Winning the world, softly

Source– The post is based on the article “Winning the world, softly” published in The Times of India on 3rd December 2022.

Syllabus: GS2- International relations

Relevance– Soft power of India

News– The article explains the soft power enjoyed by India in ancient times. It also explains the steps needed to enhance India’s soft power.

What shows the Indian arc of influence in ancient times?

Mahabharat’s Gandhari was from Gandhar now called Kandahar.

Iran derives its name from the term Airyanemvaeja or the land of the Aryans.

Angkor Wat, the world’s largest Vishnu temple, is not situated in India but in Cambodia.

Varuna was even adopted by the Greeks as Uranus.

Two Indian monks, Kashyapa Matanga and Dharmaraksha, carried the first Buddhist texts into China while Bodhidharma took martial arts to Shaolin.

Indonesia’s 20,000 Rupiah note prominently displays Ganeshji on it.

In Thailand, the Chakri dynasty kings still assume the title of King Ram and their royal emblem is Garud.

In Malaysia, the Hikayat Seri Rama is performed with shadow puppets even today. It is the Malay adaptation of Ramayan.

What is the way forward to increase the soft power of our country?

Iyengar Awards: International Day of Yoga has been recognised by the UN. The most famous practitioner of yoga was BKS Iyengar. The government can create an Iyengar Awards as the Oscars of yoga.

Buddhist tourism: Most of the significant Buddhist sites are in India and Nepal. There is a lack of nodal agency that ensures a coordinated approach from heritage site management to international connectivity. Religious tourism can be an instant brand enhancer.

Film industry: India produces 1,600 films annually. Government can provide budgetary assistance for Indian films to be marketed abroad once they have tasted success in India.

Health sector: India has some of the finest alternative therapies – ayurveda, pranayama, panchkarma, naturopathy. The practice of meditation is also becoming mainstream in stress management. Government needs to work on a PPP basis to create world-class alternative therapy centres abroad.

Sanskrit Inc: India should also be concerned that Sanskrit will soon be appropriated by countries like Germany where tens of chairs in Sanskrit are being established. It is time to develop an Indian centre that can preserve Indic knowledge and India’s pre-eminence.

Indian cuisine: The world is enthusiastically embracing turmeric lattes, masala tea, pure ghee, vegetarianism and veganism. India needs to invest in a travelling Indian food festival that takes India’s cuisine around the planet. Strategic partners like hotel chains and airlines can be involved.

Strengthening of ICCR: The country needs to rejuvenate, rebrand and re-engineer ICCR’s 38 Indian Cultural Centres to play to our strengths. Both the quality and quantity of centres must improve.

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