Rapping the ministry of external affairs (MEA) for not optimising soft power resources in cultural diplomacy, a parliamentary panel on external affairs headed by former Union minister Shashi Tharoor has suggested exchange of artistes, cultural shows, quizzes on India’s heritage and culture, strengthening the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and capitalising on the Indian diaspora.
It has recommended that the ‘values of Mahatma Gandhi’ be propagated through embassies in a bid to ‘awaken nations around the globe to India’s message once again’.
“Gandhian values of environmental consciousness, ‘small is beautiful’ and moral living have once again become relevant to global public discourse. There could be no better time to revive interest in the Father of the Nation,” maintained the committee comprising 20 Lok Sabha and 10 Rajya Sabha MPs.
In its report titled ‘India’s Soft Power Diplomacy including role of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Indian Diaspora’ that was presented in Parliament last week, the panel underlined the need to capitalise on a thriving Indian diaspora that stands at nearly 31.25 million Indians – 13.4 million NRIs and 17.85 million Persons of Indian Origin.
“Gandhian values of environmental consciousness, ‘small is beautiful’ and moral living have once again become relevant to global public discourse. There could be no better time to revive interest in the Father of the Nation” – Parliamentary panel on external affairs
The committee slammed MEA for not adequately highlighting the variety of soft power resources such as ‘culture, art, artefacts, tangible and intangible heritage, yoga, Indian TV and cinema, information and technology exports, etc’.
The ministry admitted that ‘there is substantial scope for improvement of India’s image in neighbouring states’.
“While fully endorsing the idea that we cannot fix all our problems with neighbours through soft power engagement alone, the committee feel that some amount of soft power may be beneficial in improving our relations with neighbours,” it said.
The committee pulled up the MEA for inadequate funding and manpower of ICCR, which is at the centre of developing the country’s soft power diplomacy.
Following its recommendation to formulate ‘a comprehensive and well structured policy on India’s soft power projection’, the ministry reverted saying that it is working with ICCR to draft a policy paper on the issue.
The MEA also pointed out that it is engaging with the young overseas Indian community through programmes such as ‘Know India Programme’ and ‘Bharat Ko Janiye’ quiz, scholarship programmes for diaspora children, and has also launched social media platforms, especially Facebook, to connect with various young Indian diaspora members across the globe.
In view of rising instances of attacks on African students in the national Capital and other parts of the country, the committee sought a reply on the ‘action taken towards the welfare and well-being of foreign scholars studying in India’.
“Incidents of this kind not only sully the image of India abroad but also have a tendency to neutralise whatever little relative advantage we have in the African region for cultural diplomacy,” it further said.