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The Cuisine Diplomacy: Culinary Statecraft

Soft power is the country’s ability to influence others without resorting to coercion. It serves as an antipode to hard power, which is influencing people through coercion and military capabilities. Soft power can be established through various key components like cuisine, music, culture and art, tourism, education, sports, technology, and media.


This illustration consists of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Indian EAM Dr S. Jaishankar and prominent Indian chefs, Mr. Vikas Khanna and Mr. Sanjeev Kapoor depicting India's Cuisine diplomacy.

Illustration by Team Geostrata


Cuisine diplomacy, a time- tested strategy, entails showcasing and promoting one’s culture to others via its culinary riches. The nation has the capacity to impact its citizens through its gastronomic traditions. Culinary diplomacy is  used as a tool to promote cross- culture understanding among nations.


Throughout history, one can see gastro diplomacy being adopted as a means of soft power and to achieve desired outcomes. One such example can be the use of the Silk Route for exports and imports of spices and herbs, among many others.

It acted as a portal through which countries could connect and share their cultures through the export and import of food. Food diplomacy plays a very important role in geopolitics, from serving as a signal of friendship among nations to promoting peace and establishing soft power.


Cuisine has always remained an important tool of diplomacy. Rulers presented a resplendent delight for the foreign dignitaries visiting, resulting in fostering cross- cultural understanding. 


India is  home to a vibrant tapestry of cultures, where there are diverse dialects and cuisines that display India’s diplomatic strength and the influence of soft power. In the post- independence era, our former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was aware of the significance of cuisine in diplomacy and asked the India Tourism Development Corporation to open a Cypriot restaurant, when India and Cyprus’ relations were getting better.


Even now, India and Cyprus share a warm and significant relationship.

 

Another example of promoting Indian cuisine and establishing soft power is when PM Modi hosted dinner for former US President Barack Obama. The menu included diverse Indian cuisine, which represents India’s efforts to promote and foster Indian cuisine and culture and moreover, draws significant attention to how India wants this friendship to move forward.


One recent example is PM Narendra Modi and the Japanese PM Fumio Kishida savouring ‘Gol Gappa’ an Indian snack together. This reflects the strong and friendly ties that India possesses with Japan, furthermore, this will be used as a tool to promote Indian culture among nations and foster peace and cooperation.


Through these instances, cuisine, as a soft power, emerged gloriously in India. Gastrodiplomacy holds great value in the shifting global tableau and will continue to act as a tool for strengthening ties, building bridges, and raising awareness among people from around the world.


The G20 dinner was hosted by the honourable President of India, Shri Draupadi Murmu, where dignitaries and diplomats from around the world were served authentic Indian cuisine, showcasing India’s culture and art. Dignitaries from around the world engaged in fruitful conversations while savouring the Indian delicacies.


Cuisine diplomacy is significant because it enables the leaders to promote understanding and strengthen their relations while sharing a meal. 

Additionally, when people from other nations dine in Indian restaurants or order Indian cuisine, it serves as a successful indicator of established soft power and the role that India plays in promoting their food.


Food diplomacy is also used through cultural festivals, as every festival has a cuisine or a dish attached to it. Through this, cultural food is promoted,  increasing cross-cultural awareness.


The United Nations General Assembly announced 2023 as the International Year of Millets at its 75th session in March 2021. India, being the largest producer of millets, leads the way in promoting the sustainable and healthy qualities of millets. Millets showcase resilience along with their climate- adaptable nature in both hot and draught environments.


India is a proud cultivator of the complete gamut of nine traditional millets. The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare is mapping millets with SDGs, since millets are highly sustainable, climate resilient, nutritious crops, and environment friendly as they require less water, help restore soil nutrients, and can significantly contribute to restoring ecological balance.


Through the economic lens, promoting Indian cuisine can result in boosting food exports and significantly increasing culinary tourism as well. On the export front, Millets noticed a visible surge from $400 million in 2020 to $470 million in 2021.


India, being the 2nd largest exporter of millets, exported millets worth $62.95 million in 2021-22, with an increase to $75.46 million in 2022-23.

India’s cuisine diplomacy has been successful, and it is leading towards increasing cross- cultural understanding and awareness. Cuisine diplomacy amplifies soft power and holds great significance in the shifting world order; it enables leaders and citizens to connect with other nations.

Global leaders engage in fruitful conversations regarding sustainability, food security, and world hunger, which furthermore, leads to an increase in cooperation among nations and improved interactions. India’s ascending prominence in an emerging multipolar world holds great importance. The nation is leading towards a global restructure and successful representation of the Global South.

In conclusion, India has deftly established soft power through its exemplary culinary and agricultural displays. The sustainable, nutrient- rich sources present in India have left an indelible mark on leaders, dignitaries, and diplomats worldwide.


This places India at a paramount place in the global tableau, influencing countries around the world and at the same time raising awareness about critical issues like global food security and the fulfilment of the SDGs, shaping a better and more promising future for all.


 

BY NANDITA LATA

TEAM GEOSTRATA

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2 Comments


Nidhi Soni
Nidhi Soni
Nov 18, 2023

Such a unique and interesting article!!

Like

Ishan Sinha
Ishan Sinha
Nov 18, 2023

One of the most visible features of India's soft diplomacy

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