Buddhism, India’s soft power projection tool

In this article, we have discussed Buddhism, India’s Soft Power Projection tool in detail, and possible UPSC CSE Mains questions!

What is the context?

  • India recently hosted a two-day global Buddhist summit in New Delhi. It saw participation from key figures from the global Buddhist community, including the Dalai Lama. 
  • The summit was organized by the Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the International Buddhist Confederation.
  • The summit was a significant opportunity for India to project and connect with the Buddhist population around the world, thereby strengthening the country’s soft power.

India’s Efforts in Buddhist Diplomacy

  • The Indian government has been actively investing in its Buddhist diplomacy efforts, with a focus on promoting tourism through the development of the “Buddhist tourist circuit”. 
  • Additionally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it a point to visit Buddhist sites during his Southeast and East Asian visits. 
  • By hosting such a high-profile event, the Indian government hopes to demonstrate its commitment to preserving and promoting Buddhist culture and heritage. It also strengthens ties with the global Buddhist community.

India’s Guiding Principles for Foreign Policy

  • India’s efforts to position itself as a great power committed to cooperation rather than coercion are rooted in its deep historical and cultural ties to the region. 
  • The current government’s guiding principles for foreign policy, Panchamrit principles, include “Sanskriti Evam Sabhyata,” which means cultural and civilizational links. 
  • Through such efforts, India hopes to reinforce its image as a responsible global power committed to peaceful cooperation and regional stability.

What is China Factor?

  • India recognises the importance of Buddhism as a means of conducting public diplomacy and has utilised it to its advantage. However, to maintain its edge over China, more action is needed. 
  • China is actively seeking to exert control over the appointment of the next Dalai Lama. It would be a challenge to India’s efforts to project its soft power through Buddhism.

What should India do to further strengthen its Buddhist diplomacy?

  • Promote Buddhism at the highest levels of government
  • Organize cultural events to showcase India’s rich Buddhist history
  • Strengthen ties with key Buddhist institutions and leaders around the world
  • Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) could play a significant role in promoting such events within and outside India.



  • By hosting the global Buddhist summit, India demonstrated its commitment to preserving and promoting Buddhist culture and heritage.
  • As nearly 97% of the global Buddhist population is based in Asia, Buddhist diplomacy has the potential to promote regional cohesion. However, India needs to take more action to maintain its edge over China. 
  • It is also competing to dominate the Buddhist heritage as a tool for soft power. 
  • Promoting Buddhism through cultural events and utilising the reach of Bollywood in promoting India’s Buddhist heritage could be a way forward.
  • As Buddha was the first diplomat of peace, his teachings of peace and cooperation in these tough times can become the guiding light of Indian diplomacy on the world stage.


Possible UPSC CSE Mains questions

  1. Discuss the significance of India’s efforts in Buddhist diplomacy and its potential to strengthen India’s soft power.
  2. What are India’s guiding principles for foreign policy, and how do they relate to its efforts in Buddhist diplomacy?
  3. Explain the China factor in India’s Buddhist diplomacy and the challenges it poses.
  4. What steps should India take to further strengthen its Buddhist diplomacy, and how could the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) play a role?
  5. Analyze the potential of promoting India’s Buddhist heritage through cultural events and Bollywood to enhance India’s soft power.

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