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The Diwali and Soft Power Diplomacy

Diwali, the "festival of lights", signifies the triumph of good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. Therefore, Diwali is a symbol of divinity and truth. Additionally, this auspicious day aligns with the Hindu New Year, adding to its importance.

An illustration of Diwali and Soft Power Diplomacy displaying Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of the UK Rishi  Sunak, and the US President Joe Biden which symbolises the power of India and its cultural influence spreading in the world.

Illustration by Team Geostrata

The festival gives one the zeal of goodwill and the strength to eradicate vices within oneself. Diwali has reinforced India's cultural power around the world, owing to being the center of attraction and epitome of excitement worldwide.

Diwali’s acceptance is inherited due to the legends associated with this festival, which are not bound by the blocks of any nationality or any culture. For instance, for the Hindu community, Diwali celebrates Rama's eventual defeat of the evil spirit Ravana and his triumphant return to his home.

For Sikhs, the celebration highlights the release of Guru Hargobind Singh from prison and his return to Amritsar. For Jains, it is a time to celebrate Lord Mahavira and the moment he attained enlightenment.

Prominently outside of India, Diwali is colloquially referred to as "Indian Christmas". The celebrations are held equivocally across the USA, UK, Fiji, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Canada, Singapore, Thailand, and many other nations. Surely, a humongous Indian diaspora has been a powerful resource for expanding this festival as well as proving India's vibrant culture.

The diaspora’s public Diwali celebrations dot local communities around the world and serve as a powerful reminder of Indian values of secularism, tolerance, and inclusiveness as intrinsic to our civilizational ethos.

This is what political scientist Joseph Nye Jr. referred to as “soft power", defining it as a country’s ability to influence others without resorting to coercive pressure. In practice, that process entails countries projecting their values, ideals, and culture across borders to foster goodwill and strengthen partnerships.

The flourishing of India's soft power is a testament to the country's confidence in its philosophy, traditional knowledge, and culture. This reflects an intellectual renaissance in India, which has led to a renewed awakening of Indian intellectual, social, and cultural life.

Historically evident, India has been a melting pot for innumerable numbers of religions, communities, languages, cultures, and practices over centuries, guided by the meaningful formulation of “Sarva Dharma Samabhava”.

Yoga, Ayurveda, Bollywood, and magnificent festivals have laid the foundation for promoting Indian cultural diplomacy.

Prominently, the glories of the emerging global festival Diwali have been visible beyond the borders, highlighting India's growing stature.

Leaders from around the world including UN Chief Antonio Guterres, US President Joe Biden, US VP Kamala Harris, UK PM Rishi Sunak, The Prince of Wales, H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, Australian PM Scott Morrison, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa amongst others by extending the greetings and participating the Diwali celebrations substantiated India’s soft power.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emphasised the importance of soft power, stating that Indians can contribute to India’s soft power only when they have a sense of pride in their culture. He has transformed yoga into a hugely potent tool for public diplomacy, undertaking the grand display of India’s soft power with the International Day of Yoga celebrations at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The current government has attempted to leverage foreign policy through assertive soft power and cultural diplomacy around the globe as a relatively tolerant and multicultural democracy with a largely benign international influence, projecting its past heritage as well as its contemporary values onto the global stage.

Interlinked with India's broader objectives, the Government of India has reoriented Indian diplomacy by combining elements of soft power, used in a strategic sense, such as Samman (dignity), Samvaad (dialogue), Samriddhi (shared prosperity), Suraksha (regional and global security), and Sanskriti evam Sabhyata (cultural and civilizational links).

In a nutshell, our cultural diplomacy and soft power have emerged as the instruments of regional and international cooperation to connect and build bilateral relations. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the global power paradigm, constantly urging towards a multi-polar world guided by the principle of "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, which is being strategically endeavoured by India.




1 Comment

Ayushi Chaudhary
Ayushi Chaudhary
Nov 12, 2023

such a unique take

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