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A Soft Power Tool: Buddhism


  • The Dalai Lama and other prominent members of the world’s Buddhist community attended the recent global Buddhist summit held in New Delhi by India.
  • The Panchamrit principles were accepted by the government to direct its foreign policy and aggressively advance India’s standing as a rising global power.
  • Sanskriti evam sabhyata, or ties between cultures and civilizations, is its sixth tenet.


GS Paper 2: Intrernatinal relations-Soft Diplomacy

Mains Question

Analyse the importance of Buddhist tourism in India and its potential to strengthen the soft power of the nation. Talk about the steps that can be taken to advance and publicise the Buddhist Circuit Project. (250 Words)

What is diplomatic soft power?

  • The capacity to influence others without using force or money is known as soft power. Soft power diplomacy, as opposed to depending primarily on military or economic coercion, refers to the use of cultural, social, and economic tools to influence the attitudes and actions of other countries.
  • Joseph Nye first used the term “soft power” in the 1990s.Cultural exchanges, educational initiatives, humanitarian aid, and public diplomacy campaigns are a few examples of soft power diplomacy.

Utilization of Buddha by India

  • Indian Prime Ministers, including Jawaharlal Nehru and more recent leaders, have emphasised the shared Buddhist heritage in official international speeches, promoting cultural connections.
  • India is home to seven of the eight most significant Buddhist sites in the world. Buddhism has given India an identity of peace and tranquilly, particularly during the formation of the Republic amid religious violence between Hinduism and Islam.

Convening worldwide conferences and councils:

  • India has facilitated communication between Buddhist adherents across sectarian and governmental barriers by convening international conferences and councils. The “5th International Buddhist Conclave” in Varanasi (2016) and the “Buddhism in the 21st Century” conference in Rajgir (2017) are notable occasions that promoted communication and cooperation.
  • Nalanda University: The institution seeks to revive Nalanda as a centre of learning and to foster intellectual interactions among Buddhist countries.

Utilization of Buddha by India

  • The state religious system under Xi Jinping has incorporated religious aspects into China’s cultural and linguistic diplomacy to support its political and economic influence abroad. China utilises Buddhism:
  • With 245 million Buddhists and numerous monasteries, temples, monks, and nuns, China considers Buddhism to be an important element of its soft power strategy.

Geopolitical Implications:

  • China effectively uses Buddhist diplomacy to engage neighbours and gain support for its Belt and Road Initiative, while India focuses on restoring and promoting its own Buddhist sites.
  • China’s influence in the film industry, particularly in Hollywood, has allowed it to dominate the narrative around Buddhism through cinema, whereas India has not effectively used this domain.


  • In order to strengthen its soft power diplomacy through Buddhism, India should emphasise the successful execution of initiatives like Nalanda University as well as ties with other Buddhist schools of thought, such as Nagarjuna Buddhism.
  • For the Buddhist Circuit Project to be successful, tourism attractions must be managed properly. India may improve its standing in the world and its connections with nations that have a Buddhist majority by taking use of its cultural influence, which will also contribute to peace and stability in the area.

July 2024