Typical Activities

  • Opinion surveys
  • Interaction with audience after lectures/speeches by Government officials in foreign countries,
  • Lectures/presentations by foreign visitors/delegations
  • Press release by Indian missions abroad
  • Speech by diplomats and other government of India officials abroad,
  • Holding seminars in foreign countries by or with support of departments/agencies of government of India.
  • Tourism promotion
  • Sending of cultural troupes abroad
  • Sending of works of art abroad
  • Holding of festivals of India in foreign countries
  • Propagating India’s language and cultural heritage (such as the promotion of Sanskrit and Hindi, promotion of Yoga, etc.), Indian dance, Indian music, yoga in foreign countries,
  • Propagating the works and thoughts of eminent India (such as Mahatma Gandhi, Gurudev Ravindranath Tagore and Swamu Vivekanand) in foreign countries.
  • Exchange of students, youth exchange etc. with other countries
  • Exchange visits by journalists
  • Sponsoring foreign students
  • Materials posted on YouTube channel, Facebook and other social media pages of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and websites of Indian missions on various countries
  • Posting of information related to the diplomatic activities of the Government of India
  • Posting of information related to India
  • Posting of videos related to India
  • Telecasting of documentaries (commissioned by the MEA and aimed at positive projection of India’s image in foreign TV channels.
  •  Monitoring of viewers reactions (likes, comments etc.) on materials posted in social media pages of the MEA and Indian Missions, monitoring foreign media for India related news and analysis. Also sometimes films/documentaries commissioned by the MEA that are telecast by different channels in foreign countries.
  • Seminars, conferences and interaction programmes held in various universities and think tanks across India where officials from MEA explain to audiences the foreign policy of the government of India.

Key Actors

  • External Publicity and Public Diplomacy (XPD) Division of MEA
  • Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) (Policy Planning and Research Division)
  • Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA)
  • Indian Council of Social Science Research  (ICSSR)
  • Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR)
  • Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (Press Information Bureau, Publication Division, Private Organizations (Indian Broadcasting Foundation, ERNET India, Institute of Economic Growth (University of Delhi), News Organizations (The Times of India, The Hindu, News India Times, Hindustan Times, New Delhi TV)
  • Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation
  • Ministry of information Technology
  • Ministry of Commerce and Industry (India Brand Equity Foundation, Confederation of Indian Industry)
  • Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs

India’s exponential economic growth and recognition of its de-facto nuclear status by the U.S. and other powers have altered external perceptions of India, with the country being viewed as an emerging power with expanding global clout. In this scenario, India’s attempt to amplify its soft power through public diplomacy becomes crucial.

India as a new claimant of a place at the high table in the world has huge stakes in the arena of global politics, and thus maintaining and enhancing its influence remains a top priority for the country.  The undercurrent of Indian public diplomacy is to avow India as a rising power of undeniable international significance and influence, which is consistent with India’s demand to win a place at the high table by being granted the permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

India has already proved itself as a capable military and economic power in the world, yet somehow it finds struggles to project this power to the world. India finds itself well-placed in possessing soft power resources because of its rich culture and history, its democratic credentials, its technological advancement, its large and influential diaspora and the leadership India wields among the developing nations through multilateral institutions like Non-Alignment movement. Thus, what distinguishes India’s claim to global leadership is its unique, unobtrusive, persuasive “soft power”.  

India has often been regarded as a “cultural superpower” with an expansive hoard of soft power resources. Very few countries can match the rich history, culture and civilization of India that creates an unparalleled interest and appeal for India abroad. In addition to this, India’s vibrant and thriving democracy, its independent and free media, its democratic institutions and its increasingly aware and pulsating civil society all contribute to India’s soft power. Along with this, India’s values of non-violence (ahimsa) and peace and the use of these methods in its struggle against colonialism have inspired and continue to inspire generations of leaders all over the world. Additionally, India’s exponential economic growth and innovation and leadership in information technology, have earned India, admiration the world over.

India’s entertainment industry and Bollywood have given India an edge over many other countries in the world, and have enhanced India’s image. Indian movies find a large number of takers in not only Asian countries (with some similarity of culture), but are climbing the popularity charts rapidly, in Africa, the Americas and Europe as well. Indian music, dance, fashion and art add to India’s growing soft power base. Along with this, the contribution of new-age Indian authors to English literature has to be credited in increasing awareness and interest about Indian society, polity and culture. The popularity of Indian cuisine and Yoga all over the world has only amplified the world’s fascination with the Indian nation. The large and influential Indian diaspora is another one of India’s assets in the realm of soft power. Indian diaspora has many a times played a pivotal role in shaping up positive policies towards India in many countries, especially the United States. India’s commitment to humanitarian rights in the world and its role in the UN peacekeeping mission has earned India a lot of respect.

As a society with a free press and a thriving mass media, whose people whose are daily encouraged to unleash their creative energies, India has an extraordinary ability to tell stories that are more persuasive and attractive than those of its rivals. India has to compete with soft power of other countries, especially China in the time to come, as China expands its influence gradually all over the world. India, in some ways has an advantage in this ‘competition of influence’ over China because of its soft power resources. As the world’s largest democracy, with a vibrant press and thriving entertainment industry, India has huge soft power advantage over authoritarian China and its state-controlled media. The implication is India can take advantage of that goodwill as Asia’s two giants’ battle for influence in the region and around the world.  Another point is that India’s rise, unlike the rise of China, is not being viewed with trepidation and alarm in many countries. India derives real political mileage from the prestige attached to its title of “world’s largest democracy”. Being a democracy, India can assert a political influence in the world, especially now, when more and more countries are clamoring for democracy.

The Public Diplomacy Division of the Ministry of External Affairs was established in May 2006 with an aim to “educate and influence global and domestic opinion on key policy issues and project a better image of the country commensurate with its rising international standing.” Closely modelled after the U.S. State Department’s approach to public diplomacy, the Division attempts to “sensitize and influence think tanks, universities, media and experts to create a more nuanced understanding of the government’s stance on tricky issues”.

It’s not only the public diplomacy division of the MEA that’s engaged in promoting India’s image abroad, but is also aided by Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), which remains the pre-eminent instrument of cultural diplomacy. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting also lends support to the public diplomacy initiative with the ministry’s strategic use of the media, which is “responsible for international cooperation in the field of mass media, films and broadcasting, and interacts with its foreign counterparts on behalf of the Government of India.” Apart from these, many other Government agencies carry out programmes that promote the Indian image abroad and engage in public diplomacy, both independently and collectively.

Brand India was one such campaign that was organized by Indian Brand Equity Foundation and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, and the Confederation of Indian Industry. The Foundation’s “primary objective was to build positive economic perceptions of India globally. It aimed to effectively present the India business perspective and leverage business partnerships in a globalizing market-place.” To this end the Foundation developed a number of promotional campaigns, including brochures, films, print ads, and panels which emphasized India’s strong economy and encouraged national and international investment.

Many notable initiatives have been undertaken by the Indian government to engage in an effective public diplomacy campaign in order to promote India’s interests. Some of these programmes have been campaigns like ‘Pravasi Bharatiya Divas’ and ‘Know India’ programme specifically targeted at the huge and influential Indian diaspora that cannot not only, aid India’s development but as well as, promote its interests all over the world. Programmes like ‘Pravasi Bharatiya Divas’ and ‘Know India’ campaign have met resounding success as the number of delegates taking part have increased rapidly year after year.

Other initiatives include publications, documentary films and cultural events that showcase different facets of the Indian nation. One such popular publication is the “India perspective” magazine that is published in 17 languages and distributed over 150 countries in the world.  The magazine seeks to project India’s rich cultural heritage, its composite pluralistic society as well as its vibrant economy. The Indian Public Diplomacy Division also partners with major domestic and international universities, think tanks and research organizations to organize seminars and conferences on subjects that are relevant to India’s concerns, and hosts delegations from various countries and organizations to provide them with a broad-based exposure to India; along with organizing lectures and other events within India with the objective of fostering a more informed discourse on India’s foreign policy. These include lecture series on Indian foreign policy that have been organized by the Ministry of External Affairs in universities in India and abroad in UK, Indonesia and South Korea.

Indian diplomatic missions regularly organize Indian film and music festivals locally, where both commercial and classical music and films are screened. India to increase its outreach to foreign public, has invested in public diplomacy 2.0 to promote a two-way communication, which stresses more on ‘listening’ to the foreign public rather than ‘telling’. The Indian Public Diplomacy Division has also taken to the social media in a big way by creating and regularly updating its accounts on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

India has played a significant role in providing aid and development assistance to many countries in Africa and Asia. In Africa, for example, India has reached out to countries including Senegal and Ghana to help with projects ranging from rice production to information technology development. India has played a major role in infrastructural development in Afghanistan by building roads, highways, hospitals, schools, etc. which have won India not only admiration in Afghanistan but elsewhere as well. The role India plays in UN peacekeeping forces further augments India’s goodwill in the world.

India’s perception in the world is changing with India’s economic growth, its technological advancement, its de-facto nuclear status, its growing military capabilities and rising soft power and influence in the world. However, this is only one side of the story, as India’s glaring poverty (having the largest population of malnourished children in the world is a dear and troubling reminder of India’s struggles as the country develop).

Public diplomacy, despite its shortcomings remains an essential tool in the foreign policy arsenal of the Indian government to enhance its power and influence in the world. Public diplomacy is not merely a generic activity for disseminating data about India. It is not expected to be limited to detailing the economic growth and industrial potential of the country, and its democratic credentials. Public diplomacy is a target-oriented activity; both in terms of objectives and audience. Indian public diplomacy has to focus on dialogues with the foreign audience; it has to lay stress on the need for ‘strategic communication’. Public diplomacy today needs to have a better understanding of cooperation, collective interests and engagement with other nations. A very important instrument of soft power is public diplomacy, which cannot just restrict itself to propaganda anymore and has to look beyond and involve inter-cultural dialogues.

Indian public diplomacy can be augmented by increasing funding for cultural activities in Indian consulates and embassies. India should also try and develop cultural centers all over the world on the lines of British Council, American Information Resource Centers, Alliance Française and the Confucius Institutes started by China. These institutes increase their respective countries’ soft power by projecting a favorable image of their countries to the outside world through public relations exercises.  India should also expand its educational and professional exchange programs with foreign universities and organizations, and at the same time invite prominent members of civil society of other countries to facilitate a better understanding of Indian culture, interests and values, so that they can picture India in a favorable light. Innovativeness, foresight, marketing blitz, strategic planning and psychological management are imperative for any successful public diplomacy effort and thus India needs to invest handsomely in public diplomacy as it forms a connecting link between nations and provides a strategic leverage in foreign policy.



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