Not available in 2020/21
GV4H2      Half Unit
Contemporary India: The World's Largest Democracy in the Early 21st Century

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Sumantra Bose


This course is available on the MSc in Comparative Politics and MSc in Global Politics. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Priority will be given to students taking the MSc Comparative Politics and the MSc Global Politics. Students on other Master's programmes, in all Departments of the School, are welcome to apply to take the course and will be considered subject to availability of space. This course is capped at 30 students (two seminar groups).

The deadline for applications is 17:00 on Tuesday 29 September 2020. You will be informed of the outcome by 17:00 on Wednesday 30 September 2020.

All students, regardless of programme and department, must apply via LFY to take this course by the stipulated deadline.

Course content

This course is an advanced introduction to the politics and international relations of contemporary India, the world's most populous and diverse democracy and one of the "rising powers" of the 21st century.

After the first week's introductory and overview session, the next six weeks cover in depth the trajectory of India's democracy since the 1950s. The emphasis is on transformative political changes and transitions since the 1990s. Key topics include the transition from a polity dominated by a single party (Congress) to a highly plural and competitive polity defined by the rise of "regional" parties in many of the 29 states of the Indian Union; the evolution from a relatively centralised state to a federal polity; and the rise of Hindu nationalism as India's dominant political force and its implications for India's "secular state".  Two continuing challenges with deep roots in the past are also surveyed: the Kashmir problem, and Maoist insurgency in a few areas of the country.  

The final three weeks look at India's role in the international politics of the early 21st century. The focus is on India's three most important (and interconnected) external relationships: with China, the United States, and Pakistan. 


15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

There will be a reading week in Week 6.

Formative coursework

Students will be required to make one in-class seminar presentation and write one formative essay of 2,000 words, due at the end of the LT.

Indicative reading

Sumantra Bose, Transforming India: Challenges to the World's Largest Democracy (2013); Sumantra Bose, Secular States, Religious Politics: India, Turkey, and the Future of Secularism (2018); Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen, An Uncertain Glory (2013); Ramachandra Guha, India after Gandhi (2007); Atul Kohli (ed.), The Success of India's Democracy (2001); Christophe Jaffrelot, India's Silent Revolution (2003); Paul Brass, The Politics of India since Independence (1994); David Malone, Does the Elephant Dance? Contemporary Indian Foreign Policy (2011); William Antholis, Inside Out, India and China: Local Politics Go Global (2013); Sumantra Bose, Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace (2003)


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the ST.

A research paper of 5000 words will determine 100% of the grade. Students can either choose from a set of supplied questions or formulate their own question (subject to the instructor's approval).

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2019/20: 8

Average class size 2019/20: 8

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication