Dr. Monika Gupta* and Dr. Navneet Kumar**
The year 2024 brings with it a new dawn of revivalism, hope, and pride in India’s culture, traditions, and heritage. Alongside, 2024 coincides with India’s domestic political churning and its ever-significant global positioning that has consistently risen over the last one decade. It won’t be wrong to name “the man behind this new Bharat”, the Prime Minister (PM) of India- Shri Narendra Modi. As the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) under the leadership of Modi, eyes upon yet another victory in the 18th Lok Sabha elections in 2024, India is also keen to embark upon newer global milestones under his leadership. One such milestone that the new India is dwelling upon is the tacit and purposive use of its ‘soft power diplomacy’.
India since ages has been an ardent believer and follower of its ‘soft power’, much before the term was coined by American Political Scientist Joseph Nye in 1990. Through its oldest civilization, arts, and culture, India has been considered as a potential soft power in International Relations. However, over the last decade, particularly with the arrival of PM Modi at the helm of Indian politics in 2014, India’s soft power has become more pronounced and contemporary. According to Joseph Nye, a country’s soft power image is enhanced through the effective use of three factors- culture, political values, and foreign policy. Since 2014, PM Modi has effectively blended these factors to enhance India’s soft power. It is in this light that I analyze 2024 to be the year of Modi’s soft power diplomacy reaching newer heights and potentially leading India towards becoming a Vishwa Guru. Based on India’s current salient foreign policy and its global geopolitical positioning, there are five ways in which India could shape global geopolitical and geo-strategic dynamics in 2024 using its soft power potential.
First, at the beginning of this year, PM Modi unraveled his hopes for an ‘incredible India’ by digging into the potential of India’s tourism industry through his dives into the beaches of Lakshadweep, an unexplored island in India’s southwestern coast. The tourism industry in India has the power to not only bring the world to witness India’s unique diversity but also strengthen India’s geopolitical outlook. Soft power diplomacy calls for ‘persuasion’ i.e. shaping the preferences of other countries through appeal and attraction. The tourism industry in India can go a long way in serving this purpose for India in 2024 and beyond.
Second, as the world seems to be engulfed in crisis and conflicts, as witnessed in the Ukraine-Russia conflict or the Middle Eastern Israel-Hamas Conflict, India has always resorted to diplomacy and dialogue over confrontation and competition. Alongside, India has always advocated for peace amidst conflicts in its strongest words. PM Modi has always ensured brotherhood, humanity, and solidarity alive in India’s foreign policy approach. Be it the case of sending COVID-19 vaccines to needy countries across the world to sending humanitarian assistance in Palestine, India has always been outrightly vocal about the need for peace, dialogue, and cooperation in International relations, a key aspect of soft power diplomacy. India, which is considered to be the trusted voice of the Global South, especially after a successful G20 summit in Delhi, is expected to effectively make use of these soft power tools in garnering support and solutions to the challenges faced by countries of the Global South in 2024.
Third, in the 21st century, the use of technology, the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the effective use of social media have become key instruments for driving a country’s soft power potential. Needless to say, PM Modi since coming to power in 2014 has focused extensively on these fronts. Social media campaigns for garnering support during elections to propagating widespread reach of the government’s policies and programs have yielded tremendous success for the Modi-led BJP government. Similarly, the current government has always advocated for a tech-strong and tech-friendly Bharat, a glimpse of which can be seen in governments’ move towards cashless and Digital Bharat. The year 2024 is expected to open new horizons for India globally where the country is looking at leveraging these soft power tools in its foreign policy approach more vigorously. India is constantly negotiating agreements on technology and AI with different countries including the United States, Britain, Sri Lanka, France, Papua New Guinea etc., a trend which is likely to intensify in 2024, enhancing India’s soft power potential.
Fourth, PM Modi since his arrival in office has ensured constant engagement with India’s diaspora worldwide. Indian diaspora has been strategically used as a soft power tool to garner potential benefits for both India and the diasporic population. Indian community worldwide has a significant bearing upon the host country’s economic index, thereby creating stronger stakes for the community. PM Modi through his visits, speeches, and initiatives has tapped this potential of the Indian diaspora as an effective soft power tool to strengthen India’s bilateral relations. 2024 will be about more such engagements and associations, a move that is not only strengthening the diaspora’s ties with the homeland but also creating a long-lasting impact on India’s soft power diplomacy.
Fifth and last, 2024 is expected to witness a transition from India’s Foreign Policy to “Bharat’s Foreign Policy” as part of PM Modi’s constant emphasis on India’s culture, heritage, and traditions. The current government is clear in its agenda of reaching out to the world by keeping the Indian roots and connection intact. ‘Modernisation’ over ‘Westernisation’ has been central in India’s foreign policy, provided that such modernization includes a stronger sense of belief and pride in one’s traditions and culture, and the same is passed on from one generation to another.
The popularity of PM Modi across the world speaks a lot about his vision of a new “Bharat”. With firm determination, optimistic vision, and realistic goals, PM Modi is keen to take India on the horizon of greater development and growth. Soft power diplomacy through persuasion, dialogue, and communication has always worked in India’s favor. In 2024, as PM Modi is likely to continue his third term in office, India also looks at newer dimensions of growth under his able leadership. Without compromising on its “hard power” potential, India is making its way through the proactive use of its “soft power potential”, which is bound to make India into a “smart power” of the 21st century.
*Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Deshbandhu College, University of Delhi
**Assistant Professor, Department of Botany, Sri Venkateswara College, University of Delhi