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Vipin Garg asked: How important is the role of soft power in international relations? Isn’t India losing out to China in its immediate neighbourhood as well as in Africa?

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  • Anit Mukherjee replies: Soft power is a desirable trait in international relations but is of limited utility in times of war. And, if the organising principle of international relations is the state of anarchy between nations, then soft power reveals to be not that powerful after all. At the same time, soft power does have a certain diplomatic appeal - it helps to win friends and convince people. Also in the field of public diplomacy, soft power is pretty useful in shaping perceptions. Hence, for instance, India's soft power is the Bollywood film industry which is popular in large parts of Asia and Africa.

    The second part of the question is unanswerable. Losing out in what way? China is doing all it can to further its national interests- economic and strategic. India too is doing the same- both in Africa and in its immediate neighborhood. Unless one defines 'losing out' in more precise terms, this question- unfortunately- cannot be answered.