Course Summary

This course provides an overview of India’s domestic politics and its role in the international system. Through class sessions in DC and an intense 9-day schedule of tours, site visits and discussions in India, we will explore the politics and culture of the world’s most populous democracy and South Asia’s regional hegemon.  The class will travel to the Indian capital, New Delhi, and will also spend two days in Amritsar, a cultural center of the state of Punjab, and a city close to the Pakistani border.

Students will learn about Indian politics, including the ideas that inform its debates and the institutions that exercise power.  We will explore issues like democracy, law, development and minority rights through visits to Delhi’s centers of power, cultural landmarks and places of worship.  We will also have discussions with political and social leaders.

As we visit these places and talk to Indians, we will also consider their vision of India’s role in the international system.  The class will explore India’s rise through three lenses:  strategic, economic and environmental.

Students will gain an appreciation for the underpinning of India’s economic rise, visiting small-scale centers of commerce and a large center of India’s IT industry in Gurgaon with the goal of understanding the current limits and the ultimate potential of India’s economic rise.

Along with India’s economic rise, we will explore the nature of its political and military activities in its neighborhood (South Asia), its region (Asia) and the world.  In particular, we’ll learn about India’s international relations with China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia and the United States.

Finally, we will focus on the energy and environmental challenges India faces as its economy grows, and how the country is addressing these challenges.  We will learn about India’s sources of energy, issues of energy security, challenges of environmental degradation and India’s growing conservation movement.

Course Details

Washington, DC class meetings:

  • October 10 at 8 pm: Course orientation meeting
  • December 5 at 8 pm:  Geographic and Cultural Survey of India
  • December 14 at 5 pm:  Politics in a Developing Democracy
  • December 19 at 8 pm:  India’s Rise and International Relations

Class in India

Sunday January 6- Arrive in Delhi
A group dinner and conversation with New York Times journalist Gardiner Harris.

Monday January 7—Introduction to Delhi
To ease into our introduction to Delhi, we will visit some of its most famous landmarks with a tour guide.  These attractions will give students a sense of Delhi’s (and India’s) history, including architecture from the Mughal Empire and the colonial period.

Tuesday January 8—Environment, Energy and Development
Students will take the Delhi Ecotourism Bus Tour as a starting point for talking about issues of environmental conservation. We will also hear experts speak on India’s energy issues.

Wednesday January 9—Economy
This is the first session on India’s economy, starting with a trip to Delhi’s famous marketplace, Chandni Chawk.  There we will learn about the informal economic sector, and its role in the Indian economy.  We will also do a “city walk” to get a sense of poverty and development issues in the country.  These experiences will be contrasted with a trip to a center of India’s high tech industry, Gurgaon.  We will close the day with a lecture and discussion that synthesizes these two very different faces of Indian economic growth.

Thursday January 10—Policymaking and Political Issues
With a couple of days of exposure to life in Delhi and important issues in Indian politics under our belts, we will now visit the centers of power in order to see how policymakers think about issues like economic development.  In the morning, we will visit a session of the Supreme Court to see the court in action.  We will also tour Parliament and meet with parliamentarians.

Friday January 11
Free day

Saturday January 12—travel to Amritsar
We have several goals in visiting Amritsar.  The highlight of our trip there will be a visit to the Wagah border, where Indian and Pakistan troops face-off in a daily ceremony.  But first, we’ll have an opportunity to visit the famous Golden Temple and learn about its history in the Indian independence movement.  Another goal is to get exposure to another Indian cultural center besides Delhi, and experience travel within the country.

Sunday January 13—Wagah border
Visiting the Wagah border, a place where Indian and Pakistani troops coordinate a flag-lowering ceremony, is an extremely interesting experience and a great starting point for talking about the complexities of India’s international relations and security politics, which will be the focus of the last 3 days of class.

Monday January 14—International relations topics (TBD)
After we travel back to Delhi, we will visit Jawaharlal Nehru University to speak with students there, as well as to hear expert perspectives on issues related to India’s foreign relations and rise in the international system.

Tuesday January 15 (Army Day)— International relations and security topics
January 15 is “Army Day” in India.  We will take the opportunity to learn about India’s armed forces and go to the Army Day parade or other celebrations.  Our focus will be on India’s ongoing military modernization campaign, including its nuclear submarines and several recent major arms deals.

This is the last day of the course.  You can plan to fly back to DC or travel elsewhere after 5 pm on the 15th.

TBD– Dates of wrap-up sessions in DC

Estimated Costs

Course fee ($2,050) + flight (~$1,500) + tuition ($3,171)
The course fee includes major in-country expenses, including hotels, some meals and an internal flight)


Registration will open on September 24, 2012.   The deadline to register is October 5, 2012.

Full payment of tuition and fees is due at the time of registration.  If a student decides to drop this course before or on October 5, $500 of the tuition is nonrefundable.  If a student drops the course after October 5, ALL tuition and fees are nonrefundable. 

Students using financial aid, employer assistance, or tuition remission must also adhere to the nonrefundable tuition policy associated with this course.  Students may not drop this course online.


Dr. Rameez Abbas, Johns Hopkins University
Dr. Pralay Kanungo, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Dr. Kathy Wagner, Johns Hopkins University