South asian International relations by sunlight18


									                     Term Paper

      Topic: Analysing soft power components in Indian
                Foreign Policy: A Case study of South Asia.
    Subject:    Political Theory
Submitted by:   Monica Verma
Submitted to:   Mr. Dhananjay Tripathi
Word Count:

India, largest nation-area and population wise in South Asia has enormous economic
potential and military might in comparison to other nations of the subcontinent. It by the
virtue of its sheer size, population and potential is often perceived as a regional bully.
A look at the past 64 years of its existence tells us mixed stories of how it was only
partially successful in translating this massive edge over other countries of the region
into a strategic environment conducive for its interests.1Asymmetrical power of India in
comparison to other South Asian nations makes it vulnerable to claims of bullying by the
smaller neighbours. At the same time contentious issues with its neighbours require India
to utilize its advantages in order to secure its own security and other interests. In such a
scenario, when resorting to hard power has not helped much in the past, India has with
time realized the importance of employing “soft power- both as an alternative to hard
power, and as a complement to it.”2
While India post 1990, especially with a restructuring of its economy to ways of the
market has started using soft power in addition to and at times as an alternative of hard
power, its use in its immediate neighborhood is marked by one of lack of decisiveness.
This paper attempts to look into how India has altered its foreign policy mix post 1990
to include soft power as a major component of its strategy while dealing with South Asia
and what are the implications of the same.

I Soft Power: Concept

Joseph Nye was the first person to coin the term Soft Power in his 1990 book, Bound to
Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. According to Nye, “power is the ability
to alter the behaviour of others to get what you want, and there are three ways to do that:
coercion (sticks), payments (carrots) and attraction (soft power). If you are able to attract
others, you can economize on the sticks and carrots.”
Soft power is thus ability of a nation to be attractive enough to co-opt other nations
rather than coercing or inducing them with payments to achieve certain ends. Soft power
involves setting agenda and framing the issues in such a manner that other actors want
the same as you want them to want. For example US wields its soft power effectively
when all the nations want to imitate its model of liberal-democracy.
Soft power is more economical when used alone or in addition to hard power because
with increased interdependence of nations of the world on each other, use of hard power
strategies- sanctions, wars, limited conflicts prove expensive with cost of strategies far
out weighing the benefits ie the ends required.3
While a country derives hard power from its military might to coerce and from economic
might to induce by payments or sanctions, a country’s soft power is dependent on its
values, culture, policies and institutions. As Nye puts it, “the soft power of a country

1 See Christian Wagner,
2  Shashi Tharoor in ‘Indian strategic power: ‘Soft Power’’, Global Brief. URL:
3 See Joseph Nye, Talk at Harvard University in October, 2006
rests primarily on three resources: its culture (in places where it is attractive to others),
its political values (when it lives up to them at home and abroad), and its foreign policies
(when they are seen as legitimate and having moral authority).”
Unlike hard power which is the exclusive domain of states, soft power can be wielded
not just by the state but by all the actors in international politics-NGOs, Non-state actors,
multinational corporations et al. One can thus say that Soft power is difficult to control
because most of it is out of government’s hands. While realists can call it a limitation
of soft power, soft power is also slow to show effects as it works indirectly. Here an
important thing to note is that soft power may not always translate into success for that
matter even hard power can’t said to be successful always.

While discussing soft power it is essential that we locate it in the various paradigms used
to study international relations. While realists are wary of values and obsessed with state
as an actor of international politics thus within realism, soft power is seen with contempt
while liberals have been quite generous about soft power tactics and often formulate
solutions in terms of soft power to give serious challenge to hard power.4

Various tools of soft power, which can be used by an actor of international politics, are
cultural diplomacy, educational programmes & scholarships, diaspora, public diplomacy
and development assistance.5 A country may not have all the tools at its disposal or even
it may have context specific tools of soft power like civilization history in some cases.

Thus the essence of soft power lies in our values, to quote Nye, “in our culture and the
way we handle ourselves internationally”. It is about creating a sense of legitimacy for a
nation’s international aims.6

II India’s soft power

Before we launch into discussing the soft power component of India’s foreign policy in
case of South Asia, it would be appropriate if we discuss how India fares on the count of
soft power itself. Various scholars have made references to India’s soft power legacy on
which Nehru successfully build a special place for India in world politics. During cold
war, India was able to protect its interests by the virtue of its values of non-interference,
mutual coexistence and third world solidarity due to which newly independent countries
and smaller nations united with India instead of joining either of the power blocks.
Support to struggles for independence in other parts of the world besides non-violent way
to its own freedom gave India much-needed credentials when it gained independence.
While Nehru’s foreign policy had soft power as an important component, things reversed
when Indira, her daughter came into power. She used hard power to alter things in India’s
favour by playing up the big brother image in South Asia and this is when India went
4 See Real Leaders do Soft Power: Learning the Lessons of Iraq. James B. Steinberg argues how legitimacy
is what was missing from US’s war in Iraq and soft power would have been a better solution.
5 See ‘Strategic Influence of Soft Power: Inferences for India from Chinese Engagement of
South and South-East Asia’ for an explanation of tools of soft power.
6 Paul Kelly, "Soft option for hard heads," The Weekend Australian, June 8, 2002
to war with Pakistan in 1971 and played a key role in the freedom of Bangladesh as a
breakaway from East Pakistan.7
India’s soft power can be analyzed by dividing the time period into distinct phases-pre
1990 period and post 1990 period. As the paper is concerned with post 1990 period thus
here it would be right to consider what are the sources for India to draw its soft power
from. According to Nye, in the information age, three types of countries are stipulated
to gain soft power- “those whose dominant cultures and ideals are closer to prevailing
global norms; those with the most access to multiple channels of communication and thus
more influence over how issues are framed; and those whose credibility is enhanced by
their domestic and international performance.”
Going by Nye’s formulation for soft power, India seems to be doing well on all the
counts. Right now prevailing global norms emphasize on liberalism, pluralism and
autonomy 8. There could be no better example of a liberal-democratic state in South Asia
as India. Since independence, it has been the most successful nation to uphold principles
of liberalism by organizing elections every year in what is the largest exercise of
universal adult franchise. In case of pluralism also, Indian values live upto it remarkably.
Hindu being the religion of the majority, its Muslim population stands at 150 million,
making it the second largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia.9 India’s
constitution upholds the values of secularism strongly and there are provisions for the
rights of minorities as well. India has a multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and
multi-lingual population living in harmony with very few conflicts thus making India a
land of pluralism.10
India’s vibrant and free press makes for an effective case for Nye’s assertion, ‘most
access to multiple channels of communication and thus more influence over how issues
are framed’. Infact in the entire South Asia, India has the most number of mobile
subscribers with numbers totaling half the country’s population.11It also has a clear
dominance in South Asian satellite television market with more than 500+12 channels
beaming into Indian television sets and although these channels are banned in second

7 See Uma Puroshothaman, ‘Shifting Perceptions of Power: Soft Power and India’s foreign policy’ for a
detailed analysis of different phases of India’s foreign policy when soft power or hard power were at fore.
8 See Shashi Tharoor, Indian Strategic Power: ‘Soft’
9 See Carin Zissis, ‘India’s Muslim Population’,

10See Malini Parthasarathy, ‘India’s cultural pluralism its best defence.

11      See India has more mobile phones than toilets: UN report
12 See TRAI Report:
largest South Asian country-Pakistan, a growing business of piracy and popularity of you
tube ensures that Pakistan still gets its dose of Indian shows. In addition to conventional
means of communication, India also has an unbeatable advantage in cyber world
providing it access to the people of South Asia in a manner, which can’t be censored
effectively by their respective governments.14%13 of Indian netizens now blog which
by the sheer virtue of India’s population and deep penetration of internet is a huge
figure. While 8.5% of India’s population has access to Internet, only 10.9% of Pakistan’s
population has access to it, which in absolute figures don’t compare very well.14
According to Nye India clearly has an edge in case of soft power and its case becomes
stronger when we consider its ‘domestic and international performance’. Post 1990 with
economic reforms India has given the world a ‘better story’ by registering a growth of
more than 7% every year in its GDP.15 This performance has brought with itself a ‘sit
back and listen to’ attitude of the world for India. Nuclear deal by US was one such
occasion. This has also translated into increased engagement by South Asian countries
with India. While India has FTA agreement with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh too wants to sign
one and Pakistan finally gave India the much-awaited ‘Most Favored Nation’ for trade
status recently.16 Not only economically but politically also India has gained credibility
by the virtue of its performance in areas of equal rights to minorities, a healthy and
mature democracy and free and fair elections.
III How soft power has a better case for India’s South Asia Policy

In his paper, ‘From hard power to soft power’, Christian Wagner argues how use of hard
power has failed to translate into actual gains for India in its engagement with South
Asia. While this is certainly true on a case-by-case basis especially in case of Pakistan,
which during cold war had US to counter-bully India, and in present scenario, covertly
supports militants to contain India. Such realities make use of hard power alone a not
so good proposition for India thus as Wagner argues that India has/should resort to soft
power to achieve its foreign policy ends, there is more to why soft power has a better case
for India in South Asia.
One of the reasons why wielding of soft power would better suit India’s interest is due
to increased interdependence of India on China and United States after 1990.Although
both the countries are not a part of South Asian region but both have interests involved
in South Asia and use of hard power by India would mean a reaction by them in any
possible scenario. Infact during 1971 war with Pakistan, US dispatched ‘USS Enterprise’

13 See the report by WATConsult Research.
14 For more details on data see:
15 Source:
16 Sources in order of appearances:
Sri Lanka:
to the Bay of Bengal in order to intimidate India.17 Likewise China on many occasions
has showed how its support does not lie with India even if India faces serious terror
attacks from across the border18. With increased dependency on both of them in case of
trade, environment diplomacy, high technology exports to name few, it would not be
advisable for India to resort to hard power in designing and execution of its South Asia
Also globally, legitimacy for use of force has gone down sharply with globalization19
thus another reason why India would be better off employing tools of soft power.
One could also argue that countries in Indian sub-continent have shared histories,
identities, commonality in cultures, religions etc which provide India with a good
foundation to build on and thus immense soft power that India has could bring rich
dividends for it.20
India is huge in comparison to size, population, economy and military might of other
nations of South Asia. While this would by a realist perspective mean better prospects for
India but this has not really translated into equal gains for the country. One major reason
for this is India’s vulnerability to the blame of ‘regional bully’ leveled against it. This has
led to India pondering much before taking any step in the direction of designing a South
Asia policy.21 Soft power can help India overcome this constrain while protecting its
own interests. As Wagner notes India’s changed position from a ‘regional bully to benign
hegemony’ by using soft power greatly after 1990.

IV Country wise study of soft power component of India’s foreign

For the purpose of this paper on soft power which has institutions at its heart, we
would consider members countries of SAARC- South Asian Association for Regional
Cooperation as the countries constituting South Asia and India’s foreign policy with each
of them would be taken into account.
There are total 7 countries in the association in addition to India making it 8 –
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan & Sri Lanka.As we have
earlier noted, in order to study soft power component of India’s foreign policy, it would
be appropriate to divide time into pre 1990 and post 1990 periods thus here also we
would consider how India has used soft power in order to co-opt each of the South Asian
nations post 1990.

17 For more see ‘1971 War: How the US tried to corner India’
18 See ‘The China factor in the India-Pakistan Conflict.’
19 See ‘Globalization and the State Monopoly on the Legitimate use of Force’:
20 Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan have Islam as the dominant religion, which has second largest
follower in the world in India. Nepal and India share the same link in case of Hinduism. Buddhism ties Sri
Lanka and India.
21 See Christian Wagner, ‘From hard power to soft power’ for a detailed analysis.

No doubt that Afghanistan is strategically important to India. While Afghanistan is
India’s gateway to West and Central Asia, it is also a good source of oil and minerals for
an energy-starved India. Afghanistan at the same time is seen as crucial by Pakistan for
strategic depth. India’s increased engagement in Afghanistan is viewed by Pakistan as an
aim to encircle it by India. Afghanistan on the other hand needs both the nations and tries
its best to put them on an equal footing or even Pakistan at a higher one22.
In such a situation, India in order to advance its interests has used soft power strategies
like education programmes, scholarships, development assistance, infrastructure building
etc in Afghanistan.
India’s pledged assistance to Afghanistan stands at US $ 1.3 billion. Its programmes
cover ‘four broad areas- infrastructure projects, humanitarian assistance, small and
community based development projects and education and capacity development’, as a
press release by MEA, Indian government notes.23 As we can notice India has employed
virtually every tool of its soft power kit to woo Afghanistan with even Indian films and
serials entertaining Afghans in their own language.24
India got more than a nod from United States in a sincere piece of advice, with a US
embassy cable dispatched to Indian envoys detailing soft measures India could undertake
to ensure stability in Afghanistan. Of these coaching capsules of how to exercise soft
power, Bollywood interestingly got a lion’s share25.
India’s soft power strategies in Afghanistan indeed bore fruits with Afghanistan signing
Strategic Partnership Agreement with India in October 2011, which would pave way for
regional integration, which is seen by India strongly in its favour.26 All is not well with
India soft power strategy in Afghanistan. Madhvi Bhasin, an IR scholar sees India losing
it in the endgame when US finally withdraws from Afghanistan. She extensively argues
that only the use of soft power has led to ‘marginalization’ of India in Afghanistan’s
future. She has a note of caution laced in the advice, “India can make a stronger case
for its regional leadership by more directly contributing to Afghanistan’s security and
investing in networks that help to sustain these gains. India’s soft power in Afghanistan
will bear fruit only when India makes some hard choices.” 27 Similarly Peter Lee notes
in an article in Asia Times, “Success of soft power: India's claims to relevance in
Afghanistan separate from the Western military presence appear to rely on exaggerated

22 Hamid Karzai’s ‘India is a great friend and Pakistan twin brother’ remark. See http://
24 See
25   Access the cable at:
26 See
27 Access at
ideas of what soft power can accomplish in a war zone. ”28


Of all the nations in the sub-continent, Pakistan is one nation, which does not give
many choices to India- not in hard power-It is a nuclear power state itself with US and
now China on its side to counter India and not in terms of soft power either. Issues of
contention between the two are way too hard for soft power to show effects. Immense
bloodshed during partition followed by Kashmir issue and now terrorism has made the
case of soft power extremely weak. India anyways does not leave ripe chances of scoring
for example India offered flood hit Pakistan aid in 2010 worth $ 5 millions, which
Pakistan graciously accepted with a note of thanks and a message.29 India’s soft power
in Pakistan is perfect case for Nye’s formulation that soft power has limitations too.
While culturally, India is closest to Pakistan 30 as Shahid Afridi, Captain, Cricket Team
Pakistan noted after Pakistan lost to India in a world cup qualifier31 before later retracting
to ‘Indians are not as large hearted’ statement32, but still India fails to translate this into
setting the agenda for Pakistan by itself.
Focus area of the issues between the two is dominated by security concerns where
cooperation evades them and rather puts them at loggerheads. India being the larger
nation of the two has started changing for good even if it means it’s only one-sided.
To quote foreign policy analyst C Raja Mohan, “It avoids exclusive reliance on formal
negotiations and bets on unilateral actions that could create better conditions under which
traditional negotiations could succeed.”33
This policy of ‘positive unilateralism’ seems to be working fine for now as India recently
got MFN status from Pakistan and “A very good part of the entire development is that
Pakistan’s Information minister, Firdous Ashiq Awan, who made this announcement at
a press conference, categorically stated that all the stakeholders including military was
taken on board to arrive at this decision thus signaling that a security-obsessive military is
finally leaving room for other kinds of engagements between the neighbours”34
It would be quite apt to say that India can’t use soft power effectively to co-opt Pakistan
until it has an unresolved border dispute and across the border terrorism to deal with.
28   Access at:
29   See

30        See ‘The World; India and Pakistan: So Close but So Different’:


31  Watch
33 Access here:
34 See Article by author of this paper:

Where India fails to attract Pakistan softly, Bangladesh makes for a successful case.
Recently India and Bangladesh solved their 64-year-old boundary dispute in September
2011 inking a pact to exchange 162 enclaves.35
While historically their relations have seen bad days too due to issues like insurgents
given refuge by Bangladesh, water issue and Farakka Barrage as Farooq Sobhan, a
former foreign secretary notes in a speech, “If we look back over these last 37 years, we
can only conclude that India-Bangladesh relations have been a source of disappointment
and frustration for the people of both countries.”36 Today at present their relations do not
paint that grim a picture with India quite confident of pulling it off with its soft power.
As can be noted by visit to Bangladesh by Indian PM Manmohan Singh in 2011 and
Bangladesh’s PM Sheikh Haseena’s visit to India in 2010.While settling of boundary
dispute during Manmohan Singh visit spoke volumes of the success India’s soft power
strategy has to its credit, Haseena also termed her visit to India as a 100% success.37
India has utilized the soft power option judiciously with Bangladesh as a press release
by MEA, Indian government notes.38India has utilized option of aid in its favour
as it granted aid worth US $ 37 millions to Bangladesh in 2007-08.Besides aid,
Bangladesh gets a lion’s share of India sponsored scholarships and grants. India has
also been consistent with its policy of cultural exchange with Bangladesh with over 100
scholarships by ICCR reserved exclusively for Bangladesh in addition to Indira Gandhi
Cultural Centre (IGCC) of Indian Council for Cultural Relations inaugurated by India at

Sri Lanka

Increased trade and people to people contacts mark India’s contemporary relations
with Sri Lanka.India is competing with China in terms of soft power where China is
engaged in infrastructure building, business development and culture promotion in Sri
Lanka.39Buddhism is one link both India and China share with Sri Lanka.Here India has
tried to bridge the ties with Sri Lanka with a slight edge over China40. Besides Buddhism,
India was quick and generous in rushing much needed aid to Sri Lanka during the
disastrous tsunami in 2005.41
India has given Sri Lanka lines of credit worth millions in addition to infrastructure

35 See
36 See full transcript here:
37 See
38 See
39 See ‘Strategic Influence of Soft Power: Inferences for India from Chinese Engagement of South and
South-East Asia’ for an explanation of the issue

40 See India has its own soft power:
41 Tsunami Aid -who is giving what:
building activities. Bilateral trade between the two has been ever growing with an FTA in
place also many Indian corporates boast of their presence in Sri Lanka.There have been
constant talks of Sri Lanka’s rising trade deficit with India but economists on both the
sides argue that Sri Lanka imported those goods from other countries which they import
now from India thus India is not responsible for the deficit.42
India is also consistent in promoting cultural relations, educational cooperation and
tourism with Sri Lanka as a press release by MEA notes.43
Despite so much to say about India’s soft policy strategy in Sri Lanka. Fact remains
that India would still miss the goal with Sri Lanka willing to play off India with China
and other western powers.44 Presence of Tamilian population in Sri Lanka and India’s
sensitivity to them makes the matter even significant. It is not just strategically that
India wants to co-opt Sri Lanka but also to ensure security and welfare of this Tamilian
minority as well. India has shown maturity in dealing with Sri Lanka over time as from
a stand, which made it clear that India would not appreciate any external interference
in Sub continent in 198745, India was all right with intermediation by Norway.46 This
increased India’s soft power credentials in the country.


India has enjoyed quite warm relations with India with similarity on counts of religion,
culture, love for cinema, trade relations and visa free travel to each other’s territory but
off late with civil war in Nepal India has found its soft power as eroding in Nepal47.
While Nepal’s polity has Maoists in a central role, India is finding it tough to accept
because of homegrown threat of violence by Maoists and their perceived closeness
to China. Reportedly India even had a hand in toppling of Prachanda because of his
closeness to China in 2009.48
Its problems in Nepal don’t end just here; even China is giving it a hard competition in
the Himalayan kingdom.49
Thus in the twin challenge to India’s soft power in Nepal, many scholars have argued in

42 For more see: Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement 2000-2010
43 Access Press Release here:

45 See ‘Looking back at the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord’:

46 See ‘India backed Lanka war on LTTE, says report’:

47 See
48 See a report in Economist:
49See China’s soft power in South Asia:
the favor of India making peace with the Maoists in Nepal. Nepal’s Prime Minister is a
pass out of JNU and became a leftist here only. He made the right noises on visit to India
this year, his first diplomatic visit after assuming office. In an editorial he stated, “The
immediate invitation extended to the new leader, the low-key efforts by the new Indian
Ambassador in Kathmandu encouraging all sides to be flexible, the new support for
the integration of a certain number of Maoist combatants into the Nepal Army, and the
atmospherics of the prime ministerial visit show a renewed Indian commitment to playing
a constructive role.” 50
Nepal would prefer India taking a neo-liberal policy51 stand due to its much needed
economic assistance from India now it is upto India to pick up from here and move on.
Also it needs to watch out for the blames of interference leveled against by her from the
other side.
Island nation Maldives is strategically very important for India due to its location in the
Indian Ocean. India was the first nation to recognize Maldives in 1965 when it gained
independence and even Maldives has been forthcoming in its relations with India as it
opened one of the first and it’s very few high commissions in India.
India’s soft power is effectively projected in Maldives with India using tools of
education, development assistance and health programmes to keep Maldives amused.
During 2009 when Maldives faced a major foreign exchange crisis and floated treasury
bills, State Bank of India in a much-appreciated gesture by Maldives, subscribed to all of
the $ 100 million debt.52
India has also restored mosques in Maldives, which assumes even greater importance
when we take into account how China uses Pakistan to play Islam card in order to build
up influence in Maldives. India’s own Muslim population, a major source of soft power
to build leverage in Islam majority nations comes handy here.
China and India are at loggerheads in Maldives with China even building a naval Base in
Marao, which raised many eyebrows in India. “China has engineered a manner of a coup
by coaxing Maldives’ Abdul Gayoom government to let it establish a base in Marao”,
asserted an Indian commentator, A.B Mahapatra.
Current President of Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed has been quite friendly towards India
and has categorically shown hints of how his loyalties lie more with India than China.
On his India visit, he stated, “Maintaining balance in the Indian Ocean is very important.
There is not enough room in the Indian Ocean for other non-traditional friends,” he
said. “We are not receptive to any installation, military or otherwise, in the Indian Ocean,
especially from un-traditional friends. The Indian Ocean is the Indian Ocean.”
He went on to add, “India is a better investment destination. It’s far easier to deal with
India than with China. We had discussions on the Indian Ocean, piracy, climate change
and trade and investment. Piracy is a very important issue for us. We are sitting right in
the middle of the Indian Ocean.”
Thus although Maldives has been so far a success story for India’s soft power but the fact
remains that it would be hard for Maldives to ignore the economic benefits China brings
for it and so India has its task cut out in effectively putting soft power to such use that
50 See
51 See
52 See Press Release by Indian MEA:
Maldives remain as loyal to Indian sensibilities.53


India’s relation with this small nation is governed by the basic framework laid down
in Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation 1949 between them which was renewed in
2007.There are regular high level visits between the leaders of the two nation and so is
the cooperation in areas of economy, education and culture.

India made a provision of Rs. 3400 crore for committed assistance to Bhutan in its X five-
year plan. Indian diaspora also plays an important role in the relations between the two
with the bulk of 37000 foreign workers in Bhutan comprising Indians.

As a common feature of South Asia, India and China collide here too. While there are
reports of intrusions by China in Bhutan, it has more to do with India than Bhutan itself,
as Bhutan is strategically important to India due to its proximity to northeastern states.
Scholars predict that the more China stretches itself in Bhutan; more Bhutan out of fear
would excuse itself from Indian influence.54

V India’s Soft Power at SAARC

In a region dominated by conflicts, SAARC is a breath of fresh air. Even when worst of
the conflicts have consumed cooperation in the region, summits of SAARC have ensured
that deadlock between nations in conflict is broken.55
South Asian nations expect India to shoulder extra responsibility for cohesion and
development in the region.56
India’s soft power clout at SAARC is overshadowed by India’s preference for bilateral
dialogue while ‘neighbours demand a multilateral approach’. India sees multilateral
approach as a pressure tactic against it while its neighbours view bilateral dialogue as a
tool of coercion in India’s hand.57

India of time has realized the importance of the role soft power can play in adding up to
its clout at SAARC as it unilaterally concedes in matters of trade to poor countries of the

53 See details here:
54 See ‘In Bhutan, China and India Collide’:
55 India and Pakistan leaders meet on the sidelines of SAARC summits even when their bilateral relations
are strained.
56At Inaugural SAARC Summit, India was expected to “by deeds and words create the confidence among
us so necessary to make a beginning”. India was referred to as the “key to the development and progress of
SAARC”. Madhvi Bhasin in ‘India’s Role in South Asia – Perceived Hegemony or Reluctant
Leadership?’ See at:
57 For a detailed analysis of the issue refer: Madhvi Bhasin in ‘India’s Role in South Asia –
Perceived Hegemony or Reluctant
Leadership?’ See at:

Also noteworthy is India’s contribution to SAU- South Asian University which
if ‘effectively implemented can establish India’s reputation as a mover of big ideas and
their concrete implementation’.59

VI Conclusion

India despite its massive resources and potential for soft powers is still lagging
behind ‘major Western and Asian powers (which) have been aggressively advancing their
soft power’.60
China grants aid to countries of South Asia unconditionally while India extends mostly
lines of credits as we have noted in the discussion. This weakens India’s case as
unconditional aid adds more to soft power than specific lines of credit.61
 India’s aid program is also ridden with many problems like it, “lacks a strict well-defined
set of clear objectives, and approach with clear definitions, accounting and monitoring”,
as is noted in ‘India: Transiting to a Global Donor’62
No doubt that South Asia has been a conflict prone zone with many of the conflicts
involving India itself but it is never too late for India to use soft power as a major
component of its foreign policy in the region. History has it that many former contentious
nations have embarked on a path of peace after co-opting each other with soft power.63
India is truly blessed in terms of soft power with some scholars pegging India’s soft
power potential as even more than China’s.64Still India is less intense than China to put it
to use as it finishes below China at 37 on a scale of how positive it’s appeal is in a BBC
As far as Indian diaspora in South Asia is concerned, it is heterogeneous in nature, which
makes it difficult to be used as a tool for influence. India can rather consolidate its own
shared cultural and historical linkages with South Asian nations to deliver on this count.
One such plan of action is the revival of ancient Nalanda University spearheaded by India
where ‘several countries like Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Japan, China, have shown

58 See
59 In ‘Strategic Influence of Soft Power: Inferences for India from Chinese Engagement of
South and South-East Asia’ for an explanation of tools of soft power.
60 In ‘Strategic Influence of Soft Power: Inferences for India from Chinese Engagement of
South and South-East Asia’ for an explanation of tools of soft power.
61 See again for details ‘Strategic Influence of Soft Power: Inferences for India from Chinese Engagement
of South and South-East Asia’ for an explanation of tools of soft power.
62 Access here:
63 US was able to co-opt India despite of not so friendly jibes at each other during cold war.
64 Refer to this interview:
65 Access here:,-racing-dragon/1/103941.html
interest in funding the University. ‘66
As a final conclusion to India’s soft power effort it is important for India to stay clear
of being labeled as an out-to-dominate power and should make efforts to be seen as
genuinely interested in earning the legitimacy of the nations of the region. India would
need to open up itself a lot for scrutiny and so would it need to shed inhibitions to
exercise innovative ways of foreign policy strategies in the direction of soft power.

66Reviving Ancient Glory: Nalanda International University of India: http://

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