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Celebrity diplomacy

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A celebrity icon and promoter of humanism; Aphrodite’s child, but this time not Irena Papas, but Angelina Jolie…

Ever since experts acknowledged the presence of celebrity personas in the field of politics, different theories on how to classify their role in international relations appeared. In the last few decades numerous, mostly western celebrities began taking part in various development and humanitarian campaigns, focusing on eradication of poverty, expanding knowledge of such subjects and spreading awareness of the global issues. These positive effects are the reason celebrity diplomacy is getting increasingly more attention from the experts, as well as from the general public.

Despite the apparent positive role, there is always a certain amount of doubt amongst people: Whether celebrities are qualified political characters or not; are their campaigns doing more harm than good; are celebrities getting involved in diplomatic activities because of their ethical principles, to contribute in solving a particular issue, or solely in an attempt to self-promote? However, there is no doubt. Whether or not we like seeing celebrities in such positions, their endeavours are visible to everyone, as the role and the influence of the entertainment business, advertising, media and people in designing and organising society, its values and meanings play a huge part in today’s changing democracy and citizenship.

A whole number of reasons regarding the emergence of celebrity diplomacy exists. The world’s politicians, the media and the public see the existence of numerous places or even entire countries struck with poverty, famine, bloody wars and other global problems, as something self-evident and common. And because of the silent and numb political elite, a demand for an additional, different kind of approach in dealing with global and moral issues emerged.

 

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It is worth asking ourselves, how we see the whole process of solving certain serious global problems, due to celebrities getting involved with their actions. Politicians do of course discuss these global issues and inequality. They talk of an ideal world, which needs to be created. But no one asks, what hides behind the mask of all this charity of ours? Are the words of the international community just an imaginary plaster, whilst the real medicine is the philanthropy from celebrities? All of us show a certain amount of solidarity when it comes to global issues, poverty and disease. We all discuss the rights and the injustice happening to people all around the globe. We all support fighting poverty. But who are the ones who are truly ready to switch from words only, to actions? Who actually helps with donations? Today, actions speak louder than words. Celebrities getting involved with tackling the world’s problems face issues of famine, disease, poverty, violence, war and concentration camps. They are not the ones looking away from the problems and are not just initiating humanitarianism, but they become fully involved with their actions. That is where their added value lies. They become some sort of diplomats, helping the international community in solving those matters. They themselves know best what humanitarian work really means, furthermore, they get an overview of how countries’ political leaderships function which makes their words worth considering.

It is because of that, many of us have recognised celebrities as a new type of means for resounding activism and intervention. Public’s addiction to celebrity world, the famous individuals and their behaviour, all play a factor here. This became even more evident with the appearance of smart phones and technology advancements in recent years. It allows celebrities a lot greater interaction with the public, with more ways of creating public discourse than before, when that happened through literature, civil society and social groups. We praise celebrities as a much needed “tool” carrying enormous potential to alarm us all of the biggest global issues and show us their genuine desire for a change. That in a way is a vision on how to tackle the unjust forces of the world and trigger the sense of kindness and a wish for world peace throughout the mankind. To achieve that, the celebrities rely on their power of persuasion, influence and publishing, as they wish to bring order and righteousness to international relations. Their goal is humanitarian protection, including tracking and reporting on how countries deal with issues of human rights, pressuring the offenders, legal assistance and cooperation in creating the mechanisms to prevent people’s rights to be violated in the first place. In that sense, it is mostly about ethical and moral actions involving support of all kinds of values.

In order to get rid of the scepticism around the celebrity diplomacy completely, we need to specifically define and understand the activities of celebrity diplomats. Current definitions of these are out-dated, leaving out (perhaps intentionally) certain key elements. Celebrity diplomats pursue their political and humanitarian causes. Because of their recognition and status, they happen to have an excellent chance at addressing the major issues in the world, in a global information environment. Due to an unprofessional means of dealing with global issues, they appear as informal diplomats. Their involvement in the process of cooperation within the international community helps in developing and changing of that fact.

The Phenomenon of Angelina Jolie
One of the world’s most renowned celebrity diplomats is Angelina Jolie. In the past years an increasing number of celebrities are getting involved in politics and with that, their relations have progressively become more formal, intense and nevertheless more significant. But what makes Angelina Jolie stand out?

It is clear that her looks are what predominantly gets a huge deal of attention – her exotic beauty combined with specific elegance and femininity she radiates are the reason why she has been chosen multiple times by the media as the most attractive woman in the world. But is it her beauty, or in fact only her beauty, becoming exposed in her work? The luscious figure and full lips charm most people and get the media attention. But for a permanent attention of the public, the media and nevertheless the politicians, more is required. You need to be charismatic and have grace, things you either have, or you don’t. Angeline has both. The charisma and boldness, adventurous mischievousness and her self-sacrificing humanitarian work are something to admire. She has certainly shown she understands and is aware of her own fame, looks and how extremely photogenic she is. She has made good use and took advantages with these attributes, which helped her get the world’s media attention for global causes she stands for. Nevertheless, it is not all about being a pretty icon, it’s the substance that matters just as much. The beauty attracts and appeals, but still, it is transient. You get an initial interest and if the substance is good, success is assured.

Angeline, the Aphrodite of our time, a Greek goddess of femininity, beauty and love, first showed her concern with the issues of global development before the filming of the movie Lara Croft – Tomb Raider in Cambodia, back in 2000. Soon after, she became an ambassador, travelling in the name of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to various crisis areas. Her concern, interest and determination to help refugees, bring awareness to the global public of their struggle, whilst also lobbying for international aid, have become her passion and she has set herself very high standards of operation.  Since 2001, when she was declared a Goodwill ambassador she has been on over 40 different field missions in some of the world’s most remote regions of the planet, all with the intention of bringing awareness of the refugee status and their protection. In large part those consisted of visits of the refugee centres across the globe, in particular the ones in Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Cambodia, Haiti, Namibia, Congo, Russia, Jordan, Egypt, United States of America, Darfur, Lebanon, Pakistan, New Delhi, San Jose, Chad, Syria, Iraq, Kabul, Sri Lanka and Thailand; and many others UNHCR visits, in places like Kosovo, Kenya and Lebanon. It is assumed many were left wondering at the beginning of her humanitarian activities about how much luggage she was going to bring on her missions to the endangered zones, whether she would ask for special treatment, expensive hotels etc. But it was nothing like that at all – on these missions she covered her own expenses and lived in the same basic working and living conditions as the rest of the UNHCR workers. This shows her in an entirely different light and exposes the quality and greatness she has, which are so rare to find in people. And if someone like Angelina Jolie possesses those, then the response to her activities and the mission she is on becomes very significant and noble.

In 2012, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres appointed Angelina Jolie as Special Envoy, for her years long cooperation with the UNHCR, and sacrificing her time trying to solve the refugee issue. In her newly assigned and extended role, Angelina Jolie focuses on the worst of crisis, which cause massive emigration. She became a proponent and a representative of the UNHCR and Guterres in diplomatic circles, whilst also debating the topics with people who have the most power to change things regarding world’s emigration problems. With such activities, she gets involved in the processes of finding solutions for people, who were forced to emigrate because of conflicts.
Amongst her UNHCR missions, her goal is to defend the rights of refugees and emigrants and prompt the political elite worldwide to play a bigger, more active role. Since 2001, she has donated more than 5 million dollars to these causes, using some of the funds to build schools in locations like Kenya and Afghanistan, whilst also using money to raise the quality of living for people who have been forced to flee. Furthermore she continues to visit places around the globe, to fight for people’s rights and to ensure people receive aid in case of natural disasters, in vulnerable communities where predominately children live, and in environment protection. In 2003 she launched the Maddox project called “Jolie – Pitt Foundation, focusing on agriculture, education, healthcare, profession training, infrastructure and rural planning in Cambodia. She has also opened a National centre for refugees and their children, which provides free legal aid to young asylum seekers. In a partnership with Microsoft, she founded an organisation Kids in Need of Defence, which also provides free legal aid to children who came to the United States of America without their parents or legal representatives. In its first two years, the organisation itself donated 500 000 USD, apart from also paying numerous expenses created to help the refugees and children in the third world countries.

She continued with her humanitarian work by joining Council on Foreign Relations, where she took part in creation of different kinds of reports, as well as taking the initiative to increase actions leading to prevent genocide from occurring amongst other mass atrocities. After visiting Haiti a number of times in 2010, she then founded the Jolie Legal Fellows Program, to enhance government capacity around the rule of law. The programme places young lawyers within the existing structures in Haiti to support the government’s child protection efforts. The foundation Jolie-Pitt has meanwhile provided funding for juvenile centres in Cambodia and Ethiopia, where they use innovative and thorough treatments on children infected with the HIV virus and tuberculosis. It is evident Angelina donated large sums of money. But does money truly rule the world? It definitely is life saving in some hardships life throws at people worldwide, however it does not solve the world’s issues completely. It contributes to small and subtle changes through daring and active celebrities. Kind deeds and values are things that mean something. Maybe today, money’s importance is being undermined by time or even knowledge – we could even say that knowledge rules the world, and that money is just another product of knowledge.

Humanitarian work as a moral obligation
At this point, it is clear that the humanitarian work and activities have become somewhat of a moral obligation, and an indicator of how important solidarity between people all around the world is. This is widely being used by numerous international organizations, which challenge traditional discourse of power in ways that encourage the power of moral awareness, something often not present in politics. Angelina Jolie has moral and ethical values, which she believes in and fights for, separating her from other politicians and giving her an extra amount of credibility worldwide. If avoiding taboo subjects is common among politicians, Angelina Jolie daringly exposes those, even in her movies. In her movie “In the Land of Blood and Honey«, she focused on the events in the Balkans, systematic rape, concentration camps and the question of a possibility of an romance between the victim and the officer. With it, she wanted to point out the crimes against women worldwide, not just in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the mistakes of the international community, which failed to react just when they were supposed and expected to. It is also about a reflection of the horrid and brutal way of living in that period. For those reasons, she was made an honorary citizen of Sarajevo in 2012, whilst also receiving the Heart of Sarajevo, a special award in 2011 at the Sarajevo Film Festival, for her active engagement in the complexities of the real world. These days, the most recent of her movies “Unbroken” has caught public attention, which she directed herself and describes a story of Louis Zamperini. Zamperini was a participant of the 5000m race, at the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936, a mid-distance runner, who as an American WWII soldier in the Pacific, got captured by the Japanese. It is an adventure that goes from the highs of Olympic glory to the lows of life in a prisoner of war camp. The movie describes the athlete’s fate, his every day struggle of living in Japanese concentration camps, where he was put through some truly difficult situations. The Japanese authorities have already protested against it, claiming the movie is full of exaggeration.

Many of us have probably thought that the celebrities are too pretty, too “perfect”, famous and rich for anyone to take them seriously – but looking at Angelina Jolie negates all of that. Wherever she appears, she gets the attention of the entire world, being it Afghanistan, Iraq, America or Bosnia and Herzegovina. Because of her influence and recognisability she has access to world leaders and other significant and influential people, whilst at the same time having an important effect on the development of politics and founding programs for different global issues. In 2005, she travelled to Pakistan where she met up with refugees from Afghanistan. She also met the Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf and the country’s Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz. When she was in Syria for the first time, she also went to visit the American troops located there. The most resounding of her visits, as far as visits in our region go, was the one in Bosnia and Herzegovina in year 2010, when she wanted to meet the victims of the war who were forced to emigrate. Four months later, she returned and met with two members of the federal Bosnian presidency, Haris Silajdžić and Željko Komšić. It is definitely worth mentioning that she regularly attends events at the World Refugee Day, taking place in Washington; in 2005 and 2006 she also made public speeches at the World Economic Forum in Davos. She started lobbying for humanitarian work in Washington, where she, in year 2003 met with the members of the Congress. Universal values, ethics and morality are things celebrities have and which get built through dialog. Therefore, cooperation with the world’s leaders is extremely significant in order to make changes in the international community.
 
“Aphrodite’s Child” – living up to the fame of Irena Papas
Her dedication to humanitarianism has not gone unnoticed. In 2003, she became the first person to be awarded the Citizen of the World Award, by the United Nations Correspondents Association and in year 2005, she received the Global Humanitarian Award by the UNA-USA Organisation. The Cambodian king, Norodom Sihamoni awarded her with Cambodian citizenship on the 12th August 2005, for her conservative work in the country. Later, in 2007 she was awarded a Freedom Award from the International Rescue Committee. All of these prizes, awards and exceptional popularity scores, are a definite indicator of how significant, important and sophisticated her work really is. Diplomatic celebrity actions, which in Angelina’s case are long-term, influential and successful, are therefore gaining importance, by filling the gaps created by some of the weaknesses of traditional diplomacy.
It is time for different players of the international community to unite and act together in a fight with global issues and react in a unified spirit of a renewed multilateralism.

It is necessary to trigger conscience and a sense of joint responsibility when confronting problems, striving for universal ethics and moral beliefs as our guidance and a measurement of our political functioning regarding human rights as being our most fundamental matters.
There is something about celebrity diplomacy that makes it provocative and allows it to support aforementioned subjects. Through social networks, a simple celebrity tweet affects the global public far more, than a well-planned campaign.
Do we really need the celebrities to face global issues, which nevertheless appear far from the field of their primary work? We could say that we do. People with influence and power, who get worldwide attention, are in a unique position to affect the world’s issues themselves and the ways, in which they get solved. It is also true that celebrities, in the same way as politicians, get their power from the public. With the difference here being, that celebrities already have an established name, a recognisable and attractive face, and experience in public performance. Most importantly, the public trusts them more than they trust the politicians.
Could we say that the celebrities compromise their primary profession with their participation in politics and diplomacy? Most certainly not, in fact, it is quite the contrary. Angelina Jolie is not only the prettiest but also the best living proof of that not being the case at all.

 

First published by www.ifimes.org under the title: Angelina Jolie – a celebrity Aphrodite and a promoter of humanitarianism

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When Trump gets it right

Iveta Cherneva

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President Trump is criticized for many things but his choice of a US Ambassador to Bulgaria should not be among them. He got that right and he deserves credit for it.

The new US Ambassador to Bulgaria, Herro Mustafa speaks nine languages and  to someone with seven languages like myself that is massively impressive. She is currently learning Bulgarian, which will be her tenth language. How many US officials like that do you know?

Mustafa grew up with an intellectual role model in North Dakota. Her father was an investigative reporter, so in Bulgaria she wishes to champion media freedom, and for a reason. For that, she has met local Bulgarian support and is already making friends.

The Ambassador’s background and experience in Middle East politics acquired while she served in the Office of the Vice President, the Afghanistan Office, the Office of the Under-Secretary for Political Affairs and at the National Security Council, in addition to her diplomatic postings to Iraq, Greece and Lebanon, prepare her for her role in Bulgaria which is somewhat special when it comes to Middle East politics.

Bulgaria is not actively diplomatically involved in conflict resolution but nevertheless is strategically positioned as the EU external border country that is closest to the Middle East. The return of some ISIS fighters with EU passports from Middle East terrorism hot-beds will necessarily pass through Bulgaria as a gateway to the EU. And President Trump has been adamant that European nations with ISIS fighters need to take responsibility for them. What happens to ISIS fighters when they enter the EU for the first time – possibly in Bulgaria – is a key question. In this sense, Bulgaria’s function and the role of the US Ambassador will be key.

This was my first thought when I saw Ambassador Mustafa’s experience. It seems like Mr. Trump appreciated Bulgaria’s strategic role when appointing to the country exactly her.

Of course, apart from the hot-button issues there is a lot to be said about energy security and cooperation between the US and Bulgaria. Judging from her first meetings here, energy security will be a priority area for the Ambassador.

The US Embassy in Sofia has been traditionally involved in the area of cultural and educational exchange. And that is something that is appreciated by many local Bulgarians who have benefited from language programs, and not only.

It remains to be seen what Ambassador Mustafa’s long-term contribution will be to US-Bulgarian relations. She and her family with two young children are still settling in.

From first impressions though, it seems like Donald Trump made the right decision.

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Reassessing Realities of a Multi-Polar World Order

Zaeem Hassan Mehmood

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Multi-polarity has become prominent feature in the day to day vocabulary of diplomats, statesmen and policymakers. Former United States (US) Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton at her state visit to New Zealand was one of the first to observe “a shifting balance of power to a more multi-polar world as opposed to the Cold War model of a bipolar world”. The preceding United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon stated at Stanford University in 2013 that we have begun to “move increasingly and irreversibly to a multi-polar world”. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, declared at the Russia-China Conference 2016 that “international relations have entered into a conceptually new historical stage that consists in the emergence of a multi-polar world order and reflects the strengthening of new centers of economic development and power”.

These manifestations have since then revealed a general acceptance of the multi-polar notion as a concept that is unavoidable in the contemporary international dynamics. However, when it comes to the transitions and inevitability of the power structures, there is little agreement among the international states. 

The former Secretary of State, choice of words “more multi-polar world” reflected a reluctance to acknowledge the complete disappearance of unipolarity. A much stronger resistance to forego unipolarity remains embedded in the Trump administration vision to “make America great again”. Lavrovhas declared that “unipolar world order as untenable” in current climax of power politics. Nevertheless, pundits such as Robert Kaplan continue to question, whether there is an overlap of unipolar and multi-polar world realities; where US continues to retain the supremacy in military realm of affairs and is anticipated to remain so for a considerable future time, whereby China leads in the economic realm. Additionally nations in the former Third World are acquiring status as rising powers, notably India who have over the years with smart diplomacy have acquired global outreach to shape international agenda.

Lessons from History

The Westphalian system originating in 1648 has organized global politics on the basis of sovereign states and their relations for over three and a half centuries, despite successive world orders and configurations of power. The changes brought in by various international developments although bringing changes to power distribution, did not have an impact on the essence of Westphalian ideals. The advent of nuclear weapons in the 20th century, did however set stage for mutually assured destruction (MAD) which dissuades nuclear weapon states from wars. It is the reason that historians and strategist provide for the demise of Cold War hostilities, from bipolarity to unipolarity, brought in by rather peaceful means and did not involve hegemonic wars as documented in preceding times.

Several occasions in history, add to the useful insights for a modern world in transition. Two centuries ago, a unipolar order came to a conclusion, giving rise to a multi-polar system with the defeat of Napoleon by the combined strength of Russia, Britain, Austria and Prussia. The Congress of Vienna, provided for a reorganization of European geopolitical frontiers diplomatically that brought relative stability in the continent for coming decades. The Concert of Europe, as it was known, was the precursor to the high-level conferences to which world leaders and diplomats are accustomed to this day. The Holy Alliance, which nevertheless was repressive and conservative in methods is considered by western historians as pioneer for preserving peace.

France defeated in battlefield, several times in post-Napoleon was not subjected to a humiliating treatment by the victors. This was due to the fact that the objective of the other European powers was to thwart a return to unipolarity.  It was the exclusion of the Ottoman Empire from the negotiating table that sowed the seeds for the Crimean War, a prelude to the First World War of 1914. Multi-polarity for most part of the history has been reactionary rather than progressive, and hegemonic rather than democratic. In Europe, cooperation was provided to further silence and repress the dissent contributing towards nationalist uprisings. The Versailles Treaty, in the aftermath of First World War was notoriously less efficacious than the Vienna settlement in advancing stability, the most obvious reason being the punitive treatment accorded to a defeated Germany. In stark contrast, lessons to some extent were learnt and the agreements emanating from World War II, were a new example of magnanimity towards the defeated, a wise and pragmatic step. The Charter of UN, limited the use of force and required self-restraint on the part of the victorious powers. It was a commendable step in international relations, at least in theory if not in practice, as has been demonstrated over the years.

21st Century Realities

A number of characteristics in the 21st century that were absent from previous transitions provide for a number of unique opportunities and challenges. The increasing global interconnectedness among states and societies via trade, investment, and media strengthens the interdependence nature of relation providing an impetus for peaceful transition. On the other side, this increase in connectivity may be exploited by warring state and non-state actors for their destabilizing agendas. Among the most notable unifying elements is the challenge posed by global warming and climate change. For the first time in human history, community of nations are forced to confront the stark reality that redemption requires cooperation. It affects countries large and small independently of their level of development. Similarly, is the global drug problem that also comes under the paradigm of “common and shared responsibility”. The appearance on the world stage of numerous non-governmental organizations promoting causes from disarmament and non-proliferation to free trade represent an evolution of history that cannot be overlooked. Differently from the 19th century’s euro-centric multipolar experiment, a 21st century multipolar world order will be universal in scope.

Conclusion

The most original feature of the new configuration of power in the 21st century, is the fact that a non-Western power will assume after the many centuries, the leading position at helm of world economy. China’s economic growth is anticipated to translate into increased diplomatic influence and power. A resurgent Russia is also expected to wield considerable military might. European Union in the wake of Brexit, to survive needs a renewed sense of cohesion with Germany and France taking the lead role.

In the scholarly literature, there is no consensus on whether multi-polarity is unstable than bipolarity or unipolarity, as is popularly believed. Kenneth Waltz strongly was in favor of “bipolar order as stable”. On the other side, Karl Deutsch and David Singer saw multi-polarity as guaranteeing a greater degree of stability in an article published in 1964, “Multipolar Systems and International Stability”. Simon Reich and Richard Ned Lebow in “Goodbye Hegemony” (2014), question the belief whether a global system without a hegemon would be unstable and more war prone.

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India’s Ministry of External Affairs is one of the best in South Asia

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In his exclusive interview for PICREADI Alexey Kupriyanov, Russian expert on India, reveals some secrets of Indian soft power and states that India’s External Affairs is one of the best in South Asia. But why?

Is India the subject or the object of soft power? How does India see its soft power approach in the world and does it see it at all?

India as any other country is at the same time both the object and the subject. With great importance attached to India by the great powers trying to ensure for themselves India’s support, the country is the object. It is well proved by the US soft power programs targeted at India. Numerous meetings, promotion of dialogue with experts and Indian youth, and business trips invitations are used by the US.

At the same time India is the soft power subject. That is why we should apprehend its political worldview. Their world consists of three concentric zones: the immediate neighborhood, extended neighborhood zones and the rest of the world. The immediate neighborhood zone includes the Indian subcontinent and all the neighboring islands, the extended neighborhood zone includes Eastern Africa, Central Asia, the coastal areas of the Arabian sea, Middle East and South East Asia. That is the zone that is influenced upon by India’s soft power. India is not able to use the hard power there due to the lack of resources, as well as necessity and will. So, the soft power develops.

Undoubtedly its influence spreads upon the rest of the world: it is enough to recall Indian films, Yoga days and the demonstration of its beautiful, old culture which dates back to 3000 B.C. Anyway, in the immediate neighborhood and extended neighborhood zones the Indian soft power programmes are much more extensive and detailed. The Indians organize military and police trainings, young politicians courses and etc., as a result a number of pro-Indian experts, officials and politicians emerge.

How is the system of public diplomacy structured in India? Does the government play significant role in this structure?

India’s system of public diplomacy works intensively through Indian Embassies, to which cultural, press and educational attaches are attached. Indian embassy maintains closest contacts with Indian, pro-Indian and India-linked circles, or at least tries to establish contacts with them. India will use everything that can be used to achieve the goals of public diplomacy. ISKCON represents a good example of this trend. In India itself they are regarded not so well, but abroad they represent Indian culture and so they are treated differently, because if you have something to do with ISKCON you will be pro India a priori.

The Raisina Dialogue, which has been held for some years, is a key expert event in the field of international relations and diplomacy. What is the aim of this events? To improve the image of the country? Or to organize international cooperation?

In fact, it is not the only one such event in India, there is a lot of various events. Raisina Dialogue is the most well-known one. Schools of young politicians are held in India on the regular basis. This instrument is now intensively used by both the West ant the East. Generally, big forums and conferences invite foreign experts to establish relations with their Indian counterparts. Young politicians schools last for one month or month and a half, there are lectures and the participants communicate with each other.

I know those who participated in these programs, and they got quite impressed, because it was the first time they visited the country and lived in it. This people leave the country with absolutely different feelings, because they already know the country, they love it and leave the country being an advocate of the Russian-Indian friendship, for instance.

So, the government of India is willing to develop the country’s positions in terms of soft power?

That’s true, Indian Foreign Ministry rigorously follows this sphere and successfully implements all the necessary programs. Indian Foreign Ministry is truly one of the best in South Asia.

In spite of the fact that the idea of non-violence is a traditional leitmotif of Indian policy, the most privileged strategic partnership with Russia develops not in the soft power, but in military-technical cooperation. What are the prospects of diversification of Russian-Indian partnership?

In fact, it is already quite diversified. Our cultural and scientific center (Russian Center for Science and Culture in New Delhi – “CD”) proactively works on strengthening of our culture ties and has already achieved considerable success. The ground is fertile there. Cultural links between Russia and India date back to the late 19th century, we should remember that Tolstoy’s ideas shaped Gandhi’s worldview. There are a lot of Soviet textbooks, printed in the Soviet Union in Indian languages, which were used by several generations. Russia’s image in India is still very positive, mostly thanks to this background.

Does it influence the youth as well?

Sure, it influences the youth less. First, our work in this aspect is not enough, second, back then we were a superpower and now we are not. It is clear that the youth incline towards the US, but with great influence of their families and social attitudes, the country has positive perception of Russia.

A lot of Indians visit Russian Center for Science and Culture in New Delhi leaded by Fiodor Rozovsky to learn the language, Russian culture and national dances. One of the central streets in New Delhi is called Tolstoy Marg, there are monuments to Tolstoy, Pushkin, in Nehru park there is a monument to Lenin, with floral breathes. For sure India is interested in Russia as well as Russia is interested in India. Cultural ties are okay, but economic ones are much more fragile.

China is far richer, but India holds all the nonfinancial actives and is able to carry out religious projects in South East Asia.

Russian-Indian partnership is developing against escalating Indian-Chinese confrontation on a great number of strategic issues (differences on the “One belt one road” initiative, etc.). There is a confrontation in cultural areas as well. May India take advantages of the drawbacks of Chinese model? In which countries it might do it?

Firstly, we should clarify the terms. India isn’t Chinese adversary, foe, it is Chinese rival in some infrastructural and political influence projects in South East Asia and border areas. India doesn’t strongly oppose the Belt and Road project. It is against China using disputed territories, as the China – Pakistan Economic Corridor goes through the lands over which India claims its sovereignty. China didn’t asked permission of India to do so. It represents an acute political issue, but there is no existential confrontation. If this issue is resolved, the problem will cease to exist.

Generally speaking, culturally India and China have been closely linked for a long period of time. It is enough to recall the evolution that underwent the image of bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara after it had negotiated the Himalayas, had feminised and had turned into the Godness of the hearth Guanyin.

Their economic ties are of the same importance. China is a major exporter of goods in India and one of the major investors into Indian economy. Despite all the differences, the countries continue to trade and the turnover is rapidly rising. So, we should discuss China-India rapprochement, as the Doklam confrontation was set aside in the context of prime minister’s Modi visit to Wuhan and rising cooperation.

Indian – Chinese confrontation in the soft power sphere can hardly be discussed, as the countries offer fundamentally different product. There are countries oriented towards China, there are countries oriented towards India, some countries manage to successfully combine these directions. China is far richer, but India possess all the non-financial actives and may carry out religious diplomacy projects in South East Asia. Small countries try to get on with both countries, for example in some infrastructural project they rent a port for reconstruction to China and the nearby airport to India.

One of the largest elements of soft power is the higher education. What about Indian soft power implementation through education?

It is all right. India invites foreign students, and there is nothing difficult in going to India to study, as they have a lot of educational programmes. Jawaharlal Nehru University, the University of Delhi and all the major universities exercise programs for foreign students. They are backed by the government.

There is an opinion that India could promote its own model (including the global governance model), which is different from the liberal Western one and the Chinese authoritarian one, through education. Is that true?

To do so, India should first make up such model. I would argue that the Chinese model is an authoritarian model. On the contrary, China undertakes attempts to create “a community of shared future for mankind” and accuses Western countries of authoritarianism and neocolonialism. Nowadays China is proactively inviting students from the Third World countries to train them as pro-Chinese, but on the other hand China isn’t interested in these students building specific African socialism under the auspices of a local Communist Party. It is mainly aimed at developing communication with Chinese people and promoting cooperation of China and their country of origin. India is doing something similar, it trains pro-Indian personnel, which transmits Indian influence and advocates friendly relations with India.

In case of India, Indian diaspora’s potential is of particular interest (It is one of the largest in the world). External policy of Indian prime minister Modi features direct appeal to Indian diaspora overseas. How does the diaspora influence Indian image abroad?

Firstly, as the Indian diaspora is so numerous, the appeal to it is a permanent feature of Indian policy. It has been shaping since Indians were settling down in the Indian ocean region, exercising their soft and not-so-soft power in South East Asia, establishing Indian and Buddhist kingdoms, settling down in Eastern Africa before the European reached the region. Under the British Empire it scaled up with British hiring Indians and sending them to the most remote corners of the vast empire. This is how Indian colonies were established in Barbados, Fiji, developed in Eastern Africa and in the Gulf countries.

The diaspora’s potential is quite a difficult question. Diaspora is one of the major sources of money, particularly the diasporas in rich countries, such as the Gulf countries. Indians go there to earn money, but they have no civil rights there and barely integrate into local communities: Indians can’t be granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia and so they live in the country as workers. They send money to India.

In the US Indians integrate into society and step-by-step become more Americans than Indians. There was a wide spread opinion that Indian diaspora is exceptionally large and powerful in the US. Indeed, it is huge and some of the representatives of the diaspora occupy quite high positions in the Senate and the Congress. But the US Indians are americanised.

The result of this phenomenon is evident in the outcome of the attempts to exempt India from US sanctions, which would have been introduced, if India had bought the S-400 missile system. And all of a sudden Indian diaspora proved to be totally useless in solving the issue. A great number of articles by distinguished americanised Indians calling to stop putting pressure on India were published in Indian and US top media resources, in The Diplomat, NYT and others, but it produced no results. It became clear that Indian diaspora on which so many hopes were placed turned out to be useless in solving conflicts of interest.

Indians that are engaged in public affairs in the United States put the US interests over Indian and consider the US-India rapprochement through the lens of US interests. So, India managed to suspend the sanctions without diaspora’s help, but thanks to the highly important geopolitical interest of containing China secured by Pentagon and the Department of State, which needed India to be friendly neutral. This impotence of the diaspora should be reflected on.

In other countries the character of diaspora’s influence is much more specific. The inability of diaspora to get along with the local population of Fiji constitutes continuous problem for Indian government. Indians living in the Middle Eastern countries become a financial source for the country, but once a war starts India evacuates its citizens spending a great deal of money, as it happened in Yemen.

What is more Indians left some colonial heritage, which is particularly evident in Eastern Africa. When the British colonised Eastern Africa, Indians were much more loyal to the British and so they became merchants, policemen, minor officials, that is why when the liberation movements started, they were sometimes treated even worse than the British. For instance, Indian diaspora failed to survive in Zimbabwe; in the South African Republic, vice versa, the diaspora is thriving and is engaged in political affairs. Somewhere the diaspora is economically powerful, but totally passive from the political point of view, somewhere it is all around.

In Russia Indian diaspora is not so large. Could it be used as a soft power instrument in Russia?

There are Indians who settled in the Soviet Union, who studied here, got married, born children, and got russiafied. They have a significant role in the Russia-India rapprochement. These are businessmen, journalists.

There are several reasons why the diaspora in Russia is not so large. Firstly, language barrier, secondly, the climate. Indians suffer from the lack of sunny days in winter more than from cold. Finally, we have a state dominated by a major nation unlike in the US, for example. In the Los Angeles you’ll see an American nation shaping in real time by Afro-Americans, Koreans, Chinese, Latin Americans and other peoples, so Indians will have this sense of belonging. In Russia the vast majority speaks Russian, there is a tiny minority of migrants from the non-CIS countries. There is an Indian diaspora in Russia and it is living quite good, but politically it has no influence. Their main role is to establish relations. It helps others, maintains relations with the motherland.

In terms of soft power, private media in India is of particular interest. One of the recent examples is the so called “modimania”. From your point of view, why this phenomenon has emerged?

First of all Modi is well received by the diaspora. When he visits a country, he is cheered as national leader, under whose governance the country is transforming into a great power.

Modi as a politician is quite interesting personality. He is as powerful, as those who made new Indian history: Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi. Under the last prime minister Manmohan Singh, characterized by Indians as a weak leader, some issues were talked down, he wasn’t able to act strongly. He should take into account interests of numerous small groups, particular personalities. That resulted in stalemate. He was quite predictable, the country has been developing economically, but he wasn’t able to undertake sharp policies.

Modi is so different from him. He is perceived as “a miracle worker”: he launched the “India cleaning programme” (creating a system of public lavatories and street cleaning) in 2004, which his precedents weren’t able to realize. Taking into account the scale of the problem, it seemed to be impossible, but in 5 years he managed to put it in practice. Nowadays India differentiates from the India of the past. Modi promises to provide everyone with gas, water, and electricity before his term ends. Modi is criticized, but his achievements should be acknowledged.

Modi’s charisma is evident in his speeches. He feels the audience quite well, which is so rare. He is able to seize the interests of the audience, its attention and speaks about the issues it is interested in, changing the line of the speech as soon as he needs it. Other public politicians aren’t able to do so. Modi is not only a public politician; he is also the head of the state.

What is more, he is the same as the majority of Indians: he is a Hindu, and he doesn’t show off his secularism. In Russia we usually make jokes of the elements of national identity, but for Indians Modi embodies Indian national identity. In spite of a great number of different groups in Indian population, the majority of Indians are rural Hindu, who speak Hindi and other similar languages. They respect Hinduism, respect the elderly and cherish traditions. Modi perfectly matches the image of Indian leader. On the one hand he is quite experienced, on the other, he is energetic, ascetic in everyday life, single as he wants to devote his life to the country. He creates for himself an image of an ideal Golden Age leader and at the same time a 21st century leader who respects traditions and uses an iPhone.

Where does the most well-known element of Indian mass culture – the cinema stand? There are any prospects for it in Russia?

The elderly grew up with Roger Kapur’s films. They were extremely popular. Surprisingly enough it may sound but our young population watch Indian films and TV series (“Baahubali”, for example). In comparison with Hollywood films, the Bollywood ones are still quite popular. What’s more there is not only Bollywood films, but also films of other Indian productions.

Nevertheless, these films are much more popular in the immediate neighborhood and extended neighborhood zones: in Afghanistan, in the Middle East and in South East Asia. A great deal of Bollywood films is made in Hindustani. It is a kind of lingua franca for Hindi and Urdu speakers, it uses basic vocabulary, which is familiar to both Pakistani, and Indians. Afghani and Arabs use these films to master the language, as they usually watch these films and TV series.

Where does the most well-known element of Indian mass culture – the cinema stand? There are any prospects for it in Russia?

The elderly grew up with Roger Kapur’s films. They were extremely popular. Surprisingly enough it may sound but our young population watch Indian films and TV series (“Baahubali”, for example). In comparison with Hollywood films, the Bollywood ones are still quite popular. What’s more there is not only Bollywood films, but also films of other Indian productions.

Nevertheless, these films are much more popular in the immediate neighborhood and extended neighborhood zones: in Afghanistan, in the Middle East and in South East Asia. A great deal of Bollywood films is made in Hindustani. It is a kind of lingua franca for Hindi and Urdu speakers, it uses basic vocabulary, which is familiar to both Pakistani, and Indians. Afghani and Arabs use these films to master the language, as they usually watch these films and TV series.

How does India manage to combine so acute social problems (poverty, terrorism, etc.) and development of cutting-edge and military technologies? How a country can be so attractive abroad with such domestic problems?

Frankly, it fails to combine it. No one is happy with the poverty. On the other hand, a sound economic reform is underway, the middle class is expanding, poverty, dirt on the streets, lack of electricity and astonishing customs are disappearing.

India reminds me of the China of 1980s, the country is still poor, but its economy is ready to skyrocket. The population is becoming richer and the old problems are being gradually resolved. There is a sparkling difference when you see Gurugram, Hyderabad and Bengaluru business centers in the midst of suburbs or jungles where illiterate peasants live. This difference will vanish. The Indians take it for granted as they can’t do anything about it. They try to conceal its domestic problems to preserve its image abroad, as any other country does, I believe. India is a developing, densely populated country, that avoids rapid decisions.

In conclusion, I would like to mention Indian religious soft power, in particular Modi’s religious diplomacy which is one of a kind. In different times India developed the idea of hindusphere, a Great India. Earlier, in Chola times Indians transferred Hinduism and Buddhism through the whole region, conducting a cultural expansion in the direction of South East Asia.

Under the British Empire another phenomenon came to existence. This is a so called “Indian subempire”, when the vice-king ruled the country and tried to expand its influence. So, Eastern Africa and the Middle East become influenced and controlled by India. After the First world war India seriously considered the plans to annex Iraq and former German part of Eastern Africa, which is Tanzania nowadays. India’s current approaches to the Asian West and the Asian East result from these two epochs of Indian history.

In terms of soft power India took advantages of these two epochs. It is far more active on the East, Modi reminds the country about the Golden Age, periods before the Muslim conquest, and in those times, India was much more active on the East. Today’s idea of the Indian-Pacific region perfectly matches this notion, as it says that India should develop its ties with countries, with which it had ties before the Muslims and the British. These are the Malay Archipelago and the whole South East Asia. But as India also proclaims itself to be the major force in the Indian ocean, it should balance its activities and pay attention to the West. Ties with the countries to the West should be also maintained, India should carry out projects in Africa, buy oil from the Gulf countries. So volens nolens it should cooperate with the countries to the West.

From our partner PICREADI

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