India’s Challenges in Wielding Religious Soft Power

A Conversation with Sumit Ganguly

July 29, 2020
12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. EDT
Location: Online Zoom Webinar

Around the world today many states integrate religion and religious outreach activities into their foreign policy and diplomacy as a form of soft power. Manifestations of this trend vary widely, from informal efforts to cultivate solidarity with global co-religionists by states whose history and identity are entangled with religion to more direct deployment of religious institutions and actors in the service of specific foreign policy and national security objectives. The Geopolitics of Religious Soft Power (GRSP) project represents a multi-year, cross-disciplinary effort to systematically study the use of religion in foreign affairs.

This conversation focused on India’s use of religious soft power from the Cold War period to the present day. Sumit Ganguly, distinguished professor of political science at Indiana University, presented and discussed highlights from his new policy brief on the topic, “The Possibilities and Limits of India’s New Religious Soft Power.” Topics included the history of India’s use of soft power resources during the Cold War, how the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 led to an explicitly religious bent privileging Hinduism, and whether growing sectarian tensions at home may limit the capacity of India’s new emphasis on religious soft power to pay dividends on the global stage. The session was moderated by Berkley Center Senior Research Fellow Peter Mandaville, the GRSP project director.

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Related Publication

Policy Brief July 14, 2020

The Possibilities and Limits of India's New Religious Soft Power

In this policy brief, Sumit Ganguly argues that despite the Modi administration’s fervid attempts to draw on some of India’s religious traditions to boost the country's standing with prospective partners, it is unclear whether this strategy has yielded significant, tangible benefits.
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