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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Buddhism, India’s soft power projection tool

 

Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Buddhism, teachings of Buddhism, BR Ambedkar, SE Asia, Buddhist sites etc
  • Mains GS Paper I: Modern Indian history from middle of eighteenth century until the present-significant events, personalities, issues etc

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • India hosted a two-day global Buddhist summit in New Delhi (April 20-21), which was organized by the Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the International Buddhist Confederation.

      

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Buddhism:

  • Buddhism started in India over 2,600 years ago as a way of life that had the potential of transforming a person.
  • It is one of the important religions of South and South-Eastern Asian countries.
  • The religion is based upon the teachings, life experiences of its founder Siddhartha Gautam, born in circa 563 BCE.
    • He was born into the royal family of the Sakya clan who ruled from Kapilvastu, in Lumbini which is situated near the Indo-Nepal Border.

 

Buddhist Summit(Delhi Summit):

  • Key figures from the global Buddhist community, including the Dalai Lama.
  • The Prime Minister laid emphasis on the continuing relevance of the Buddha’s teachings in today’s world.
  • It saw a diverse group of 171 foreign delegates from South Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, and Taiwan, along with 150 delegates from Indian Buddhist organizations.
  • Attendance of prominent scholars, sangha leaders, and dharma practitioners.

 

India’s efforts so far:

  • Promoting tourism through the development of the “Buddhist tourist circuit”.
  • Visit Buddhist sites by the PM during his Southeast and East Asian
  • Against the backdrop of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the PM said: “India has not given ‘Yuddha’ to the world but ‘Buddha’.”
  • The Delhi summit’s theme, Responses to Contemporary Challenges: Philosophy to Praxis”: It highlights India’s attempts to provide an alternative to contested global politics, with morality as the guiding principle.
  • Government’s guiding principles for foreign policy, Panchamrit principles include “Sanskriti Evam Sabhyata” which means cultural and civilizational links.
    • It was highlighted during the Delhi summit.
    • India hopes to reinforce its image as a responsible global power committed to peaceful cooperation and regional stability.
  • By laying an emphasis on cultural and civilisational ties, India seeks to promote greater understanding and cooperation between nations.
    • It demonstrates the unique role it can play in shaping the region’s future.
  • India recognises the importance of Buddhism as a means of conducting public diplomacy and has utilized it to its advantage.

 

What will be the impact of the summit?

  • The Indian government demonstrates its commitment to preserving and promoting Buddhist culture and heritage
  • Strengthening ties with the global Buddhist community.
  • Buddhist diplomacy has the potential to promote regional cohesion.
    • Nearly 97% of the global Buddhist population is based in Asia.
  • During the Cold War, China effectively used Buddhist diplomacy to engage with its neighboring countries.
    • It employed this approach to gain legitimacy for its Belt and Road Initiative.
  • India and China compete to dominate the Buddhist heritage as a tool for soft power: India holds an advantage due to the faith’s origins in the country.

 

Issue:

  • Despite being home to a number of key Buddhist sites, such as Bodhgaya, Sarnath, and Kushinagar,
    • India has struggled to attract Buddhist tourists, who tend to favor sites in Thailand and Cambodia.

 

Way Forward

  • The summit was a significant opportunity for India to project and connect with the Buddhist population around the world, thereby strengthening the country’s soft power.
  • With its strong historical and cultural ties to Buddhism, India is well-positioned to play a leading role in shaping the discourse around Buddhist issues on the global stage.
  • China is actively seeking to exert control over the appointment of the next Dalai Lama, which would be a blow to India’s efforts to project its soft power through Buddhism.
    • India must act to ensure that it remains a key player in the global Buddhist community.
  • To further strengthen its Buddhist diplomacy, India should continue promoting Buddhism at the highest levels of government.
    • Organize cultural events to showcase the country’s rich Buddhist history.
    • The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) could play a significant role in promoting such events within and outside India.
  • India should work to strengthen its ties with key Buddhist institutions and leaders around the world.
    • The Delhi summit was a step in the right direction, providing a valuable opportunity for cultural exchange and the sharing of ideas.
  • India also needs to utilize the reach of Bollywood in promoting its Buddhist heritage.
    • China, with its influence over Hollywood, has completely dominated the narrative around Buddhism through cinema.
  • India’s G-20 presidency this year could be used to promote Buddhist diplomacy on a bigger scale through various cultural meetings.
    • The Buddhist teachings align with the motto of India’s G-20 presidency, ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’.
  • As Buddha was the first diplomat of peace, his teachings of peace and cooperation in these tough times can become the guiding light of Indian diplomacy on the world stage.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

Are tolerance, assimilation and pluralism the key elements in the making of an Indian form of secularism? Justify your answer.(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)