smart & soft power

After the success of Prime Minister Modi's take-yoga-global campaign, it's now the humble Khadi that he wants to take across borders as India peddles its soft power on the international stage. "The government is aiming at making the 'Khadi' a global product identity of India, as it did for Yoga. But before, taking the major step, it plans to put its house in order. A global identity of Khadi would also allow many rural artisans to earn better," a person with direct knowledge of the mater told ET. 

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his second year in office visited the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar and Turkey, taking diplomatic activism in the region to newer heights, including the special outreach to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, it became clear that Modi’s foreign policy was a studied departure from the outdated ideas of former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Mandalay-based reporter Maung Tar took a 10-day trip to China last year. He visited the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square in Beijing, admired Tianjin city and also traipsed through the famous stone forests of Yunnan province. He didn't have to pay a cent. China has launched a charm offensive of late, inviting journalists, teachers, monks and other influential groups to visit the country, to enhance its reputation amid bad press in the region.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson finally met with the State Department’s workforce to outline how President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda applies to foreign policy. In his remarks, Tillerson focused on the core mission of national security. He insisted that American values still matter, but was clear that the U.S. is no longer in the business of promoting those values as universal aspirations. It’s a big loss for American influence in the world.

The successful launch of the South Asian Satellite from Sriharikota onboard the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) on Friday not only reiterated the technological prowess of India’s space agency, but was also a landmark in science diplomacy in the region. This is the first time a communication satellite built and launched by India will be put to the common use of South Asian countries. 

In advance of Mother’s Day later this week, it is a good time to reflect and recognize not only the contribution mothers make in our own lives and those of others around the world but their collective power globally. We should also call out and celebrate their unique strengths, skillsets, and experience sets. Skills and strengths that are not often championed or called out, but which could be powerful soft power assets in our broader public diplomacy strategies.

China has employed tens of thousands of scholars to write an internet version of its national encyclopaedia, which will go online next year to compete against Wikipedia. [...] Designed to be the nation’s first digital book of “everything”, it will feature more than 300,000 entries, each about 1,000 words long, making it twice as large as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and about the same size as the Chinese-language version of Wikipedia.

For those in the West who have lived the second half of the 20th century, being under the United States’ tutelage was a mere fact of life. As the great victors of World War II and uncontested rulers of nearly every international institution in the world – UN, IMF, World Bank, GATT, NATO etc. – North Americans have transformed Central and South America into their own backyard. Now change is said to be underway. 

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