Dual Benefits of Cultural Programmes: Promoting Soft Diplomacy and Tourism Sector
On his visit to the USA, External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar had a discussion with Howard University students, faculty & leadership in Washington, DC. He said that for our ties to grow it is necessary that there is a better understanding of India as a civilizational state and we are natural partners only when our people have a strong sense of connection.
There are two important interlinked points to be noticed here. People abroad, not only from the USA but also from other nations, need to understand India primarily. Then they will be able to accept it as a civilizational state. After understanding and accepting, they will be able to connect with India and treat it as an equal.
For facilitating this interlinking path, what can India do?
The answer to the question lies in the tourism sector. It holds the key to making people understand what India really is. India’s rich heritage and culture need to be shown to the rest of the world.
The numbers of Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) in India during 2020 were 2.74 million and the number of domestic tourist visits in India during 2020 was 610.22 million. Tourism continues to play an important role as a foreign exchange earner for the country. In 2020, foreign exchange earnings (FEE) from tourism were US $6.958 billion.
To make people understand and connect with India, daily cultural evenings in tourist destinations should be organized. Such kinds of cultural evenings happen in Southeast Asian nations and in India in some of the forts and resorts of Rajasthan. These programmes should include dance, theatre, and some acts depicting Indian culture. They reflect the idea of India which should be shared with all.
The government has initiated various beautification and renovation programmes for identified destinations. Under the Central Financial Assistance (CFA) scheme of the Ministry, a sum of Rs. 17.19 crore has been released for “Implementation of World Class Multimedia Laser Show with Water Screen and Musical Fountain at Hussain Sagar Lake,” Hyderabad, Telangana. The project has been sanctioned for Rs.45.37 crore. Similarly, Letter of Authorization (LOA) has released Rs. 53.37 lakh to Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for the renovation of the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial at Amritsar, Punjab. Additionally, CFA of an amount of Rs. 1.14 crore was released to National Council of Science Museums for Illumination of Building of National Gallery of Modern Art which is in New Delhi. Moreover, under the same scheme, a grant of Rs. 50 lakh was extended to the State Government of Goa for the Goa Carnival Festival and Shigmo Festival.
Along with the makeover of these destinations or more such places, local cultural events should be regularly organised in the nearby amphitheatre or created open places. Each state and destination in India has its own ethnicity that should be advocated. These programmes will encourage local art and artists, and promote India’s culture, tradition, and heritage. In 2020, the Indian tourism sector accounted for 39 million jobs, which was 8 percent of the total employment in the country.
Giving a cultural boost to the tourism sector will benefit by creating jobs for local people and artists; promote India’s art, culture, and heritage; attract more tourists; and, will help foreign visitors understand and connect with India better.
Ms. Vaibhavi Pingale is a Visiting Faculty of Economics at Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune & at Savitribai Phule Pune University. She is pursuing her PhD. She has been actively writing media articles other than academic research.