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Report on the Roundtable Discussion at Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi (Part 1)

14/09/2017


Report on the Roundtable Discussion at Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi (Part 1)


Report on the Roundtable Discussion at

Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi

(11th August 2017)

Programme Schedule:

Date: 11th August 2017 (Friday)

Venue: Seminar Room, Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi

Welcome Address: 

Dr Sulekh Chandra, Principal, Zakir Husain Delhi College, University of Delhi

Introductory Remarks: 

Prof. Mr Le Van Toan, Director, Centre for Indian Studies, Hanoi

Chair: 

Prof. Ashok Acharya, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi

Panelists:

 Dr Uma Shankar, Associate Professor, Zakir Husain Delhi College

Title: India’s Soft Power Strategy in India’s Foreign Policy

Dr Anita Tagore, Assistant Professor, Kalindi College

Title: Indian Diaspora and the Soft Power

Dr Aftab Alam, Assistant Professor, Zakir Husain Delhi College

Title: India’s Soft Power: Exploring Linkages with Southeast Asia

Dr Amit Singh, Assistant Professor, ARSD College

Title: Diaspora as a Factor in India’s Soft Power

Dr Namrata Chaturvedi, Assistant Professor, Zakir Husain Delhi College

Title: Inter-faith Dialogue: Traditions and Possibilities

Dr Ashwin Parijat, Assistant Professor, Zakir Husain Delhi College

Title: Swami Vivekanand and Thoughts on India’s Soft Power

Overview of the discussion:

A delegation from Centre for Indian Studies (CIS), Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, Hanoi visited Zakir Husain Delhi College, the University of Delhi for a Round Table Discussion on India’s Soft Power. The delegation headed by Prof.  Le Van Toan, Director (CIS) was on a study tour for their project on India's Soft Power and visited Delhi based research institutions and Universities from 9-11 August 2017.

The round table discussion began with Dr Om Prakash, Teacher-in-charge, Department of Political Science, Zakir Husain Delhi College addressing the participants in the Seminar room and extending a warm welcome to the delegation that came from Vietnam. Prof. Ashok Acharya chaired the session and initiated the discussion. He highlighted the theoretical underpinnings and a framework for discussing ‘Soft Power’. He also provided an overview of the concept of ‘Soft Power’ and outlined the compatibility of Asian systems and liberal values. Prof Toan, Director, CIS gave the introductory remarks. The discussion largely revolved around the idea of soft power being manifested out in many ways, and how it evolved over time and how impactful it can be. The counter narrative to the soft power was also brought forth by the members of the panel which made the discussion far more interesting and fruitful. Each panellist specialised in their fields came up with different narratives and tried to include the idea of soft power into their narrative, as to how it plays an important role in the contemporary global scenario and much more was emphasised on the pragmatics of it.

Key Issues discussed by the members of the panel:

Dr Uma Shankar, Associate Professor, Zakir Husain Delhi College

Title: India’s Soft Power Strategy in India’s Foreign Policy

Dr Uma Shankar focussed largely on the inception of the idea of soft power in India and its slow and gradual implementation in various policies by the Indian government over time. He began by saying that soft power came into light after the cold war and that the term was coined by American Thinker, Joseph Nye. He explicitly stated that hard power and soft power cannot be seen in binary and that they are not mutually exclusive of each other. However, a nation's interests would be best served by its soft power but it also should not neglect its hard power which is primarily  a realist strategy.

He stated that the Indian state had seen many instances where in it opted for hard power and gave few of such instances, such as military action for the liberation of Goa in 1961 and Bangladeshi Crisis in 1971. Regarding Sino-Indo relations in the 1960s, he shed light on its ineffective handling by the former Prime Minister, JL Nehru. However, he praised the country’s leadership and its policies saying that the hard power was never exercised to appease the public and change their narrative. Previous regimes did use hard power whenever they could do so successfully but did not use it to divert public attention from core issues of democracy, development and national unity. A fractured polity and ideologically divided nation would not be able to harness its soft power resources as it appears today.

Finally, Dr Uma Shankar had concluded his stance and rested his paper suggesting that the policy regarding the usage of soft power must always be concerted and structured in its application. Soft power strategy should be implemented and applied not merely as a tokenism and for propaganda purposes but also as a conscious systematic foreign policy approach. Soft power approach gives greater priority to building a cohesive national society where hard power would be used for national security but not as diversionary aggressive tactics or for electoral mobilisation in the name of nationalism. India has huge soft power cultural and political resources which need to be harnessed systematically.

Dr Anita Tagore, Assistant Professor, Kalindi College

Title: Indian Diaspora and the Soft Power

Dr Anita centred her speech around the central idea of the presence of Indian diaspora all around the world and how policies implemented by the government caters to their favouring which in all, affects other nations as well and not just India. Her presentation also comprised of the insights about Bollywood of India, making an impact worldwide and she presented many figures and statistics on the economic aspects of it, in terms of revenue that is being earned from them.

Dr Anita started off with defining the soft power as influence that is exercised on the other nations, which is totally in opposition to the hard-military power, and something that appears in three major components. They are Culture, Political values and Foreign Policy. She spoke about and presented the policies enforced by Modi government in care of the Indian diaspora present outside India about how Modi, the Indian Prime minister, goes out and addresses the diaspora and tries to reunite the feeling of belongingness and togetherness. She also talked about financing Diaspora who contributes a lot to the economy of the country they live in, and also India. There was a special mention about communication engagement with the Diaspora outside and the establishment of an Overseas Congress Committee recently.

Another important aspect on which she spoke about, is the spiritualistic aspect which forms one of the major aspect and means of exercising soft power. She talked of Baba Ramdev and Sri Ravi Shankar who contributed a lot in extending Yoga and Spiritualism respectively, throughout the world. Statistics were highlighted showing that more than 130 countries are aware of Ravi Shankar’s art of living. Dr Anita had also shed light on the Bollywood influence in the other countries and the fandom that Indian stars carry around outside the India. She talked about movies like PK and Dangal which grossed over majority of its income.

She concluded here stance by talking about effective ways of implementing Indian diplomacy by offering solutions such as making the communication with the diaspora more easier and use them as assets to build up the nation. (Part 2)

 

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