Rohan Mukherjee - Great Power Clubs - big.jpg

About Me

Rohan Mukherjee

Rohan Mukherjee

I am an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Yale-NUS College, with a joint appointment by courtesy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Previously, I was a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the MIT Security Studies Program, and a non-resident Visiting Fellow at the United Nations University in Tokyo.

My research focuses on the grand strategies of rising powers and their impact on international security and order, with an empirical specialization in South Asia and East Asia. I am working on a book manuscript, based on my Ph.D. dissertation, on how the desire for great-power status influences the behavior of rising powers in international security regimes. I have also co-edited a policy-focused volume that brings together top scholars and analysts across generations from Japan and India to chart the future course of bilateral relations.

My work has been published in journals such as International Affairs, Asian SecuritySurvivalGlobal GovernanceInternational Relations of the Asia-Pacific, India Review, and International Journal, as well as in edited volumes from academic presses such as Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford, University of North Carolina, and Brookings.

I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Politics at Princeton University. I hold an MPA in International Development from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and a B.A. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from the University of Oxford. I have also worked at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, and Innovations for Successful Societies, Princeton University.

You can find me on Google Scholar,, and ResearchGate.

American expansion 15 percent fill.png

Book Project

Ascending Order: Rising Powers and the Politics of Status

Research on the rise and fall of great powers typically focuses on the likelihood of war between great powers and rising powers. Far less attention is paid to how rising powers react to international order, i.e. the rules and institutions established by great powers to manage international cooperation and conflict. Rising powers encounter these rules and institutions well before they are powerful enough to court the risk of war with great powers. Studying how they approach international order is therefore a historical and an analytical necessity. All the more so today, as we witness the rise of new powers under U.S. hegemony. In a world where nuclear weapons have made major war unthinkable, the international order gains considerable importance as a site of contestation between established and emerging powers.

Prevailing approaches view rising powers as maximizers of wealth or security that axiomatically challenge international order as they accumulate power. This perspective generates a major analytical puzzle: why would a rising power challenge the very international order that has enabled its rise? Conversely, why do rising powers sometimes support an international order that is inimical to their rise? To explain this puzzle, this book offers a new theory of when rising powers will challenge, support, or seek to amend the core institutions of an international order. Drawing on insights from political science, social psychology, and economics, I argue that rising powers are driven not just by material motives but also a desire to join the club of great powers that manages the international order. They seek symbolic equality with the great powers, which is a type of status, or position in a hierarchy. Rising powers evaluate an international order in terms of the institutional openness and procedural fairness of its core institutions. A rising power is more likely to support an order whose core institutions appear open to new powers joining their leadership ranks, and that treat the rising power as an equal of the great powers. It is more likely to challenge an order that appears lacking in these features.

I test this theory in three distinct historical cases of a rising power and its approach to a core security institution of an international order. First, the United States’ initial embrace and subsequent rejection of the laws of maritime warfare in the 1856 Declaration of Paris, the first instrument of codified international law to gain near universal acceptance. Second, Japan’s initial acquiescence in and subsequent withdrawal from the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, the preeminent arms control agreement of the interwar period. Third, India’s initial advocacy for and subsequent rejection of controls on the spread of nuclear weapons in the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, one of the few institutions supported by both superpowers during the Cold War. Drawing on archival and other primary sources, I find that rising powers draw inferences about their status from the core institutions of an international order. Under certain circumstances, they are willing to pay significant material costs to attain or maintain status. This finding sheds new light on contemporary world politics. It suggests that the manner in which the status ambitions of rising powers, especially China, India, and Brazil, are addressed will have significant effects on the sustainability of the U.S.-led international order as well as international security writ large.


Current as of December 2017. More recent publications are listed in my C.V. and available on my page.



Poised for Partnership: Deepening India-Japan Relations in the Asian Century. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2016 (co-edited with Anthony Yazaki)



"What Money Can’t Buy: The Security Externalities of Chinese Economic Statecraft in Post-War Sri Lanka,” Asian Security, 2017 (with Darren J. Lim)

The False Promise of India’s Soft Power,” Geopolitics, History, and International Relations, 6:1, 2014

From High Ground to High Table: The Evolution of Indian Multilateralism,” Global Governance, 17:3, July 2011 (with David M. Malone)

Indian Foreign Policy and Contemporary Security Challenges,” International Affairs, 87:1, 2011 (with David M. Malone)

India and China: Conflict and Cooperation,” Survival, 52:1, Feb/Mar 2010 (with David M. Malone)

The Shock of the New: India-US Relations in Perspective,” International Journal, LXIV:4, Autumn 2009
(with David M. Malone)



Statuspolitik as Foreign Policy: Strategic Culture and India's Nuclear Behavior”. National Cultures and Foreign Policy Making in a Multipolar World. Submitted.

Indian Multilateralism and the Global Human Rights Order,” in Doutje Lettinga and Lars van Troost
(eds.), India, Foreign Policy and Human Rights (Amsterdam: Amnesty International, 2015)

India,” in Ajit Banerjee (ed.), Global Perspectives on Foreign Policies of Major Powers (New Delhi:
Academic Foundation, 2015)

India’s International Development Program,” in Srinath Raghavan, David M. Malone and C. Raja
Mohan (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Indian Foreign Policy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)

Continuity and Change in India’s Foreign Policy,” in Benny Teh Cheng Guan (ed.), Security and
Foreign Policy in Asia
(Singapore: World Scientific, 2014)

Dilemmas of Sovereignty and Order: India and the UN Security Council,” in WPS Sidhu, Pratap
Bhanu Mehta and Bruce Jones (eds.), Shaping the Emerging World: India and the Multilateral Order
(Washington, D.C.: Brookings Press, 2013) – with David M. Malone

Polity, Security, and Foreign Policy in Contemporary India,” in T.V. Paul (ed.), South Asia’s Weak
States: Understanding the Regional Insecurity Predicament
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010) – with David M. Malone



What can economic interdependence do for Asia (Commentary),” Asian Journal of Public Affairs, 7:1,

Can't Buy Me Love: India's Foreign Aid and Soft Power,” Seminar, 658, June 2014

India and the UN Security Council: An Ambiguous Tale,” Economic and Political Weekly, 48:29, 2013
(with David M. Malone)



The International Politics of Status,” India in Transition, Center for the Advanced Study of India,
University of Pennsylvania, November 2014

The Perceptions of Others: World Opinion and Indian Foreign Policy,” India in Transition, Center for
the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania, August 2013

Embattled Sovereignty: India, the UN and Humanitarian Intervention,” India in Transition, Center for
the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania, February 2013



India and the Asian Security Architecture,” German Marshall Fund, December 2014 (with Vipin Narang)

Challenges of a Multipolar World: The United States, India, and the European Union in the AsiaPacific,”
German Marshall Fund, July 2013 (with Clara O’Donnell)



Meet India’s new nationalists,” The Indian Express, October 18, 2015

Bringing Tokyo closer to New Delhi,” The Hindu, December 26, 2014 (with Anthony Yazaki)

The less said, the worse,” The Indian Express, July 29, 2014

Inaccessible India,” The Hindu, August 12, 2013

India must get in on the ground floor,” The Hindu, January 18, 2013 (with Shailey Hingorani)




Yale-NUS College, Spring 2017, 2019 [syllabus]

Why do countries go to war with each other and why do they cooperate? How do domestic institutions or individual leaders impact a country’s external behaviour? Do international laws and institutions have any influence in global affairs? These types of questions have been central to the study of international relations in the 20th century. This introductory course examines the major theories of international conflict and cooperation that have emerged from this body of scholarship. It also covers thematic issues such as economic interdependence, global governance, nuclear weapons, transnational movements, and the rise of new powers. The course provides an introduction to IR theory and instances in which insights from IR can illuminate the dynamics of real-world phenomena.



Yale-NUS College, Spring 2017-19 [syllabus]

With the world’s second largest population, third largest economy, and third largest military, India is a pivotal country in Asia and the world. This course covers modern India’s history, domestic politics, and foreign policy and provide students with a sophisticated understanding of the world’s largest democracy and its changing place in global affairs. Weekly modules begin by developing relevant context from the literature on international relations, and then delve into detailed works on India.



Yale-NUS College, Fall 2016-18

This co-taught course introduces second-year undergraduate students to foundational figures of modern social thought and explores the ways in which their writings have been taken up in contemporary social analysis and political practice in different parts of the world. Taking Ibn Khaldun’s pre-modern analysis of society as a point of departure, students immerse themselves in the complex ideas and systematic visions of major social thinkers such as Alexis de Tocqueville, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, and Michel Foucault. The course also grapples with several other characteristically modern developments including (a) the revolution in thought and practice ushered in by feminist activists and thinkers such as Olympe de Gouges, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Simone de Beauvoir; and (b) the provincializing of European understandings of society and modernity as articulated in the writings of Frantz Fanon, Ho Chi Min, Mohandas Gandhi and Lee Kwan Yew, and in the scholarship of Chandra Mohanty, Kwame Appiah, Arjun Appadurai, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and Ranajit Guha, among others.



Princeton University, Assistant Instructor, Spring 2014

Grand strategy is the broad and encompassing policies and undertakings that political leaders pursue-financial, economic, military, diplomatic-to achieve their objectives in peacetime and in war. This course examines the theory and practice of grand strategy both to illuminate how relations among city-states, empires, kingdoms and nation states have evolved over the centuries and also to identify some common challenges that have confronted all who seek to make and execute grand strategy from Pericles to Barack Obama.



Princeton University, Assistant Instructor, Spring 2013

A study of the politics and history of human rights. What are human rights? How can dictatorships be resisted from the inside and the outside? Can we prevent genocide? Is it morally acceptable and politically wise to launch humanitarian military interventions to prevent the slaughter of foreign civilians? What are the laws of war, and how can we punish the war criminals who violate them? Cases include the Ottoman Empire, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Bosnia, and Rwanda.

Background copy.png

Curriculum Vitae




Mailing address: 28 College Avenue West, #01-501, Singapore 138533.

Please fill out the form below to send me a message.

Name *

Image credits:


"Uncle Sam: "Them fellers over there want to disarm but none of 'em dast do it first!"" By John Scott Clubb, 1906. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Uncredited image of Japan and the great power club, available here.

"This Insult, How Can We Bear?" Cartoon in Shankar's Weekly, June 2, 1974.

Book Project

"A Lesson for Anti-Expansionists. Showing how Uncle Sam has been an expansionist first, last, and all the time." By Victor Gillam in Judge, Arkell Publishing Company, New York, 1899.

Curriculum Vitae

"Columbia's Easter bonnet / Ehrhart after sketch by Dalrymple." Cover of Puck magazine, 6 April 1901.