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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 02 March 2024

  1. Indian Diplomacy: Leveraging Soft Power
  2. The Genome India Project’s Recent Feat


Context:

In the present global geopolitical context, there is a notable transformation in the conventional measures of national power. Policymakers and diplomats are increasingly acknowledging the significance of soft power aspects in influencing international relations, redirecting their attention from pure military strength to factors such as cultural impact and moral authority. India, specifically, has effectively utilized its cultural strengths to assert its position on the world stage.

Relevance:

GS-2-

  • Groupings & Agreements Involving India and/or Affecting India’s Interests
  • Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India’s Interests

Mains Question:

What is Soft power and how does it differ from Hard Power? Has India been successful in leveraging soft power elements to deepen diplomatic ties and foster regional stability? (15 Marks, 250 Words).

About Soft Power:

Soft power refers to a nation’s capacity to attain foreign policy goals by captivating others culturally, as opposed to relying on force, coercion, or extensive financial investments.

According to Joseph Nye, a country’s soft power is rooted in three key resources:

  • Culture: This pertains to the attractiveness of a country’s cultural elements to others. Examples include religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.
  • Political Values: Soft power is enhanced when a country lives up to its political values both domestically and internationally. This encompasses adherence to democratic or communist principles.
  • Foreign Policies: Soft power is bolstered when a country’s foreign policies are perceived as legitimate and possessing moral authority by others. Examples include policies like the Neighbourhood First Policy and the Panchsheel Policy of Peaceful Coexistence.

Global Soft Power Index:

  • In the Global Soft Power Index, India has advanced one position, moving from 29th place in 2022 to 28th in 2023.
  • This index is published by Brand Finance, a leading independent brand valuation and strategy consultancy globally.
  • Recognized as the most comprehensive research study on perceptions of nation brands, it involves surveys from over 100,000 participants across 121 countries.

Exploring Some Pillars of Soft Power Diplomacy:

Religion:

  • Religion holds a pivotal role in shaping political landscapes. A recent illustration of India’s strategic cultural diplomacy was evident in the opening of the first Hindu temple in the UAE. This event marked a significant advancement in the bilateral relations between the two nations.
  • With the inauguration of the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan (BAPS) Mandir, India aims to strengthen ties with the UAE while actively engaging in the broader region.
  • This diplomatic approach, rooted in faith, culture, and religion, seeks to promote collaboration in various critical areas, including security, energy, maritime affairs, and infrastructure.

Cultural Diplomacy:

  • India’s cultural diplomacy extends beyond Hinduism, as exemplified by the Buddhist Circuit, which seeks to rejuvenate Buddhist heritage sites and promote tourism in the region.
  • Introduced as part of the Swadesh Darshan Scheme, this pilgrimage circuit encompasses four key sacred sites in accordance with Buddhist traditions: Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, Kushinagar, and Lumbini. As one of India’s initial transnational tourist circuits, it originates from Lumbini in Nepal, the birthplace of Buddha.
  • This initiative is a manifestation of Buddhist Diplomacy, which involves enhancing a nation’s soft power through the exchange of Buddhist ideas, sacred artifacts, and trade relationships.
  • By evoking cultural ties with the region and the Buddhist religion, India aims to mitigate territorial tensions with its neighbor, fostering a positive people-to-people connection across the border.
  • The government strategically utilizes Buddhist heritage as cultural assets to fortify relations with Asian nations.
  • At the Global Buddhist Summit in April 2023, the Prime Minister of India asserted that the challenges faced by the modern world can be addressed by embracing the teachings of Buddha.
  • Through his Act East Policy, India has elevated its strategic rapport with key countries in the Asia-Pacific, employing Buddhism as a cultural bridge connecting India with Southeast Asian nations.
  • Delving into its historical connections with Buddhism, India is not only safeguarding its cultural heritage but also enhancing its soft power and drawing visitors from across the globe.
  • These initiatives enable India to reinforce its reputation as a torchbearer of ancient civilizations and traditions, simultaneously contributing to economic development through tourism.
  • India aims to cultivate closer ties with Asian nations, positioning itself as a model of religious tolerance, pluralism, and a responsible global actor.

Humanitarian Assistance:

  • On the subject of being a responsible global participant, consider our dedication to humanitarian assistance. A recent example is the swift response of the Indian Navy, deploying the missile destroyer INS Vishakhapatnam in the Gulf of Aden to counter the Houthi strike on a merchant ship.
  • This incident underscores India’s role as a responsible maritime player. Indian diplomacy extends beyond cultural endeavors, encompassing strategic engagements and humanitarian endeavors.
  • By offering timely humanitarian aid, India reaffirms its commitment to maintaining peace and stability during international crises.

Other Areas:

  • This isn’t the sole indication of India’s evolving diplomatic approach in the Gulf. A noteworthy achievement for Indian diplomacy occurred when Qatar released eight Indian nationals who had been detained since 2022.
  • The release followed extensive diplomatic efforts by the Indian government, underscoring the efficacy of India’s diplomatic channels in securing the freedom of its citizens abroad.
  • Through careful negotiation and strategic dialogue, our government has once again demonstrated its commitment to safeguarding the interests of every Indian, regardless of their location worldwide.
  • The Prime Minister of India reiterated India’s longstanding and close ties with Qatar ahead of his visit to Doha. The robust bonds of diplomatic engagement have played a crucial role in fostering mutually advantageous partnerships and promoting regional stability.
  • The government’s diplomatic initiatives are not merely events aimed at strengthening connections with Gulf leaders but are also strategic plans to propel India’s economic growth.
  • Through sustained economic cooperation with the Middle East, India can harness the Gulf’s capital potential while contributing to defense collaboration.

Way Forward- Report of the Committee on External Affairs:

The Committee on External Affairs has recently submitted its 16th Report, outlining recommendations on the potential and constraints of India’s Soft Power and Cultural Diplomacy.

The key recommendations are as follows:

Overseas Centres: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is advised to facilitate the establishment of more AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa-Rigpa, and Homeopathy) centers abroad in a strategic and organized manner.

Yoga Certification Board: In alignment with the government’s efforts to promote yoga, the panel proposes the creation of a ‘Yoga Certification Board’ by the ministries of AYUSH and external affairs. This board would be responsible for certifying Indian yogic practices and therapies.

Diaspora Collaboration: Recognizing the Indian diaspora as a significant asset in India’s soft power diplomacy, the committee encourages collaboration with the diaspora to disseminate India’s soft power in regions where it is less known.

Medicine Recognition: Efforts should be concentrated on gaining recognition for Ayurveda as a medical system and adopting India’s pharmacopeia, enabling the export of Ayurvedic products as medicines. Currently, Ayurvedic products are often exported as dietary supplements due to the lack of recognition in many foreign countries.

Pricing System: The committee suggests revisiting the policy of differential pricing for tickets to monuments for foreigners and Indians, deeming such a policy unnecessary in a globalized world. This pricing disparity can result in a loss of a substantial segment of foreign travelers.

Coordination Committee: Recommends the establishment of a coordination committee comprising representatives from the MEA and other ministries to address the lack of coordination among various institutions involved in projecting India’s soft power and cultural diplomacy.

Policy Document: The MEA is urged to formulate a policy document on “India’s soft power projections,” outlining India’s soft power toolbox, its overseas projection, and a vision statement for the future.

Conclusion:

In the realm of diplomacy, each gesture and interaction holds the potential to shape bilateral relations and build alliances. India’s assertive approach in utilizing cultural and public diplomacy reflects its expanding influence and active participation on the global stage. Through proactive engagement and strategic alliances, India continues to consolidate its position as a significant player in international affairs, contributing to regional stability and global cooperation.



Context:

The Genome India Project, funded and coordinated by the Department of Biotechnology, has declared the completion of sequencing 10,000 Indian genomes. This milestone involves the comprehensive analysis of the complete DNA blueprints of 10,000 individuals, establishing a ‘reference’ Indian human genome.

Relevance:

GS-3

  • Biotechnology
  • Scientific Innovations and Discoveries
  • Indigenization of Technology

Mains Question:

What is genome sequencing and why is it significant? What are the associated challenges in this regard? (10 Marks, 150 Words).

About Genome Sequencing:

  • Genome sequencing involves determining the sequence of DNA nucleotides, or bases, in an organism’s genome, specifying the order of Adenine, Cytosine, Guanine, and Thymine.
  • Regarding the human genome, it consists of 23 pairs of chromosomes, totalling approximately 3 billion DNA base pairs.
  • These chromosomes include 22 autosomal chromosomes and the sex-determining X and Y chromosomes. The autosomal chromosomes (1-22) are generally numbered by decreasing size.
  • Somatic cells typically possess one copy of chromosomes 1-22 from each parent, along with an X chromosome from the mother and either an X or Y chromosome from the father, resulting in a total of 46 chromosomes.
  • The significance of genome sequencing lies in its pivotal role in understanding the genome. It serves as a valuable shortcut for scientists, aiding in the easier and quicker identification of genes.
  • Although scientists are still learning to interpret the clues present in a genome sequence, they anticipate that studying the entire genome sequence will provide insights into how genes collaborate to direct the growth, development, and maintenance of an organism.
  • Additionally, since genes constitute less than 25 percent of the DNA in the genome, knowing the entire genome sequence facilitates the exploration of regions outside genes.
  • This encompasses regulatory areas that control gene activation and deactivation, as well as extensive segments of “nonsense” or “junk” DNA, whose significance is yet to be established.

About the Genome India Project:

  • The Genome India Project (GIP) is a nationwide initiative with the objective of sequencing 10,000 genomes by the conclusion of 2023.
  • This project receives funding from the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology and is spearheaded by the Centre for Brain Research (CBR).
  • In its initial phase, the GIP seeked to discern genetic variations by conducting genome sequencing on 10,000 individuals from diverse regions of India.
  • The overarching aim of the project is to advance personalized medicine, tailoring medical treatments based on the unique genomic makeup of patients.

Significance of the Initiative:

  • In a sense, this recent initiative can be likened to the creation of the first detailed map of India, including all political units, crucial geographical and topographical features.
  • While acknowledging that 10,000 individuals may not be fully representative of a country with over a billion people, it currently serves as the best available template. This foundation is crucial for extracting numerous insights.
  • The immediate application of this genomic data is evident in disease prevention. In 2009, Indian geneticists, collaborating internationally, identified a correlation between an anomaly in the MYBPC3 protein (cardiac myosin binding protein C) and a heightened risk of heart failure.
  • This genetic variant was found in about 4% of individuals of Indian ancestry, a proportion higher than expected, considering the rarity of this problematic variant.
  • India comprises approximately 4,500 distinct population groups, and its historical practice of arranging society along caste lines through endogamy has led to the persistence of rare genetic variants, many of which are harmful.

Revealing New Layers of Complexity:

  • Despite the ambitious promises made by the Human Genome Project in 2003, which decoded the reference ‘human genome’ at a cost of nearly $3 billion, offering visions of mapping genes to diseases and personalized medicine, subsequent decades have tempered these expectations. It became apparent that only a small fraction of diseases are monogenic, influenced by a single gene.
  • Despite advancements in understanding how rare, inherited genes contribute to severe ailments, practical solutions were often hindered by the prohibitive cost of any discovered medicines, rendering them inaccessible to those in need. In essence, genome sequencing revealed new layers of complexity.

Conclusion:

While Genome India aims to surpass the 10,000 mark, it is imperative for the project to be truly democratic. The findings should not be confined to academic ivory towers but should involve inclusive collaborations with scientists, students, technology companies, ethicists, and social scientists. This approach is essential to advance India’s self-understanding and propel the country forward in genomics research.


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