India’s soft power assets are almost 5000 years old. Some of them were employed in contemporary crises as an alternative to hard power and proved their efficacy. In fact, the history of culture of the human race proves the greater enduring potential of soft power over hard power. It is equally true that hard power has trampled upon soft assets repeatedly in different geographies of the world and established its victory, but only temporarily. You can rule by the sword but live only by sonority. It reveals only the nature of the composition of our world. Largely it consists of certain qualities. Like individuals, societies too are composed of these qualities. These pertain to adherence to values, self-interest or simply harming others. Societies which experienced value based governments had been able to achieve high growth of culture and civilization. They shared their cultural attainments with other societies. There were some which managed their affairs well but without making any substantial contribution to spread of values, culture or other soft tools. There were still others, who first destroyed the attainments, assets and resources of highly developed civilizations in order to establish their superiority. They used hard power indiscriminately and are associated with barbarity and inhuman behavior.
India is a country which laid great emphasis on acquisition of knowledge (Gyan). It was a practicing knowledge society devoted to seek more and more knowledge in diverse fields such as health, longevity (Ayurvigyan), mathematics, botany, chemistry, physics, statistics, environment, climate, agriculture, animal husbandry, astronomy, philosophy, literature, language and several other fields. Consider this pithy vocation: “Gyanam paramam dhyeyam”. It translates into Attainment of knowledge is the highest goal. Inspired by such noble ideas, incisive minds devoted their whole life to learn and disseminate knowledge. They were known as Rishis or scholars. They had left for us a precious treasure of treatises on varied subjects. India has lost much of it when invaders destroyed libraries, burnt manuscripts and executed scholars. Some people took the risk to protect these manuscripts from the invaders and stored them securely in obscure places. A large number of these manuscripts were retrieved during the past 200 years. There are private and government efforts on way to catalogue and preserve these manuscripts. When will the knowledge contained in these manuscripts become public can hardly be predicted, but it is bound to get published.
As these manuscripts are valuable, so are the languages in which they were written- Sanskrit and Pali primarily. India is a language rich country where 122 major languages are spoken or written by more than 10000 people on all India basis, and thousands other languages with lesser number of users. There is rich tradition of written and oral literature in India. The quest for knowledge was such in earlier times that it needed no formal schooling to learn. A strong tradition of Katha or rendition filled the gap between literacy and thirst (not hunger) for knowledge. In simple easy to absorb language, knowledge was disseminated orally by the learned to the illiterate, who enjoyed it in their spare time like the summers when they were not engaged in farming activities and attended to all other activities of life such as marriage, Katha, pilgrimage, visits, entertainment etc. India associated the quest for knowledge with thirst because it never gets quenched, whereas hunger get satisfied after a sumptuous meal. It is in this background that the Mantra of Gyanam Paramam Dhyeyam should be understood. It was understood by the people generally that ignorance is the reason for fear and poverty. It is akin to darkness. They wanted to walk into the sunshine of knowledge. Hence they always prayed to the Muse to lead them from darkness to sunshine (Tamaso Maa Jyotirgamaya). A country where knowledge was accorded such high priority, needs to regain and re-establish its soft power resources, assets and tools.
Satyamev Jayate, Satyam Pratishthite. Truth prevails, respect truth. The history of human race establishes the value of this universal wisdom. Cultural heights were attained by societies which respected truth and established regimes where truth prevailed over cleverness, lies or intrigues. Even in this modern age, no country can sustain for long lies and live by propaganda alone. The total money spent on propaganda in the last 200 years might even surpass the expenditure on promoting values like respect for truth. Trust can’t be built on weak foundations of lies and without trust neither friendships nor families nor nations can survive for long. One of the ill effects of technological empowerment of people is the loss of trust: the buyer doesn’t trust the seller, the seller doesn’t trust the buyer (they need Brand and Contract); the couples don’t trust each other till death does them part; friends don’t trust each other as competitive empowerment introduces an element of inequality in the pure emotional world of friendship. Truth becomes the first casualty the moment a person attains added empowerment with the aid of technology than what is his natural share. The logic extends to nations. The powerful one errs in believing that its untruth can win it enduring power over others, the same lever that hard power gives them to influence policies or decisions of less powerful nations. But it is equally true that even a small country can challenge the might of a superpower and score a victory on the strength of truthfulness. That is the power of truth. Truth can’t be coloured. India has the treasure of the mass psyche that demands and values adherence to the principles of truth. The masses may be poor, they may be illiterate, they may look backward, but they build personal, social and political relations based on truth. Lies ruin even the closest relations in normal circumstances. The masses respect the teacher, doctors or judges only because they have trust in their truthful conduct. The misconduct, especially commercialization of these professions, in recent decades has robbed them of that high and blind respect and faith in their reputation as adherents of truth. It has extremely deleterious effect which has led to charges of corruption. The worst is the politician, who is not considered truthful at all. Public conduct can’t be the opposite of the edict Satyamev Jayate in India. India needs to regain its high stature of the country where truth alone prevails. This is bound to change the complexion of the political environment globally. Industrial revolution, advancements in science and technological achievements in the modern times killed God, rigged morals and turned very fast to a world surviving on untruth. The world will be annihilated unless the doctrine of truth prevails is firmly established soon. Its alternative is Al Qaida and ISIS and similar outfits, which are born of lies, thrive on lies and survive on lies. Lies lead to barbarity and brutality. Its justification only aggravates the crimes of violence in a humane environment. India being an old practitioner of the doctrine of truth prevails, ought to modernize and renew it to serve itself and humanity at large.
India’s ideology of non-violence is by now public property globally. It has inspired many peaceful movements leading to peaceful change of regimes. The adherents of hard power are still testing their weapons against non-violence. Can the world see the end of violent regimes? Yes, because non-violence survives violence. Violence is employed for short term gains, but non-violence is a sign of power, progress and prosperity of a nation. The time for sword wielding is over. In the next 50 years, robots will engage adherents of violence. They would emerge as the perfect match for the practitioners of violence of brutal murders, slitting of throats, bomb blasts, rapes, arson, poisoning, chemical and biological warfare etc. Violence might look an anachronism in that situation. The inspiration for much of the violence emanates from radical religions, but they never describe any war in heaven! Do human beings need protection of the Almighty or the Almighty needs their protection? It is in an atmosphere of non violence and peace alone that the mind is engaged in pursuing knowledge. There is so much to be known and our resources are yet not enough to unravel the knowledge visible in the universe to our eyes but hidden from our mind. That is the solid rationale for practicing non violence. In the past, the practitioners of non violence had suffered enormous harm at the hands of the violent, but that phase is going to end soon. The next phase is going to be for progress, prosperity and peaceful co-existence.
Indian literature is rich in content and embellished by Epics, two of them extremely captivating- The Ramcharitmanas and the Mahabharat. The TV serials on these two epics are master productions in which a lot of research and talent has been invested. When they were serialized, even international science congress sessions held in India were rescheduled to facilitate watching them. They are available on You Tube. The Veda, Puran, Upanishad, and other commentaries have been translated into several languages. The Gita or Bhagwadgita is a well known treasure of world community. They are not being properly studied in the country under the mistaken belief that they are not relevant today. But that betrays the dark ignorance of the unfamiliar people with the treasure of the highest knowledge, including what is considered science and technology, even though the proportion may have changed. A simple reading of these invaluable treatises triggers an explosion of queries, which if properly answered, can cover major aspects of modern knowledge in all its branches. It is not because it is Indian that leads us to this conclusion but the fact that when knowledge was pursued single mindedly in the past, the quest was the same unlimited thirst for all comprehensive knowledge. It was not one man’s imagination which produced these treatises but the scientific research to find answers to the emerging questions that yielded such wonderful results. It was only after finding answers to the questions crossing their minds that the authors or recorders of these treatises felt free or mukt. They concluded that learning leads to salvation (Sa Vidya ya Vimuktaye): learning frees one from ignorance and that is called mukti or salvation.
Another valuable asset of Indian soft power is its intrinsic entrepreneurship. Indians are entrepreneurship minded. They are innovative. If India earned a name and fame for itself in ancient times, it was due to, among other things, its entrepreneurs. If an objective study were conducted, the social classification, under much stress now, was organized on entrepreneurship basis. Acquisition of skills can be through formal education or on the job training in family businesses. Concept of family business may sound contra to professionally managed businesses in contemporary context, but even today this attitude produces better results. In fact, the hire and fire approach to modern enterprises is shifting beyond employer-employee relations and entering the crux of belonging as in family businesses. Companies are preparing to go an extra mile to retain talent. Technology was employed in businesses like handicrafts and handlooms too, but unlike in the production facilities in giant modern facilities. The difference is of level and scale. All production facilities needed the essential input of technology before starting setting up and production. If trade statistics of ancient India are any guide, Indian products had good demand in international market. This entrepreneurship got affected when machine produced industrial goods captured the Indian market and killed indigenous enterprises. Such unfavourable developments are nothing unusual in the economic history of a nation. But even this onslaught on Indian entrepreneurship could not destroy it forever; it only disrupted it. When industrial revolution was leading to radical changes in production and supply of goods and services in the western countries, the Indian entrepreneur was not watching it from a distance- he adopted manufacturing by machines as comfortably as he was doing with production by hand. It didn’t take much for the Indian entrepreneur to accelerate the growth of industrialization in the country. Today, India is counted as an economic power with great potential only because of its entrepreneurs. Had it been matched by governance of the highest quality, it would have yielded much better results. Less than the very best government has placed impediments in industrial development in the country. The nation is still struggling to free itself of the stranglehold of entrepreneur unfriendly systems, but the entrepreneur is going in full steam to realize his goals as an individual. And there lies the proof of Indian entrepreneurship. If they have succeeded in achieving something, it is said in elite circles, it is not because of the government but in spite of the government. Indian entrepreneurs are welcome to set up facilities in developing countries as well as advanced nations because of their high reputation as entrepreneurs. India has yet to realize its full potential to use this highly effective tool of soft power to further its economic foreign policy goals.
Somehow these resources and assets have been neglected post independence under a perverse notion of socialism. In the changed global scenario, India would only benefit by using its soft power to develop friendly relations with other countries and contribute to peace and prosperity of all the peoples in the world.