Skip to main content

Why nations should pursue "soft" power - Shashi Tharoor


5,240 Questions Answered

TED Talk

Let’s Begin…

India is fast becoming a superpower, says Shashi Tharoor -- not just through trade and politics, but through "soft" power, its ability to share its culture with the world through food, music, technology, Bollywood. He argues that in the long run it's not the size of the army that matters as much as a country's ability to influence the world's hearts and minds. After a long career at the UN, and a parallel life as a novelist, Shashi Tharoor became a member of India's Parliament. He spent 10 months as India's Minister for External Affairs, building connections between India and the world.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Reflecting on his homeland, Tharoor observes: “So India is no longer the nationalism of ethnicity or language or religion, because we have every ethnicity known to mankind… We don’t even have geography uniting us, because the natural geography of the subcontinent framed by the mountains and the sea was hacked by the partition with Pakistan in 1947… The great success story of India, a country that so many learned scholars and journalists assumed would disintegrate…is that it managed to maintain consensus on how to survive without consensus.” What unites the citizens of your country? Is it ethnicity, language, religion, or something else? Explore nationalism by polling or interviewing community members to see what they identify as the ties that bind your country together. Do you think people would have given the same answers 50 or 100 years ago? Do you think the answers will be the same 50 years from now?India’s abundance of soft power has often been compared with China’s lack of it. Why has soft power proven so problematic for China, and what is the Chinese government doing about it? Are there lessons that China could learn from India, or are the nations too different? Imagine a conversation between the China’s Premiere and India’s Prime Minister on this topic. Some good sources to explore include:Business Week: India’s edge over China: Soft power (06/17/2010) Washington Post: China’s repression undoes its charm offensive (03/25/2011) New York Times: Why China is weak on soft power (01/17/2012) Hindu: Let India unleash its soft power (02/03/2012) Global Online: China: How to translate hard power at home to soft power abroad (02/08/2012) China works hard to project soft power (03/30/2012) Joseph Nye on global power shifts Policy: The war on soft power (04/12/2011),0Research Institute for European and American Studies: Being Hard on Soft Power

About TED Talk Lessons

TED Talk Lessons are created by TED-Ed using phenomenal TED Talks. Do you have an idea for a lesson? Create it now using any video from YouTube »

Meet The Creators

  • Speaker Shashi Tharoor

More from Ingenuity in the Developing World