Shashi Tharoor wants cordial relations with countries investing in India

India should leverage its ‘soft power' to tackle its internal challenges like food security and poor infrastructure, former Union Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor observed here on Sunday.

Speaking to the members of 15 Rotary Clubs of Rotary International District 3230 on “India: an e-Merging Superpower”, he said he was not a votary of the term ‘superpower'. “India can't be a superpower and super poor at the same time,” he quipped, lamenting over the country's deficiencies despite becoming economically very strong.

The Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram was categorical that no foreign policy would be efficacious unless it attended to the internal challenges of the nation. And India's foreign policy could be justified only if its security, prosperity and the well-being of the people were taken care of. “Our current economic prosperity should be balanced against poverty, poor infrastructure and power shortages.” And there should be an earnest attempt to transform Indian villages.

Advocating a more pragmatic approach, he wanted India to maintain cordial relations with the countries that would invest in India and help the country meet challenges such as food security, which was assuming a very grave magnitude. “As food demands are exceeding our capacity, we may even have to acquire tracts of land in other countries to produce more,” he added. Mr. Tharoor asserted that India's “biggest asset” was its ‘soft power'. Elaborating, he said that despite having military might the US lost in Vietnam. Had it remained only with its military power, it would have just remained a bully. But it had leveraged its ‘soft power' of attracting the people of other nations through its products including Hollywood. There was even a “conscious governmental effort in America to attract people from everywhere”.

Mr. Tharoor cited Alliance Française of France, and Confucius Institutes and Beijing Olympics of China as excellent examples of a “conscious governmental effort” to attract foreigners.

At the same time, he admitted India did not have any meaningful government programme to attract people of other nations.

In spite of that, it was emerging on its own. For instance, Bollywood and Indian television had won acclaim and fans worldwide. Yoga clubs and Ayurveda units were proliferating abroad, and even Indian cuisine had become very popular in various parts of the world. He said culture could be very good instrument to improve national resources “but we don't leverage them enough”.

India should free itself “not only of terrorism but also of the daily terror of poverty” by leveraging its ‘soft power', he concluded.