On 23rd October 2020, Takshashila Institution hosted a #DeepWebinar focused on discussing the book ,The Blue Elephant: why India must boost its softpower.
It featured the author Rahul Das on the dais and as discussants Priya Ravichandran(Product Marketer, Vue.ai), Anand A.(Founder and CEO, Vogo) and Rishi Trivedi(Founder and CEO, Anamind)posing thoughtful questions and providing insightful comments. Suyash Desai, Research Analyst at Takshashila Institution anchored the discussion as the host.
The conversation began with the host inquiring from Rahul what inspired him to write the book, In reply to which Rahul shared his personal story about how the book is a product of his travels and the subsequent appreciation he acquired about the impact of softpower on the everyday lives of people he had witnessed during them.
In answer to another question posed by the host, Rahul said that to him the definition of Softpower would be “Charisma applied at national level”, reflected through the cuisine,culture and its citizens’s interaction with other people around the world.
Rahul cited the example of how India’s infrastructure support to the Afghan cricket team highlights India’s success in using soft power to foster goodwill and strengthen ties in its neighbourhood. Rahul further remarked that India has had a very pacifist foreign policy and it has all the ingredients that should make it a softpower superpower.
In reply to a question posed by the first discussant Priya Ravichandran about whether states are better equipped than the Union to use soft power Rahul agreed that soft power must be used while keeping in mind the expectations of the other nation, which states often do better.
In response to another question by the second discussant Rishi Trivedi on the role of soft power in India-Pakistan relations, Rahul opined that the relations between the two countries can be improved if India liberalises its visa regime and more Pakistanis can visit India and cease to see it as a threat.
The third discussant Anand A. then inquired from Rahul about the caveat of the negative use of Softpower, In reply to which Rahul opined that while states can use narratives negatively, people-to-people relationships across borders can help counter them and that people should focus on what unites them rather than what divides them.
Towards the end of the session Rahul in reply to an audience question opined that as India’s economic power grows it will also further bolster its ability to achieve its softpower goals around the world.
About the Takshashila Institution
The Takshashila Institution is an independent center for research and education in public policy. It is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates the values of freedom, openness, tolerance, pluralism and responsible citizenship. The Takshashila Institution seeks to transform India through better public policies, bridging the governance gap by developing better public servants, civil society leaders, professionals and informed citizens. The video of the #DeepWebinar can be assessed on Takshashila Institution’s Youtube Channel.