Monday, March 14, 2016

Take Away from World Fest: Emergence of India as a Soft Power


The polarization of India’s intellectual class is so deep that it is difficult to express an opinion and that would still be considered an objective one. If one writes with a few laudatory words and phrases while trying to pour in an element of understanding, he is in the danger of being called a communal or bought over by Narendra Modi’s charm and machinations. 
On the other hand, if one takes a critical stand as against his government’s active cooperation with the just concluded Art of Living’s World Culture Festival, one cab easily accused of distortion and charged with trying to lampoon at own culture. 
Well, none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave credence to this argument when he told the inaugural session of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s cultural extravaganza that "We can make contribution (of India’s soft power) only when we ourselves feel proud of our culture. But if we continue to curse ourselves, then how will the world look towards us.The world is not only united by concerns of economic growth, but also by human values and India can play a vital role in it".
                             
As one ponders about analyzing the three-day fest, a western maxim comes in mind, “Obedient sheep are not known for their creativity”.
Both PM Modi and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, one likes them or not, defy definitions and in their own wisdom declined to play obedient sheep. This shakes the foundation of the established Indian intelligentsia’s faith in itself. A mixture of distorted principles of Marxism, Nehruvian secularism and the western style of democracy pose a kind of challenge for guiding India’s future.
Actually, we stand with neither of these virtues. To top it, an emphasis on individual liberties and often in an unreasonable manner has been perhaps also playing little part or as a negative catalysis in India’s transformation. 
At the end of three-day event, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s cultural bonanza has to be admitted as some kind of success as it has evoked certain positive vibes at least about the values and importance of unification of the various civilizations of the world. It may not achieve any miracle though.
                             
British Prime Minister David Cameron invited Ravi Shankar to address the House of Commons and sent in a powerful message saying, "People say that no one can change the world but Sri Sri had made a good start. We are seeing a ray of hope.
The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who could not attend, invited Sri Sri through his message hold the next festival in his country while Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos also sent a message.
On the home front, brushing aside their political differences Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Admi Party (AAP) and leaders from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) shared dais.
What do these laudatory words and actions suggest?
One, amid the big debate the media had plunged into to the support pro-environment brigade and discredit Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s show was just not doing the job effectively. They were far from telling the whole truth. Or they did not know that Prime Minister was backing Sri Sri to the hilt? 
Secondly, a question remains whether they played into anti-Modi and anti-Ravi Shankar lobbies and thus deliberately or otherwise became a party to spread a message that the festival would come a cropper. And thirdly, the basics, has media lost its job of playing a mirror’s role and instead fall prey to interpreative and sensationalism in journalism.
Next question that demands scrutiny is: what’s the real power of India getting its hold as a “soft power” in global context?
Prime Minister Modi had merits in his argument when he told the gathering at sprawling Yamuna bank that world unity is not solely dependent on economic necessities. We know it does not depend on the mite of military vis-à-vis the need to fight global terror, as the United States has often batted for. 
Blogger's daughter: Extreme left at World Fest

In fact, Modi’s stress on “human values” would be a lasting India’s strength and in it India can actually manage to enlist the support of other oriental powers including China.
This could mean – time to wake up the foreign policy community to the realization that in days to come the traditional diplomatic game could change fundamentally. On the Asian front, it will give a message to Pakistan that civilisational and cultural prisms too could prove to be effective tools in the changed world order.
So what’s Sri Sri Ravi Shankar upto? 
The big picture message is - the international game can be no longer about pushing a single-agenda item. Soft power game also means persuasive diplomacy. It may be out of the box, but not something out of the blue.  

Life is often like standing in the dusk. It is all about optimism. Optimism leads to patience. The storm would pass off eventually no matter, how long it is. This is the take away from Ravi Shankar’s fest. That’s the essence of India’s civilisational “soft power” strength.
(ends) 

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