International Relations: 14 Important Topics for CSS Exams


14 most important topics of CSS International Relations have been discussed here.

Important topics of International Relations for CSS exams are listed below.

International Relations is one of the favorite subjects of CSS aspirants. The subject is not only easy to prepare but it is also a very interesting one. However, Scoring good marks in this paper have been difficult for CSS candidates. The aspirants are found searching the important topics of CSS international relations. 

There is no one definite strategy to fetch good marks in international relations, but several factors play their part to achieve this end. First and foremost of all is to devise a smart strategy to prepare international relations papers. 

The aspirants must be aware of the most important topics which are frequently asked in the CSS written examination. They must prepare these topics from recommended books and other resources. They also need to prepare short and long notes for this very subject to fetch excellent marks.  

For ease of the aspirants of the competitive examination, we have listed down the 14 most important topics of CSS international relations papers. When preparing for their written examinations, the aspirants must prioritize these important topics of international relations paper 1 and paper 2. 

1. Nation-state system

2. Realism, idealism, liberalism

3. Power, the balance of power, national interest

4. National interest

5. Foreign policy

6. Security

7. Mercantilism, economic liberalism

8. Clash of civilization

9. Cold war, the revival of the Cold War

10. Globalization, new world order

11. United Nations, SCO

12. Afghanistan; post-cold war era, contemporary situation

13. Weapons of mass destruction, nuclear non-proliferation 

14. Indo-pacific region. Power politics in the pacific ocean

Every year the examiner asks questions about these topics and if the aspirants prepare these topics fully and comprehensively, the chances of getting good marks will be bright. 

Almost all questions that were previously asked from these important topics have also been listed under each topic. 

Following are the most important topics of International Relations in CSS exams.

International Relations Paper 01

1. Nation-state system

The nation-state is a system of government in which the legitimate government occupies certain characteristics. A well-defined boundary and recognition from the international community are the hallmarks of a nation-state system. 

The nation-state system is believed to be the outcome of the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) 

The system was strengthened and was modernized gradually. In the twentieth century after the end of the second world war (WW2), a strong wave of anti-colonialism further cemented the system as a result new states emerged on the global stage.  

Following questions have been asked from this topic 

1. The nation-state system is in flux with an independence referendum in Scotland and another projected for Catalonia in September 2017. Critically evaluate the reasons as to why the modern nation-state in Europe faces internal challenges to its sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

2. Discuss the significant features of the Treaty of Westphalia and the development of the modern nation-state system. 

3. Evaluate the general view of the Peace of Westphalia as the founding moment for the modern nation-state. Do you think this system is challenged in the contemporary world? 

4. Describe the basic features of the modern nation-state. What are the dangers to its future?

5. Describe and discuss the concept of the nation-state. Evaluate its future in the light of certain recent developments.

6. Europeans transformed the Westphalian system of states into empires in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries to increase their wealth and power. Elucidate the statement. 

2. Realism, idealism, liberalism

Realism is an international relations theory widely recognized and the most prominent one. According to the realist school of thought, every state has interests and objectives and power is the ultimate source of achieving those objectives. A state which is powerful in terms of military strength seeks to impose its will upon weaker states. 

There is no place of morality in international relations rather force and coercion. In the chaotic world order, only powerful states survive utilizing their military muscle. 

As opposed to realism, liberalism aims at securing world peace and order by way of positive national morality. Proponents of liberalism and idealism view international relations in terms of cooperation. 

Important questions from past papers 

1. Comparatively, discuss the modernist IR theories realism and liberalism with postmodernist theories feminism and constructivism.

2. How the Neo-Realist and Constructivist approaches differ over the study of state behavior in contemporary International Politics. 

3. Discuss the concept of Idealism. Explain its core perceptions and define its agenda of peace for the stability of the world. 

4. What are the points of convergence and divergence in Neo-Realist and Constructivist approaches to the study of state behavior in contemporary International Politics? 

5. What is the essential difference between the liberal internationalist and realist theories? In your opinion why is realism the most prominent theory in the discipline of international relations? 

6. Identify the main arguments of Realism and Liberalism in international relations. Which approach appeals to you as better explaining IR and why? Discuss the empirical evidence. 

3. Power, the balance of power

In the international system, every state wants to be powerful. There are different means and ways of acquiring power, but most important are the economy of a state and its military strength. 

No state can exert greater influence on other states without having a sound economic system. When one state rises to glory utilizing its power, the other states that are comparatively lower in status try to outperform the former state. Hence, some states align with other states to compete with the powerful state. 

Balance of power is achieved when two or more states with lesser power unite to contain the influence of the sole superpower. There are different ways and means to achieve a balance of power: alliances, counter alliances, armaments, and disarmament. 

Previously asked important questions from this topic.

1. The rise of China is being heralded as a return of the balance of power politics in international relations. As the world moves towards multipolarity, account for the essential features of international security architecture and its evolving dynamics. 

2. Examine the concept of national power and its essential ingredients.

3. Explain the concept of balance of power in international relations and evaluate its relevance after the demise of the Soviet Union. 

4. Critically discuss the concept of the balance of power in the light of Hans Morgenthau's thought. 

5. Describe interactions among nations through diplomacy for establishing the balance of power to preserve their national interest. 

6. In the context of its nature, purpose, and devices how does the balance of power influence the regional system?

7. It is the national power both tangible and intangible that determines the actual as well as the potential power of the state.' In the light of this statement discuss in detail the nature of the attributes of national power. 

8. Balance of terror and not power helps maintain peace in the nuclear power age. Comment  

4. National interest

Every nation-state has its own interests in the comity of nations. Safeguarding and securing its national interest is the main responsibility of any nation. 

National interest is one of the most important topics of CSS international relations. 

Following are the questions which have been asked from this topic. 

1. How can a nation-state best protect its interests and identity in the transitional world order?

2. What do you mean by national interest in the discipline of international relations? How can a state protect its interests?

5. Foreign policy

The importance of the topic of foreign policy in international relations papers is self-explanatory. Every year questions are asked from the topic from different angles. 

Important questions from past papers. 

All important questions asked in previous papers of CSS International Relations papers have been listed below.

Important questions asked in previous papers. 

1. Identify and discuss the determinants of the foreign policy of Pakistan. 

2. Point out the main goals of the foreign policy of states and determine the factors which influence its making and implementation. 

3. In her foreign policy and trade, Pakistan has never benefitted fully from the ideal geostrategic location. Discuss.

4. Critically evaluate American foreign policy towards Pakistan. 

5. How does domestic politics influence foreign policy decision-making? Explain Pakistan's policy towards India. 

6. Do you agree that the post-cold war international scenario has generated more constraints than opportunities for Pakistan's foreign policy? If so, what are those? Suggest measures enabling Pakistan to face the new challenges. 

7. Give a critical appraisal of Pakistan's foreign policy in the context of climate change. 

6. Security

The security of the individual states and, international security have been the primary concern of the global community. States devise strategies to secure a just and rule-based international order. 

This topic must never be missed in the preparation process. 

Important questions from the topic

1. What is the significance of security to states? How far do you agree that international security has given way to global security in the face of new challenges of terrorism and human security?

2. What are the changing dimensions of security and how do they vary from the classical concept of international security? 

3. Discuss the concept of security in the post-cold war era. Explain the changing dimensions and define its strength and weaknesses for the nation-states. 

4. Explain the concept of comprehensive security. Differentiate it from the traditional concept of power. Is it an inappropriate concept for developing and poor countries? 

7. Mercantilism, economic liberalism

After the formation of the World Trade Organization or WTO, international trade has been liberalized. Countries can negotiate trade deals for the cross-border flow of goods and services. However, some challenges are facing economic liberalism. Mercantilism is one such challenge because it relies on unfair trade practices.

The topic has gained importance in the eyes of the examiner in recent years. 

Important questions

1. Explain the concept of economic liberalism and relate its core interests with the concept of neo-imperialism or creating economic dependency. 

2. Explain the concept of economic liberalism and relate its core interests with the concept of neo-imperialism.

3. After the downfall of Colonialism, the Western powers have embarked upon a new policy of Economic Imperialism through IMF, World Bank, Multinational institutions, and WTO. Do you agree? Substantiate

8. Clash of Civilization

Clash of civilization, a theory which was given by Samuel P. Huntington gained widespread popularity across the world. 

The book since its publication has become a classic work of international politics and the aspirants of the competitive exams have been asked to give their critical analysis on the topic. 

Important questions of CSS international relations from the topic. 


1. Write a critical analysis of the theory of Clash of Civilization. What are the prospects of a dialogue among civilizations? 

2. Critically analyze Samuel P. Huntington's concept of Clash of Civilizations. Define its main characteristics and explain its devastating consequences on the different leading civilizations of the nations. 

International Relations Paper 02

9. Cold war, the revival of the cold war

The cold war was the severance of relations between two superpowers US and USSR after the second world war. The world was divided between two power blocks and several alliances and counter alliances were made during this period. 

The Vietnam War, Korean War, Cuban missile crises, U2 incident, and many other historical international events occurred during the Cold War period. 

Important questions from Cold War

The cold war is considered one of the longest peace in great powers' history. What deterministic factors ensured relative peace in great powers' relations during the Cold War? 

2. Evaluate the strength and liabilities of 'containment of world revolution policy' during the cold war. 

3. Discuss and analyze the role of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Was it a stabilizing or a destabilizing factor in international relations? elaborate your answer concerning theory and facts. 

4. Critically discuss the origin and developments of the cold war and its consequences on world politics. 

10. Globalization, new world order

No one is ignorant of the term Globalization and its pros and cons. The phenomena have occupied a special place in international relations.

The importance of the topic of Globalization is hard to ignore in CSS international relations paper. 

Important questions


Globalization and its attendant manifestations in global politics. Do you agree with the view that economic globalization is a form of neo-imperialism that only stands to exploit the third-world states? 

2. Globalization is a buzz world of present-day international economic and social order. Do you agree that it is transforming quickly the national cultures and politics? 

3. Define the term Globalization. Do you believe its prospects are threatened because of the current economic crises in general and third-world economies in particular? 

4. Elaborate Systems Thinking theory given Pakistan and Globalization. 

5. Is Globalization under threat because of world economic crises?


11. United Nations 

United Nations organization is the world body comprising 193 states. It is the successor of the League of Nations which was formed after the first World War. 

The United Nations has different organs and it performs many functions. General Assembly and the Security Council are the two main organs of the world body. 

Previously asked questions from the topic

How effective is the United Nations is in dealing with global problems? What will the International System look like in the year 2050? 

2. The two great wars had dismantled colonialism and created Third World and Non-Alignment Movement. How did the United Nations justify its role in world affairs? 

3. How effective are the international organizations in dealing with international problems? Discuss with particular reference to the UN from 1945 to the present. 

12. Afghanistan; post cold war era, contemporary situation

Afghanistan has been in turmoil for the past many decades. Being the immediate neighbor of Pakistan the country plays a very important role in the security and stability of Pakistan. 

After the Cold War and the dismemberment of the USSR, the country was engulfed by insurgency and civil warfare. It once again became the victim of foreign occupation when the US on the pretext of the Global War on Terror landed its troops there and started military operations.

It is one of the most important topics of international relations in CSS exams. The aspirants must fully and comprehensively prepare it for scoring better marks.

Important questions from the topic

1. Visualize the post-Taliban scenario in Afghanistan and discuss its implications for Pakistan. 

2. Comment in detail on the mechanism of conflict resolution between Pakistan and Afghanistan and on the Durand line issue. 

3. The most compelling challenge facing Afghanistan today is, dealing with the Afghan Taliban. What do you think of a political engagement and accommodation between the Afghan government and the Taliban giving way to stability in the region? 

4. Critically discuss main political, socio-economic, and strategic hurdles between Afghanistan Pakistan relations and how can both countries come out from the Cold war scenario? 

13. Weapons of mass destruction; nuclear non-proliferation

Nuclear proliferation has been the center of world attention for the past many decades. The US in its Manhattan project developed the most deadly weapons of human history.

Other countries followed suit and the proliferation of nuclear weapons became one of the main concerns of the global community. 

Important questions

1. Discuss the development of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Define its main features and explain its status in the present world. 

2. Discuss Nuclear factors as one of the major determinants of international politics regarding the USA, India, and Pakistan. 

3. Discuss the moral dimensions of Pakistan's nuclear program. Explain its essential features and justify its offensive gesture which maintained the national and regional strategic balance. 

4. What is nuclear proliferation? How far the United States of America is justified in making a nuclear deal with India. 

5. Explain the impact of India-Pakistan nuclearization on strategic stability in South Asia. 

14. Indo-Pacific region; power politics in Pacific ocean

China and the United States are two rival countries, their rivalry has surfaced in one of the most important oceans of the world. 

The Indo-pacific region occupies a very important place in world politics from a strategic point of view. The countries mentioned above try to outperform each other through their naval power. 

The neighboring countries switch sides keeping in view their strategic interests. India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Japan, and South Korea also play their role in the region.  

In CSS international relations papers, the topic has gained importance in recent years therefore the aspirants must prepare it from different angles. 

Important questions asked from the topic 

1. Critically evaluate the US Indo-pacific policy. Do you believe the current US strategies are aimed at containing growing economic superpower China? 

2. Discuss Russia's return to South Asia and United States' Indo-Pacific strategy. 

The topics discussed above are very important for CSS international relations papers 1 and 2. These topics have been asked from the aspirants from time to time in CSS and PMS exams. 

Some of the topics are equally important for CSS current affairs papers. If the aspirants manage to prepare the topics from different angles, their chances of passing the papers with good marks will tremendously rise. 

Free PDF Books for CSS and PMS Preparation

1. International Relations by Joshua Goldstein

2. Global Politics by Andrew Heywood 


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