The balance-of-power versus hegemony debate is one of the core debates in International Relations theory. Did ancient India display a propensity towards balance-of-power or hegemony? In the nine centuries (~550 BCE—320 CE) since the emergence of the sixteen Mahajanapada-states in ancient India (~550 BCE), this region witnessed a hegemonic order dominated by a single polity or empire for only a few decades (~260 BCE—205 BCE), under the Magadha-centred Mauryan Empire. In other words, Mauryan hegemony was short-lived in ancient India. However, the absence of hegemony or domination did not imply the creation of a balance-of-power system. The aim of this article is to explain the emergence of Mauryan hegemony and to further interrogate the nature of international order in the absence of hegemony (as it enriches the balance-of-power versus hegemony debate by showing the existence of other types of international orders). The paper concludes with a comparison of ancient India and ancient China where hegemonic transformation did occur under the Qin-Han dynasties and was relatively long-lasting (~221 BCE—220 CE).
About the Speaker
Manjeet S. Pardesi is Senior Lecturer in the Political Science and International Relations Programme and Asia Research Fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington. He obtained his PhD in Political Science from Indiana University, Bloomington (IUB). His research interests include international relations in global history, great power politics, strategic rivalries, Asian security, and Indian foreign policy. He has an MSc in Strategic Studies from the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (now the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies or RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. He obtained his BEng (Electrical & Electronic) from NTU as well. He is currently the Managing Editor of the journal Asian Security (June 2018—May 2021). He is a co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of India’s National Security (Oxford, 2018) and India’s Military Modernization: Challenges and Prospects (Oxford, 2014). His articles have appeared in European Journal of International Relations, Security Studies, Survival, Asian Security, Commonwealth & Comparative Politics, International Studies Perspectives, Nonproliferation Review, Air & Space Power Journal (of the United States Air Force), The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, World Policy Journal, India Review, Defense and Security Analysis, and in several edited book volumes.