The False Promise of India's Soft Power
International Studies Association Annual Convention, San Francisco, April 3-6, 2013
22 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2013 Last revised: 11 Apr 2013
Date Written: April 5, 2013
Since the early 2000s, in keeping with India’s rise on the world stage, the scholarly and policy communities in India and abroad have witnessed a steady increase in writing on India’s soft power. Many of these assessments are optimistic, placing faith in India’s potential as a civilizational great power with considerable resources arising from its culture, domestic ideology and diplomacy. However, in terms of impact, Indian soft power has fallen far short of expectations. Significant sections of public opinion in the West and in Asia are still not favorable toward India. Moreover, one is hard pressed to identify a significant role played by soft power in India’s diplomatic gains since the early 1990s. This paper argues that India’s inability to capitalize on its soft power resources is the result of three factors. First, the over-estimation of these resources by analysts. Second, the lack of sufficient hard power to undergird India’s soft power ambitions. And finally, unresolved elements of India’s identity that tend to undermine its efforts at soft power projection through public diplomacy.
Keywords: India, soft power, public diplomacy, Bollywood, public opinion, identity, foreign policy
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