[Answered] Can a country’s performance in sports increase its soft power? How can India increase its sporting performance and soft power?

Introduction: Contextual introduction.
Body: Explain how a country’s performance in sports increases its soft power and also write some points against this view.  Also write some measures to increase sporting performance and soft power of India.Conclusion: Write a way forward.

Soft power is a “power of attraction through culture, political ideas, and policies rather than coercion” that military hard power exhibits. It aims to persuade and not coerce. At the most fundamental level soft Power is about winning the hearts and minds of people i.e. a people centric approach.

Increases soft power:

  • China uses its superiority in elite sports to build “people-to-people” relations with other countries. E.g. athletes from African countries are trained in swimming, badminton, table tennis, etc.
  • Mega sporting events generate viewership in their billions. So they provide a platform for countries to showcase their culture, values and tradition.
  • A powerful means of showcasing a nation’s achievements and its ability to manage major projects. 
  • It can create positive pathways for young people, giving skills, confidence, and self-respect and generates role models. It reduces violence and promotes community cohesion.
  • Russia used the Games and World Cup to change the image of Russia from that of an authoritarian closed nation, to that of an open one which welcomed the World in 2014 and 2018.

Not necessarily increases the soft power:

  • It is obvious that performance in sports increase soft power, but is not sufficient. This is because foreign policy outcomes are not unilateral decisions.
  • It has been ruined by drugs, cheating, and hooliganism.
  • It can also worsen the relationship between nations, as the example of El Salvador and Honduras shows. The poor relationship between the two nations was further exacerbated by playing against each other in the World Cup in 1969.
  • Sport teams and athletes can serve a national propaganda machine meant to support a negative narrative.

Ways to increase sporting performance:

  • India should concentrate on forging MoUs with nations that excel in specific sports. For example, Australia and the United Kingdom can assist us in swimming, African countries such as Kenya in running.
  • Focusing on a few sports is beneficial for a country such as India. India needs to boost the number of athletes under TOPS.
  • Private investment needs to be harnessed to develop infrastructure. This also creates a huge market for private players to invest in.
  • As recommended by NITI Aayog, the government should work on a public-private partnership (PPP) model to create basic sporting infrastructure at the district level so that talent can be captured at an early stage.

As Nelson Mandela once stated, “Sport has the power to change the world, to inspire and to unite people in a way that very little else can”, placing the spotlight on a nation through sports can be advantageous and provide worldwide attention to positive changes.

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