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Capitalising G20 Summit To Boost India’s Soft Power

As India is hosting the next G20 summit, it will have a chance to showcase its food and culture when leaders will come from countries which represent about 80 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product and 75 per cent of global trade

Photo Credit : PMO


Dinner is unlike any other when your guests are the world's top leaders. Indonesia, which hosted this year's G-20 summit, is seizing the opportunity to showcase its cuisine and culture, which will aid in its efforts to make friends and influence people.

The Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Retno Marsudi said that we want leaders to go with a positive impression of the nation. As a result, we serve them a variety of Indonesian foods and give them a taste of Indonesia’s rich culinary tradition, she added. 

As India is hosting the next G20 summit, it will have a chance to showcase its food and culture too when leaders come from countries representing about 80 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 75 per cent of global trade.

However, in the case of India, soft power is derived mainly from cinema and cricket, if one goes back in history, the cinema of Raj Kapoor was very popular in the Soviet Union. Another component of India’s soft power is Indian culture and yoga, says Martand Jha, Doctoral Fellow at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

Jha also said that the soft power of any country is more depends on how the government wants to portray and it is something which can’t be built in one day or one year, it takes major effort and time to build it, even decades.

In past, different countries have been shown their unique food and culture during G20 summits. For instance, Argentina, the first South American country to host the G20 in 2018, served a meat-heavy menu, just as then President Mauricio Macri was working out the details of resuming raw beef exports to the United States.

In 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a speech at the G20 as a “bridge of friendship” as leaders including then-US President Barack Obama dined on sweet and sour fish with toasted pine nuts.

Food and culture have been eternal parts of international diplomacy that transcend boundaries and barriers. 

Along the line, different countries like South Korea, Japan, Peru and the Nordic countries launched different agendas to boost their soft power. Peruvian government started tourism campaigns using trade fairs, cookbooks and food festivals to popularise delicacies such as pisco sour and ceviche.

South Korea’s cultural exports campaign has fueled a surge in consumer goods ranging from dumplings and spicy instant noodles to sugar candy inspired by the hit Netflix shows like Stranger Things and the Squid Game.

On the rise of Korean soft power in recent years, Jha says, Korea has been very good on all socio-economic indicators, apart from soft power, our film industry thinks that we don't need to perform better in the international market because our own market is so big. But the Korean entertainment industry has to perform well outside because its own entertainment market is very small.

He further says that in the case of India, we don't focus much on linguistic expertise as he takes inspiration from the Chinese administration officials who are experts in languages and can communicate more easily and widely.

In sum, India would have the opportunity next year at the upcoming G20 summit to project its soft power, however, it would need to convey to the international community what makes India pulsate.

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