Monday, May 3, 2010

Shashi Tharoor: Why nations should pursue "soft" power

By Dominic P.

"Soft" power is the ability of a country to attract others. In this speech Shashi Tharoor talks about India using soft power and becoming a super power.

Tharoor starts the speech of talking about India becoming the next super power, and he does not like all the hype towards his country. He starts telling the audience facts about the country, the population, how it will be more populated than China by 2030. Also India is near the top for military strength, nuclear power, and economic strength, growing when the rest of the word falters. He goes on to say that not only will this make India a super power, but the attraction India has toward other countries. He claims that India has "soft" power which allows other countries to like India's culture, political values, and foreign policies. "Soft power is made partly from governments but also partly despite governments," Tharoor says, "MTV and McDonald's have done just as much work towards America's "soft" power than its governments have." He goes on saying that a very important key to soft power is communications. He says that India has came a long way, becoming the most connected country by having the most all news channels in the world; and they sell 15 million cell phones a month, where twenty years ago telephones were a rarity in the country - "not a need but a privilege". He gives several examples of India's communications, one is "Fishermen take cell phones out to sea so when the catch a load they will call and see which market along the coastline gives the best prices." India also develops soft power through entertainment with Bollywood making films that people enjoy worldwide, and a soap opera that was the biggest t.v. hit in Afghan history. Shashi shares that another way India is using soft power is through Indian cuisine. Many towns you will go to will have an Indian restaurant, even very small towns. He says stereotypes are changing about Indians from snake charmers to technology whizzes and computer guru's. He tells us about all the religions in India and how although they have a majority of people who are Hindu they have had many leaders who are of different religion, unlike the States who have been all Christian, and white until Obama. He finishes the speech by saying "It is not the size of the army that matters anymore, it is the country who has the best story." Meaning that soft power will work by attracting other people and countries instead of fighting and terrorizing other countries.

In my mind Shashi Tharoor makes a very good point about "soft" power working for countries instead or the size of the countries' armies. He states that showing people the true colours of the country and positive aspects of the country will be more likely to entice people to like India instead of them fighting and showing their military strength. I think this is very well put;only the "soft" power of a country can be very powerful. This will allow people to see what countries are like to live in and how good the lifestyle can be. However India may not be the best example of that now, because he only said all the good parts about India: people buying cell phones and using a very large communication networks. He did not mention the large amount of poverty India has until the end of the speech; there is still a very large population that live in the slums. At the end he says they can be a super power but they are also super poor. Saying this is kind of contradicting the other stuff, because the use of India's soft power may show all the good parts in India, but what about the poverty? So I think that soft power could be a very good thing if it is used in the right country.

Tharoor is a very good speaker and delivers his idea very well. He tells us many good facts about India and the good parts that will make soft power work. I know that he convinced me soft power is good and I am sure he has convinced others.

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