By Dr Sreshtha Chakraborty
The 2023 G20 Delhi Summit allows India to present itself on the global stage. It also gives India a unique opportunity to use its soft power to address geopolitical and geo-economic conflicts and bolster global trade governance. Soft power as a concept is used by scholars in different contexts while dealing with various International Relations. It was used by Joseph Nye for the first time while explaining the Gulf War in the 1990s, where he emphasized the importance of influencing public opinion along with military and economic control. The ability of a state to attract another without force or payment is equally crucial to pursue others to want the outcomes that a country projecting soft power wants.
G20 Presidency comes on a rotation basis and is held in two tracks: the financial track, which is attended by the Ministers of Finance and Central Bank Governors, and the Sherpa Track, which gives importance to discussing non-financial issues. Since the host state determines the Sherpa track agendas, it provides a significant advantage to that state to utilize its soft power in the multilateral forum. Projection of Soft power can help India establish agreement and communication between states through peaceful methods. It also helps build a brand for itself by promoting its Non-aligned commitments, Democratic values, morals and ethos, educational agreements, artists and scholars, art and architecture, media, cultural events, tourism, sports, promotion of local products, and countless other avenues.
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In recent times, there has been an increasing focus on soft power and cultural diplomacy in Indian Foreign policy. India has carefully crafted the theme of its presidency Vasudeva Kutumbakam (the world is one family), highlighting its soft power underpinned by its cultural prowess, heritage, and civilizational values. When world leaders embrace Namaste to greet each other in a multilateral forum, that reflects Indian soft power outreach; in this context, India should leverage its strength to resurrect its image. Vasudeva Kutumbakam engraved in the entrance hall of the parliament of India – also upholds our democratic ethos vouching for collectivism. Also, India’s soft power spectrum ranges from Ayurveda, Textile, Yoga, Cuisine, Spirituality, folk art, yoga, and, most importantly, its diversity. Though global economic governance is the primary focus of G20, there is no denying the fact that India can use these instruments of soft power that encompass Indian food, festivals, values, tradition, yoga, movies, celebrities, music, and traditional medicines to reach out to the global audience—in turn, making an all-embracing impact on the worldwide market. India’s ancient wisdom and spirituality needed to be utilized to capitalize on India’s leadership role in the world.
The G20 Summit food menu of working lunches, gala dinners, and events has enormous potential for gastro-diplomacy as its guest lists include leaders representing 80 percent of the world’s domestic product and 75 percent of global trade. The official protocol menu should hold strategic ingredients to convey a meaningful message by highlighting traditional dishes and India’s historical gastro-relevance, creating a strong market for traditional Indian cuisine. When Indian turmeric, species, jackfruit, and Bengal gram are widely gaining popularity in the world market, holding G20 can create export opportunities and attract tourist footfall.
However, amidst the ongoing G20 curtain raiser in Andaman, India has already started leveraging its yoga diplomacy when on November 26 over 40 various Heads of Mission and International Organizations delegates were seen performing Yoga at Kala Patha Beach in Swaraj Dweep before India assumed the Presidency on December 1. So here starts India’s ability to tell a better story which is yet to be fully utilized to curve a niche for itself.
Author holds a Ph.D. in International Politics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and is currently working as an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Manav Rachna International Institute of Research and Studies.
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