What Does Liberal Order Mean to India?


Since the end of the Cold War and even earlier, India’s caveated embrace of the liberal international order has sought to appeal to a broadly conceived liberal community of states as part of a wider quest for recognition, status and material dividends. Despite significant convergence with the dominant norms of the post-Cold War liberal international order, however, India’s commitment has nonetheless remained instrumental and partial. Indian leaders have contested key elements of the US-led liberal international order because India’s experiences of that order have not always been positive. For India, the liberal international order has functioned more as a normative and material resource than an article of faith, with elements selected and rejected as required.

This strategic approach persists, but India’s room for manoeuvre may be greater than before. India’s recent inclusion within and leverage of a liberal vision for the Indo-Pacific have delivered a recent and swift elevation of its status and agency. Yet India—through both the discourse and the policies of its leaders—understands several aspects of this vision differently. India is working to keep malleable established ideas about what constitutes legitimate liberal identity and behaviour. This allows New Delhi to pursue its often distinctive interests and avoid succumbing to the role of a ‘liberal socialisée’ in the shadow of the United States and its allies. What we see in the region—and what India supports—is a ‘low-resolution’ liberal order. This visual metaphor portrays an order whose detail is weakly defined: an order whose normative content is flexible rather than rigid – an order sometimes more superficial than deep.  

This lecture is part of the 'The Oxford School of Global and Area Studies Lecture Series', taking place on Fridays from 2 February to 8 March 2024. You may either register for individual lectures or you may choose to register for the entire lecture series at a reduced price.

Please note: this lecture will close to enrolments at 23:59 UTC on 30 January 2024.

Programme details

Friday 2 February, 2pm–3.15pm UTC (GMT)

The lecture will last approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, followed by questions.

For those attending in person at Rewley House, registration takes place from 1.45pm. Tea and coffee are provided in the Common Room after each lecture, from 3.15pm.

For those joining us online, please join in good time before each lecture to ensure that you have no connection problems. We recommend joining 10-15 minutes before the start time.


Description Costs
Course Fee - in-person attendance (includes tea/coffee) £30.00
Course Fee - virtual attendance £25.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Prof Kate Sullivan de Estrada

Kate Sullivan de Estrada is Associate Professor in the International Relations of South Asia at the University of Oxford, a Governing Body Fellow of St Antony’s College, and an Associate Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Her research focuses on India's role and identity as a rising power, nuclear politics in South Asia, India's strategy in the Indo-Pacific, and Indian Ocean security. From March to December 2021 she served as Principal Research Analyst for India at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. She has delivered expert testimony on the UK-India relationship to two UK parliamentary inquiries, worked with the Indian Ocean Commission as an Oxford Policy Exchange Network Fellow, and continues to engage across Whitehall (and beyond) on the UK's policy towards India. 


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IT requirements

For those joining us online

We will be using Zoom for the livestreaming of this course. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Zoom interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.