Soft power—the term coined by an American political scientist, Joseph Nye, about three decades ago—holds prominence among academicians and political scientists alike even today. In Nye’s words, “to get others to do what they otherwise would not” is soft power; in other words, soft power is attaining consensus sans the coercion with liberalism as its essence. India systematically banks on soft power, including but not limited to Spiritualism, Ayurveda, Ahimsa, Yoga, Bollywood, Dance and Indian cuisine. The Indian diaspora, around 17.5 million strong—the largest globally—and the successful Indian IT industry, acts as a global ambassador for Indian soft power.
Historically speaking, the early 90s saw the collapse of the Cold War structures, consequently, it resulted in a change in the economic and strategic policies among countries in South Asia. Three major changes were observed in India’s policy. First, a new economic regime was ushered in based on capitalism and liberalism. Second, the collapse of the Soviet Bloc resulted in a newfound ally in the US for India and third, in 1992, the Look East policy was launched by India, the hegemon in the region. The fact that South Asia looked upon India with distrust and the political animosity in the region resulted in India looking at new partners in South-East Asia. This was christened as the Look East policy that was based on three aspects mainly—elaborate institutional mechanisms, economic interests including infrastructure and common strategic interests.
Devassy Auseph is Research Intern at CPPR. Views expressed are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research.