The Special Issue “India’s Soft Push for Power in South Asia: Shaping A Favourable Tomorrow” was ideated keeping in mind the increasing need for Indian policymakers to mitigate challenges emerging against New Delhi’s South Asian policy. Through each chapter, contributed by emerging Indian scholars specializing in India’s neighborhood policy, the publications envisions new and existing strategies to effectively leverage India’s soft power appeal in South Asia. 

The publication seeks to address the tripartite gap between efforts, projection and outcomes of India’s soft power strategy in South Asia. The chapters in the Special Issue are divided into three sections, with each section discussing a specific facet of New Delhi’s soft power diplomacy. The first section consists of chapters that focus on strengthening three fundamental instruments of India’s Soft Power. The first chapter, co-authored by Shreya Upadhyay and Vivek Mishra, discusses the merits and future of promoting democratic values in India-Maldives ties. The bilateral relationship has seen some challenges in the past few months, yet the chapter explicates how India’s democratic values remain the best metric in establishing its influence in Maldives. The second chapter by Sreeradha Datta explores the potential of development assistance in India-Bangladesh ties as a Soft Power measure in order to elevate New Delhi’s perception among the youth of Bangladesh. The next chapter by Mihir Shekhar Bhonsale examines the possibilities of India establishing institutional linkages in Nepal and Sri Lanka to promote Buddhism as a soft power measure more effectively. 

The second section of the Issue details the importance and a greater need for a people-centric approach in India’s soft power strategy in South Asia. The chapter by Rahul Karan Reddy examines the Soft Power of Education in India-Nepal relations and discusses the significance of catering to the aspirations of young Nepali students for India’s continued centrality in Nepal’s development-led future. The chapter by Monish Tourangbam and Swati Sinha examine the case of Afghan diaspora in enhancing India’s soft power in light of the challenges posed by the Taliban takeover and argue that the well-being of the people of Afghanistan must remain a core objective of India’s soft power approach. Debasish Nandy’s chapter discusses the role of India’s assistance in Bhutan’s human resource development with specific emphasis on capacity building as a critical soft power instrument for India.

The third section ideates a newer course of actions for India’s soft power strategy in the coming years. Cchavi Vasisht’s chapter considers the scope of new avenues in India's soft power diplomacy in Myanmar. The paper argues that India’s cultural and trade ties foster great potential and must be leveraged to promote democracy, education and economic development through bilateral engagements. Zainab Akhter’s paper highlights the role of Multitrack Diplomacy in pursuit of fostering peace between India and Pakistan beyond the realm of the state and advocates for the importance of civil society groups. The final paper by Muhsin Purayil analyses India’s comprehensive role in leading the digital transformation in South Asia. The paper assesses the nuanced landscape of India’s digital diplomacy, mapping its engagements, challenges and the transformative role it can play in fostering its soft power. The concluding chapter by Omkar Bhole brings forth key recommendations from all chapters and ideates practical measures. The chapters in the issue serve multiple purposes including advancing the scholarly debate surrounding Soft Power, India in South Asia and the depth and bounds of its Soft Power in the region.

Access the full issue here.



Omkar Bhole is a Senior Research Associate at Organization for Research on China and Asia (ORCA). He is a Chinese language student and completed Masters in China Studies from Somaiya University, Mumbai. He has completed the HSK 4 level of Chinese language proficiency and works as a Chinese language instructor. His research interests are China’s foreign policy in Asia, China’s economic transformation and China’s domestic politics. He has previously done internships at the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS) and What China Reads. He has presented papers at the 1st All India Conference of East Asian Studies and 16th All India Conference on China Studies. He can be reached @bhole_omkar on Twitter or him email at

A postgraduate in Global Studies from Ambedkar University, Delhi, Ratish’s area of interest includes understanding the value of Narratives, Rhetoric and Ideology in State and Non-State interactions, deconstructing political narratives in Global Affairs as well as focusing on India’s Foreign Policy interests in the Global South and South Asia. He was previously associated with The Pranab Mukherjee Foundation and has worked on projects such as Indo-Sino relations, History of the Constituent Assembly of India and the Evolution of Democratic Institutions in India. His forthcoming projects at ORCA include a co-edited Special Issue on India’s Soft Power Diplomacy in South Asia, Tracing India’s Path as the Voice of the Global South and Deconstructing Beijing’s ‘Global’ Narratives.

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