India’s Civilisational Ties with the World: An Underexplored Theme in India’s Soft Power Discourse

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  • January-March 2023

    ‘Soft Power’ has never before been explicitly stated as part of India’s foreign policy, like it has been done in the last few years. However, much remains to be done to transform India’s capacities into capabilities for an effective soft power exercise, and to be able to employ such soft power as a veritable instrument of influence. This article discusses the civilisational asset that India possesses and its potential for enhancing soft power, that is, India’s historical and civilisational ties with, and the cultural footprints thereof, in different parts of the world, especially Asia. It is argued in this article that there is an intrinsic value in underscoring this aspect of India’s contribution to the world for reasons that go beyond the narrow interests of a single nation. The current ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy of the Indian government makes room for an effective utilisation of this asset, if the discourse around it is framed carefully. The purpose of this article is threefold: to highlight the importance of this particular soft power asset of India; to address the critique of this approach in a constructive way; and to suggest a way forward in terms of concrete policy recommendations.

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