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19-october-2023

1. ‘India is uniquely positioned on the world map for its rich culture.’ In this context discuss the role of culture, diaspora, and democracy as instruments of India’s soft power diplomacy. To what extent India has been able to position itself as a ‘smart power’?

  • India’s uniqueness lies in the spirit of “peaceful coexistence” among people of various cultures, religions, and geographies. This composite culture has strengthened India’s soft power on the international stage. The three major facets of soft diplomacy have been culture, diaspora, and democracy which contributed to India’s rise as a diplomatic power.

ROLE OF CULTURE, DIASPORA, AND DEMOCRACY AS INSTRUMENTS OF SOFT POWER DIPLOMACY

1. Role of Democracy

  1. Democratic value system ensures that India provides equal respect to even smaller nations thereby increasing the confidence of smaller and developing countries in India’s leadership. For e.g., India’s relations with Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan.
  2. Democratic values promote the peaceful resolution of disputes along with such discussion reached through an inclusive and representative debate.
  3. Democracy provides India to facilitate dialogue and discussion among different stakeholders and also upholds its own national interest. For e.g., India championed an “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led” solution in Afghanistan.

2. Role of Diaspora

  1. Indian diaspora influences the government policy in foreign countries due to their numerical strength thereby giving India a good foothold during bilateral negotiations. For e.g., Indian Diaspora played a critical role in the fructification of the Indo-US nuclear deal.
  2. Diaspora facilitates cultural exchange and enriches the local culture through its cuisine, festivals, etc., and facilitates people-to-people connections while promoting peaceful bilateral relations and cooperation.
  3. The Indian diaspora promotes political influence as many countries have increasingly seen appointments of people of Indian origin to high political and administrative posts. For e.g., the recent appointment of Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister of the UK.

3. Role of Culture

  1. India’s composite culture provides India with authority to speak on the importance of tolerance and brotherhood thereby facilitating peaceful resolution of disputes.
  2. Indian Arts, Culture, Yoga and Spiritualism, Culinary Varieties, Festivals, Music and Dances, etc., have attracted people from all around the world for centuries and contributed to its cultural influence over diplomacy.
  3. India has promoted the value of tolerance and compassion to protect human dignity and humanity. For e.g., India’s role in UN peacekeeping and its Vaccine Maitri Initiative.
  4. Cultural diplomacy has always been a part of bilateral relationships with other countries and has often facilitated better dialogue, discussion, and trust-building among countries. For e.g., the Buddhist diplomacy with South-Eastern and East Asian countries like Japan, Mongolia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, etc.

INDIA HAS FAIRLY POSITIONED ITSELF AS A SMART POWER

  1. Champion against Aggressive Nations: India has maintained its stand against the aggressive powers of the world. For e.g., India opposes China’s debt diplomacy, India also opposes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  2. No-First Use: India has been a responsible nuclear power and this has led to India’s membership in important strategic forums like Wassenaar Agreement, Australian Group, MTCR, etc.
  3. India’s Leadership: India has attained crucial leadership roles in forums like WHO, G20 and global support on forums like UN.
  4. Development Power: India has increasingly taken up the role of Institution-builder and developmental power. Indian investment is often seen as complementary and non-debt creating, unlike China. For e.g., India’s role in Afghanistan, Chabahar Port, etc.
  5. Soft Power: Indian Sports, Cinema, Arts, Dance, etc. have increasingly improved in global outreach and attracted people across nations, regions, and cultures.

India has used soft power in consonance with its rising influence in terms of hard power in areas like defense (4th largest defense power). India has in these terms emerged as a smart power that uses strategic use of diplomacy, persuasion, capacity building, and hard diplomacy tools like sanctions, trade barriers, influence, etc.

CHALLENGES TO INDIA’S RISE AS A GLOBAL SMART POWER

  1. Changing World Order: India’s focus on soft power is overshadowed by changing global order post-CoViD-19 which is increasingly becoming turbulent due to wars, economic recession, etc.
  2. China Issue: India has faced the issue of China on the global stage which uses its economic power to, influence global decisions in its favor. For e.g., China’s debt diplomacy, huge investment, etc.
  3. Internal Tensions; India is increasingly grappling with internal challenges of communalism, ethnic violence, religious fragmentation, etc. which reduces its influence as soft power.
  4. Human Rights Concerns: India faces allegations of human rights violations from various Western democracies which reduces its influence and its negotiation power.

The 16th Report on the Prospects and Limitations of India’s Soft Power and Cultural Diplomacy by the Parliamentary Committee on External Affairs describes India’s recent rise on the global stage as an amalgamation of soft power and hard diplomacy skills. This complements India’s global position and makes it a destination for foreign investment, and interests, and improves its bargaining power at bilateral and regional stages.

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