Power, throughout history, has been defined as the strength of the mighty and hegemonic, rather than the subtle magnetism of civilisational strength.Soft power, based on the civilisational ethos of India and Indian culture, works as an aggregator for the national interest when accompanied by the evidence of real developmental progress on the ground, of the radical transformation of Indian lives for the better.
WHAT IS SOFT POWER?
- Joseph Nye defines soft power as the ability to obtain preferred outcomes through attraction rather than coercion, that is where one moves from exporting fear to inspiring optimism & hope
- Its major characteristics include
- culture (when it is pleasing to others)
- values (when they are attractive and consistently practiced)
- policies (when they are seen as inclusive and legitimate)
- Soft power encapsulates the strategically positioned use of communication, visual media and the spoken word in order to shape the discourse concerning the country.
- It is in essence ‘discourse’ power, a means to become, what in modern terminology is, a stand-out ‘influencer’ of opinion in favour of a country, organisation, or group, persuasively and credibly.
- For India, that discourse power must be tied to the strength of governance, constitutional values, openness, sensitivity in dealing with minorities, the dynamism of our economy, the cleanliness and ‘smartness’ of our cities, the protection of human rights, the attraction of entertainment, style and fashion, the high standards of universities and education, tourism and heritage conservation, and environmental protection.
- The cultural diplomacy aims to promote world peace and stability via intercultural relations
- According to European Union, cultural diplomacy engages and empowers local actors to facilitate the creation of spaces for mutual understanding via intercultural dialogues, facilitating reconciliation and fostering peaceful inter community relations
- It reinforces the role of culture as an engine for sustainable social and economic development and promotes cooperation on cultural heritage
- The practice of cultural diplomacy rests on two assumptions:
- Healthy international relations can be established on the grounds of mutual respect and understanding of others' cultures
- It counts education, language and art as crucial entry points into a culture
- From Buddha to beats of Bollywood India has made its presence felt around the world.India's ethos of diversity, acceptance and tolerance have genuinely made it a cultural force to reckon with
ROLE OF INDIAN DIASPORA
- The Indian diaspora communities are active stakeholders in shaping India's image in foreign lands
- They have been the target audience and participants in the Indian cultural events, also they are the agents of Indian culture
- The overseas Indian respirations to be the agents of change vis-a-vis their home country became true when the Indian economy took the neoliberal turn in 1991 coupled with image of rising and shining India, asserting its weight in world politics
- The image of India has been lifted and the diaspora community has felt reinvigorated in the recent years
- According to a UN report, the size of the Indian diaspora population is about 18 million. The well-intentioned Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman awards are steps in the right direction to boost the diaspora communities' efforts as cultural agents
- Indian government has also created new Ministry of overseas Indian affairs to intensify the links between people of India origin living in abroad and their homelands which would leverage the existing linkages and boost its soft power potential
- The active part of Indian diaspora community is reflected from an entry when cultural and other events take place in foreign countries, for instance the UK-India Year of Culture was celebrated in 2017
THE ROAD AHEAD FOR CULTURAL DIPLOMACY
- Oldest civilization: India is one of the oldest civilizations with its Heritage spread across Southeast Asia. Indian knowledge system has generated substantial interest across the world through centuries
- Ayurveda has transcended the Indian borders and has found takers in many countries
- Yoga:India's success and projecting Yoga onto the world stage formulae must be carried more zealously.
- Democratic values: India's democratic journey has come a long way from being labelled as a gamble to firm democratic institutions
- The accomplishment along with enormous electoral exercise is widely covered in International media
- India's political values of democracy, rule of law, freedom of expression and secularism among others sit well with various international organisations and media houses
- Signatory to international treaties: India has also become a signatory to binding treaties and conventions over the years reflecting its political values and commitments
- Foreign policy: India continues to do increasingly well as it has entered various influential International groupings including G20, BRICD, QUAD
- India's foreign aid to different countries is an integral part of its soft power approach
- Lack of control over international media: India's lack of control over media in the portrayal of its image internationally is one of the major factors restraining its positive image building to the international audience
- Hence, the idea of coming up with an international channel gear towards telling the countryside of story is a step in the right direction
- Unplanned by product of normal emanations of Indian culture: Another challenge in promoting cultural diplomacy is that term 'International cultural relations' continue to garner greater acceptance in India than 'cultural diplomacy'
- India can and must promote its cultural legacy through values and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi
- In a world torn apart by conflicts, path of nonviolence and peace let by Mahatma Gandhi decades ago could serve as a Clarion call for the world to unite for peace and stability
- The search for solutions for devastating effects of climate change and environmental degradation being discussed at the top forums today may take a leaf out of Gandhian philosophy on environmental consciousness that is 'small is beautiful' and 'moral living'
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