India’s soft-power reach out is undergoing a makeover to meet the challenges of the resource-crunch in spreading its art, culture, culinary traditions, as well as entertainment and spiritualism overseas.
Compared to countries like China or the UK, what India has been spending on leveraging its soft-power to win friends overseas remains negligible. Soft-power plays an important part in winning friends and goodwill abroad.
The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), an arm of the external affairs ministry which mostly handles cultural diplomacy, had a budgetary allocation of ₹192 crore in 2015 -16.
However, this amount pales in comparison to what Indian government sources estimate the British Council spends per year — ₹8000 crore. Of this, ₹1600 crore is budgetary support from the UK government. A comparable institution in China, the Confucius Institute, which started functioning in 2004, has a budget of $20 billion and has 300 centres across the world.
Meanwhile, the ICCR, which was founded in 1950, has only 39 centres around the globe.
The government hopes that the mobilisation of inter-ministerial resources and the employing of a public-private partnership (PPP) model and other innovative tools could help them address this fund shortage to a great extent.
And the government has embarked on an ambitious plan to expand its cultural footprints abroad.
The government seems to be hoping that some measures are taken in order for its soft power push. “We have decided to raise the resources available within the various departments of the government which have been tasked with the promotion of soft-power such as culture and AYUSH,” ICCR director general Amarendra Khatua told Hindustan Times.
He said a total of ₹400 crore could be the funds that the government can target through “a process of streamlining”. This also entails plans to get funds from ministries of Human Resources Development, Textile and territorial divisions of the external affairs ministry.
The government is also pushing for a PPP model for establishing language chairs aboard. At present there are 20 Hindi, three Sanskrit, two Tamil and one Bengali chairs in different countries.
Another measure planned is getting reciprocal hospitality from organisations that would be willing to host delegations from India.
A more flexible approach in setting up an India study centre is also being explored. This is aimed at finding alternatives to the endowment model, which requires a lot of money.