India is increasingly stepping out of its comfort zone and portraying itself as an acknowledged power at the world stage. Long gone are the days when India was a mere spectator to the events that happened all around the world. Now, India’s choices and stances taken at various international institutions effectively shape the decisions taken by the great powers.
India is gradually assuming the role of a leading power as opposed to its earlier role of a mere balancing power at the world stage. India owes its success largely to the economic and military prowess it has been able to generate since Independence. India’s soft power is one aspect that though ignored by majority, has contributed significantly in shaping India into a leading power.
Soft Power, in simple terms, is the ability of a country to generate a support base and favorable environment for itself at the world level through attraction as opposed to military or money. It is the capacity of a country ‘to get what it wants’.
India has been exercising its soft power since ages but it has been recognised and realised only in the recent years. India is an abode of culture and spirituality. The cultural value system and the spiritual heritage of India have inspired millions worldwide. Furthermore, India’s philosophy of Buddhism and Jainism has driven many, through its principles and reach. Buddhism as a religion was born in India but has traveled far into East Asia and South-East Asia building ties with neighbours and linking India’s culture and influence with other countries.
India has also acquired a place in the world order by effectively connecting the world through Arts, Films, Literature and Science. Not only this, the philosophy of Non-Violence by Gandhiji and the Non-Align Movement (NAM) by Jawaharlal Nehru has helped India in securing a face in the world and also assisted many countries in attaining an Independent order for themselves, especially the African Asian countries. All this has turned out to generate a wide political support base for India. However, this manifestation of soft power has become consequential only after India has been able to generate sufficient economic clout primarily post-liberalisation.
In the context of soft power, the mention of Yoga as a practice originated in India holds immense relevance. Yoga is an age old discipline which took root originally in India and is more than 10,000 years old. The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to unite’. In simple terms it is a combination of Pranayama (breathing exercises) and Asanas (yogic postures) practiced together to achieve the union of body and soul. Yoga dates back to the Vedic period and finds mention in the Vedic text of ‘Rig Veda’. Patanjali is considered as the father of Yoga.
Recently, International Yoga Day was celebrated to commemorate the ancient technique of Yoga. On December 11 in 2014, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared June 21st as the International Day of Yoga. This declaration was made as a corollary of a call made by the Hon’be Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, to declare 21 June as the International Yoga Day wherein he proudly stated, “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”
This feat achieved by India at the world level is a testimony of India’s growing cultural influence at the International level.
This year India celebrated the third International Day of Yoga. The theme for this year’s yoga celebration was ‘Yoga for Health’ and was celebrated by over 180 countries.
India is a land where iconic personalities such as Mother Teresa, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev and many more have provided a pathway of peace and spirituality to the people not only in India, but also carried forward their ideas and philosophy at the universal level. They have served the idea of spirituality and peace through the ancient technique of yoga and modified it to suit the present times.
If the world has given Science and Technology, India has given spirituality and peace of mind through disseminating the prized practice of yoga. With the modern day stressful lives creeping into the minds and body of people, the ancient technique of yoga turns out to be a sigh in relief. This is primarily the reason why people from faraway places flung to the mountain ranges of the Himalyas and the serene lands of Dharamshala, into the cradle of spirituality, to taste and learn this technique.
India is a harbinger of peace and spirituality and can exercise enough leeway through exercising this soft power on the world. The returns of this will be resilient and long lasting. Amidst the barbarism that exists in the world, India can offer this mystical energy and peace by shouldering the responsibility of making people aware.
The author of this post is Harleen Singh Sandha (a second-year student of Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab)