Intro: The celebrations reflect a changing stance of India on the geo-political front and its assertion on laying claim to a larger scheme of things in the global affairs which it seemed was fast loosing.
The celebration of World Yog Day by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime has garnered much froth and adulation from both the domestic media and public at large. Different political and religious groups in India have tried making their own interpretations on the celebrations and some indeed connecting it directly with the religious and secularistic rights enshrined in the Indian democracy.
While that could surely be a point of discussion by some quarters the main point worth deliberating is whether celebrating International Yog Day (by a record breaking numbers) is just another event or does it really have any greater significant for the nation as a whole? And whether it needs to be purely interpreted on religious or ideological ground or does it have a greater relevance in larger scheme of things?
A small backgrounder on this will enumerate the pursuant role of this happening. Any expert or commentator of the geo-political affairs will vouch for the fact that in present times the soft power of any nation indeed plays an important role in its relevant position on geo-political platform. Soft power indeed has a much larger impact on geo-political affairs than the hard power of any nation and nations today try to find ways of incrementing their relevance through usage of this power The greatest success of this can be seen in USA, which effectively assimilated its geo-political aspirations with its soft power of Hollywood, American Multi National Companies (MNCs), business and political strategies in creating the aspirational and rather endemic “The American Dream”.
However in her 68 years of independence (barring a few instances) India has always remained a second or third fiddle in global scheme of things; this despite the fact that at every given point in history India had the position and reason (due to its geographical location and population) to have remained at a point of power in geo-political affairs. A much of this can be attributed to India’s lack of political will for patronising and projecting the Indian soft power.
Soft power was never considered an important aspect of Indian geo-political strategy and the successive governments since independence willfully remaining indifferent towards it. This not only curtailed wider knowledge about India but also stunted India’s position globally.
Another important trend however started happening during seventies, eighties and nineties. While the governments of the day were complacent and indifferent, the world started taking notice of something that was indeed marvelous about India.
Pushed by intermingling of western and eastern civilisations and steered by some individuals, the world started getting exposed to one of the finest practices known to humans but which remained confined to a selected few. Yog caught the western fancy like never before.
Due to its ease, calming effect and connection, practice took the entire world by storm. Yog studios started opening like anything and today in many cities of USA one could find Yog studios imparting different forms of Yog at every nook and corner and being visited by people of every religion and color.
People who have never heard of India (due to its indifferent desire to make itself a serious geo-political player) now at least know that their favourite yog indeed originated in the nation which boasts of the oldest surviving civilisation and tradition. Yog festivals, yog retreats and mass yog for peace and prosperity now form an integral part of many US cities both big and small.
What’s important here is to state that all this happened albeit indifference of the Indian Government or its leadership who kept ignoring this powerful soft power which was vested in their hands to reach the global audience and thereby incrementing their geo-political influence. The global Indian community themselves didn’t envisage if they could indeed use this soft power to increase their own relevance in their own places of residence.
The announcement of celebrations of International Yog day indeed shredded that much needed hibernation from slumber of the Indian Government in recognising the importance of this great soft power. The announcement itself seems to have caught fancy of the Indian diaspora who have announced similar events across the globe spanning from shores of Western to Eastern hemisphere.
Pankaj Sharma (The writer is a US based Geo-Political, Economic, Public Policy Expert)