India\’s Soft Power

[vc_section][vc_row][vc_column width=\”1/2\”][vc_column_text css=\”.vc_custom_1672054294058{border-top-width: 1px !important;border-right-width: 1px !important;border-bottom-width: 1px !important;border-left-width: 1px !important;padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;background-color: #434a9b !important;border-left-color: #434a9b !important;border-left-style: solid !important;border-right-color: #434a9b !important;border-right-style: solid !important;border-top-color: #434a9b !important;border-top-style: solid !important;border-bottom-color: #434a9b !important;border-bottom-style: solid !important;}\”]1. Expert in the Panel

  • Prakash Javadekar, MP, Rajya Sabha
  • Prabhu Dayal, Former Ambassador
  • Harsh V. Pant, Vice President, Studies and Foreign Policy, ORF


2. Reasons for being in News

In addition to economic and military power, the idea of soft power has gained importance during the past few decades.

3. Discussion

3.1. What is Soft Power?

Coined by Nye in the late 1980s, the term \”soft power\” — the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion — is now widely invoked in foreign policy debates. Nye argues that successful states need both hard and soft power — the ability to coerce others as well as the ability to shape their long-term attitudes and preferences.


The United States can dominate others, but it has also excelled in projecting soft power, with the help of its companies, foundations, universities, churches, and other institutions of civil society; U.S. culture, ideals, and values have been extraordinarily important in helping Washington attract partners and supporters. Nye acknowledges the limits of soft power: it tends to have diffuse effects on the outside world and is not easily wielded to achieve specific outcomes. Indeed, societies often embrace American values and culture but resist U.S. foreign policies. But overall, Nye\’s message is that U.S. security hinges as much on winning hearts and minds as it does on winning wars


Traditionally, empires were built on military prowess and brute force. Not much thought was given to diplomatic relationships between kingdoms, and then nations. The power of an empire was determined by the sheer size of the geographical region under a monarch’s control, and their ability to further expand these boundaries. A major motivation for most monarchs was pride; which doesn’t mean they didn’t care about their nations well-being. It is only indicative of the desire to be self-sufficient, without the help of external entities. However, as monarchy declined and democratic governments began to emerge; national boundaries were clearly demarcated and forceful expansion was no longer a viable option. This shift in dynamic made strong military forces an asset for self-defence rather than a means for national growth.


International affairs soon became the norm, with soft power playing an important role in establishing healthy relationships between national governments. Soft power can be described as the ability to attract and co-opt, thus shaping the opinions and preferences of others subtly. This has made a well-developed foreign policy essential for a country with soft power emphasizing the use of the social, cultural and political factors of a country to its advantage.

3.2. India’s soft power


India has many things to offer as soft power such as those described below:

  • Yoga is now practised in more than 150 countries. People in the millions are taking an interest in Yoga.
  • Ayurveda has also become popular, not only in the NRI community in India and the diaspora but even in many other civilizations also.
  • Our civilization is one of the oldest. We have an environmentally friendly culture. We worship trees. We worship animals. We worship nature because we believe in coexistence.
  • The Indian knowledge system is very important indeed, even in gaming. Games today, the world over, children’s play is full of violence, fear, aggression, and the like. Only the Indian value system bases games on teaching empathy, and helping each other, the panellist argued.
  • Bollywood film industry, cultural heritage.

3.2.1. Significance of soft power:

  • Augments the positive perceptions of a country.
  • It is a persuasive approach to international relations.
  • Revives national pride in the country’s ancient values.

3.2.2. Issues in leveraging India’s soft power:

According to an analysis done by Portland on soft power, India was not even in the top 30 countries.

  • The Indian government in the past was not aggressive and proactive in promoting our soft power.
  • Lack of synergy and coordination between the External Affairs Ministry and other ministries.
  • Less number of Indian tourism offices abroad.
  • In the past, the Indian Diaspora has never been involved with Indian values, culture and traditions as it is today.
  • Ayurveda “does not have a recognised pharmacopoeia” and because of this such products are being exported as dietary supplements and nutraceuticals.

3.2.3. Recommendations of the report of Lok Sabha’s standing committee on external affairs:

  • Committee asked the Ministry to facilitate the opening of more AYUSH centres overseas.
  • Getting recognition abroad for Ayurveda as a system of medicine, adopting the pharmacopoeia of India so that (the products) can be exported as medicine.
  • Collaboration with the Indian diaspora to disseminate yoga training abroad, in regions where it is not yet popular.
  • The committee suggested revising the differential pricing of tickets to monuments for foreigners and Indians.
  • It suggested building a system of common tourist entry passes to multiple heritage sites to streamline the process.
  • Increase annual budgetary allocation of ₹500 crore for the Indian Council For Cultural Relations (ICCR).
  • The Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) is the pre-eminent organization of the Government to project India’s soft power abroad.
  • It asked for the creation of a coordination committee involving representatives from the ministries of external affairs, culture, youth and sports affairs, AYUSH and science and technology to overcome the lack of coordination among multiple institutions.

3.3. Where has India applied Soft Power?

Although India hasn’t fit into the Soft power rankings, the country still has a considerable amount of leverage due to its rich culture, political stance and foreign policy. Post-independence, India formed strong relationships with both the United States and the Soviet Union. These relationships directly contributed to the formation of the Indian Institutes of Technology, which in turn was heavily responsible to the technological growth in the country.

India has also stood strong on its moral principles, providing the Dalai Lama refuge when he sought the same in 1959, supporting numerous African nations in their fight against apartheid, and so on. India has thus, been recognized for its humanitarian work that has given the country a substantial amount of leverage in international politics which has not been quantified in terms of metrics used to measure soft power. India definitely has room for improvement, on paper, to climb the soft power rankings and gain further influence over international politics. That said, the present soft power metrics understate the influence India possesses, and India has clearly understood that soft power is necessary but not sufficient for its international relationships and overall growth.

3.4. Way forward:

Indian foreign policy is increasingly drawing on a perception of its rising soft power. If effective, it should make global partners more open to Indian views and interests. However, significant impediments remain to cementing India’s fragile gains in leveraging its soft power on the global stage. Its assets include its ancient and distinct cultural heritage, the Bollywood film industry, and its status as the world’s largest democracy, albeit one that is developing and changing rapidly. The government’s increasing foreign assistance and public diplomacy programs are soft power instruments. It nevertheless remains unclear whether New Delhi can translate these assets into increasing the influence of India in policy circles internationally and among the broader international publics. For this to happen, India must design and resource coherent strategies for promoting its soft power abroad at the same time as it addresses domestic challenges that reflect little credit on it internationally.

The Indian government should be more aggressive and proactive and think innovatively to promote India’s soft power globally. Soft power comes under different ministries so there should be greater synergy among the External Affairs Ministry and other ministries. Because the Indian Diaspora is spread far and wide now, the involvement of the Indian Diaspora should be encouraged.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=\”1/2\” is_sticky=\”yes\” sticky_min_width=\”767\” sticky_top=\”130\” sticky_bottom=\”0\”][vc_custom_heading text=\”Perspective: India\’s Soft Power | 13 December, 2022\” font_container=\”tag:h2|font_size:24PX|text_align:center|color:%23ffffff|line_height:34PX\” use_theme_fonts=\”yes\” css=\”.vc_custom_1672055077874{margin-top: 0px !important;margin-bottom: 0px !important;padding-top: 10px !important;padding-right: 10px !important;padding-bottom: 10px !important;padding-left: 10px !important;background-color: #434a9b !important;}\”][vc_video link=\”\” css=\”.vc_custom_1672055089438{margin-top: 0px !important;padding-top: 0px !important;}\”][/vc_column][/vc_row][/vc_section]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top