india *has* soft power. but our benighted 'leaders' dont know how to use it effectively.
you cant trust anybody over 60, especially someone who came from across the border as a refugee. and also anybody from kerala or west bengal, of any age. (via zeno's paradox, that includes me, too, and the operative part is 'of any age'). if all old fogeys are forcibly retired, india's power will immediately zoom.
first fire all the keralites in the central government, then the bengalis, and then the punjabis from over the border. that would be a very good start, as shakespeare said: "first, kill the lawyers". :-)
or as chanakya said: "assassinate your neighboring dictator" :-) or words to that effect. serious soft power there, and hard power, too. india's model should be the wily chanakya, not the wimpy ashoka. this is why narasimha rao is a better prime minister than all the nobel-peace-prize-seeking wimp PMs.
btw, off topic, jagdish bhagwati is once again on the short list of the economics nobel. he has always been, along with t n srinivasan, a much more deserving candidate for the nobel than amartya sen. the latter got his nobel quite likely because he was smart enough to marry a trophy-wife rothschild (his third or fourth wife). his earlier mistress -- anti-hindu by injection -- martha nussbaum has just published an idiotic but withering attack on india/hindus.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
India seeks 'soft power' as it reasserts identity
www.FT.com: by Jo Johnson in New Delhi
Published: September 30 2006 03:00 | Last updated: September 30 2006 03:00
When David Beckham had his wife's name tattooed in Hindi on his forearm six years ago, it gave a small boost of encouragement to India's cultural commissars. The tattooist might have managed to misspell Victoria, but the footballer's enthusiasm for the language (less "tacky" than English, he explained) was then seen as a big win for those in the forefront of India's cultural diplomacy.
Since then, India's ambitions to acquire "soft power" - the term used by Harvard academic Joseph Nye to describe the international influence a nation acquires when others are drawn to its culture and ideas - have soared. Next week, India will be guest of honour at the Frankfurt book fair and the subject of a four-month festival that opens at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels.
The two showcase events round off a year in which India has made a concerted effort to increase its "share of mind" to levels consistent with its own self-image as a major cultural power. India dominated discussions of the "creative imperative" at Davos in January, was "partner country" for the Hanover Trade Fair in May and then "theme country" at the Bonn Biennale, a culture fest for theatre lovers.
"It's tremendously important for India, as an emerging power, to start projecting that there's more to this country than just informational technology and high percentage growth rates," says Karan Singh, president of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and also a confidant of the Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi, who is seen as a candidate for the vacant foreign minister's job.
Independent of these set-piece events, Indian culture is gaining traction at street level and beyond the 22m diaspora. Bollywood cross-over movies and Bhangra dance hits appeal to growing mainstream audiences; sought-after Indian chefs in Los Angeles can practically write their own pay cheques; and sales of Indian art have this year been breaking records at auctions around the world.
As Prof Nye argues in an essay published this week in India Today, India still has far to go before it can rank as high on the various indices of potential soft power as the US, Europe and Japan. But its soft power is arguably growing more rapidly than that of China, its economic and military rival, where the Communist party limits creative freedoms, censors the internet and restrains outside influences.
"This is where India has an advantage," Prof Nye says.
"China has grown more rapidly and done more to reduce poverty over the last two decades, but it has not yet come to terms with the problem of increased political participation. India was fortunate to be born with a democratic constitution and political structure. This means India has passed a test that China still faces, and makes India a source of attraction."
For Pavan Varma, a leading historian, India's cultural diplomacy is now entering a new and intense phase. In an initial stage between independence and 1991, the priority was simply to allow thousands of years of Indian civilisation to speak for itself, after a period in which it had been misinterpreted and even distorted by British colonialists claiming a "civilising mission" on the subcontinent.
"Initially, the promotion of our culture was a response to our historical experience," he says.
"But since the opening up of the economy in 1991 and increasingly over the last year, people have recognised India as a new global power and shown interest of a qualitatively different nature in its civilisational strengths. They want to understand what makes this multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual democracy tick."
Deluged by requests from around the world for his help with exhibitions with Indian themes, Mr Varma is facilitating the temporary export of works normally barred from leaving the country. London's Royal Academy, for example, which is mounting a four-month show of sacred Chola bronzes from southern India, is borrowing pieces from the National Museum in Delhi and Government Museum in Chennai.
"Given our history of colonialism, it takes time for bureaucrats dealing with antiquities to take such risks," Mr Varma says. "But cultural diplomacy is an intensely political exercise whose purpose is to reinforce the strategic foreign policy objectives of the government, and we have now come to terms with the fact that some of our best antiquities have been kept abroad."
For the Indian government, Mr Varma says, soft power will prevent a new generation of Indians from becoming "clones" of a dominant US culture. "The playing field is still far from level," he cautions. "If I ask someone a question in Hindi on the train, for example, they reply in English just to show they know it. Even today, I see western newspapers misspelling Gandhi as Ghandi. We are quietly reasserting our identity."
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006