On 26th December Nirupama Rao who is the former foreign secretary stated that “India’s strength vis-à-vis China is projecting its soft power across the globe lies in her democratic credentials, open society, institutional freedoms and constitutional values that stress respect for diversity, pluralism, and protection of minorities.”
She though mourned that China’s soft power was increasingly growing stronger though it often turns to use of hard power – military, strategic and economic – making for a mix that conceals the region evoking fear, wariness, and cautionary responses to its outreach in the region.
Also Read: Modi’s Five Foreign Policy Challenges
“India’ strength vis-a-vis China lies in her democratic credentials, her open society and institutional freedoms, and constitutional values that stress respect for diversity, pluralism and the protection of minorities,” Rao stated while delivering the second Krishna Bose lecture ‘Power of soft power’ at the Netaji Research Bureau here in virtual mode.
Stressing on the fact that India must grip these soft power assets better, she stated that global opinion about the nation is built on its capacity to uphold these values and even the workings of internal governance.
Rao who is a former ambassador of India to the USA, China, and Sri Lanka, stated that though China’s efforts in spreading its soft power may certainly not have yielded its desired goals owing to “the authoritarian nature of the Chinese state and the obsessive control of its citizenry including gross violations of their human rights, the vast expenditures made on soft power diplomacy make for considerable impact.” She stated that over the past few decades, China has consciously sought to ‘soften’ its image abroad and get ‘respect’, using the appeal of Chinese art, architecture, cinema, literature, universities, and its behemoth economy.
Rao stated that there are those who say that the ‘recognition’ of Indian soft power globally is a new phenomenon due entirely to efforts made by Indian policy-makers over the past few years.
“Let us remember that poets and philosophers, theatre personalities and educators from abroad, have been inspired by India’s civilizational aura and ethos, for centuries now,” she stated, remembering how Gregory Peck who is a Hollywood star recited Rabindranath Tagore’s poem ‘Unending Love’ at the funeral of Audrey Hepburn.
Mentioning that India has 38 cultural centers established by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) globally, Rao stated that the numbers are not equivalent to India’s size and weight on the global stage.
“We need far more such institutions spread over various regions,” she stated, pointing to China having made many hundred Confucius institutes in furtherance of its aim to promote its `soft power’.
Rao stated that India’s development assistance to Afghanistan totaled over $ 3 billion between the years 2001 and 2021 which involves projects focused mainly on health, education, capacity development, and food security, apart from building roads and power transmission lines and dams.
Mentioning that the effect on the Afghan people and on main influencers of public opinion was significantly positive, she stated “this is an inspirational model of soft power at work that served foreign policy ends.” PTI AMR JRC JRC.