International Yoga Day 2017: From China to Latin America to Europe to the US to almost every city of India, millions of people came out in the morning today for a healthy cause – not for war, protest or politics. One can say yoga has united the otherwise bitterly divided world. Since the declaration of International Yoga Day by the United Nations three years ago, popularity of this ancient Indian practice has soared across the globe.
At a time when the world is facing the scourge of terrorism, arms race and diseases, yoga comes across as a saviour – something to keep the mind at peace. Not just this. Experts say yoga is something more. It is India’s soft power. When global politics is taking several twists and turns and big countries are trying to increase their influence by business or culture every day, India is lucky to have drawn attention of the world for something as ancient as yoga. Industrialist Anand Mahindra notes this in a tweet: “Proud that India’s strongest ‘weapon’ of global influence isn’t a nuclear arsenal but the Power of Pranayam & Yoga. Bravo @PMOIndia.”
One question, however, arises here: Can this soft power help mitigate India’s hard power lag? Even as we are made to believe that the world is multilateral, that countries are free to do business and secure their rights, we cannot hide our head from the fact that world is also full of bullies and they often get away with anything.
Proud that India's strongest 'weapon' of global influence isn't a nuclear arsenal but the Power of Pranayam & Yoga. Bravo @PMOIndia https://t.co/3D5RtwAafF
— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) June 21, 2017
A few examples deserve mention here: China doesn’t think of global outrage when it blocks India’s move to get Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar declared as UN-designated terrorist or it doesn’t think of hurting India by making inroads into illegally occupied areas of Kashmir by Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistan never stops threatening India with nuclear attack or sending terrorists to destabilise India. Not just in the neighbourhood, but outside as well. Despite growing India-US ties, President Donald Trump didn’t think twice before choosing to verbally attack India on Paris Climate Accord recently.
International politics is a complex maze of give-and-take relationships. Even in times of war, a country rarely comes to help the other for free. This is the reason why powerful countries get away with bullying others. Even countries like Pakistan, backed by so-called allies like China and the US, never learn to stop terrorizing its neighbours.
As the world celebrates India’s yoga today, New Delhi cannot get complacent believing that the bullies can be checked with ‘yoga’. Soft power works for business and in times of peace. But it doesn’t buy automatic respect from the rest of the world. For the powerful plays the court and the judge all the time.