Cultural Diplomacy Current Affairs - 2019
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The Union Government is developing soft power matrix, a tool aimed at calibrating effectiveness of India’s soft power outreach and foster better diplomatic traction in India’s immediate neighbourhood and beyond.
The process is currently at a research stage. It will help in dealings with neighbouring countries and serve better as operational instrument in India’s broader diplomatic doctrine.
The proposed matrix is being seen as attempt to establish linkages between India’s soft power and tangible outcomes in area of diplomacy. It will try and quantify this aspect of India’s diplomacy in wake of criticism that country has not been able to adequately leverage its ‘soft power’ in matters of foreign policy.
It is being developed to calibrate outreach efforts such as propagation of Gandhian values and philosophy, strength of Mumbai film industry, educational scholarships extended by Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), extending humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to help mitigate adverse impact of natural disasters.
Currently, articulation of India’s soft power abroad is done through Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), with some 36 foreign cultural centres working to promote artistic and cultural traditions through range of activities such as Festivals of India abroad.
The Standing Committee on External Affairs in its report had recommended that MEA should formulate comprehensive and well-structured policy delineating India’s soft power resources and their articulation abroad. It was recommended that MEA and ICCR allocate resources to propagate image of India that augments country’s natural historical appeal, empowering its diplomacy and foreign policy.
Soft power is perceived to be an intangible ingredient of state’s power. It it is difficult to measure definite impact of these measures. India’s soft power so far is perceived as having functioned independently of government policies, without backing of focused policy or adequate backing with financial resources.
Prime Minister Modi will travel to Sri Lanka to attend the Buddhist festival ‘Vesak Day’ (Buddha Jayanti) that commemorates birth, enlighten and death of Buddha. This will be Prime Minister Modi’s second visit to Sri Lanka since becoming the Prime Minister. ‘International Day of Vesak’ celebrations will be held in Colombo from May 12 to 14. As a part of the celebrations, International Buddhist Conference will be held in which over 400 delegates from more than 100 countries will participate. Vesak is the most important day in the Buddhist calendar. This is the first time Sri Lanka will host the festival.
The Buddhist link between India and Sri Lanka dates back to 2nd century BC. During the reign of Emperor Ashoka, Buddhism was made as the official religion of India. Ashoka’s daughter Sanghamitta is believed to have brought a branch of original Bodh tree to Anuradhapura. Theravada Buddhism is widely practiced in Sri Lanka.
During last year Vesak celebrations held in Lumbini, China taking advantage of strained relation between New Delhi and Kathmandu partnered with Nepal to celebrate Vesak. China has been aggressively pursuing a strategy of staking claim to the legacy of Buddhism to boost its cultural influence. India to counter China’s strategy has been actively engaging with South East Asian countries like Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos to showcase its heritage.