Dr Amit Sarwal will present his paper, ‘Paraspara, Encounters and Confluences: India’s Soft Power Objective in the Indo-Pacific Region‘, at this week’s History Seminar Series (Wednesday, 11am).
The ties between India and most of the countries in the Indo-Pacific region especially Southeast Asia goes back to the pre-Christian era. And even today, the Indian influence is visible in Southeast Asia, especially the language, customs and the rituals. The Hindu concepts of kingship and administrative institutions and ceremonies became so deeply embedded in the royal culture of Southeast Asia that even after the Islamisation of some states, these practices remain to date. India’s trade, culture and maritime links with some of the kingdoms of Indo-Pacific region disrupted with the arrival of the colonial powers. Nonetheless, these traditional linkages have become the key element of India’s diplomacy especially the “Look East” policy initiated in the 1990s and the the present government’s rechristened “Act-East” Policy. This paper aims to study the background of India’s sustained public and cultural diplomacy policy in bridging the gap between India, East Asia and the Indo-Pacific countries. The paper uses examples from Modi’s yoga diplomacy, Bollywood, and Indian cultural festivals organised in the Indo-Pacific region to highlight India’s key objectives and interest in this region. The authors propose that India’s public and cultural diplomacy initiatives should be seen as part of a historical and traditional Indian concept of “paraspara”––mutually sustainable–– diplomacy that taps into the opportunities in the Indo-Pacific region.