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India’s soft power credentials against China lie in open society and diversity: Nirupama Rao | India News

KOLKATA: Former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said on Sunday that India’s strength vis-à-vis China in projecting its soft power across the world lies in its democratic credentials, open society, its institutional freedoms and its constitutional values ​​which emphasize respect for diversity, pluralism and the protection of minorities.
She lamented, however, that China’s soft power is growing despite frequent use of hard power – military, strategic and economic – creating a mix that eclipses the region prompting fear, mistrust and cautious responses to its outreach in the region.
“India’s strength vis-à-vis China lies in its democratic credentials, its open society and its institutional freedoms, and its constitutional values ​​which emphasize respect for diversity, pluralism and the protection minorities,” Rao said during Krishna Bose’s second lecture ‘Power of soft power’ at the Netaji Research Bureau here via virtual mode.
Emphasizing that India needs to better leverage these soft power assets, she said global opinion on the country is based on its ability to uphold these values ​​as well as how internal governance works.
Rao, India’s former ambassador to the United States, China and Sri Lanka, said that while China’s efforts to expand its soft power may not have achieved the desired goals due to ” the authoritarian nature of the Chinese state and its obsessive control over its citizens, including gross violations of their human rights, the vast spending on soft power diplomacy has a far-reaching impact.”
She said that over the past decades, China has consciously sought to “soften” its image abroad and receive “respect”, using the lure of art, architecture, cinema, literature, universities and its giant Chinese economy. Rao said some claim that the “recognition” of Indian soft power around the world is a recent phenomenon entirely attributable to the efforts made by Indian policymakers over the past few years.
“Let us remember that poets and philosophers, theater personalities and educators from abroad, have been inspired by the civilizational aura and ethos of India, for centuries now,” he said. she said, remembering how Hollywood star Gregory Peck recited Rabindranath Tagore’s poem “Unending Love” at Audrey Hepburn’s funeral. Stating that India has 38 cultural centers established by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) across the world, Rao said the numbers are not commensurate with India’s size and weight on the world stage. . “We need many more such institutions spread across various regions,” she said, pointing out that China has established several hundred Confucius Institutes in pursuit of its goal of projecting its “soft power”. “.
She said that as an exercise in soft power, India’s opening up in Afghanistan from 2001 until August this year, when the Taliban regained control of the country, can be cited as an example of gaining good will and winning hearts and minds. Rao said India’s development assistance to Afghanistan amounted to more than $3 billion between 2001 and 2021, involving projects focusing on health, education, capacity building and food security, in addition to the construction of roads, power lines and dams.