial revolution, population explosion, independence of developing countries, economic growth and multilateral organizations etc.



The concept of sovereignty is permanently associated with a nation-state. It evolved in the 16thc in France, during the conflict between the state and the church.

Many theorists have defined sovereignty. Hobbes focused on its absolutist aspect, while Austin focused on legalistic or juristic notions of sovereignty. The modern doctrine of popular sovereignty has transferred the source of absolute power from the monarch to the people.

The notion of sovereignty is important but it can become rigid unless applied to the evolving pattern of inter-state relations.


Nationalism implies elevation of the nation above all other values. States usually control the mass media to propagate their foreign policy objectives and centralize their education systems to popularize nationalistic values.

Nationalism may take precedence over moral and religious beliefs (Soviet Union) or it may become fused with such beliefs (Israel). Hans Morgenthau differentiated between nationalism of the 19th century and more recent nationalistic universalism under which one state can claim the right to impose its own standards upon the actions of all other nations.

Nationalism is an ideology that creates and sustains a nation as a concept of a common identity for groups of humans. According to the theory of nationalism, the good being, the preservation of identity features, the independence in all subjects, and the glory, of one's own nation, are fundamental values.

Nationalists base nations on various notions of political legitimacy. These can derive from the liberal argument that political legitimacy is derived from the consent of a region's population, or combinations of the two.

The modern vernacular use of nationalism refers to the political (and military) exercise of ethnic and religious nationalism, as defined below. Political scientists usually tend to research and focus on the more extreme forms of nationalism usually related with national-socialism, separatism etc.

National Power

Power is gauged by both tangible and non-tangible aspects. The economic output, size, population and military strength of a state are tangible and quantifiable aspects.

Power also rests on intangible factors like quality of leadership, ideology, morale and manipulative or diplomatic strength. Power purchases security and enables survival of a state, thus it is an end onto itself. This long run objective to achieve power also requires exertion of power, so it is also a means to an end.1660