Online Quiz Test

The growing role of Buddhism in India’s soft-power strategy

GS1 Art and Culture GS 2 India & Foreign Relations

In Context

  • The government embraced the Panchamrit principles to guide its foreign policy, actively pushing the image of India as a rising global force. Fifth among these five tenets is sanskriti evam sabhyata (cultural and civilisational links).

More about the soft power diplomacy :


  • Soft power is the ability to influence other nations by persuasion and attractiveness as opposed to coercion and force. Soft power is dependent upon culture, the arts, and science.


  • Joseph Nye is the originator of the term “soft power.”


India’s Soft Power tools:

Beginning Post independence

  •  Since the Panchsheel principles of Jawaharlal Nehru, India has been driven by the ideas of peaceful coexistence.
  • India’s foreign policy has traditionally emphasised diplomacy, peace, and the formation of national and international accords.
  • It chooses to anticipate improved synergy with states that share common objectives, such as preserving civil treaties and regulations, promoting global peace, battling terrorism and political violence, and laying the groundwork for a peaceful and prosperous world.

Art & culture

  •  India produces a great deal of films, music, novels, and other types of art that are appreciated worldwide. This has significantly enhanced India’s cultural influence.


  •  India has also been using yoga diplomacy as a tool for cultural exchange and international cooperation. The signature event is World Yoga Day.

Sciences, spirituality & faith

  • Sciences, spirituality, art, and faith that developed over millennia in the subcontinent spread to other regions, earning India a significant amount of’soft power’ long before the term was coined.
  •  As a result, modern India is well-positioned to leverage religious and faith-based ties with countries around the world.


  • The Indian subcontinent has given birth to a number of major religions in the world and over time has assimilated into its social fabric numerous others.
  • The engagement in Buddhist diplomacy is one of the more unique aspects of these endeavours.


India’s soft power diplomacy through Buddhism:

Significance of Buddhism

Revival & international value

  • The prospective foreign policy utility of Buddhism is substantially influenced by the manner in which the religion was revitalised following World War II. The resurgence of the faith had a strongly internationalist perspective and aimed to transcend existing sectarian and geographical borders.

Pan-Asian presence

  •  Currently, 97 percent of the world’s Buddhist population resides on the Asian continent, and a number of countries, including Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, view Buddhism as intrinsic to their national values and identity.
  •  The Buddhist faith lends itself well to soft-power diplomacy due to its emphasis on peaceful coexistence and its widespread pan-Asian presence.

The beginning

  • In 1952, under the prime ministership of Jawaharlal Nehru, India hosted the International Buddhist Conference in Sanchi which was attended by nearly 3,000 Buddhist nuns, monks, and historians.
  •  This was one of the world’s greatest gatherings of Buddhist preachers and disciples at the time.


The current scenario:


  •  During formal international travels, such as those to Sri Lanka and China, India’s prime minister has made a concerted effort to emphasise shared Buddhist roots. In addition, if possible, the prime minister saves one day during international travel for visits to Buddhist monasteries.


  • India is home to seven of the eight most significant Buddhist sites in the world. the Ministry of Tourism is promoting a number of tourist circuits that cross national borders.
  • Buddhist Circuit refers to the holy places where Lord Buddha was born, taught, preached, and attained enlightenment and nirvana.

Organization of international conferences

  • International conferences and councils have been established to foster cross-sectarian and cross-national cooperation between members.
  • the 2017 “Buddhism in the 21st Century” conference held in Rajgir.
  • The Ministry of Tourism organised the 5th International Buddhist Conclave in Varanasi in October 2016.
  • In 2015, the “Hindu-Buddhist Initiative on Conflict Prevention” was organised in Bodh Gaya by the Vivekananda International Foundation and the Tokyo Foundation, and opened by the Prime Minister.

Nalanda University

  • Nalanda University is the most significant academic endeavour ever undertaken. The establishment of the university was a pan-Asian initiative supported by a number of countries.



  • In the sphere of Buddhist diplomacy, as in most other areas of political relevance, India has encountered competition from China.
  • The Dalai Lama problem is the most conspicuous manifestation of India and China’s rivalry in the realm of Buddhist diplomacy.
  • The presence of the Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan government in Dharamshala, India, has been a cause of conflict between India and China.


India’s Diplomacy through other religions:

  • Instances of religious associations augmenting foreign policy are not limited to Buddhism alone.


  • Around the time of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Israel in July 2017, observers made constant references to India’s history with Judaism and its reputation for being a safe haven for Jews at a time of their prosecution in their native lands.


  • With respect to Islam, India has sought membership to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on the grounds that it has the second-largest Muslim population in the world.


Suggestions & way ahead:

  • Nowadays, India has a lot of resources in the form of pilgrimage sites, the presence of the Dalai Lama, international goodwill, and the correct objectives.

Explore the unexplored Buddhist schools of thought

  •  With regard to foreign projects, the government must guarantee that it does not focus primarily on Tibetan Buddhism, and make concerted efforts to promote connections with other Buddhist schools of thought, such as Nagarjuna Buddhism, which is virtually untapped in academic study.

Effective implementation of the Nalanda University project

  •  The Nalanda University initiative must be effectively revitalised, and Buddhist studies must be encouraged in well-established universities across the nation.

Buddhist Circuit Project

  • In addition to advertising, efficient valuation of the Buddhist Circuit Project requires proper administration of tourism destinations.


Daily Mains Question

[Q] What are the essential components of India’s Buddhist soft power diplomacy? What is its significance and difficulties. Analyse.