Is the world ready for India’s cultural renaissance?

India has turned into diplomat using culture as soft power in the modern world

Amna Hashmi May 29, 2024
The writer is pursuing M Phil in International Relations from Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore. E-mail her at


Formerly a colonised society and a receiver of cultural imperialism, India has now turned into a diplomat using culture as the soft power in the modern world. This act of reverse colonisation gives an insight into how India has been using the soft power diplomacy to extend the geographical outreach and control in the global society. The question now is: is the world prepared for the cultural awakening of India?

India’s cultural diplomacy is seen in the grand manner in which festivals are celebrated and this draws international attention and participation. The weddings of the Ambani family, for instance, are not mere family functions but cultural displays. At Akash Ambani and Shloka Mehta’s wedding in 2019, the guests included world leaders like Hillary Clinton and Sundar Pichai, who got a taste of the lively Indian traditions. In the recent past, Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant’s ‘pre-wedding festivities’ had global celebrities like Mark Zuckerberg, Rihanna and Bill Gates in attendance and they performed Indian customs and wore Indian outfits. These events demonstrate how India is capable of ‘compelling’ the world’s upper crust into its cultural sphere, thereby augmenting its soft power.

The impact of Indian culture is not limited to such glamorous weddings only. British pop star Ed Sheeran’s recent trip to India, during which he was seen dancing to traditional Indian folk dances such as Dhumka and Bhangra, is symbolic of this. Sheeran’s interaction with Indian culture was not only a show, but it was a promotion and appreciation of India’s cultural diversity. Such acts by international celebrities help in spreading India’s cultural influence and create a good image of the country across the globe.

India has also been practising and exporting yoga and Ayurveda from the ancient times. Yoga, which was initially practised by only a few people in the western world, has gained immense popularity with millions of people practising it. The fact that the United Nations has declared June 21st as the International Day of Yoga is an indication of its universality. Ayurveda is a traditional Indian system of medicine that has gained popularity in recent years due to its comprehensive health management system that is now a trendsetter in the world.

Indian food has gained popularity and there are Indian restaurants in most cities of the world today. In the field of fashion, Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Manish Malhotra are some of the designers who have gained international recognition, dressing Hollywood celebrities for events like Met Gala and Oscars. Some of the festivals include Diwali and Holi which are observed by the Indian community and have been embraced by the non-Indian population as well.

From a geopolitical viewpoint, these cultural events and influences are not mere festivities; they are weapons in India’s soft power kit. Thus, presenting itself as a cultural power, India demonstrates its cultural potential to the world and attracts the attention of the global elites. This cultural diplomacy helps in building goodwill, furthering bilateral relations and establishing India on the international platform. This strategy is well illustrated by the high-profile weddings of the Ambani family where cultural events are used to engage international personalities and advance diplomacy.

India’s strategic employment of cultural diplomacy simply underlines the fact that there is a positive change in the global attitude towards its cultural value system. As India rises to become a dominant player in the global economy and pop culture, it will only continue to influence and improve the world’s cultural landscape.

Will this trend persist and continue to transform cultural terrains across the world? It seems that the colourful traditions of India are ready to open the next chapter of the global culture. Is the world prepared for India’s cultural revival? The indications are that the world is not only prepared for, but is welcoming this cultural renaissance with open arms, thus paving the way for a new age of cultural dominance from India.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2024.

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