Coined by Joseph Nye in the late 1980s, the term "soft power" refers to the ability of a country to persuade others to do what it wants without force or coercion. It is now widely invoked in foreign policy debates.
It results from the appeal of a nation's political ideas, policies, and culture. Our soft power is strengthened when other people regard our policies as being justified. As nations try to make sense of and adapt to a fast shifting international environment, the soft power resources at their disposal become an increasingly important aspect of the foreign policy.
Nye’s three pillars of soft power are: political values, culture, and foreign policy.
How is it different from Hard Power?
Hard power consists of coercion, such as the use of force, threat, military strength and economic sanctions . Soft power on the other hand refers to the use of positive appeal and persuasion to accomplish foreign policy goals as opposed to the coercive character of hard power. Instead of using the traditional carrot and stick methods of foreign policy, soft power builds networks and appeal.
India and it's Potential
India's image is that of a benign country, confident of its expanding role in the international community in support of democracy, international cooperation, commitment to multilateralism and peaceful negotiations - as an effective way to address shared global challenges.
India is a culturally diverse and is world's largest democracy with a sizable aspirational diaspora.
India's global representation is anchored on the concept of 'unity in diversity,' which is reflective of the vast treasure of cultures and civilizations that continue to fascinate many people around the globe. Traditional, religious, ethno-linguistic, and positive international relations are cited in assessments of India's soft power.
India is fortunate to be the birthplace of four major religions which includes - Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. This acts as an incentive for religiously-motivated people to travel to India. The international media's coverage of the Khumbmela is testimony of the admiration of other nations for India and its centuries-long preservation of values and customs. Religious tourism is a vital aspect in our foreign relations. Tourism can play a major role in building trust and people to people contact.
As part of its ongoing promotional efforts, the Ministry of tourism is promoting its cultural wealth extensively. The Buddhist circuit is a route that traces the Buddha's footsteps from Lumbini, Nepal, where he was born, to Bihar, India, where he attained enlightenment, to Sarnath and Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India, where he gave his first teachings and died.
In the current political climate , India takes a deliberate approach to use its soft-power resources in order to improve the nation's image overseas. Our Prime Minister underscored spiritual linkages between India and Central Asia, marking a contrast with growing extremism around the world, suggesting that "the Islamic heritage of both India and Central Asia is defined by the highest ideals of Islam — knowledge, piety, compassion and welfare." By highlighting its multicultural background, India is attempting to counter charges of intolerance.
Yoga and Meditation, which have become household terms in most countries. Without a a doubt Yoga today has vast mass appeal. The health aspects of these are being studied and promoted by renowned experts and physicians. United Nations has also declared June 21 as the Global Yoga Day.
NRI and PIO
NRIs and PIOs, are key players when it comes to projection of our soft power. Over the past two decades, they have prospered, become well-known, and gained influence. They are dispersed all across globe. They help in dissemination of our culture and, on occasion, have even helped in advancing our foreign policy objectives.
Bollywood is the largest film industry in the world in terms of the numbers of films produced. Indian movies and music are watched and enjoyed in large parts of the world from the Middle East and North Africa to Central Asia.
Nonetheless, the potential remains untapped. Bollywood has the potential to become a propagation tool and can possibly aid in marketing India's image. Experts have shed light on how Hollywood has 'deliberately' established the image of America as great, affluent and modern; throughout the world.
In 2020, a survey was conducted on China's Olympic performance and perceptions of China- based on its rising medal count. According to the report, the country's Olympic success has a beneficial impact on its national soft power. China utilises its strength in elite sports to foster interpersonal links with other nations.
India should prioritise signing MOUs with nations that excel in specific sports in order to train Indian athletes abroad. For instance, Australia and the United Kingdom can assist us in swimming, whereas African nations such as Kenya can assist us in running. India must increase the number of athletes enrolled TOPS( Target Olympic Podium Scheme) to establish a competitive environment, hence enhancing performance. The government should work on a public-private partnership (PPP) approach to establish basic district-level athletic infrastructure in order to identify youthful talent at an early age.
Project Mausam is a major initiative backed by India's Ministry of Culture that aims to revive trade ties between India and its traditional partners in the Indian Ocean.
The idea is that India has for centuries shared a common maritime culture, with its sailors using the monsoon winds — “Mausam” means “weather” — to move along the Arabian and African coastlines. India desires to revitalise these ties by building on soft power, in order to counter Chinese influence and enhance its role in the Indo-Pacific.
The project includes two components: study on the history and archaeology of the Indian Ocean and a strong push to add sites throughout the region to the UNESCO World Heritage list.
However, India, a nation rich in soft power resources, lacks the institutional infrastructure necessary to utilise soft power and advance its national interests on the international stage. Corruption, poverty, and violence against women, business hostility, urban pollution, caste-discrimination, and gender inequality have all contributed to India's poor performance in terms of its national charm. If India wants to revitalise its national image, it needs identify its strengths to further them and work on weaknesses.