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India's Buddhist Diplomacy: Cultural and Policy Advantages



  Mar 26, 2024

India’s Buddhist Diplomacy: A Tool for Cultural and Policy Gains



India’s engagement in cultural diplomacy, particularly through the lens of Buddhism, has seen substantial policy gains and strengthened its position within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region. This approach, termed ‘relic diplomacy’, involves the sharing and exhibition of cultural and religious relics internationally, serving as a bridge for cross-cultural communication. Instances such as the loan of Buddha’s relics to Thailand and the return of Queen St. Ketevan’s relics to Georgia exemplify India’s commitment to leveraging its rich historical and cultural heritage in foreign policy.

The sharing of Buddha’s relics with Thailand not only commemorates the cultural and religious ties between the two nations but also aligns with significant occasions such as the 72nd birth year of King Rama X. This event underscores the deep-rooted civilizational connections India shares with Thailand, reinforcing the mutual respect and values through religion and culture-led diplomacy.

Similarly, the return of Queen St. Ketevan’s relics to Georgia by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) highlights another facet of India’s cultural diplomacy. The gesture not only signifies the reverence for historical and spiritual figures but also strengthens India-Georgia relations, showcasing India’s ability to foster international goodwill and cooperation through cultural exchanges.

The significance of these diplomatic engagements goes beyond mere cultural exchanges; they play a crucial role in supporting India’s broader political and economic goals, including trade, connectivity, and security. The success of India’s relic diplomacy serves as a testament to the potential of cultural diplomacy in achieving policy ends and establishing a shared celebration of diversity and pluralism.

However, challenges loom as other countries, including Pakistan, begin to engage in similar forms of diplomacy. India must navigate these waters carefully, ensuring its efforts in cultural diplomacy remain authentic and impactful. The future of India’s relic diplomacy calls for a collaborative approach, integrating the efforts of the government and the private sector to further mutual benefits and enhance India’s cultural and policy stature on the global stage.

In conclusion, India’s strategic use of cultural diplomacy through Buddhism and its relics not only strengthens its relationships within the ASEAN region but also establishes a precedent for using cultural heritage as a powerful tool in international relations. The lessons and values embodied by figures like Lord Buddha and Queen St. Ketevan resonate now more than ever, highlighting the timeless relevance and potential of India’s cultural diplomacy.


SRIRAM’s


 


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