Bull Crossing

Knowledge is Bliss

India’s other software push

Posted by g.e. on September 30, 2006

FT on India’s other software push:
India’s ambitions to acquire “soft power” – the term used by Harvard academic Joseph Nye to describe the international influence a nation acquires when others are drawn to its culture and ideas – have soared. Next week, India will be guest of honour at the Frankfurt book fair and the subject of a four-month festival that opens at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels.

The two showcase events round off a year in which India has made a concerted effort to increase its “share of mind” to levels consistent with its own self-image as a major cultural power. India dominated discussions of the “creative imperative” at Davos in January, was “partner country” for the Hanover Trade Fair in May and then “theme country” at the Bonn Biennale, a culture fest for theatre lovers.

Independent of these set-piece events, Indian culture is gaining traction at street level and beyond the 22m diaspora. Bollywood cross-over movies and Bhangra dance hits appeal to growing mainstream audiences; sought-after Indian chefs in Los Angeles can practically write their own pay cheques; and sales of Indian art have this year been breaking records at auctions around the world.

As Prof Nye argues in an essay published this week in India Today, India still has far to go before it can rank as high on the various indices of potential soft power as the US, Europe and Japan. But its soft power is arguably growing more rapidly than that of China, its economic and military rival, where the Communist party limits creative freedoms, censors the internet and restrains outside influences.

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