The UPSC mains GS - 2 paper syllabus contains International Relations which is one of the most important part of  UPSC syllabus. Understanding the Soft power of India will help us understand India's Persection in other countries. IAS Aspirants have to understand the topic clearly and know how India handles its soft power.


  • What is soft power?
  • Importance of soft power
  • India's soft power.
  • Challenges for India
  • Plus Points of India
  • ICCR - Indian Council for Cultural Relations


  • In politics (and particularly in international politics), soft power is the ability to attract and co-opt, rather than coerce (contrast hard power).
  • In other words, soft power involves shaping the preferences of others through appeal and attraction.
  • A defining feature of soft power is that it is non-coercive; the currency of soft power includes culture, political values, and foreign policies.
  • In international relations, soft power is generated only in part by what the government does through its policies and public diplomacy.
  • The generation of soft power is also affected in positive (and negative) ways by a host of non-state actors within and outside the country.
  • Those actors affect both the general public and governing elites in other countries, and create an enabling or disabling environment for government policies.

Importance of Soft Power

  • Soft power enables a change of behaviour in others, without competition or conflict, by using persuasion and attraction. Soft power can, no doubt, play a vital role in producing benevolence.
  • It has the capacity to influence broader international audiences at large, in shaping the perceptions about the legitimacy and influencing environment of the permissive boundaries in which economic and military power is used.
  • A country’s soft power influence rests on how effectively it uses resources of culture, values, and economic policies.
  • Soft power is power and at times, it is more powerful than hard power.



  • Even in the ancient time's scholars like Kautilya and Kamandak had advocated the use of soft power for achieving progress in state affairs.

The current situations

  • India’s spiritualism, yoga, movies and television, classical and popular dance and music, its principles of non-violence, democratic institutions, plural society, and cuisine have all attracted people across the continent.

  • International Day of Yoga reflects yoga’s immense popularity worldwide, underscoring its richness as a soft power resource.

  • Indo-ASEAN music festival in Delhi was a bridge between the youth of India and ASEAN

  • India is a civilization which has offered refuge to cultural and religious freedoms to Jews, Parses, Christens and Muslims.

  • Buddhism is an important bridge between not just India and South East Asia and East Asia, but also with South Asia.

  • India is a country in which all major religions like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Sikhism – coexists which has been the strength of India’s soft power.

  • India is dipping into its soft power resources in its diplomatic engagements abroad.

  • Offer subsidized courses in foreign capitals to teach appreciation of Indian culture

  • Indian Diaspora is seen as ambassadors of carriers of our soft power.

  • To project New Delhi’s soft power across world capitals, the MEA has embarked on a program to build diplomatic missions and cultural centres using the country’s diverse styles of architecture.

  • India’s successful Aadhaar programmes which can help countries do similar things and India’s IT capabilities are huge source of soft power.

  • Student exchange programs, increase in scholarships, medical tourism and research scholars have resulted in a vibrant democracy. Indian Diaspora is seen as ambassadors of carriers of our soft power.

Challenges for India:

  • Poor digital penetration & technologies: Though India may be home to more top 30 unicorns (billion-dollar start-ups) than any country (other than the United States and China), its digital penetration remains low, with millions of its population still without access to electricity, and basic digital technologies.

  • Poor cultural diffusion: Second, India rates badly on any measure of state-driven cultural diffusion rather than the more organic and natural private sector and citizen-led efforts.

    • Though most Indian cultural diffusion to overseas audiences—from yoga to Bollywood—has occurred.

    • The Indian government has is also promoting the study of Hindi abroad in large part because of its linguistic diversity at home.

  • Poor tourism story: India has a high number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, but still fares poorly on tourism and education on a per capita basis.

  • Lack of infrastructure for cultural development: India was plagued by impoverishment, missing out on positive associations, coupled with lack of investment in cultural diplomacy, a reputation of deep-rooted corruption, hostile business environment, red-tapism, lack of infrastructure and severe pollution in urban areas.

  • Brain drain: There are Indian contributions that are not necessarily associated with the country. E.g.- the export of India’s largest car manufacturer Tata Motors is Jaguar Land Rover, manufactured primarily in Britain and Buddhism.

Plus Points of India

In recent years, dynamism and policy changes have reshaped India’s perceptions in the outside world. The Government has made concerted efforts to connect with the influential Indian Diaspora in all countries. The recent developments in this way can be learnt from the following:

  • A separate ministry for Indian Diaspora: A separate revitalized ministry was established to address the concerns of the outside Diaspora and re-establish their Indian connect so as to make them active participants in the extension of the country’s goodwill and influence.

  • Maintaining Indian legacy: The government was also successful in projecting yoga and Ayurveda as quintessentially Indian legacy. Recognition by UN of June 21, as International Yoga Day on the insistence of Indian government has been a step in the right direction.

  • Alliances with neighbours: Extension of the line of credit to its neighbours including Russia has helped cement new mutually beneficial alliances in tune with India’s policy of having collaborative, soft diplomacy.

  • Resolving contentious issues: India has further deepened its strategic relationship with the US, improved relations with SAARC countries except for Pakistan, and improved its relations with UAE and Saudi Arabia. Even with China, efforts have been to find common grounds of mutual convergence and find solutions to resolve contentious issues.

  • Alliances with strong platforms: New alliances in the formation of Quad, active role in BRICS, ASEAN, IBSA, G-4 are all indicators of a newly assertive and confident India.

  • Emerging as a crusader of environment protection: India has also projected itself as a crusader of environment protection and taken a strong stance against climate change.

Indian Council for Cultural Relations

  • When the ICCR was established- Majorly, it was about scholarships to foreign students, cultural exchanges involving artistes and youths as also establishing some Chairs in some universities etc.

  • Now, we are in a world where every nation wants to influence and occupy the mind space of the global community and thereby add to its prowess.

  • In a way the limitations of military might are now more obvious and hence the importance of soft power is increasing.

  • India enjoys a groundswell of goodwill, but the challenge is to translate this goodwill into understanding of India.

  • ICCR plans to start academic programmes like an Understanding India course, cultural exchange between future leaders, mainstreaming of our traditional artisans through exchange with similar artisans abroad and converting Chairs into full-fledged India Study Centres abroad.

  • Promotion of all languages from India and not just Hindi is something ICCR wants to work for.

  • Since this is a knowledge era and since alumni of Indian institutions form an important segment of India’s soft power, we decided to take initiative and organised the first of its kind national convention on ‘Destination India’ in January 2019 in Pune.

  • Today, India ranks 26th as a destination country whereas we are third as a source country. We have to move up fast to be a leader of the global knowledge society.

This topic will help candidate understand India's foreign relations and the candidate will be able to understand the current situation very well . Candidate should make notes of the topic and keep updating themselves with the current affairs in this topic. To read more articles on International Relations click here