POL S 434 A: International Relations of South Asia

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
MTWThF 1:10pm - 3:20pm
SIG 229
Joint Sections: 
JSIS A 434 A
Deep Pal

Syllabus Description:

Course description: JSIS 434 A / POL S 434 offers an introduction to International Relations in the dynamic and complex region of South Asia since the mid-20th century. India, Pakistan and other countries in the region have been in focus because of recent developments like the Indo-Pacific Strategy, and China’s One Belt One Road Initiative. However, South Asia has been crucial to U.S. security and foreign policies from the early days of the Cold War. The course offers perspectives on how South Asia has connected to the American view of world, and has acted as a theater of American grand strategy since the end of World War II.        

Apart from the United States, the course tracks the region's interactions with major powers such as erstwhile Soviet Union, China, and Britain. Using perspectives from the region, the course investigates influence of key global and regional forces on cooperation and conflict in a geography with two nuclear powers (India and Pakistan), states that have endured ethnic unrest (Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh), and societies battling terrorism (Afghanistan and Pakistan). The course explores possible future trajectories at a time of acute geopolitical changes, such as an increasingly assertive China in the region, and what that means for major powers such as the United States that have traditionally maintained a presence in the region.

JSIS 434 A / POL S 434 does not require prior exposure to South Asia. This course fulfills writing requirement for certain undergraduate majors.

Objectives: The goals of the course are the following

  • To gain a deeper understanding of the countries of South Asia – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka using voices from the region. The course will provide insights about machinations and governance motivations in a diverse and complex region with a population of 1.7 billion, and some of the world's fastest growing economies. Despite civilizational connections and similar histories, the states in their modern iteration vary in regime types, social and ethnic composition, political economies, and state capacity – which guide their myriad interests. While the classes will represent these themes through readings, discussions, lectures and audio-visual resources, to make the most of the course, you are encouraged to put these puzzle pieces together and think of the various ways in which these states think of themselves, those around them, and their own position in South Asia. By the end of the course, you will be equipped to interpret events and incidents in South Asia to analyze what they may mean for future developments.
  • To develop skills in reading and analyzing social science academic material – that allows identifying arguments, picking out theoretical approaches, and following methodologies and evidence, to arrive at the conclusion. It is not necessary to be aware of this at the time of beginning the course – I will be explaining how to accomplish this, and we will be following this process through the quarter, sharpening our analytical skills as we proceed, through discussions, lectures, and reading and writing about class material.

Class format: Each session will involve lectures in the first part of the class, followed by discussions, exercises, and audio-visual presentations. I expect everyone to have gone through the reading material through the day and a large part of the course depends on discussions and understanding of the course material covered so far. The course leans heavily on active learning and participation of students, and the distribution of grades reflects this. At the end of each day, I will provide basic arguments and themes at the center of the following session, which should help put the readings in context. I will be working with each of you in helping designing and research your final paper due after the end of the quarter.  

Readings: There are no required textbooks for the course. All readings are available on Canvas or in hyperlinks in the syllabus. You are expected to read required readings and skim through the recommended readings to be able to participate, as well as keep up with the lecture/discussion. Please bring readings to class.

Assignments and grade breakdown: All assignments must be submitted both in-class and on Canvas, and be stapled, page-numbered, double-spaced, in 12-size font (preferably Times New Roman) with 1-inch margins. All assignments are expected by deadline. Late submissions will affect your grade.

  1. Map exercise – 10%

During the second class meeting (June 19) we will discuss and circulate a map exercise, which is meant to help students familiarize themselves with the political geography of South Asia. The map is due back in class on Thursday, June 28. 

  1. Two response papers, each 2-3 pages (~ 600 words) – 20%

You will be required to write and submit two short papers in response to readings on a particular theme in the syllabus. It is acceptable to select some of the readings and not all. These papers are not expected to be summaries of the readings, but reflections/responses to the argument presented. For example, some of the questions your paper may address may include – what does the argument center around? Who/what does the argument leave out? Please include a title for the assignment and mark the reading(s) that you are reflecting on. The response papers may be submitted at any time in the quarter, but you must choose your themes by the end of the first week (June 21). 

  1. South Asia in the News (4 worth 5% each) – 20%

Each student will bring up issues for discussion from South Asia once every week, for four weeks. On the first day, students will select a country that they will follow through the duration of the course. Every week, they will choose a South Asia related development that involves the country and bring it up in class for discussion. Select two articles about the country that we are discussing that day that represent different points of view on the same news story about some aspect of the country’s politics, society, or economy. At least one of these news stories must come from a South Asian regional news source (suggestions are given below). They will email a brief description (100-200 words) of the event/development to others in the class at least 24 hours before they present, along with source, along with 2-3 questions that can be discussed on the subject. Issues may include (but are not limited to)

  • national elections and impact on other states in the region
  • trade / climate-change / refugee issues / ethnic conflicts
  • major trends or policy changes that influence relations with others in the region
  • comments by public personalities / officials suggesting change in relationship with others
  • developments in long-running feuds or controversies
  • impact of relationship with extra-regional powers in the region.


Newspapers from South Asia

Daily newspapers:                 

Afghanistan                            Afghanistan Times (http://afghanistantimes.af)

                                               Daily Outlook Afghanistan (http://outlookafghanistan.net)


Bangladesh                             Daily Star (Bangladesh – www.thedailystar.net)

                                                Prothom Alo – English (http://en.prothomalo.com/)


Bhutan                                    Kuensel (http://www.kuenselonline.com)

                                               The Bhutanese (https://thebhutanese.bt)


Maldives                                 Maldives Independent (https://maldivesindependent.com)

                                               Maldives Times (https://maldivestimes.com)


Nepal                                      The Himalayan Times (https://thehimalayantimes.com)

                                                Kathmandu Post (http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/)


India                                        Times of India (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/)

                                                Indian Express (http://www.indianexpress.com/)


Pakistan                                  Dawn (www.dawn.com)

                                                The Express Tribune (http://www.dailynews.lk/)


Sri Lanka                                The Island (www.island.lk)

                                               Daily News (http://www.dailynews.lk/)


  1. Participation – 20%

While this seems like “only” twenty percent of your grade, showing up is an extraordinarily important part of this course. “Showing up,” here means coming to the seminar, reading the assigned texts carefully, and actively engaging in conversations through informed, well-thought out responses, and questions.

  • Note: Even one unexcused section absence makes it impossible to receive full credit for participation. Five or more un-excused absences will mean no credit (i.e. 0.0) for participation.


  1. Final paper – 10-12 pages (3000 - 3500 words) – 30%

Throughout the quarter I will work with each of you for your final research paper which will form the largest percentage of your grade for the class. There will be an option to use this paper to meet your research paper requirement. Go through the syllabus and by the end of the first week, have initial ideas about the topic/country/issues that you would like to base your research paper on. Please pick a topic that interests you, and you would like to research more about. Over the second and third week, we will work together to build a viable research paper, complete with a clear thesis statement that will provide the framework of your argument list in the paper, along with primary and secondary source material. Please be sure to structure the narrative of your essay around an argument or thesis. It is not enough merely to relate facts that are already known or retell a historical occurrence. The most important objective of your essay is to present an original argument, theory, or analysis supported by evidence from your sources. Critical thinking and analysis is a must. Additional help on source material is available with the South Asia Subject Librarian’s office


Treat each piece of writing as an act of persuasion, take a stance and convince me of your point of view. For extra help please see me or visit the Political Science/JSIS/LSJ Writing Center in Gowen 105. Additional resources are available at Odegaard Library’s Writing and Research Center.


All writing must use scholarly and reputable sources. Wikipedia, History Channel, and personal blogs are NOT reputable sources. If you need examples, both my office hours and the Library can help. Citation style should be consistent (for e.g., if you use Chicago, use Chicago throughout entire assignment).


Grade breakdown

Map exercise                           10%

Two response papers              20%

South Asia in the News          20%

Participation                            20%

Final paper                              30%


All assignment deadlines are available on Canvas.


Email Etiquette: Please use email for logistical communications and not for substantive questions about the course material or your grades. If you have such questions, please come to my office hours. Note that all UW employees are prohibited from discussing grades via email.

Remember basic email etiquette! https://www.uwb.edu/studentaffairs/resources/emailetiquette. When communicating via email, please use your UW email account and put “JSIS A 434 [OR] POL S 434: email purpose” in the subject line.

I will aim to reply within 24 hours on weekdays, but it may take longer depending on the nature of the email and timing. Communication during weekends and holidays will be limited. Plan accordingly when assignments are due.

Technology: Please be respectful of class time and refrain from using your cell phone in class. Laptops and tablets are allowed in small group discussion for research purposes, to access the readings electronically, and for note taking. Other uses are not allowed.

Academic conduct: When students are admitted to the University of Washington, they are expected to maintain a certain standard of conduct and refrain from engaging in prohibited conduct. The Student Conduct Code defines prohibited conduct and describes how the University holds students accountable (WAC 478-121).  The University has also developed Student Governance and Policies, Chapter 209, a companion policy which is the primary reference for student conduct proceedings. Student Governance and Policies, Chapter 209 explains that admission to the University carries with it the presumption that students will practice high standards of professional honesty and integrity (Section 5.B.1)).


Disabilities: The University of Washington is committed to providing access, equal opportunity and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, education and employment for individuals with disabilities. To request disability accommodation, contact the Disability Services

Office at: 206.543.6450, 206.543.6452/TTY, 206.685.7264 (FAX), or e-mail at dso@uw.edu.


Catalog Description: 
Interrelationships of domestic, interstate, and extraregional forces and their effects upon the resolution or expansion of interstate conflicts in South Asia. Offered: jointly with JSIS A 434.
Department Requirements: 
Comparative Politics Field
International Relations Field
International Security Option
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:08pm