China has scored a major victory in soft diplomacy by quietly launching its own Nalanda University, while the original Nalanda campus in Bihar, planned almost a decade ago, is still stuck with 455-acre dead space. China’s education ministry had managed to keep the plan a secret till a few weeks ago when it formally announced the enrolment for the Nanhai Buddhist College in Hainan province in May.
How do China and India compare in their use of Buddhism in faith diplomacy?
Soon after coming to power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi prudently decided to emphasise India’s rich tradition of Buddhism in a soft-power approach to Asian geopolitics. Apart from countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Japan, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Mongolia and others, he even struck a direct chord with China to revive India-China ties.
Leaders from Buddhist bodies in South Korea, China and Japan have expressed hope for peace and exchanges among the three Northeast Asian countries at an annual gathering in the eastern China city of Ningbo, a South Korean Buddhist organization said Thursday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pushed Buddhism diplomacy during his recent trip to Hanoi. India had announced special annual scholarships for Vietnamese students in advanced Buddhist studies at Masters/Doctoral level and scholarships of a year for study of Sanskrit at Indian institutes for Buddhist Sangha members.
Last month, the head of the Thai junta, Prayut Chan-o-cha, visited India for the first time since he seized power in a military coup in May 2014. Though India and Thailand have long been diplomatic partners, the visit saw an uptick in their cooperation as they prepare to commemorate the 70th anniversary of their relationship next year.
Wei Cheng Zong, who specialises in traditional water paintings of landscapes, said: “India is a religious country. It is the birthplace of Buddhism. We want to share our culture with India through this exhibition.” His paintings depict nature in its hierarchy, step-by-step, the lower and higher mountains come into view. Like many artists who joined the bandwagon of cultural exchange, he is inspired by Buddhist meditation.
Focussing on ancient Buddhist links is a customary part of India-China cultural diplomacy during high-level visits even if bilateral ties have generally been less-than sacred in modern times.