India as a Soft Power: Interface with the Diaspora


India as a Soft Power: Interface with the Diaspora

The Indian nation is in continuing creative and meaningful engagement with its diaspora. It is exercising its soft power in a fashion that the diaspora is gradually emerging as a critical player in the Indian nation’s development and policy initiatives. What is a soft power? Prof Nye defines soft power in the oppositional position to the realist idea of hard power such as military capability and economic inducements; meaning the critical use of such non-coercive means. which could also be co-option, to influence policy outcomes. In a nutshell soft power as a concept encompasses the burdening on three resources: "its culture (in places where it is attractive to others), its political values (when it lives up to them at home and abroad), and its foreign policies (when others see them as legitimate and having moral authority)”.

In this context, India’s vibrant diaspora has the capacity to be a potently persuasive vehicle of its soft power. The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs provides a modest estimate of India having the second largest diaspora in the world at over 25 million making a contribution to $69 billion dollars annually as remittances. Guyana, Mauritius, Fiji, Tobago, Trinidad, Singapore, Canada and many other countries have experienced the leadership of Indian Origin.

In modernizing its soft power stance India has given due importance to the potential of the diaspora becoming a strategic asset in the foreseeable future. Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is a landmark political event almost like a winter ritual for diaspora diplomacy. In the most recent Pravasi Bharatiya Divas early this year PM Modi highlighted the need to build a strong emotional connection between the nation and the Overseas Indians. The seriousness of the engagement with the diasporic community was apparent by the many first time events that preceded the function. The launch of GIAN-Global Initiative of Academic Networks. the Know India Programme, Online migration portal through e-migrate and MADAD Platforms were some key institutional mechanisms to lure the díaspora into a meaningful relationship with the motherland’s growth story.

Over the years the Indian diaspora is increasing its political clout at home. It is an important source of financing the political class as well as various development initiatives. PM Modi’s flashy speeches in places such as New York's Madison Square Garden and All phone Arena in Sydney urged the diaspora to generously contribute money, time and technical expertise to his signature initiatives. India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians, for example, is a state backed platform for philanthropic collaborative intervention. While the Indian State has incentivized diasporic monetary contribution through FCRA, the diaspora in return has contributed to various flagship programs like Swacchh Bharat Mission and Namami Ganga. Financial contribution to Swachh Bharat and Namami Ganga Prọịects was Rs.98 lakh in 2015-2016. It has partnered with State governments and contributed in select sectors like education, sanitation, healthcare, women’s empowerment and sustainable empowerment.

Spiritualism is the Indian ground for strengthening the civilizational and cultural links with the diasporic community and the world. India most definitely offers the most dynamic alternative to the Western cultural value system. An example: would be the spiritual gurus who have traveled all over the world selling yoga and mysticism. A brief analysis of the most influential Gurus shows that Osho’s followers abroad far outnumber his followers in India. In us and Canada alone there are 25 Osho Ashrams. Similarly, Baba Ram Dev who propagates the use of traditional medicine and meditation based yoga expressed his pian to establish a $20 million center of 94 acres for which businessmen from Houston and Florida donated $5000()0each for the center. Again Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation operates in 154 countries and claims for effective educational and self-development programs through meditation and yoga and practical wisdom for daily living. All these gurus also have used aggressive marketing strategies to creating a market for their products. These are instances which elucidate the expanding space of diasporic dialogue with India's civilizational being.

The Indian Film Industry is also an important channel for diasporic engagement. The rising popularity of Bollywood films is evident from the aggressive marketing strategies of simultaneous release of films in India and abroad and partnerships with global production houses like Fox Star Studios. Revenue from overseas theatricals has risen from Rs. 760 crores in 2012 to nearly Rs 1100 crores in 2016 adding to 7.7% to its net worth (Rs. 14230 crores). We have witnesses film stars traveling across borders to be the gamechanger in revenue collection. The target countries are also those with a high proportion of diasporic population like us, UK, Canada and the Gulf States. Even regional films-particularly. Tamil and Telegu have also made a grand entry into the overseas market. In 2016, Tamil movies topped up a revenue of Rs. 350 crores while Telegu films had made 15% higher overseas revenue in 2016 than 2015.

Indian public diplomacy has the scope to capitalize more on the soft power potential. But at the same time, there is a need to strategy upon a more compelling development model and improve its economic performance, address more seriously the problems of social and economic inequalities at home. 

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